Richard Baehr forwarded a link to a Christopher Hitchen’s article about angry Muslims. The article starts slowly, with one particularly angry Muslim, who is profiled at a great website called Snapped Shot because of his propensity to show up at all angry Pakistani rallies, and then expands outward to showcase one of the little known secrets about all these anti-American rallies that keep popping up in the news:
I have actually seen some of these demonstrations, most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn’t be if there was a big, surging mob involved.
Of course, this is not to say that there isn’t a lot of generalized self-pity and self-righteousness (as well as a lot of self-hatred) in the Muslim world. A minister in Pakistan’s government—the son of revolting late dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, as it happens—appeared to say that Rushdie’s knighthood would justify suicide bombing. But our media regularly make the assumption that the book burners and fanatics really do represent the majority, and that assumption has by no means been tested. (If it is ever tested, and it turns out to be true, then can we hear a bit less about how one of the world’s largest religions mustn’t be confused with its lunatic fringe?)
The same kind of dishonest close shot reporting appeared when Cindy Sheehan was doing her book tour. Tight shots carefully hid the fact that, while the media swarmed, ordinary people weren’t there.
In a way, it’s become the Dianification of the news, where the media eventually becomes the only audience that cares. Everyone else has tuned out, but the media still crowds around, pretending there is a story, and (as was the case with pathetic Di’s death and is the case with these ill-attended rallies) sometimes making the story.