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HomePoliticsWeaponising Content Marketing: A ‘Free Press’ Never Existed and Everybody Knows It

Weaponising Content Marketing: A ‘Free Press’ Never Existed and Everybody Knows It

Before the printing press, the minstrels of the ruling classes would sing and amuse villagers with palace propaganda from town to town.  In modern journalism aka content marketing, the concept and demand remains, except that the real-world impact of weaponising content marketing can have devastating, and far-reaching consequences. It’s time for Muslims to flip the script.

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Before the printing press, the minstrels of the ruling classes would sing and amuse villagers with palace propaganda from town to town.  In modern journalism aka content marketing, the concept and demand remains, except that the real-world impact of weaponising content marketing can have devastating, and far-reaching consequences. It’s time for Muslims to flip the script.

Letter from the Editor Joanne Leila Smith

In modern times, the morphing of hard news into news entertainment is not a new concept.

In the Middle Ages, Minstrels wandered around towns and told tales of court intrigues and wars, both local and foreign, to a one man band – usually with a stringed accompaniment, either a tabor or a viele (similar to a guitar). 

In Feudal times, the Minstrels were divided into various classes, and were attached to noble houses – wearing the arms of their patron, hung round the neck by a silver chain. The badge (brand) of the Minstrel profession was a wrest or turning-key.

The Minstrel was a high-honoured and welcome guest after supper when cups of sticky mead were passed around a ready crowd, eager to receive the latest news of victories over common enemies which would incite the folk into cries of war or whet their eyes and soften hearts with tales of village woe.

However, the job of Minstrel fell into low esteem, after Queen Elizabeth passed an Act of 1597, which relegated Minstrels to the status of rogues, vagabonds and beggars. Cromwell, another cheerful fellow, denounced severe penalties against fiddlers or minstrels too, making the profession as appealing as palsy.

We know all too well how technology makes past vocations obsolete (enter stage left, AI). Indeed, the Minstrel was no stranger to restructuring too. Over time, the Poet took the song. The Juggler and Tumber stole the movement, leaving the Minstrel a player of only music.

Fast forward to 2024, we have hungry eyeballs feeding off a 24/7 online news cycle.

As print publications made the way of the dodo over the past decade, Newspaper ad spend continues to decline at 2.9% p.a. globally;

In the European Union, newspaper advertising spend fell from 22 billion euros in 2009 to roughly 12.2 billion euros in 2018.

US Newspaper employees dropped by more than 45% within the past ten years; and

News brands are investing in content marketing agencies and outrage/firebrand influencers with large followers worldwide as part of its outreach and revenue diversification strategies.

So what does this all have to do with MNATION?

MNATION’s unabashed agenda is to uplift the ummah.

While we admire interfaith dialogue and commend the efforts of our brothers and sisters around the world whom commit time and resources to encouraging tolerance towards, and awareness of, Islam among the world’s religions, MNATION believes that a strong ummah, where outreach is fostered and nurtured within our own diverse communities of Islamic interpretation are much needed now, and more than ever.

Negative portrayals of Muslims in western media are not news to Muslims living in the diaspora. In fanning fear of Islam and Muslims, western media’s coverage is arguably worse than the Red Scare of the 1950s. 

For example, according to a Pew Research report, the average article mentioning Muslims or Islam in the United States is more negative than 84% of articles in a random sample.

Studies have found that Muslims are often misrepresented, defamed, and libeled in major publications. This has led to the spread of Islamophobia and negative stereotypes about Muslims.

Half or more Muslims living in the US consistently say that US media coverage of Muslims is unfair, which has contributed to harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings, discrimination and bias towards Muslims within their respective communities.


Make no mistake. Anti-Islam and/or anti-Muslim news are no coincidence, nor are they impartial. They are part of a broader strategy whereby weaponsing content marketing serves vested geopolitical interests with big budgets. According to a report from the UC Berkeley Centre for Race and Gender on media coverage of Islam post 9/11, USD 205,838,077 was the total media spend on anti-Islam propaganda between 2008 to 2013 alone.

Let that five-year budget sink in.

The on-going conflict in Palestine, as we approach 8 months of witnessing genocide against brothers and sisters in Gaza, and the daily terror-campaigns in the West Bank, have, in large part, evaded scrutiny by the western media over the past few decades thanks to Israel’s state propaganda arm, Hasbara.

Hasbara, which is a Hebrew word meaning “explanation” or “clarification,” is an organized propaganda machine used by Israel. It works to influence most media channels and social media, whether traditional or modern.

Propaganda can take many forms, including promotional videos, paid advertisements, and even scholarships for students to study communication arts at top US universities.

According to the late Palestinian Professor Edward Said, during the Second Intifada, ‘Hasbara’ methods included hosting dinners and providing free trips for influential journalists, organizing seminars for Jewish university students, inviting members of Congress, publishing materials, making donations to election campaigns, giving instructions to journalists, writers, and photographers, conducting lectures and musical events, and repeatedly referencing the Holocaust. There are also paid advertisements to attract newspapers that criticize Arabs and praise Israel.

It’s worth noting that researcher and historian Abdulwahab Al-Masiri stated in an interview with Al Jazeera before his passing, “Israel does not have its own unique power; it only has very strong propaganda”.

In a 2015 report, USD 33 million of the Israeli Ministry’s total budget of USD 423 million is spent annually on hasbara.

According to Yesh Atid Leader Lapid, “Israeli hasbara is spread out over five ministries, and none knows what the others are doing. It doesn’t have to be like that. We can win. Israel can be accepted and beloved and its version of things can be heard”.

Of course, thanks to TikTok, and social media’s ability to livestream war crimes in Gaza, hasbara has had a little difficulty in controlling the narrative of late – hasbara spin has since been proven to belong to realms of fantastical fiction – while the truth is nothing short of real-life horror.

While the ummah prays for a swift end to the ongoing persecution and oppression of our brothers and sisters in Palestine and the remaining villains of this horrid 76 year saga be brought to justice, MNATION is preparing for peacetime.

We understand that there are ongoing challenges and disputes within the ummah. However, we feel strongly that MNATION can leave it to our detractors to report on these. We want to reclaim the narrative, flip the script, and show the world that really, Muslims are just like any other cool cats, doing cool things all the while just loving Allah.

To this end, MNATION is about providing a platform that amplifies and celebrates Muslim voices, with balanced representation across all denominations of Islam, both in the diaspora, as well as muslim-majority regions.

We encourage all our brothers and sisters wherever you are, to join the MNATION community, become a subscriber, share our stories with your colleagues, family and friends and help us to build a global, strong, cohesive, Allah-fearing ummah that can face whatever future challenges are thrown our way – together.

Let’s uplift the ummah, inshallah.

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