Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's Not News

A man in Gainesville, Florida named Terry Jones threatened to burn copies of the Koran on the 9th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. No, not the Terry Jones of Monte Python fame. This Terry Jones styles himself a minister of some kind, but in fact he has a following of approximately 50 people. This Terry Jones is nobody, and no one actually cares what he thinks. His plans for Saturday, September 11, 2010 are not news.

Yet, every major news outlet has given Jones his 15 minutes of fame. I understand why Fox News would make a fuss about Jones' activities. The story is titillating, and it helps provoke the kind of us vs. them emotional reactions that Fox News and its far right wing overlords thrive on. But why would NPR run a story on Jones? And why would President Obama ask Jones not to burn the Koran? Why does Obama care what Jones does?

NPR should not have run the story at all, or perhaps should have run a story about how other news media were reporting on a nobody in order to provoke a reaction. President Obama should have either ignored Jones entirely or, if asked, stated that the actions of one whack job in Florida do not represent the views of the other 300,000,000 Americans, and that our First Amendment allows people to burn the flag, the Bible, the Koran or whatever else they choose to burn.

The publication of Jones' actions is not just a waste of headline space, it is extremely counter productive. The vast majority of people in all countries just want to be allowed to live their lives in peace. The few nut jobs on the fringes -- Terry Jones, Osama Bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- intentionally stir up hatred for other groups. They make it possible for the slightly less nutty Dick Chaneys and Sarah Palin's of the world to exist.

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