The most effective way to deal with the two-bit Florida ‘pastor’ planning to make a bonfire of Qurans on 9/11? No, not string him up by his heels. Something far more effective: Ignore him. Pay no attention. Zip. Nada. Nothing.
But that won’t happen. The old TV newsroom adage is “Flames lead.” A fire, an explosion, a bombing – all are ways to improve ratings, occasions to appeal to the arsonist apparently latent in the visual mind. In the incendiary anti-Muslim atmosphere carefully built up over the past few months by ultra-right-wing bigots, no “self-respecting” newsroom director will dream for a moment of holding back.
Never mind that General David Petraeus warns that such an event could place American troops in more danger than ever. Hey, if Americans die because of this, that’s even more news! So there they are, all the news directors, salivating at the prospect of a huge, hot weekend: the festive end of Ramadan and the solemnity of Rosh HaShana on Thursday and Friday followed by 9/11 on Saturday (and, just to add a bit of sentimental spice to it all, Grandparents Day on Sunday).
So the heat is on and the bigots are out in force. The latest to wave his slimy flag: Marty Peretz, owner of The New Republic and self-appointed champion of any right-wing Israeli government:
Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims… So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.
Let’s not go into the ghastly vision of the state of Peretz’ gut. Enough to say that white-collar bigots like him provide the gasoline for blue-collar nutcases like pseudo-pastor Terry Jones, a pathetic crackpot right out of a William Burroughs heroin nightmare, whose fifty followers (yes, all of 50) apparently believe that a dove is a bird of prey.
Peretz would never burn a Quran himself, of course. He might get his hands dirty that way. Might even burn them. He leaves that to the gun-totin’ pastor, who has apparently never read the ‘red-letter words’ of the Gospels – the actual words of Jesus. Ignorance is ecstasy for Terry Jones, who is blithely unaware that he might as well be burning Jesus.
But then that’s what Christian bigots do – they burn the cross. On other people’s lawns, that is, prior to lynching them by the light of bonfires. It’s what fascists did just a few years before, using ovens instead of bonfires. It’s what Catholic clerics did in the Spanish Inquisition, roasting people alive on spits. As the poet Heinrich Heine wrote: “Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people.”
Could media restraint really hold this back? The question is moot, because it won’t happen. When I lived in and reported from Jerusalem, I saw American newsmen shove people to the ground to get a good shot in the aftermath of a bombing. I saw them practically shouting for joy when there was a terrorist attack which would land them a front-page story or a lead-off spot on the nightly news. Other people’s disasters were their chance for the limelight. So they won’t hesitate to help make a nutcase like Terry Jones into an international name, to place naïve American soldiers in danger, and to make Christians the world over targets for retaliation.
All for ratings, all for vanity. A bonfire of the vanities indeed.
It’s funny, but I have the same conflicted feelings about the media that I have about education. There’s so much potential, and such a history, of doing truly good deeds; opening people’s eyes to their own follies and illusions, showing them their better facets at the same time they warn us of the ease of following the easy path of bigotry.
But so often, all that potential is wasted on a headline, even when the headline is the easy point of the day. Like this story about an evil person, the story really isn’t the existence of such a thing, but that the community around him has allowed him and his followers to become what they are; is the whole community bigoted? Does the town all believe the same thing? Does the community manage to survive and become less bigoted because of the controversy (probably- as that town is most likely starting to learn a lot about Islam and the Christian response…).
We can find that pastor in every country, in almost every community in the world. And the community that doesn’t have some equivalent is probably already controlled so tightly by someone just like him that any dissent is crushed immediately.
That’s not an interesting story though… or rather, it’s not an interesting headline. “Another bigot plans to incite violence toward those he hates” is just so pedantic. Who cares? But, “plans to burn the Quran stifled by mayor, police” is titillating.
Makes me think of NCLB…
You’re right, Lavrans — it’s titillation: the trivialization of news. And of course the response of the Gainsville community — from the mayor on down, condemning Terry Jones and his like — has received hardly any coverage.
Whether people might become less bigoted as a result of the controversy is an interesting question. Can confronting people with their own bigotry work? With the exception of those for whom it defines their lives — the professional bigots, as it were, who rely on it as a means of self-aggrandizement — I tend to think it can. Or maybe I want to think it can…
I agree Lesley, as is customary the media is a business that thrives on the dark side of the human persona. With such great access and leverage at their disposal, it is a shame that they don’t use it to promote peace and harmony amongst people.
I wonder what this infers about us human beings. After all the media are only concerned with ratings and they will always only print the stories they believe will attract the most attention. The media is a business and business as we know, often has no conscience. So we should not be surprised at the position they have taken.
Clearly this pastor is hopelessly misinformed and based on the information i have at hand, it seems that he is also arrogant. A disastrous combination to say the least. Confronting him might make him even more stubborn. Alternatively, he may be a marketing genius and he has identified the potential to acquire some free advertising for his Church. After all he only has 50 followers at the moment. Incidentally, like millions of people around the world, I hope that reason prevails and that he restrains himself from carrying out this ghastly act.
As a muslim, I share your view that it might be best to simply ignore this bigot and to deny him the courteousy of an audience.
[…] I agree with author (and my former writing instructor) Lesley Hazleton, who says in her post Burning Jesus, that Florida pastor Terry Jones deserves to be completely ignored. However, I’m not sure […]
Lesley, I agree Terry Jones deserves to be ignored. I’m less certain we can or should expect the media to do so. Asking the media to ignore (or cover) stories we like (or dislike) seems like a very slippery slope to me.
More importantly, anyone with a cell phone and a computer is part of “the media” today. And in general that’s a good thing.
I posted a bit more on this here: http://hskatz.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/ignoring-terry-jones/
I have yet to meet the person on the far right who will let fact or truth get between them and the hatred they’ve accepted into their hearts.
When I attended Eid prayers, there was a CBC reporter there with a video camera, asking people what they thought about this issue. I was asked and responded that, to my knowledge, burning the qur’an is one of two acceptable ways of disposing of one (the other being burial), and that these people seem to have a lack of respect
for other peoples scripture, so better they burn
them then have them in their homes to
Apparently, that was as “Fundamentalist” a response as he could get because I don’t think the piece ever saw the light of day.
After getting over myself Re: the CBC wanting to hear MY opinion, I remembered a story our Imam told during one khutbah. It was around the time of the Salmand Rushdie fatwa controversy. In Ottawa, the same CBC was interviewing people in the Muslim community about their feelings on this topic. Almost everyone asked responded by saying that the man has a right to his opinion and that god would judge him and punish or reward him as he saw fit. The exception was a young man in his teens who agreed with the fatwa. This was the interview which was run. The good thing was that, because of the anger in the Muslim community, the truth was revealed, but only to those interested in digging for it.