Sep 15, 2010

15 minutes of fame

Over the last few weeks the national (and international) media has been reporting about a pastor of an obscure little church in Florida who was planning to burn the Qur’an on September 11 to protest the proposed building of a Muslim community centre near ground zero. His actions drew sharp criticism from President Obama and his inner circle to Muslim clerics around the world, and even triggered violent protest in Afghanistan. He called off the burning ceremony and has since travelled to New York to speak with the group planning the community centre, and we await news of the outcome of that meeting (if it indeed took place).

15 minutes of fame…check…

In 2008, Senator John McCain selected the little known female governor from the state of Alaska as his running mate for the presidential elections. She was subsequently panned as an adle-minded politician with little knowledge of national and international politics and basic geography after a number of embarrassing public appearances. Many social and political conservatives took great offense to the criticism accusing liberals of elitism, and have since catapulted this would-be vice president into a position of national leadership within their political movement.

15 minutes of fame overextended…check…

With our 24-hour news cycle, and the advent of blogs and social media many of us are now able to not only consume news stories within nano seconds of them been reported but we can also pass them along, adding our own commentary, etc. This quick turn around allows stories to gain traction fairly rapidly, and I credit this for the explosion of many new celebrities (and I use that term very, very loosely). 

If mainstream media largely ignored attention seekers like Terry Jones and political opportunists like Sarah Palin would they indeed fade into obscurity never tasting their 15 minutes of fame?  One would like to think so. With that said, there has to something said about the conversations that come up as a result of such loony bins being in the limelight.

With the Qur’an burning, it brings an opportunity to talk about the need to respect other religions; and how freedom of speech should not trump good sense and common decency. What do you gain from burning someone else’s holy book other than looking like an ignorant hillbilly?

It’s unfortunate that rational and calm voices are often drowned out by loud and empty tins. And yet, we still don’t learn! We overexpose these characters giving them more credit than they are due, and we often lose the opportunity for teachable moments within the flashpoint. 

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