Defaming Islam

News-consumers are entitled to an explanation of this phrase, which appears in just about every journalistic account of the latest mass killings in Spain: “The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona violence.”

The statement is not factual, because there is no person who speaks officially for “The Islamic State,” which is itself not an identifiable political entity but, rather, an acronym of English intitials invented by somebody somewhere to refer to terrorists and used on the Internet to claim responsibility for acts of mayhem. There’s an online presence that calls itself the Amaq News Agency, but it’s no more identifiable as a Muslim organization than the entity it claims to speak for. No other source is disclosed for the claim of responsibility, which effectively lays blame for the attack with people of a particular religion. If you seek further verification of this universally reported claim, you won’t find it anywhere I’ve looked.

Suppose there was a group that wanted to defame Islam and Muslims. Might it arrange for someone to commit an act of mayhem and claim responsiblity for it on the Internet, in the guise of a Muslim news agency? That’s a no less plausible explanation for this atrocity than the one offered unanimously by our embedded mass media, that fanatical Muslims were responsible. In fact, given the lack of trustworthy provenance for the published claim, coupled with the ease of falsification and the fact that there are many groups that habitually defame Islam, the possibility of a false claim seems even more likely.

People should ask what else, if anything, the media can tell readers about the provenance for the assertion that something called “Islamic State” carried out this attack, or even that such an entity exists at all.