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Media perpetuates hate

Controversial reverend gets undeserved exposure

By Travis Barker

September 16, 2010

In a country that has enjoyed the freedoms of speech, expression and religion for generations, one would think that we would stop confusing all of that with an imaginary right not to be offended. I think it is great that I live in a country where Muslims can worship where they please and Christians can burn the Koran in a 9/11 protest.

I feel less great about living in a society that fuels a media industry that routinely gives a much larger audience to hatemongers than they deserve. A loud mouth, hate and brimstone preacher from the Deep South that garners an audience of about 30 people every week, was somehow able to manipulate the media into turning his pathetic protest into world wide news.

The Rev. Terry Jones managed to turn a tweet into a blog sphere frenzy when CNN and other national outlets unwittingly promoted his cause by giving him legitimacy through their coverage. Once the president and the secretary of state weigh in, responsible journalists have a legitimate reason to cover the story.

Unfortunately, by the time the voice of reason that the majority of Americans gets heard, radical Islamic leaders are able to generalize Americans in the ilk of Jones.

Jones routinely holds hate stunts to promote his version of Christianity. Most times the local community is outraged enough to hold counter protests and allow for the other side to vent their frustrations, and the demonstrations are limited in their exposure. Obviously when anyone can say anything they want, people are going to say bizarre things. They have that right. What they don’t have is the right to a broad audience.

It is also embarrassing how easy it is for politicians to manipulate the media when it comes to focusing on certain issues in the national dialogue to rile up their base for mid-term elections. A prayer room in Lower Manhattan is less about religious freedom and tolerance than it is about real estate and money. However, some people on the Right are trying to make it about a terrorist attack that affected Americans of all religions. If money was not an issue, then why is it that nine years have passed and the World Trade Center site sits with no permanent memorial? Real estate is sparse there and no one wants to erect a structure that will not make any money. If religious tolerance is really the issue, then why are there churches around sites of terrorism at the hands of Christians, such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

The mind set that does not allow close minded Christians to view Muslims in more than one light is the same view that occurs within radical Muslims. At times it seems like the radicals have more in common with each other than they do their religions.

The difference in a country that believes in free speech for even the most extreme and bigoted voices, and one that is struggling to raise its silent majority against the violent minority, that is, in Afghanistan, it is much more dangerous to oppose the hate.

The military in Afghanistan face a tough job in winning the hearts and minds of the local people. The job is made more difficult when the people there think that most people here act like the infidels they are hard wired by fundamentalism to believe we are.

Fundamentalists in any religion are dangerous. In America we can choose not to listen, but the media sometimes make irrelevant stories into issues that cannot be ignored. Lunatics do not garner large audiences unless they are amusing. There is nothing amusing about burning the Koran. It would be nice if their perception of Americans and religious tolerance was not one of ignorant hate, coincidentally the very thing that is offered to them by groups like Al Qaeda.