- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

Mainstream fringe

Media Matters, a liberal organization that tracks conservative bias in the media, gathered like-minded advocacy group leaders Thursday to discuss how the right-wing media had “mainstreamed the fringe.”

Senior fellow Eric Boehlert opened a panel, which included no conservatives or Republicans, by saying “the conservative media are giving a platform to what was previously relegated to the right-wing fringe. Mainstreaming this rhetoric sends the message that violent behavior is acceptable, if not welcome. We all need to learn from the recent tragedies in Kansas and Washington, D.C., that this type of hate has no place on the airwaves.”

Fox News was the biggest target of the panel’s criticism with panelists bashing hosts Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and others for what they called reckless rhetoric designed to incite extremist audience members. Media Matters also singled out talk radio titan Rush Limbaugh by giving away bumper stickers with a Media Matters logo that say: “Rush Limbaugh Doesn’t Speak for Me!”

Speakers agreed that the combination of the economic downturn, the election of the first black president and the rise of conservative media were triggers for political violence, such as the killings of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum guard Stephen Tyrone Johns.

At no point during the talk was there any mention of the shooting death of an Arkansas military recruiter, in which a Muslim convert has been arrested and has told reporters the shooting was justified by U.S. foreign policy acts against Muslim nations.

“Hateful words have hateful consequences,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza. She blasted the “code words” that media personalities use - she mentioned “illegal” among them - to dehumanize Hispanics and beat back immigration reform measures.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan said social networking sites and blogs also played a role in promoting hateful rhetoric along with big-name television hosts like Mr. O’Reilly who “give license to the fringe element to act violently.”

Ms. Keenan also mentioned pro-life blogger Jill Stanek as one of the blogs, saying that dynamic had led to the “creation of an isolated community that lives within the echo chamber of right-wing media and blogs like Jill Stanek’s.”

Mrs. Stanek dismissed the complaints as sour grapes, telling The Washington Times after the conference that ” ‘Mainstreaming the fringe’ is simply creative acknowledgement by Media Matters that pro-lifers are now polling in the majority. This fact also means the ‘echo chamber’ in which I speak is bigger than theirs, with a lot less carnage. It’s certainly more fun to be in an echo chamber than a death chamber.”

CPB blames Bill

The ombudsman of the congressionally-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting is also laying blame at Bill O’Reilly’s feet for the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller.

Kevin Bode, ombudsman for public broadcasting and former senior correspondent for CNN and national political correspondent for NBC News, bluntly wrote in a new report, “anti-abortion opponents, including Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, are guilty of promoting domestic terrorism.”

He also suggested that Juan Williams, a Fox News contributor who also reports for National Public Radio, was being used by Fox.

“Fox News President Roger Ailes knows he is exploiting the credibility that Mr. Williams has built at NPR and carries with him to Fox,” Mr. Bode wrote. “I wonder if Williams ever thinks that he is squandering a measure of that credibility by his continued appearances with Bill O’Reilly.”

Stoning film

A gripping film that tells the story of an innocent Iranian woman who is stoned to death over charges of adultery is getting increased media attention in light of the Iranian protests over the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“The Stoning of Soraya M.,” which is based on a true story, was originally published in 1994 as a book by French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam. The film features a mostly-Iranian cast, led by Tehran-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in 2003’s “The House of Sand and Fog.”

Miss Aghdashloo and director Cyrus Nowrasteh, an Iranian-American, led a discussion about Iranian women’s rights and the protests before a screening of their film Wednesday evening at the National Press Club.

Mr. Nowrasteh also wrote “The Path to 9/11,” another film that relays history in sometimes graphic ways, and warned his audience, “There are parts of this movie that are difficult, but I felt there is a responsibility to the women who have died and suffered in this fashion not to water it down.”

He tamped down concerns the film is anti-Islam because stoning is not permitted in the Koran.

“It’s about people who hijack religion and use it for their own personal agenda” he said.

Miss Aghdashloo said, “I’d been waiting for years for this because I had seen a real version of this on tape that had been smuggled out of Iran and had been scattered to those with the Iranian television industry in the U.S.”

She said she is hopeful about the impact the film and the election protests will have on the future of Iran. “I want to cry, yet at the same time I am happy that the Iranian people have at last after 10 years taken their destiny into their own hands,” she said.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acar[email protected]

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