Posted on March 16, 2006

Is It A Prank or Is It A Hate Crime?

Melissa Ridgen, Brandon Sun (Manitoba, Can.), March 15th, 2006

Political correctness is an effort to offend no one and appease everyone, so non-practitioners like myself appreciate the irony when it’s misapplied and has the exact opposite effect.

While the media’s mantra is fair, balanced and equal treatment for all, we often fail miserably due to misguided attempts at political correctness. Of course there are media outlets that consciously threw fairness, balance and impartiality to the wind long ago, but that’s a whole other column.

Consider for a minute, stories about a mosque, temple or synagogue being vandalized. In fact, hit the Internet to search news files for yourself to see how such indignities are covered, paying close attention to the overall tone of the articles.

The desecration of one of these buildings is a hate-crime. The affected community is gripped by fear. The media is intensely interested — an intensity that turns into a frenzy if more than one of these places of worship is targeted.

But church vandalism is a vastly different story. You trash a church and you’re a punk or a vandal — certainly not a hate-filled tormentor. The affected congregation is disgusted, disappointed, maybe even mad, but not threatened or terrified. The media’s interest is likely lukewarm — the story will make a nice little read in the police briefs. There’s more of a tsk-tsk tone than shock and horror.

It took a handful of church arsons in Alabama to grab the attention of national and international media last month. In the span of just over a week, nine Baptist churches were burned to the ground. Despite the number, and fact that most fires were ignited on or near the altar at each church, adding insult to injury. Gov. Bob Riley told the Associated Press the fires did not appear to be “any type of conspiracy against organized religion.” Period. End of story.

Three college students were arrested last week in connection with the arsons and the Associated Press reported them to be “pranksters” — how cute. It seems it was a bit of fun that got out of control. A co-ed party gone wrong, if you will. Much less sinister than anyone who might desecrate a mosque, temple or synagogue.

Imagine the outrage if the media was as dismissive with a similar spate of crimes against another religion.

It goes without saying the destruction of any house of worship is despicable, regardless of what religion or denomination is the target. But it’s equally despicable, be it a synagogue, church, mosque, temple or any other building, and should be treated as such.

So it appears the media is imperfect. You read it here first. At times, even though editors, reporters and news directors are well-intentioned, many have become hyper-sensitive to political correctness resulting in an imbalance in how stories are approached and covered.

Maybe throwing political correctness to the wind would help restore balance in our news coverage.