While there area number of quite disturbing trends in American politics today, one thatdemands our attention is the use of propaganda to exploit the animosity, fearand explicit racism aimed towards Muslims. Thedepiction of ‘Muslim terrorist’ in the United States can be examined through thecritical analysis of propaganda in Jason Stanley’s book, How Propaganda Works. Different aspects of Jason Stanley’s analysiscan help us understand the false narratives surrounding Muslims, includingflawed ideologies, negative stereotypes and the threat these inequalities poseon a liberal democracy. Because propaganda in today’s society is used to spreadthe false claim that there is an ‘Islamic problem’ and results in increased marginalizationand abuse of Muslim Americans, propaganda should attempt to uphold and enhanceAmerican democratic values instead of undermine them.Modernterrorism is intrinsically secular, with terrorism seen throughout historycoming from all different religions. However, in today’s society, terrorism hasbecome connected to the Muslim religion due to the inflated use of propagandain political discourse and the media. A good place to start to understand our current situation regardingthe stereotypes and derogative statements towards Muslims is with Yalephilosophy professor, Jason Stanley, and his book, How Propaganda Works. By exposing the ubiquitous but hidden natureof propaganda, Stanley gives insight into the mechanisms of control that ultimatelyexploit the ‘Muslim terrorist’ narrative, as well as the threat that suchmanipulation poses for liberal democracies.
By suggesting that all terroristsare Muslim, Stanley acknowledges that propaganda draws upon flawed ideologies,such as historical trends like racial stereotypes and white privilege. The distortedreality and polarized environment that is created by propaganda regards truthas relativistic and facts as fungible and ultimately results in exclusion andabuse for both Muslims and those who “look Muslim”. Jason Stanley and hisbrilliant analysis of propaganda in HowPropaganda Works reveal significant insight on the stereotypical discoursesurrounding American Muslims and their unjust experiences in today’s society,and ultimately illustrate theimportance of eradicating propaganda’s ability to undermine the equality,security, and reasoned deliberation that are so essential to a liberal democracy. JasonStanley defines propaganda as the manipulation from elites, those who “controlsociety’s resources”, which reinforces false orexaggerated beliefs and ultimately cuts off rational debate (Stanley 231).
Stanley notes that the content evoked by propaganda is difficult to recognizeand leaves the audience more susceptible to its manipulation due to its “not-at-issue content”. An example of this would bethe utterance of ‘terrorism’, which appears to be neutral, but its”not-at-issue content” is typically biased (Stanley 134). This innocuous wordhas the “at-issue content” of any violent action that is intended to intimidate,coerce or influence a civil population or government, but it also has the”not-at-issue content” of Muslims being the primary threat to society. Thus,because politicians only mention Islam when speaking about national securityand countering terrorism, there exists a confused and distorted claim that amajority of the Muslim population favors Islamic law and violence againstAmericans.
People begin to connect the word ‘terrorism’ to Muslims and the ideathat “all terrorists are Muslim” can easily morph into “all Muslims areterrorists”. In the United States, thosein control first ensure that people associate terrorism with Muslims byexclusively spotlighting Muslim terrorists, and then promise to focus onAmerican national security and the fix the ‘Islamic problem’ in order to gainsupport.