Stereotypes as a Propaganda Tool





Stereotypes as a Propaganda Tool
As Americans go through a post-traumatic process after the September tragedies, most people are trying to analyze the entire situation to find out who is wrong and who is right. While media, politicians, and military leaders endlessly speak about the Taliban, Bin-Laden, Arabs, and Islam, we are making our conclusions based on what we hear. What an average American might assume by watching television and reading newspapers is that Islamic fundamentalism is some kind of mental illness and every Arabic-looking man is a threat to society. Unintentionally, we are about to make the same mistake by discriminating against people as we did with the Germans during World War II and Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Because we know the consequences, we have to decide again, is it acceptable to stereotype some people and set them apart on the basis of their religion and national origin just because they “fit the profile”?
No doubt, the terrorist attacks in the United States have changed many things in the “self-contained” American mentality. Feelings such as fear, anger, hate, and sadness washed through our minds like a gigantic storm in the middle of the ocean. The new mind-set about “suspicious” people from certain ethnic group became an everyday norm soon after the September events. It became the standard procedure to single out Muslim-looking people and subject them to additional searches, it is the norm now to ask them three or four times a day for identification papers anytime and anywhere. It became common to refuse to fly in the same plane with Arabs. This is a true episode by Gail Schoettler published in Denver Post:
As I settled into my seat for a recent flight, the pilot’s voice flowed through the cabin. He explained the airline’s new security procedures, trying to calm frayed nerves. Then, he said, “We are all just one big family on this flight. So, I want you to get know your neighbors. Ask them their names and their country of origin. Then, you folks just let me know if any of you are worried about the person sitting next to you.” I was dumbfounded! What a way to perpetuate the racial stereotypes and prejudice that grew in the wake of the September 11 attacks. I’ve heard of pilots refusing to take an Arab-American passenger, or passengers getting off the flight with Arab-Americans on board, but I had hoped that kind of discrimination was waning. Such behavior is inappropriate in America. Guess I was wrong. (F.05)
We are scared and such inexcusable behavior is just our instincts of anger and fear. We think that it is acceptable to violate someone’s civil rights if it would make us, Americans, feel safer.
Every political leader in the country says we are not in a war against Islam, but after the September attacks, there were over 400 hate crimes against Muslims or Muslim-Americans, including nine deaths, 90 physical assaults, and 85 incidents of vandalism. Cases include firebombings of Islamic centers and mosques in Chicago, Cleveland and Seattle (Poe A.10). Many Americans have acquired the stereotype of Muslim people as a symbol of danger.
“The stereotyping of Middle-Eastern-looking people has been known since the Crusades in the Middle Ages,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington (qtd. in Poe A10). There are several reasons why this problem grew rapidly in the recent years. The situation has worsened in America because of the Iranian crisis in 1979-1980 and because of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. One of the strongest foundations of such anti-Muslim stereotypes is the number of conflicts in Europe and Asia. Most of them are related to the Muslim ideas of freedom. For some examples: Macedonia versus Albania, Israel versus Palestine, Russia versus Chechnya, the United States of America versus Afghanistan. In addition, civil conflicts in Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Bosnia, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and more are strong indications for Americans that Arabic and Muslim countries cannot live in peace. Because of these factors, Americans think that these people are aggressive fanatics, their ideas based on bigotry, and that they have to be stopped by any means.
Another reason is our ignorance towards Islamic culture and its traditions. How many non-Muslims in the United