Having grown up mostly in the Washington, D.C. area and having spent most of my adult life there (to date), I’ll be the first to admit that an inside-the-beltway mentality exists. This is the city, after all, where locate politics are national politics are international politics.
But I disagree with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer when he claims that the continued coverage of the Vice President Cheney shooting is an issue between the White House and the press corps:
“This is now a real inside-the-beltway controversy… The American people watched it and heard about it Sunday night and Monday morning; it was widely covered. They heard the news and saw the story. It is not dominating the lives of the American people.”
Maybe it’s not dominating everyone’s lives. But plenty of people outside the nation’s capital are talking about “The Incident”. And thanks to the mishandling of this entire situation, aptly pointed out by Tech PR Gems, that’s unlikely to stop any time soon.
(Thanks to the Holmes Report Blog for alerting me to this article.)
With violence increasing and the polarization about the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy becoming greater, it’s easy to agree with Neville Hobson’s statement that this conflict “illustrates a massive cultural and religious divide that is getting wider… with no meeting of minds looking likely at all. If anything, this will probably get worse.”
Fortunately there are dissenting voices, as these excerpts from around the world show.
Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani denounced the violence and appealed for calm, accusing infiltrators of sowing the dissent to “harm the stability of Lebanon.” Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also urged peaceful protests. “Those who are committing these acts have nothing to do with Islam or with Lebanon,” he said. “This is absolutely not the way we express our opinions.”
From Rantings of a Sandmonkey:
Fully knowing that it is retarded to punish a whole country and its products for what a Newspaper in that country did, I expected someone to start a movement to restore common sense our muslim brothers and demand a stop to the boycott, especially since the Danes have apologized over and over again. Then I figured, shit, why don’t I be that someone?…
So I guess I will start the official local campaign to boycott the boycott, and thanks to the efforts of Roba and Jameed, the campaign now has banners that you can get here, put on your website and show solidarity with Danish people…
From Sorry Norway Denmark (via History News Network’s Deja vu — Judith Apter Klinghoffer):
In the middle of all the mayhem surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy, a group of Arab and Muslim youth have set up this website to express their honest opinion, as a small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs. We whole-heartedly apologize to the people of Denmark, Norway and all the European Union over the actions of a few, and we completely condemn all forms of vandalism and incitement to violence that the Arab and Muslim world have witnessed. We hope that this sad episode will not tarnish the great friendship that our peoples have fostered over decades.
The problem with media representation of such issues tends to be that the media only picks up the loudest voices, ignoring the rational ones that do not generate as much noise. Voices that seek tolerance, dialogue and understanding are always drowned out by the more sensationalist loud calls, giving viewers the impression that these views are representative of all the Arab public’s view. This website is a modest attempt at redressing this wrong. We would appreciate it if you could forward the word to as many of your friends as possible.
What long-term effects on free speech will this conflict have? We probably won’t know for quite some time. There is possibly a new Europen Union media code of conduct in the works (via EU Rota). And Lee Hopkins points out that, on a lower level, “the whole issue does… introduce fear and loathing in the workplace.”
In the meantime, although there is already some “fight cartoon with cartoon” behavior, as evidenced by the Arab European League’s two cartoons, I’d speculate that for most media, Serge Cornelus’s prediction is right on.
CNN.com reports that hundreds of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Royal Danish Embassy in Damascus, Syria today and set the building ablaze. This is the latest reaction to the publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Many Muslims are offended because they find the cartoons disrespectful and blasphemous; others object because various hadiths prohibit any depiction of the Prophet, regardless of what the images contain (although Wikipedia notes that representations of the Prophet have existed in Islamic art for quite some time).
The Vatican had this to say about the cartoons:
“The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion…
Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation.”
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, part of the Vatican’s diplomatic service, was also critical:
“Freedom of satire that offends the sentiments of others becomes an abuse — and in this case it has affected the sentiments of entire populations in their highest symbols…
One can understand satire about a priest but not about God. With reference to Islam, we could understand satire on the uses and customs and behavior, but not about the Quran, Allah and the Prophet.”
See Wikipedia’s Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons controversy for a chronology of events and international reaction. Make sure to also read the posts by Allan Jenkins and Neville Hobson, both of which offer an analysis from a communications perspective.
I predict that this explosive situation is only the beginning of other similar international incidents we’ll see in the coming months and years. I’d venture to guess that others (see, for example, Media Orchard’s post Newest Beer Pitchman: Jesus Christ) would agree.
Here are two important blogging resources for anyone opposed to censorship and supportive of free speech … and, most importantly, for any blogger working within a politically repressive environment.
On a related note, there is currently much talk about credibility, accountability and accuracy within the blogosphere. I’ve often thought that limiting the anonymity of bloggers or those who comment on blog posts is one way of increasing accountability. Spirit of America has challenged my view on this (see entire argument on Anonymous Blogging Apologia):
“Most of the bloggers who have been arrested in the past two years were easy to find because they followed the advice of some purist critics of anonymous blogging: They used their real names and details of their lives. Considering the likelihood that the harrassment of bloggers will continue, we believe anonymous blogging should remain a valid option and comprehensive instructions on how to do so should be available.”
The recent verbal sparring between Six Apart president Mena Trott and backstage.bbc.co.uk’s Project Lead Ben Metcalfe at the Les Blogs 2.0 Conference has hit a massive nerve among bloggers. A Technorati search for “Ben Metcalfe” reveals 400 posts. I won’t comment on what happened at Les Blogs since I wasn’t there, but I admit I’m glad that civility – and the absence thereof – is a hot topic again. While it’s true that definitions of what’s considered civil behavior vary based on environment, personal values and cultural norms, it’s indisputable that incivility takes its toll. This might be a good time to re-read an older, but still relevant, article on workplace civility. It contains good ideas applicable to many settings.
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, pet owners were either forced to abandon their pets or risk their own lives in trying to protect their animal companions. Some people decided to stay behind, others were heartbroken by the decision they felt forced to make.
While stories of happy reunions between owners and their pets provide a small feel-good element in an otherwise tragic series of government failures, there are still reports of animals who are barely alive and desperately waiting to be rescued.
Seeking to avoid a repeat of Katrina, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Chris Shays (R-CT) recently introduced the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2005 (H.R. 3858) to require state and local emergency preparedness operational plans to “take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.” PETS currently has over 60 co-sponsors. As explained in Congressman Lantos’ introductory statements:
“This legislation … requires states to include how they plan to accommodate their incumbent pet population as well as people with disabilities that are aided by service animals. FEMA will require the jurisdictions to submit their emergency preparedness plans in order to be eligible for FEMA funding assistance in the event of a disaster.”
While the legislation doesn’t require any specific rescue efforts by state or local governments, it serves as a starting point for discussing the practical steps needed to rescue people and their pets. So are any non-profits or advocacy groups using this bill as an opportunity to educate their members and the public? Here’s a partial list of national organizations that are:
· The Humane Society of the United States (go here)
· The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (go here)
· Last Chance for Animals (scroll to bottom of page here)
· United Animal Nations (go here)
· Doris Day Animal League (go here)
At a time when the wounds of Katrina are still fresh and people around the country are wondering what they would so if disaster struck them, all animal advocacy groups, whether national or local, large or small, should be using this legislation to raise awareness and mobilize their audiences into action.
In the future, will public relations firms use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as part of their crisis management arsenal? Start-up Cephos Corporation no doubt must hope so.
According to a news release issued by the Medical University of South Carolina, which conducted the groundbreaking study “Detecting Deception Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging” (abstract available from Biological Psychiatry here; full study available with free registration) in conjunction with Cephos and Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, researchers for the first time were able to distinguish truth-telling from deception within 61 individuals through the use of fMRI.
In case you’re wondering why you should be interested, the study points out that:
“An accurate method to detect deception likely would have important implications for our society. Many legal, political, military, and industrial settings might benefit from an accurate method for detecting deception. Presently available technologies such as the polygraph and voice stress analysis lack rigorous scientific support.”
fMRI’s potential interest for attorneys is undeniable. The MUSC news release quotes criminal defense attorney extraordinaire Robert Shapiro as saying:
“I’d use it tomorrow in virtually every criminal and civil case on my desk. This technology will revolutionize how cases are handled by allowing the truth to prevail undeniably.”