Friday, November 26, 2004

'Wish you were dead....'

Media not only represent the world, but they increasingly shape it. Much of the panic and hysteria that has haunted the Netherlands for the last couple of weeks is due to hyperbolic reporting, scoop hunting, and the fear of missing out on something 'really important' on the part of the media. Of course, the assassination of Theo van Gogh was a major event, and the killer (probably) was part of a group of muslim extremists who had planned other murders on prominent dutch politicians as well. On the other hand one might doubt the professionality of these youngsters, who apparently killed Van Gogh as a substitute of their real target, who was out of their reach. Real professional terrorists would not have settled for a substitute and thus warned their real targets for what they were up, would they? The arsening of a musim school in a small provincial town was done by two 14 and 15 year old kids, and not, as media and government suggested, by right wing extremist groups.

Extremism is partly a creation of the media themselves. A good example of how it is created was given by Andries Knevel, talkshow host of the in its own right extremist religious broadcasting company Evangelische Omroep. For reasons that are still unfathomable to me he had invited a young former Christian who had converted to the islam. As most converts, he was more of a muslim than ordinary musims, but he was also a religious man who believes in sincerity. Knevel really goaded him into saying that he wouldn't mind the death of a right wing dutch member of parliament, but that he'd rather see him die from cancer than being murdered by a muslim. Here we wittnessed the live creation of a devil by an overzealous christian tv personality.

Of course other journalists started to dig out death wishes by Theo van Gogh and other champions of free speech, who have wished horrible deaths to many a politician or public figure with whom he had a quarrel (and almost every public figure in the Netherlands was on his hitlist).

Luckily the European soccer competitions have startd again, so the media can spend their attention and time to less harmful matters. Though racism is climbing the agenda of the sports programs rather quickly.

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