Pastor Terry Jones: Using the media to maximum effect.
Pastor Jones Takes Journalists for a Ride
"This is what happens when journalism treats as relevant (and serious), news items that are nothing but folklore - dangerous, but folklore. At most, the case of 'Pastor' Jones should be an item of 'strange news,' beside Maradona's threat to parade nude if Argentina became world champion."
An Afghan man demonstrates against the U.S. and pastor Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center, in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, Sept. 9. Jones, the man who planned 'Burn the Quran Day' on September 11, says he has decided to cancel the event.
The journalistic show that
covers the planet has again made a spectacle of itself by offering time to a lunatic named
Terry Jones, who invented a day for burning the Quran, the sacred book of Islam,
and scheduled it for September 11th, the date of the attacks on the Twin Towers
in New York and the Pentagon (in 2001).
being appropriated by "Facebookers," it has spread like wildfire on the
It's too late to
contextualize a bit and show that Jones doesn't represent anything or anyone.
According to a report from Andrea Murta, Folha's very competent correspondent
in Washington, there are only 50 members in the church he created, "Dove
Gainesville, the small Florida
city where Jones resides, has only 114,000 inhabitants and no political
relevance in the state, let alone the country.
It's obvious that this nut was
seeking his 15 minutes of fame by launching a burn the Quran day. But he achieved
so much more. On Wednesday, the Spanish newspaper El País printed the
following headline at the top of its front page: "Worldwide Alarm after
the Announcement of the Public Burning of Qurans on September 11th."
I'm unable to say whether or
not there is "worldwide alarm," but General David Petraeus, the North
American military commander in Afghanistan, was alarmed - and quite. He said
that "images of the burning of the Quran would undoubtedly be used by
extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to incite violence."
This is what happens when
journalism treats as relevant (and serious), news items that are nothing
but folklore - dangerous, but folklore. At most, the case of "Pastor"
Jones should be an item of "strange news," beside Maradona's
threat to parade nude if Argentina became world champion.
has hitched a ride with Islamophobia, which is an uncomfortable and disturbing
trend - and not only in the United States. But to go from there to depicting a
madman lost in Florida's interior as representative of this trend pushes
everything into an abyss.
Not even the ultra
reactionary Tea Party movement went to the extreme of setting the Muslim holy
We [journalists] run the risk
of no longer discussing what's relevant, such as, for example, the controversy
around the construction of a mosque near the so-called "Ground Zero,"
the center of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In that case, yes, the
sensitivities of one party are skin deep. This excuses the spectacle.
Not coincidentally, a survey relating
to Latin America was just released, but I suppose it also applies to the United
States. It shows first that which we already know: television news programs now
enjoy the most confidence (or largest audience?): 61.9 percent say they trust
them a lot, while only 9.2 percent don't trust them at all.
So far, no news. What comes
next is the link to the "pastor": respondents taking the survey say
that TV news programs are the best instrument for making governments listen to
them. More traditional mechanisms (going to Congress, the courts or the Executive
branch directly) aren't as effective for reaching the ears of those in power.
Because of this, the second mechanism
for being heard are street demonstrations, preferably those that block traffic.
The researchers say that this is the way to get on TV and, by extension, reach
It's obvious that Terry Jones
would never have been heard by anyone if television - the method by which journalism
and spectacles often walk hand in hand - wouldn’t show his burning of the
Clovis Rossi is a special
correspondent and member of the Folha editorial board, is
a winner of the Maria Moors Cabot award (USA) and is a member of the
Foundation for a New Ibero-American Journalism. His column appears on
Thursdays and Sundays on page 2 and on Saturdays in the World Notebook
section. He is the author, among other works, of Special Envoy: 25 Years
Around the World and What is Journalism?
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