So, some extremist Florida pastor has now had his “15 minutes of fame“. Pastor Terry Jones who had been planning to burn a “Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks said [today] he would not go forward with the event, adding he would meet with the imam planning to build an Islamic center near ground zero.”
You know, I wonder if fringe figure had gone forward with his publicity stunt if it would have attracted more media than the miniscule membership of his congregation.
Would anyone even know who this guy was if, as Mike Thomas asks in the Orlando Sentinel, the “media had ignored” him?
James Taranto contends that the media helped make this crazy pastor’s stunt successful:
. . . a fringe Florida pastor’s announcement that he would observe 9/11 by burning the Islamic holy book was not, in itself, news. It was a mere publicity stunt–which the media, by treating it as news, made into a successful publicity stunt.
It is a publicity stunt that fits a pernicious media narrative, exemplified by a New York Times story we quoted yesterday titled “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong,” which cited the Koran burning as evidence of widespread anti-Muslim bigotry.
Anti-Muslim bigotry is a problem, but it is only exacerbated by the media’s tendency to exaggerate and sensationalize it–and by the adversarial and snobbish attitude many journalists and some politicians have adopted toward the vast majority of Americans, who are not bigoted and who see the Ground Zero mosque as an affront.
While the media sensationalize this story, Sarah Palin takes notes of a story that media are ignoring “Book burning is bad. But the Muslim cleric who is running for parliament in Afghanistan is calling for the murder of American children in response to scorched Korans, which is worse. Where is the media’s focus?”
“Glenn Beck’s against it too, of course. The grand irony of this crank pastor’s publicity stunt is that he’s trying to force the public to confront a difficult issue — when, if ever, is it appropriate to offend Muslims? — but doing it in such a grotesque, notoriously fascist manner that he’s guaranteed a united front against him among pols and pundits. Denouncing a book-burning is as easy a litmus test for decency as it gets in American politics.
The last via CampaignSpot.
UPDATE: As if on cue, Harry Smith (subbing for Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News) lead devoted roughly one-third of that network’s newscast to this controversy, telling us how Islamic radicals were “capitalizing” on the Koran-burning. Well, Harry, they wouldn’t have been able to capitalize on it had you not publicized it.
(For a change, they had CBS on instead of CNN at my gym.)
UP-UPDATE: The New York Times reports that Coverage of Koran Case Stirs Questions on Media Role:
Mr. Jones was able to put himself at the center of those issues by using the news lull of summer and the demands of a 24-hour news cycle to promote his anti-Islam cause. He said he consented to more than 150 interview requests in July and August, each time expressing his extremist views about Islam and Sharia law.
By the middle of this week, the planned Koran burning was the lead story on some network newscasts, and topic No. 1 on cable news — an extraordinary amount of attention for a marginal figure with a very small following.
Alas, the absence of any introspection or criticism of the media’s success in sensationalizing the story of a publicity-hungry pastor.