Between 2001 and 2008, mainstream media outlets predominantly featured anti-Islam organizations, leading to altered “contours of mainstream discourse.” That’s according to North Carolina Professor Christopher A. Bail’s study that used “anti-plagiarism” software to examine the coverage of Muslims in the mainstream American press. Bail surveyed more than “1,084 press releases about Muslims produced by 120 civil society organizations to 50,407 newspaper articles and television transcripts” during the seven crucial years after 9/11.
Bail told the British Wired magazine that journalists became enamored with the those spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric, and that even though “the vast majority of organizations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages,” journalists so closely followed extremists that the groups became perceived as “mainstream.” Muslim groups, as a result, were sidelined and became less influential. Bail painted a disturbing picture for Wired, saying:
“I think most Americans are exposed to anti-Muslim messages in the media and elsewhere. The danger, I believe, is that many Americans have not been exposed to the positive messages of moderate Muslim organisations because they receive so little media coverage. Perhaps because of this distorted representation, we have seen a recent increase in anti-Muslim attitudes within the United States — even though anti-Muslim attitudes briefly decreased after the September 11 attacks.”
An August 2011 Center for American Progress study, Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, revealed that seven different organizations spent $42 million on efforts that fanned “the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America” over the last ten years. The money helped Islamophobic messages take hold:
Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network (the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators) have worked hard to push narratives that Obama might be a Muslim, that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.
And the network has had its effect. “The groups that were getting the majority of the attention, especially after 9/11, were some of the least representative groups, or what I call fringe groups,” Bail said.