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Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007

Sykes Steps in It

And WTMJ stands by his offensive “parody”

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Not surprisingly, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee decried the parody, saying in a statement: “The Interfaith Conference firmly believes that comparing Jews to Nazis, and suggesting that true Islam promotes terrorism, are irresponsible statements born out of ignorance that we find offensive and beneath the level of discourse needed in our nation.”

Marcus White, the group’s executive director, and the conference itself were denounced by Sykes and his fellow rightwing bloggers. And they’re being supported by WTMJ’s executives. Tim Cuprisin, in his Journal Sentinel blog, quotes WTMJ General Manager Jon Schweitzer as saying, “We support Charlie, just as we do anytime that he writes about or discusses sensitive topics that are likely to incite pretty heavy feelings. This is one of those sensitive areas. It deserves to be discussed, and needs to be discussed.”

But White said that the “discussion” has been mere “name-calling” and has added nothing to civil discourse about religion and politics. “It’s important to look at the tone of the responses,” White said.

Paula Simon, executive director of the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations and Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said that changing the Star of David to a swastika crossed the line. In fact, she said, similar changes are regularly made in anti-Semitic propaganda, and the substitution provokes something deeper than mere discussion. She said that while she supports a free exchange of ideas, WTMJ “has some responsibility to set some standards. There are some limits.”

Sykes is still flogging his blog uproar, perhaps delighted in feeling at least somewhat relevant, even if it is at the expense of two of the world’s major religions. But we have to ask: At the same time President Bush is bringing together leaders from the Mideast for a peace conference—including those from Saudi Arabia, home to the majority of 9/11 attackers, as well as Syria, Palestine and Israel—must Sykes inflame bigotry for ratings as the enlightened world passes him by?

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