The Mail and Scary Muslims

We begin with the Mail. We'll probably see more of this paper than any other. Partly because it's particularly guilty of bullshit and partly because I hate it the most. I fuckin' 'ates the buggers! Anyway, the story is 'Muslims agree it was wrong to silence Mozart opera'.

The great thing about this article is that it exposes how the Mail has a contradictory stance in its representation of Muslims, and it's a perfect example of another of the Mail's views of what it terms 'political correctness'. It also exposes how it lies by omission and with ambiguous language. Some of the reader comments show up other problems with it too.

The Daily Mail likes to depict Muslims as a broadly monolithic block with one definite set of views that they all share. The term 'moderate Muslims' is sometimes used to separate those with non-fundamentalist views, but the term 'Muslims' is normally not used to describe them without the 'moderate' qualifier. So 'Muslims' are one set of people with one set of views, and in Daily Mail Land, they're not the moderate ones.

At the same time, the Mail likes to depict people who think it's a good idea not to offend people as PC busybodies who interfere about something they claim will offend one group or another, but they've got it all wrong and the people they think they're protecting don't give a shit in the first place. If you've ever heard anyone defend Bernard Manning by saying they know a black bloke who thinks he's hilarious so he can't be racist, you'll be familiar with this argument.

The article opens with this:
German opera chiefs who cancelled a Mozart opera for fear of offending Muslims were hit by a furious backlash yesterday.

The country's leader Angela Merkel condemned the decision as 'self-censorship out of fear' - and even Muslim leaders apparently agreed the show should be reinstated.
The story is set up with a classic illustration of the Daily Mail view of political correctness and liberalism. The opera chiefs cancelled the show so as not to offend Muslims, but the Muslims didn't care and didn't think it should be cancelled at all. When will these PC goons ever learn, eh?

But this doesn't square with the Mail's view of Muslims, because it shows them doing something reasonable rather than jumping up and down and shouting. The Mail can't have that, so how can it have its cake and eat it? How can it show that these PC busybodies are creating a fuss out of nothing at the same time as showing that Muslims in fact aren't reasonable and don't think the show should be reinstated? Check out the word 'apparently'. This word signals that all is not well with the idea that Muslim leaders thought the show should be reinstated. And we find out why in the rest of the article.

After a few paragraphs, including a couple setting out how there have been violent protests - described as 'violent Muslim protests' - after the Pope's speech this month and the Mohammed cartoon protests earlier this year, it says:
Mr Schaeuble said there had been differences of opinion at the summit, which was intended 'to achieve results, not exchange pleasantries'. But he said the one thing participants agreed on was the opera cancellation should be reversed.

His interpretation of Muslim feeling, however, appeared at odds with a statement from the leader of Germany's Islamic Council, who welcomed the cancellation of the opera saying it 'could certainly offend Muslims'.
So, that's how you can have your cake and eat it. Notice how the paper doesn't even think to suggest that maybe the Muslim who thought the opera should be cancelled might have had a difference of opinion with the Muslims who said it shouldn't. That can't happen because Muslims all think the same thing. It's a small point, but the statement from 'Germany's Islamic Council' came before the summit where 'Muslims' agreed that the ban should be lifted, so it's possible that 'Muslims' changed their mind. But the Mail can't have that either. 'Muslims' cannot disagree with each other or be reasoned with so when the guy said the Muslims at the summit agreed the play should be reinstated he was either wrong or lying.

Within the framework of saying, "Muslims don't care. Yes they do!" the article does a bit more water-muddying. It says:
Mozart's opera, premiered in 1781, addresses human resistance to making sacrifices to the gods, but the controversial scene is a departure from the original and is the interpretation of the Berlin production's director, Hans Neuenfels.
This is a good example of a common Daily Mail tactic. Say something in the mildest and most ambiguous language possible so the reader can be misled into thinking you haven't actually said it. Saying that something is a departure from the original is far milder than saying something isn't in the original. Saying that something is the interpretation of the director is far milder than saying it's an insertion by the director. So while this sentence can be said to describe the situation as it is, it could also describe something else. It could describe a situation where the director has just done something in a different way to how the original did it, not something that isn't in the original at all. This would normally be seen as bad journalism. The paper hasn't accurately described the situation. But if the paper doesn't want its readers to understand that the scene in question is a new one that isn't in the 1781 original, it's actually very good journalism. You might want to do that if, for instance, you wanted to make any objections to the production look even more unreasonable than they actually are.

Another common Daily Mail tactic is the selective omission of relevant information. If you read around a bit, you can find that:
Police emphasized that no concrete threats are known at this time.
The article never mentions this. Although it does mention what the company feared might happen and say, "The depiction posed an 'incalculable security risk' for the theatre, Deutsche Oper] said," it doesn't make it clear that the cancellation isn't actually a reaction to any actual protests, but an anticipation of possible future ones. This gives the impression that the opera has been cancelled because Muslims actually demanded it. If you think this is overly critical and the article doesn't give that impression at all, just read some of the comments:
NuLabour should try listening to Merkel instead of has-been Clinton. I think that we've had quite enough of running away from fanatic Muslim threats of violence and disruption.

- Keith Lonsdale, Doncaster

Top marks to a very courageous lady who unlike so many was not afraid to speak out in what she knows is the right of free thinking people, not to have life and liberties threatened by religious extremists and bigots or any others who use the threat of violence etc. to impose their will on free people. She stands for tolerance and understanding not that fear that seems to grip so many in such circumstances and I stand right next to her.

- Roy, Auckland New Zealand

If you think Muslims might be offended, what about Christians and Buddhists? I don't hear any of them complaining and they should raise a stink too.

- Carl, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA
These people clearly think there have been threats and complaints when there haven't. Some of the other comments are good too. This one shows one flaw in the Mail's assessment:
Such a performance which mocks Christianity in such an offensive way should be canceled. Did the original opera contain such blasphemy?

As a Christian I would be very offended and can understand why people of other faiths would be offended as well. Chancellor Merkel must be completely out of touch with Germany's Christian Heritage.

- Mike Reid, St. Louis, Missouri USA
Whoops! Would this mean we can now say Christians think the opera should be banned? This one comes before Carl of Fredericksburg says Christians don't complain. Maybe he's just thick.

Another nice one, just because it's funny:
Good on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Radical Islamic Facist win when people act in fear.
The German people have always demonstrated bravery and steadfastness and have been esteemed by all of Europe since the days of Caeser.

- Patrick Kelly, Middletown, NJ USA
Except when they were Nazis, surely? Maybe not. This is the Daily Mail after all. Hurrah for the blackshirts and all that.

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