Friday, September 10, 2010

The Media and the Minister: Ode to 9/11

I lived in New York City nine years ago and saw for myself the smoke and ash of two burning buildings known as the Twin Towers. It was an awful day, one I still get shaky remembering. I even wrote about it because, well, I had to. It was my way of making sense of the tragedy, if there was such a thing as making sense. And as the story became a bigger story and then an historic one, it traveled throughout the world through a still young Internet news cycle, affecting everyone, it seemed, on the planet.

Since then, the news cycle has morphed into a monster, crushing us with more news than we know what to do with. And this past week, its influence on a once obscure Florida minister seems almost greater than the book on which he says his faith is based. From the media monster, he somehow came to believe that all Muslims were related to those who flew into the Towers, and that they needed a warning in the form of a torch to their holy book. As if burning sacred paper would fight terrorists.

In part, I blame the tsunami of information that crashes against our eyeballs daily for the bizarre conclusion the minister drew. After all, with an instant click, we can watch from our laptops an Islamic community in Indonesia respond with equal stubbornness. We can instantly access blogs, news sites, stories, videos, podcasts and tweets all spouting what's wrong with the world. Today's news media makes for easier and quicker reading than, say, the Bible or Quran. In fact, today's news cycle no longer competes with the minister; it IS the minister, often providing people with the 'meaning' and purpose they need to live their lives, much in the way the Good Book once did.

Certainly, the immediacy of the news on Sept. 11 nine years ago was a service to many trying to understand the horror. But since then, the agenda-driven 'info-tainment' that's replaced much authentic journalism has done little to serve or encourage the public good. Its mission instead seems not to report the truth but to attack it, reduce it and debate it. Surely there must be a better way to fight.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more Jo. Unfortunately in our postmodern world truth is being cheapened more and more each day. Journalism's once highly sought after devotion to the truth seems to be a thing of the past. I can't even imagine the bleak future our country is headed towards if we don't turn back to the good book soon.
    The judgmental anger displayed in Florida played right into the Taliban's ploy. My best friend's dad died on September 11th. But when I asked him what he thought about the mosque being built near ground zero he said he was not going to let his anger towards a group of terrorists spill over into how he viewed all Muslims. Although he was a bit perplexed as to why they would build it there, he didn't show an ounce of anger. That's some serious maturity coming from a kid who understands what grace is.