Friday, September 24, 2010

Two steps forward, three steps back

When the candidates in your own backyard commence to going deep-catalog unhinged on you, there's some sort of journalistic obligation to put it on the front page and talk about it. But there are better and worse ways of talking about it. We'll go from not-very-good to awful.

Here's the story as it appears on the N&O Web site (the image is from the right side of today's front):

Republican congressional candidate Renee Ellmers has released a television advertisement that calls the planned Muslim community center in New York City a "victory mosque" and associates it with terrorists.
She began running the ad Wednesday on cable channels throughout the 2nd Congressional District, a largely rural district that includes parts of Wake, Chatham, Harnett, Johnston and Franklin counties, among others. Ellmers, a tea party advocate, is taking on U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, a seven-term incumbent considered a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. Etheridge's campaign called the ad offensive.

Good enough as far as it goes, and as far as it goes it's already off the front page.

The ad's script echoes the words of conservative commentators in recent months who have complained about Park51, the Muslim community center being planned two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.

Yes, it rather does, doesn't it?

In the ad a male narrator, his voice backed by an ominous music score, says Muslims built "victory mosques" after conquering Jerusalem,* Cordoba and Constantinople centuries ago.

Well, you could write the rest of it yourself. Though you might spend a little less time on the annoying horse-race aspects -- whether and how quickly Ellmers gets to "pounce back" at Etheridge's hem-hemming ("Why did it take him so long to say that?"), and who exactly decided to accept the idea that this is really the hawtt campaign issue in the N.C. 2nd District that it's claimed to be -- and not wait until the 17th graf for this:

Ebrahim Moosa, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Duke University, corrected the ad's assumptions about "victory mosques," saying Ellmers' ad perpetuates misinformation about Islam.

In other words, the ad is the most patent sort of race-baiting lie you can put together.** And if we didn't have the common sense to have noticed that a month ago, you've got a genuine Duke professor telling you so now. So, since you're confident enough to note that the first character in the story who has a bleeding clue about the topic has "corrected" the ad's "assumptions," why isn't there some indication on the front page that you know it's a lie?

At least there's a rebuttal and an authoritative refutation (with a staff-written sider that comes to the same conclusion). The version over at the Foremost Newspaper of the Carolinas manages to get through a whole five paragraphs before offering the script itself. At that pace, you might as well charge the candidate for the space, which is the normal (and at least mildly lucrative) approach to running campaign fibs unedited.

* Alert readers will have noticed that the Jerusalem shot shows the Dome of the Rock, which isn't a mosque. (Aqsa, next door, is a functioning mosque, but for some reason it doesn't have that iconic value. Too bad, because it's pretty striking.)
** Awful kind of the N&O to let old Carter Wrenn bob-and-weave his way out of this one, ain't it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great discussion an critique

8:37 AM, September 24, 2010  
Anonymous raYb said...

It's always been a truism that the "church follows the flag." What's so surprising that any time a group with a common religion would build a house of worship? Check out the number of Christian churches around the world, some in the many countries conquered by "Christian nations" either in war or with economics. Many in countries that haven't been conquered, so to speak. Wonder why Ellmers and her friends don't refer to those as "victory churches?"

12:08 PM, September 24, 2010  
Blogger commoncents said...

THANKS for posting! I love your

Common Cents

8:32 PM, September 24, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Exactly, raYb.

And this is something I hate. What's so hard about "Ellmers has released a ad which is full of lies and misdirection"? Or at least putting the guy who says it in the next sentence?

5:47 PM, September 25, 2010  

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