"Lily-livered, yellow-bellied Christians."
(Pastor Terry Jones referring to the members of the neighboring Methodist church.)
In the past few weeks, a new religious leader has emerged, attracting major media attention for his campaign, "Burn a Kuran" day on 9/11. Pastor Terry Jones, a man who bears a strong resemblance to Yosemite Sam and shoots his mouth off with the same ignorance and gusto that Sam shoots his guns.
Asked by the New York Times about his knowledge of the Koran, Jones replied: "I have no experience with it whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says." Jones believes that Islam promotes violence which must be why he often is seen on the church grounds with a gun strapped to his leg.
"Any one of you lily livered, bow legged varmints care to slap leather with me? In case any of ya get any idears, ya better know yer dealin' with." - Yosemite Sam
Terry Jones is a self proclaimed pastor who claims he was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology degree from the unaccredited California Graduate School of Theology. Although the school, which opened in 1968, has graduated 5,000 students in its 42 years of existence, there is no record that Jones was one of them. However, there is hard evidence that he has a used furniture business on Ebay and he used to be a hotel manager. None of that matters. This country has lots of people who have passionate beliefs. The problem is when passionate becomes sociopathic. The big question is; why did Jones get media exposure?
Whether it is "Burn a Koran Day", burn a cross day or tar and feather day, extremist actions are essentially the same, the vitriolic expression of a deeply damaged person. There are a lot them. We all know people like that exist, but they weren't prominently featured in the media. What makes them infinitely more dangerous is when the media lavishes attention on them and they gain prominence.
Jones now has millions of listings on Google. He has gotten international media response and the attention of General David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who feel his actions endanger our troops and our efforts in the Middle East. Jones effectively gamed the media and, as a result, was able to hold us hostage. He became a "name". Thanks to the hailstorm of media exposure he got, he became someone people felt they have to deal with. That is deeply disturbing and a very sorry statement about our culture.
Jones has a congregation of, at the most by his own estimates, 50 people. This is a drop from the highest enrollment which was, according to him, almost 100. It would be interesting to know, why the drop? Was he too crazy or not crazy enough for those who left? He expects "a few hundred people" may show up for the Koran burning but "many will burn them on their own." Hatred is never as much fun when it's a solitary activity. Without getting this kind of attention, he would most likely be out of the religion business quite soon. Coverage is the oxygen that keeps these people alive and makes them seem to matter.
For all those making their travel plans to Gainesville, Jones announced on the Today Show this morning that he would not be going through with the Koran burning.
There is a dangerous trend in the media to give coverage to people who are trying to gain celebrity by spewing the most sensational and unsubstantiated ideas. Jones will soon be forgotten and our attention will go to the next story - the more outrageous the better.
Whether relatively harmless and embarrassingly stupid like "balloon boy" or amazingly stupid and truly damaging like the frenzy surrounding the "birthers" or Shirley Sherrod's resignation from the Department of Agriculture, the credibility of the media has plummeted. Television has taken the bait by trying to compete with the internet in terms of speed while forfeiting its commitment to fact based journalism. The media has been hacked and the news spreads like a virus, infecting all of us.