Posts by Nick Sementelli

Home > Nick Sementelli

160 Million Killers

December 6, 2010, 3:38 pm | By Nick Sementelli

I blogged a few weeks ago about pundits who attempt to hide their anti-Muslim bigotry with statistics. National security “expert” Joseph Bosco attempted to appear reasonable by assuring readers that he believed 99.9% of Muslims were peaceful, but then explained that left .1% or 1.6 million Muslims who are “killers.”

On his radio program today, Glenn Beck took that smear one step further, casually alleging that 10% of Muslims are terrorists. To run the numbers again, with a global count of 1.6 billion Muslims, Glenn Beck believes there are 160 million Islamic terrorists. That’s equivalent to the populations of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia combined or one terrorist for every two Americans.

To reiterate, actual estimates of the number of terrorists vary from the hundreds to low thousands mid tens to low hundreds of thousands. Or put another way, about 159,990,000 159,900,000 less than Beck’s estimate.

Via Media Matters. Listen to the full clip below:

UPDATE: The previous estimates this post linked to were for Al-Qaida membership specifically. Estimates of global terrorists are higher, but still over 1,000 times smaller than Beck’s guess.

add a comment »

Rethinking Abortion Politics

December 2, 2010, 8:54 am | By Nick Sementelli

Dan’s post yesterday on contraception was a good example of common ground politics. Reducing unintended pregnancies that can lead to abortion is a goal that Americans from all political sides support. I think it also stands out as a good example of why common ground is not the same thing as compromise, a distinction that’s easy to misunderstand.

Kyle Cupp at Vox Nova echoes this confusion in a recent post on common ground:

“The law cannot protect unborn human life without prohibiting abortion. It cannot guarantee a right to an abortion without denying legal protection to the unborn. There’s no place to call common ground.”

The impasse Kyle articulates is exactly why the common-ground movement specifically does not address legality. We know that thirty years of fighting these old battles has failed to bring us any closer to real solutions. Instead, common ground advocates seek proposals outside the traditional fault lines where both sides can agree without compromising their principles. Expanding access to contraception and reducing unintended pregnancies is a prime example of this concept.

Acknowledging these efforts, Kyle seems dismissive of their importance. Responding to a commenter who makes a similar point he says:

“Yes, common ground can be found in social efforts to reduce the number of abortions, but in so far as the pro-choice and pro-life movements are political movements, and at their core they are, common ground cannot be reached.”

I would fundamentally disagree that there is such a strict divide between social and political efforts. There are numerous examples of common-ground ideas being adopted by political actors or introduced as legislative proposals. Notably, the Democratic Party added abortion reduction language in their 2008 party platform, then-Senator Obama mentioned it in his presidential nomination acceptance speech, the Ryan-DeLauro bill introduced last year incorporated a host of ideas about prevention and support for pregnant women aimed at the same thing, and the Affordable Care Act included $250 million in funding for programs supporting pregnant and parenting women and families.

Moreover, this political progress was made possible because of robust social support. Polling consistently shows that both common ground efforts in general and specific ideas are popular with broad swaths of the American public.

The fact that political actors at large haven’t rushed to endorse a common-ground agenda reflects the entrenchment of divisive rhetoric that impedes implementation of the real solutions that enjoy broad support. The sooner that the rest of us can break free from a simplistic idea of what abortion politics has to be like, the sooner we can make real strides.

add a comment »

DREAM Act Advocacy

December 1, 2010, 1:37 pm | By Nick Sementelli

With news that the DREAM Act may come up for a vote as early as this week, the religious community is ramping up their advocacy on this important justice issue. Here are a few stories highlighting these efforts:

Meanwhile, opponents of reform have taken to spreading misinformation about the bill to erode public support. Here are two useful fact checks that set the record straight.

add a comment »

Where are the moderate Muslims?

November 24, 2010, 11:48 am | By Nick Sementelli

Giving the Hajj sermon in Mecca. Muqtedar Khan explains:

The Hajj sermon this year – one of the highlights of the three-day pilgrimage that millions of Muslims make to Mecca every year – has received special attention in the media all over the Muslim world. Excerpts from the sermon, which condemn terrorism and extremism and advocate moderation, have been reproduced in hundreds of newspapers. Videos of the sermon with English subtitles are circulating widely by email and have been posted on YouTube. It seems that the Muslim world has embraced the message enthusiastically.

Will American doubters pay attention?

Via Washington Post, On Faith

add a comment »

Misinformation in Action: Fox News and the TSA “Muslim Exemption”

November 23, 2010, 4:04 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Following up on my post yesterday about the effectiveness of false rumors about the Park 51 project, today comes news of another example of misinformation tactics in action.

Specifically, in the last week conservative pundits have stoked the false belief that Muslim women will be exempt from the TSA’s controversial new pat-down procedures. Like the Park 51 rumors, this myth has caught on because it preys on people’s fears about terrorism and confirms existing right-wing attacks of the Obama administration as favoring Muslims over “real Americans.”

As TPM notes, the tale stems from a travel advisory put out by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) advising Muslim women on their rights during security checks. The advisory includes a note that women who undergo additional screening because of their hijabs have the right to request that the extra procedure be limited to that specific area.

Whether unintentionally or not, conservatives have chosen to read this as a request for a full exemption from all security measures, and see the administration’s openness toward finding reasonable accommodations where possible as proof of a secret conspiracy.

This view seems to have first appeared on November 12th on CNSNews, a subsidiary of the Media Research Center, a media watchdog group that aims to counter “liberal bias” in the news.

From there the story circulated around right-wing forums and blogs, ultimately making its inevitable debut on Fox News’s The Sean Hannity Show on November 16th and the following day in a particularly unpleasant segment with Dennis Miller on The O’Reilly Factor.

To their credit, TSA officials are hard at work trying to debunk this myth, posting a fact-check on their blog and mentioning it in public appearances.

Here’s TSA director John Pistole on MSNBC’s Hardball last week setting the record straight.

SMERCONISH: All right. Here’s another one that I hear from radio callers, the Muslim garb exception. You may not even know what I’m talking about. But if someone approaches a TSA checkpoint and they’re wearing, by a way of example, a burqa, what’s the drill?

PISTOLE: Everybody goes through the same process. So whatever their ethnicity or religious beliefs which I’m sensitive to and appreciate, the bottom line is people are treated the same in terms of either going through the advanced image technology if that’s available or the walk-through metal detector. And if they alert, then they have to have that alert resolved, and the best way of doing that is through a thorough pat down.

SMERCONISH: No free rides, right, Mr. Pistole?

PISTOLE: That’s correct.

While it’s impossible to control what false rumors gain popularity on the Internet here’s hoping that respectable media outlets and elected leaders refuse to further legitimize or foster this misinformation.

add a comment »