#JournoRage: “Why do they write so much?”

#JournoRage: “Why do they write so much?”

A balanced Opinion piece by Christian Christensen

It was horrible. Just horrible. I was at home taking a shower before work when it started. The noise was indescribable…shouting, garbled words, swooshing noises and strange music. It was like we were under attack. I put on a towel and rushed into the living room, and that’s when I saw it. My 3-year-old son had turned on the TV. It was Fox News. It was like they were possessed. Waving their arms frantically, wild-eyed, yelling something about “Muslims,” “Islam” and “riots.” One of them, that blonde woman, I mean…I can’t be sure, but I think she actually started frothing at the mouth. Look, I’m not prejudiced, or anything. My niece goes to school with the daughter of a journalist. I respect their beliefs, but they just looked crazy. It’s when I heard the name Michele Bachmann mentioned…that’s when I grabbed my son and just ran. This is the safety of my kid we are talking about.”

Is this the new, disturbing face of modern journalism? Who are these people, and what drives them to write and speak on a wide range of issues without any consideration of the consequences? Tellingly, the woman who told me this story  wished to remain anonymous, fearing reprisals from a group that has become increasing “radicalized” and isolated in recent years: people who choose to remain locked up in “bureaux” (as they exotically call their camps) in London, New York and Paris.

What began as a routine story has turned into a worldwide series of attacks. There are reports of aggressive, highly de-contextualized opinion pieces appearing in newspapers and magazines as far away as Oslo, London, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Amsterdam. Innocent bystanders in Washington were subjected to virulent articles about why Muslims “hate us,” while the Newsweek “Muslim Rage” cover picture caused a Twitter panic as users rushed to send messages to loved ones, urging them to exercise caution and avoid the website entirely. Said one Barcelona commuter: “That Newsweek cover was just sick. What is it that these people want? There are, what, a billion Muslims in the world? But they keep insisting that these groups of rioters represent all of them? Look, I’m not prejudiced. When I was a kid our neighbor was an editor, and she seemed like a nice woman. I’m sure they are sincere in their beliefs, but these people won’t listen to reason. What can you do?”

It is unclear if these pieces were spontaneous, or part of an organized campaign. According to unconfirmed reports, however, some of the participants may have attended special schools where, as young adults, they were trained in writing, as well as taking Orwellian-sounding “modules” in subjects such as “Political Science” or “The History of Western Civilization.” Precisely what role these schools play in spreading this particular brand of information ideology is unclear, but what is clear is that there exists the possibility that extremist “cells” are exerting an increasing influence on the community.

We are told that those responsible are only a small minority, and not representative of the so-called “moderate” elements within the profession. Perhaps. But until the leaders of these moderate elements clearly, unanimously and unequivocally condemn the extremists, we can only assume that their silence is tantamount to support. Being part of a modern, democratic society means placing reason above emotion, because when the foundation of logic begins to crack, the entire structure will fall.

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About chrchristensen
Christian Christensen is Professor of Journalism at Stockholm University, Sweden.

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