Around Town: 'The other side' depends on point of view

The mainstream media can be fickle. The media covers what it wants to cover and when it does, the duration can be painfully short, hence the phrase, “15 minutes of fame.”

It’s easy to feel ignored. The American mainstream media does not cover every book, project or film.

I learned this a few years ago, when we helped to promote “In the Shadow of Greatness,” a nonprofit book written by members of the Naval Academy Class of 2002. Sure, we made the L.A. Times Bestseller list, made it onto Fox & Friends and CSPAN, and had readings at independent bookstores from San Diego to San Francisco, including Vroman’s and Flintridge Bookstore.

The Barnes & Noble at the Grove, however, didn’t want us.

“Not our demographic,” said their scheduler.

“What is your demographic?” I asked.

“Anything on Bravo TV,” she replied, “The Kardashians. Reality TV...”

That’s why, on one level, I can understand Patrick Stewart’s frustration that his 2012 indie film, “It's better to jump,” about the Middle East, told from the Palestinian perspective, has not gained national coverage.

Two weeks ago, in a front-page Valley Sun story, Stewart explained, “There is no counterpoint (presented in the film) — this is the view of the Palestinians. The other side of the story is told every day.”

In response, La Cañadan (and fellow Thursday Club board member) Barbara Self, in a letter to the editor, gently pointed out a flaw in Stewart’s argument. She wrote: “I have no issue with his documentary that exclusively tells the Palestinian side but only with his statement that ‘the other side of the story is told every day.’ His assertion that Israel's side is reported every day is unfounded. This statement leads the readers to believe the Palestinian side is rarely reported. Watch CNN, read the N.Y. Times or other news outlets and decide for yourself.”

Self is correct that there is ample coverage of the Palestinian position in American media. Perhaps Stewart feels that front page coverage in the Valley Sun is insufficient, but now there's a new kid on the block. Last August, Al Gore's Current TV was sold to Al Jazeera, and their American news channel provides a substantial outlet for Stewart’s point of view. In fact, Stewart’s film was shown at the 2013 Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival. There were enormous cash awards in different categories, but Stewart’s film lost to a film called “Turtle’s Rage.”

Stewart is on the steering committee of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge. In that capacity, he has a 1st Amendment right to say what he wants, but why blame “one-sided coverage” in a free speech society where many points of view are expressed, and where both the mainstream media and specific outlets present his point of view? The inaccurate statement has a chilling effect on further dialogue.

One local leader who always leaves room for dialogue is Najeeba Syeed-Miller, a Muslim professor in interreligious studies at the Claremont Graduate School of Theology. She is a young mom, she is observant and wears the hijab. Syeed-Miller is a specialist in global interfaith peacemaking. Her inspirational poem “Radicalizing Empathy,” begins with these words, “not all activists activate, nor instigate aloud...”

The world may be imperfect, but La Cañada is a wonderful town. Each of us has the potential to be one of a “thousand points of light.” Each of us can further the dialogue. What we do here matters.

Bravo to Barbara Self for the courage to question a questionable statement on the front page of our local newspaper. Right here in La Cañada.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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