Pastor Terry Jones: Using the media to maximum effect.



Folha, Brazil

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."


By Clóvis Rossi*



Translated By Brandi Miller


September 9, 2010


Brazil - Folha - Original Article (Portuguese)

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.  

BBC NEWS VIDEO: U.S. pastor cancels Quran burning event, Sept. 9, 00:00:47RealVideo

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).


After being appropriated by "Facebookers," it has spread like wildfire on the prairie.


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 World Outreach."


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.


Clearly, spectacle-journalism 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 book alight.


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.




Der Spiegel, Germany: Jones Condemned By His Ex-Church in Germany

Telegraph, U.K.: Can One Idiot Really 'Threaten World Peace'?

Telegraph, U.K.: 9/11 Quran Burning: What U.S Law Says

Daily Star, Lebanon: Quran Burning a Threat to America and the World

Rheinischer Merkur, Germany: Cordoba House: Let it Be a Triumph of Tolerance

ABC, Spain: Cordoba House: The 'Impossible Mosque'

ABC, Spain: The Mosque Near Ground Zero: A Case of Insensitivity

La Opinion de Zemora, Spain: Cordoba House and 'Hussein of Yankeeland'

Guardian Unlimited, U.K.: The Poison Behind the Ground Zero Mosque Furore

The Telegraph, U.K.: The Depressing Debacle of 'Ground Zero Mosque'

BBC News, U.K.: Mosque Dispute Exposes Obama on Two Sides


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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 the powerful.


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 Quran.


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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