A Blind Eye to Jihad: What the Media Doesn’t Want You to Know about Anwar al-Awlaki

April 12th, 2010 4:24 PM

The progression of Anwar al-Awlaki – if not the most influential force in terror operations, certainly one of the more popular faces – from simple cleric to proud member of the ‘kill or capture’ list, has sparked little interest in the MSM from a threat aspect.  Instead, it has prompted yet another interview from CNN with his father, begging the United States to call off the military.

Imagine Osama bin Laden being treated with kid gloves shortly after serving as the influential and inspirational leader of the 9/11 attacks.  In contrast, presenting bin Laden’s side of the story was an overwhelming goal of the liberal media shortly after 9/11, with CNN leading the charge – so much so that it prompted Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center to write a column concerning the network’s willingness to ogle the Al-Qaeda leader. 

According to Bozell, CNN’s desire to interview bin Laden (through Al Jazeera) clearly demonstrated that “it does not matter to them if their offer ends up harming the American war effort on terrorism by giving this terrorist an international forum to promote his propaganda.”  

Curiously, that exact scenario is being played out in the current media as well – in reverse...

The main stream media have spent months diverting attention from the influence of radical preachers such as one Anwar al-Awlaki.  But the Awlaki tentacles to terrorism are far too numerous.  His blood-stained fingerprints have been identified with 9/11, Fort Hood, the Christmas Day terrorist, nearly a dozen other events, and more recently, the New Jersey terror suspect, Sharif Mobley. 

Despite these numerous cases involving Awlaki, they are only the ones that our federal law enforcement officials are aware of at this point.  Rest assured, there are more people out there being influenced by Awlaki, ready to attack innocent Americans, his inspirational words ringing in their ears. 

Yet the media will only identify him as a cleric.  A cleric.

Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni embassy in Washington, recently stated that Anwar al-Awlaki is “a fixture in jihad 101.”

Being a fixture in jihad reaps little interest from the networks.  However, when it comes to creating sympathy, or overtly humanizing this terrorist with syrupy family interviews, the networks have little problem finding a story.  A case study of the media reaction can be witnessed in coverage provided by CNN. 

When Fort Hood was besieged by a terrorist rampage in November, the gunman, Nidal Malik Hasan, was quickly cast as a loner, an outcast.  This portrait was initially painted by the Obama Administration, but the media quickly caught on and ran with it.  CNN jumped to the forefront of the loner argument, offering up ‘criminologist’ Pat Brown, who defined Hasan as ‘a lone guy’ who ‘had no luck finding a wife’.

The credentials of CNN's profiler of choice are dubious to say the least - she is self-taught in her profession, has no formal police training, and has been dubbed ‘reckless' by at least one instructor at the FBI Academy's Profiling Unit. 

When confronted by the association between Hasan and his mentor Awlaki, Brown refused to acknowledge any link between the men, or any link to terrorism in general.  She pulls no punches, stating point blank that the Fort Hood attack was not terrorism.  Given evidence to the contrary, this statement is stunning.  More stunning is Brown's interpretation of the law code definitions of terrorism, as can be seen in a previous NewsBusters post.  Essentially, Brown had based her assessment on definitions of terrorism that simply do not apply.  And so, CNN had successfully played up this lone wolf defense, and simultaneously downplayed the role of any outsiders in the Fort Hood massacre, most notably Awlaki.

In February, as evidence mounted of yet another link, this time between Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Awlaki, CNN chose to focus not on Awlaki as a potential terrorist organizer, but instead interviewed the cleric's father, relaying his pleas with the U.S. government to spare his son's life - something the network had already covered a month earlier.  In this new piece, Awlaki is further portrayed as a simple preacher, being wrongfully accused by the U.S. government.  It is briefly reported that Awlaki and the Christmas Day bomber have met, but that there was no transfer of knowledge, nor any discussion of the bomber's intent with his teacher.

Yet, it was a mere two days after the parental piece that for the first time, the Christmas Day bomber specifically confirmed that he and Awlaki had met.  This time though, there was a new twist - Awlaki had actually ordered the attack, according to Abdulmutallab, making him an operative in the War on Terrorism. 

CNN's coverage of this particular aspect of the Awlaki story was noticeably nonexistent.

Several weeks after ties between Sharif Mobley and Awlaki had been publicly announced, the network continued to remain silent on the matter, again demonstrating they had no desire to cover the influence of a major jihadist.

More recently, the government has finally figured out the threat that Awlaki poses, placing him on the ‘kill or capture' list.  Amazingly, CNN's main point of concern again is his father's pleas to spare his son.

Will the rest of the main stream media break free from the blind eye cast by the current Administration, identifying Awlaki for what he truly is - an outright terrorist? 

While that remains unlikely with an administration and media more obsessed with right-wing extremists, man-caused disasters, and the impeccable success of our counterterrorism systems, perhaps it's time to start holding networks like accountable for their own unwillingness to connect certain jihadist dots. 

But then we wouldn't want them to start 'jumping to conclusions'.  Rather, they'll likely continue a governmental and media policy of crawling to conclusions instead. 

Ignorance should no longer be considered bliss.

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