Until this week, the best known Terry Jones was the Monty Python member. Now an equally madcap Terry Jones, a disgraced pastor in Florida, may have overtaken the wacky-on-purpose Python, thanks to the American media.
Yesterday he reached the heights of celebrity, now already past the usual 15-minute limit, by playing the media like fools, announcing his decision to cancel the burning of Korans, citing a non-existent "deal" on moving the "ground zero mosque," then recanting when the fantasy deal disappeared. It was the ultimate Silly Walk.
Now the media self-analysis and mini-culpas have started to arrive. Here’s a fair selection, with more added at the top as the day goes on.
Michael Calderone, Yahoo!: "MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ had Jones on from Gainesville. But the ‘interview’ exemplified just how strange the Jones story has gotten. The press is simultaneously attracted to the controversy (and the ratings and pageviews that media executives can count on it to generate) and repelled by the idea of giving the pastor more publicity — so as a result, co-host Mika Brzezinski had Jones on screen but didn’t let him speak."
Howard Kurtz, Washington Post: "This whole thing was covered like the Balloon Boy hoax, but with potentially deadly consequences….Why does the world need to follow the antics of one obscure book-burner in Florida? You can say we’re just covering the story, but our combined megaphone has made it into an international story. And this isn’t like over-covering Lindsay Lohan’s jail sentence. This is a tinderbox right now."
Rick Perlstein, The New York Times: "The problem is that elite media gatekeepers have abandoned their moral mandate to stigmatize uncivil discourse. Instead, too many outlets reward it. In fact, it is an ironic token of the ideological confusions of our age that they do so in the service of upholding what they understand to be a cornerstone of civility: the notion that every public question must be framed in terms of two equal and opposite positions, the "liberal" one and the "conservative" one, each to be afforded equal dignity, respect — and (the more crucial currency) equal space. This has made the most mainstream of media outlets comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes."