The shift in Israel from a democratic - even socialist – society into a fundamentalist-driven, expansionist state, contemptuous of its closest ally, and aggressively hostile to all its neighbors is one of the most depressing developments in our time. It is driven by the religious parties, the settler movement and the opportunism and paranoia of Netanyahu. To give a flavor of his government, note that his neo-fascist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, just went to Moscow to give Putin an embrace after the latest rigged elections, and denigrated the Russian opposition. The idea that a man like Lieberman is interested in democracy for the Palestinians on the West Bank is ludicrous. To him, the Palestinians are sub-human irritants, one day to be expelled or subdued.
All of this would be disastrous enough, but we now know that the two likeliest Republican nominees next year back neo-fascists like Lieberman to the hilt. Today, Gingrich has all but declared that under his presidency, the American position would be that of Netanyahu’s. This is Pamela Geller territory:
Ben Smith, the best reporter on the US-Israel struggle, quotes Hussein Ibish:
To call the Palestinians ‘an invented people’ in an obvious effort to undermine their national identity is outrageous, especially since there was no such thing as an ‘Israeli’ before 1948,” he said. “Arab and Jewish identities are very old, but Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms are both 20th-century phenomena, and arose at the same time in competition with each other. The idea that either is more ‘invented’ and hence less ‘authentic’ than the other is ignorant, ahistorical claptrap.
Gingrich had a winning debate on Saturday night. Calm, cool and collected, he blithely told an audience of millions that character is an important issue, he’s made mistakes but now he’s a ’68 year old grandfather’ and voters will have to choose.
A triumph of form over substance. A triumph of contrasts! He is NOT HERMAN CAIN. Cain just proved he has no character. He hid a years-long affair, multiple sexual harassment accusations and displayed what seems like a psychological problem admitting anything.
Gingrich, on the other hand, doesn’t deny any of his blemishes. Yes, he cheated. Yes, he asked for a divorce from his wife while she was recovering from cancer. Yes, he took money from Fannie Mae – as a ‘businessman’ no less!
Gingrich has pulled an amazing ‘bait and switch’ off of Cain. Gingrich has the character than Cain doesn’t. He is open with his flaws and the sins for which he’s sought redemption.
Mr. Gingrich’s skill in facing criticisms head-on — sometimes fiercely rebutting them, sometimes apologizing for past errors in judgment — has only swelled his support. And his strong debate appearance in Iowa on Saturday, in which he faced a barrage of attacks, showed his resiliency.
“He’s willing to stand up and take the heat,” said Cheryl Semarad, who visited Mr. Gingrich’s headquarters in suburban Des Moines on the afternoon of the debate. – New York Times
This is what it has come to.
My contention is that, although the “ground zero” mosque controversy began with and has been used by conservative politicians as a divisive wedge issue, the reasons behind the story’s spread are misunderstood. In fact, it was not until the New York Times ran a front page article about the ADL’s opposition to the mosque as a potential ‘turning point’ in the debate that the story spread nationally. (see Forbes poll)
This has implications for how we see the dynamics pushing a story forward. I am critical of the liberal obsession with Fox News. Fox News serves as an incubator for conservative media stories, yet in this case, the ‘breakout’ point for the story was coverage by the New York Times on July 30, 2010.
It was not solely the coverage itself but also the editorial slant that gave the New York Times article its influence. Although Jewish and Christian religious leaders quickly criticized high-profile political opponents of the mosque, Mayor Bloomberg supported the building of the mosque, the local community board unanimously approved the mosque’s proposal, and several public hearings had been held and completed, the New York Times highlighted one group’s, the ADL, opposition as a ‘turning point’ in the debate.
I believe this was a distortion of what was going on. At this stage, with no support from the local community, views of the Palin/Gringrich axis were not gaining traction or mass media exposure. The New York Times decision to cover the issue, plus the alarmist way in which they did, show just how important the ‘liberal media’ are in enabling manufactured ‘controversies’ by the Right to spread.
It’s not enough to criticize the “MSM” for reporting errors and biases. How conservative and liberal media dynamics serve each other begs for more consideration.
Forbes printed a bar graph and Salon a more limited narrative chronicling how coverage of the Cordoba ‘ground zero’ mosque spread.
Preliminary analysis of the Forbes graph, as well as continuous reporting about the controversy, shows correlations that may be disturbing not just to liberal advocates but also to Fox News and like-minded conservative media. Who’s wagging whose tail?
WAVE 1: No Reaction.
Both the New York Times and FOX report on plans to build an Islamic center in lower Manhattan in late 2009. Neither report garnered negative viewer/reader response.
WAVE 11: Conservatives Grab Issue
a) Palin posts infamous Tweet regarding the “Ground Zero Mosque”, widely ridiculed in the liberal blogsphere for her usual botching of syntax. The liberal critics serve to spread Palin’s views throughout a broader internet audience.
b) Newt Gingrich quickly latches on to a potent wedge issue; says, referring to mosque plans: “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. He rallies a broad spectrum of conservative media.
c) According to the Forbes timeline, however, media coverage was still relatively light.
d) Opposition to mosque sharply criticized by Jewish and Christian religious leaders for religious intolerance and holding Islam to a different standard under the first amendment than other religions.
WAVE 111: Breakout
On July 30th, the New York Times prints front-page story describing controversy and claiming the ADL’s opposition signals a ‘turning point’ in the debate.
a) Dramatic jump in media coverage, through Times wire service, in newspapers (mainly smaller and medium sized markets) around the country.
b) ADL redefines issue as a problem of ‘sensitivity’ on the part of Project 51 leaders, not one of first amendment rights or religious intolerance within opposition. This narrative later adopted by media.
c) Conservative critics soften their language, deny they oppose ‘religious freedom’, attack Cordoba Initiative as ‘insensitive’.
d) Idea of ‘compromise’ (moving cultural center) further away from ‘Ground Zero’ emerges, given legs by NY Governor Patterson
WAVE 1V: The Polls
Polls by magazines and market research firms show majority of Americans oppose building of mosque near ground zero.
a) Time Magazine POLL asks if respondents believe building ‘Ground Zero’ mosque would be an insult to families of 9/11.
b) Pew POLL shows 51% of Americans oppose the building of a mosque near ground zero but 62% believe Muslims have the right to build mosques in any local community.
So, does that opposition represent a backlash against Muslim Americans? Maybe in part. However,
the following should be considered:
c) Pew poll also shows 61% of Americans believe Muslims in American have the right to build mosques in local communities
d) Time’s questions were built around the concept that the mosque could ‘insult’ (or insensitivity?)
e) Gingrich tried hard-line opposition to the mosque, along with anti-Muslim attacks on Islam, that solicited its own backlash of criticism from religious figures and NY officials. By the time these polls were taken, many Americans outside NYC could believe in the lesser charge against the project’s leaders (that they were ‘insensitive’ instread of ‘terror supporters’ or ‘dangerous’) without seeing themselves as anti-Muslim. This would explain why over 51% in Pew poll oppose the Cordoba mosque while 62% think Muslims have the same rights as other religions to build houses of worship in local communities.
The Right wants to mine what they see as a viable wedge issue (where do you stand on Islam?) in the November elections. They are playing a ‘bait and switch’ game that could easily backfire. While there are hard-core bigots opposing the Cordoba mosque, some of the opposition stems purely from a sentimentality among Americans not to ‘insult’ the families of 9/11 victims.
Once again, the New York Times adds its considerable power to concoct a story when there is none and amplify controversy even when it’s manufactured solely for political gain. Careful framing, selective use of quotes, page placement and premature conclusions can turn objectivity inside out. In today’s article, ‘Debate Heating Up on Plans for Mosque at Ground Zero‘, let us count the ways!
‘the unexpected move (ed: opposes building mosque near ground zero) by the ADL, a mainstream group that has denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on plans for the Muslim center, could well be a turning point in the battle over the project.
In New York, where ground zero has slowly blended back into the fabric of the city, government officials appear poised to approve plans for the sprawling complex, which would have as many as 15 stories and would house a prayer space, a performing arts center, a pool and a restaurant.
But around the country opposition is mounting, fueled in part by Republican leaders and conservative pundits.’
Within the opening paragraphs, the Times makes a stunning conclusion: that the ADL’s entry into the ‘debate’ around the mosque could be a ‘turning point.’ Yet the very next paragraph notes city ‘officials appear poised to approve plans.’ Further into the article, the reporter explains that the local community board overwhelmingly voted in favor of the mosque and that other religious, including Jewish, groups denounced the ADL’s statement. The Times even notes that for most New Yorkers 9/11 had been woven into the background fabric of the city.
How this all adds up to a ‘turning point’ and what that ‘turning point’ might be is left unanswered. Yet, the importance the Times gives this article (page 1) and the particular action that made the subject ‘news’ in the editors’ eyes (the release of ADL’s statement) would imply that the Times believes the opposition to the mosque is growing at such a rate it may cause the city to rescind approval of the project.
The complex’s rapid evolution from a local zoning dispute into a national referendum highlights the intense and unsettled emotions that still surround the World Trade Center site nine years after the attacks.
To many New Yorkers, especially in Manhattan, it is a construction zone, passed during the daily commute or glimpsed through office windows. To some outside of the city, though, it stands as a hallowed battlefield that must be shielded and memorialized.
Those who are fighting the project argue that building a house of Muslim worship so close to ground zero is at best an affront to the families of those who died there and at worst an act of aggression that would, they say, mark the place where radical Islam achieved a blow against the United States.
Oddly, the only opponents of the project which the Times mentions are the ADL, Newt Ginrich, Sara Palin and three Republicans running for office. It quotes one ‘family member’, Mr. C. Hanson, (whose son was killed on 9/11) from testimony Mr. Hanson gave at a prior hearing calling on officials to ‘move it someplace else.‘ Nowhere does the paper quote local residents and officials. Nowhere does it document that there ever was a ‘dispute’ about the building of the mosque before Sara Palin opposed it on a twitter feed a few days ago, ruptured English and all. Instead of a ‘rapid evolution from a local zoning dispute into a national referendum’ the Times reporting, in fact, indicates that opposition to the mosque began with Sarah Palin and hasn’t gone far beyond Republican circles since.
Still, the arguments against the Muslim center appear to be resonating. Polling shows that a majority of Americans oppose building it near ground zero.
Incredibly, about half-way through, the writer repeats the claim that opposition to the mosque is ‘resonating.’ Without explanation, the Times cites ‘polling’ that shows a ‘majority of Americans’ oppose building the mosque near ground zero.’ What poll? When was it done? What was the specific question asked? How did it break down demographically? It’s just not plausible that a national poll found a majority of respondents opposed to the building of this mosque. The story hasn’t been alive long enough to warrant such wide-spread recognition of the issue
To its credit, the article does quote Mayor Bloomberg’s firm support for building the mosque. And towards the end of the report we learn that the mosque’s iman, Faisal Abdul Rauf, is a ‘moderate Muslim’ endorsed as such by Rabbi Irwin Kula, head of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Had the Times covered the local hearings as a national story leading up to the approval of the project, it might have had some credibility. At least readers would have gained insight into the views and sentiments of people in the community who were most terrorized by events on 9/11. Instead, it unintentionally showed just how top-down and manufactured the entire mosque ‘debate’ is. Even the Times decision to use a bizarre statement by the ADL to resurrect a story that had circulated on cable and blogs for a few days exposes the thread of manipulation.
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