“Out of Context” The Propaganda Tool of Hate Agenda

The internet is saturated with websites and blogs espousing reasons and condemning rhetoric on what is wrong or evil with a specific target or targets.  It is certain that many are reflecting current issues (real, imaginary or even media driven), but similar to those that are purely agenda driven, one must take care to consider exactly what they are implying and why.

The majority of these web-sites and blogs debate, accuse, provide questionable evidence or miss-place facts to target Islam and “the Left” and the vast majority of these blogs are western and from the far-right of the political spectrum – that in itself raises questions.  In 2008 the FBI noted that in a two-year period over 3,500 websites just targeting Islam was created in the United States alone, almost all from the conservative evangelical bible-belt region in the South-East of the country.

Certainly the west is suspicious and to a degree frightened of Islam.  The last 30 years has seen a remarkable rise of Islamic radicalism and its companion terrorism that is a real and serious issue that affects us all.   Normally it is economic, political instability and social crisis that has always brought out the extremist radical views, could that the answer?   Well not really though it it’s still an important factor.

Radical political and religious agendas act in the same way as re-active extremism, using and abusing a situation to support their “political agenda” – that term being used simply because radical religious activism is in fact driven by a political agenda and not the other way around.   In today’s very polarized political world we have plenty of far-left and far-right political groups attempting to gather support by blaming whatever social, cultural, political or other chaotic problems on a target group – normally the other end of their political spectrum that they are competing with.   Religious groups are doing almost exactly the same – either because they are attempting to enter the political battle-field or to simply gain increased number of supporters, votes, souls and influence.  Their competitors simply being other faiths and those that disagree with them. 

Since the early to mid 1970’s,  the two (political extremism and religious radicalism) have merged and the results has been ugly.  There is argument enough to say that there always has been a link between the two and that is correct, but not like the last 30 years – and not limited to one area or one religious faith.   The unholy marriage between militant revolutionaries and radical hard-line Shia Islam in Iran created not only a revolution that has created the radical and oppressive hard-line State that we all know about, but also a precedent that engulfed many Muslim countries, led many radical Imams to seek an armed group and allowed Wahhabism to almost dominate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that only now they have been able to shrug off, and during this period giving birth to what was to become Al Qaeda.   Similarly though less violently, over the same period, fundamentalist groups of mostly evangelical in nature within the United States used their enormous sources of wealth to influence local and regional government and create a class of faithful radicals.  These faithful servant have become a part of mainstream political parties, local, regional and national government and in the military.  A significant number of soldiers were no longer just fighting for the US Military but also for God and a radical one.  It was clearly evident that many in the past US Administration had allegiances as much to their religious belief as they did to the leadership and some in that leadership encouraged or actively was a part of that agenda.

The tools used by most radical groups to achieve their agenda is by attacking or providing misinformation of the situation/subject and avoiding simple factual detail, why?   The answer is surprisingly simple.  The world is not generally as stupid as some wish to make it out as and the majority do grasp and know the real dangers and facts.   That target or issue cited by agenda groups as being dangerous or evil, if really a problem, would have been stopped or have become a popular debate – so one must ask why they are not?    That also explains why the goals and agendas of most radical groups is obviously “fringe” – because it is either extreme, not wanted, believed or no longer necessary.  Radical groups that are in power and forcing their views (such as in a number of dictatorships, radical Muslim or socialist regimes) can do or pretend the reality they impose, but those that cannot such as in democratic, open or well-governed countries simply have no chance of taking power.   Thus are attempting to espouse their agenda through desperate means – propaganda, misinformation and simply making things up, or if given the chance, by violence and intimidation.

The most popular tool over the internet is the avoiding of context – which means not telling the entire story.  Most often accurate facts are given, promoted as reliable sources, but without that full picture it is still just as much false and misleading.   One obvious reason for avoiding context but using existing facts in such a fashion is to make the author of the propaganda look unquestionable, expert, factual and even academic.  This purely aesthetic enterprise often is successful in convincing the reader that there is no question about the subject matter and that what is given is undeniable proof.   In the west, particular in the United States, the target audience is a large and already radical-prone religiously conservative right-wing community and they fall for this style of deception easily and without question.  The best example fringe author who specifically targets such a community to support his hate agenda and deliberately profits from them is web-master, blogger and academically shunned author Robert Spencer.  

Robert Spencer is notorious for disseminating numerous partial-quotes, butchered verses and avoiding significant context altogether.  He obviously does so in an attempt to justify his hate-for-profit stance – ‘for profit’ because his goal is to sell his books to that select fringe community.  If one points out the obvious errors and down-right bigoted content and a quick rebuttal from Spencer and his followers comes out with  ‘but everything I said is there word-for-word”.   They certainly are real quotes but just as certain is the clear fact that they were put out of context.   If the Muslim’s Koran was covered under intellectual property laws, Spencer would still be paying endless penalties from law suits, he knows that and all of his work is very carefully within that “grey-areas” of the law regarding hate-incitement, racism, bigotry and liable mostly under that commonly used and abused escape clause of freedom of speech.

Recently, Spencer in his hate-blog Jihad-Watch condemned Islam in generalized terms because a Saudi national was condemned to death for “witchcraft”.  Many credible organizations with serious human rights concerns raised the issue with the Saudi Government but based on equally credible human rights standards.   They did not generalize and they made no mistake of putting the matter out of context.  The credible organizations condemn in general the murder of tens of thousands of individuals throughout the world on charges of witchcraft, something that Spencer and Jihad-Watch purposefully avoids.  If context was given then it would have been prudent to mention, in comparison to the “dozen such cases” in the Middle-East as a whole, over a thousand (yes, over 1,000!) are killed in the Christian part of Africa alone.   Add to that, the hundreds killed just in, Papua New Guinea  all because of witchcraft accusations.   In fact the issue of witchcraft is well documented and to put it out of context so blatantly and to imply it is a an evil Islamic problem is not only unwarranted but grossly inaccurate – and obviously done on purpose.  Spencer along with like-minded groups, blogs and other hate-mongering individuals simply avoid context as a tool.   Spencer is an important example because he is collectively the leader of the blog-band that calls themselves anti-jihadists.

On the subject of Spencer’s avoidance of context as a tool, Karen Armstrong who is a well-qualified historian and respected author by both Muslims and non-Muslims said accurately that:

“People would be offended by an account of Judaism that dwelled exclusively on Joshua’s massacres and never mentioned Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule, or a description of Christianity based on the bellicose Book of Revelation that failed to cite the Sermon on the Mount. But the widespread ignorance about Islam in the West makes many vulnerable to Spencer’s polemic; he is telling them what they are predisposed to hear. His book is a gift to extremists who can use it to ”prove” to those Muslims who have been alienated by events in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq that the west is incurably hostile to their faith.”

Academics consistently point out that Spencer’s work is most definitely “not academic” and unanimously point out the most simple of errors – lack of context and avoiding assumption.  Dr. Robert Crane, the former deputy-head of the United States National Security Council, founder the Harvard International Law Journal and senior advisor to President Nixon simply called Spencer a “wannabe academic who could not make the grade”.  Frances well-respected Professor I. Jablonka whom I have had the pleasure of meeting many years ago stated that “Spencer must be clearly manipulating his work with a socio-political agenda to propagate hatred” (my translation from the French).

Robert Spencer’s use of claiming authority is another example of context and because he attempts to use such so-called authority to increase his personal validity – it is worth mentioning.   Robert Spencer was invited many years ago to sit in a government sponsored work-shop and still refers to himself as being an advisor to the government.  Just recently on his hate-blog he again states that he was “giving an all-morning seminar to a select group of U.S. intelligence officers” which he conveniently states was at an “undisclosed location”.   His track-record as well as logic says otherwise and any such discussion would have in fact been made public and “at Langley” and as mentioned above, there is this assumption by radicals that they know what is happening and others (even the most professional of organisations like the CIA or Homeland Security) are “stupid”.   Spencer wishes his followers to believe that he made these professionals “gasp”.   Similarly, Spencer has been invited by a number of far-right university student bodies and because the university allows the freedom for them to choose who they want, they do not refuse the invite.  Spencer simply says in his biographies and blog that he was “invited by that university” – again always by implication that the academic institution invited him directly.

Combining lack of context with basic generalizations or unwarranted comparisons is another example of what is unacceptable in academic or authoritative circles but is clearly used by agenda groups or individuals such as Robert Spencer and equally as much by radical Muslim groups.   Politically and religiously radical Iranian President Ahmadinejad and presumably Catholic Socialist Venezuelan Presidenté Hugo Chavez both produce almost identical anti-Semitic tirades generalizing about the Jewish character to a level not seen since the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Both predictably deny the Holocaust and claim Israeli-Zionist control over the United States and the United Nations (whilst right-wingers’ say it is the Left who runs the UN).  Radical Anti-Muslim groups and blogs then in turn selectively (again out of context, regardless of how immoral the quote is) chose only to mention the Iranian’s words and generalize by anointing the Iranian President as representing all of Islam (conveniently forgetting the difference of Shia and Sunni Islam and countless other differences of opinions and politics, etc, etc).   At the same time, they will also ignore similar statements about the evil devilish Islam by radical evangelical Christian leaders in the Unites States or by equally ugly political nationalists in Europe.

Another example of mixing lack of context, generalization and stereotyping is by the British National Party (BNP) and English Defence League or EDL (which not surprisingly is endorsed and encouraged by the US’s Robert Spencer).   Both organizations use generalized terms about non-white immigrants flooding the country and ignoring the fact that around 80 per cent of immigrants in the UK are from other European nations.  That it is “them” that create the problem, the crime and that “they do this or that”.  Combined with Spenceresque contextual cut & paste techniques and cleverly stepping through the grey areas of the laws that should have protected people from racism and bigotry and we have today’s nationalist movement in Britain.  Equally, as all politically radical movements endeavour, they also concentrate on capitalizing from social or economic hardship – but as mentioned above, are fortunately fringe and the bulk of the population is aware of that – because they are not stupid as radicals wish they were.

What do we learn from this?   That it is necessary to read carefully “between the lines” to see the underlining message, be it hatred or a warranted expression of fear and concern which warrants attention.    As the well-known saying goes, “if there is smoke then there is a fire”, and that certainly is the case of most hate-agenda blogs as well.   As they are capitalizing on the concerns and fears of a population, then it means those concerns and fears must exist to some level.   It might all be a perception which itself is a problem, but it may be something else.   Immigration “en masse” does have an effect on a population, create integration and assimilation issues, cultures clash, radicals appear on both sides and obviously the population also reacts to those radicals not from their “community”. Of course western radicals will link events like terrorism and non-integration to their goals and agenda and even though for the wrong reasons, we must acknowledge that those issues do exist and fear (or anger) is justified to some level. 

We must face the ugly reality of radicalism in all its forms and not only some.  Additionally we must be prepared to identify it and value it for why it exists in the first place.   Be sure we must condemn it in all its forms but understand that they usually come because a cause exists – which is their food, ammunition and support.   If there is no cause, they starve and most of the reason for radicalism simply disappears….. mostly.

About donny2811
Trots Nederlands, goed gereist en een begerige politieke centrist met een speciale afkeer voor basissen.

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