Koran-burning, massacre, and free speech

“It’s not my fault! It’s his fault!”

That example of fourth-grad moral reasoning is now ricocheting around the media in the debate about Koran-burning in Florida and massacre in Afghanistan.

Obviously, the onus for murder is on the murderers primarily, and secondarily on those who deliberately incited them to violence. But that doesn’t put the people who deliberately provoked their murderous rage in the clear. If I set off a blasting cap next to a stick of dynamite, I can’t then blame the dynamite for exploding complain about the explosion.*

In the battle with Islamic extremism, our most important allies – or enemies – are other Muslims. So Koran-burning, or publishing nasty cartoons about the Prophet, is simply unpatriotic. That would be true even if it didn’t sometimes lead to immediate slaughter of the innocent. Can you say “material support”?

I suppose I should be grateful for Lindsay Graham’s consistency; having supported a law against flag-burning, he’s prepared to support one against Koran-burning. People who deliberately deface the sacred symbols of others – and yes, the American flag is an object of quasi-religious devotion, no matter how much real Christians may regard that is idolatry – are lower than whale-sh!t, and that’s on the bottom of the ocean. (And yes, that applies to the clowns whose disgust for the institutional Catholic Church lead them to disrupt Masses or desecrate the consecrated Host.)

But I’d be more grateful if Graham would just read the damned First Amendment, meditate Hugo Black’s poetic formulation that “no law” means no law, and keep doing the other thing he’s doing, which is telling his fellow right-wingers that they need to grow up.

*Updated in response to comments. My point is not – as I thought I’d made clear – to exonerate the actual murderers or those who incited them, but simply that you your responsibility for the intended consequences of your actions remains even if one of the mechanisms is the action of someone else.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

38 thoughts on “Koran-burning, massacre, and free speech”

  1. This a pox on… crap is weak.

    Yet, I agree with the underlying message, and am depressed that we can’t seem to grow up. The U.S. is the eternal oversized 14 year old. I fear that The Catcher in the Rye will, after all, turn out to have been the great American novel.

  2. Mark,

    You explicitly compare religious fanaticism to dynamite. Okay, but the metaphor is based on the mindlessness of dynamite. Is religious fanaticism really as mindless as that?

    Also, too: it’s one thing to set off a blasting cap NEXT TO a stick of dynamite; it’s not quite the same thing to do so a continent or two away. I don’t know how Afghan peasants and shopkeepers get to learn that some jackass burned a book labelled “Koran” in Florida, or some punks drew cartoons labelled “Mohamed” in Denmark, but I have to believe that whoever tells them about it is not mindless, exactly.

    So I mildly object to your metaphor. Even if Afghan peasants and shopkeepers are as mindless as dynamite, and even if Terry Jones and Jyllans-Posten are as provocative as blasting caps, the murders of the UN people would not have happened without the mediation of a third element: the professional seekers after provocation; the evil, cynical bastards who stand ever ready to carry the spark of provocation halfway around the world like an Olympic torch to the dynamite warehouse, in the professed service of their religion. You can think of THEM as religious fanatics, too, but I think it’s unwise to view them as mindless.

    –TP

  3. The problem isn’t just with denying [‘dynamite’ subset of Muslims]’s agency – which is quite dangerous enough by itself. It’s also with privileging murderous reaction as an element of cultural control. To take a very different example, suppose that Salman Rushdie had understood the uproar the Satanic Verses was going, after certain political finagling beyond his control, to produce – and reckoned it was saying something that needed to be said anyway. Should he have abandoned that part of his Islamic heritage to the deathmongers, on pain of moral responsibility for deaths and geopolitical grief? What about Taslima Nasrin? If Rushdie was playing postmodernist games, she was surely not. Or, to strip the geopolitical aspects out of it altogether, what about gay festivals in violently archconservative Christian regions, or people who open up full-service maternity clinics in states where the reaction of anti-abortion extremists is… predictable?

    What Jones and his kind ‘deserve’ to be called upon isn’t shocking a sensitive explosive. It’s a much simpler and more universal vice: the naked, narcissistic malice of their intent. And the clue and the solution, inasfar as either exist, lie in the narcissism. Being publicly called on for their outrageously big achievement of despising others’ religion and setting light to paper is meat and drink to them. Only the oblivion of crushingly contemptuous indifference will ever smother their wildfires. Absent a general attitude of “Taliban Google up pretext for massacring people in their own strategic interests; supply infinite, note experts,” – it’s depressingly hard to see how this can happen.

  4. I believe the origin of the word “punk” comes from the burning piece of rope or stick that was used to light the fuse of a cannon or more recently fireworks. It describes a hot head who likes to start trouble. That pretty much sums up Terry Jones and his gagle of idiots.
    As to them doing their dirty deed “a continent away” I would like to see these useless createns shipped off to Afghanistan and given another copy of the Koran plus lighter fluid and a zippo so the can try a repeat perfomance of their famous trick in front of a mosque. Someone can film that show for U-Tube and Fox can tell us all about the ensuing mayhem.
    Free speech rights have the caveat of baring the responsibility to avoid “fighting words” and incitment to riot. Making a show of burning a sared book (burning a book for God’s sake!) can hardly be seen as anything but deliberate incitement to riot.
    Like all punks they are really brave when risking other peoples’ lives. I bet they are really pleased with themselves that the first victims of their stunt were ‘secular humanists from that evil United Nations’. How dare the UN try to help people without invoking the name of Jesus?

  5. Charles Manson didn’t kill anyone, yet he’s been locked up for the Tate murders for decades, and we’re not about to let him out.
    There is precedence for prosecuting those who incite violence, and rightly so.

  6. “If I set off a blasting cap next to a stick of dynamite, I can’t then blame the dynamite for exploding.”

    A stick of dynamite, and I’m not the first to observe this, lacks moral agency. It is impelled by the irresistible nature of physics and chemistry to explode in that circumstance. It doesn’t decide to explode, in reaction to a stimulus that leaves 99 out of 100 sticks of dynamite sitting there intact.

    The glaring flaw in your argument is that we condition blame for incitement on the extent to which the “incitement” is reasonably scaled to the violence. You dis somebody’s mother to their face, they slap you, reasonable relationship. “You had that coming.” You dis Shakespeare, and the humanities faculty at Princeton go postal and start killing people, no, you aren’t at fault, THEY are.

    You burn a copy of a book, and hundreds of thousands on the other side of the world riot and kill people who had no part in the burning? No, you can’t blame the guy with the match for THAT, you have to blame the lunatics. Because, ultimately, the reaction to incitement is something that takes place in the incited‘s head, and what’s going on in there may be, as in this instance, simply crazy. And you can’t license lunatics to control what’s acceptable behavior on the other side of the planet.

    So, ultimately, to blame Jones is to insult the humanity of adherents of Islam. This I will not do, they riot, THEY are at fault. If I thought otherwise, I’d advocate treating them like any dangerous organism which lacks agency gets treated: I’d advocate EXTERMINATING them.

    Because that’s the implication of this line of thought: If Muslims are incapable of coexisting on the same planet with civilized people, they’ve got to go.

    Oh, and I’d point out that Muslims in Islamic countries routinely do things every bit as “provocative” and more so, to Christians. By your reasoning, they’ve only got themselves to blame if we nuke them. Aside from the routine double standard, which locates all moral agency in our side…

  7. Here is Glenn Greenwald’s comment on the subject at salon.com; he notes that Harry Reid as well as Lindsay Graham have called for action against Terry Jones:

    Third, there is an extreme irony in Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham, of all people, suddenly worrying about actions that trigger anger and violence in the Muslim world. These two Senators, after all, have supported virtually every one of America’s actions which have triggered vastly more anti-American anger, vengeance and violence in the Muslim world than anything Pastor Jones could dream of spawning — from the attack on Iraq to the decade-long occupation of Afghanistan to blind support for Israel to the ongoing camp at Guantanamo. To support his demand for Congressional action against Pastor Jones, Graham has the audacity to cite Gen. Petraeus, who condemned the Koran burning on the ground that it would endanger American troops: “General Petreaus understand better than anybody else in America what happens when something like this is done in our country and he was right to condemn it.”

    But here’s something else Gen. Petraeus said about what triggers violence against Americans and helps the Enemy:

    Closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay would purge the U.S. of a symbol used by enemies to divide the nation, the head of the U.S. Central Command said Friday. Army Gen. David Petraeus said the U.S. military is “beat around the head and shoulders” with images of detainees held in Guantanamo.

    On a previous occasion, Gen. Petraeus said: “Gitmo has caused us problems, there’s no question about it. I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has indeed been used by the enemy against us.”

    By publicly demanding that Guantanamo detainees not be tried in the U.S., Reid played a major role in preventing closure of that camp, while Graham has been a leading advocate of the indefinite detention regime that made the camp so controversial and which itself spawns substantial anti-American violence in Afghanistan. Reid and Graham both voted for the attack on Iraq. Reid and Graham continue to be outspoken supporters of the war in Afghanistan. Both Senators are blind supporters of Israel, including its most heinous acts. If they’re looking for targets to punish whose ideas have triggered violence and anti-American rage in the Muslim world, they should look in the mirror.

  8. I think your parenthetical in the sentence that begins “People who deliberately deface the sacred symbols of others…” gets it exactly wrong for a certain subset of desecrators, because it presumes something not in evidence. Namely that the sacred symbols being desecrated have no positive valence for the people doing the desecrating. (That’s what made the idea of flag-burning so powerful in the days before people put american flags on napkins and jackets and trousers as a symbol of patriotism: the people doing the burning were taking on a symbol that had as much power for them as it did for the people they were outraging.)

  9. Freeman: “Charles Manson didn’t kill anyone….”

    It doesn’t take away from your point, but that’s a popular misconception. The first Manson Family murder, that of Bernard Crowe on July 1, 1969, was committed by Manson himself.

  10. I think it’s a fallacy to think of responsibility for something as being like a huge bag of stuff, and if the rioters in Afghanistan have all of it there’s none left for Jones, or vice-versa. Mark’s desire to blame Jones leads him to bring out a metaphor in which the rioters aren’t moral actors; Brett’s desire to assign the whole bag of “responsibility” to the rioters means that he has none left for Jones. If you back off from the “huge bag” theory, you’re perfectly free to blame Jones in addition to blaming the rioters. You can have two murderers and only a single murder.

  11. I am proud to live in a country where jackasses have the right to burn Qur’ans, Bibles, etc., and thus I don’t find it terribly useful to imply that such speech can be a crime in & of itself.

    As I observed a while back about flag burning, it’s very helpful when the jackasses so prominently identify themselves as such; it saves us the trouble of listening to them to ascertain whether they merit attention.

  12. What, I’d assign some blame to Jones. The blame proportional to what he did, which is to burn a bundled up piece of paper.

    It’s just that, in the context of a murderous riot, that blame is a rounding error…

  13. See, Brett, you’re still buying into the “bag o’ responsibility” theory, so you’re stuck talking about dividing it up in a “proportional”way. Free yourself! (You’re also insisting on the most reductive possible description of his actions, which is a choice that cooks the moral “arithmetic” in advance; “dared a bunch of known zealots to go kill someone” is another possible description of his actions.)

    More generally, I think we can do the following: when assessing Jones’ culpability, we can admit that we know that people like the Afghan rioters exist, take them as a given, and then talk about how much Jones is responsible for triggered their rampage. That does not mean we’re committed to denying that the rioters have moral agency, because we can also, and consistently, state that the rioters are murderers. (Mark’s original metaphor about the dynamite cuts this way, I think; I feel confident that he does not literally think that the rioters are just objects that unavoidably “go off”.) The obvious counter to this point of view is that it allows hostage-takers to “legitimately” yell “This is your fault!” when he shoots someone after his demands are not met, but I think there’s still something valid in it. Presumably volumes of moral/legal philosophy have been written about this issue, but I don’t know all their arguments.

  14. Jones just burned a book. He burned it because it was important to him to do so. It was protected by the law of our land. Do we reward the murderers by punishing Jones? Do we give the killers the high moral ground? They went on a killing spree. They are to blame, not Jones.
    Do we change our nation by giving up one of our rights just so we appease mindless killers?

  15. What “bag of responsiblity”? Let me suggest an analogy which should make the moral idiocy of the position clear: Let us suppose that the Tea party movement were exactly as nasty and irrational as liberals find it rhetorically convenient to pretend to believe. Gingrich issues a Fatwah: Any further use of the terms “Tehaddi” or “Tea bagger” will be met with murderous riots.

    So Mark goes out in public and deliberately uses the terms while being interviewed on TV. Murderous riots DO follow, 23 people die.

    Is Mark a murderer? By the logic being used here to condemn Jones, he is.

    I say, no. People are responsible for the reasonable consequences of their actions. What’s the reasonable consequence of burning Koran? Somebody else burning a Bible? Big whoop.

    Everything above and beyond that, which is to say virtually everything that happened, is in fact the nutcases’ responsiblity. But I will hold Jones responsible for the exact extent of his provocation. Which is virtually nil. Shame on you, Jones, for that Bible that got torched.

    Bottom line: You can’t transform somebody else’s peaceful act of symbolic speech into an act of murder by yourself murdering somebody. Just doesn’t work that way. Stop defending the murderer’s veto, dhminitude is nothing to aspire to.

  16. In your fiction, assuming that all your fictional setup is actually true, fictional Mark bears some significant responsibility. (Giving him the same name as the actual guy running the blog didn’t scare me away from that conclusion. Your fiction is pretty fictional.)

    The crux of the disagreement, I think, is in your clear statement: “People are responsible for the reasonable consequences of their actions.” Granted, but not always the end of story, because I say that people can also be responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their actions. (Actually, there’s serious ambiguity in the words “reasonable consequences” — you’re using it, I guess to mean “consequences that result from the reactions of other reasonable people”, but it could also mean “reasonably foreseeable”, which would then track with what I just said. It would also include “things that happen that have nothing to do with human choices”, as in the dynamite reference.) We can extend it even more — what if it’s foreseeable and intended consequences? That is, what if Jones had said in advance (which I don’t think he did) “And I hope that when people see the Muslim world’s violent response to this they’ll see that I’m right?” Still nothing?

    And, honestly, you sure seem to be operating under the “fixed amount of responsibility” theory, aka the bag; you’re talking about the idea that Jones has “this much” responsibility for what happened, and the rioters have the rest of it (“everything above and beyond that”). You’re concerned that in order to give Jones some amount of it, we have to take that amount away from the actual killers. Since we’re playing analogies, here’s mine: Two people jump into the ocean. Which one gets wet?

    Since I did come into this is the middle, I should say that I’m not proposing called Jones a murderer, really, just saying he should be blamed, and a lot more than “for burning a pile of papers”. Nor am I proposing anyone infringe his right to symbolic speech by burning a Koran. I’m just saying let’s call it what it is, and call him what he is.

  17. Whether there’s a finite bag of blame to parcel out or not, I still say the bulk of the blame belongs to those who made it a point to publicize Jones’s jackassery to the pious Afghan masses. It’s those people I reserve my burning hatred for. And it would not surprise me a bit if Karzai is in fact one of those people.

    –TP

  18. Ah, so you agree that, should Operation Rescue firebomb a clinic, the abortionists therein are thereby murderers? You really need to think through the implications of this position, DonBoy.

    Should the day ever come when we decide that it’s appropriate to view burning a Koran as morally equivalent to pointing a gun and firing it, it’s going to be time to act consistent with that view of Muslims as reliably murderous animals, rather than people of whom reason is to be expected, and exterminate them.

    Holding Jones responsible for only the reasonable consequences of his actions is part and parcel with treating Muslims as reasonable people. If we’re going to abandon that stance, it must be wholly, or not at all.

  19. I explicitly refused to use the word “murderer” about Jones.

    In your abortion example, there’s at least one significant difference — in your example, you’ve got (by implication) the abortion providers and patients as both instigators and victims, which isn’t true in the Koran case. A lot of the reason Jones is awful is that the chain of events leads to other people getting killed. If Jones and his flock were going to Muslim countries and doing this, and taking the fatal consequences themselves, to make a point, they’d be “brave but stupid”. And if Planned Parenthood’s national leadership were performing televised abortions from an undisclosed location in order to piss off the right wing, and was fully aware — perhaps even hopeful — that it would cause a violent reaction, hell yeah they’d get a big piece of blame from me.

  20. “People are responsible for the reasonable consequences of their actions.”

    Brett, I’m not sure why one can’t, as Mark suggested, primarily blame the murderers, and then secondarily blame Jones. In theory, couldn’t you blame an indirect party, as was suggested in the case of Manson?

    But as to your main point here, about reasonable consequences. It seems this hinges not solely on the murderers, but on Jones’ knowledge. Because if he could reasonably have concluded that his actions would incite others to violence, would he not be at least partially morally culpable?

    In your example with a fictional Mark, you found him innocent. I would say he is *partially* culpable. Not criminally. But morally. He did something which he reasonably could have expected to result in violence (even from perfectly unreasonable people)..

    Gray Woodland made an interesting point that is related here. He asked whether one might be sometimes justified, even if their actions could be reasonably expected to incite unreasonable violence. I think this gets tricky, but that a moral balance would be sought, between the moral good of the expression on one hand, and the moral bad of the senseless violence on the other.

    I just don’t see how knowingly provoking someone, no matter how unhinged they are, is morally acceptable when there is no greater good to be served. It is definitely stupid. And maybe immoral shortly thereafter.

    (Jones may think he is indeed performing a moral good. But I say he’s being a “punk”!)

  21. Jones burned a Koran explicitly in order to insult people in he most infuriating way he could. The act itself had no meaning to him outside of it’s power to insult and infuriate someone else.

    Doctors provide abortions to help women who have concluded their lives would be significantly worse or even ended without one.

    Not every poke in the eye is the same. Some happen purely by accident, some are deliberate provocation and others may be the result of negligence. Moral responsibility will vary based on those circumstances. Legal responsibility sometimes tracks moral responsibility pretty closely and sometimes not.

  22. How many Afghans were present when “pastor” Jones burned a Koran? Serious question.

    If certain Afghans were provoked into a murderous rage one month later and half a world away, was it really the pathetic little “pastor” from Jerkwater, Florida who provoked them? Or was it maybe certain “mullahs” or “imams” or whatever the hell equates to “pastor” in Afghanistan?

    Incidentally, the Danish cartoons provoked murder and mayhem in many Muslim countries. Why so geographically limited a reaction this time?

    –TP

  23. Eli, you want to give random nutbars the power to render inherently innocuous acts by third parties into the equivalent of murder, by THEMSELVES deciding to murder somebody ‘in reaction to’ those acts. I refuse to give them this power.

    It is a matter of moral principle with me: I will not blame people who’ve done no real wrong for some lunatic’s crazy reaction. Instead I’ll blame the lunatic.

    This is not “bag of responsibility” reasoning. If you hire a hitman, and he murders somebody, you get all the blame, too. But that’s because you directed him to do the killing. He didn’t up and kill somebody because the sight of $50 bills sends him into a murderous rage. There’s a fundamental difference between asking somebody to kill somebody, and simply doing something innocuous, and somebody kills someone because they’re a nut case.

    And I’ll say it again: If Muslims were so reliably murderous in reaction to objectively trivial ‘provocations’, that burning a Koran is morally equivalent to committing the Muslims’ murders yourself, then we’ve decided that Muslims lack moral agency, and the appropriate thing to do is to treat them as though they were Seigfreid’s tiger, and put them down. Rather than constrain ourselves to their ever expanding list of triggers.

  24. “*Updated in response to comments. My point is not – as I thought I’d made clear – to exonerate the actual murderers or those who incited them, but simply that you your responsibility for the intended consequences of your actions remains even if one of the mechanisms is the action of someone else.”

    Yes, and I categorically reject that point as a matter of principle. The mechanism is a moral agent, and that makes all the difference in the world.

  25. And I’ll say it again: If Muslims were so reliably murderous in reaction to objectively trivial ‘provocations’, that burning a Koran is morally equivalent to committing the Muslims’ murders yourself, then we’ve decided that Muslims lack moral agency, and the appropriate thing to do is to treat them as though they were Seigfreid’s tiger, and put them down. Rather than constrain ourselves to their ever expanding list of triggers.

    QFT.

  26. Maybe another analogy might illustrate the idea put forward in this thread. Suppose a white person goes around yelling the N-word in the Bronx, or any other predominantly ethnic neighbourhood. It would not surprise me if this act results in some violence. Am I suggesting I agree with that reaction? No. Am I suggesting you should be prohibited from doing so anyway? Again, no. But, it would be utterly obtuse to claim such an act has absolutely no foreseeable consequences. As such, if you choose to do something like this, which any reasonable person knows will provoke some into aggression you should not hide behind the: “I am not responsible for what they do with my words.”

    Stop claiming that egging lunatics/fanatics on (willfully provocating them) is inherentlty harmless, and any reaction, however unhinged, should never be linked to said provocation. Heck, you are saying that provocation in this situation is a misnomer, since it implies causality which many insist is absent here. Of course, if one feels so strongly about the freedom of speech, be a hero and go to the Bronx, or Iraq, and exercise that right. The fact this never happens proves everybody does realise, and acknowledges, the risks involved. QED.

  27. And I’ll say it again: If Muslims were so reliably murderous in reaction to objectively trivial ‘provocations’, that burning a Koran is morally equivalent to committing the Muslims’ murders yourself, then we’ve decided that Muslims lack moral agency, and the appropriate thing to do is to treat them as though they were Seigfreid’s tiger, and put them down. Rather than constrain ourselves to their ever expanding list of triggers.

    That would be quite a leap. I can observe that, with 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, some of them religious extremists, doing provocative stuff raises the chances that somebody in that group is going to do something crazy. That’s not the same as “all Muslims will go crazy if anybody does anything”, which is what you’d need to justify “putting them down”.

  28. “That’s not the same as “all Muslims will go crazy if anybody does anything”, which is what you’d need to justify “putting them down”.”

    It’s also, not incidentally, what you’d need to justify regarding anybody doing anything as being responsible for Muslims rioting.

    Well, if you want to claim that Jones is a a*hole, I’m not going to argue with you. My position is quite simple: That’s ALL he’s guilty of: Being obnoxious. Not quite on the same level as, say, somebody who leaves their car alarm honking at 2AM, but obnoxious all the same. He is guilty, and that’s all he’s guilty of. All the rest of it is on the plate of those who responded to a moderate level of obonxiousness with murder.

    Look, the term “expect” has two senses: In the sense of predicting what will actually happen, and a normative sense. When holding people morally responsible for the reasonably expected consequences of their actions, it’s the normative sense that’s relevant. We are entitled to ‘expect’ that people will act reasonably, and to base our own actions on that expectation. It might often not be prudent, but we’re still entitled to.

    Now, what really amazes me here is the deliberate blindness to what’s really going on in this. Sure, Jones set out to prove that a fair number of Muslims are murderous lunatics, and they obliged him by providing the proof. But look at the chain of events in that proof: Was it Muslims present at the actual burning who rioted? Nope. It was Muslims half a planet away, who heard about it quite indirectly. Indirectly, let’s be clear about this, by way of fellow Muslims who DID intend that they riot, because they see their fellows engaging in murderous rampages as a weapon with which to attack our liberties.

    Well, it’s an attack I think we should flatly refuse to cooperate in. If Muslims don’t care that we’re offended by their murderous riots, I don’t freaking care that they’re offended by our symbolic, (And literal!) speech. They can go pound sand, and if they decide instead to go pound people, THEY are the guilty parties.

    Not us.

    We should respond to stuff like this with “Go burn a Koran” day. Put the Danish cartoons on billboards across the nation. We should rub their faces in the fact that WE DON’T CARE IF THEY RIOT. Because they want us to care. They want us to care, because our caring is their weapon to wage war against our culture and our liberties.

    Decide which side of that war you’re on.

  29. We should respond to stuff like this with “Go burn a Koran” day. Put the Danish cartoons on billboards across the nation. We should rub their faces in the fact that WE DON’T CARE IF THEY RIOT. Because they want us to care. They want us to care, because our caring is their weapon to wage war against our culture and our liberties.

    Again with the “we” stuff. What’s with all this conflation and hasty generalization?

    I, personally, am not dumb enough to believe that my actions do not have consequences here in reality. Nor am I dumb enough to believe the media made no money off the publicity. Such a ludicrous and ill-advised “day” would be widely publicized by the corporate media, and likely further erode our moral standing (if we have any left).

    No thanks. Not this ‘we’.

  30. I think there’s nothing more for me to say about the “responsibility” question; I’ve made my case a few times, and it’s not going to get any better with extra repetition.

    I will say that the logic of the hostage situation has always been a hard problem; genuinely refusing to careif the hostage dies sounds like an effective answer, but it’s hard to pull off. (Keyser Soze did it, we’re told.) Seems to be easier if the hostage is most likely to be people in other countries. (Jones has said he’s “willing to die”, but not enough to take his stunt overseas, so far.)

  31. Who said anything about not caring if the hostage dies? I’m just asking that we be clear about who killed the hostage. Caring if the hostage dies shouldn’t lead to letting hostage takers control our lives. It should lead to credibly promising unholy vengeance on hostage takers.

    I’d even say that letting the hostage takers win implies not caring about the NEXT batch of hostages. Because there certainly will be more of them, if you let hostage takers get anything but an ugly end for their efforts.

  32. I guess I was confused by “We should rub their faces in the fact that WE DON’T CARE IF THEY RIOT. Because they want us to care. They want us to care, because our caring is their weapon to wage war against our culture and our liberties.” I promise I wasn’t trying to misinterpret it, either.

  33. I should add that I took “don’t care” in your words to mean “should not be seen to care, and should not act as if we care, both for strategic reasons”, rather than “be genuinely indifferent”. But as said a couple of exchanges above, it’s hard to really get only the first one, unless you’re a single person of unknown and unknownable desires. It’s a hell of lot harder for institutions.

  34. I think we shouldn’t care in the manner they want us to care. We should care in the sense that it persuades us they are dangerous savages who need to be dealt with, not dangerous savages who need to be appeased. It’s the latter they want, and which too many people seem inclined to supply.

  35. You can burn all the copies of my favorite book that you want, and I won’t kill you or anyone else. That’s the difference between rational people and religious fanatics, be they Muslim or otherwise.

  36. The media, Obama, General Petraus, etc. should be outraged at the murderers who murdered innocent people, not some insignificant unknown pastor practising his first ammendment right of free speech. I personally don’t care that someone burned a copy of a crazy book of superstitious nonsense. In American putting a crucifix in a jar of urine or putting animal dung on a picture of Mary Mother of Jesus is just called art. At worse, Terry Jones burning the Koran is just a video of artistic experssion. Jones could submit a copy of the Koran video and get a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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