“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Media and their selective indignation over book burnings

September 9, 2010
Coverage of Koran Case Stirs Questions on Media Role

A renegade pastor and his tiny flock set fire to a Koran on a street corner, and made sure to capture it on film. And they were ignored.

That stunt took place in 2008, involving members of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan., an almost universally condemned group of fundamentalists who also protest at military funerals.

But plans for a similar stunt by another fringe pastor, Terry Jones, have garnered worldwide news media attention this summer, attention that peaked Thursday when he announced he was canceling — and later, that he had only “suspended” — what he had dubbed International Burn a Koran Day. It had been scheduled for Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Unlike the Koran-burning by Westboro Baptist, Mr. Jones’s planned event in Gainesville, Fla., coincided with the controversy over the proposed building of a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan near ground zero and a simmering summerlong debate about the freedoms of speech and religion.

Mr. Jones was able to put himself at the center of those issues by using the news lull of summer and the demands of a 24-hour news cycle to promote his anti-Islam cause. He said he consented to more than 150 interview requests in July and August, each time expressing his extremist views about Islam and Sharia law.

By the middle of this week, the planned Koran burning was the lead story on some network newscasts, and topic No. 1 on cable news — an extraordinary amount of attention for a marginal figure with a very small following. On Thursday, President Obama condemned Mr. Jones’s plan, and his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said that there were “more people at his press conferences than listen to his sermons,” in a bit of media criticism.

Mr. Jones’s plan, announced in July, slowly gained attention in August, particularly overseas. It became a top story in the United States this week after protests against Mr. Jones in Afghanistan and after the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, warned that the Koran burning could endanger troops.

“Before there were riots and heads of states talking about him, it could have been a couple of paragraphs in a story about Sept. 11 commemorations,” Kathleen Carroll, the executive editor of The Associated Press, said Thursday. “It’s beyond that now.”

In some ways, this week’s events were the culmination of a year’s worth of hateful statements and stunts by Mr. Jones and the few dozen members of his church.

Mr. Jones started to make noise in Gainesville in the summer of 2009, when he posted a sign outside his church that read “Islam is of the devil.” The Gainesville Sun (which is owned by The New York Times Company) wrote about the sign, under the headline “Anti-Islam church sign stirs up community outrage.”

He told The Sun that the sign would not be his last.

The newspaper soon published an investigation into what it called the church’s “financial abuses,” which included a profit-making eBay furniture sales business operating on the church’s property.

The congregation’s protests continued last fall, when some children from the church wore anti-Islam shirts to school, prompting another article by The Sun, which was picked up by The Associated Press and republished by outlets like USA Today and Al Arabiya, an Arabic language news network.

People with the same anti-Islam shirts sometimes roamed the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, said Fiona Mc Laughlin, a professor at the university, prompting a counterprotest with T-shirts that read, “Ignorance is of the devil.”

The church “never really rested after that first billboard,” said Jacki Levine, the managing editor of The Sun. She said the newspaper’s staff members had repeatedly discussed how to be “responsible” in its coverage — “We walked as carefully as we could walk.”

Islam was not Mr. Jones’s only target. Church members also held protests against Craig Lowe, an openly gay man who was elected mayor of Gainesville in April.

Mr. Jones’s announcement about the Koran burning gained only a little attention at first, with a single short article published by a Web site called Religion News Service. That article was subsequently mentioned by bigger sites, like Yahoo, and by the end of the July Mr. Jones had been booked on CNN, where the host Rick Sanchez called his plan “crazy” but added, “At least he has got the guts to come on this show and face off.”

Alarmed by negative mentions about Gainesville in overseas news outlets, Mr. Lowe released a statement Aug. 3 labeling Mr. Jones’s church a “tiny fringe group and an embarrassment to our community.”

News executives said the proposed burning took on a greater significance after the protests in Afghanistan and in other Muslim countries. In Kabul last Sunday, up to 500 people attended a protest at which Mr. Jones was burned in effigy, according to The A.P.

That, too, is when Ms. Mc Laughlin took notice. With 11 other professors, she wrote a column for The Sun condemning the plan titled “The world is watching.”

“We just saw everything escalating,” she said Thursday, citing the “sum effect” of all the coverage and the ensuing reactions. (The New York Times wrote a substantial article about Mr. Jones on August 26.)

On Thursday, before Mr. Jones suspended his plans, The A.P. determined that it would not distribute pictures of Korans being burned, restating a policy not to cover events that are “gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend.”

“There are lots of other similarly offensive images that we choose not to run all the time,” Ms. Carroll said. “Most people don’t know that because, of course, we don’t run them.”

Before the suspension, CNN and Fox News Channel said they would not show any images of a Koran being burned.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, said in an e-mail message that the newspaper had “no policy against publishing things that might offend someone — lots of people are offended by lots of things — but we try to refrain from giving widespread offense unless there is some offsetting journalistic purpose.”

“A picture of a burning book contributes nothing substantial to a story about book-burning, so the offense seems entirely gratuitous,” Mr. Keller continued. “The freedom to publish includes the freedom not to publish.”

The episode has given rise to at least a little soul-searching within news organizations. Chris Cuomo, an ABC News anchor, wrote Thursday afternoon on Twitter, “I am in the media, but think media gave life to this Florida burning ... and that was reckless.”

Damien Cave contributed reporting.


  1. I bet there's not five people in the U.S. that give this nonsense a moment's thought.

    If he wants to burn some korans he should burn some korans. The troops signed up to protect our country, and way of life. If they're attacked they will kill their attackers. They'll be alright.

    Thank God for football season.

  2. Meanwhile, we'll import another 11,000,000 Barrels of Oil, and Petroleum Products, today, at a cost of $825 Million - a large part of it from Muslim Countries, and other Dictatorships that hate our ass.

    Today, $825 Million. Tomorrow, $825 Million, the day after $825 Million.

    And, all over the news will be a story about some old man burning a koran.

    And, General Peeonus whining about someone attacking his troops (which he tries mightily to get killed due to idiotic, suicidal, PC rules of engagement.

  3. Of course, we'll spend another Seven, or Eight Hundred Million Today "guarding" the oil in Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and on some sort of not-defined troop training exercise in Afghanistan.

    So, all-tolled, we'll piss off somewhere over $1,500,000,000.00 Today messin with imported oil, and the muzzies.

    I could build 20 cellulosic ethanol refineris with what we piss off over there, Today.

  4. If we did what rufus says, we could withdraw from the Islamic Arc, then the street protests and the further radicalization of the dickweeds there, would not have so much political impact, here.

    It is a real shame that the young Messianic Jew, in Israel, had his hands blown off by a letter bomb. To bad that there is so little coverage of terrorism in Israel, terrorism that is not committed by Arabs or Muslims anyway.

    Reporting from there, not very "fair and balanced".

    Radical religious fanatics, just another plague upon the earth.

  5. I think part of the explanation for the Florida fool getting above the fold, Park 51. The entire "War on Islam" storyline that is being promoted by some of our politicos and story tellers. It elevated the Florida story and its' significance.

    A sad state of affairs, especially when the US is allied with Islam around the globe. Joined with Islamic regimes, at the hip, as we are.

    Providing young Americans to act as security guards for Wahhabi regimes in the Persian Gulf, while some of the most vocal supporters of those troops defame the legitimacy those very regimes. Undermining the troops mission without providing an alternative course of action for US to take.

    Sometimes even advocating against the only visibly viable alternative, Growth Energy.

    The power of the entrenched status que and Wahhabi money, working diligently in the shadows and beneath the fold.

  6. ABC News -

    At least one person has been killed and 53 homes have been destroyed after an apparent gas line explosion in a residential neighborhood south of San Francisco, according to officials.

  7. Philadelphia Inquirer -

    In a high-profile Pennsylvania case that helped spark the ongoing national debate over immigration policy, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the City of Hazleton has no right to punish businesses or landlords who hire or rent to ...

  8. Some hateful ignorant crackpot wants to burn some books and the whole world has to get involved, stirring up fanatics and getting people killed from the religion of peace.

    The real religion of peace, christianity has it's own sacred books burned by some hateful ignorant jews and the world yawns, as it should.

  9. As for "healthcare:"

    If I pay for the girl next door's healthcare the money's not All gone. The Doctor lives next door. He might buy an insurance policy from me. Or, the guy he buys groceries from might spend a buck with me. Maybe his nurse will buy a new car, and my cousin will sell it to him, and invite me over for dinner, and drinks. X

    Maybe the hospital will contract with my daughter's company to do its billing. Who knows. The thing is, most of the money stays local, and recirculates, helping to build the local community.

    When I fire off that $10.00 this morning to the Royal Muzzies (my share of this asshattery,) that money is Gone, Baaybe. Gone, Gone, Gone.

    If I see it again it will probably be on TV in the form of another plane crashing into a downtown building, or an IED killing an American Marine somewhere.

  10. According to this piece, 10,000 Islamoids took to the streets in Afghanistan, causing the Germans to shoot at the people they are supposed to be protecting.

    A protester against a US pastor's plans to burn copies of the Qur'an is reported to have been shot dead in northern Afghanistan after crowds attacked a Nato base.

    The man was killed in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan, a provincial government spokesman said. It happened when thousands of worshippers poured onto the streets after Eid prayers had been held in nearby mosques.

    The crowd was estimated at around 10,000 people. Some had hurled stones at a Nato base run by Germans, and the protester was shot when troops inside opened fire, Amin Sohail said.

    Protester 'shot dead' as Nato troops open fire on demonstrators

  11. ABC News - ‎

    A federal judge in California ruled tonight that the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy that bars openly gay service members from serving in the military is unconstitutional.

  12. Official's views on Muslim immigration divide Germany

    IN BERLIN The most talked-about man in Germany is a 65-year-old economist whose hot new book and sudden groundswell of popular support have the media dubbing him a folk hero. But that is not the only thing they are calling Thilo Sarrazin these days.

    Some are also calling him dangerous. Sarrazin, a board member of the German central bank until he resigned under pressure Thursday, has divided the nation by postulating the theory that Germany is being "dumbed down" by Muslim immigrants and their children. Wielding statistics and scientific arguments both in his book and in public comments, he delves into territory largely taboo here since the Holocaust, suggesting that "hereditary factors" are at least partly to blame. Turks and Kurdish immigrants, he asserts, are genetically predisposed to lower intelligence than Germans and other ethnic groups, including Jews.

  13. Approx. $3,600.00

    That's what I will chip in for this mass suicide this year.

    That's your share, too, btw.

    $3,600.00 This year,

    $3,600.00 Next Year (well, actually, it'll probably go up some, but you get the picture,)

    and who the hell knows how much the year after?

  14. Hell of a day coming up. Back in 5, or 6 hours.

  15. It is all happening in this great country of ours.

    Where we like to provide legal protection to those from other countries who try to kill us.

    Where our squeamish left thinks they can win over our enemies' hearts and minds by being nice to them (and bowing to them).

    Where tactics such as waterboarding and other very effective ways of gleaning information from our enemies are condemned. Condemned to use on those who were picked up on the battlefield while trying to kill our troops. Instead we let them lawyer up.

  16. Until a few weeks ago, Julian Assange was riding high. The self-appointed paladin of uncomfortable truth had just whipped up a media storm in Washington, revealing 70,000 classified Pentagon documents that portrayed the U.S. war in Afghanistan in a way often at odds with the official cheerleading.


    Assange, a lanky 39-year-old Australian with unruly white hair, has gone into seclusion here while Sweden's director of public prosecution, Maryanne Ny, investigates the accusations and decides whether to bring formal charges. In several interviews and online statements, meanwhile, Assange has proclaimed his innocence.


    So things seemed to be going swimmingly when Assange appeared at a news conference and seminar in Stockholm on Aug. 14 that had been organized by the Brotherhood, a Christian affiliate of Sweden's Social Democratic Party, to explain the arrival of WikiLeaks to the Swedish public.

    Derailing Momentum

  17. Uthman and the Original Koran Burners: A Conspiracy of a Bunch of Old Men

    And so it goes to this very day, straight from the lips of Uthman, er, I mean allah.

  18. Obama was making progress in some of his recent speeches on the economy in offsetting the GOP by pointing out their lack of an economic plan.

    He lost ground today when he started taking questions after the latest speech. The reporters were asking tough questions on Terry Jones, "acceptable" levels of corruption in Afghanistan, the Mideast peace tialks, etc. Obama dithered (in my opinion).


  19. Can one Nutter Destroy World Peace?

    The Koran Fiasco


  20. He conceded that despite his attempts to improve the economy, "we're not there yet."

    And he acknowledged that Americans are frustrated and angry. Obama said: "It's understandable that people are saying, what have you done?"

    But Obama criticizes Republicans for offering ideas that he says would mark a return to the policies that preceded the recession.

    Policies Against GOP's

  21. Lord what an idiotic, absurd world it sometimes seems! O to be delivered to a realm of purer song! I'm going to go read Good News Now the rest of the day, where all good things are possible.

  22. Like Manna From Heaven

    Good News Now

    Really there are a lot of under reported good stories out there.

    You are what you read.

  23. Your life is a mirror of your thoughts.

  24. The other world is this world turned inside out.

    And a pig in a poke is better than no pig at all.

  25. As above, so below.


  26. Restated:

    The above is the below turned inside out.

  27. Tennessee preacher to burn Quran...
    Topeka, Kansas church vows burning...
    Protester plans to burn on Wyoming's Capitol steps...

    The bacteria is spreading. Whole nation needs a prescription of cipro.

    This isn't going to end well.

    And Miss T is planning a koran pork a que.

  28. "My father is not one to give up," said Emma Jones, 30. "As a daughter, I see the good-natured core inside him. But I think he needs help."


    Emma Jones said the community kicked out her father in 2008, when he returned to the United States.

    "I really hope he comes to his senses," she said.

    'Needs Help'

  29. 8. Teresita

    If Pastor Terry Jones won’t do it, I’m making 9-11-10 “Fry A Koran In Bacon Grease Day”

    How are the preparations coming along, Miss T?

    An alternative would be to stone the koran.

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