Too many column inches have already been devoted to the inarticulate pastor in a cheap suit—the Lemmy Kilmister of Florida fundamentalism, Terry Jones—so I guess, making my modest contribution, I’m required to repeat what should be obvious to any reasonable news consumer: “Pastor” Jones is a knuckle-dragging lunatic who deserves only the attention of those dumb enough to have joined his church. And no, he isn’t “skilled” at playing the media; any rube with a freakazoid flock can gin up coverage by promising a Koran bonfire on the anniversary of 9/11. Here is Michael Calderone, Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, and Howard Kurtz on the media scrum.
But the Mohammad cartoon business, once seen as a fleeting moment of media cowardice, has had something of a lasting effect, establishing a disturbing set of media rules by which one deals with critics, both rational and irrational, of Islam. In Sweden, the government forced a private hosting company to pull the plug on a website hosting the offending cartoons. It’s a different situation, one without the deeply sinister threat of government intervention, but the web hosting company Rackspace, which hosts this website, yanked Jones’s site today, establishing an editorial policy, it seems, on what its customers can say about religion. That is, of course, their right.
After MSNBC flooded the zone today with coverage of Jones, one of its producers tweeted that if Koranopalloza goes forward the network "shall then determine what images, if any, are to be broadcast or posted." Look, if you are going to cover this non-story (BREAKING: Insane, Superstitious Florida Man Hates Islam!), then cover it all the way. Fox News says that it wouldn’t broadcast the Koran burning, but primarily because it doesn’t think it rates as a news story. It churns the stomach to think that this dope’s contribution to religious debate is setting the Koran alight—or burning the books of Erich Maria Remarque and Thomas Mann—but I think we are all adult enough to see such images, if the story is considered newsworthy by the networks.
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand why Muslims would by offended by the burning of their holy book (or Christians, for that matter), but perhaps some of the focus should be removed from Terry Jones and on to those tender souls that, in response to stupid provocation, threaten violence. If a minor league pastor in Florida can cause masses of people to hit the streets in Pakistan, perhaps the problem lies more in Pakistan than in Florida.
Oh, and just while I was posting this, Jones said he was calling off his publicity stunt, having gotten all the publicity he needed, I suppose.