Obsession' DVD triggers wave of outrage, criticism


This isn't technically my area, but . . .

Many readers have called or written to me about the DVD 'Obsession' that was inserted as a paid advertisement in The Blade on Sunday, Sept. 14. The reaction that I received was all harshly negative.

'You are a disgrace,' one anonymous woman yelled on my voice mail. 'Why didn't you, as an ombudsman, stop this from running in the paper?'

There were several other responses on the same theme. So I think I need to clarify my role. First of all, my job isn't to stop anything from appearing in The Blade. Most of the time, I don't have any more idea what is going to be in the newspaper than any reader.

Occasionally I am asked for advice by reporters or editors about things I know a lot about, primarily Michigan affairs.

But I do not make policy. I merely discuss reader complaints or concerns, try to get you answers when I can, and, occasionally, share my own thoughts, which are not the policy of the newspaper.

Technically, 'Obsession' is not even something I would normally discuss because it wasn't part of the editorial product of the newspaper what reporters and editors produce.

It was a paid advertisement. In fact, The Blade appropriately explained all of this in a news story that ran in the paper on Sept. 20, under the headline, 'Ad worries members of Muslim community.'

Mark Zaborney, who wrote the story, quoted the man who made the decision, Joseph H. Zerbey IV, vice president and general manager of The Blade, as saying that the DVD 'is not a news product and its content is not a reflection of the views or opinion Of The Blade, its owners, or its employees.'

Nevertheless, many people were outraged.

Another reader, when I explained this to him, said, 'You just have no guts and are trying to avoid giving your opinion.'

For what it's worth, here's my opinion, which is likely to satisfy nobody.

While I recognize the newspaper's need for revenue, I wish The Blade had rejected this advertisement. I saw the fuller version of Obsession at a theater in a synagogue when it was released in 2006.

The two people I watched it with were both Jewish, and they both thought the film was over the top. While it was factual, and the dialogue noted that many Muslims are not extremist, that wasn't the impression it conveyed. It also juxtaposed images of Nazis with Islamic leaders, which is bound to be


My sense was that its distribution was designed by those who laced the ad (not The Blade) to inflame tensions during an election year.

Incidentally, I received a number of queries (or accusations) as to whether

the editors and owners approved this because they are Jewish. The fact is that none of them is. Nor does anyone in management at The Blade want to inflame tensions with Jews or Muslims.

I was also asked about my own background, so in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of no church but was raised a member of a Christian Protestant denomination. None of my blood relatives are Muslims or Jews, but I have close friends who are Jewish and Muslim.

And that, as Forrest Gump said, is all I have to say about that.


A reader named Len made what I think was an extremely sensible suggestion: Years ago, he reminded me, The Blade would periodically run a scorecard which listed how the area's various state and federal representatives voted on important bills that came up in Washington and Columbus. 'I know I can find that on