MEMRI nutpicking and the Apple NYC Store

The Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, has breathlessly announced today that muslims are offended by the Apple Retail Store on 5th Avenue in New York City:

On October 10, 2006, an Islamic website posted a message alerting Muslims to what it claims is a new insult to Islam. According to the message, the cube-shaped building which is being constructed in New York City, on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets in midtown Manhattan, is clearly meant to provoke Muslims.

Emphasis mine: an unnamed Islamic website somewhere has a message that asserts something dumb. And what possible reason is there for broadcasting it? In essence, MEMRI is nutpicking :

... the moronic practice of trawling through open comment threads in order to find a few wackjobs who can be held up as evidence that liberals are nuts. It's both lazy and self-refuting, since if the best evidence of wackjobism you can find is a few anonymous nutballs commenting on a blog, then the particular brand of wackjobism you're complaining about must not be very widespread after all.

MEMRI habitually applies the same method to muslims. Their methodology is suspiciously selective. MEMRI's selection bias results in disproportionate influence on mass media, public opinion, and ultimately even policy. Marc Lynch observes that MEMRI essentially conceded that they engaged in selective quoting in the past, and this latest smear attempt suggests that they haven't changed their stripes.

MEMRI quotes an unnamed "Islamic website" which could be anything ranging from a jihadi forum to a punk's blog. They provide no link or context or replies to the message. The result? The technical media, normally apolitical, swallows the bait. "Muslims are offended by Apple Store" says Jason D. O'Grady of ZDNet. Muslims? Can O'Grady identify a single offended muslim? The Register jumps in with "Apple's Store is an 'insult to Islam'". It is? Who speaks on behalf of Islam that the store is an insult? Ars Technica asserts "Apple Store 'provokes' Muslims.". Which muslims were provoked?

Where is the outrage? Islamoyankee observes that muslims don't hate macs:

I must confess though, that I live close by and go on pilgrimage there at least once a month and play with the toys. I know of no one who is offended by this thing (except for the fact that the elevator only seems to work 50% of the time). But of course, as you can see by some of the comments on Jason's blog, MEMRI has achieved their goal of de-humanizing Muslims as thoughtless brutes.

And that is precisely MEMRI's goal. Muslims are brutes; they are orcs. Muslim-baiting has already been legitimized and I am afraid that we will yet see much worse.


Nightstudies said...

I think MEMRI has had better judgement than this up to now.

they do an important job so it's a real shame to see them blow it.

Anonymous said...


It doesn't matter to Aziz if MEMRI has been correct on one million things and this is their first flaw since they are criticizing Islam and muslims; also, it does not matter to Aziz that CAIR has terrorist links since they are defending muslims. Once you get to know Aziz you discover his extreme tribalist thinking, he is nothing more than a well-spoken islamic supremacist

Arcane said...

The Anti-Defamation League and CAIR do the same thing, so I don't see what the problem is.

Anonymous said...

The Anti-Defamation League and CAIR do the same thing, so I don't see what the problem is.

Uhm, no they don't.

here's an essay on CAIR from Salon


Anonymous said...

Sorry Here

Harry Eagar said...

If Charles Johnson's sleuthing on the Internet can be relied on, it appears that MEMRI and Charles Johnson both got snookered.

Johnson suspects that the origin of the story was an infidel, not a Muslim; and, perhaps, that a Muslim then swallowed the story.

But that is a misreading of the original(?) post at sfGate. This piece, although poorly written and obscure, appears to be an attempt at sarcasm directed not at Islam but at Apple iPods, using an Islamic theme.

The problem it presents for City of Brass and all other Muslims claiming to desire peaceful interactions with infidels is that silly as the story appears to have been in intent, it could be taken as no sillier than the sort of things Muslims vent all the time.

Less silly, even, if you think about, say, the imams' preachings about polio vaccine.

This should discourage and worry Poonawalla much more than MEMRI's slip.

He ought also to be alarmed by the bulk of MEMRI's translations, unless he is going to assert that they are all mistaken. No infidel can read MEMRI without gaining a negative opinion of Islam; nor, you would think, could any well-disposed Muslim who claims that the outrages we read about daily in our newspapers are somehow marginal.

thabet said...

What's even sillier is I've just sat and read through Eager's slop-ed.

Although, it should be said, some Muslims haven't done themselves any favours in these kind of situations, which allows these sorts of stories to be circulated and consumed by unthinking idiots.

Aziz Poonawalla said...

thabet, i confess that the attention of late has fed my ego :) At any rate, MEMRI is a valuable, but incredibly one-sided, service. If anything they had improved in recent years, highlighting some stories of genuine reform in the Arab world. I would be genuinely surprised to see them highligh the recent comments by a rabbi in the West Bank that all muslim males should be exterminated, however. I am not a fan of balance solely for balance's sake; if MEMRI wants to highlight a specific side, that is actually perfectly acceptable with me, as long as they don't take airs of balance as they do it. This is why I respect LGF - they don't pretend to be something they are not.

The Apple cube story however suggests a backsliding of MEMRI which is quite unfortunate. With alternatives like the Mideast Wire or Marc Lynch's new Qahwa Sada project (which I will link shortly), the relevance of MEMRI is decreasing. And MEMRI only served to tarnish its own imagge by the shoddy absurdity of the Cube story.