Media Complicit In Trump’s Terror Tall-Tale

A major preoccupation of Donald Trump’s protofascist project is to portray America as under siege by brown people from foreign shores, and among the many lies and misrepresentations offered by Trump in his February speech to congress, the “president” asserted,

“According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.”

The Associated Press partially checked this claim, concluding:

“It’s unclear what Justice Department data he’s citing, but the most recent government information that has come out doesn’t back up his claim. Just over half the people Trump talks about were actually born in the United States, according to Homeland Security Department research revealed last week. That report said of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to attempt or carry out an attack in the U.S., just over half were native-born citizens.
“Even the attacks Trump singled out weren’t entirely the work of foreigners. Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his Pakistani wife killed 14 people in the deadly 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, was born in Chicago.”

As fact-checks go, this falls significantly short of exposing the enormity of this particular Trump lie. Trump’s claim was about “those convicted for terrorism-related offenses” in general, not just terrorist acts committed by those “inspired by a foreign terrorist group.” Beyond the fact-check, the false impression Trump is perpetually trying to create with these sorts of claims is an even bigger lie. Most terrorism in the U.S. isn’t committed by foreigners. It isn’t even committed by American-born Jihadist rightists. It’s committed by domestic non-Jihadist rightists, who, since 9/11, have launched more terrorist attacks, have killed more people and have been involved in more plots that were broken up by law enforcement before they could come to fruition. Numbers differ, as different sources use different methodologies and definitions of terrorism, but that’s the conclusion of those who have studied the matter.

Earlier this month, a trio of academics released a new study of media coverage of terror attacks that puts some hard numbers to some obvious media trends. Monday, its authors published an accompanying article in the Washington Post. A few weeks ago, they write in the Post, Trump’s administration “had provided a list of terrorist attacks it claimed were underreported by the news media. The list primarily included attacks by Muslim perpetrators.” Trump furthering his false narrative. In their study, the academics explain, they examined coverage of terrorist attacks in the U.S. listed in the Global Terrorism Database over a five-year period and coverage of those attacks from American print sources in the LexisNexis database and CNN.com — nearly 2,500 articles in all. Their findings:

— A whopping 87.6% of the terrorist attacks in the timeframe studied were carried out by non-Muslims (or by perpetrators unknown).

— Muslims, on the other hand, perpetrated only 12.4% of the attacks. Foreign-born Muslims committed only 5% of total attacks.

— Nevertheless, 32% of total news coverage was devoted to the 5% of attacks by foreign-born Muslims and overall, 44% of coverage was devoted to the 12.4% of attacks carried out by Muslims in general.

— “In real numbers, the average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles. Attacks with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in 192.8 articles on average. Compare this with other attacks [by non-Muslims], which received an average of 18.1 articles.”

— 27% of attacks received no coverage at all in the sources studied.

This puts some numbers behind some things this author has been pointing out for years. Media coverage significantly distorts Americans’ perceptions of terrorism, with potentially very negative consequences. Just last month, Adam Johnson of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting noted how “corporate media paved the way for Trump’s Muslim ban” by this very behavior. Trump makes a show of despising the press but he’s able to perpetuate this particular fraud because of it.

— j.