CNN’s recent decision to fire their Senior Middle Eastern Affairs Editor Octavia Nasr showcases the mainstream, corporate media’s bias against the Arab world. Last weekend, Nasr took to Twitter to react to the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Lebanese Muslim leader. Nasr wrote: Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.. #Lebanon
Twitter, with its 140 character limit, is already not the best place to discuss complex political issues. But add a group like Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party designated by the US as a terrorist organization which many people know little about, and you have a potentially volatile combination. Nasr herself acknowledged this misstep in a long blog post. She writes: Sayyed Fadlallah. Revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It’s something I deeply regret.
As she explains in her post, the respect and sadness she felt with
Sayyed Fadallah’s passing was in regards to his support of women’s rights in the Muslim world. Fadallah had decried violence against women as a practice against the fundamentals of Islam.
So what did CNN do? Allow Nasr to explain herself, recognize her mistake and then move on? No. Instead they fired a 20 year network veteran for 119 characters. How ironic that “journalists” like Diana West, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Huntley can all make wildly offensive, hyperbolic statements against Muslims and receive no recourse. They can praise Israel’s military offensives without regard to innocent Palestinian deaths. The talking heads of FOX and ABC can produce paranoid stories on American Mosques and feature inflammatory commentary from documented Islamaphobes like Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Pamela Gellar. But, acknowledge the accomplishments of someone who was an influential figure in the Muslim community and you are out the door.
The outrage directed at Nasr is comparable in some sense to what veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas experienced a few weeks ago when she had to resign from her post of 50 years after making a controversial statement about Israelis. The rational behind both of their firings is the same. Journalists can editorialize all they want but as soon as they vocalize support for people our government doesn’t like, they are booted.
What is so infuriating about this recent trend of demonizing anyone who dares to support Arab or Muslim leaders is that it removes any creditability those writers may have. Conversely, mainstream corporate media invite people with no credible journalistic background and give them free reign. Why are we so ready to accept the ramblings of pseudo-journalists and hate-bloggers but adverse to any informed opinion from established news veterans? Instead of being able to inform people of the accomplishments and goals of a notable Muslim leader, Nasr was immediately criticized and deemed a terrorist sympathizer. Interestingly, both Nasr and Thomas are Christian Arabs, a demographic often disregarded in the West.
If veteran journalists do not have the support of their publication to honestly editorialize, then critical issues become buried. This essentially assures that only one narrative of the Middle East is told in Western media, the narrative our government and corporate institutions want told. If we want a truly free press, allow writers to delve deep into issues without fear of being fired or labeled a terrorist sympathizer or anti-Semite.