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About Merlyn on Media

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County. Merlyn’s blog focuses on all-things media, with an emphasis on how community-based media can make our county a better place to live, work and play.... Read more

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Is This the Price We Pay for an Open Media?

image of burning car at nightNews reports this week of American officials being killed, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, center around a new film that apparently depicts the prophet Muhammad in an unflattering light. According to press reports, the film “Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims” is intended to talk about Islam while satirizing the religion’s founder. Other protests spread across the Middle East in response to the movie, portions of which are now finding their way onto YouTube.

It reminds me of the Dutch newspaper in 2005, which wanted to contribute to the debate about the portrayal of Islam and self-censorship in the media by publishing a series of satirical cartoons about Mohammed. Response to the publication of those cartoons sparked worldwide protests, with more than 100 people being killed. And more recently, Florida minister Terry Jones and his burning of a copy of the Koran sparked deadly attacks against American troops in Afghanistan in 2010.

What in the world are people thinking?

Yes, free speech (which we enjoy here in the U.S. and is a core foundational principle of our country) allows us the right to say what we wish and provides for a healthy and open discourse. Yet with that right comes enormous responsibility… and 21st century media has only made that more important. Literally ANYTHING that is said, printed, or produced can be available worldwide instantaneously. What you tweet for your buddies can be seen by literally ANYONE with access to a computer and the internet. Gone are the days when just a few big media companies had the ability to spread a message across every country in the world. You can do it with just a Twitter or YouTube account… and it can literally spread like wildfire in mere seconds.

I’m not advocating for censorship, or the clamping down of the right to share our thoughts and ideas to anyone who wishes to hear them. I believe strongly in the forging of ideas through the heat of debate and the free-flow of intelligent conversation. But we live in a time when the power of media has perhaps overwhelmed our ability to think responsibly about its use. Innocent Americans died this week because a filmmaker threw caution to the wind, ignoring past history about a most sensitive topic to millions of people around the world.

Is this the price we must pay for the open media we enjoy today? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below…

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Merlyn Reineke

About Merlyn Reineke

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County.


3 Responses to “Is This the Price We Pay for an Open Media?”

  1. On September 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm responded with... #

    Merlyn, I feel innocent people died because a mob who hate Americans brutally murdered them. Our Diplomats were in their country to help them. We’ve given them money to transition there Government. How are we thanked, murder. We as Americans fought for freedom of speech ,no matter how insensitive the speech is, when we disagree we debate not murder. According to Hilary Clinton this was a small fraction of the population not a representation of the total population. The murderers should be prosecuted. Maybe it’s time to take care of Americans and let the Middle East take take care of themselves. oh yeah I forgot about oil !!

  2. Robert Snip
    On September 13, 2012 at 10:34 am responded with... #

    I am incredibly torn on this subject. On one hand I am a strong believer in the right to free speech and expression. The more controversial the statement or expression, (be it through blogs, news reports, movies, music or other medium) the bigger the opportunity for debate or counter expression. And that is exactly where the danger is and where I find my “on the other hand”.
    Knowing the possible consequences of your expression, gives you a greater responsibility. The fact that you have freedom of speech and expression, should not count as a blank check to go around and insult people, ridicule or attack someone’s religious beliefs or their core moral standards. And at the same time, in my mind there is NEVER a valid reason or even the hint of an excuse, to harm, threaten and murder a person for expressing themselves in a private or even public media.
    We live in a world of extremism; it is something embedded in the human DNA it seems. It is not just Islam, it is not just one certain region in the world, it is right here, at our own doorstep. Every day innocent people get hurt or die, because of the actions of extremists because in this world of abundant real time information they can always find something to feed their hatred and justify their cause.
    I would almost say that there’s a very delicate balance between your right to free of speech and the responsibility it demands, but I’m afraid that it may impossible to find any balance when everything you express will either be taken out of context or exaggerated to serve an extremist purpose.
    Our expressions should be dictated by fear, but by common sense, mutual respect and honesty, as should any reaction to whatever we express. Nobody should be afraid to share their views and opinions, due to the threat of possible violence.


  1. Is This the Price We Pay for an Open Media? | Montgomery … | World Media Information - September 12, 2012

    […] Excerpt from: Is This the Price We Pay for an Open Media? | Montgomery … […]

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