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Terry Jones' Koran Burning In Florida Is A Brilliant Marketing Ploy

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I was reading Thursday’s Metro, page 6: “Worldwide uproar over Quran burning.” Subtitle: Afghan police on high alert in case protest breaks out. Demonstrators chanting ‘death to America.’ The photo on the page showed a protest already in progress by a large group of Indonesian Muslims and Christians. All of this because Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville Florida planning to burn a stack of Qurans on the anniversary of September 11th.

And Pastor Jones got the attention of the White House: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs have all condemned the action, echoing General David Petraeus’ warnings that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence."  And on Thursday morning President Obama himself weighed in, also emphasizing that …“this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform."

The problem of course is that Pastor Jones is well within his constitutional rights to burn the Quran. Book-burning, like flag burning, is protected by the First Amendment. There is nothing anyone could legally do to stop him and any forcible measures would indeed trample the constitution. But that doesn’t make his actions wise or right. Americans have been asked to view the building of the mosque at ground zero as a test of their religious tolerance. Similarly, Pastor Jones’ actions are a real test of our constitutional tolerance – does America have the stomach to defend a citizen’s rights of free speech even if 99.9% of the country is in total disagreement and views his actions as deplorable?

Hopefully, we won’t have to undergo that test. As we were going to press with this article, Pastor Jones cancelled the event, claiming that in doing so he had negotiated the re-location of the Ground Zero Mosque, although the latter’s sponsors deny such allegations.  Later breaking news showed Jones waffling again, so we may not know for sure until Saturday whether the quran burning will actually take place.

But what I don’t understand is how the actions of a backwaters pastor ever got the attention that they did in the first place. It’s not like the guy had a dirty bomb or pile of anthrax hidden somewhere. He wasn’t holding hostages. He didn’t hole up in a public building with explosives strapped to himself. He’s essentially nobody who got far more than his 15 minutes of fame by threatening to carry out a purely symbolic act on his own property. How much media attention was given to the desecration of the synagogue in the eastern German city of Dresden by neo-Nazis ahead of the anniversary of Kristallnacht just last month? And who is even paying attention to a University of Minnesota Professor’s pledge to follow a Florida student’s example in desecrating the Holy Eucharist?  Nut cases do things like this all the time but don’t get nearly the attention that Pastor Jones has received – and obviously is seeking. Who even heard of this guy before all of this?

And that’s the real problem – Jones successfully played much of the entire world for a fool as a means of getting attention for himself, his church and for selling his book. His actions were irresponsible and reprehensible but, as a marketing ploy, absolutely brilliant. Again – how can a backwaters pastor – a nobody - get the attention of the President, his cabinet and his general, the United Nations and millions of people worldwide by simply threatening to carry out a non-violent, symbolic act? When you step back from it, the entire idea is absolutely ludicrous.

Either by design or coincidence, I didn’t hear the pastor mentioned during three hours of Fox News the night before he cancelled the event – not a peep from O’Reilly, Hannity or Greta. I hope it was by design, because that is the best way to treat nut cases like Jones – ignore them. Our 24-hour news cycle and insatiable appetite for the sensational provides opportunists like Jones the attention they crave and far more than they deserve. Why should anyone really care what Pastor Jones does at his tiny church on a Saturday afternoon? He’s a nobody and should be treated as such. And we should all be above falling for such idiocy again, regardless of the ultimate outcome of this event.

Email George Leon at george_h_leon@yahoo.com