Allen Hertzke

Did a familiar religion-news 'Blind Spot' shape coverage of ISIS genocide declaration?

Did a familiar religion-news 'Blind Spot' shape coverage of ISIS genocide declaration?

Back in 2008, I was part of the editorial team that produced a book called "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion" for Oxford University Press. The whole idea was to look at a number of big national and international news stories and demonstrate that journalists could not do an accurate, informed, balanced job covering them without taking religion seriously.

I know. That wasn't a shocking thesis for a project linked to this website. What is shocking, nearly a decade later, is that most of the book's case studies remain amazingly relevant.

Hang in there with me on this. I'm providing background on the discussion that host Todd Wilken and I had during this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in). This was recorded soon after the declaration by Secretary of State John Kerry that, yes, the Islamic State was committing "genocide" in its slaughter of Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims and other religious minority groups. This followed a 393-0 vote on a U.S. House of Representatives resolution on this topic.

As you would expect, mainstream news coverage focused on the politics that framed this issue. This story was all about Republicans trying to hurt Democrats in an election year, "conservative" religious groups trying to embarrass the White House, etc., etc.

Same old, same old. Politics is real, while religion is not all that important. For example, why not talk to the leaders -- here in America -- of churches that are directly linked to the flocks being massacred in Iraq and Syria? For Christians from the Middle East, there is more to this tragedy than election-year politics.

As I noted in a GetReligion post on this topic -- " 'Aides said' is the key: Why it was so hard to say ISIS is guilty of 'genocide' against Christians" -- the Kerry announcement received very low-key coverage, which is probably what the U.S. State Department wanted. The story then vanished from the mainstream press, while coverage in religious-market outlets continued.

This is, you see, a "conservative" news story that gets covered at places like Fox News. But why is that? Human rights used to be a liberal cause. Correct?

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