Friday, September 10, 2010

From the "I felt like sharing" files....

It may or may not surprise you to know that I'm a little bit of a political junkie. There are approximately 8-10 political sites I keep track of every day, and another half-a-dozen that I check sporadically if I think they'll have something cogent to say on a particular topic. In addition, over half of the bloggers I follow will reference said political sites and give their interpretation of events, even if they're not primarily political blogs.

(It's amazing how many authors have an interest in politics. Just saying.)

As I'm sure most of you know, there's a pastor down in Florida by the name of Terry Jones who's been making noises about burning the Koran on 9/11, which has lead to a media frenzy giving him exactly what he wants--attention. Recently, he has indicated that he won't actually burn the Koran, first if the Park 51 project (aka the "Ground Zero Mosque") was stopped, and then later if he got a phone call from the president.

However, there is at least one group that says they don't believe that Terry Jones will go through with it--so they will. Meet Bob Old in Tennessee, who says that Terry Jones waffling shows he isn't "committed to the cause," and so he and his church will proceed and YouTube the whole event.

I'm pointing all of this out, to set up a comment from MA I read on TPM:
I remember being sent to monitor a tiny Ku Klux Klan rally in, of all places, Ann Arbor, when I was a stringer for the Detroit News in the early 1990s. Clearly they had chosen an avowedly liberal college town in the spirit of provocation in the hopes of getting some coverage. The editors told me that they didn't want to give the KKK any free press, but I should show up in case anything newsworthy happened.


I suspect editors still have similar policies in place about the Klan, but it's fascinating to me that they're willing to give Terry Jones's hate speech so much play. What has happened to the media environment that makes it possible for a fringe freak like this to get the media attention he so desperately craves, and without which he would have to close shop and find something else to do with his time? Why are media outlets unable to just ignore this guy like they ignored the Klan's transparent attempts at media manipulation. Being an editor still means deciding whose attempts at media manipulation will get play -- is this a symptom of the decline of editorial control in the internet era? Is this coverage being driven by shifts in the media environment that make it impossible to ignore any member of the lunatic fringe who might do something creepy enough to gain saturation coverage in the blogosophere? Is it a function of the shift toward focusing on the most sensational and polarizing figures in order to win ratings by catering to the kinds of excitement and indignation a figure like Jones incites? If so, are we going to see editors start reversing their long-standing policies about not catering to the Klan's media strategies? It's kind of depressing to see how this guy can make the media twitch and dance -- and the international media are, of course, eating it up, since it confirms so many international stereotypes about the US. Just how low do you have to go these days to get saturation cable coverage by outlets who clearly take pleasure in fuelling a productive spiral of incitement and indignation?
Obviously, MA was focused on the decline of editorial control which media outlets have. However, while reading it I found myself thinking that if the media had not given Terry Jones such intense attention, then Bob Old and his church wouldn't be holding a "Koran-burning Festival." Or, at least, the likelihood of it would be drastically reduced.

What do you think?

Editor: A person employed on a newspaper whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.
--Elbert Hubbard


  1. It's funny, because I saw this instantly after Tarvis and I had just wrapped up almost this exact conversation.

    I'm glad you wrote this post, because now I don't have to ;-)

  2. Yay! You're writing!

    Also, I agree as well.