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Thursday, September 09, 2010

"I'm Not a Bigot. That Terry Jones Guy -- Now There's a Bigot"

As I've already pointed out, Florida preacher Terry Jones seems to have a lot in common with suicide cult-leader Jim Jones. It turns out that Jones was booted out of his church in Cologne, Germany for being a tyrant and more than a little goofy. According to Alex Seitz-Wald at Think Progress:

Former members of Jones' German church described a "climate of fear and control" and said Jones insisted on "blind obedience." Some former congregants are even "still undergoing therapy as a result of 'spiritual abuse.'" A German Protestant Church official familiar with Jones even said the pastor has a "delusional personality."

I'm a little lost on what "spiritual abuse" might be, but it's pretty obvious that Jones is a lunatic. If anything is clear about Jones from the totality of the record, it's that he's a headline grabbing clown with delusions of grandeur. He believes that Islam as a whole is evil, that moderate Muslims don't exist, and that Christianity -- and, by extension, the United States -- is at war with Islam. In short, the only thing that makes him any different from the rest of the anti-Islam nuts is that he plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of 9/11.

Which makes him a handy scapegoat for the haters. As anti-Muslim hysteria begins to get a bit out of hand, certain people are able to use Jones as a PR shield. "I don't hate Muslims, I'm not a bigot," they're able to say. "Look at this guy. Now there's a bigot!" The demagogues stoking the hate over a proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan now have a handy foil; yes, they believe that Islam is evil. Yes, they think we're at war with Islam. Yes, they believe all Muslims are terrorists. But they don't want to burn Qurans. Such things are unseemly. Such things simply are not done.

For example, high-profile Facebook troll Sarah Palin:

Book burning is antithetical to American ideals. People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation – much like building a mosque at Ground Zero.

At the very same time she's pretending to decry religious bigotry, she's practicing it. For Sarah, burning a pile of Qurans is exactly the same as building what amounts to a YMCA in your neighborhood. But that's not the point. The point is that she gets to pretend to be tolerant, while continuing her intolerant Muslim-baiting. This is setting the bar extremely low -- if you're not a lunatic cult-leader like Jones, out burning books with the intention of insulting a religious minority, you're the model of tolerance. As long as you don't actually burn a cross at Park51, you're practically Martin Luther King jr.

Likewise, Pam Geller -- that simmering little pot of hate whose campaign against Muslims has earned her the respect of white supremacists -- has also come out against Jones's plan. And she does exactly the same thing that Palin does -- equate book-burning to building a community center.

The 911 quran burning in Florida is a dumb idea. I don't support such acts. Book burnings are always a bad idea. But Muslims have nothing to fear from those Christians. It is insensitive for that church to burn the quran, but it is still a free country, is it not? Islamic supremacists can't whine about "insensitivity" while planning to erect a 15-story mega mosque on Ground Zero. Meanwhile, Muslims across the world are going nuts of the book burning, "death to America."

Yeah Pam, I'm sure that Shaquille O'Neal, Muhammad Ali, and Dave Chappelle are seething with murderous rage over this. The vast majority of Muslims will shake their heads in disgust and that'll be about the extent of it. Still, Pam doesn't think burning Qurans (which she can't be bothered to capitalize) is a worthwhile endeavor. See, she's not a bigot. That guy with the crazy mustache -- now there's a bigot.

The list goes on: a nut who set up a "Christian Center" near Ground Zero to preach hatred against Islam and accuse Muslims of pedophilia, a wingnut who declared Park51 a "beachhead for sharia" law, another kook who thinks Muslims are child molesters, a dick who think no mosques should be built anywhere in America. They all hide behind Jones, criticize his actions, and use him to declare themselves bigotry free.

The strategy here is clear: grab the most extreme madman you can lay your hands on and make him the benchmark for extremism. As long as you're not as bad as that guy, you aren't bad at all. In fact, you're just regular old mainstream America -- who happens to think all Muslims are child-molesting terrorists who want to take over America and institute a judicial system of extreme religious persecution. You're not crazy, that Jones guy is crazy. You're not the bigot, he is.

In other words, "Quick! Look over there!"

Sorry, I'm not falling for it. You guys are still all bigots.


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