One self important minister who tends to LESS THAN FIFTY parishioners had national newscasters intoning sober pronouncements about his opinions on the Quran all this week?
Are we serious?
Is this what the result of all these “take back the country” and Tea Party machinations looks like—a celebration of the lowest common denominators of American mediocrity and ignorance?
I was trying to explain to my boss earlier this week what the Big Think website was, and had just gotten past the almost obligatory “Youtube for intellectuals” line when I simply stopped, sighed, and said, “yeah, we have all of these writers who are trying to say something important, or philosophical, but the most popular things on the web these days are stuff like a video of a dog who can cook pancakes.”
This brings us back to Pastor Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who is trying to bring back sideburns, handlebar mustaches, and the “Ugly American” stereotype all by his lonesome. He is the very essence of the jackleg preachers my father disapprovingly described all throughout my youth. Jones was the kind of man one could find all across the country, especially in its southern regions, the kind of man who has little knowledge of history, and even less of the tenets behind the religion he proselytizes about to his meager flock.
But does anyone in position to do so via the media say so?
Nowhere did I see any TV anchors or commentators on our prime time news shows telling us in no uncertain terms that this man, and those like him, were wrong. Instead, a man who was seeking to promote his own narrow minded agenda was accorded the kind of respect we should have reserved for those who had formulated some kind of breakthrough in religious thinking, instead of recycling the same old xenophobic tendencies our nation has spent a lot of time and effort trying to overcome.
The ubiquity and speed of the Internet and cable television mean that even the most marginal figures can find a worldwide audience. And the new media have a peculiar telescoping effect—obscure characters appear magnified yet stripped of their context.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw a clip of Jones on TV was to turn the TV off. The second thing that popped into my head was that age old philosophical riddle—if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Without the media amplifying Mr. Jones every breath the last couple of weeks, he would have essentially been in the same position as the tree in the forest—a random American burning a book he didn’t read in front of a handful of parishioners who are unknown to the general public.
If you happen to run into me in public in the next few days, you are apt to hear me repeating "if a pastor burns the Qur'an, and no one is there to film it..."