Malacandra.me

How we see them and how they see us

How we see them and how they see us

by digby

This is interesting. Dylan Matthews and colleague Kimberly Gross did some polling a few years back on attitudes toward Muslims and the GWOT. I might have hoped that this would have changed in the ensuing years but the reactions during the Boston bomber chase indicate it hasn't. (This Chuck Woolery twitter stream is a great example, but if you watched Fox news at all last week it was on vivid display.)

[O]n average these respondents rated both Muslims and Muslim-Americans as more violent than peaceful and as more untrustworthy than trustworthy. Put in percentage terms, 45 percent of respondents placed Muslim-Americans on the “violent” side of the scale, and 51 percent placed Muslims on this side of the scale. Given that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an American citizen, it is notable that respondents do not appear to distinguish between Muslims and Muslim-Americans. Both groups are stereotyped in much the same way.

At the same time, Muslims and Muslim-Americans were perceived as more hardworking than lazy and as more intelligent than unintelligent. Gross and I argue that this pattern fits the prevailing images of Muslims that Americans are exposed to in the news and entertainment media. Muslims are portrayed, intentionally or not, as devious and violent more often than they are portrayed as lazy or dumb.

These surveys suggest that many Americans do not distinguish between the vast majority of peaceful Muslims and the very small number of Muslims who commit violent acts, as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are alleged to have done. This is true even though many political leaders have made precisely this distinction. (George W. Bush’s address to Congress after 9/11 is eloquent on this point.) Instead, these Americans paint with a broader brush, believing that “Muslims” tend to be violent and untrustworthy.

In a forthcoming article, Gross and I show that these stereotypes are consequential.

Even after accounting for other factors, people with negative stereotypes of Muslims on the peaceful-violent and trustworthy-untrustworthy dimensions were more likely to support various aspects of the War on Terror. (The paper also goes some distance to address the opposite possibility: that support of the War on Terror preceded any negative stereotypes of Muslims.) The phrase “more likely” is important: these results merely describe a tendency. It is certainly not true that everyone who supports the War on Terror has negative views of Muslims.

Nevertheless, stereotypes of Muslims appear to be an important ingredient in how Americans think about policies targeted at terrorism. The Boston marathon bombing is likely only to reinforce this.


I'm going to take a wild, and no doubt controversial, guess that many of the people who support the drone strikes are driven by similar impulses. It's what comes from seeing "muslims" as some sort of lethal super-race bent on our total destruction who must be met with deadly force or risk annihilation.

Imagine how the Afghan and Pakistani Muslims see from us:


and this, of course: