Who is Responsible for Inciting Hatred?

I am angry that I know who Terry Jones is. I have been hesitant to blog on the crazy pastor in Florida who is sponsering “Burn a Koran Day” because it would give him exactly what he doesn’t deserve: attention. He is one hateful, bigoted, ignorant man whose congregation is no more than 40 clueless individuals. Shining the spotlight on him would be the equivalent of interviewing the babbling idiot on the sidewalk who spews Anti-Semitic rhetoric. The ADL wouldn’t feel the need to speak out on the prejudiced hobo, because they understand that he doesn’t represent anything more than himself. The local media wouldn’t headline the evening news with “HOMELESS MAN HATES JEWS” because it wouldn’t be considered newsworthy.

This is my problem. Why has American media decided that this one bigot in Florida deserves media coverage? I am sure that in the history of the world, one or two Qurans have been burned, just as one or two hobos have verbally raged against the Elders of Zion. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for censorship of the media. I just find it a little strange that U.S. media, who won’t even show images of fallen American troops (something which actually impacts the lives of Americans), decides to create a story out of something inane and utterly un-newsworthy.  

And it gets worse. Now that it is on the news, and now that we are talking about something that we shouldn’t have given the time of day, people around the world are starting to pay attention. “Who is this guy” they wonder “If he is on the news, he must have a huge following. He must represent a substantial portion of the American people, or else he wouldn’t be on the news.” We can shout “He’s just crazy! He doesn’t represent us!” Every leader from Obama to Palin (wow) can condemn him, as if he is the leader of a thousands. Would Obama ever feel the need to criticize the person who burned their Quran in their basement, without any news coverage? Would he even know that arsonists by name?

People are charging Terry Jones for incitement. This is, of course, an accurate criticism. But without the news coverage, Ol’ Crazy Terry would only be responsible for inciting hatred in Gainesville, Florida. Would it endager U.S. troops occupying Muslim lands? Probably not. Would it receive the condemnation of the Pope? How about the Foreign Minister of Iran? (who, in a grotesque statement of insanity blames the burning of Qurans on, you guessed…the Zionists!) Without the media shining its spotlight and providing the microphone, this incident wouldn’t be noticed or remembered.

Unfortunately, it’s too late for that. When 9/11 happened, most of the Muslim world mourned with the United States. Vigils were held from Iran to Indonesia. But I remember one of my Nashville friends turning to me and saying, “On the news, they were showing Palestinians jumping up and down and celebrating these attacks. Those people hate us.” Chances are, the footage was of a few hormonal and angry teenagers who don’t represent Muslims any more than Terry Jones represents me. But by seeing this video on the news, my friend believed that it represented more than just a discrete moment in the lives of a handful of random individuals. She didn’t know of the dozens of Muslim religious leaders  who unequivocablly condemned the attacks as antithetical to Islam. Instead, she decided that the 10 second video clip spoke for the 1.4 billion Muslims around the world. While we may hope that Muslims around the world will know better than to think that Terry Jones and his 40 person congregation represent all Americans, that may be an overlooked detail in an enormous media blitz. Crazy Terry is responsible for the hatred he spews, but the shameless American Media is responsible for selling that hatred as a product and shipping it out for the world to see.

This entry was posted in 9/11, Bigotry and Hatred, Islam. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Who is Responsible for Inciting Hatred?

  1. Meghan says:

    From my other favorite blog: http://chicagoist.com/2010/09/09/local_organizations_counter-protest.php

    “Even Sarah Palin condemned the event though not without using her pretzel logic as another chance to oppose the Muslim community center planned near Ground Zero: “Book burning is antithetical to American ideals. People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation – much like building a mosque at Ground Zero.”

    “Now, the American Library Association has announced that it plans to “fight fire with free speech” with a local counter-protest of sorts. Whether or not the Reverend carries out his plans – he’s indicated this week he’s open to cancelling the event – Chicago librarians, library advocates, and other supporters will assemble on the steps of the American Library Association headquarters (50 E. Huron) this Saturday at 1 p.m. for a public reading from the Qur’an. Organized by the Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, Banned Books Week, celebrated yearly in libraries across the country, is all about the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. “Free people read freely,” says Barbara Jones, the Office’s director. “That is a fundamental principle of the American Constitution and a basic mission of public libraries. We don’t burn books, we read them.”

  2. plucylew says:

    Thanks for your comment! It is interesting that this also strikes a chord with the topic of intellectual freedom. While the issue of religious intolerance is at the forefront of this embarassing disply of ignorance, I think it is true that this also touches on the other equally important issue of freedom of information and ideas. Burning of books is such a loaded image, how did this pastor not think that Americans would immediately think of Nazi rallies? Clearly there were a number of things he didn’t think of before deciding to move forward with this plan…

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