Right-Wing Media Is Flooded With Dehumanizing Rhetoric Against Palestinians

Media experts say normalizing this kind of hateful language can have major — even deadly — consequences.

When 32-year-old Hanaan Shahin opened the door of her ground-floor apartment in Plainfield, Illinois, her landlord was already angry.

Days prior, Joseph Czuba had told Shahin that he wanted her and her son to move out, according to Czuba’s sister. Less than a week later, he allegedly confronted Shahin again, this time with a military knife.

Shahin didn’t have time to speak. Czuba allegedly stabbed her more than a dozen times and killed her son, 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, as she tried to call 911. The FBI has launched a federal investigation into the attack.

Czuba’s wife told investigators he’d been listening to conservative talk radio on a regular basis, and that he’d become increasingly angry over the escalating conflict in Israel and Gaza.

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants launched a large-scale attack on Israel, taking hostages and killing more than 1,400 people. Israel quickly retaliated, launching a full-blown raid and aerial campaign that killed more than 4,000 people and displaced more than 1 million people in 10 days.

Since then, right-wing media has capitalized on the attacks, stoking hostility with xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric — including referring to Palestinians as “barbarian pigs,” drumming up hatred against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S., and targeting the two Muslim women who are members of Congress.

It’s not clear if conservative radio was the sole factor in Czuba’s alleged turn to violence. But the dangers lurking within the trend are clear enough. Studies have found a link between hateful rhetoric and hate crimes. In 2018, researchers found that hate crimes against Muslims increased 32% in 2016, as Donald Trump was running for president and targeting Muslims with hostile and hateful language that reverberated across cable news and on social media.

Some of the recent claims on right-wing airwaves are too grotesque to amplify here. Others, listed below, may give an idea of what’s being said:

Eric Bolling, a host at the conservative cable news company Newsmax, said Palestinians are “addicted to violence” like an “addict is addicted to drugs.”

Dan Gainor, a freelance opinion editor at Fox News, called Palestinians and Arabs “barbarian pigs” who “tried to genocide Israel” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Charles Kirk ― the president of Turning Point USA, a right-wing organization that has promoted Christian nationalism ― said last week that “a vast majority of Muslims” don’t hold Western values but rather have a “medieval” worldview. He also referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as “an active threat to the United States” who “hates this country.”

John Whitehouse, news director at Media Matters, a media watchdog group, told HuffPost that far-right media outlets take inspiration from one another. Message boards and social media sites like 4chan and X disseminate unchecked conspiracy theories and racist rhetoric, which then get amplified on conservative TV and radio shows.

Conservative radio has the ability to “really reach a mass audience,” Whitehouse said — specifically, the “sorts of audience that would be more likely to take some sort of horrific action.”

Similarly, various Republican lawmakers have endorsed an approach of unfettered violence when speaking about the conflict.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, called on Israel to “do whatever it takes.”

“Gaza is going to look like Tokyo and Berlin at the end of World War II when this is over,” Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week. “And if it doesn’t look that way, Israel made a mistake.”

Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) said there should be “no rules of engagement,” and that the White House should “get out of Israel’s way to do what it needs to do best.”

Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted: “Anyone that is pro-Palestinian is pro-Hamas” — not differentiating between civilians and the militant group.

Arab and Muslim groups warn that the consequences of such extreme language will likely be an increase in hate crimes. Muslim and Arab communities are on edge, bracing for more violence.

“Language has real-life impact and real-life consequences,” said Jasmine Hawamdeh, communications director at the Anti-Arab Discrimination Committee, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “We’ve seen it manifest into violence across the country.”

“When hate is perpetuated like that, we become a divided America and a weaker America and an America that is not inclusive,” Hawamdeh said. “The American dream becomes further away from immigrants and communities of color.”

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