Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brendan O'Neill Shreds Liberal Stupidity About the Quran Burning

Yes, Pastor Jones' Quran burning should probably not have taken place. It is far too broad a condemnation, absolutely insensitive, and little more than a rudimentary form of protest that should be beneath sensible Christians or Americans. It is an act that brought those who participated closer to the lower levels of humanity populated by the Muslim fanatics they wanted to denounce.

But ultimately, it was an act of free speech, protected by the United States Constitution, and the calls to blame him for acts of violence overseas are ridiculous.

This is an utterly brilliant analogy conveying that very point. Enjoy.


Pastor Terry Jones is no more to blame for the Afghan violence than Martin Scorsese was for the shooting of Ronald Reagan

The American pastor Terry Jones might be a bit of a weirdo with an unhealthy obsession with the Koran, but he’s right about one thing: he is not responsible for the fatal rioting in Afghanistan. His burning of the Koran can no more be blamed for those acts of violence than Martin Scorsese can be blamed for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. (Reagan’s wannabe assassin, John Hinckley Jnr, claimed to have been inspired by Taxi Driver.) The feverish attempts to pin the blame for the Afghan instability on Pastor Jones demonises freedom of speech as something terrifying, even murderous, and it treats Muslims as brainless, wide-eyed automatons who can’t be held responsible for their actions.

Jones’s burning of the Koran was daft. But it did not directly cause “the tragic, deadly violence” in Afghanistan, as one Pentagon spokesman claimed. To suggest that it did, to argue that Jones has “blood on his hands”, as the New York Daily News put it, is to overlook the fact that there is an important bridge between words and actions. That bridge is us, people, the audience, the public, who are possessed of free will and thought and who must make a decision about whether, and how, to act on the words we hear. The idea that words lead directly to action, that the image of a burning Koran in the US leads inevitably to violence in Afghanistan, is to cut out these middle men and present speech as an all-powerful force that dictates world events.

Such an outlook is dangerous for two reasons. First because there would be no limits to the curbing and policing of speech if we all bought into the mad notion that it can directly cause other people’s deaths. If words really are so dangerous, then surely they should be treated as just another weapon, like gun and knives, whose usage must be tightly controlled by the cops and powers-that-be? Already, post-Koran controversy, some Democratic politicians in the US are hinting that the First Amendment, which guarantees free expression, might need to be rethought, since certain forms of speech “endanger the lives of a lot of innocent people”. The consequence of calling into question the free will of people who hear or read certain words is to generate an Orwellian rush to clamp down on anything judged to be “problematic speech”.

And the second problem with the “blame Jones” brigade is that it lets rioting Afghans off the hook. It says they’re not really responsible for the bloodshed they unleashed; Jones is. There’s a great irony here, because many of the commentators who make this argument do so in order to express their apparently enlightened and cosmopolitan sympathy with beleaguered Muslims in Afghanistan, yet in the process they patronisingly depict Afghans as overgrown children, as attack dogs almost, who hear a command or see an offensive image and act on it, robot-like. Modern-day liberal pity for Muslims would seem to be a comfortable bedfellow of the old-world colonial outlook: in both instances Third World people are treated as hapless, helpless creatures who must have their eyes and ears shielded from dodgy ideas.

The consequences of taking this approach to the Koran controversy are potentially dire. Just as in the Muhammad cartoons controversy, Western liberal politicians and thinkers are giving Muslims a licence to feel offended, a licence to go crazy; they are effectively legitimising violent responses to offensive images by saying: “It’s understandable. This is what happens when we fail to respect their culture.” Given a green light by self-flagellating Western observers, who will be surprised if groups of Muslims behave in a similar fashion next time someone pulps a Koran or depicts Muhammad as a goat?

Original article may be found at: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100082375/pastor-terry-jones-is-no-more-to-blame-for-the-afghan-violence-than-martin-scorsese-was-for-the-shooting-of-ronald-reagan/

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