Ever wonder why some Muslims seem to feel like they are being unfairly persecuted in the media? Consider this...
I wrote earlier in the week about the halal certification of Vegemite, and how there had been an intense negative reaction to it. A few days later and the reaction seems to be getting more intense, at least on the internet. There is already a "Take the halal stamp off Vegemite" group up on Facebook, and there are anti-Muslim mutterings and rantings all over the discussion forums about the whole business.
But I also noticed that no other newspaper in the country ran the story, outside the News Limited media. And it dawned on me. The Herald-Sun was not reporting a controversy. The Herald-Sun was taking it upon itself to create one.
This is how it's done. Take something that should not be controversial. Then go find a reactionary buffoon who disagrees with it. Then report that disagreement as representative of "what people in the community are saying", and you have a story.
Check out this sentence:
The label on Australia's most famous spread has changed in recent months to include halal certification in a move some have described as "ridiculous" political correctness.
Some? In other words, one person, Bill Muehlenberg, secretary of the Family Council of Victoria. Now, you might think that the Family Council of Victoria sounds like an important organisation that represents families, but as far as I understand it, it's no more than a handful of people. Their primary role is to release statements to the media, or to give a conservative viewpoint to reporters who don't want to do proper journalism.
So in need of a story, Herald-Sun reporter Wendy Hargreaves dutifully goes to Mr Muehlenberg, and he dutifully complains about Australia bending over backwards for minority groups, and how Islamisation is threatening our once-great nation.
Then release the story, and sit back and watch the mayhem ensue. Here are the results of the phone-in poll related to the issue:
Should vegemite carry the halal stamp?
Yes 21.84% (387 votes)
No 78.16% (1385 votes)
Total votes: 1772
And here are some of the reactions to the story:
Christine Marin Posted at 3:03 PM January 24, 2010
Definately no to Islamic labelling on Vegemite. If we went to their country would they put an Australian label on one of their products, I think NO.
Comment 13 of 47
doug molloy Posted at 4:24 PM January 24, 2010
well i hope simon talbot has a secure job at kraft,because he has just lost my support and my familys support with his veiws on halal certification. this certification also appears on cadbury chocolate and bega cheese which we no longer buy. AUSTRALIA is heading down the wrong path for our younger generationComment 16 of 47
Geoffrey Robert Wilson of Shepparton Posted at 4:05 PM January 25, 2010
Reverse the situation,bet your bottom dollar this woudn't be allowed in Islamic countries !!!
Comment 36 of 47
S. Grange Posted at 10:18 AM January 26, 2010
This is a christian country, I see no reason to have this symbol attached to any product in Aust, if they want a product such as this, import their own. These muslim countries do not assimilate to our christian values why do we cater to theirs. As this has raised my attention I will also look at other products I will select from the supermarkets ""products"" that "do not" have this marking in future including vegemite to purchase if thats the case .
Comment 46 of 47
Yes, those people are stupid, but they are only ignorant; they don't understand the situation, their xenophobia kicks in and they say stupid things. Don't blame them for being f***ing donkeys. Blame the Herald-Sun.
Why? Because of the misleading way the story was reported. Here's the first 2 sentences:
Vegemite has gone halal in a bid by food giant Kraft to make the national "treasure" available to Muslim Australians. The label on Australia's most famous spread has changed in recent months to include halal certification.
The second sentence is the true statement; Kraft have changed the label slightly.
The first sentence contains the misleading words. How has Vegemite "gone halal?" That would imply that Kraft have changed Vegemite to suit Muslim Australians.
This is untrue. They have NOT changed the product. They have changed the LABEL.
(Halal means permissible for Muslim consumption. Vegemite was always halal, but it was not labelled as such. The change in label clears up confusion for Muslims who might be unsure about it.)
Now, if Kraft were changing the recipe and taste to suit Muslims, perhaps that might be a story. But they are not changing either, which is surely the most important detail.
The media in a free society has several important responsibilities. Such as reporting accurately and fairly. Inciting fear and hatred of minorities is not one of them.
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