Afraid of Reporting the News

kinnon —  October 6, 2010 — 3 Comments

I confess that I was troubled by the coverage given to the small town “pastor” who thought burning the religious book of another religion was the “Christian” thing to do. When the Vatican, Canterbury and the White House all weighed in on his intended actions, it simply became surreal.

And the story, created by the media and fanned into fiery frenzy by those who despise anything that appears to be “fundamentalist” Christianity actually did cause loss of life – even though, once he used way more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame, the “pastor” de-ignited his intentions.

Newsweek, hardly a trusted source of information for me, made this comment,

…the news media may have to examine their role in this episode. News organizations may well need to ask what public good was served by giving minute-by-minute updates of the antics of a little-known preacher. Jones’s decision to burn holy books near his sparsely attended church became global news because, well, it was disseminated globally. By making it big news, the media had a hand in prompting the subsequent violence.

It was a story that was only worthy of coverage on the back pages of that “pastor’s” local, small city newspaper.

But what about the Molly Norris story?

“The what?,” you ask.

The Molly Norris story.

Norris was (and “was” is the operative word) the Seattle cartoonist, who in a moment of First Amendment exhilaration (and prompted by the South Park censored episode), thought it would be appropriate to create an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”.

I was peripherally aware of the story but it came into focus with this Mollie Z. post @ Get Religion, posted in mid-September. She comments,

So Norris shows some solidarity with these victimized cartoonists. Outrage ensued — protests, riots, you name it. She quickly backtracked and explained she didn’t mean to offend. Too late, Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki declared, putting her on an execution hitlist.

I’ve watched as there has only been a light sprinkling of coverage of this story in the past three weeks.

When I think about the millions of pixels spilled on the Florida “pastor” story, I ask where the anger or simple concern is for Molly Norris. Proclaiming the fatwa, al-Awlaki says, “her proper abode is Hellfire.” He wants and expects her to be hunted down and executed.

Is this not a significant story?

She’s lost her livelihood and her identity – forced into hiding at her own expense – because she believed her First Amendment rights protected her as she dared challenge religious censorship – well, actually she backed down after suggesting the challenge. Yet, she will spend the rest of her days looking over her shoulder wondering whether she will see death stalking her.

But where is the media. Where are the bloggers and twitterers standing in solidarity with Molly – whether you agree or disagree with her once suggested day?

Where are the spiritual leaders and politicians stating that this response to Norris is outrageous?

They are all, predominantly, silent.

To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

UPDATE: (Before posting) This just popped up in Google Reader, Street Preaching is so Uncouth. Another Molly Z. post from Get Religion.

It is fascinating to me how much coverage the media devoted to the non-burn of the Koran in Florida compared to the actual “going ghost” of Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris or the actual arrest of four street evangelists in Dearborn. I would just love for someone who was involved in the coverage of the Koran burn threat to explain why they wrote eleventy billion stories on the Florida pastor and none on these other situations.

Fascinating or simply sad?



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

3 responses to Afraid of Reporting the News

  1. It may be that, more important than the media was the intercession of the White House, Rome, and Canterbury. Salman Rushdie’s fatwa was a major major story because it was backed by the government of Iran.

    Awlaki sounds like a real piece of work, but let’s be honest, who knew about him before this? I only recall reading about him in the past week or so.

    Also, if I was going into hiding, I would not want a big media event announcing such a thing. I would imagine that Molly Norris would rather that Awlaki’s goons keep looking for “Molly Norris” than whatever new name she goes under.

  2. I’m listening to the audiobook “Bob Dylan in America” these days. So maybe that is why this question came to mind:

    I wonder who will write the folk song chronicling the Molly Norris story?

    I think she deserves a song more than newspaper ink.

    Keep creating…we’re not done,

  3. One has to wonder why the silence about the other stories. Why the double-standard.


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