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I hesitate to write this because, clearly, there is a potential for bias against Muslims and the downplaying non-Islamic based terrorism. But we should be careful about how we interpret these “studies/research” that claim such a bias. I took 30-mins to read through the research that claimed muslim terrorist events receive 4.5x the coverage of non-muslim events.

I must say that it is one of the most shoddy pieces of academic research I’ve ever read. The “4.5x more” calculation is based on a very small sample (89) and a dubious list of vengeance-driven crimes, hate crimes and terrorism but all under the general definition of “terrorism.” Plus, the vast majority of news coverage comes from one event — the Boston Marathon bombing (474 total and 20% of all coverage among all the events in their database of “terrorist” actions). This outlier of course singlehandedly distorts the statistics towards the authors’ “4.5x more likely” finding. And it can be quite easily explained why the number of articles was higher for the bombing in Boston — it was perpetuated during a televised, internationally famous event with 100s of journalists already in place, it claimed nearly 300 casualties, the manhunt spanned many hours during which 100s of 1000s of people had their neighborhoods invaded by 1000s of police. Take this outlier event away and the numbers don’t look nearly as bad in terms of media bias. In fact, 20% of the coverage for the remaining 88 events are for 2 acts committed by whites against blacks (Dylan Roof) and abortion clinic (Robert Dear). But even then the sample is tiny and the qualifications for terrorism events are dubious.

I don’t write this to claim that no bias exists, and the whole terrorism vs hate crime labels are frought with labeling problems (see here). And Trump’s silence on the latest events is quite revealing about his bias. But if we want to be credible, we have to use credible research and statistics. This research should never have seen the light of day. Shame on the researchers, shame on WaPo for publishing it as an OpEd, and shame on all of the blogs that freely quote this research without challenging the assumptions behind it.

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