Welcome to Belgistan: Islamophobia in the internet age

This week I received the following email from a member of my contact list:

Welcome to Belgium

As you can imagine this email came with more SPAM labellings than a stall of Monty Python merchandise. Yet, while I’d normally trust such an email about as much as I’d trust a Nigerian prince with my bank details, I did have a little more faith in the person who’d sent it to me. As such, I thought I’d give this suspicious looking link the benefit of the doubt.

As it turns out the clip was a short news broadcast examining the growing Muslim population in Belgium. Starting with an ominous quotation from some local graffiti (that well-respected news source) the thick US voice-over stated “Welcome to Belgistan… Muslims are still a minority in Belgium, but in the capital of Brussels they are already the largest religious group”.

The newscast then went on to examine a small sect of extremist groups including Shariah4Belgium (because nothing says serious political movement like textspeak), as well as providing a few thinly veiled hints at some upcoming world domination scheme amongst the Islamic community.

While my faith in the American media is slim at the best of times, I did find this level of overt xenophobia a bit peculiar from a mainstream news channel. Reading the email again, I realised that I hadn’t actually heard of “CBN” before, and had mistaken it for CNN – The Cable News Network.

After a quick Google search it turns out that CBN is in fact the Christian Broadcast Network, a right-wing TV channel run by the infamous southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson. Launched in the 1960s, the channel is regularly used to disseminate thinly veiled right-wing Christian propaganda under the guise of “family programming”.

In the past, Pat Robertson himself has been at the centre of more scandals than Angus Deayton’s nostrils. Highlights of his industrious career have included claiming that 9/11 was a punishment from God and that gay people are intentionally spreading AIDS as part of an international conspiracy. On top of this, he has also received criticism for using his TV network to promote hatred and mistrust of other religions (sound familiar?), including referring to Muslims as “satanic” and Hinduism as a “demonic” faith.

While I’m rarely a fan of all out bigotry, what annoys me even more is when the motives of such bigotry can be so easily uncovered. It took me literally 60 seconds and a single Google search to verify that this YouTube clip is not from a trustworthy source.

And yet, rather than taking the time to check such things for themselves, the internet masses (including the person who shared this video with me) continue to click, share, and generally spew their poorly researched opinions like a bulimic undergoing an exorcism.

This is the problem with the ultra-fast nature of internet communication. We’ve made it so easy for people to instantly share their opinions, that we’ve removed the slow and logical process necessary for those opinions to accurately form. We live in a world where everyone has access to an infinity of facts, yet nobody has the stamina to compare them.

The ability to share may have given us a new voice, but that doesn’t automatically mean we have anything of merit to say.

Alex Warren
Alex Warren
Miserablist, whiskey-drinker, and general tinpot shambles. Alex Warren has a weary pessimism for all things media, politics and tech.