The following is from an e-mail I wrote this morning to a long-time friend of mine who was lamenting about the way Muslims are covered by media. I find my friend very easy to talk to and the words flowed very easily so I thought I'd capture what I said on my blog.
I imagine your level of frustration is very high with the media. As is mine. I barely consume any news these days. I scan headlines though so I can tell you that David Bowie and Alan Rickman died this week. But that's about it.
My tendency these days is toward long-form content by people who are intellectually honest, like the Dan Carlin episode I tweeted at you. Yes, these people have a much smaller audience than Fox News, but their impact is much deeper I think.
As for the response to Muslims in the media, I agree that the response is utter hyperbole.
I have to view Donald Trump as a symptom of the problem more than a prime mover of it. Ayn Rand, for all of the ways you can disagree with her, once said that Politics is the last branch of philosophy and politicians are the people who "cash in" on the ideas that are already present in a society. They don't as much move the ideas.
What is the root cause?
I have recently arrived at a conviction that people are hungry for an honest conversation about Islamism. I have come to view Islamism as fundamentally no different than Communism or Fascism, all of which carry out actions to impose a totalitarian (all-or-nothing) political system upon others. Some people are willing to carry out actions which harm others, and some are merely reformers with strong beliefs, and some are people who just "vote their conscience".
But there is one non-fundamental respect in which Islamism differs from Communism and Fascism. People are worried about being racist or anti-religion if they criticize it. And people definitely get smeared for valid criticism. The result is that the level of intellectual honesty out there is low and the level bullying is fucking unbelievable. (see also: http://www.jeremy-duns.com/findingannfields/ which makes the case and presents evidence that the account @xtc_uk seems to be a smear account run by some douchebag named @MoAnsar).
So the well-meaning and intelligent people like you and me tend to be largely silent about it until something big happens in the news.
The intellectually honest conversations about what happens to individual rights under islamist policy are hard to find. Instead there is a lot of hot air. On the right you have the real bigots and xenophobes making noises that indicate a general disregard for anyone's rights. And on the left, you have the reverse racism of low expectations, which, ironically supports conservative views provided that they are part of some "authentic" culture. (A view I acquired from Maajid Nawaz's argumentation). These people all resort to smears and bullying.
It is this vacuum which makes it possible for a tool like Donald Trump to say stupid racist shit and to come out of it seeming more honest and shiny than the rest of the yahoos on stage. It's only by contrast that this effect occurs. When measured on an absolute scale, he's utterly inflammatory and will have no regard for our institutions if elected President.
You may have noticed that I am somewhat vocal lately myself on Islamism. I hope that I am not making an ass of myself. But I am trying to make a practice of talking about hard things and sharing along the intellectually honest bits of conversation.
I think conversations of cultural change within a community are hard to have even without pressure from the outside because identity issues come into play and there's always the question of whether you are abandoning something fundamental. Well... There are people that simply don't want any debate to happen and some of them are the bullies I referred to who do their best to smear and shout down anyone who criticizes and calls for change.
I'm acting on this premise: What if we could influence that just a little? If non-muslims in the west could stop their part of the smearing and shouting down... perhaps the debate could ensue among Muslims, and the loud and influential regressives in Islam could see their influence diminished. And that might be enough for me to feel just a bit better about the direction that the world is heading.
I got on a bit of a tear there. Hope you found it interesting.