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Left-wing media and the manipulation of the news

Wadea Al Fayoume's father, Oday Al Fayoume, right, and his uncle Mahmoud Yousef attend a vigil in Plainfield, Ill., on Oct. 17. Associated Press/Photo by Nam Y. Huh

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As the world reels from the unspeakable horrors unfolding in the Middle East, terrorist violence has broken out on smaller stages across the West—a high-school teacher murdered in France, two Swedish soccer fans gunned down in Belgium, a Berlin synagogue firebombed. But against this sadly now typical backdrop of jihad and anti-Semitism, one terrible case has stood out as a bizarre exception. In Chicago, a child was murdered and his mother was stabbed not because they were Jewish, but because they were Muslim.

Joseph Czuba, 71, has been charged with the brutal stabbing attack, which badly wounded Hanaan Shahin and killed her son, 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume. To make the murder even more sickening, Czuba was their landlord, and had reportedly bonded with the child like a grandfather. But according to Czuba’s wife, he became deeply disturbed as he listened to the news about Israel and heard that ex-Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had called for a “day of jihad” on Oct. 13. As his paranoia escalated, he suspected Shahin of plotting to kill him and his wife. He stormed into the apartment with a knife on Oct. 14, stabbing little Wadea a total of 26 times.

The murder was swiftly and universally condemned, most notably by local Jewish rabbis who joined the family in mourning at Wadea’s funeral. Rabbi Ari Hart, a self-described “Zionist” with family and friends in Israel, believed it was simply the right thing to do. “There’s a basic humanity that we need to stand up for,” he said. “Terrorism against children is wrong. Islamophobia is wrong.”

Predictably, Wadea’s death became a media sensation and left-wing journalists began turning him into a mascot for their own biased takes. On MSNBC, Mehdi Hassan opined ominously, “I do not believe it was a coincidence” that Czuba was “an avid listener of conservative talk radio,” drawing a straight line from various Republican politicians’ “vicious and vile” takes to Czuba’s actions. “Rhetoric leads to hate, hate leads to violence.” Chris Hayes delivered his own somber monologue along the same lines, implicating everyone from Lindsey Graham to Ron DeSantis.

One could fairly argue it’s reckless for Graham and Tom Cotton to speak carelessly of “bouncing rubble” or “leveling” Gaza. But DeSantis had simply observed the plain facts that the Palestinian people harbor animosity towards Israel, and Gazan refugees would likely import antisemitism into America. Besides, however recklessly politicians like Cotton or Graham might have spoken about Israel’s next move in an escalating war, even they should not be smeared with complicity in a child’s cold-blooded murder. 

These killers were profoundly disturbed loners who represent no serious political constituency, conservative or otherwise.

Of course, this is the same playbook leftists use whenever we see a hate crime that comes in some grotesquely twisted sense “from the right.” This summer, when a demented young man murdered shop owner Laura Ann Carleton for flying a Pride flag, her murder was similarly blamed on “right-wing media,” because the killer was a fan of socially conservative pundits like Matt Walsh. And last year, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis peddled the same kind of smears after the Club Q shooting (accusing, among others, Ron DeSantis—who else?) 

Like Czuba, these young killers were profoundly disturbed loners who represent no serious political constituency, conservative or otherwise. But this is immaterial to those who care more about crafting a narrative than reporting reality. It is ironic that a conservative politician like DeSantis is regularly accused of “demonizing” favored leftist mascot groups, when it is leftist media who demonize him by implying—at least twice now—that he would wink at literal murder. 

Meanwhile, where is MSNBC’s outrage over the fact that a Cornell University professor was “exhilarated” by the terror attacks that have left Israeli children slaughtered, tortured, and kidnapped? Or that Black Lives Matter activists are in the streets and on social media blaming these war crimes on Israel’s “occupation” of Gaza? Naturally, it’s non-existent. These aren’t the rape and murder apologists they’re looking for.

Of course, conservatives and Christians condemn the murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume, just like we condemn the murder of Laura Ann Carleton, just like we condemn any and all wanton murder. Of course, we should praise community leaders like Rabbi Hart for extending grace and compassion to his Muslim neighbors even during a bloody war between Jews and Muslims. But we aren’t obligated to accept a distortion of reality. It doesn’t “dehumanize” Palestinian people to condemn Palestinian anti-Semitism, any more than it “dehumanizes” gay people to oppose their symbols and propaganda. Speaking uncomfortable truths can—indeed must—be held in balance with recognizing the dignity of individual people made in God’s image. 

Sadly, as we’ve now seen time and again, this balancing act is often missing in mainstream newsrooms. That’s no reason to abandon the principle.

Bethel McGrew

Bethel McGrew is a high school teacher, math Ph.D., and widely published freelance writer. Her work has appeared in First Things, National Review, The Spectator, and many other national and international outlets. Her Substack, Further Up, is one of the top paid newsletters in “Faith & Spirituality” on the platform. She has also contributed to two essay anthologies on Jordan Peterson. When not writing social criticism, she enjoys writing about literature, film, music, and history. Her edited collection of the World War I letters of Canon A.E. Laurie is forthcoming from the U.K.’s Helion Press.


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