After the mainstream media's weeks of obsession with Rev. Wright, some of which continued even after Senator Obama denounced him in no unequivocal terms, many bloggers and activists seem to have succeeded in getting the media to again do what it is supposed to do: cover the issues that matter most to people.
If we were to judge the media based on an idealistic set of standards, we're likely to conclude that the Rev. Wright story maybe should never have gotten as much attention as it did because what one's pastor says is neither representative of one's beliefs nor grounds for one to leave a church community he's been a member of. Based on that standard, the media certainly failed miserably.
But the media has also failed based on its own standards. If news programs and Blitzers of the American media find it relevant to obsess about some of the past comments of a presidential candidate's former pastor, should they not apply that standard to all the candidates?
There has been little talk in the mainstream media about Rev. Hagee's remarks that New Orleans got what it deserved through Hurricane Katrina because of gays or "its level of sins" in general. John McCain actively sought the endorsement of Rev. Hagee.
But Brave New Films has now made available the video of Pastor Rod Parsley, another pastor admired by John McCain whose firebrand and incendiary comments insult Islam. One may wonder what makes John McCain's association with Rev. Parsley, and calling him, among other things, one of the "truly great leaders in America," "moral compass" and "spiritual guide" relevant. Pastor Parsley has called Islam "an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world," declared that "America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed" and expressed the view that "I believe our nation can't truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historic conflict with Islam."
In light of these incendiary and extreme comments, it is both incredible and tragic to see the media apply such a double standard to the controversial comments of two different pastors. The media is not in the position to decide insults against what group of people is justified and against what group of people controversial and bombastic.
One may be inclined to say that Rev. Wright's comments offended more people because he criticized Israel which may be likely to offend many Jews. First of all, criticizing Israel has nothing to do with ones' opinion of the Jews, despite what those who want to suppress conversation about Israel say. Israel is a democratic state and can be a legitimate subject of criticism for its policies like the United States or any other state. Secondly, when it comes to insulting a minority group, the number of people in that group should not be the sole factor in deciding how much to cover a story that insults that minority group.
But a more important fact to keep in mind is that as Haveford College Professor Harvey Glickman demonstrated in a presentation last year, there are now more Muslims in America than there are Jews. So what message is the media sending to these Muslims when we tell them that if Israel is criticized, the media will go nuts, but if Islam is insulted - even in much more derogatory and bigoted terms - the Muslims have to take it and the media's deafening silence on the insults. This is the kind of behavior that leads to the alienation of the biggest non-Christian minority group in the United States, damages our image in Muslim countries and plays into the anti-Semitic canards that Jews control the Western media.
News corporations may have a preference among religions, but that preference is not going unnoticed by millions in this country. The bloggers have to do what they can to force the media to cover the outrageous comments of Rev. Parsley, because when it comes to controversial pastors, they should not be only democrats' liability in this election.
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