anti-Semitism

Sort of Friday Five: Of course the terrorist attack in New Zealand is a religion-beat story

Sort of Friday Five: Of course the terrorist attack in New Zealand is a religion-beat story

The terrorist set out to massacre Muslim believers as they gathered for Friday prayers in their mosques.

He covered his weapons with names of others who committed similar mass murders and military leaders that he claimed fought for the same cause.

The terrorist left behind a hellish manifesto built on themes common among radicals who hate immigrants, especially Muslims, and weave in virulent anti-Semitism themes, as well (BBC explainer here). He claimed to have “been in contact” with sympathizers of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people — most of them children — in 2011.

1. Religion story of the week. The gunman’s motives may have been pure hatred, with no twisted links to any world religion, but it’s clear that the New Zealand massacre is the religion story of the week — because of the faith of the 49 victims and the faith statements of millions of people that are offering prayers and help in the wake of the attack.

The gunman labeled his own motives, as seen in this New York Times report:

Before the shooting, someone appearing to be the gunman posted links to a white-nationalist manifesto on Twitter and 8chan, an online forum known for extremist right-wing discussions. …

In his manifesto, he identified himself as a 28-year-old man born in Australia and listed his white nationalist heroes. Writing that he had purposely used guns to stir discord in the United States over the Second Amendment’s provision on the right to bear arms, he also declared himself a fascist. “For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist,” he wrote.

The Washington Post noted:

The 74-page manifesto left behind after the attack was littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide.” It is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.

Also this:

Video on social media of the attack’s aftermath showed a state of disbelief, as mosque-goers huddled around the injured and dead. Amid anguished cries, a person could be heard saying, “There is no God but God,” the beginning of the Muslim profession of faith.

Please help us spot major religion themes in the waves of coverage that this story will receive in the hours and days ahead. Meanwhile, with Bobby Ross Jr., still in the Middle East, here is a tmatt attempt to fill the rest of the familiar Friday Five format.

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Politico's attempt to link Trump and Putin via Chabad movement falls as flat as matzah

Politico's attempt to link Trump and Putin via Chabad movement falls as flat as matzah

Is there a newspaper or television station out there that hasn't been contacted by a representative of the Hasidic Jewish organization Chabad pitching a story about local kids helping to bake matzah dough in the days leading up to Passover?

Ah, p.r. manna -- quickie content that beats having to actually ferret out yet another obligatory pre-Passover holiday feature. And what cute visuals; eager kids working alongside cheerful young men sporting classic rabbinic beards dusted with flour.

But Chabad, also known as Chabad-Lubavitcher, is about way more than quickie Passover stories. In case you're not aware of this, let it be said that Chabad is one of the planet's most powerful and far-reaching Jewish religious organizations.

Like all global religious players, it's deeply involved in political gamesmanship, which it plays with considerable skill. Chabad excels at swimming with political sharks of all sorts -- from Nepal to Nigeria, from Ukraine to Uruguay, from Hawaii to Capitol Hill and the White House.

Its supporters lavish donations and praise -- Chabad was key to the survival of traditional Jewish religious practice during the Soviet Union's darkest days. Its critics attack it for a willingness to work with some pretty vile authoritarian governments, its hyper-competitive and often dismissive stance toward other Jewish religious organizations and, yes, its promulgation of ultra-Orthodox religious practice in a liberal age.

An example of this criticism is a recent piece published by Politico that sought to link American President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Chabad cast as some shady go between.

I'll of course say more about this lengthy story, including whether it was blatantly anti-Semitic, as some have alleged

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God help us: How will our digital supermen define what is and what is not 'fake news'?

God help us: How will our digital supermen define what is and what is not 'fake news'?

We have two important journalism subjects -- both linked to religious issues -- that are currently generating lots of heat in the "America after 11/8 cultural meltdown" among America's chattering classes.

No. 1: What is "fake news" and how can it be stopped before it generates more help for Donald Trump?

No. 2: What, precisely, does the term "alt-right" mean and how can the enlightened powers that be in digital technology and mass media (think the gods at Twitter and Facebook) crack down on it to prevent dangerous people from continuing to pump their views into the body politic.

Of course, for some experts, "fake news" (they aren't talking about Rolling Stone) and the alt-right overlap quite a bit. There are times that truly nasty stuff in the alt-right filter up into the mainstream through websites that may not be alt-right themselves, but they run lots and lots of paranoid fake news.

Now, before we get to the religion angles of all of this fake news stuff -- the subject of this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tun that in) -- let's face another blunt reality: How people define the terms "alt-right" and "fake news" often tell you as much about their beliefs and convictions as it does the folks who genuinely deserve to be covered with those nasty labels.

So what does "alt-right" mean? Let's ask the online version of an Oxford dictionary:

alt-right
(in the US) an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content:

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Islam, media self-censorship, The New York Times and beyond

Islam, media self-censorship, The New York Times and beyond

Cowardice, political correctness, or social constraints? What lays behind the phenomena of self-censorship in the media these days?

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Tom Gross argues that the refusal by The New York Times to come clean on the targets of militant Islam is a congenital defect. Inconvenient facts simply do not appear in reports in The Times if they conflict with its worldview.

Commenting on the Gray Lady’s coverage of the terrorist attack in Copenhagen, Gross writes:

At the present time, over a dozen hours after other media (such as The Guardian) reported prominently on the specifically anti-Semitic nature of [the Feb. 14] attack in Copenhagen and on the fact there was a Bat Mitzvah going on in the synagogue while it was being attacked (with over 80 people including many children inside), the lengthy report on the New York Times website on the Copenhagen shootings doesn’t mention the word “anti-Semitism” once. Instead New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger writes in his piece “anti-Muslim sentiment is rising in Europe.”

Nor does The New York Times mention the bat mitzvah.

There are not so many Jews in Denmark and not many bat mitzvahs -- it seems the terrorist had done his research carefully. Yet the New York Times website home page says, at the time of writing, that the shooting was “near a synagogue.” No, it wasn’t near a synagogue. It was at a synagogue. The synagogue was the target. Which is why a Jew guarding the synagogue was shot dead.

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Washington Post delves deeper into whether Jews will flee France in wake of kosher market attack

Washington Post delves deeper into whether Jews will flee France in wake of kosher market attack

This is a rather huge story.

In a 1,300-word report, The Washington Post delves deeper into whether Jews will flee France in the wake of last month's kosher market attack:

SAINT-MANDÉ, France — For all her 30 years, Jennifer Sebag has lived in a community that embodies everything modern Europe is supposed to be.
Inclusive, integrated, peaceful and prosperous, the elegant city of Saint-Mandé — hard against Paris’s eastern fringe — has been a haven for Jews like Sebag whose parents and grandparents were driven from their native North Africa decades ago by anti-Semitism.
“I’ve always told everyone that here, we are very protected. It’s like a small village,” Sebag said.
But in an instant on the afternoon of Jan. 9, Sebag’s refuge became a target. A gunman who would later say he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State walked into her neighborhood’s kosher market and opened fire, launching a siege that would leave four hostages dead — all of them Jewish.
A month later, the Jews of Saint-Mandé are planning for a possible exodus from what had once appeared to be the promised land.

This piece provides additional insight in an ongoing story.

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Were there any ghosts in the Rosenberg diary? You think?

First things first: Anyone who is interested in history, especially the history of the ideas behind Adolph Hitler, is going to amazed by the twists and turns that unfold in the new Los Angeles Times “Column One” feature about the search for the lost diary of Nazi intellectual Alfred Rosenberg. This is one amazing ride, with the son of a Holocaust survivor acting as a kind of quiet, peaceful, but highly motivated Indiana Jones on the quest to find the Great White Whale of Holocaust studies. Here is how reporter Richard Simon begins this riveting tale, which has a Washington, D.C., dateline:

Mayer helped maintain the vast collection of artifacts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and knew the diary had been kept by Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi Party’s chief ideologue and a confidant of Adolf Hitler.

The diary was found in the final days of World War II, hidden behind a false wall in a Bavarian castle. Excerpts were introduced into evidence at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

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The Boys from Buenos Aires?

What is an ultra-conservative Catholic? A member of the Society of St Pius X? A faithful Sunday communicant? A Trappist monk? Or is it someone whose name appears on the subscription lists of both My Daily Visitor and The National Review?

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The controversial mind and Lebanese soul of Helen Thomas

As I have mentioned before here at GetReligion, at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks I was a member of a largely Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox parish in West Palm Beach, Fla. Our priest, as an Arab Christian, volunteered to be a grief counselor at the still-smoking ruins of the World Trade Center. A few members of the parish had their grandchildren punched around on school playgrounds because they were Arabs, even with their gold baptism crosses hanging around their necks.

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Is 'Palestinian' a sufficient descriptor for Hamas?

On Friday, we looked at media coverage of a new translation of a video from 2010 that was released by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaking against Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs.” One of the outlets to cover the story, albeit a few weeks after the release of the video, was the BBC.

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