09 Sep 2010

So Is the Florida Book-Burner a Fool or Clever?

Conspiracy 20 Comments

Thus far I haven’t commented on this absurdity because I had nothing to add. Since (I suspect) the whole reason this pastor is doing all this is for a giant publicity stunt–he apparently said that if President Obama wanted to call him, he’d reconsider (!!)–I didn’t want to play into his hands by discussing the controversy with the hordes of Free Advice faithful.

However, now I think I have something to add. Just to bring you up to speed:

During [Thursday] afternoon, Jones canceled his plan to burn copies of the Quran, based on what he said were assurances from a local Muslim leader that the Islamic center in New York would be moved — an assertion rejected by the center’s visionary in New York.

Jones, leader of the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center, announced he will travel Saturday to New York to meet with the religious leader behind the planned center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, about a new location.

But that, too, was questioned.

Rauf and Imam Muhammad Musri, a Florida Muslim leader who appeared with Jones, said later no agreement on a meeting or relocation of the mosque had been reached.

Jones insisted the church “put a temporary hold” on the Quran burning event after he had been told by Musri of a deal to move the New York mosque.

“I am actually very disappointed and very shocked because if this turns out to be true, he [Musri] clearly, clearly lied to us,” Jones said Thursday evening.

Wayne Sapp, associate pastor of the small church, said that the Quran burning scheduled for Saturday was postponed until the proposed meeting in New York is confirmed. The church will wait 24 hours to confirm the meeting will take place before making any further decision about the Quran burning, Sapp said.

Rauf issued a statement a few hours earlier.

“I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony.”

The back-and-forth over the mosque location and the meeting continued into the evening Thursday. Jones insisted he had been told of a deal on moving the center, but Musri said instead he was brokering a meeting with Rauf.

“We are canceling the event because they have agreed to move the ground zero mosque,” Jones said, claiming his announcement was based on several conversations with Musri.

But the latter said he had not spoken with Rauf and was not authorized to say the Islamic center would be moved. Jones may have “stretched” their conversations to say there was a deal, Musri told CNN.

He said he believes Jones knows there was no deal on the mosque and may be using Thursday’s controversy to gain leverage on the proposed mosque.

This guy might be very clever. He achieves what he wanted–worldwide notoriety–by planning on burning a bunch of books. But I bet he was surprised at the uniformly negative reaction he got.

I myself was surprised. To their credit, even the most blowhard, USA! USA!, right-wing radio talk show hosts on the local Tennessee stations were denouncing this guy as un-Christian and dumb. I expected a much more reserved condemnation from them, but nope, they unequivocally said he was totally wrong and this made no sense from a Christian point of view.

“Well shoot, I knew Olbermann was going to denounce me, but even the right-wing talk show hosts?!” he may have thought. What to do, what to do?!

A ha! Show that’s a reasonable guy after all, by calling off the book burning. But then, accuse the dirty Muslim of lying to his face about it, and in a way that directly links it to the broader issue of the Ground Zero Vicinity Almost-Mosque.

Really, just suppose for a second that what the Muslim cleric (Musri) is saying in the quote above is true. Suppose he approached the pastor and said, “Suppose I could get you a meeting with Imam Rauf about the location of the Manhattan center. Would that placate you?”

And then the pastor went from that meeting to a press conference, announcing, “We are postponing our book blaze because Musri just promised that Rauf was relocating the center.”

Can you imagine how shell-shocked Musri and Rauf would be?

The sheer audacity of it is brilliant. The right-wing blowhards know that burning books is dumb, but NOW it’s been cast as an issue of not backing down from the Muslims. I mean, if the pastor caves in now, that will just embolden our enemies. We have to show that we’re strong.

(Speaking of war rhetoric, notice the pastor’s position: He is saying we will carry out this destructive act that does nothing to us but will horrify our opponents, unless our demands are met within 24 hours. Hmm what does that sound like?)

20 Responses to “So Is the Florida Book-Burner a Fool or Clever?”

  1. dhlii says:

    I find it really hard to defend book burning. And my personal initial reaction was what kind of nutcase wants to crap all over a religion with elements that are known to kill people for far smaller insults – I mean South park backed down from even tepid insults directed at these people.

    At the same time I would suggest it is useful to contrast Jones with the Mosque builders. Both are engaged in acts they should legally be allowed to do, acts that are also deeply offensive to others.

    Jones is nuts. But he makes the Mosque proponents look bad at the same time. His proposed actions make it clear that there are differences between what one can do, and what one should do.

    Jones is also a seeking national and global attention – again sounds familiar.

    He is probably going to benefit financially – familiar ?

    He may or may not go through with what he intends, in fact he may never have intended to do what he threatens – familiar ?

    In the end he has made himself look nuts – but he has diminished the Ground Zero Mosque at the same time. The biggest difference is that Jones is picking a fight with people known to kill, and the GZ Mosque builders are depending on our reasonableness even when our passions are inflamed for their own safety.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Yeah good points. Just to be clear, everyone, I am not subscribing to what seems to be “the” libertarian position on the Manhattan center. There’s a big difference between having the right to do something with your property, and it being a good idea / polite to do so. As dhlii alludes to, the Florida pastor presumably was going to buy the books before burning them. So “let’s just make it all about property rights” means nobody should be condemning him, and yet a lot of the libertarians I’ve read are saying what a jerk the guy is etc. (But they didn’t say the Manhattan guy is a jerk.)

      • Argosy Jones says:

        I get what you’re saying here, but what about this wrinkle: I believe that a good deal of the offense taken to the Manhattan mosque plan has been “ginned up” in that it is in response to misleading rhetoric designed to get people angry, rather than in response to the actual plans for the building. This belief is debatable, but assuming it’s true, I’m not sure I think the Mosque’s planners and funders are really being jerks here. Maybe the calculation changes once the outrage ensues. I’m not sure I want to live in the kind of place where outrage can be manufactured successfully to bully someone out of building what I think should not be a controversial building.

      • JimS says:

        I agree, some excellent points.

        I think that the pastor intended to do something mean and accidentally got a result he desired. That is, I do not believe he did this intentionally to stop the mosque, he had other reasons. When he got this result he said great; sort of like Pee Wee Herman responding to an accident by saying, “I meant to do that.”

        What the pastor did is somewhat akin to extortion. In another post you bring up the excellent example of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. What if the pastor held the Imam’s child and threatened to harm him (it has to be a male because, well, I better not say. Also, I am certainly NOT saying God tried to extort). This would be extortion, plain and simple. In my mind, so was the threatened burning.

        Dhlii is right, this “pastor” sunk to the lowest common denominator. Not really admirable.

        Since you like direct answers, Dr. Murphy, the pastor is a fool.


      • Argosy Jones says:

        PS. I don’t think the pastor’s lie/gaffe is going to get him any traction. Accepting the offer to meet with the mosque planners would have made him seem like a self aware provocateur who wanted to make the point that just because you have the legal right to do something doesn’t mean you should.

        His false statement claiming victory in the mosque dispute makes him look either mendacious, or incompetent.

      • John T. Kennedy says:

        The pastor doesn’t belong to a protected class. If the book burning had been threatened by women or gays protesting barbaric muslim customs which harm women and gays, reactions would be very different. Bet the farm that Obama wouldn’t have put his two cents in.

        Greg Gutfeld of Redeye has been promising to build a gay bar, tentatively named “Outfidels!”right next to the Ground Zero Mosque. I don’t expect this to happen but he has repeatedly insisted he is serious and many people are willing to fund the project. Part of what shields Gutfeld from the kind of backlash the pastor is facing is that gays are a recognized victim class.

        It’s important to focus on the property rights of the mosque builders because those rights are in jeopardy – many are calling for selective enforcement of the law to abridge those rights, and that may well happen. And I’ve seen talking heads calling for all sorts of selective enforcement of law to stop the pastor from burning the Koran. Would you be defending his right to burn the book if cops had stopped him on a manufactured charge? Rights are rights.

        And people of course have a right to criticize the exercise of rights.

      • RG says:

        It reminds me of a story from LA county a few years back about a guy caught fornicating with a Chihuahua in the woods. When the police approached him (while in the act) and told him he was under arrest, he became incredulous shouting “But it’s my dog!”.

        • John T. Kennedy says:

          As if that should matter to anyone..

          • RG says:

            I think the looney had a good property rights argument. It was HIS dog.

            I also believe the same argument applies to both the proposed mosque in Manhattan and the Koran burning.

            Just because it makes some people angry shouldn’t keep you from doing what you want with your property – even your pets.

            …unless you want to draw the property line somewhere south of mammals.

  2. fundamentalist says:

    The guy is a fool, but the press, religious leaders and politicians who gave him the press he wanted are the bigger fools. They should have ignored him.

    Few people are talking about Islam being a religion of peace. How can they claim they have a religion of peace and threaten to kill Americans all around the world if one nut burns a Koran?

    The media and politicians think is so horrible to burn a Koran, but what about the dozens of Christians murdered every year by Muslims around the world? Are people less valuable than books? And if you don’t believe it, check our persecution.org.

    As for a religion of peace, Saudi Arabia allows no churches or synagogues at all in the country. And they regularly arrest Christians from other countries, mainly the Philippines, for holding services in their apartments. In many Muslim countries Muslims kidnap young Christian girls and force them into marriage with Muslims then force them to convert to Islam and the police will do nothing about it. Yet the American media gets very upset when one idiot decides to burn a book.

  3. RG says:

    I was looking forward to the burning and the reaction. I hope some people take up the banner and go ahead with it. I’m neither Christian, nor “Islamaphobic”. I just like a good laugh at the expense of a holy war.

    I just thought the administration and a good portion of the media would come out in favor of the burning on economic grounds. This guy promised to stimulate the economy and create jobs by burning books.

  4. Chris says:

    The cleverest thing about the whole situation is that it has shown the inconsistencies in the pure legal argument by confronting one inappropriate and indefensible, yet legal, act with another. The condemnations of the proposed burning of the Quran were only possible because of the intellectual consistency inherent in the position against both the mosque and the book burning. The only person to come out FOR both is NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, either for the sake of consistency or because he generally believes that because they are legal makes them OK. Additionally, those who are trying to salvage their previous endorsement of the mosque have been forced into making the issue on of National Security (i.e. the safety of the soldiers), which proves that patriotism is indeed the last refuge of a scoundrel.

    Per Bret Stephens of WSJ: “We are all getting an interesting lesson in civics.”

  5. PhG says:

    Another book burning event :

    (from :

    The central banking and political world are up in arms about a planned John Maynard Keynes book burning.
    The burning was announced by Jeff Berwick, Chief Editor of The Dollar Vigilante, to take place on December 23, the anniversary of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
    Top central bankers in the United States warned that flimsy economic theories would be in danger if the burning of a copy of John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest & Money went ahead.
    “What is most dangerous,” stated one central banker, “is if this causes people to even logically think for more than a few moments about economics then this entire structure we’ve built could begin to collapse. We’ve done a great job for a long time telling the average man on the street that economics is too difficult to understand.”
    US diplomats and members of the Goldman Sachs’ run Department of Treasury called the plan, “disrespectful and dangerous”.
    But organizer, Jeff Berwick, Chief Editor of The Dollar Vigilante said: “We must send a clear message to the radical element of Keynesians,” he continued, “Which, basically means, all Keynesians.”
    The controversy comes at a time when Federal Reserve and US Treasury officials have bankrupted the country by blindly following Keynesian economics.
    “In addition to being offensive, the Keynes protest puts at risk those brave Americans who are fighting abroad for the freedoms and values that we believe in as Americans,” said one US Senator. “Those values being that the government creates a central bank who manipulates the price of money and uses inflation as a hidden tax.”
    Riots and demonstrations have erupted in numerous locations where central bankers and politicos gather including Jackson Hole, Wyoming where one central banker was quoted as saying, “This is an attack on our religion and we will not stand for it!”
    Asked if they had plans of their own to burn F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and Ludwig Von Mises The Theory of Money and Credit most central bankers acted confused and did not seem familiar with the books.
    A high ranking US diplomat who wished to remain anonymous stated, “This could very well bring an end to the American way of life. If the burning of Keyne’s book goes forward it very quickly could bring into question all of our basic values including the right for the government to print as much money as is needed to enter into as many wars as is necessary to keep the military industrial complex happy.”
    Despite all the pleas for a stop to the burning, Jeff Berwick remained adamant that he is going to go through with the burning, stating, “I think I’ll burn a copy of the New York Times which contains any article by Paul Krugman too.”

    • david says:

      Cute. I particularly like the bit about the central bankers not being familiar Hayek and Mises.

    • fundamentalist says:

      Are you sure this isn’t from the Onion?

  6. david says:

    It seems to me that, in the case of the mosque, the libertarian position has been not only that it is all about property rights but that, if in fact it is simply a matter of property rights, others have no legitimate interest in opposing the mosque. Put another way, it is no one’s business apart from the property owners’.

    Similarly, on the assumption that free speech is a subset of self-ownership and that the pastor had legitimate ownership of the copy of the Koran in question, I would have thought the libertarian position would be symmetrical to their position on the mosque (including the part about it not being any of our business). Certainly, if he had threatened to burn the flag or an effigy of Dick Cheney, it would have been considered no big deal and most would have paid him no attention (apart from, in certain circles, cheering him on).

    My sense is that underlying the negative reaction to the mosque is the fear, recognition or suspicion that it may be an implied threat or, failing that, a symbol of Western acquiescence to an ideology that is profoundly antihetical to, among other things, liberty and libertarianism. The extent of the reaction to the pastor’s proposal was, like the reaction to the publishing of the cartoons and to the potential re-publishing of the cartoons as a show of solidarity in other western media (along with other prominent cases of self-censorship out of fear for the publishers’ physical safety), very clear evidence that, despite polite opinion, most people believe that such a threat exists, at least in some contexts.

    I don’t know enough about libertarian theory to know how one determines when a threat has been made or whether simply making a threat is a trespass of some kind but perhaps it is possible that even a rigorously libertarian analysis of the mosque could be more nuanced?

  7. James Francis says:

    I find it interesting that the president, the general and the secretary of state admonished the pastor to restrain himself from burning the book because it may perhaps infuriate the Muslim. And that would be bad. But those three government leaders turned a blind eye to the possibility that invading Iraq and Afghanistan, killing Muslims, incarcerating and interrogating Muslims, etc. is going inflame anyone, least of all any Muslim radicals. I guess the belief is that the U.S. can bomb the Muslim world to smithereens and the Muslims will tolerate it; but don’t ever think of or threaten to burn a copy of the Koran. Now that will deeply anger Muslims throughout the world and as a consequence place U.S. troops in greater danger of retaliation. And that would be bad.

  8. Teqzilla says:

    I have been disgusted by the media’s role in this. The pastor is a non-entity who didn’t warrant any media attention whatsoever, and he only got it is because the proposed quran burning fit with the current media narrative about a supposed upswing in anti-muslim sentiment manifesting itself as opposition to the mosque.

    It is a sick and dangerous hypocrisy to portray political opponents as anti muslim bigots, elevate actual anti-muslim bigots to aid in the process, and then intone sombrely how those you are so attacking should consider how we are seen in the eyes of Muslim world. Tip for the media: if you want muslims to think better of us, stop telling them how much we hate muslims all the time.

  9. Jeremy says:

    The only thing I find offensive about this whole story is that some attempt to rationalize violence because of it. I fail to see the wisdom behind thinking murder and violence is an acceptable response to burning a book.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Well the latest is that the church was sent a $200,000 bill for “security charges”. Aparently if you live in Gainsville Florida it costs extra if you want freedom of expression and freedom of speech protected.

    I find this offensive too.