On Saturday September 13th The News and Observer sank to a new low. Included in every paper delivered to homes in Raleigh and across North Carolina was an “informative advertisement” that the Vice President of Display Advertising is paralleling to cereal and toothpaste. But, instead of health or hygiene, the product is fear laced propaganda.
Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for The N&O, said “there was discussion” about whether to accept the advertisement, but the “ultimate decision” was made by publisher Orage Quarles. “Obviously, we have distributed other product samples, whether it’s cereal or toothpaste,” he said. He declined to say how much the agency paid.
Placed in each Saturday newspaper was an extra insert that included a dvd copy (160,000 in total) of a film called Obsession - Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The film was created by a 501(c)(3) organization (who are exempt from federal income tax) called The Clarion Fund. The group claims to promote “National Security Through Eduction” and attempt to help “Americans understand that the mainstream media is not adequately conveying the reality of radical Islam”. Essentially, a non-profit group that has sent propaganda media in the form of 28 Million DVDs to over 70 newspapers in swing states across the country.
A disclaimer in the beginning of the film, over harrowing music, states that the film is not about the majority of Muslims that “are peaceful and do not support terror” but “about a radical worldview, and the threat it poses to us all”. This statement is definitely true, the film is about radical extremists, but is it informational or simply out to scare its audience?
The film, which is 40 minutes in length, compares the Islamic terrorism to Nazi Germany with images of marching warriors chanting “Death to America” broadcast across the screen continually. Along with these fearful images are massacred bodies and perpetual explosions (some of which seem to have added sound). The music used in the film is dark and threatening throughout and the rhetoric spoken attempts to scare. It is as though the year 2004 has resurfaced four years later…..once again in another election year.
This film does very little in the realm of information. Its dialogue and imagery are fear based and not educational. An agenda is clear (The film was shown on Fox News in the run up to the 2006 election…funny it should surface again 50 days before the next election). If you want to watch a very educational documentary about the same subject, watch Power of Nightmares which actually explores the roots of Radical Islamic and the Neo-Conservative movements, not just the fear, but the ideology as well. It is produced by a well respected news organization, the BBC and is free to watch on the internet and has just been released on DVD. There’s a difference between distribution of information and the projection of fear on the public. The type of documentation makes all the difference.
But this article isn’t about the film as much it is about The News & Observer. Sure, the N&O “warned” its customers that the DVD was being packaged in Saturday’s paper. And yes, they do have a right to accept advertising from any company that pays the bill (The N&O hasn’t disclaimed how much they were paid to distribute the DVDs in a time where Things are Bad for Newsies).
But, are we to be pressured into being scared by terrorist propaganda that is distributed by an independent organization that will also not reveal its financial records (Clarion will not list their donors’ names but states they are “private American individuals that span the political spectrum”) and uses the twin towers as part of the anti-Islam website logo. Are we, as citizens of Raleigh, being fairly marketed to?
To quote the film “If you want to get people to fight, you have to make them think there is a threat and they are in danger.” The speaker was referring to Radical Islam, but by spreading this propaganda, The News & Observer contributes to a similar attempt to spread the theory of threat and danger in our residents. We were ranked the “most political city” in the US, but I have yet to see anything about the most vulnerable. We should stand up against the smear and demand our toothpaste and cereal samples back over propaganda and fear.
“There is no greater threat than radical Islam,” said Gregory Ross, spokesman for the Clarion Fund, a New-York based nonprofit organization that is paying newspapers to distribute the DVD. “It needs to be pushed to the forefront of the political discussion.”
The Clarion Fund’s fear has been pushed to the forefront and the News & Observer pushed it there. There’s a huge difference between a newspaper endorsing a candidate and endorsing fear in a political season. The N&O has done the latter but should stick to the former. Do we need to be scared into voting one way or another? I think we are smarter than that. We deserve better. We deserve our Aquafresh and Multi-grain Cheerios back.
Promotion of hate speech is not something new for the N&O. Conspicuously missing from the city museum’s history of media exhibition, is the paper’s publisher of 54 years, Josephus Daniels consistent promotion of racial intimidation against black voters. From Wikipedia:
In 1898, The News & Observer and Daniels ran a racist campaign to reclaim the state legislature from an alliance of the Republican and Populist political parties that had taken control of the state legislature in 1894. This campaign helped to bring about the disenfranchisement of thousands of black voters. The 1898 campaign, organized by Democratic Party state leaders (including Daniels and other white supremacists), resulted in the deaths of up to 100 African Americans and the burning of a minority-owned newspaper in the Wilmington race riots