Manufacturing the news: Ellison edition

Of the many controversies that have afflicted Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, none is sillier--and more bogus--than this week's kerfuffle over Ellison's stated intention to take his oath of office on the Qur'an. As you probably know by now, the "debate" was ignited by Salem Radio Network host Dennis Prager. In his syndicated column, Prager (whose frothing can be heard in the Twin Cities at 1280-AM The Patriot) complained that Ellison's "act undermines American civilization." Implicit in all this, of course, was Prager's transparent plea for publicity. Come Friday morning, the Strib obligingly weighed in with a page one story that was... okay, not as dreadful as the headline, "Oath on the Qur'an: Provocation or act of faith?"

That the Newspaper of the Twin Cities deemed the story worthy of front page treatment--and framed it as if there was some legitimate debate to engage--speaks volumes. Still, given the paper's decision to accept such a "controversy" as news, it is unfortunate that its reporters couldn't be bothered to dig as deeply as the folks over at the website ThinkProgress, who exposed the utterly vapid nature of the controversy. Money quote:

Prager's column is based on one other glaring error: the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book. The Office of the House Clerk confirmed to ThinkProgress that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony. (Occasionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible).

With that in mind, might we suggest a more fitting alternate headline for the Strib's front page: "Oath on the Qur'an: Photo-op or just red meat for hapless culture warriors?"