Terry Jones stopped from burning Korans (again)

The pastor who gets himself in the news by periodically threatening to burn copies of the Koran has done it again. This time he threatened to burn 2,998 copies of it (one for very person killed in in the 9/11 attack) on the anniversary but he and his assistant pastor were stopped and arrested by police as they were taking the fixings to the bonfire site, and slapped with a felony charge of “unlawful conveyance of fuel”, plus a misdemeanor charge of “unlawful open-carry of a firearm”, and also for not having a valid registration for the trailer.

This is getting to be a farce. If Jones wants to burn books, let him. There is no way that you can stop him and by trying to do so you give him the publicity he craves. He probably hopes that he will be stopped so that he will become a First Amendment martyr. Of course, some Muslims are going to riot if he carries out the threat but it is not advisable to get between two groups of unreasonable people, those trying to create offense and those who are easily offended.

On the TV show Crossfire in 1986, the late Frank Zappa was pitted against some journalists who were arguing that the words of some popular songs were offensive and should not be allowed. Zappa’s response was that they were just words. It was hilarious to watch him calmly make John Lofton look like a fool.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Zappa was right.

I don’t like the idea of burning any books at all, nor of needlessly going out of one’s way to inflame passions, but the thought of giving religious books special protection strikes me as silly. They just consist of words, after all, like every other book.


  1. sigurd jorsalfar says

    The articles I read on this said the korans were ‘kerosene soaked’ meaning they were already soaked in kerosene before being transported to the park for burning, and that’s why he got arrested. If he’d transported the kerosene in proper containers he might have made it to the park.

    So I think you are right that he anticipated someone would try to stop him, otherwise he would have waited till he got to the park before he soaked them. Then again I suppose it’s possible he’s too stupid to have realized there was any hazard in transporting the korans around presoaked, given that he was unlawfully carrying an open firearm and using an unregistered trailer.

  2. physicsphdstu says

    I never knew that Zappa was such a clear thinker and a great speaker. He calmly tore Lofton to shreds!
    Thanks for the links Mano!

  3. wtfwhateverd00d says

    They are just words, and yet, look how many Free Thought Blog prime bloggers and their commenters are afraid of words and demand their use be curtailed.

    Atheism+ adherents are not that far removed from the Terry Jones or the Westboro Baptist Church.

  4. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Here of course is Terry Jones back when he had more of a sense of humor.

    Appearances starting at 01:58

  5. grumpyoldfart says

    I think our Terry has long ago given up the idea of actually destroying copies of the Koran and these days concentrates on publicity stunts that will attract cash donations.

    He probably made an ‘anonymous’ phone call to the police telling them that, “Terry Jones is out on the highway and up to no good.”

    That ensured police intervention and practically guaranteed that he would get into the headlines. And the early arrest saved him the bother of actually starting a fire and causing real damage.

  6. smrnda says

    In this case, it seems like the real issue for the citation is that he’s handling flammable materials in a dangerous way, and if he was busted for anything else, it’s just that if the cops catch you doing 1 illegal and irresponsible thing, they’ll make it a point to cite you for anything you can to send the point home.

    I guess my take on words could best be summed up by J G Ballard’s response to criticism that his short piece ‘why I want to fuck Ronald Reagan’ was obscene. He said *of course* it was obscene and it was intended as the most obscene attack of a public figure he could come up with.

    But on being offensive, there are times when there’s really nothing of substance being said, and the only issue is someone getting off on being provocative. In that case, everyone has a right to be an asshole, but everyone else has a right to call someone out for being an asshole.

  7. AsqJames says

    I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse and mischievous, but be it trolling or not, such blatant distortions should not go completely unchallenged (though you’ll be wasting your time taking this further).

    Certainly most, if not all, FTB bloggers think that the reduction in the frequency/prevalence of some uses of some words would be a good thing. For example, calling a particular person certain words (gendered slurs, racial epithets, etc). But…

    (1) Do they really “demand their use be curtailed“?
    That strongly implies they are calling for legal sanctions, and I don’t recall ever seeing such ideas espoused here. If I’m wrong I’m sure you’ll provide a linked citation to correct me?

    (2) Some words are inappropriate at certain times and in certain places. Around children, for example, sexual language (whether foul or anatomic/biological) is generally considered inappropriate by most societies. I won’t use the “C” word here, because I suspect Mano would not be happy about it, this is his space and I respect his right to standards.

    On the other hand, while having sex it would be entirely appropriate to use whatever form of sexual language my partner and I were comfortable with. And discussing this same subject (censorship/the bounds of good behaviour) with other people in other places I may be happy to drop that delicate construction: “the “C” word”.

    And finally the most important point:

    (3) It’s the particular use to which those words are put that may be objected to, not the words themselves. It is not necessary to use any particular word or words in expressing objectionable ideas, behaviours or actions.

    I think Mr Zappa missed a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate this when Lofton was talking about how Hitler used words in his rise to power and eventual murder of six million jews. Hitler used none of the seven words on the FCC’s banned list (which, in the context of song lyrics, was the topic of discussion). He didn’t need them, and yet he managed to inspire the holocaust.

    A counter example: Tim Minchin’s The Pope Song strongly objects to ecclesiastical child sex abuse through heavily repeated use of strong swearwords, including the constructs “kiddy f***er” and “motherf***er”. One describes child sexual abuse and the other incest. Those behaviours are illegal in most jurisdictions (and for good reasons), while the words themselves are not (also for good reasons).

    Actions, behaviours and ideas can be promoted or objected to with or without using any specific words. Language is flexible like that, you need only consider how on this very blog Mano has repeatedly pointed out the ridiculous linguistic contortions used by governments to describe torture and extra-judicial killings to see that.

    And any specific word (whether you think some FTB bloggers demand its use be curtailed or not) can be employed without promoting or doing anything objectional at all.

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