Terry Jones Cancels 9/11 Qu'ran-Burning. Do We Need to Keep Shining a Spotlight on Hate?

7 years ago

By now, I'm guessing, you've heard about that insane pastor in Florida who's been wanting to burn the Qu'ran to protest the so-called "mosque at Ground Zero" project. If you haven't heard about him, it's probably because you live in what I imagine is a particularly blissful existence inside of a media-impermeable bubble. He's been all over the news.

And he's all over the news today, though this morning he called off the planned burning of the sacred book of Islam, telling the TODAY Show that he has accomplished his mission "to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical," and that he has decided to not burn the book -- "not today, not ever."

His being all over the news is a problem, according to some people. We shouldn't be giving him any attention at all, say some. We should be demanding that the media not pay any attention -- or any more attention -- to Terry Jones and his insane posse of haters and book burners. We're just, some people say, egging him on.

There's a point to this argument -- it's the same one that bloggers and social media types construct about how to deal with online trolls. People who wage public attacks on other people or communities usually do so because they're looking for attention; the obvious solution is to withhold the attention. Terry Jones and his followers are just another kind of troll, according to this argument: We should be denying them the spotlight. Which, yes, holds a certain kind of logic. If they weren't getting attention, they might have given up long ago.

But they did get attention, and that's the core of the problem that we're facing now. As sickening as it seems sometimes to keep hearing about their story, and about how pretty much everyone in the so-called Western world has called for them to stop being so freaking crazy and please, please, please not do this thing, it is a story that we need to keep our attention on. Because the defining part of that story is that the vast majority of everyone, everywhere, thinks that what they've been doing is crazy, really crazy, and wrong and horrible and bad, and we need to keep that story out there. If everyone who opposed what they've been doing stands down now, and goes silent, the only voices left will be those that are still calling burn, burn, burn!

That's not acceptable. It's just not. If we let those be the voices that define this kind of story in the media, then those who take the actions of Terry Jones and his followers as representative of the West will have all the more reason to cling to that belief. If we do not counter those voices, and ensure that the narrative that gets heard is the one that tracks our horror and dismay at what Jones and other would-be Qu'ran burners are saying and doing, then we give them control of the story. Like I said, that's not acceptable.

Sometimes we really do have to fight trolls, and fight them hard, and sometimes that fight involves a lot of shouting, and -- yes -- that kind of struggle can look and feel ugly. But sometimes it's necessary. Right now, it's necessary. Terry Jones is a troll, and we need to make sure that the world knows that we know that.

If we hadn't seen this story develop, if we haven't read it in mainstream media and blogged it hard -- the Qu'ran might be burning right now.

More BlogHers Shining a Spotlight on Hate

Catherine Connors blogs at Her Bad Mother and Their Bad Mother and The Bad Moms Club, and everywhere in between. She's kind of mad at Steve Jobs right now.

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