Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Should Journalists Ignore the Bigot?

A FLORIDA MINISTER plans to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The US government has pleaded with the minister not to do this, fearing it will incite violence from Muslims, putting Americans in peril.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," said General David Petraeus, the commanding officer in Afghanistan. "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult."

The minister leads a congregation of only around 50 members. But he has reached a worldwide audience with this stunt, largely because of the Internet and the media.

Should the media help tell this guy's story? Or should they ignore him?

26 comments:

Erik Lexie said...

I can understand whatever media is most local to this event wanting to cover it, as it may affect people who share a community with this church.

From there, it's easy to see how this kind of story would spread along blogs. I'm not sure if it's the kind of thing that I would like to see in mainstream news, but this is the nature of the internet. Like with that Cee Lo video, we are, for better or worse, if people spread this news over the internet enough, it becomes big enough news for mainstream media to cover even though it seems like it shouldn't concern anyone who's not local.

In that sense I think the biggest area of concern is, how do we deal with the fact that the internet means almost anything, if it's interesting or outlandish enough, has the potential to become a national or even worldwide news item? If this guy does go through with his plan and it causes violence in other areas of the world, I don't think we can blame the media, the readers, or the bloggers. All we can blame is the internet.

Geo said...

Blame the Internet? Boo! That's a cop-out! You can't say an inanimate object helped spread fear and xenophobia!

Someone make a conscious decision to disseminate that information after it left the hands of that minister (and his church).

Which brings us back to the beginning ... should journalists disseminate this guy's message of hatred? Would ignoring him make him go away, or only allow him to fester?

- George
(the teacher who only reluctantly gave the guy any attention on our little blog)

Mark Longacre said...

While the whole point of the free media is to be objective, I think this is one case that can go without mass media coverage. The minister is banking on the mass media attention his act will get. If the mass media ignores him, burning the Koran will have no effect on anyone.

Personally, I think the media should ignore him due to the massive amount of chaos that will ensue. However, everyone is interested in what is happening. The decision to follow this story has already been made.

Madeline Bates said...

While I would hardly agree that less media coverage would result in the burning having "no effect on anyone," I do think that less attention would minimize the backlash. But then where do we draw the line regarding what journalists should and shouldn't pay attention to? Of course I wish that this guy had gone unnoticed, but now that he's gained notoriety, it seems contradictory to the job description of a reporter to ignore him.

Will Fitch said...

The media should refrain from blowing the story out of proportion, simply out of civic responsibility.
Obviously he is a nut, and if the local news outlet wants to interview him for an 8 second soundbyte, than they should be able to.
However it would be silly to give this man national attention for something so obviously sensationalistic and antagonizing.

Also, let it be said that fearing terrorist reprisal for any reason legitimate or not, only serves to strengthen the practice of terrorism overall.

Kevin S. said...

As long as the media stresses how ridiculous/horrible/dumb the stunt is, then there is really no humongous problem in letting people know about it. In fact, letting a large amount of people know about this crazy might incite some Florida residents to go out and stop him through peaceful means before someone stops him through violent means.

Haley Kmetz said...

In most cases, it is the job of the journalist to inform the public, but this case is an exception. The disrespect shown by the Reverend is terrible and can be used as fuel for an attack by extremists in the Middle East. The only way that the extremists could find out about the bonfire is through mass media. The problem with today's changing media forms, is that even if all journalists decided to ignore the reverend, he could still post a tape of his rally on the internet. Everyday people have the power to send messages to the public in today's world. Since it is inevitable that the terrorists may see the action, journalists should cover only the counter events held by people protesting the reverend's ignorance. We should show that most people do not think like him.

Monica Miller said...

I saw this story covered on CNN last night and Anderson Cooper looked like he was about to lose his mind trying to interview this guy. The fact that I even saw him on CNN makes me worry. He's getting the media attention he wants. How else was he going to spread his irrationally close-minded views on religion? Seeing that he only leads about 50 or so people in his church, if they all were going to burn the Koran and didn't get any of this attention, I don't think it would have made a large impact. Locally, yes. The impact would've been huge. But since the media gave him so much coverage, his future actions will effect a larger number of people.

Kadidja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kadidja said...

Kadidja Nanakasse,

I think the media should tell his story because in a way this is affecting people all around. This is during time that Ramadan will be ending and people of the Islam religion would be celebrating their month of fasting and practicing the religion, so this will raise a lot of controversy and problems because this is just not fair to people of the Islam faith that live by PEACE. So i think the media shouldd talk about this issue to show that there are ignorant people that want attention so now they can get what they want. Because regardless if the journalist ignores this man it still will hit the media some way or other. Even though this is a very touchy subject for a journalist to report or blog about

Ali Watkins said...

I agree heartily with the above comment. Had the situation never been acknowledged, it would be appropriate to continue ignoring this guy. However, it is a journalist's job to educate the public on relevant, and sometimes controversial, events.

All it seems one can hope at this point is that there is enough negative reaction to the story that this selfish, small-minded Reverend thinks better of his plans. As a member of the Christian community, I am disgusted by his actions. It is a shame that Rev. Terry Jones's "National Koran Burning Day" will only further the stereotype of a closed-minded, unforgiving and unaccepting Christian faith. He is truly doing more harm for the church than good.

Alexis Wright-Whitley said...

I'm a little stuck here. I believe that the media should help spread his story because we need to be aware of the bozos out there, but at the same time, I don't think that this guy should get his play. Whether or not his story is spread around a lot, people will still have their own opinions. There are always going to be people who feel a sense of hatred toward the Muslim population because of 9/11, but on the other hand, this guy could make people be more vocal and upfront about their hatred.

It's a tricky topic and question.

Erik Lexie said...

Geo: I should probably clarify, although I strongly disagree with this statement: "You can't say an inanimate object helped spread fear and xenophobia." Unless you mean I can't say it intentinoally did, since it obviously has no intention. But the internet has clearly helped spread it!

But, none of the reporting on this issue that I've seen done has been spreading fear and xenophobia. They've been reporting what's happened, but it's always either straight news or, from what I've seen, opinions against.

It may be that we should have the foresight to realize that spreading this kind of news in our modern world can elevate it to national awareness and as a result cause it to have a much bigger effect. But I think everyone is still trying to come to grips with that. What I mean when I say we can't blame the media or the bloggers is that we can't blame them for it if violence erupts because of this, because I don't think any of them were doing anything they never did normally. Local news that reported on this would just be reporting local news. Bloggers who caught the local news story and spread it online are just doing what bloggers always do: catching odd or interesting news stories and spreading them with commentary. I can easily see how a blogger finding this story would think, "Wow, what a nutjob! I gotta see what my readers think about this." And I don't think I can reasonably expect that person to think, "What if this becomes viral and turns into such a huge news story that it threatens to cause a violent backlash?" Maybe I'm wrong and people should think that way with what they blog—but I think precedents are few, if there are any. And as for the big media, it is doing what it's been doing for a while now, reporting on things that become widespread on blogs or youtube etc. I could see maybe expecting them to think about the possible violent backlash.

But it's the sum of all thee things that elevated this story to the point where it could now potentially cause violence, which is what I mean by blaming the internet. I'm not trying to say it means we should shrug our shoulders and assume nothing can be done about it. But I don't think it's fair to point fingers at anyone who ran the story.

Lauren Arute said...

This whole thing sounds like a publicity stunt and giving this guy media/press coverage would just be fueling the fire. Burning copies of a Koran is blatantly disrespectful and wouldn't resolve or improve anything. However, I do agree that if journalists and news reporters overlooked the situation then they wouldn't be fulfilling their duties. I personally don't think anybody should spread this around or bring more attention to it than has already been brought, but I wouldn't be surprised or upset if this happened. It would surely be an attention-grabber. Typically anything that stirs up controversy makes for a good story.

Chelsea Murray said...

This guy obviously wants to cause a stir and gain attention. Journalists should report the story, but stress that he is just some random minister from Florida. All this media coverage is giving him the type of platform that he does not deserve. To be honest, I think that the more coverage he gets, the more people realize how ignorant he is, so hopefully the media attention will in fact diminish any type how support he was getting in the first place. The only thing that is distressing is that there might be more people that agree with him who then join in this "protest".

Like Lauren said, anything that causes controversy will lead to a good story, so I'm not surprised that this story is getting such overwhelming attention.

Deanna Pizzi said...

I think this guy should be ignored also. All he is doing in creating more controversy instead of making his point in a civilized way. This will only upset people and cause more problems to arise.

Tracy L. Kirkendall said...

We can pretend to live in an ideal world...come on! This guy is so controversial. He just oozes headline news everywhere because this is going to sell papers and get clicks. He might be an idiot, but hey...stupid sells I guess.

Ideally, it would be easier to ignore him. Sometimes it's better not to. If the media spreads his story, then maybe the media can help stop him by exposing him to pressures from other countries not to be such an idiot!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the media should be telling the story of the Florida minister. When the media tells this story, it upsets Al-Qaeda and radical Muslims, along with non-radical Muslims. This story is about somebody who is not very compassionate towards the feelings of Americans and non-Americans as well. If he wishes to criticize any-group of people, he has that right. He has the right to burn whatever he wants to. People do not need to hear about this story; people do not need this information. This is just another racist guy who is trying to get media attention.

Jennifer Babu said...

The media definitely played a role in creating the controversy of Jones. Yes, it should report and inform the public, but this all feels like everything is happening so fast. This guy is getting so much attention that his story became worldwide. What if other Muslim nations never heard of him if the media did not exploit the story to the frenzy it is now? And then you have politicians and officials asking for no one to give the man attention, and yet he still gets it, because even what they say about Jones makes the news. I think the media should report the story, because it is relevant with 9/11 coming up and can have a huge impact on our country. But at the same time, I believe the media should think of the consequences in the way they are spreading the information. And that's not just for journalists; that's for "citizens media" too.

Ruth said...

I think that because of the timing and the circumstances surrounding this dude's stunt, that he should be reported on, but that journalists should try to be discerning when it comes to how much they speak about this guy and in what tone they speak about him.

He deserves to be ignored, really. I'd personally ignore him.

Elizabeth Van Son said...

I believe that although he SHOULD be ignored he won't be because he is making a big show of the burning of the Koran. I think it's despicable what he's doing and the government does have a point that if/when he does this he will be putting the whole country at risk for hatred from the Muslim community. The media shouldn't help him out because if they do they are broadcasting it to the world which is the governments fear and they are almost helping him get his word out which is the last thing he deserves. I agree with the majority that this is just a publicity stunt and he should really just cut it out because it's not politically or morally correct.

Cindy Rau said...

Personally I think this man is an idiot and all the protesters of the "ground zero mosque" aren't thinking clearly. While their intentions may be "good" and they are showing how much they care about our country, they shouldn't be lowering themselves to this level of i want to say, revenge? but i know that's not exactly the word i want. I'm glad the media is covering these stories and this man in particular because it tells me that some people in our country do not do their research and don't even care if they're targeting the wrong people entirely because they are making themselves feel better. It all goes back to the individual not wanting to find their sources and approach it in that sort of manner, because all they know is that "this person hurt us and blah blah blah...all i do is assume...blaaaaah".

I THANK the media for following this story. I do not think that the coverage is going to give the guy a bigger head and I don't think that if the media ignored him that he would have fallen off the face of the planet either. All I know is that they were following a story that involved the rest of society as much as it involved the locals around it. The topic was too big and too relevant to ignore. Just because some people don't like to hear about controversial issues like this or about how stupid some citizens of their country are doesn't mean that the media should ignore it. Hey, how else is this misguided hatred towards ALL muslim believers going to stop?

EMag said...

Why is this guy threatening to burn the Koran now? Why wasn't he doing this when the attacks occurred. This guy is just getting the negative media attention he wanted. Maybe he didn't have enough members in his congregation and needs to recruit people. Whatever the case may be I think that the guy got his quick 15 minutes of fame and now needs to be ignored. Have a sister who was in the U.S. Army, it outrages me that this man needs stir up trouble by burning the Koran. He proved his point now lets let it go before it actually does incite violence from Muslims.

Anonymous said...

Taisje Claiborne

Can I just first say that this man is perhaps one of the most IGNORANT people walking this earth? When did it become acceptable to kill hate with more hate? Please someone let me know. I must had missed that memo.
Nevertheless, I do believe that the media should broadcast this preacher's story. If it wasn't for the media broadcasting this story, who is to say that world leaders and other respected people within society would have found out about his plan. Through the media broadcasting this story, leaders from all around the world were able to find out about the situation and act accordingly. If it wasn't for leaders and other officials speaking out about this issue... God knows what would have came out of this.

alexandra bristow said...

I was completely torn with this debate. One one hand why stir the pot while we are already in an unsteady relationship with Muslims in general? On the other, whose to say this minister does not have his say. As ludicrous as his motives may seem, this is America and in a land of free speech he should openly be allowed to display and convey his beliefs. Recently along with the issue, has been the ongoing debate of the ground zero mosque establishment. In one NY Times article a man who lost both wife and niece in 9/11 attacks states his beliefs. He says, " “A mosque is built on the site of a winning battle,” he said. “They are symbols of conquest. Hence we have a symbol of conquest here? I don’t think so." The burning of the Koran seems completely disrespectful and it is quite evident that not all Muslims were to blame for the 9/11 attacks. The fact of the matter is, thousands of lives were lost and respect to them is crucial. The attacks have recently created a racism against Muslims in America, can you really blame this? Al Queda were the ones who attacked, but America still associates all members of Muslim faith with Al Qaeda. The media should have complete coverage of the ministers beliefs and as crazy as he may appear or as risky it is for increased tension, his voice should be given coverage.

Kelly Offner said...

Personally, I would not have run a story about this loony-toon, but I understand why this "Minister" has gotten the attention he has from the media: it sells a lot of papers/gets a lot of hits! Someone who posted a while before me made a great point: the internet is not to blame for this story becoming so well known. Neither, as much as it pains me to say, is CNN for interviewing him. The question is WHY does the media think the public should know about this??
I think journalists recognize the potency of this story, especially to the American consumer, and capitalize on the exposure and publicity it will earn their paper or website.
Sad, but true? Who agrees? A final thought: We may have freedom of speech, but people like this should be blacklisted from the right to use it