Monday, July 25, 2011

On Fear-Hate Propaganda

Last Friday, a terrible act of terrorism was unleashed on a group of young people at a Youth camp in Norway. Dressed as a police officer, Anders Behring Breivik killed at least 76 people in Oslo. Initial reports suggest 91. The death toll has now been reduced to 76. It makes me wonder about the sensationalism tendencies of the press. What saddens me about the tragedy is not the killings per se, but the reasons behind the senseless act as well as the sentiments behind the news reporting. In fact, one bad revelation led to another. The killer claims himself to be a 'Christian,' 'conservative,' and sees his act as a personal crusade against Norway's open immigration policy. Some news reports suggest that Breivik is against "multi-culturalism, Islam and the "cultural Marxists" of the establishment." The Western press is quick to be up in arms not only against the tragic act, but also against 'right-wing' fundamentalism.

A) Be Wary of the Press

It is a common strategy used by some media to use the conservatives, the fundamentalist groups as a convenient whipping boy, especially in times like this. Such an agenda does not help mend ties. It separates. It instills hatred. It breeds distrust. It increases misunderstanding many times over. It funnels people who are vocal about their Christian faith (especially the Right) into a box called: "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't." It is not only unfair, but such efforts undermine peace, and understanding among people. It sways opinions to see the conservatives as 'enemies,' or to present another 'reason' why one should no longer trust the church.

The trouble is, the press is not as fair as it claims itself to be. One clue is not what is presented, but also what is NOT presented. For example, take the headlines of the AtlanticWire: "Christian Extremist Suspect in Norway's Massacre." why not just a 'terrorist,' or a 'madman?' Suppose Breivik is an atheist. Will the headlines become: "Extreme atheist suspect in Norway's massacre?" Likely not. It seems easier to stir up emotions by attacking Christians, and easier to leave atheists alone. Christian publications are careful to put the word 'fundamentalist' in bracket in their edition. They tread carefully to avoid agreeing or disagreeing with popular labels. Whatever it is, we need to be wary of what we read in the press. One person killed is already one too many, regardless of what one believes. It is simply unethical to paint any one group of religious people with the same brush that Breivik uses.

In other words, we cannot divide society by highlighting 'Christian extremist,' or 'Muslim fundamentalists,' or whatever types of stereotype image. Call the bad act what it deserves and not prefix it with whatever labels that can potentially damage the credibility of the religion or institution. There are good as well as not so good Muslims, Christians, or religious persons. Likewise, there are good Americans as well as not so good Americans. There are also good music and bad music, good food and bad food. Do not let one 'act' unfairly tarnish the image of the general group.

B) Fear Propaganda

Over the past few years, I have received emails, Youtube videos, and  fear messages from friends and loved ones. Some are about the rise of religions such as Islam and the secularists agenda. Others are about racial divide and hate propaganda disguised as 'warnings,' etc. Mind you, even among Christians, there are bad accusations by all groups on one another. For example, there are attacks against Barack Obama's faith as a Christian as well as counter-attacks. There are also fear-mongering videos that highlight a changing world that comprises more Muslims, and that the Western world will be drastically altered by 2050. There are also all kinds of conspiracy theories surrounding 911, and whether the financial crisis in the US has been carefully orchestrated by a few select individuals/groups.

I feel that such propaganda fuels more fear. Fear leads to avoidance. Avoidance leads to dislike. Dislike leads to Hate. Together, fear and hate spreads the erroneous messages far and wide, leading to disunity and distrust among people.

Personally, I do not like to forward such emails. Many of them end up being hoaxes or spams, created by some misguided people, but very efficiently distributed by the technologies of today.

C) What Can We Do?

Pray. Pray for the world. Pray for ourselves. Pray that we can discern God's leading in our lives to love people, regardless of labels like race, language, religion, sexual orientation, organizational links and so on. If God cares so much for all the people of the world, that He is willing to send Jesus to die for them, should we not, as children of God do likewise? Love people rather than principles. Love people rather than fear them. Love people by helping them tackle common problems, like cost of living, poverty, stress in daily life, marital problems, communications with people and so on. Let us busy ourselves with how to make the world a better place, instead of sending messages of doubt and fear.

Doubts inject unhealthy suspicions into any kinds of relationships. Love frees ourselves to let people be who they are, without us judging them. The next time, you get a hate mail, or something that conjures up fear of any sort, don't bother to read them. Don't even forward them to others. Do the next best thing. Delete. Perhaps, the best way to deal with fear and hate propaganda is to make this world a better place, one delete at a time.


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