Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fleshing out the Muslim community center story

By Creature

The NYT today has a good piece which fills in the blanks and corrects much of the misinformation regarding the proposed Muslim community center a few blocks away from ground zero. However, there is hole in the story which Adam Serwer and Steve M. rightly fill.


The Times report, however, descends into a kind of "liberal" media known-nothingism when it comes to how this became a controversy, suggesting that " a combination of arguable naïveté, public-relations missteps and a national political climate in which perhaps no preparation could have headed off controversy." This is a remarkable formula that manages to place the blame everywhere except where it belongs -- on a right-wing smear machine that went into overdrive in an effort to portray Rauf and Khan as terrorist sympathizers, an experience no one outside of contemporary partisan politics could have possibly been prepared for. The conservative media lied about the location of the project, they lied about Rauf's background, they lied about the project's funding, they lied about when the project would be built, and they lied about Rauf's political beliefs. And it would have been one thing if it had just been a small group of people lying, but they had an entire cable news station to lie for them, and politicians who were willing to amplify their smears. This controversy isn't about the "political climate." It's the fruit of a conscious, deliberate, and sustained effort.

To which Steve M. adds:

The additional point I'd make is that while the unquestionably moderate originators of this project might not have been able to anticipate just how vicious the scorched-earth right-wing campaign against the project would be, there's one institution that could have anticipated this -- the mainstream press, very much including The New York Times.[...]

Didn't the non-right-wing press have a responsibility to help correct the record, as soon as this story began to rage out of control?

Of course they did, but they rarely do. The non-right-wing press has been skirting this responsibility for years. In their left/right, Crossfire world the facts are left to wither and die. All the while, those who push the disinformation are ignored or, worse, imitated in order to win a news cycle. While I don't completely blame the media, there is stubborn 30% of the population who don't give a crap about facts, they do have a huge role to play in leveling the playing field so that those who want the facts can easily get them.

Reporting the facts would be a pretty simple thing to do and, if I'm not mistaken, it's their job.

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