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An Imam, a Pastor and Donald Trump walk into a bar.
No, that is not the beginning of a joke. With the exception of the bar part, these three unlikely characters all played a role in what can only be called a media circus this evening. The place to be to see how insane things have become was Twitter where the Tweets flew fast and furious with each revelation more bizarre than the previous one.
“Jones won’t burn Korans on assurance that Ground Zero Mosque will be moved.”
“Mosque developers say no deal.”
“Donald Trump buys mosque site.” (Trump’s offer was summarily dismissed.)
I got as wrapped up emotionally as many other folks in the Twittersphere. I was livid at the notion that some quid pro quo was being suggested between the Koran burning and the location of the NYC Islamic center. Tuning into MSNBC didn’t help as Chris Matthews’ coverage started to hit all my “hot buttons” (as Ed Schultz would say). But then Mr. Hot Button himself, Ed Schultz came on and set me straight in two ways.
His opening rant concerned our government’s reaction to this threatened Koran bonfire. He felt President Obama was ill-served by his advisers and he was right. We as a nation don’t negotiate with terrorists, whether they be the physically violent kind or the rhetorical kind. The notion that General David Petraeus, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and the President himself either directly or indirectly asked Pastor Terry Jones to control himself was akin to negotiating with a terrorist. Jones should have been ignored and if he went through with his ill-advised act, let the consequences speak for themselves. Instead we had the leader of the free world addressing the possible actions of a small-time nutjob who no one ever heard of until this week. But for Terry Jones to be ignored, the media itself would have to ignore him.
That brings me to the second way in which Ed Schultz set me straight, that is in Ed’s own hypocrisy. While he felt that this Pastor was beneath being dignified with a response from our government leaders, Ed didn’t seem to have a problem with the main stream media running this story non-stop all week. What would have happened if every news editor in the country looked at this story and passed on it? Jones is obviously an unbalanced attention whore. The media gave him exactly what he wanted, fifteen minutes of fame plus a bit more. “How will the Muslim world react when they see this on TV?” That was the concerned cry heard all over the dial. Well, how about if they turned on CNN and didn’t see any stories about Jones? How about if they opened the paper and didn’t see any coverage of Jones. What if Jones remained as anonymous as he was at the week’s outset?
The counter argument is that we live in a YouTube age and if the Koran burning proceeded, it would no doubt go viral over the Internet. I’m still not sure that lets the media off the hook for fanning the story. As angry as I am at John Boehner and Sarah Palin for voicing this Koran bonfire/GZ Mosque equivalence, I must admit they had a ready and waiting bullhorn to shout into. After the media reports their ignorant comments, they then play innocent pretending not to be promulgators of the bigotry.
We live in dangerous times my friends. The media should, I think, consider the Hippocratic oath to first do no harm. I am not sure they are doing that this week.