Now For Something Completely Different

by James M. Wall

As they used to say on Monty Python, “Now for something completely different.” And for that something, we turn to Gershom Gorenberg whose blog effectively nailed ABC News for a story it ran on Dunkin Donuts, an American purveyor of sweet, juicy, caloric donuts. Gorenberg tells us that he could not believe ABC was serious when it passed along the “shocking news” that a major American corporation had announced to the world that an ad for Dunkin Donuts was pulled from the the internet because of the possibility some viewers would see it as promoting “terrorism”.  

Here is how it all came down: A young woman named Rachel Ray was attacked via the internet by a blogger named Pam Geller, who posted an item on her blog under the headline:  “Rachel Ray: Dunkin Donuts Jihad Tool.” Ms. Geller proceeded to explain:   “Have you seen Rachel Ray wearing the icon of Yasser Arafatbastard and the bloody Islamic jihad? This is part of the cultural jihad.”

Blog postings like that go up every day, but this one took on added life when, as Gorenberg adds:

Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin took up the cause last week, when she wrote on her Web site… “The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.”… The actual garment, says the item, was a “black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design.”  With terror victorious, not only does a school teaching Arabic become a madrassa which necessarily means it teaches Islamic extremism, as Daniel Pipes believes, but a paisley scarf is necessarily a keffiyeh, which is necessarily a sign that the person wearing it favors “murdering Jews,” . . .
Gorenberg suggests that such a disorted, twisted and hateful rendering of the significance of the keffiyeh must surely have been meant as satire, the sort of material the humor publication Onion might have printed. Cable news programs picked up the story and gave it further attention. The result; Dunkin Donuts pulled the ad.  
Chicago Tribune writer Ahmed M. Rehab finds Dunkin Donuts to be possessed of  “curiously weak knees” when it yielded to Malkin’s hate-oriented and ignorant analysis:
There can only be one explanation: For Malkin, every Palestinian is a terrorist. To sell that point, she resorts to sensationalism, minimalism and obscene sweeping statements.   Sadly, this reductive approach is an old and tired trick when it comes to public discourse on the Middle-East, or Muslims.  

But let’s not kid ourselves. Malkin’s anti-Palestinian message, by itself, is not newsworthy. It is only effective when coupled with a climate that is highly receptive to fear-mongering. Only then can it wreak havoc. After all, it is only because of the perception of a public backlash that Dunkin’ Donuts, with curiously weak knees, felt pressure to yank the ad off the Internet.

Has it come to this when when even the slightest openness to arabic culture brings down a torrent of hatred from the darkest corners of our culture?  The ignorance and fear that promotes our society’s darker side reflects badly on the established elements of our society, from our schools and churches to our television programming and our major corporations.

This country will one day elect a Jewish American or an Arab American as president, inshallah. For the moment, however, we may rejoice that we have a presidential candidate whose father, a Muslim from Africa,  gave his son a respected  Arabic middle name, Hussein. And a first name which translates, ‘blessed”. 

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
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