August 18, 2010 6 Comments
I feel kind of lame blogging about the Islamic Center so much, but I think it is a really striking, and depressing, window on how dysfunctional our national politics have become. Of course, one of the major features of current political discourse is how ultimately trivial issues our amplified by the right-wing noise machine until they are picked up by the mainstream media and become what everybody is talking about. There’s surely 100 things more important to our nation than whether an Islamic Center & Mosque is built 2 blocks from the WTC site, but that’s the number one thing in the news now. Salon’s Justin Elliot does a real service by creating a timeline and showing just how this issue blew up. Some highlights:
Dec. 21, 2009: Conservative media personality Laura Ingraham interviews Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox. In hindsight, the segment is remarkable for its cordiality. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” Ingraham says of the Cordoba project, adding at the end of the interview, “I like what you’re trying to do.”
(This segment also includes onscreen the first use that we’ve seen of the misnomer “ground zero mosque.”) After the segment — and despite the front-page Times story — there were no news articles on the mosque for five and a half months, according to a search of the Nexis newspaper archive.
May 6, 2010: After a unanimous vote by a New York City community board committee to approve the project, the AP runs a story. It quotes relatives of 9/11 victims (called by the reporter), who offer differing opinions. The New York Post, meanwhile, runs a story under the inaccurate headline, “Panel Approves ‘WTC’ Mosque.” Geller is less subtle, titling her post that day, “Monster Mosque Pushes Ahead in Shadow of World Trade Center Islamic Death and Destruction.”…
May 13, 2010: Peyser follows up with an entire column devoted to “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero.” This is a significant moment in the development of the “ground zero mosque” narrative: It’s the first newspaper article that frames the project as inherently wrong and suspect, in the way that Geller has been framing it for months. Peyser in fact quotes Geller at length and promotes the anti-mosque protest of Stop Islamization of America, which Peyser describes as a “human-rights group.” Peyser also reports — falsely — that Cordoba House’s opening date will be Sept. 11, 2011…
Within a month, Rudy Giuliani had called the mosque a “desecration.” Within another month, Sarah Palin had tweeted her famous “peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate” tweet. Peter King and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty followed suit — with political reporters and television news programs dutifully covering “both sides” of the controversy.
Ultimately, a depressingly familiar story. Right-wing media obsesses on fear-mongering issue. Professional fear-mongers like Gingrich and Palin expand the story. Mainstream media covers “the controversy.” Sad and pathetic. And effective. I really wish more (there are some) reasonable conservatives would denounce this demagoguery. That failure depresses (though no longer surprises) me as much as anything.