Since Friday's massacre at Fort Hood, NewsBusters has been covering the efforts of several news outlets, including the New York Times, to warn of Muslim persecution in America.
This is quite a departure from the treatment offered other religious groups by the Times, particularly the paper's disgraceful coverage of Mormon persecution at the hands of rabid protestors in California.
Back on November 4, 2008, when gay marriage was outlawed for the second time by popular vote in the Golden State, angry protestors stormed the streets. Word quickly spread that Mormons had played a big role in getting the ban to pass prompting gay activists to attack Mormon citizens in fits of rage.
Unlike now, the Times wasn't worried about protecting a religious group from an angry backlash. Quite the contrary, when rumors of the Mormon influence on the proposition grew, the Times was more than willing to actively build the case against them.
On November 15 of that year, the paper used prominent space on its front page to print a hit piece titled "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage." In the middle of a literal culture war on the streets of California, the Times thought it wise to convince gays and lesbians angered by the proposition's passage that Mormons were single-handedly responsible:
As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat - and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.
Nowhere in the article did the Times worry that promoting a national blame game might provoke a witch hunt against innocent Mormons. Not even close, for in a painstaking account that lasted more than 1500 words, reporters Jesse McKinley and Kirk Johnson waited until the very end to mention that angry protests had been happening at all:
That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church's leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for "respect" and "civility" in the aftermath of the vote.
The Times felt no need to explain who was behind the protests or to offer any statement from a gay activist in agreement on stopping the violence. After a thousand words spent laying Prop 8 directly at the feet of the LDS church, an obligatory call for peace was tacked onto the end.
Thankfully, some newspapers were honest enough to cover the entire situation.
To the credit of the Washington Post, reporter Ashley Surdin did an excellent job of reporting what the Times would not about the violence in California:
Protests and vandalism of churches, boycotts of businesses and possibly related mailings of envelopes filled wit white powder have followed the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
In Sacramento, a high-profile theatre director resigned from his job of 25 years after a boycott threat over his $1000 donation in support of the measure. In Los Angeles, a Mexican restaurant owner, a Mormon who donated $100, was reduced to tears and left town after hundreds of protestors confronted her at work, by phone and on the Internet.
No wonder Mormons were so surprised by the "extent of the protests" launched against them. Since the Post article was published on the same day as the Times piece, there was no excuse for the Times to play dumb about the violence.
Persecution of Mormons eventually spilled out of California and appeared in other states as gay activists stepped up their efforts. The Denver Post reported on November 12, 2008, that a local church found a copy of the Book of Mormon set on fire and laid on the front steps. Mormon individuals across the western states were also harassed:
Over the weekend across the Wasatch Front in Utah, windows at several LDS ward houses were shattered by rock throwing and BB-gun shooting protestors. The property crimes in Utah are being investigated.
Vandalism, harassment, sacrilegious actions, and private citizens being publicly branded in an epidemic that stretched over multiple states was the "extent of the protests" that the Times glossed over in its coverage.
The paper eventually got around to covering the story again, but still had no sympathy for Mormons hiding in their homes for fear of being pelted with rocks.
On December 10 reporter Jesse McKinley returned to Sacramento for an update on the protests. Instead of condemning the ongoing chaos, the Times actually lavished praise on gay activists for being more forceful:
Many grass-roots leaders say the emergence of new faces, and acceptance of tactics that are more confrontational, amount to an implicit rejection of the measured approach of established gay rights groups, a course that, some gay men and lesbians maintain, allowed passage of the ban, Proposition 8...
The new activists have impressed some gay rights veterans.
The article oozed with excitement about gay activists having "a sudden burst of energy" and "impatience with the status quo." This time, not one single word was spoken about violence. No critics were quoted or even mentioned, and McKinley felt no need to suggest that the activists should let the will of Californians be recognized.
Perhaps if Major Nidal Malik Hasan's worst crime almost exactly one year later had been voting for Proposition 8, the Times would have been more outraged about his religious convictions. Instead, Hasan shot 13 innocent people on an Army base in Texas.
When faced with evidence that Hasan's motives had sprung from fundamental Islam, the Times got right to work blaming it on everything else.
NewsBuster Matthew Balan reported on Monday that the paper refused to admit Hasan's religious beliefs had anything to do with the massacre. Instead, an explanation could be found in the fact that he'd allegedly been teased by his colleagues:
He had been the subject of taunts and felt singled out by his fellow soldiers for being Muslim, friends and relatives said. His uncle in Ramallah, West Bank, Rafik Hamad, said Major Hasan's fellow soldiers had once called him a "camel jockey."
The paper went on to insist that such taunting was common in the military. Now the challenge was not to prevent another Hasan from going crazy, but to assure that no more innocent Muslims would be affected by public anger:
In the aftermath of the shootings at Fort Hood on Thursday by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan of the Army, a psychiatrist, many Muslim soldiers and their commanders say they fear that the relationship between the military and its Muslim service members will only grow more difficult.
Mormons in California and Utah would have loved for someone from the Times to care about their "difficult" plight one year ago. Window smashing and book burning were arguably more disturbing than the juvenile names allegedly hurled against Major Hasan, but Mormons took the high ground and never resorted to violence in revenge.
Even so, the Times kept on portraying them as bigots and defending the anger spewed against them.
While the Times continues to print sensational claims of American Muslims being ostracized, Mormons are still waiting for the paper to admit to documented proof of violent persecution carried out against another unpopular religion.
Mormons deserve the respect of someone in the media giving them credit. In the face of angry protestors, daily marches, a governor promising to fight their very votes, and a media that glamorized "confrontational" activists, Mormons somehow managed to refrain from random bouts of murder.
No thanks, however, to the New York Times.