For several weeks now the world has waited, with baited breath, for information on what Terry Jones would do.
Is Jones a world leader, a sports figure or an actor? No. In fact, you and I could have gone our entire lives without hearing his name and would probably have been better off for it.
Terry Jones is the moustached pastor of a laughably minuscule congregation from “Middle of Nowhere,” Florida, who threatened to burn Qur’ans on Sept. 11, 2010 in response to the mosque being built two blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center.
He is also, thanks to his antics, possibly the most famous living religious leader this side of the Pope.
By threatening to burn copies of the Qur’an, Jones instantly became the subject of international news, intense discussion and pleas from world leaders. People debated his actions and questioned his resolve, but we never stopped to ask ourselves the simplest question: “Was he really just after the attention?”
Think about it. Jones set up a website and threatened to do something that, while completely legal in his country, would offend billions. Net cost to Jones for international fame? Less than $20 to register the domain name, maybe a couple hundred dollars for the website itself, and Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center becomes the most famous church in the world.
He didn’t even have to follow through with his threat. And we swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.
This tactic, threatening to do something that would offend masses of people publically, is not new. Last year, the moustache sporting Ray Comfort — also affectionately known to me as “the banana guy” due to his ignorance of selective breeding — announced that his Living Waters group would be handing out copies of Charles Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species at the University of Manitoba campus, complete with a new forward that refuted Darwin’s findings.
An advance copy of the forward was sent to my inbox, and, after reading its wild accusations and dubious logic, I took it upon myself to fight back.
The Manitoban’s science section that week featured several articles on evolution, interviews with scientists and a critical take on Comfort’s forward.
But Comfort and his cronies never showed up.
They didn’t need to show up though. Their mission is to spread the notion that the theory evolution is false, and by threatening to show up at my university to distribute a bastardized version of a book I hold dear, they made me do exactly what they wanted: I spread their message by opposing it publically.
These people don’t deserve an audience. They are ignorant and closed minded, and have unfortunately figured out that if you say you’re going to do something offensive people will pay attention to you.
From now on, the best thing we can do is to ignore people like Jones and Comfort, regardless of how offended we might be, because if we let them know we’re offended, they win.
Leif Larsen is the Editor-in-Chief of the Manitoban.