James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Is the worshipper beside you a heathen–or a spy?

Posted by James McPherson on March 20, 2009

Imagine the outcry if it were discovered that the Obama administration were sending spies into conservative Christian churches.

No, as far as I know, that hasn’t happened. But 10 Muslim organizations say the FBI has been infiltrating mosques–that the agency “has sent undercover agents posing as worshippers into mosques, pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation.”

Perhaps coincidentally, the report comes on the same day that Barack Obama used a video message to try to reach out to the Islamic nation of Iran: “The message is a dramatic shift in tone from that of the Bush administration, which included Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, in an ‘axis of evil,'” CNN noted. “It also echoes Obama’s inaugural speech, in which he said to the Muslim world, ‘we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.'”

That respect is more likely to come if the government isn’t seen as an enemy of Islam–already a difficult message to carry forward with our consistent support of Israel. I’m not criticizing all of that support, but it does make relations with some Islamic countries more complicated.

Of course maybe we should be spying on Muslims–why should those suspicious peace-loving Quakers be the only religious group considered a threat?

Posted in History, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 19 Comments »

What a concept: woman to have input on women’s education in Saudi Arabia

Posted by James McPherson on February 14, 2009

Saudi King Abdullah has appointed a woman to the nation’s council of ministers for the country. Noor Al-Fayez will serve as deputy director for women’s education in Saudi Arabia, probably because there was no less-valued position on the council.

The appointment is a good sign, I suppose. Now she’ll just have to hope her husband is willing to drive her to work, so she can perform her new duties. But maybe there’s no reason for her to actually show up at the office, since as the State Department reports, under the traditional Saudi interpretation of Islamic law, men and women are not allowed to attend public events together, and are segregated in the workplace (pretty much like Democrats and Republicans in our Congress).

The United States won’t formally complain about any of that that, of course, because Saudi Arabia’s hold on the world’s largest oil reserves guarantees handholding on the part of American presidents. Despite our long series of misadventures in Iraq, the eye-gouging nation of Saudi Arabia also was the home country of 15 of the hijackers who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11 .

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Poll result: 23 percent of Texans are morons

Posted by James McPherson on October 30, 2008

That number is based on one question from one survey. Fox New offers the evidence, based on a poll by the Texas Politics Project and the the government department at the University of Texas in Austin. About a fourth of all registered Lone Star State voters apparently think Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Considering the fact that 89 percent of those polled think the country is worse off economically than a year ago, but more than half still say they’ll vote for John McCain–who has yet to offer any economic plan other than “I won’t raise taxes” and “Look over there, to see the mud I found to roll in today”–the number of clueless Texas voters actually may be much higher than the poll suggests. And you wondered how George W. Bush became a governor?

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Six more religious questions for McCain and Obama

Posted by James McPherson on August 18, 2008

In my view, John McCain and Barack Obama both did OK in their Saturday night back-to-back discussions with Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church. McCain did better than I expected and probably came out a bit ahead.

McCain did so well, in fact, that some critics thought he must have had the questions ahead of time. Despite Warren’s assurrences (and apparent belief), McCain and/or his key staffers may in fact have heard most of Obama’s interview, since McCain was in a car with staffers rather than locked away in a soundproof room during that time.

Still, though I have decreasing regard for McCain’s honesty, I doubt that he needed to cheat. His answers were shorter and more direct, and he came across as more focused, largely because he used most of the questions–as good candidates do during what has come to pass for political “debates“–as opportunities to regurgitate his stump speech. He said almost nothing that regular watchers of politics hadn’t heard repeatedly, but his answers did play to much of the Saddleback audience.

Obama’s longer, more conversational and less focused answers weren’t helped by Warren’s repeated interjections of “uh huh,” but the pastor was clearly nervous at the beginning and got better as the evening went on. Obama gave the worst answer of the night (about when life begins), with McCain’s answer about what qualifies a person as financially rich the second-worst. Neither candidate made a huge gaffe, though it remains to be seen which segments will be most heavily viewed as out-of-context YouTube videos. McCain also benefited from getting to go last (ask Shawn Johnson and Sandra Izbasa if that matters).

In truth, however, I doubt that the discussion will have much of an effect on anything. Given a choice of a religious/political discussion on a Saturday night in August, most of the relatively few people who were home watching television were tuned to the Olympics. McCain was going to get the conservative evangelical vote, anyway, though he may have boosted his credibility with the folks he once termed “agents of intolerance.” Obama may have countered the ongoing fiction that he is a Muslim, though the people stupid enough to believe that may not be able to figure out how to vote, anyway–and if they do, they weren’t going to vote for Obama.

I am a bit troubled that the candidates felt they needed to attend a church-sponsored discussion at all, a further complication of what I see as an often negative relationship between religion and presidential politics. It would bother me less if the candidates felt equally compelled to answer questions from a union leader, a state governor, the mayor of a major American city (New Orleans or New York, perhaps?), a panel of teachers and parents, and a panel of economists.

And though I think Warren did a decent job, he failed to ask a few questions that I would have in a forum such as this one. Though I likely will never see them answered by the candidates, I’ll post a half-dozen of those questions here:

  1. Catholics who practice birth control or have abortions sometimes are criticized for hypocrisy because they act in opposition to what the pope has professed. Since the leadership of every major religious denomination in the United States opposed the Iraq War, does that suggest hypocrisy among those churchgoers who favored the war–including President Bush and those in Congress?
  2. What is or should be the role of a church denomination’s leadership, for you and for Christians in general?
  3. Catholics make up roughly a quarter of the U.S. population,  and Jews only about 2 percent. Since five of nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic and two are Jewish, isn’t the court seriously out of balance?
  4. How do your views of the death penalty correspond with your Christian faith?
  5. As president, you are expected to represent the entire nation. Name one Muslim and one atheist whom you count among your friends and advisors.
  6. Discuss your views of evolution and “intelligent design,” and how you feel they should be taught in public schools.

Posted in Education, Legal issues, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »