News Corp head honcho Rupert Murdoch found himself in the eye of a social media storm last weekend for tweeting out the sort of bigoted ignorance often heard on his premier U.S. news network, Fox News. “Maybe most Moslems peaceful,” the Australian-born billionaire tweeted, “but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.”
The suggestion that Muslims were collectively responsible for crimes committed by some who shared the same faith sparked outrage across the board. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, suggested that as a fellow Christian, she would have to “auto-excommunicate” if she were to be held responsible for Rupert Murdoch. Comedian Aziz Ansari asked whether Murdoch believed all Catholics were responsible for child-abuse among the clergy, and also asked sarcastically for a “step-by-step guide” for how his aging Muslim parents in North Carolina could “help destroy terrorist groups.”
Murdoch may have been stung by the criticism into a subsequent tweet, two days later, in which he lauded “the heroic sacrifice of Ahmed Merabet, Muslim police officer whose funeral was today”. Presumably, in Murdoch’s mind, Merabet had done his bit to “destroy the jihadist cancer.”
The eulogy delivered by Merabet’s brother, however, contained a strong rebuke of Murdoch’s logic, and of all those who shared the media mogul’s view that Islam was somehow responsible.
“My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims,” Malek Merabet said. “Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic — liberty, equality, fraternity.”
Malek said all of France faced a common challenge of fighting extremism: “I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites. One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither color or religion. I want to make another point: don’t tar everybody with the same brush, don’t burn mosques — or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won’t bring our dead back and it won’t appease the families.”
But almost as if cued up to affirm Murdoch’s news network’s habit of peddling ignorance, Fox News on Sunday featured “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson warning that the Britain’s second city, Birmingham, had become a “Muslim-only city” and no-go area for non-Muslims. Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro responded, “It sounds like a caliphate.”
Emerson also claimed that “Muslim religious police” patrolled the streets of London, and beat everyone who didn’t dress in “Muslim attire.”
That sparked a day of worldwide merciless parodying of the network under the hashtag #foxnewsfacts, most of which riffed off Emerson’s characterization. One claimed as a #foxnewsfact that legislation passed in this new British caliphate had forced the Queen to don the hijab. Another, riffing on the “I’ll ride with you hashtag,” which reflected support to Muslims feeling collective blame for the recent attack on a chocolatier in Murdoch’s native Australia, offered, “If you are a non-Muslim and would like to visit Birmingham #illridewithyou.”
Even British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Conservative Party has long relied on the backing of Murdoch’s news organization, suggested that Emerson was “clearly a complete idiot.”
The “terrorism expert” quickly apologized for the “terrible mistake” that had made the network the butt of a burgeoning joke. But media watchers are wondering how soon it will be before Murdoch’s network next makes use of Emerson’s “expertise.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to J.K. Rowling as a Catholic.