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Media Farce September 12, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics, Uncategorized.
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It looks like the pseudo-story of a nutjob Florida minister’s threat to burn the Koran has run its course. So its time to point out once again how the news media  have failed.

Jason Linkins had the most compelling take:

The story of how one lone idiot, pimping an 18th-century brand of community terrorism, held the media hostage and forced some of this nation’s most powerful people to their knees to fitfully beg an end to his wackdoodlery is an extraordinary one.

Indeed it was, but as Linkins points  out the story begins with the pseudo story of a proposed mosque to be built in Manhattan.

Earlier this year, an organization called the Cordoba Initiative were granted permission by the appropriate authorities in New York City to turn an old Burlington Coat Factory at 51 Park Place in lower Manhattan into a community center. The organization was headed by an Imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has made it his life’s work to stand against radical cults like al Qaeda and teach young Muslims that America is a place where one can freely worship at the appointed times and then join other faith communities in America in the task of building a great nation. The proposed community center was to include a basketball court and space for different religious communities in New York City to have interfaith relations. It was also going to have a place for Muslims to pray, if they liked.

The news didn’t sit well with many people in New York, most notably people who didn’t live in Manhattan. This is because they were told by a gaggle of dumb Islamophobes that what was planned was a “Ground Zero mosque.” Of course, the planned community center was not, strictly speaking, a “mosque.” And it was most definitely not “at Ground Zero.” “Ground Zero” is the site of an interminable municipal construction project. There are no plans to build a mosque there. “Ground Zero” is also not the name of a recognized New York City neighborhood, like DUMBO or Murray Hill. But, here’s the thing: even if it was, the battle to stop the “Ground Zero mosque” was already lost, because there already is a mosque in that neighborhood.

But the media seldom saw fit to report these facts.

As soon as the media saw themselves a shiny shiny shining thing shining shinily in New York City, they pounced! How perfect! Something for us to talk about during the slow-news summer! I mean, we could talk about the nation’s unemployment crisis, but that would mean we’d have to talk to poor, jobless people, and there’s no currency in having access to a bunch of poors. Right away, they accepted the premise that this was a “Ground Zero mosque,” when it wasn’t. And so, by the power vested in the media, things that weren’t in fact true were accorded the privilege of being “one side of a great debate” and “an interesting point of view.”

[…] And because the media couldn’t do their job, a group of hack politicians, like Rick Lazio and Newt Gingrich, desperate to get a little famewhore attention for their quixotic political career goals, saw an opportunity to horn in on the “discussion.” They started telling all the sad and angry people that they actually did have the right to expect someone to provide a remedy to their claims. Their case was primarily based on the idea that nobody has the rights of religious freedom, no one has property rights and that the government has the right — nay, the duty! — to intrude.

Of course these are the same right wing politicians who endlessly bleat about how church and state should not be separate, property rights must always be respected and the government should stay out of our business. But true-to-form this rank hypocrisy was not reported in the media either.

And from there, some idiot news producer said, “Hey, I bet we can shoehorn this into our election narrative somehow!” And so the Park51 community center became an election issue. Imagine that, in a world with a nine year-long, going nowhere war and a massive unemployment crisis! Imagine how many times you would have to hit yourself in the head with a ball peen hammer before you would ask a politician from California how they stood on a local zoning issue in Manhattan.

[…]

And in that climate, a pastor named Terry Jones saw an opportunity to make himself famous. Jones heads up a heretofore unknown and uncared-about gang of Florida morons known as the Dove Outreach Church — minor bit players in the field of antagonizing American Muslims. This idiot announced that he was going to burn some Qurans on September 11th, and was anyone interested in giving this nonsense a whole lot of media attention?

And boy howdy, lots of people took him up on the offer!

[…]

And the media worked very hard to push the case that Jones was part of a debate. Now, Quran burning was an election-year issue, for which every candidate had to answer. And they even went so far as to ask Jones repeatedly, “What if President Obama told you not to do this? What if former President George W. Bush told you not to do this?” They were literally brokering negotiations between an idiot cult leader and some of the most powerful and important people in the world!

By now, things were terribly out of control. President Obama had to publicly state that Quran burning is a stupid thing to do. Imagine how out of touch you have to be that you need to go all the way to the White House to find that answer! Other important people were compelled to interject at this point. General David Petraeus had to come forward and state the plainly obvious: that all the public attention being given to this Quran burning would undermine the ability of U.S. forces to conduct their counterinsurgency operations, which depend heavily on winning the “hearts and minds” of Afghans.

[…]

All of this finally culminated with yesterday’s press conference, where Terry Jones lied and said that the Park51 community center was going to move, thanks to him. You see where this is headed now, don’t you? Now the people behind Park51 are on the hook for stopping this Quran burning, and all of the negative external impact it may have. Now, all of the refined hate-merchants from early in the story can say that if the “Ground Zero mosque” isn’t moved, immediately, American troops could die!

To go back to Charlie Brooker, let’s remember that after sizing up the incompetence that pervaded the Park51 coverage, he warned that the “media” should just “give up” before they “[made] things worse.” Pretty prophetic, isn’t it? They got played, and played badly, by a dude with 14th-century religious beliefs, 19th-century facial hair and ultra-modern media savvy. Terry Jones has essentially blackmailed some of the most important people in America, with the assistance of the media.

Let’s remember that all of this paralysis was caused by 50 people who wanted to burn a book that’s available for free, on the Internet!

There were many, many moments where someone could have simply said, “No, we should really not be doing this. These Islamophobes are objectively wrong, objectively stupid, objectively contradictory, objectively harmful, and by God, as someone with a functioning brain and a devotion to the pursuit of reason above all else, I am going to stand here and say no to all of this.” But as it turns out, it wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that someone finally had the guts to say maybe we cannot really believe a word this man is saying.

Well, they should have thought of that before they decided to point a bunch of teevee cameras at him, I guess.

When the history of America’s decline is written the mainstream news media will rightly be accused of hastening the demise, but I’m sure that will go unreported as well.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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More American Taliban August 8, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Last week I highlighted the tendency of right wing politicians to spout attitudes about the role of religion in public life and attitudes toward foreignness not unlike those of our enemies, the Taliban, in Afghanistan.

William Saletan highlights more similarities in pointing the absurdity of conservative objections to the proposed mosque in New York City.

In the years since 9/11, Osama Bin Laden has issued more than 20 audio and video statements to spread his view of the conflict between the United States and al-Qaida. According to his worldview, the U.S. represents Christianity, al-Qaida represents Muslims, Christians won’t protect Muslims, the West hates mosques, peaceful coexistence is a fraud, and the “war on terrorism” is really a war on Islam. By spreading this message, Bin Laden works to turn Muslims against the U.S. and rally them to al-Qaida.

Now Bin Laden has an ally in this propaganda campaign: Newt Gingrich.

Over the past two weeks, in a series of articles and speeches, Gingrich has declared a religious war that suits al-Qaida’s agenda almost perfectly. While denouncing “Islamists” rather than Islam, Gingrich has blurred the distinction by selecting as his initial target the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Everything Bin Laden says about the U.S., Gingrich validates. All you have to do is read their statements, side by side.

[…] By opposing the mosque, Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, and other Republicans think they’re standing up to Bin Laden. But Bin Laden isn’t fighting for Islam. He’s fighting to transform a war of terrorists against civilization into a war of infidels against Islam. He’s fighting to persuade Muslims that they belong on his side, not on ours.

And you’re helping him, Newt. You’re giving him exactly the fight he wants. Nice going.

The common thread weaving American conservatism with radical Islam is not behavior. As far as I know, conservatives are not butchering women or flying planes into buildings.

What links them is authoritarianism and the use of religion to exercise social control over anyone they don’t like.

The details of the respective religions don’t matter much. What matters is the ability to seize and hold power—both radical Islam and radical conservatism cynically use religion as a means to pursue their narrow undemocratic agendas.

Of course for Gingrich, the purpose is to maintain the power of the plutocrats in Washington and Wall St.

It is sad that so many people who can never hope to have any power in their lives are so willing to follow them.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com