Jacoby: Vast Gap Between Coverage of Gibson vs. Seattle Jewish Center Shooting

Last week, I mentioned to Michelle Malkin that it was weird that several networks only made a one-day story out of a Muslim shooting up a Jewish community center in Seattle, killing one woman and wounding five, while Mel Gibson's drunken rant was the story that couldn't end. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby did a little counting in Nexis and found the disparity was vast and wide between Gibson's drunk-driving arrest and Naveed Haq's murdering rampage:

In the first six days after his arrest, the media database Nexis logged 888 stories mentioning "Mel Gibson" and "Jews"....Yet after six days, a Nexis search turned up only 236 stories mentioning Haq -- one-fourth the number dealing with Gibson's drunken outburst.

Jacoby said celebrity and "The Passion" subtext aside, the shooting was a much bigger story: 

By any rational calculus, Incident B was far more significant. According to police and eyewitness reports, the killer forced his way into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle by holding a gun to the head of a 13-year-old girl. Once inside, Naveed Haq announced, ``I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel," and opened fire with two semiautomatic pistols. Pam Waechter died on the spot; five other women were shot in the abdomen, knee, or arm. When one of the women managed to call 911, Haq took the phone and told the dispatcher: ``These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."

At a time when jihadist murder is a global threat and some of the most malevolent figures in the Islamic world -- Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah, to name just two -- openly incite violence against Americans and Jews, the attack in Seattle should have been a huge story everywhere.

I am generally skeptical toward the quick Nexis search as a bias-measuring tool. In this case, you could argue that a certain segment of the Gibson "stories" are merely mentions (or wisecracks) in pieces about something else. But you can say that these numbers are a vague indicator of what we all know: one of these is a story that excited the liberal media elite. The other makes the liberal media elite nervous about stereotyping minorities or causing American hatred of Muslims. Jacoby lists a series of crimes the media has generally ignored as they unfolded:

But if previous behavior and religious belief explain the burst of interest in the Gibson story, they only deepen the question of why the Seattle bloodshed was played down. After all, Haq is not the first example of what scholar Daniel Pipes has called ``Sudden Jihad Syndrome," in which a seemingly nonviolent Muslim erupts in a murderous rampage.

Just this year, for example, Mohammed Taheri-azar, a philosophy major at the University of North Carolina, deliberately rammed a car into a crowd of students, saying he wanted to "avenge the death of Muslims around the world." Michael Julius Ford opened fire in a Denver warehouse, killing one person and injuring five. "I don't know what happened to him yesterday," his sister Khali told the press. "He told me that Allah was going to make a choice and it was going to be good and told me people at his job was making fun of his religion."

Other cases in recent years include Hasan Akbar , a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division, who attacked his fellow soldiers at an American command center in Kuwait with grenades and rifle fire, killing one and wounding 15; Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet, who killed two people when he shot up the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport in 2002; and Ali Hasan Abu Kamal, who was carrying a note denouncing "Zionists" and others who "must be annihilated & exterminated" when he opened fire on the observation deck of the Empire State building.

If the Catholic Gibson's nonviolent bigotry is a legitimate subject of media scrutiny, all the more so is the animus that spurs Muslims like Haq and the others to jihadist murder.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis