TERRY JONES: The American people do not want the mosque there and, of course, Moslems do not want us to burn the Koran.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That’s Terry Jones, the pastor of a tiny Florida congregation, pulling the plug Thursday on his scheduled holy book burning, after having ignited a global firestorm. He didn't do it alone, of course. He had help. Here’s FOX News anchor Bret Baier.
BRET BAIER: As we told you at the top of the newscast, a Florida pastor has canceled plans to burn copies of the Koran Saturday. Tonight’s text-a-vote poll question, whom do you think is most responsible for the escalation of this controversy? You can text your answer to 36288. Type SR1 for Reverend Terry Jones, SR2 for the Obama administration, or SR3 for the news media. We’ll bring you the results -
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The Obama administration? The President waited until Thursday to call Jones’ action a recruitment bonanza for Al-Qaeda, after his commander in Afghanistan spoke of heightened danger to the troops and his Secretary of State said this:
SECRETARY OF STATE ILLARY CLINTON: We are hoping that the pastor decides not to do this. We're hoping against hope that if he does, it won't be covered. [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Finally, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Jones up and probably helped talk him down. No, the White House is not a viable blame option. But I have no quarrel with the other choices offered by FOX’s Bret Baier. Jones himself? The media? Ya think?
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: - Muslim’s holy book marked Saturday’s anniversary of September 11th. The Vatican and Sarah Palin have joined those speaking out against the planned protest. The White House has –
[SOUND TRAILS OFF]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That, from CBS TV News, New York. The media, awash in controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque and other incidents of Muslim-baiting, smelled a pungent parable in the pastor’s tale, not just because book burning is sensationally creepy but because of what he represented. So what should the media have done with the pastor? As the week wore on, many mainstream news outlets made public avowals of their intention to cover the story with an emphasis on context and a strict limit on visuals. FOX News said it wouldn't cover it at all. The AP declared that its policy is not to cover, quote, “events that are gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend,” which obviously this was. Pastor Jones.
PASTOR TERRY JONES: We feel that a radical message is necessary. We also want to send a message to the moderate Muslim to stay peaceful and moderate. We expect the Moslems that are here in America to respect, honor, obey, submit to our Constitution.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Under our Constitution, people have the right to brazenly misconstrue our Constitution, just as pastors can unabashedly misinterpret the Bible.
PASTOR TERRY JONES: If you look at Jesus’ life, most of the time he was very nice and very patient and very loving, but there was also times that Jesus did radical things. So I, I think Jesus would not run around burning books, but I think he would burn this one.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Actually, this story wasn't just about politics and intolerance. It was also, at its heart, a proxy argument among a wide range of ruminating or saliva-spewing talking heads over our Constitution. Small wonder America’s freedoms of speech and religion are so often misunderstood abroad, given the muddled debate that dominates the media here.
P. CHIDAMBARAM: No one who’s interested in maintaining harmony and peace among different sections of the people can condone such action.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Like other officials around the world, Indian Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram seems mystified by the fact that our government’s hands are tied, and that’s the way we like it.
P. CHIDAMBARAM: We hope that the U.S. authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Though generally unacknowledged, most journalists here are guided by what’s called the sphere of consensus. What is commonly held to be outside that sphere is rarely heard. There was a time when moral condemnation of slavery was outside that sphere. But now, with so many people producing media, the contours of acceptable speech have grown indistinct. We reap the whirlwind of unbounded freedom of the press, which is now virtually indistinguishable from freedom of speech. We say our enemies hate our freedoms, but sometimes we seem to hate them too. As you'll hear in a minute, reports of the pastor’s plan reverberated across the Middle East weeks before it made a ripple here. So did the American fracas that followed, generating much wonderment and confusion. The fallout from the pastor’s tale abroad is a real story, but it wasn't created by our media. It is, in a sense, about our media.
"Heaven and Hell"
by by Black Heart Procession