Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Burning Books and Buildings and Specifics

A morbid anniversary happened over the weekend.  Some used the occasion to mourn, others to reflect, others to cash in, and others to frighten.  Some specific individuals and groups were singled out by reporters, bloggers, analysts, pundits, politicians, correspondents, and commentators.

People noticed that a lot of hubbub was being raised over very isolated acts by very unnoteworthy people.  Naturally, instead of stopping the coverage of the unimportant, our newsmakers began conversing about the inappropriate volume of their own coverage.  We went from coverage to overcoverage to metacoverage to metaovercoverage to overmetaovercoverage remarkably quickly.

If you are reading this post shortly after its publication date, you probably know exactly what I am alluding to here.  If you are reading this post sometime in the future, hopefully you have no idea what specific events I am hinting at here.

A couple weeks ago, I told you, in more words, that being given attention is the only victory terrorists can ever achieve.

Today, I take a step further and insist suggest that we should not make public value judgments (broadcast "oughts") about specific real-world incidents.  We should reserve our judgments about specific real-world incidents for private, and while we are broadcasting the news, we should make value judgments only about generalities or hypothetical situations.

Now, to break my own rule, I would like to share a couple favorite quotations from last week's over*coverages:
"You aren't responsible for Quran burners. Don't hold Muslims responsible for 9/11." –Will Saletan. "We Didn't Start the Fire." Slate. 2010 September 8.

"The reason not to burn Qurans is that it's unkind -- not to jihadists, but to Muslims who mean us no harm." –Ann Coulter. "Bonfire of the Insanities." AnnCoulter.com. 2010 September 8.
Both of these quotations portray my exact sentiments much more eloquently than I could.  I am pained that the second quotation is from that Ann Coulter.