Meme 1, Newsweek 0
Tina Brown’s latest Newsweek cover does what a Tina Brown cover does best: combine provocative imagery with an inflammatory title that gets people talking about the magazine.
In this case, “MUSLIM RAGE” screams the headline with two intense men wailing in protest underneath.
The cover itself is meta, playing on the “Why do they hate us?” meme that runs through the American press. Glenn Greenwald, writing in The Guardian, captures the absurdity of the premise:
One prominent strain shaping American reaction to the protests in the Muslim world is bafflement, and even anger, that those Muslims are not more grateful to the US. After all, goes this thinking, the US bestowed them with the gifts of freedom and democracy – the very rights they are now exercising – so how could they possibly be anything other than thankful? Under this worldview, it is especially confounding that the US, their savior and freedom-provider, would be the target of their rage…
…On Thursday night, NBC News published a nine-minute report on Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” program featuring its foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, reporting on the demonstrations in Cairo, which sounded exactly the same theme. Standing in front of protesting Egyptians in Tahrir Square, Engel informed viewers that this was all so very baffling because it was taking place “in Cairo, where the US turned its back on its old friend Hosni Mubarak”, and then added:
"It is somewhat ironic with American diplomats inside the embassy who helped to give these demonstrators, these protesters, a voice, and allowed them to actually carry out these anti-American clashes that we’re seeing right now."
That it was the US who freed Egyptians and “allowed them” the right to protest would undoubtedly come as a great surprise to many Egyptians. That is the case even beyond the decades of arming, funding and general support from the US for their hated dictator.
So, Newsweek is playing the ahistorical questions running through traditional media channels and while doing so, asks readers to chime in on Twitter with their thoughts using the #MuslimRage hashtag.
And that’s when, the Internet being the Internet, things got fun and users wrestled back the narrative:
- "Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can’t yell for him. #MuslimRage" — @LSal92.
- "I’m having such a good hair day. No one even knows. #MuslimRage" — @LibertyLibya.
- "So you’re telling me that in this entire sporting goods store you don’t have a single ski turban? #muslimrage" — @TomGara.
- "Ramadan in Iceland when days are 23 hours long. #muslimrage" — @iron_emu.
Coincidently, Michael Wolff recently wrote about Tina Brown and the challenges she faces with Newsweek from his new column at USA Today:
The most famous magazine editor of her generation is engaged in a desperate and operatic struggle, which almost no one anywhere believes has any chance of success, to reinvent Newsweek as a sustainable business proposition. In this, she is arguably no different from anybody else with a venerable media brand, except that Newsweek is in more dire extremis and her notoriety personalizes the fight…
…The issue was starkly simple: Could a traditional brand be reinvented in what is called a “digital first” context — and soon migrate entirely to digital — and, even more challenging, could it be reinvented by a traditional editor?
This week’s answer to that question is a clumsy MUSLIM RAGE cover with two stand-ins representing a billion-plus people. It’s analog link bait, a purposeful troll.
Yet, in a digital world where people can talk back and wrestle premises away from brands and organizations, the audience is mocking it. — Michael.
Image: Muslim Rave, via @max_read.