No, I’m not really burning a Koran nor would I burn a Bible, Torah or rip up a picture of the Pope. I wouldn’t even fling elephant poo on it, hang it in a museum and call it art. Why? It’s not that I don’t reserve the right to express myself in these ways — because in America, I do — but because they are deliberately intended to show disrespect to other people’s beliefs about themselves. Doing these things is only intended to send a message of disrespect to others, not as an expression of my free speech.
But that is not really my point. I just said all that because I believe it to be true, but also to stave off any nutjob who wanted to come over here and pee all over my carpet just to show he can. Whoopdeedoo, you found the comment box.
My point is just one small contention with one assertion President Obama made in his press conference today. He stated (40:22):
This is a way of endangering our troops… I hardly think we’re the ones who elevated it. In the age of the Internet, something that could cause us profound damage around the world.
With all due respect, Mr. President, I disagree.
I spent about three minutes searching the Internet using Google for videos of Koran burning and found eight videos of someone burning the Koran, one where it was being shot and another where it was being flushed down a toilet. I clicked through a few just to make sure they did indeed show a Koran burning and wasn’t just tagged and titled that. It was a real video. I’m certain if I was more tenacious in my search, I could produce dozens, if not hundreds of videos where somebody is destroying the Koran. If your statement were true, these videos would have already incited riots, flag burnings and other harmful acts directed to American troops and American overseas.
Something else is going on.
Mr. President, you do not have any trouble whatsoever in assembling a room full of press people. All you need to do is tack a memo on the wall and they flock to you like flies. But think back to the days when you were just Barack and you needed to get some media attention. How hard was it? Damn impossible.
The myth of grassroots fame is just that; a myth. A puppy writing a blog post about Koran burning is just a bunch of yapping in a back yard somewhere that could easily be the middle of a forest. Nobody hears him; nobody cares. But, if MSNBC or NBC, CBS, AP, or even FOX decides there is a news story here, my barking becomes amplified 5,000,000 times. Right away.
But this is hardly grass roots. If it were, my neighbors would join in the barking and their neighbors would join and so on and so on. Only it doesn’t work that way. Someone throws a shoe at me; someone calls the dogcatcher. I get shut up before I even get started.
That is what a video is like on YouTube. Millions of videos, dozens or hundreds of them showing the Koran being burned and nobody cares, nobody riots. It doesn’t go viral easily if at all. Getting the American public to care about one video on YouTube or one idiot in Florida takes the strength of Hercules, the tenacity of Sisyphus and the naiveté of Pandora. And that is what we loosely call the “mainstream media.”
Your advisors and Internet purists may hold onto the myth that you can create a lot of noise with a blog, a video camera and a passion. They may even tap out the drumming that print is dead, television news doesn’t matter any more, old media is dead. They are wrong. While there may be a kernel planted on a blog somewhere, it stays a seed unless old media shines on it. Then, it springs up like a healthy plant.
The perpetrators of the terror that is enabling Paster Terry Jones is not of his own making. It is a narrative dug up and watered by the mainstream media who are probably now surprised at how big the story of a little man in a little town has gotten. They irresponsibly watered and fertilized him, then declared him to be a story it would be irresponsible of them not to cover. It is like Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome of the media.
The “reporters” covering this story are not doing so responsibly. They are merely sensationalists looking for the next notch on their resumes, the next pat on the back by their peers and the low bows of respect and adulations that come with fame. Their end goal is different from yours while all the while they purport to have journalistic integrity. Terry Jones is not the real problem. If he was, I could show you dozens of my neighbors who are even nuttier and more bigoted than he is willing to do even crazier stunts with holier objects. The people masquerading as journalists peddling news as entertainment to compete with The Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives are the problem. They have forgotten why they exist. They have abdicated their public trust.
Only this time, the story was far more dangerous than a shiny weather ballon, a hoax pimp video or a doctored NAACP speech. This time, their meddling led to real danger for troops abroad and expatriated Americans all over the world. Like Pandora, they couldn’t close the box once they naively opened it. Oops.
At least they left Hope in the box for you, Mr. President.