Republicans are outdoing one another in coming up with analogies. Newt Gingrich said about the building of a mosque, two blocks away from Ground Zero: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.” There are many, too many other disgusting examples.
How did this become an issue? Even though the plans were announced in December last year, there were no negative reactions until May, when right-wing extremist Pamela Geller blogged that the “monster mosque” represented “Islamic domination”. This was quickly taken up by the usual suspects in the news media: New York Post, Washington Examiner…
But then. To my utter amazement, CNN-US (and CNN-Europe) have been inciting the public against the mosque by ceaselessly offering negative comments on the building plan. One of their European reporters (I think it was Colleen McEdwards) even proudly announced that without CNN, the issue would have gone away by now. What the hell is going on here?
I’m afraid the same thing that has been going on since September 11, 2001. It’s apparently irresistible to take the opportunity to sell more newspapers, get more viewers by tapping into an undercurrent of xenophobia. What these news outlets don’t seem to understand, is that they are digging their own graves.
It has been the same here in Holland: Mr Wilders would never have gotten this many votes if it weren’t for the media, who have been working as his PR-agents. Every word, the untruer the better, was recorded; reporters still have to ask the man their first critical question. In other words: the Dutch public was led by the media to believe that islamophobic hate speech is okay and that is legitimate to question the fundamental human and civil rights of Muslims in The Netherlands.
The news media is supposed to be the watchdog of democracy – don’t they teach that in Schools of Journalism anymore?
In any case, Dutch public television, one of the main culprits, will have time to think this over: the new right-wing government (if and when it will come to power) will cut at least two public channels. The point: they will come for you, too!
But seriously: What are my journalist-colleagues thinking? Why fan the flames of hatred, if you have the means and opportunity to report objectively and – for example – let the public know that (1) the planned cultural center/mosque/swimming pool is two blocks away from Ground Zero; (2) there are already two mosques in the area, one four blocks away and one twelve blocks away; (3) there is this thing, called the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion (as President Obama pointed out correctly, before he “nuanced” his statement the next day).
More importantly though, if you want to protect your own freedom, freedom of speech in the case of the news media, it is probably not a good idea to promote taking away freedoms (like freedom of religion) from others. Freedom needs our help; she is in serious danger. Let’s not turn our backs on her.