After such a terrible start to the year and so much to talk about, I thought it was time again to see what the news media thinks we should be paying attention to versus what we really should be paying attention to. As explained earlier, this pulls from CNN as a general news source, BBC as an international voice, Fox vs MSNBC as partisan sources, and AlJazeera as the honest broker, in my opinion. I’m selecting from the ‘featured’ items in the top-left area, which may be 3 or 4 depending on the outlet. Don’t forget to add your top stories and news outlets in the comments. So what’s the score today?
- MSNBC: Three partisan hack jobs [F] on Perry, Romney, and CPAC. MSNBC is perpetuating stereotypes today. #2 story was a Cosby Rape story.
- FoxNews: Top story is a partisan hack job on Obama. #2 is about an old gun. #3 is guns and pizza. Their #4 story is some punditry about Duke Muslim censorship. So today’s FoxNews gets an F for vacuous nonsense. We read it so you don’t have to…
- CNN: Belgian Terror, Pope support of violence, and Boko Haram atrocities. B for meaningful coverage, but a terror raid in Belgium doesn’t deserve top billing.
- BBC: BBC leads with Belgian Terror as well, but they get a pass because they are in Europe. Pope violence also second, and an interesting story on UK-US Cyber wargames. B+ good coverage with a unique addition.
- AlJazeera America: Boko Haram leads and is coverage we all should read. #2 was a rare political story about a Republican governor vetoing a gun rights bill. A story about the ‘genius myth’ impeding advancement of women provides important and actionable coverage of diversity. And Duke University ‘shushes’ Muslim prayer due to Christian intolerance. A- today for AJ for diversity and interesting coverage.
We turned our backs on Ethiopia and the Sudan. Somalia got attention but only enough to sour US commitment. Hopefully other news outlets will join AlJazeera in helping Americans have more concern for real, current, ongoing violence in Nigeria than potential or even sporadic violence in the West. And just in case you weren’t aware: “Boko Haram” means “West Prohibited” and essentially that influences from the west like educating girls will be opposed violently.The Duke Prayer issue is fascinating in that on the one hand it highlights Christian hypocrisy about religious freedom. On the other hand it provides a rare opportunity for church-state advocates to consider government promotion of religion from a source other than Christian fundamentalists. As one of said advocates, I have tried to be careful to look at the facts of the case.
Step 1 is to ignore Fox punditry and evangelical sophistry. Step 2: Check Snopes. Step 3 is to let the University speak for itself – their letter linked here. They say, “what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.” At first glance “it’s too controversial” doesn’t seem like the best justification for censorship. One will also note that Duke is a private university and though nonsectarian, has a cross on their crest and a motto of “Knowledge and Faith”. We can be comfortable that “Faith” doesn’t mean the Muslim faith. So this is not a government school and the university does have the right to allow, or not, sectarian expressions on campus.
Though the belltower prayer is cancelled, the Muslim group has met and will continue to meet in the basement of the Duke’s chapel. The basement sounds bad, but I will assume it’s a nice facility and the best option considering what are probably ill-suited pews on the ground floor. Also, the call to prayer that was to “moderately amplified” from the chapel’s bell tower will now be held at ground level in the public quadrangle in front of the chapel. Arguments have been made that having the Christian chapel announce Christian prayers by its bell and Muslim prayers by adhan would be a big win for diversity and inclusiveness. That is a compelling argument, but having meetings and having the call in front of the chapel are still strong commitments to support all students. I am also compelled by the fundamentalist argument that church-state advocates might not be understanding if a Christian was on top of a tower at a University reading “moderately amplified” prayers. Christians normally have to fabricate their victimhood, but in this case, maybe it would be a double standard to allow Muslims such a prominent view of their religion.
It is a private college though, so if Duke decides to have Christian or Muslim prayers read from the chapel tower, that’s not a government decision and they are free to do it, at least that’s what seems fair to me for now. What do you think?