Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'The New Prejudice' Attracts a Media Horde; but Some Experts Say Pastor Touched a Nerve with Perfect Timing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'The New Prejudice' Attracts a Media Horde; but Some Experts Say Pastor Touched a Nerve with Perfect Timing

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

GAINESVILLE - If the media cared as much about a church helping the elderly as it does about one that wants to torch the Quran, Deloris Demps says, the world would be a better place.

"I do think it's ironic for everybody to gather around that situation," the Jacksonville minister said of a Gainesville preacher's on-and-off threat to burn the Muslim holy book.

"Everybody" isn't much of an exaggeration. The grass parking lot in front of the small Gainesville church has become a media city, crammed with reporters representing dozens of news outlets and satellite-TV trucks from around the state, nation and world. A news crew from Japan was positioned outside the church doors.

How did the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center manage to attract such a media frenzy?

Experts say Pastor Terry Jones came forward with the right message - anti-Islamic - at the right time, weeks into the broiling debate over the New York City mosque near ground zero as the ninth anniversary of 9/11 neared.

"People like Terry Jones are probably not more common, but what he is doing is giving voice to feelings that are latent and inchoate in a much larger number of people. I'm talking millions of people," said Charles Strozier, a historian and director of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College in New York.

Stozier, who has written about fundamentalist religious movements, said most Americans don't believe Islam is of the devil, as Jones claims, but they do have a lot of questions about Islam, Muslims and terrorism.

"It is the new prejudice in America," Strozier said of anti-Muslim sentiments.

In Gainesville, TV news reporter Takanori Isshiki acknowledged that, saying his viewers in Japan are worried about how Jones' actions could impact the rest of the world.

Isshiki and his cameraman were dispatched to Central Florida to cover the source of that angst. …

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