Cable TV Has an Islamophobia Problem


It’s likely not a surprise to anyone that Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have made their fair share of prejudicial comments about Muslims. Dozens of liberal outlets have drawn attention to Fox’s problematic portrayals, gross generalizations, and blatant bias. But according to Vox’s Max Fisher, Fox News isn’t the only cable channel guilty of promoting Islamophobic discourse. In an October 8, 2014 piece called “It’s not just Fox News: Islamophobia on cable news is out of control,” he demonstrated how Fox’s more liberal and middle-of-the-road counterparts also employ stereotypical tropes and advance troubling positions.

Thanks to CNN, MSNBC and HBO’s Bill Maher, Fisher says,

…a subtler, more pervasive, and far more dangerous Islamophobia that has crept into mainstream news coverage. This is the Islamophobia that presents itself as a critical and candid study of Islamist extremism, but in the process does just what Maher and Fox News do: conflates extremists with the vast, un-extreme majority, perpetuating the assumption that extremism is the default, that Muslims share inherent traits that make them worse than the rest of us, and that they are guilty of extremism until proven innocent.

Fisher goes on to describe segments on CNN, HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” in which hosts, and often guests, normalize rhetoric that would not be tolerated if directed at another religious or ethnic group.

…The audiences used to sit quietly or boo when Maher espoused his hateful and factually incorrect views on Islam. Now they stand up and cheer. That is the power of the American media, and it’s a power that is increasingly directed toward prejudice, hate, and fear.

That Islamophobia has seeped into mainstream media is not a minor point. It’s a big deal. The way Americans view Muslims bears greatly on how they treat ordinary Muslims and view our government’s intervention in Muslim-majority countries abroad, which, as Fisher notes, “involves an awful lot of bombing.”

Read more of Max Fisher’s piece at Vox, where he comments on the Reza Aslan’s viral CNN interview and a troubling portrayal of UAE fighter pilot, Maryam al-Mansouri, on MSNBC.

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