While there are
a number of quite disturbing trends in American politics today, one that
demands our attention is the use of propaganda to exploit the animosity, fear
and explicit racism aimed towards Muslims. The
depiction of ‘Muslim terrorist’ in the United States can be examined through the
critical analysis of propaganda in Jason Stanley’s book, How Propaganda Works. Different aspects of Jason Stanley’s analysis
can help us understand the false narratives surrounding Muslims, including
flawed ideologies, negative stereotypes and the threat these inequalities pose
on a liberal democracy. Because propaganda in today’s society is used to spread
the false claim that there is an ‘Islamic problem’ and results in increased marginalization
and abuse of Muslim Americans, propaganda should attempt to uphold and enhance
American democratic values instead of undermine them.Modern
terrorism is intrinsically secular, with terrorism seen throughout history
coming from all different religions. However, in today’s society, terrorism has
become connected to the Muslim religion due to the inflated use of propaganda
in political discourse and the media. A good place to start to understand our current situation regarding
the stereotypes and derogative statements towards Muslims is with Yale
philosophy professor, Jason Stanley, and his book, How Propaganda Works. By exposing the ubiquitous but hidden nature
of propaganda, Stanley gives insight into the mechanisms of control that ultimately
exploit the ‘Muslim terrorist’ narrative, as well as the threat that such
manipulation poses for liberal democracies. By suggesting that all terrorists
are Muslim, Stanley acknowledges that propaganda draws upon flawed ideologies,
such as historical trends like racial stereotypes and white privilege. The distorted
reality and polarized environment that is created by propaganda regards truth
as relativistic and facts as fungible and ultimately results in exclusion and
abuse for both Muslims and those who “look Muslim”. Jason Stanley and his
brilliant analysis of propaganda in How
Propaganda Works reveal significant insight on the stereotypical discourse
surrounding American Muslims and their unjust experiences in today’s society,
and ultimately illustrate the
importance of eradicating propaganda’s ability to undermine the equality,
security, and reasoned deliberation that are so essential to a liberal democracy.

Stanley defines propaganda as the manipulation from elites, those who “control
society’s resources”, which reinforces false or
exaggerated beliefs and ultimately cuts off rational debate (Stanley 231).
Stanley notes that the content evoked by propaganda is difficult to recognize
and leaves the audience more susceptible to its manipulation due to its “not-at-issue content”. An example of this would be
the utterance of ‘terrorism’, which appears to be neutral, but its
“not-at-issue content” is typically biased (Stanley 134). This innocuous word
has the “at-issue content” of any violent action that is intended to intimidate,
coerce or influence a civil population or government, but it also has the
“not-at-issue content” of Muslims being the primary threat to society. Thus,
because politicians only mention Islam when speaking about national security
and countering terrorism, there exists a confused and distorted claim that a
majority of the Muslim population favors Islamic law and violence against
Americans. People begin to connect the word ‘terrorism’ to Muslims and the idea
that “all terrorists are Muslim” can easily morph into “all Muslims are
terrorists”. In the United States, those
in control first ensure that people associate terrorism with Muslims by
exclusively spotlighting Muslim terrorists, and then promise to focus on
American national security and the fix the ‘Islamic problem’ in order to gain

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