Some interesting comments from Patrick and dubyus on my posts about the pope and spinach (separate posts, no obvious connections).
Re dubyus comments. Agreed the Pope could have used other references but he didn’t. Let me ask you this, dubyus: Can you imagine an equal reaction in the western/post-Christian world if a prominent Muslim leader were to quote a 14th century source that equally disparaged Christianity? Of course not. We are accustomed to the most outrageous disparagement of our religion and its leaders including Christ himself and do not react in this way. The promised violence against anyone espousing any religion other than Islam expressed in reaction to the Pope’s comments are evidence for the one-side nature of “offense” in this current debate. There is no equivalence here.
I stand by my comments about the Pope’s message being ill-advised–precisely because of this inequality of political correctness. I also agree with dubyus that in retrospect, the Pope’s apology fell far short of what was needed. He apologized for the reaction in large part. It fell short.
As to the comments about moderate Muslim leaders taking a stronger role in healing the rifts caused by extremists and unfortunate statements like this, where are they? If the Western media has ignored all the action that has taken place, then I implore the Muslim world to do what the rest of us in crisis communication advise our clients: when the media won’t carry an important message, you have to take it direct. Ads can be purchased. Messages sent by email and snail mail. Websites can be launched and promoted. Blogs can enable people to engage in conversation. There is much that can be done and it is not really an acceptable excuse to say that the media won’t cover it. It is too important.
By the way, thank you for dialoging about this. We may not agree, but it sure is helpful when people start talking. And you have helped me understand better a different viewpoint.
Patrick on spinach–you are right of course that the best way to deal with crises is prevention,a nd likely this could have been prevented. But those of us in crisis communications need to deal continually with what happens when people don’t take the prudent and necessary steps. So I’m not sure how helpful it is in talking about a crisis communications response to say it should have been prevented. Talking about how it will be prevented in the future is very helpful–but that was exactly my point.
Now– I am on my way out the door for a weeklong trip. First, a little more archery hunting, then working with one of the nation’s largest universities on crisis communications planning, then to Houston for a user group meeting for PIER and an exciting seminar with the Global Energy Management Institute and World Energy.
I’ll try to keep up while on the road, but in the meantime, keep those thoughts coming. Artisansweets–I would have commented but I’m too much of a hurry so I will get back to you later.
In my quick roundup last post of crises happening at the moment, I certainly missed the biggest one of all–comments the pope made. And since I have been out in the wilderness in the days since and not watching tv, reading blogs or doing anything else civilized, I can look at the furor now and see the shape it is taking.
I don’t have the context of the speech in which the quote from a 14th century emperor was made where the Prophet was disparaged. I would hope that the context gives some clarity to why this comment was made. Whether there was sufficient context or not, it still seems pretty clear the comment was ill advised. The fact that it was ill advised is the real problem–we live in an overheated time of extreme political correctness that is seriously unbalanced. That is true in various places in the public sphere but nowhere more so than in the sometimes hot sometimes cold war between the medieval Islamic culture of the Islamists and the contemporary liberal democratic culture that most of the west and western-influenced world lives in. The Islamists desire very strongly to cast this culture war into crusade language–it is a great falsity and one unfortunately perpetuated far too much by the press in their attempt to be balanced and politically correct. That’s why George Bush made such a serious mistake when he used the term “crusade” and he has been scrupulous to avoid it ever since. That’s the Pope was ill advised to refer to any medieval comments about the relation between Christianity and Islam because it is all but certain to create this kind of reaction.
The fact is in this super-heated cultural/political war environment, it is perfectly OK for one side (Islamists) to not only disparage but announced their intentions of doing the most awful things to the most sacred icons of the western culture, while they will use the slightest slip that can be seen as disparagement of their sacred icons as evidence of the west’s true intention: a return to the medieval crusades. It is they who wish that return. The west does not.
I see now I am venturing into political and geopolitical comment which is an area I want to stay out of if at all possible. In this case it is not entirely possible because my advice to the Pope and his advisors has everything to do with understanding the tensions that exist. They should have understood it better. The Pope is doing all he can under the circumstances. He has apologized repeatedly. Perhaps the first one could have been more aggressive–these apologies that keep ramping up until they have impact are less effective. Now, what is desperately needed is for reasonable Muslim leaders to step forward to close this breech. The Pope and the Vatican can do no more to stem the tide and to keep the radicals from exploiting this unfortunate situation. It has to be more moderate Muslim leaders who see the dangers ahead if the Islamists are successful in their public relations jihad. They have been far too quiet in all these flareups–including Bush’s “crusade” gaffe, the Danish cartoon disaster, and now this. Time to speak up for civilization and all that is right and good, gentlemen.