Smearcasting documents the public writings and appearances of Islamophobic activists and pundits who intentionally and regularly spread fear, bigotry and misinformation in the media. Offering a fresh look at Islamophobia and its perpetrators in today’s media, it also provides four snapshots, or case studies, describing how Islamophobes manipulate media in order to paint Muslims with a broad, hateful brush. PLEASE NOTE: The printed report and the text on these web pages was written in 2008. An Update page is now included.


A fringe term goes mainstream, with a little help from the media 

The term "Islamofascism" came into common use after the September 2001 attacks as a favorite way for neoconservatives to describe the ideology of extremist and violent groups such as Al-Qaeda that claim to act in the name of Islam. 

A search of the Nexis database shows just two mentions of the term before 2001, both in British media. The first (Independent, 9/8/90) came in a remark by writer Malise Ruthven about governments in predominantly Islamic countries: "Authoritarian government, not to say 'Islamo-fascism,' is the rule rather than the exception from Morocco to Pakistan." (Ironically, considering the term's current usage, most of these authoritarian governments--including Morocco and Pakistan--were backed by the U.S. at the time.) The second mention (Independent, 10/6/90) came in a response criticizing Ruthven for coining the term. 

Since 2001, use of the expression has exploded. That year, according to a search of major English-language papers in the Nexis database, the word and its variant "Islamofascist" appeared 12 times, nearly all in reference to Al-Qaeda. The next year that number rose to 69, and it reached 92 in 2003 as the word's definition began expanding to include Saddam Hussein's historically non-religious and somewhat ecumenical Baathist regime. (As an example, Tariq Aziz, Hussein's familiar spokesperson, was a Christian.) 

The word's prevalence continued to increase in 2005, the year George W. Bush used it in a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy (10/6/05), and in 2006 it appeared 594 times in major papers. David Horowitz's "Islamofascism Awareness Week" (IFAW)--organized on about a hundred college campuses in October 2007--was a sign that the term had fully arrived in some right-wing circles, though not all conservatives seemed to entirely understand the message it is supposed to convey. At Michigan State University, the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom invited a bona fide fascist--Nick Griffin, the head of the racist British National Party--to speak on how Europe is becoming "Eurabia" (Spartan Spectator blog, 10/22/07). The embarrassment caused Horowitz (, 10/29/07) to disavow an event that, as far as content was concerned, promised to differ little from IFAW's official proceedings.