"Rev." Terry Jones received enormous media coverage the past two weeks for his aborted plan to burn thousands of copies of copies of The Koran, the central holy book of Islam. Will he? Won't he? The media hyped the tension to the level of the Cuban missile crisis — or maybe an episode of 24 would be a more apt comparison.
Jones planned the book burning on the anniversary of 9/11 to oppose the construction of an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan and to honor the victims of that tragedy — and can you think of a better way to honor those victims than by inflaming international hatred of the U.S., particularly in Muslim-ruled regions where we still have hundreds of thousands of troops?
the media devoured this event because of its apparently insatiable appetite for polarizing issues — easy oppositions such as liberal/conservative, right/left, military aggression/abject capitulation.
The news coverage reminded me of a book by The Atlantic Monthly's national correspondent, James Fallows (who visited New Trier last year). In Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy, Fallows argues that the media corrupts political discussions by deliberately polarizing and thereby cheapening political discussions. Seeing the world in black and white terms sells ad space on TV and in newspapers, but it doesn't allow room for alternate opinion or nuanced readings of complicated events.
The spectacle of this pseudo-event was a media bonanza because it allowed for outlandish lead-up coverage and substantial reaction to Jones' decision not to burn the books. And worse: the coverage featured most of the same talking heads whose views have long since calcified in those same mindless oppositions. And so it goes.