Bible bans and 'Muslim' boycotts

I just read my eleventy billionth story on the controversy surrounding the show All-American Muslim. You've likely heard about the controversy. You've not likely seen the show, according to the Hollywood Reporter:

Only five episodes into its first season, the series ranked 78th among Sunday's cable broadcasts for Dec. 11. With only 908,000 viewers and a 0.3 rating among adults 18-49, it's being easily outperformed by series like History's American Pickers, Discovery's Moonshiners and its latest lead-in, Little People Big World: Holiday Surprise.

Reviews haven't been kind. Here's Asra Q. Nomani in Newsbeast on why the charge -- that advertisers are dropping due to an irrational fear of Islam -- is silly. She says it's boring and trite television. Obviously viewers agree.

So why the thousands upon thousands of stories I found when I Googled "All-American Muslim" and "Lowe's"?:

The creators of the show have rallied massive support lobbying through groups such as Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow, a nonprofit group run by the folks who wanted to create the "Ground Zero mosque," Daisy Khan and Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf. In press releases and press briefings, they've trumpeted how they won over everyone from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons to leading national media columnists.

The latest story is from The Charlotte Observer and a quick read of the lede suggests that all the previous coverage we saw might be in error. That previous narrative was that Lowe's decided to drop its advertising from the show not because of it being the 78th-ranked series ... on Sundays ... on cable, but because a singular but shady Christian conservative outlet in Florida forced them into it.

You can read Bobby's analysis of previous coverage, faulted for its lack of quotes from the accused.

Here's the Observer:

Mooresville-based Lowe's Inc. met Tuesday with local clergy who delivered a petition from people opposed to the retailer's decision to pull commercials from a TV show about Muslim-Americans. But the company said it won't reinstate the advertising.

Lowe's also said its decision was not motivated by pressure from a Florida-based Christian group. The company stepped into a crossfire on Dec. 5, when it decided to stop advertising on the TLC show "All-American Muslim," a reality program about families in Dearborn, Mich.

The Florida Family Association, which pressures companies to pull their ad dollars from shows it deems immoral, had emailed Lowe's and other advertisers on the TLC show. "The decision was absolutely not, despite what's been reported in the media, influenced by any one group," said Lowe's vice president of marketing, Tom Lamb. He said that the decision to stop advertising on the show had been made before the FFA emailed Lowe's CEO Robert Niblock.

Well then!

I have a theory that what happened is that this Florida group claimed it had gotten Lowe's to stop advertising, a reporter simply confirmed with Lowe's that they'd stopped advertising, and people forgot to ask them why before reporting that it was the result of FFA (or strongly suggesting the same). Or maybe the whole story, from start to finish, originated with the public relations campaign on the other side.

I don't know. An executive with Kayak said "We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn't let us know their intentions. That's not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy." He also said they decided not to renew advertising with the show because it was unwatchable.

Anyway, my whole point in looking at this story was because I learned of the controversy at the same time I learned of another controversy. And the disparity in coverage is really intriguing.

The other story is that a major and highly symbolic federal agency was caught officially restricting First Amendment rights. Walter Reed National Medical Center had issued a memo months ago barring visitors from bringing Bibles or other religious items in to patients.

Say what? I was sure the story couldn't be true when I first heard about it but, in fact, it was. Almost immediately the higher-ups at Walter Reed admitted that they had issued the memo, said it was in error, and promised to rewrite it. I'm not sure if it was a government whistleblower who alerted a watchdog group or someone else, but a non-profit Christian group started complaining about it to Members of Congress and that's what got the ball rolling.

Now, it seems an enterprising reporter might want to write a story or two looking into this, but it's received remarkably little coverage. The excuses given by the government officials have been more or less accepted and the whole memo has been downplayed.

It hasn't been completely ignored. Here's a story from the Washington Examiner this week:

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is backtracking on an order that banned family members from bringing Bibles and other religious materials to injured soldiers and a religious organization is demanding an explanation.

Issued on the date of the official consolidation of the region's two military medical centers, the memo on visitor and patient policy contained a section stating "No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit." The Sept. 14 memo came from the desk of Col. Norvell Coots, the commander of the Walter Reed Healthcare system.

A spokeswoman for Walter Reed told The Washington Examiner on Friday that the policy was "written incorrectly," and that a ban on religious items was never enforced.

I don't think this Google News search is quite accurate -- and certainly not as accurate as a Lexis-Nexis search would be -- but a search for Walter Reed bible ban yields 14 results to the Lowe's story's 2240.

Should the story about the banning of Bibles (and other religious materials, like, oh, Korans) from Walter Reed really get a fraction of one percent (0.625%) as much coverage as why a private company stopped advertising on a particular show?

What do you think?

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