Politics of religion
February 10, 2006 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: PBS Station Nixes Show On Terrorism. Following last-minute cries of protest from Muslim leaders last week, a Public Broadcasting Service affiliate in Dallas canceled the premiere of a documentary on the roots of Islamic terrorism.
posted by semmi (29 comments total)
Self-censorship on all matters Islamic. Isn't it nice to see the lessons are being learned? Or should this be called 'Pro-Active Restraint', to make it sound better?

"Nice little community you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it. People take offense, and all of a sudden flags burn, people get hurt, maybe a building burns... maybe even your studios... I'm not sayin' it's really likely, but look at those Danes. They never thought a dozen cartoons would end up with embassies burning, did they? You know, it'd probably be best if you didn't say anything at all about Islamic terrorism... know what I mean? 'Cause we both know there's no such thing... right?"
posted by JB71 at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2006

As a Dallasite who listens to Kera (NPR radio) avidly, I am very curious to see the documentary. I wonder if it is truly an even handed look at terrorism, or something more sinister. I have faith in Kera, but still, this is Dallas

Thanks for the post
posted by rosswald at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2006

i like "prior restraint."
posted by rehpotsirhc at 10:32 AM on February 10, 2006

This is a really hard call for me, but here's a bit of surrounding context : two Christian far-right leaders associated with the terrorist wing of the anti-abortion movement, Randall Terry and Gary McCullough, have aggressively defended McCullough's publishing of the now notorious anti-Mohammed cartoons, on McCullough's press release service, as defending the principle of freedom of speech against Islamic pressure. They also roundly denounce Islamic violence in repsonse to the controversial cartoons - however, both men have a past of condoning Christian violence to achieve political ends ( terrorism, in short ) .

Given that backdrop I'd think a documentary on Islamic terrorism might be unwise - incendiary, that is. If I were making such choices I'd opt to examine the roots of both Islamic and Christian terrorism.
posted by troutfishing at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2006

"The letter acknowledged "every documentary maker's right" to express his or her own viewpoint, but it asked the Dallas PBS affiliate to postpone the broadcast, add a disclaimer and tape a "citizen town hall" meeting, to air following the program. Niki McCuistion said that her team is willing to add a disclaimer and to tape a town hall segment, but it will not make changes to the documentary's content."

This is an article that never had to be written but was, obviously, for a ratings boost. As stated above, this has been all but worked out. It does strike me as an equitable solution however - and a good ratings grabber.
posted by j.p. Hung at 10:43 AM on February 10, 2006

Dhimmi is as dhimmi does.
posted by HTuttle at 10:49 AM on February 10, 2006

How can you compare "Christian terrorism"-- the odd wacko's attack on an abortion clinic in the USA, universally condemned by pretty much everyone -- to the worldwide, state-suppoted, hundred-million-man-menace that is Islamism?

More importantly, why does everything critical of non-Western ideas have to be coupled with criticism of Western ones?
posted by rehpotsirhc at 11:01 AM on February 10, 2006

This looks like a really minor scuffle to me. I'm not even sure it qualifies as a spat. Hmmm.

Well, we'll make up for it here, won't we? * big grin *
posted by furiousthought at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2006

" * Protestant cadets were commonly told that Jesus had "called" them to the academy as part of God's plan for their lives.

* Cadets who chose not to attend after-dinner chapel services were made to suffer humiliation by being marched back to their dormitories in what was called the "Heathen Flight."

* Commission ceremonies for graduating officers have been held at off-campus churches.

* In December of 2003, in the academy's newspaper, hundreds of staff members -- including the then-dean of the faculty, the current dean of faculty, and 16 department heads or deputy department heads -- expressed their belief that "Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and directed students to contact them so they could "discuss Jesus."

* The academy commandant, Brigadier General Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility was to their God. He has also strongly endorsed National Prayer Day, an event sponsored by Focus on the Family and chaired by James Dobson's wife, Shirley.

* The academy has provided passes for Christian cadets who wish to attend church services and activities off campus, such as at New Life Church. They, however, have denied Jewish, Seven-Day Adventist, and those with other beliefs, the right to leave the campus for non-evangelical religious services.

* Several faculty members have introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged non-evangelical students to convert to evangelical Christianity throughout the course of the term.

* Staff and faculty members have led prayer sessions at several mandatory school activities, such as academic exams, meals at the dining hall, awards ceremonies, military-training-event dinners, and basic training cadet cadre meetings." [ from Evangelicals and the USAF Academy, by USAF Veteran Lorie Johnson, founder of the Military Pagan Network ]
posted by troutfishing at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2006

"to the worldwide, state-suppoted, hundred-million-man-menace that is Islamism?" - Where, exactly, is this "hundred-million-man-menace" located ? And, what's "Islamism" ?
posted by troutfishing at 11:05 AM on February 10, 2006

Aargh, that long comment was intended for a different post. My apologies.
posted by troutfishing at 11:06 AM on February 10, 2006

re troutfishing: In the middle east and southeast Asia, mainly.
You can familiarize yourself with Islamism by following this rather obvious link.
posted by rehpotsirhc at 11:09 AM on February 10, 2006

More importantly, why does everything critical of non-Western ideas have to be coupled with criticism of Western ones?

No shit. What the fuck is troutfishing on about?
posted by tkchrist at 11:20 AM on February 10, 2006


It involves a good deal more than religious bias in military acadamies.
posted by wayside at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2006

Given that backdrop I'd think a documentary on Islamic terrorism might be unwise - incendiary, that is.

No doubt some people advocated the same type of capitulation when the KKK was at the height of its terror-inducing powers.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 12:37 PM on February 10, 2006

Troutfishing: how is this documentary connected to the anti-abortion people discussed in your link?
posted by shoos at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2006

I don't see any real problem with backing off a month and letting the opposition put together counter-arguments. I'm not sure I'd want to embrace that as a general principle, but given the current climate, as long as the original message isn't actually _suppressed_, a little delay isn't that big a deal. In fact, since this isn't a time-critical thing, the delay is probably good, overall. Speech needs to be heard to be useful, and the delay (and ensuing controversy) will ensure it's much more widely viewed than it otherwise would have been.

There's nothing wrong with discussion and debate. Personally, I won't upset unless the show is delayed again, or if it's changed; I'd rather see it in its original form, and then the counter-arguments from the Muslim community.

So far, this whole thing seems pretty healthy to me.... the give-and-take of discussion, not the frenzied burnings of fundamentalism.
posted by Malor at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2006

Well, troutfishings obviously got his panties in a bunch because he has this wild notion that Christian fundamentalism may be as toxic, worrisome, destructive, or as dangerous as Islamic. Which is silly. Because Christian fundamentalism has such grounded, sensible passion behind it that any persecution or stupidity commited in it's name is a completely unique and harmless exercise.

posted by docpops at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2006

So you're saying that it might be a good idea that documentaries about the history of Christian fundamentalism should, perhaps, be shelved because showing them might be incendiary?
posted by shoos at 1:26 PM on February 10, 2006

Shoos wins.
posted by tkchrist at 1:44 PM on February 10, 2006

re: Troutfishing's comment; he addresses it's pertinence to this topic here,

Which is to say, there is none.

Though i did spend a few minutes trying to parse the subtlety of its inclusion in this thread.
posted by quin at 1:55 PM on February 10, 2006

It's unfortunate that a racist right-wing newspaper in a country most people can't find on the map would have such a chilling effect on real attempts to understand terrorism. The whole ridiculous situation was never a matter of free speech and no speech was ever oppressed, but now, after all the stupid rhetoric about clashing civilizations, people really do believe there's a there there. This is just corporate cautiousness on PBS' part. There have been many documentaries, articles, and whole books written on the subject of international terrorism and nobody died because of them. If this documentary makes an actual good-faith attempt to show the truth there's nothing to worry about.
posted by nixerman at 2:04 PM on February 10, 2006

Ah, but what's the 'truth'? The truth as you might believe, nixerman, or the truth believed at LGF, or DU? The truth that I might believe, or Osama Bin Laden, or Zarqawi? The truth that Bush believes? Or Kerry? Or Clinton? Or Cheney?

We accept or reject 'truth' depending on our preconceptions. The social truths believed by the xFamily in a previous post it seemed like a lot of people disagreed with. Yet they would argue their truths were good and right and proper.

So what 'truth' is acceptable?

That reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw - "The Truth is out there. Does anyone have the URL?" Sure would be nice to be able to find the truth...
posted by JB71 at 7:45 PM on February 10, 2006

Randall Terry and Gary McCullough have a strong sense of what is true, I suspect. It might - I guess - run something like this : "Christianity is the one true religion, and all others are false. Supporters of false religious faiths must be killed or suppressed.". They would deny that characterization, I'm sure.
posted by troutfishing at 10:17 PM on February 10, 2006

If you want context for troutfishing's comment, look one post over, no doubt.

I thought everyone knew by now that Islamism is not a weird synonym for "the Islamic religion", but a political theory grounded in Islamic theology.

The problem with cartoons, or this, being framed as a "free speech" issue is that it is precisely those who already see a conflict of civilizations who wish to do so, and Muslim outrage be damned, while those within the Islamic world who already see a clash of civilizations are just as well served by the West's inflammation of the issue. The moderates on both sides are not served. The masses -- particularly the masses rioting and in some cases getting killed while doing so -- are largely being used, often by government fiat. Nobody is looking really good in this.

Certainly there are mutually unacceptable positions: "we publish what we want" vs. "we burn your embassy/ assassinate your cartoonists". Working that one out is a tough enough nut as it is.
posted by dhartung at 10:36 PM on February 10, 2006

in a country most people can't find on the map

Most people where?

Perhaps you meant "Americans"?

I have no idea if it's true that most Americans don't know where Denmark is, but, even if it was true, so what? How is the geographical knowledge of Americans of any relevance to events involving people in Europe and the Middle East?
posted by funambulist at 1:42 AM on February 11, 2006

Oh and if anyone is still entertaining the notion the protests were a spontaneous affair, see this report from Thursday's New York Times: At Mecca Meeting, Cartoon Outrage Crystallized.

And notice for example in this Reuters report about (thankfully peaceful) protests in Venezuela (video embedded) that protesters even halfway across the world from Syria are still citing one of the fake cartoons, the one with the altered photo stolen from an article about a summer French pig-squealing contest: "The picture, the prophet's image, with the face of a pig-- no one should do that," said Elias Antonio, a young Venezuelan protester.

It's nice to see the imams at the Caracas mosque have such an excellent communication network... with those who used that fake picture to stir up the interest of the Islamic Conference in Mecca.

But no, let's all continue to pretend it was a totally genuine, spontaneous, democratic explosion of offended sensibilities. Sure. Perhaps this protester has a good point.
posted by funambulist at 1:56 AM on February 11, 2006

docpops said 'Well, troutfishings obviously got his panties in a bunch because he has this wild notion that Christian fundamentalism may be as toxic, worrisome, destructive, or as dangerous as Islamic.'

Huh? Assuming you're not taking the piss, how are Christian fundamentalists any less toxic, worrisome, destructive or dangerous than Muslim fundamentalists? Obviously the degree of militancy and terrorist violence differs wildly, but I don't see a great deal of difference between one group who hold abhorrent beliefs based on the wilful distortion of their holy texts and another, only in the methods they use to further their aims. Indeed, you could play devil's advocate and say that the Christian fundamentalist's tactics in the US are more dangerous than blunt terrorism, in that they are set on slowly and relatively subtly attempting to foist their beliefs on a society, and that insiduous method may be more likely to succeed (as I say, devil's advocate, I don't believe the two groups are are an equal threat to secular democratic societies, but still, they're both coming from the same place.)

Because Christian fundamentalism has such grounded, sensible passion behind it that any persecution or stupidity commited in it's name is a completely unique and harmless exercise.

Casting aside the ludicrousness of the claim that Christian fundamentalism rests on grounded, sensible passion, not blowing stuff up does not equal harmlessness.
posted by jack_mo at 5:32 AM on February 11, 2006

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