Thursday, September 09, 2010


I don't know what the hell's going on with Terry Jones and his Koran-burning stunt -- it's canceled, it's suspended, the imam of Park51 has agreed to move to another site in return for the cancellation of the burning, there's no deal, there's going to be a meeting on 9/11, the meeting will be later. (All that is from The New York Times and Olbermann's show.)

But I'm reading another Times story -- a bit of soul-searching on behalf of the press -- and it makes we want to repeat what I said this morning, which is that it's understandable that the press would cover Terry Jones. The reason it's understandable is that one part of the press -- a part that isn't doing any soul-searching right now, and is never going to do any soul-searching -- helped raise another cheap hustler, Pam Geller, to celebrity status this summer, and after that happened, what Jones was doing was legitimately newsworthy.

Let me try to explain this again: the right-wing media helped enable opponents to the "Ground Zero mosque" to draw real blood. The right-wing media helped these cynical opportunists to gin up a wave of Muslim-bashing, and it made victims of Park51's planners and the planners of every mosque in America that's now facing angry opposition. That "news" decision -- the decision to let those people have large amounts of airtime -- is what should be the subject of soul-searching. But of course it won't be, at Fox or anywhere else in the right-o-sphere. That decision, and the real consequences it had, made Jones newsworthy and relevant.

We know from the soul-searching Times story that Terry Jones is an attention whore, always looking to get his mug in the paper:

Mr. Jones started to make noise in Gainesville in the summer of 2009, when he posted a sign outside his church that read "Islam is of the devil." The Gainesville Sun (which is owned by The New York Times Company) wrote about the sign, under the headline "Anti-Islam church sign stirs up community outrage."

He told The Sun that the sign would not be his last....

The congregation's protests continued last fall, when some children from the church wore anti-Islam shirts to school, prompting another article by The Sun, which was picked up by The Associated Press and republished by outlets like USA Today and Al Arabiya, an Arabic language news network....

Islam was not Mr. Jones's only target. Church members also held protests against Craig Lowe, an openly gay man who was elected mayor of Gainesville in April.

But how does that make him notably different from Geller? She was publishing a book this summer, so she began raising her profile a couple of months before publication with bus ads ostensibly aimed at helping people leave Islam, but really aimed at the media, which was clearly courted, and which responded with a great deal of coverage. She followed that up with a relentless anti-Park51 campaign, with multiple media appearances, a new round of bus ads, and her own demonstration scheduled for 9/11. How is her hustle different from Jones's?

She and the other rage-hustlers pimped by the Murdoch media created the hate-wave; Jones just took advantage of what they'd wrought. The press covered him because he was part of a real story -- but he was part of a real story because phony, theatrical rage by Geller and others was allowed to spread until it stirred up rage that was real.

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