When Hate Hijacks the News

I’m supposed to help spread the word about a peace march my Quaker Meeting is putting on in a couple of weeks. Hmm. What chance do we have in attracting all the major networks and scores of other news media, nationally and internationally? Probably next to none.

In my experience, even the biggest peace marches get the smallest coverage, though I’m not sure why. Weak “tea party” rallies get way more coverage, maybe because it’s newer. Or those town hall shout downs last summer – yelling makes good TV. But why should I think small? Some dude down South with a handlebar mustache got the world’s attention with his even smaller church decided on their big fall event, as painted along the side of a beat up trailer on his property: International Burn A Koran Day.

(Except the way it was amateurishly painted on the truck was with all the words all run together BURNAKORANDAY).

I’m not going to name the goofus who decided this was his plan, whose misreading of the Bible led to his identification of the devil. He already thinks he’s so famous he thought he could broker a deal so that a group would stop plans to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan if he called off his fire.

But who elevated this guy to such a pedestal anyway? It was the increasingly irresponsible, hit-happy news media, only to happy to follow the lead of right wing networks and Republicans happy to find another distracting wedge issue in which to divide the nation.

Even George Bush said weeks after 9/11 that “Ours is a country based upon tolerance … And we’re not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values.”

But Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, et al, are only too eager to jump on these issues to fire up the worst instincts of their constituency and get them marching in the trenches.

Seems like there was a time when someone who stood on a soap box somewhere and said something completely bigoted would rightfully be shunned by decent people and certainly by news organizations. Now they scramble to be the first morning show to book the guy. They whip up debates on the issue to reheat their ratings at the end of the summer. And even my very own paper posed the question as part of its Weekly Buzz: “Is a Florida church’s plan to burn a Quran justified?” was posed solely as a way to increase its web traffic.

And it seemed to work. According to a tally printed today, 887 responded to the question (27 percent yes, 73 percent no, by the way), compared to just 380 for “Is hurricane talk too hyped up?” (answers there: 75 percent yes).

What’s next: “Were we too hard on the KKK?”  That ought to get a lot of hits. Maybe they should ask people about what they think Obama’s religion is, just to get the hits, no matter that repeating a lie about a Muslim tie has already convinced 20 percent of the people of something that is just not true.

I just have a feeling a walk for peace won’t get this kind of attention no matter what we do. Even if we light our dove of peace on fire.

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  • By World Wide News Flash on September 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    When Hate Hijacks the News…

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