Hints of a mild rebuke to bigotry?
Throughout the presidential campaign, there has been relatively little mainstream questioning of the idea that if Obama was Muslim, and/or Arab, that that would be bad.
Emails saying that Obama is Muslim have been called "smears" (not just by the press; by the Obama campaign, too). As Steve Rendall of FAIR said on On The Media this week, "If a charge came out that a politician was a secret Jew, that story would be treated as a story about, first, a false charge, but also as a story about anti-Semitism."
It seems to me that the media considers the bigotry a "smear" in part because the Obama campaign considers it so. The Obama campaign has consistently taken the approach of saying "He's Christian" and not saying "but so what if he was Muslim?" It's a pretty disgusting strategy. I'm tempted to dismiss it on the notion that it'd be too dangerous to muddy the message, especially since the number of Americans who believe Obama is Muslim has gone up over the course of 2008. But in the end I think it's inexcusable because it is pandering to those voters out there who wouldn't be ok with the "so what if he was Muslim?" part. Those are the votes they want?
The issue came up most prominently again on Friday, when a woman at a McCain rally said that Obama is an Arab, and McCain said "No ma'am, no ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what this campaign is all about. He's not, thank you."
Hardly any of the traditional media noted that McCain had just contrasted "Arab" with "decent family man" as if they are two opposing categories. There was a little bit of questioning, though.
Wolf Blitzer said "He could have done one thing further; and told that woman, you know what, there's nothing wrong with being an Arab, there's not wrong with being a Muslim. You don't have to make it sound like being an Arab .. that that's some sort of evil description. Obviously that's not true." (see 2:25 in this video).
Campbell Brown, though seeming to not realize people can be Arabs and Christians at the same time, was pretty direct on Monday in challenging the media to not be complicit in anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry.
The Detroit Free-Press ran an op-ed by Terry Awhal: "It seems everyone challenged McCain on the negative rhetoric he introduced against Obama, but no one challenged him or the woman on their comments insinuating that Arabs are not decent or not good Americans."
These are the exceptions, not the norm, but I still see it as a bit of hope that rebuking anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry might be becoming ever so slightly more mainstream.