Saturday, 11 September 2010

Freedom of the Press. Yes, but . . . .

Today is the 9th anniversary of what Americans generally refer to as 9/11. The events of the day were shocking, and what shocked me most at the time was the ease with which the attackers were able to launch their devastating attack on the World Trade Center. Security procedures obviously needed to be tightened up. And they were - probably rather more than was necessary.

Alas, that was not all that happened. The war on terror was launched, which was to include the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. (For my thoughts, see here.) And the British and American governments passed legislation which seriously (and, in my opinion, unnecessarily) curtailed basic freedoms.

However, this year, 9/11 is particularly dismal. This is because, for the past few days, Terry Jones has been constantly in the headlines, because he planned to hold a Burn-a-Koran day. Mr. Jones, is the pastor of an independent congregation in Gainesville, Florida called the Dove World Outreach Center. The BBC says that it has about 50 members. (The DWOC website refers to him as Dr. Jones, and describes him as President of Dove Charismatic Ministries.)

Now it seems to me that the interesting thing about all this is not Mr. Jones’ plan to burn a few copies of Koran. The interesting thing is the amount of media attention that his plan received. And it struck me that if Mr. Jones could become instantly famous for announcing that he was going to hold a Burn-a-Koran day, so could I. Needless to say, I have no such plans, and nor to most other Christians in Britain - or the USA. But Mr. Jones does, because (not to put too fine a point on it) Mr. Jones is a nutter. (There are plenty of them around, no matter where in the world you go, and I'm not convinced that American Christians are, on the whole, any nuttier, on average, than other people.) But Mr. Jones has managed to become rather better known than most nutters, and to have worried a lot more people. Which is quite understandable, because it was felt that his action would probably lead to a rather extreme reaction from some other nutters. (Though if I’m being honest, I have to say that his planned response to the 9/11 incidents is actually fairly mild compared to that of some leading politicians . . . . )

Anyway, the point of the matter is that this nutter should simply have been ignored. He should have been allowed to get on with his book burning. The media should have realised that his plans were rather incendiary, and should have given them no publicity at all. That way I would not have heard of them, and nor would you, and nor would the Muslim world. Alas, the media failed to do what they should have done, and as a result, Mr. Jones is famous.

When Herostratus burned the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus in the year 356 B.C. in an effort to achieve fame, the authorities in the city of Ephesus, in order to discourage copy-cat incidents from fame-seekers, banned the mention of his name. You can see why.

It would have been utterly wrong for the authorities to ban the mention of Mr. Jones or his plans. Freedom of the press is important. But with freedom comes responsibility. And in my view, the behaviour of the press in this instance has been irresponsible. And the problem with that is that irresponsible behaviour brings freedom into disrepute.

Freedom-lovers, take note.

8 comments:

indigomyth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
indigomyth said...

//But Mr. Jones does, because (not to put too fine a point on it) Mr. Jones is a nutter. //

Granted, I do not know all the much about Mr Jones, other than his Koran burning ways, but can we really call him a "nutter" on the basis of burning what is, after all, a book containing very violent ideas? He may be a nutter for any number of additional reasons, but I doubt that burning a Koran is sufficient reason to qualify him. Perhaps "petty", or even "pathetic", but I doubt "nutter".

To be honest, I rather think it is entertaining to watch Korans being burned, and then see the reaction of Muslims - I hear in Afghanistan crowds were chanting "burn Christians". So, the usual proportional, sensible reaction from the Muslim world...

I think burning Korans show the Muslim world that we do not respect their religion, and that it does not have a superiority to the right of freedom of speach - which are lessons they need to learn.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Hello, indiogmyth!

"I think burning Korans show the Muslim world that we do not respect their religion, and that it does not have a superiority to the right of freedom of speach - which are lessons they need to learn."

I don't think that Mr. Jones' actions are going to help the learning process. And even if I think that the contents of Koran are almost wholly lacking in merit, I reckon that I should, out of politeness to Muslims, treat it with respect.

" ...can we really call him a "nutter" on the basis of burning what is, after all, a book containing very violent ideas?

Defining "nutter" is, I admit, not easy. I have met a lot of people in my life who I reckon are somewhere fairly far along the nutter spectrum, and it's not always easy to explain why one thinks that the person is a nutter.

In Mr. Jones case, there are rather a number of things which, taken individually, are prove nothing, but when added together, indicate that someone is probably a fruitcake.

1. Doing what nobody else is doing is, technically speaking ab-normal. There are millions of churches in the world, and millions of books which Christians consider to be deeply flawed, but it in the past few hundred years, few pastors have decided that a particular book is so bad that they make the effort of accumulating several copies of the said volume to burn them. Doing something that is so very highly unusual is not a good sign. Of course, there might be a good reason for doing it, but . . .

2. Burning Korans is pointless gimmick which does nothing to pastorally help believers or to commend the Christian faith to outsiders. Indeed, it probably endangers Christians living in Asia and North Africa.

3. Putting a notice outside your church advertising the time of the book burning makes it look like the guy is a publicity chaser.

4. The fact that his rather small congregation is called the Dove World Outreach Center makes it look like he lacks a sense of reality.

5. The fact that he styles himself as "President" of Dove Charismatic Ministries is likewise unrealistically grandiose.

I have a feeling that if I were to delve a little deeper, I'd find much more.

And . . . Phil Walker over at the Melangerie also says that he's a nutter. You aren't suggesting that the sagacious Mr. Walker is wrong, are you?

;-)

indigomyth said...

Glad you are back to blogging, and hope that you continue.

Re. Point 4 & 5, you are quite correct, it does seem to indicate a disproportionate perception of his own significance and importance.

//I don't think that Mr. Jones' actions are going to help the learning process. And even if I think that the contents of Koran are almost wholly lacking in merit, I reckon that I should, out of politeness to Muslims, treat it with respect.//

Hmmm, I rather favour Ambush Predator's approach. Treating Muslims with respect, and trying to understand them, has been a total failure. Were I to give full reign to the passions of my blood, I would probably unleash a torrent of violence against the Muslim world. I am morally forbidden from doing that, but I think Koran burning is a cathartic exercise that violates no ones rights. It exercises (as well as exorcises) ones rage at Islam, without killing anyone. It is like punching a wall instead of punching the person you have just found hitting on your wife.

//And . . . Phil Walker over at the Melangerie also says that he's a nutter. You aren't suggesting that the sagacious Mr. Walker is wrong, are you?//

I am afraid I have not read Mr Walker's blog. Is that another one I ought to be watching!? Good lord, I shall never have time to eat!

indigomyth said...

Indeed, perhaps it would have been better that we would have built pyres made of a million of Korans, rather than invading Iraq and Afghanistan. It would have offended the Muslims more than the death of their fellow believers, and yet would not have actually involved any murder (by us, at least).

I do agree with you regarding the increased risk to Christians in the Muslim world. That is a thorny issue - clearly Muslims need to be confronted, and perhaps the Muslims will kill Christians as a result of that. Perhaps we will have a chance to exact vengeance on them, at some point, for their murders?

Young Mr. Brown said...

Treating Muslims with respect, and trying to understand them, has been a total failure.

Total? While there are many Muslims who are, er, um, there are many Muslims who are decent and gentle people. They too are affronted by the behaviour of people like Mr. Jones.

I am afraid I have not read Mr Walker's blog. Is that another one I ought to be watching!? Good lord, I shall never have time to eat!

I know exactly what you mean. Life is short. However, Mr. Walker is very good. In fact, once you start reading him, you might not have time for me!

indigomyth said...

//Total? While there are many Muslims who are, er, um, there are many Muslims who are decent and gentle people. //

Okay, I should be more specific. Treating extremist and violent Muslims (so, the apparant majority of them) with respect and understanding, has been a total failure. I do not believe that one violent Muslim has been converted on the basis of "respect" and "understanding". And, those Muslims that are decent and gentle, would be decent and gentle, even were the Koran to be burned. If they react in a violent fashion ("Death to Christians"), then they were never decent and gentle to begin with.

//I know exactly what you mean. Life is short. However, Mr. Walker is very good. In fact, once you start reading him, you might not have time for me!//

Surely not!

indigomyth said...

Darn you, YMB! Just as I started reducing the amount of blogs I was reading, you crop up and give me a beut.

May even bookmark him. Have recently added Anna Raccoon to my regular reads - were I to also include Tory Bear (who is quite good) and Counting Cats, I would never get anything done. One may have to edge out Devil's Knife, since Chris is not posting much these days.