Quran-and-BibleBy Kay Campbell, All Alabama, 6/12/13

MANCHESTER, Tennessee – Last week, within shouting distance of the peace-love-music temporary village that will be Bonnaroo June 13-16, people packed a meeting room to cheer when a photograph of the firebombed Columbia, Tenn., mosque was shown.

That’s probably not what they planned to do, but the ecstasy of merging with a room of people filled with the unholy ghost of righteous indignation can feel pretty good.

Numerous news reports — from Chattanooga’s Time Free Press to USA Today to NPR’s “All Things Considered” — and also from some personal accounts I’ve received confirm that most of the people in that room in Manchester, about 80 miles north of Huntsville, did not resist the temptation.

The meeting on June 4, 2013, was prompted because last month one of the Coffee County commissioners, Barry West, had posted on his Facebook page a photo of a cowboy-hatted white man sighting down a gun barrel pointed straight at the viewer. The picture was captioned, “How to wink at a N****r.”

No, wait. That would have been 60 years ago.

This one was captioned, “How to wink at a Muslim.”

For any other Southern official who doesn’t already know this, let me also spell out public relations for your town: People always believe most readily whatever they hear about a region or a group that coincides with the prejudice they already have formed.

That’s why stories about anything race-conflicted or murderous or ignorant that any one of us does here in the South will spread like a grass fire across the click-seeking social media that masquerade as most news organizations in our nation today. Something high-tech or progressive or loving in the South? Not so much.

So, Commissioner West: You have just cost industrial and business recruiting for your county 30 years’ worth of good press. Shame on you. And shame on the other people who blindly obeyed the islamophobic engineers from around the country who rushed to Manchester to cheerlead the madding throng.

What’s terribly sad, too, is that this story about the Manchester melee, I guarantee, has already spread around the world along the same trigger lines that feed those Muslims who believe all Christians are out to get them. Stories of the interfaith work that happens in Middle Tennessee and in Huntsville? Not so much.

And all this from a meeting where federal agents were attempting to merely explain the difference between “hateful” speech, which is, in fact protected under First Amendment rights, and “violence-producing speech,” which is not. (Read the full article)

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