In Defense of “The Media”

It’s tiresome to see so many people blame The Media for blowing this Terry Jones thing up into something bigger than it should be. As if The Media is some sort of insidious, evil force desperate to manipulate reality. It’s such a cheap, thoughtless and simplistic cop-out. The Media. What does that even mean?

Are you saying that the Gainseville Sun should not have covered Jones’ planned Quran burning as a local story?

Are you saying that it’s somehow a Bad Thing if state wires pick this up as a point of interest in the days leading up to the 9/11 anniversary? Is it not relevant?

If Christians and Muslims, churchgoers and neighbors, talk about this; if bloggers and journalists pick up on the story and start writing about it; if John Stewart and Stephen Colbert make jokes about it; if readers tweet it and share it on Facebook — are they all somehow doing America a disservice?

That’s The Media right there, folks. Don’t let’s pretend for a minute that The Media is just Fox News and NPR and the New York Times. WE are the media. We are all The Media. So quit complaining about The Media.

The attention paid to this little man in Gainseville itself has become a story. It doesn’t matter how small his congregation is. There are people like him all over the country. He’s the guy who grabbed the mic. Aren’t we taught in America that every person has a voice? That everyone can be heard? So this crackpot is industrious enough to stage a publicity stunt built around Islamophobia, spurred by the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” uproar, and cynically timed to coincide with 9/11.

This is about one thing to him: He wants to play a part in moving the Islamic community center proposed to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero to another less-controversial location. (Where that is in America, who can say.) Will he actually have any effect on the location of that center? Probably not.

So he’s got the spotlight for 15 minutes. Congratulate him when you see him. But now the story is the story, not Terry Jones. America’s relationship with Islam, and its effect on international relations, is the story. Not book burning. Not a swimming pool and an auditorium and a prayer room for Muslims. And that’s what’s interesting.

Everyone complaining about The Media in a public forum that is read by hundreds, thousands, millions of people — guess what: You’re the media, too. And your narcissistic need to add your voice to the noise (myself included) is perpetuating the story you purport to hate.

Did news outlets and blogs and Twitter users initially give Terry Jones too much credibility? Maybe. It’s easy to say so in hindsight. But the exposure of his idiocy is the end result. A necessary public discussion about religious tolerance in America is the end result. (Unfortunately, it will also draw a lot of crackpot Right Wing nuts to his aid. The Dove World Outreach Center will probably get a temporary shot in the arm.)

Of course Terry Jones is using the media. That’s because the media is a tool, not a force unto itself. The media is not being duped; it is the simultaneous reflection and creation of reality. The media is reality, because the media is us.


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