Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Giving Terry Jones a Platform

Before the summer, the fevered pronouncements of Terry Jones didn't get much of an audience beyond the 50 parishioners of his Gainesville, Fla., congregation. But by early September, the national — and global — media were hanging on his every word; he'd caused riots in Jakarta and Lahore, Pakistan, and was fielding personal calls from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and public appeals from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all because he'd threatened to burn a book. Book burning is no laughing matter, especially when the act is framed as an assault on the beliefs of an embattled minority, as was the case when Jones threatened to burn Islam's holy book, the Koran, to mark the anniversary of Sept. 11. But it was the media attention that made Jones' planned stunt a dangerous provocation, retaliation for which could endanger hundreds of thousands of Americans stationed in the Muslim world. Jones claimed to have given more than 150 interviews, many in which he revealed his ignorance about Islam. The story petered out when Jones called off his stunt, never to be heard from again — leaving the media to ponder their role in stoking the fire.