In the US, most media coverage of antisemitism focuses on the left

Outside the Tree of Life Synagogue after the massacre

JVL Introduction

A US study conducted by Media Matters concludes:

  • “Given the right-wing politicization of anti-Semitism, it’s especially important for media to portray anti-Semitism accurately. By focusing on rhetoric from the left as much or more than deadly right-wing anti-Semitic acts, media mislead viewers and readers into a false equivalency between the two and play into right-wing strategies to deflect attention from their own anti-Semitism.”

Why aren’t we surprised?

This article was originally published by Media Matters on Thu 24 Oct 2019. Read the original here.

As Trump and the GOP weaponize charges of anti-Semitism, media has covered anti-Semitic rhetoric more than actions

We preface the study with this Jewish Telegraphic Agency news flash by Ben Sales on 24th October 2019 under the headline “Most media coverage of anti-Semitism focuses on the left, study finds

(JTA) — The majority of news coverage of anti-Semitism during the past year has spotlighted left-wing rhetoric as opposed to right-wing actions, according to a survey by Media Matters.

The study [report reproduced below] found that 56 percent of news coverage of anti-Semitism in the 11 months following the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting focused on anti-Semitism coming from the political left compared to 44 percent coming from the political right.

Media Matters, a watchdog that largely monitors right-wing media, released the study on Wednesday.

Its study also found that most media coverage of anti-Semitism focused on anti-Semitic rhetoric rather than anti-Semitic actions.

According to the study, the media focused more on perceived anti-Semitic statements by Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib than on the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway, California, in April.

“Media not only referenced perceived anti-Semitism on the left more often than anti-Semitism on the right, they specifically mentioned rhetoric from the left, such as comments from freshmen Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) that were characterized as anti-Semitic, more often than they did anti-Semitic acts of violence and other actions from the right, such as the shootings at the Pittsburgh and Poway synagogues,” the study said.

The study also found that “References to ‘anti-Semitic’ comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) outnumbered references to ‘anti-Semitic’ comments from President Donald Trump.

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As Trump and the GOP weaponize charges of anti-Semitism, media has covered anti-Semitic rhetoric more than actions

Following the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, media outlets have mentioned perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric from the political left more than anti-Semitic actions by the right-wing

  • Introduction

    In the nearly 11 months following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in which the alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, killed 11 people and injured six others, news media have more often mentioned anti-Semitism in reference to the political left than the right — 56% to 44%, respectively.

    Yet reporting from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette paints a picture of a gunman steeped in conservative and white nationalist circles. The paper describes Bowers’ fascination with conservative radio show host Jim Quinn and “aggressive online provocateurs of the right wing’s fringe.” He also promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online and posted on Gab, a social media platform known for its far-right community. And Bowers was not the only far-right extremist to commit acts of violence in 2018: The Anti-Defamation League noted that “right-wing extremists were responsible for 49 (or 98%) of the 50 domestic extremist-related killings” that year.

    Despite this reality of deadly anti-Semitic acts perpetuated by far-right white supremacists, media not only referenced perceived anti-Semitism on the left more often than anti-Semitism on the right, they specifically mentioned rhetoric from the left, such as comments from freshmen Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) that were characterized as anti-Semitic, more often than they did anti-Semitic acts of violence and other actions from the right, such as the shootings at the Pittsburgh and Poway synagogues. Of the total media mentions of anti-Semitism found, 53% referred to rhetoric from the left while 25% were about acts from the right; an additional 19% of references were about rhetoric from the right.

    Over the same time, President Donald Trump and other Republicans have been “weaponizing” charges of anti-Semitism by expressing outrage over comments perceived as anti-Semitic from Democratic lawmakers — despite Trump’s own history of using anti-Semitic rhetoric and continually tweeting dog whistles that contain anti-Semitic tropes. Media unwittingly aid this right-wing strategy when they present a false equivalency between perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left and deadly right-wing anti-Semitic violence.

  • Key Findings

    • Across all media studied, we found more references to anti-Semitism attributed to the left — 56% — than to the right — 44%.

    • Regardless of political attribution to the reference, media have focused on anti-Semitic rhetoric far more than anti-Semitic actions: 1,406 of all references to anti-Semitism were about rhetoric, and 525 instances were about actions.

    • When media outlets referenced anti-Semitic rhetoric, they were far more likely to be referencing rhetoric from the left than from the right, with 73% of all references to anti-Semitic rhetoric being attributed to the left.

    • Media have focused on anti-Semitic rhetoric attributed to the left to the same degree as anti-Semitic actions — violence and other — attributed to the right.

    • References to “anti-Semitic” comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) outnumbered references to “anti-Semitic” comments from President Donald Trump.

    • Fox News accounted for 57% of all anti-Semitic rhetoric attributed to the left, but even without Fox, media still referred to rhetoric from the left slightly more than anti-Semitic actions from the right: 37% to 35%, respectively.

  • Media mentions of “anti-Semitism” that reference actions or rhetoric attributed to the political left or right
  • Background of anti-Semitism in the U.S.

  • The Anti-Defamation League has shown that since 2017, anti-Semitism is on the rise both in the United States and in Europe: Anti-Semitic incidents have increased sharply while anti-Semitic attitudes have slightly increased. In the group’s 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents report, ADL found a 57% increase in total anti-Semitic incidents from the year prior. And over the last year, several high-profile and clearly anti-Semitic mass shootings have occurred. ADL’s 2018 audit found “the number of anti-Semitic assault incidents increased by 105% last year,” which also included the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.

    In congressional testimony delivered last month to the Senate Commerce Committee, the organization described 2018 as having “the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents with known connections to extremists or extremist groups since 2004.” These incidents included fliering campaigns for right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones by The Daily Stormer Book Clubs, the “on the ground” arm of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, and robocalls in support of white supremacist Patrick Little’s failed Senate bid.

    A poll of 1,000 Jewish American voters conducted on behalf of the Jewish Electorate Institute found that violent threats and anti-Semitism are a growing concern of the Jewish community. A majority of respondents — 73% — said they feel less secure today than two years ago, 59% believed Trump is at least partially responsible for recent mass shootings at synagogues, and 38% were concerned that Trump is encouraging violent extremists on the right.

  • Media references to anti-Semitism

  • Media generally mentioned perceived “anti-Semitic” rhetoric from the left at the same rate as “anti-Semitic” actions from the right

    In consultation with the Jewish Electorate Institute, Media Matters reviewed the three broadcast news networks’ nationally syndicated morning shows, evening news shows, and Sunday morning political talk shows; the three cable news networks’ weekday prime-time lineups (shows airing from 8 to 11 p.m.); and five of the top U.S. newspapers for instances of the words “anti-Semite,” “anti-Semitic,” and “anti-Semitism.”

    On broadcast news, 39% of references to anti-Semitism were related to rhetoric from the left while 40% of references were about violent acts and other actions from the right. For print references, 38% were related to rhetoric from the left while 37% were about action from the right. And on cable, 62% of references had to do with rhetoric from the left while 17% of them were about action from the right.

    When media cover controversial statements from the left as often as — or even more than — incidents of anti-Semitic violence, it not only plays into the right-wing weaponization of anti-Semitism charges, but it also creates a false equivalency between perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left and actual anti-Semitic actions — many of them violent or criminal — from the right.

  • Media mentions of “anti-Semitism” that reference actions or rhetoric attributed to the political left or right
  • Broadcast news

    For broadcast, 39% of newscast mentions of anti-Semitism had to do with rhetoric from the left, while 40% were about violent acts or other action on the right. An additional 20% of references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the right. Each network was about even on references to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left and anti-Semitic action from the right. CBS had slightly more of the latter — 33% to 39%, respectively — and NBC had slightly more of the former — 44% to 40%, respectively.

  • Broadcast news mentions of “anti-Semitism” that reference actions or rhetoric attributed to the political left or right
  • Print

    In five of the top U.S. newspapers, 38% of references to anti-Semitism were related to rhetoric from the left while 37% of references were to acts — violent or otherwise — from the right. An additional 21% of references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the right.

    The Washington Post stood out for a higher disparity in its coverage of anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left and anti-Semitic action from the right: 51% of references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left and only 27% of references were to anti-Semitic action from the right. USA Today and the Los Angeles Times stood out for the opposite. In USA Today, 76% of references were to anti-Semitic action from the right and just 6% of references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left. For the Los Angeles Times, 47% of references were to anti-Semitic action from the right and 24% of references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left.

  • Newspaper mentions of “anti-Semitism” that reference actions or rhetoric attributed to the political left or right
  • Prime-time cable news 

    On cable, 62% of references to anti-Semitism were related to rhetoric from the left while only 17% of references were about violent acts and other actions from the right; 19% of the references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the right.

    Fox News skewed the data heavily because the network was responsible for nearly 57% of all references to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left across all media studied. To put that number into perspective: Out of a total of 1,406 references to anti-Semitic rhetoric, 1,033 such references were attributed to the left — and 588 of those were on Fox alone. Without Fox News, the cable data is more in line with overall trends from broadcast and print media: 34% of references to anti-Semitism related to rhetoric from the left while 31% were about violent acts and other action from the right; 35% of the references were to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the right.

    But on Fox, 82% of references to anti-Semitism were about rhetoric attributed to the left, while just 7% and 8% of references to anti-Semitic action and rhetoric, respectively, were attributed to the right. CNN had slightly more references to anti-Semitic rhetoric attributed to the left than anti-Semitic action attributed to the right — 40% to 31%, respectively. Conversely, MSNBC had slightly more references to anti-Semitic action attributed to the right than anti-Semitic rhetoric attributed to the left — 30% to 23%, respectively.

  • Cable news mentions of “anti-Semitism” that reference actions or rhetoric attributed to the political left or right
  • Media mentions of perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric more often referred to the left than the right

    When looking only at references to anti-Semitic rhetoric, media more often focused on the left than the right. References to the left made up about two-thirds of all mentions of anti-Semitic rhetoric from broadcast and print outlets — 67% and 64%, respectively. On cable, references to anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left comprised 77% of all such references.

  • Media mentions of “anti-Semitism” that reference rhetoric attributed to the political left or right
  • A comparison of discussions and articles about comments from Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar that are perceived to be anti-Semitic versus similarly described comments from President Donald Trump offers a case study showing that media have put more scrutiny on anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left. Across all media, we found 198 references to anti-Semitism on the left in discussions and articles about comments from Omar. Of those, 43% were from Fox alone — far more than any other outlet. By contrast, we found fewer references to anti-Semitism on the right in discussions and articles about comments from Trump across all media — just 109.

    Given the right-wing politicization of anti-Semitism, it’s especially important for media to portray anti-Semitism accurately. By focusing on rhetoric from the left as much or more than deadly right-wing anti-Semitic acts, media mislead viewers and readers into a false equivalency between the two and play into right-wing strategies to deflect attention from their own anti-Semitism.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters reviewed transcripts or articles in the Nexis database from the three broadcast networks’ (ABC, CBS, and NBC) nationally syndicated morning shows, evening news shows, and Sunday morning political talk shows; the three cable networks’ (CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC) weekday prime-time lineup (8 to 11 p.m.); and five top U.S. newspapers (The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times) for any variations of “anti-Semite,” “anti-Semitic,” or “anti-Semitism” — including misspellings — from October 27, 2018, to September 20, 2019.

    We analyzed each individual instance of the word anti-Semitism and its variations and coded their uses as either rhetoric or action from the left or rhetoric or action from the right. We also recorded the target of the use of the word anti-Semitism and its variations and, if applicable, the target’s ideology. We coded only persons, groups, or organizations as targets. Finally, we kept track of the general topic of the article or segment in which the instances took place.

    In some cases, an instance was recorded more than once due to two factors: single instances that referenced both an action and rhetoric, and single instances that were directed at more than one target.

    Due to the intrinsically linked nature of anti-Semitic action and rhetoric on the right, we decided to code as action rather than rhetoric any instances in discussions or articles about anti-Semitic violence that referenced rhetoric that influenced said violent action.

Comments (2)

  • John says:

    This whole concept of false equivalency goes to the heart of the matter viz a viz the current relationship between Israel and Palestine.
    The Israeli regime has deliberately fostered the false equivalency agenda.
    It has become so established that the US mass media now endorses it too.
    I am reading “Bad News for Labour”, which suggests it is applied here too.
    We are living in an era of untrustworthy, lying and corrupt mass media.

  • I think it’s rather simple. People on the right of politics who are antisemitic, hate Jews for being Jews. And of course for people like that support for Israel is natural because it provides a home for Jews and reduces the number of Jews everywhere else. And there is a kind of synergy since this real antisemitism’ is a principal justification for Zionism and the State of Israel.
    My impression is that the number of people on the left of politics who hate Jews for being Jews is vanishingly small. “Antisemitism” on the left is almost wholly concerned with.an opposition to racism and a disgust at a state that owes it’s existence to violent racism.
    So in fact right.and left have diametrically opposed objectives. Anti semites on the right want Jews to emigrate to Israel but so called antisemites on the left would prefer Jews stayed at home.

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