Why Does America Tend to Freak Out Only When Terrorists Have Brown Skin?

I’ve been deeply struck this week by the extreme amount of attention being paid in the media to the horrific terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Struck mainly because there is something strangely, and profoundly, disproportionate about it all.

In most regards, the coverage is warranted. Terrorism is an important subject, and in an ideal world, the more information we have about such a thing, the better informed we will be. Presumably, we would then be better situated to work together to form a response that actually would effectively defeat the terrorists, both in their specific purposes as well as in the way they generically spread the use of violence in the world as a “solution.”

However, that is not what has been happening.

Instead, the intensity of the 24/7 cable news cycle glare has produced almost all heat and very little light. We’re being inundated with what Jeremy Scahill calls the “the terrorism expert industrial complex,” a whole cottage industry of neo-conservative ideologues posing as “terrorism experts” who pretend to be warning the public about a dire threat they face, but really are primarily engaged in whipping up xenophobic fears about Muslims, Arabs, and scary brown people in general.

This means we have gotten halfwits like Steve Emerson — yes, the same man who brought us the short-lived media meme that the Oklahoma City bombing was committed by Middle Eastern terrorists — going on Fox News andwarning that the city of Birmingham had become “totally Muslim.” You’ve got CNN anchors like Don Lemon grilling a Muslim lawyer and asking if he supports ISIS. You’ve got Jeannine Pirro getting on Fox and ranting that we need to find all radical Muslims and wipe them off the face of the earth.

What this means is that the terrorists, truly, are winning.

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