Are conservative news media downplaying the brutal crackdown against Egyptian gays?

Depending upon your point of view — and in their purist iterations — demands for equal rights for gay people are either about justly extending social and legal parity, or a moral struggle to uphold traditional religious doctrines and cultural ideas about sexual expression.

Either way, homosexuality is one of the three biggest culture war issues dividing Americans, along with questions about abortion and the legal parameters of religious freedom.

It's also a prime issue internationally. Globalization has fostered the spread of contemporary Western liberal values. That, in turn, has prompted push back in some non-Western nations uncomfortably enmeshed in the global market’s whirlwind of change.

Some of the more recent stories referencing the issue have come out of Egypt, where homosexuality, while not explicitly outlawed, is harshly condemned by the majority Muslim and minority Coptic Christian religious establishments, effectively making it socially prohibited behavior.

Every so often Egypt’s authoritarian government, led by President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, seems to use the issue as a political cudgel to bolster support among Muslim and Christian traditionalists, who together comprise the vast majority of the nation’s population.

Click here for a recent Washington Post piece summing up the situation.

The story begins thusly:

CAIRO -- A crackdown on gay people in Egypt intensified in recent days as security forces raided cafes in downtown Cairo and courts delivered harsh prison sentences, further driving the nation’s LGBT community underground.
More than 60 people have been arrested, human rights activists said, since a concert last month by a rock group where some members of the audience waved a rainbow flag — photos of which went viral on social media and caused public outrage.
Security forces have also detained people at their homes in the middle of the night, and have used apps and online chat rooms to entrap those believed to be gay. Some cafes frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have been shut down.
Some of those arrested have endured beatings and other abuse in their prison cells, while others have been subjected to forced anal examinations, human rights activists said.
“The targeting of the community was never on this scale before,” said Doaa Mostafa, a human rights lawyer who is representing a man and woman arrested in the latest crackdown.

You might also take a look at this Los Angeles Times story.  I point it out because of its interesting tag line: “A special correspondent in Cairo contributed to this report.”

That means it's dangerous in Egypt for a (presumably) local journalist stringing for an international outlet to even be publicly associated with reporting on the situation. That's not surprising in authoritarian nations; freedom of the press is generally one of the first freedoms to go.

I imagine that by now at least some GetReligion readers are concerned that I seem to be favoring links to stories from news sources they consider hopelessly biased in favor of gay rights -- which I happen to support. And they'd be correct.

But why? Is that just my bias showing?

For starters, I've done so simply because the preponderance of such stories staff-reported by American media are, in fact, tilted toward the pro-gay rights side of the debate. That's just as those opposed to gay rights claim. But as infuriating as that might be to some readers, whether or not that constitutes liberal media bias is not what this post is about.

What this post is about, is why I encountered a dearth of stories on the situation in Egypt while searching news outlet that lean conservative in their story selection.

It's no surprise that I found no stories flat-out denying what happened in Egypt -- or Azerbaijan and Chechnya -- two other places (both predominantly Muslim) in which harsh treatment of homosexuals has been reported of late. 

But more to my point, I could not find any online stories built on original reporting about the situation in Egypt published in what I recognize as conservative outlets likely to tilt against gay rights in their content.

The most I found were re-posted wire service reports, such as this one from Agence France-Presse (the French international news service) published by alt-right conservative Breitbart. Similarly, the New York Post ran an Associated Press story; the newspaper's search engine provided no indication whether the piece also ran in the print edition.

I also searched The Washington Times, Fox.com, and the Washington Examiner and found nothing, not even a wire brief. 

Why is this the case?

I doubt it's because the conservative press, as a group, cares nothing about the brutality that homosexuals face in places such as Egypt. Most American social conservatives, it's my experience, deplore wanton violence against even those they consider morally corrupted by virtue of their sexual proclivities (I’m referring here to activities by consenting adults).

But could it be a political decision? Knowing their audience, do conservative news outlets shy away from reporting stories that just might stir unwanted sympathies for gay people? Might they just not want to tick off their most hard-right customers? 

To be fair, it's true that the elite media I linked to above have greater resources than do the majority of socially conservative news outlets. So is this discrepancy just a matter of not expending limited resources to support original reporting on foreign stories that they think readers/watchers/listeners would rather avoid? 

However, even if that's so, it does not explain why Fox and The Wall Street Journal (granted the Journal's news pages, which I also checked, are far less conservative than its editorial/opinion section) appear to have published nothing. Both these outlets have considerable resources. 

I admit I'm unsure whether all I've postulated is accurate. I concede that my limited study of the situation could have left me underinformed. I'm simply posing some questions I think are worthy of considering.

GetReligion readers: I'd appreciate your take on the journalistic issues involved -- no pro- or anti-homosexuality diatribes, please. Am I on to something or just widely off base?

The comments section awaits below. Don't hold back. 

Please respect our Commenting Policy