I thought of using a more provocative phrase in the title, but, as this is a family-oriented blog (yah, right, my family doesn't even read it) I thought it best to go with the above.
Twitter has it that the fool masquerading as a pastor in Florida (and yes, I'm well aware of Matthew 5:22) has decided not to burn Qur'ans. He no longer needs to. He's been given a world wide audience. The Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, POTUS and thousands more have responded to him. This little man from the little "church" on the outskirts of a small Florida city has gained an audience of millions. It's every narcissist's fantasy come to fruition.
As I smack the keys on my computer, composing this rant, there are 8,931 news articles about this clown at Google News (.ca) at 5:30PM EDT on Sep-09-10. It's all I can do not to use words that would make the WTF Church blush.
Eight thousand, nine hundred and thirty-one news articles.
Yahoo News (where the media audience shot is from) refers to it as an "anti-Islam stunt that has whipped the national media in a frenzy." (Pedantic Note: a proper editor would have made that "…into a frenzy.")
Let's be honest, shall we. The "national media" whipped themselves into a frenzy. And thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the process. The stunt-pastor fit the narrative for many of them – evangelical Christians as simple-minded bigots. (And I'd debate whether this individual is an "evangelical" or understands what it means to be a Christian.)
The Yahoo News article acknowledges that this story should never have become national news – but then blames the coverage on "major officials and leaders."
Most journalists would probably agree that the rantings of a fanatical preacher in Florida shouldn't be front-page news across the United States and a lead story on national newscasts. However, the story appears to carry more weight as major officials and world leaders continue to weigh in. So after a few big names comment, and garner headlines, it then seems rational to ask the president of the United States — or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Gen. David Petraeus — for their thoughts on the overheated controversy. Although any mainstream political figure is going to condemn Jones, journalists will ask because the responses themselves make news. [emphasis added]
Notice that the writer attempts intellectual slight of hand – blaming the story's growth on anyone but the press – while telling us that journalists go after responses that "make news." And Hillary Clinton wants to blame it on "a media environment where "anybody with an iPhone, anybody with a blog, can put something out there which is outrageous"". Now, is that any way to talk about CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, the New York Times et al.
Trevin Wax nailed it in his post from earlier today,
The frustrating part of this story is the fact that it is a story. It tells us very little about how evangelicals view their Muslim neighbors and very much about the media’s willingness to seize any opportunity to create and maintain chaos.
Think about it. Is this church’s actions going to cause conflict between Muslims and Christians? Yes. But only because newspapers and TV talking heads blew up the story for the world to see.
Is the imagery of Koran-burning going to hurt the perception of American Christians in other parts of the world? Absolutely. But only because the news media has asked that question and seared that picture into our imagination. Even if the church decided to call off the bonfire, the damage is already done.
In a day of 24/7 news, journalists feel constant pressure to stay on top of stories like this, even if they are manufactured and promoted by other news outlets. How could they keep from reporting this story, especially when they had the chance to increase sympathy for Muslims, heap scorn on evangelicals, and cause conflict before September 11? It was the perfect story to accomplish all three tasks.
When I think about the obligatory condemnations coming from military commanders, politicians and leaders, I shake my head at how much time and energy has been wasted here. If Saddleback Church were burning books, you’d have a story. But traveling to the fringe and honoring such actions with this much media attention only exacerbates the problem and causes other fringe groups to try the same tactics.
(By the way, does anyone notice that whenever radical Muslims act out journalists are quick to remind us that most Muslims are not this way? And yet when fringe Christian groups do silly things, journalists use the occasion to take a swipe at evangelicals?)
Theologian William Black says this,
…the media are behaving like depraved addicts who are simply piling on as many hot-button words as possible (fundamentalists, koran-burning, outrage, Muslim extremist, 9/11, etcetera ad nauseum) without any seeming awareness that their so-called 'reporting' is in this case not part of the solution but part of the problem.
I wrote this in the comments section of Phoenix Preacher, earlier today
Real “agenda-less” editors would have said, “the man’s an attention-seeking lunatic. We should ignore him.”
Any violence triggered by this lunatic will be on the heads of the perpetrators and the media – not as if the perpetrators of said projected violence really need an excuse, however.
The media will probably respond with Billy Joel's words, "We didn't start the fire, it's been always burning, since the world's been turning." But the reality is that they fanned the ember rantings of a narcissist into a full-on forest fire of an international media story – with no thought to the consequences.