The Engineered Ignorance of Fox News

Ex-congressional candidate Robert Doggart pleaded guilty to threatening to burn down a Muslim community in upstate New York.

You probably saw this story yesterday about a failed GOP congressional candidate from Tennessee who was arrested and charged with conspiring to lead a militia attack – using the assistance of an existing ‘militia’ which goes by the initials OAF – on a Muslim community in Hancock, New York. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace,” he wrote in a Facebook post. And in a call intercepted by federal investigators, he told one woman “When we meet with this state, the people that we will seek will know who we are. We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings.”

But there’s one element of this story buried in the piece. The supporting role of Fox News. Not long after the terror attacks in Paris at the beginning of the year, Fox News went on a tear about no-go zones in Paris, Birmingham and other places – a run of fabrications so extreme that the station was compelled to issue one of the only retractions and apologies the network has ever issued.

One of the guests who was part of this was Ryan Mauro, head of the ‘Clarion Project’, an anti-Muslim group best known for producing lurid anti-jihadist movies which are distributed to voters in the run-ups to US elections. Mauro told Fox that the FBI considered the Muslims of America community in Hancock to be a threat and he had videos of them “engaging in guerrilla warfare training.”

It’s a reminder of the study I mentioned over the weekend on various studies about the engineered ignorance of viewers of Fox News.

The Muslims of America is lead by a Pakistani born Sufi named Sheik Mubarak Shah Jilani. But the group is predominantly African-American. Nor is it new or a stranger to controversy. This 1994 article in Newsweek said federal officials suspected the group of connections to a number of intra-Islamic bombings and stabbings. The questions surrounding the group seem largely tied to whether it is an fact a shadowy group called al Fuqra. At a minimum the group was big on the sort of ‘anti-zionist’ rantings one associates with the heterodox Nation of Islam. They were written up again in the Times just after 9/11 when federal prosecutors again got interested in just what the MoA was up to on their isolated rural hamlets.

However that may be, local law enforcement and the broader community – both in 1994 and today – have never viewed the community as a threat. And federal officials now do not seem to think the MoA village is much of an issue. But based on the Fox segment Doggart got the idea that the MoAs in Hancock were plotting a domestic terrorist attack and began planning his own attack on the MoA’s hamlet, nicknamed ‘Islamberg’, with “a small group of gunmen with assault rifles, some Molotov cocktails or a demolitions expert and, just in case, a machete.”

Alas, Doggart’s plan was foiled and he is in house arrest, awaiting sentencing on various federal charges.

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