Burning Korans vs Low Cut Blouses

"She asked for it" is no longer an acceptable argument in rape cases. So, why is a preacher in Florida burning a book being condemned by American political and military leaders for a days-long murder spree in Afghanistan?

Once upon a time, it could be argued in polite society that a rape victim was “asking for it” if she was dressed in sexually provocative clothing. After all, men are only human and the sight of cleavage or too much leg or a buttocks hugged too tightly by clothing was just too much to resist. It took the feminist movement to turn this into a repugnant suggestion; ironic since the notion is far more insulting to men than it is to women.

Even a century ago, the notion that the sight of a photograph of a a scantily clad woman could provoke rape of a different, random woman would have been dismissed as nonsense.

So, why is a preacher in Florida burning a book being condemned by American political and military leaders for a days-long murder spree in Afghanistan?

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics, World Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Here’s a thought.

    I think most reasonable people can agree that Terry Jones is not responsible, morally or legally, for the murders in Afghanistan. At least I would hope so.

    At the same time, I would hope we can also agree that his particular exercise of free speech is equivalent to the Westboro Baptist Church, and worthy of as much disrespect.

  2. Chad S says:

    This is a thin comparison imo. A woman wearing a revealing dress isn’t asking for anything. Jones intentionally burned the Koran just to inflame the muslim world and get a reaction like what happened. The people who murdered the UN employees are responsible for their actions and Karzai is responsible for picking the scab. Jones bears some responsibility for doing it in the first place….and he’ll keep ratcheting up his outrages until he gets what he really wants: to be attacked by Islamic extremists so he can be seen as a martyr.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Burning Korans vs Low Cut Blouses.

    I know which I prefer.

  4. Justin Bowen says:

    Once upon a time, it could be argued in polite society that a rape victim was “asking for it” if she was dressed in sexually provocative clothing.

    It took the feminist movement to turn this into a repugnant suggestion

    The idea that victims are asking for it because of x is an idea that feminists only care about in the context of crime victims that are women. They think it is perfectly alright to suggest that men “asked for it” when they’re the victims of crime, often times simply because of the fact that they’re men (see the Duke Lacrosse scandal and the continued hatred of the victims of Crystal Gail Mangum, the response of feminists whenever a woman is discovered to have filed a false rape claim, the response of feminists whenever anyone brings up the fact that men are victims of violence at a far higher rate than women, the response of feminists whenever it’s suggested that women are often times responsible for the violent relationships in which they find themselves, and the response of feminists when a woman is discovered to have lied about the paternity of her kid so she could get child support from him).

    Does every person who violates another person’s rights deserve to be arrested, charged, and possibly punished? Yes. Does every person who finds his or herself a victim of a criminal deserve to be absolved of all responsibility for the situation that he or she is now in? Absolutely not (if a white person drives through a black neighborhood yelling nigger at the top of his lungs is assaulted, he or she is responsible for what happened (the assailant should still be arrested and charged with a crime, though if I was on that jury I would not be at all likely to vote guilty)). Do feminists care about either of those issues outside of the context of how they relate to women? Absolutely not.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Doug: Yes. Although I’m getting more sympathetic to Jones the more senior officials of my government condemn him. It’s their job to protect his rights to free speech, not to pass judgment on him.

    @Chad: As a general rule you’re right. But, surely, some not insignificant number of women dress provocatively precisely to draw attention to their sexuality. Some openly flaunt it. The expected and reasonable response is to cast a brief, appreciative glance and move on.

    We all agree that the murderers are ultimately responsible. And I agree that Karzai should be condemned for his part in fanning the flames; that’s just the opposite of what a national leader–and ally–should be doing.

    Like the scumbags who waive “God Hates Fags” signs at soldier funerals, Jones is a contemptible lowlife. But he doesn’t bear responsibility for outrageous responses to his provocations–let alone those thousands of miles away.

    @Michael: Amen to that, brother.

  6. Justin Bowen says:

    I think most reasonable people can agree that Terry Jones is not responsible, morally or legally, for the murders in Afghanistan. At least I would hope so.

    I guess I’m not reasonable. If the people who are assaulting and murdering people are only doing it in response to his actions, then he is definitely morally-responsible. He may have the legal right to do what he did, but he should have known that he was going to cause outrage that would, in some instances, lead to violence (the number of Muslims who are reacting in violence is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the total number of Muslims in the world). Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

  7. Justin Bowen says:

    By the way, were my parents two of only a few parents who taught that a person should think about the consequences of his actions before doing them? The rush to absolve this guy from any responsibility is sickening, IMO.

  8. Chad S says:

    Except that the Phelps family are just angling for attention, not to provoke violence. Jones’ intent is pretty clear. He wants violent protests in the muslim world over his douchery so he promote his “views” on Islam. Which is why he’s moving on to a “trial of Muhammad” now. His intent makes him culpable since he wants violence(and is getting it).

  9. Chad S says:

    If some southern preacher was doing youtube videos wearing blackface and doing horrible minstrel shows online, followed up with sermons about how black people are “inferior” and “violent” he would be culpable for any violence that followed.

  10. Justin Bowen says:

    @Chad S: I see we have another unreasonable person here. Hopefully you’re at least reasonable enough to agree that the government should do its utmost to protect his freedom of speech.

  11. Abdul Khan says:

    Same reason Americans Asked all 1.5 Billion Muslims the world over to speak out against terrorism or acknowledge they support it by omission. I can hear it over there now, “If all Christians didn’t feel the way that guy does, then why don’t they condemn him for it?”

  12. Chad S says:

    Justin, please show where I said or implied that he should be quieted. I said that he’s culpable for results of his actions/speech. Thats different.

  13. Justin Bowen says:

    Justin, please show where I said or implied that he should be quieted. I said that he’s culpable for results of his actions/speech. Thats different.

    I wasn’t suggesting that you. I was simply asking for clarification for what I hoped was your position. Too often people use the word culpable in the context of criminal liability.

    By the way, I’d actually be surprised if some prosecutor didn’t try to charge him with a crime or if politicians didn’t try to create a law forbidding speech meant to inspire religious-based violence.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think responsibility is a pie. I don’t think the responsibility has to add up to a single unit.

    The killers can be 100% guilty of their crimes.

    The so-called preacher can be 100% responsible for inciting a crime.

    The Muslim religion can take 30% of the blame for failing to teach that an object is not an idea.

    The Christian religion can take 20% of the blame for failing to outgrow this kind of provocation.

    At the same time the billion Muslim people who did not take part are not to blame except insofar as they catch a little splatter for belonging to an idiotic religion, and the very same can be said of Christians.

    That’s about 300% total, but then there are multiple crimes here: murder, incitement to murder, intolerance, hysteria, hatred and the surrender of reason to superstition.

  15. Chad S says:

    Justin, the Supreme Court discussed that issue in “Schenck v. United States”. Free speech isn’t absolute, but I doubt that Jones’ actions/words rise to the standards they set. He won’t get charged with anything, but I doubt that he’ll get much protection from the local cops(who are still looking for him to pay for the addition security he got a few months ago) if there’s threats against him.

    Thats being said: he’s a royal asshole who should stop being an ass for the good of mankind.

  16. Justin Bowen says:

    Well, hopefully there will be a kind person out there somewhere who will be willing to sacrifice his own freedom to do the world a huge favor. While violence is certainly always wrong (except in self-defense), it can be used for good. If someone had been kind enough to kill this guy when he first popped up on the radar then we would not now have to deal with the consequences of his actions.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @Michael: I don’t disagree that someone can be 100% responsible for their actions and other people still blameworthy. But the preacher’s actions here are in no way incitement to violence. At most, it’s a reckless provocation, akin to schoolyard taunting. Except that the schoolyard is thousands of miles away and the kids don’t know who he is.

    @Justin Bowen: Wait a minute. So, you’re advocating the murder of a specific individual because his exercising his free speech rights is being heard by random people, who go on to commit murders?

  18. PD Shaw says:

    Chad S, Schenck is considered overruled. We don’t jail draft protestors, the KKK can encourage violence against minorities. The Republic survives somewhat.

  19. Gustopher says:

    The easily foreseen — in fact, anticipated — consequences of his actions were violence.

    Legally, he had every right to do what he did, and the murderers are deranged, horrible people.

    Morally, he has blood on his hands. If you know that there are unstable people out there, and you deliberately provoke them, do you not share some of the moral culpability for their actions? Can he face the parents, siblings and children of those killed and honestly say he had nothing to do with their deaths?

    Pastor Jones has blood on his hands — about 200 pints of blood, given that the average person has 10 pints of blood. I would actually hope that he cannot move about in polite society without people throwing red paint on him to symbolize the blood.

    How is this different from Bill O’Reilly referring to “Tiller the Baby Killer” until someone assassinated Dr. Tiller? O’Reilly had to try harder.

  20. Justin Bowen says:

    Yes, I am an advocate of vigilantism by private individuals, with the understanding that those who engage in vigilantism should be arrested and charged in a court of law, where a jury of his peers can determine his fate. Through the jury system, and specifically via jury nullification, “the people” get to determine what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. If people started killing people who are on record as using hate-speech to incite violence (is it ever intended to do anything else?) and juries let those people off the hook, then people who use hate-speech would be put on notice. Conversely, if juries didn’t let those people off the hook, then people who want to kill people who use hate-speech would also be put on notice (by the way, this already happens).

    I’m absolutely opposed to the government criminalizing speech, but I’m definitely in favor of the people, with the use of government law enforcement tools that are subject to regulation and through juries, determining what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Is it perfect? No. But, I believe it’s a much better choice than the alternatives, which are doing nothing (which is what’s happening now) and having politicians doing…well…anything. Doing nothing only allows these people to create more misery, which in turn causes people to increasingly turn to politicians for solutions. Whenever politicians do anything they tend to create further problems. The less power we give to politicians, the better we will all be.

  21. Trumwill says:

    He may have the legal right to do what he did, but he should have known that he was going to cause outrage that would, in some instances, lead to violence (the number of Muslims who are reacting in violence is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the total number of Muslims in the world).

    Is the moral difference between burning a Koran and a Book of Mormon that the former will cause violence and the latter should not? If the Mormons don’t want people burning their book, should those Mormons who don’t want people burning their book become more threatening so that making (some of) them upset becomes more immoral?

    I don’t agree with Joyner that Jones has no culpability here. But not because their were violent consequences. I’m really not interested in our culture walking on eggshells to appease the unreasonable and violent. I am interested in trying to maintain as positive relations as possible with those Muslims and Muslim leaders that don’t think violence is an acceptable response to a show of disrespect.

    I don’t mind Jones being awarded some of the blame here, though I think that those that want to make this *about* Jones, rather than about the ones actually committing the act, are essentially placing the burden of their unreasonable and violent behavior on our actions.

    That, to me, is the rub. I don’t want unnecessary and unhelpful acts the provoke ill-will (of either the violent or non-violent variety), but when it occurs, I also don’t want all eyes on the guy that burned the book and I don’t want their threat of violence to dictate what we can and cannot do, what statements we can and cannot make, and how we can and cannot make those statements.

  22. Bubba says:

    Well, Newsweek ran a false story about Koran desecration, violence ensued.

    Likewise, there have been Koran burnings that were not reported that did not cause violence.

    Therefore, Koran desecration is neither necessary nor sufficient for certain muslims to go around killing people.

    Obviously, the actual trigger is them being told that Koran desecration occured, regardless ofwhether such desecration actually occured or not. Yet nobody is suggesting that the media had any culpability for this violence. Since their actions are in fact more directly responsible for the violence than any (actual or fictious) Koran burners. Why is this so?

    Of course, this is all assuming that the murderers lacked the agency to control their actions, but were just pavlovian stimulus/response machines. That of course, would mean they are sub-human.

  23. anjin-san says:

    > But the preacher’s actions here are in no way incitement to violence.

    Perhaps not. But the violence was predictable. It was predicted. And Jones decided to move forward with his stunt anyway.

  24. G.A.Phillips says:

    So the next time some so called “Christian” shoots an abortion doctor, I guess it was said doctors fault for murdering babies?

  25. Justin Bowen says:

    Is the moral difference between burning a Koran and a Book of Mormon that the former will cause violence and the latter should not? If the Mormons don’t want people burning their book, should those Mormons who don’t want people burning their book become more threatening so that making (some of) them upset becomes more immoral?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, there is a difference in the sense that a person who burns the Koran should absolutely know that doing so will cause violence. However, that person doesn’t know that burning the Book of Mormon will cause violence and thus isn’t as responsible for the ensuing violence.

    No, there isn’t a difference in the sense that a person who burns either book is just as morally-responsible for the ensuing violence in either case because the intent was the same.

    Both parties in either case are responsible, though each shares a different amount of the blame depending on the situation.

    In my opinion, the intent behind the action is more important than the consequences of the action. A man who beats a woman to a bloody pulp because she was cheating should spend the same amount of time in prison as a woman who beat a man because he was cheating but only broke a couple bones. Though the consequences may be different, both intended the same thing. Both are violent pieces of crap who need to be removed from society.

    I think we should treat all people whose intents are the same equally and only take consequences into account after we’ve dealt with them for their intent. Our focus on the consequences of people’s actions as opposed to the intent behind their actions is what is allowing violence and hatred to go on (and again, I don’t think the government ought to be getting involved in matters of speech).

    I don’t want unnecessary and unhelpful acts the provoke ill-will (of either the violent or non-violent variety), but when it occurs, I also don’t want all eyes on the guy that burned the book and I don’t want their threat of violence to dictate what we can and cannot do, what statements we can and cannot make, and how we can and cannot make those statements.

    Again, this, I think, is the beauty of the jury system. If an otherwise-law-abiding Muslim in his neighborhood went to his house and assaulted or killed him and I was on his jury, I don’t think I could convict him (if a black guy assaulted or killed some white guy who was calling him a nigger, I don’t think I could convict him either). I think there are times when violence is and isn’t appropriate and that those times should be determined by juries. Let the police round up every single individual who uses violence or threats of violence and let the people, through juries, determine their guilt. If the people want to let bigots incite violence then that should be the people’s choice. If they don’t, then that should also be their choice.

  26. G.A.Phillips says:

    michael reynolds says:
    Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 20:00
    Burning Korans vs Low Cut Blouses.

    I know which I prefer.

    lol, you like looking into a mirror and seeing veiled twins I take it?

  27. Tano says:

    I can’t believe you are being this dense James.

    The analogy to seeing cleavage is so patently ridiculous, for it totally ignores the context in which these events take place.

    Yes, these people are on the other side of the world. But 100,000 of our soldiers are in their homeland, essentially running their country. Right away, you should be able to figure out that the thoughts and passions that underlie these events are somewhat different than those surrounding the sight of a pretty lady.

    What would be your baseline attitude if there were a million foreigners occupying the United States of America? How would you feel about that, about them? Complicate this thought with the understanding that maybe part of you actually has come to peace with this fact – that despite all your lifelong passionate feelings about your homeland, you realize that so much pain and agony has marked your recent history, that some of your own countrymen have done such evil, that maybe these foreigners might somehow help usher in a better day.

    Imagine the incredible leap of faith that you would have to accomplish in order to grant such trust to a foreign army of occupation. Especially when there are no shortage of your fellow countrymen urging you to take up arms against these invaders – that being the only honorable stance for a patriot to take, irrespective of the issues involved.

    But no, you take your stand in favor of the foreigners because you decide to trust them when they say that they respect you, your culture, everything about you. And they just want to help you to be free in your own country.

    Also imagine that you are most likely illiterate, or at least educated at a rather minimal level, and that your understanding of the wider world is probably in line with what we might expect of someone living on a dollar a day, thousands of miles from the nearest outpost of “civilization”.

    Jones’s actions threatens to give the lie to everything that the United States has been trying to convince the Afghans about for the past 10 years. No, I do not really expect that many local Afghans fully comprehend the nature of American freedom of speech, and the tolerance that we force ourselves to exercise toward the evil nutcases in our midst. It is perfectly understandable that the average Afghan, absent our robust denunciation of these acts – at an official level – will imagine that Jones is speaking with the true voice of America,

    Hell, our own propagandists on the right are constantly making similar arguments about any evil act by any evil Muslim anywhere in the world. How relentlessly are normal Muslims in the West hounded to denounce everything that any evil Muslim does. How easy is it for the propagandists to make the case that the extremist is actually the true voice of those “others”.

    These are the realities we face there. Even though you seem utterly blind to the moral arguments here, just the practical arguments should suffice. Jones is doing great damage to our country and to our prospects of finding a decent solution to this war. He is using his freedom to deeply muddy the waters of what it is that America stands for, what it is we fight for. It is overwhelmingly in our national interest to distance our government from this as much as we can.

  28. Jay says:

    Ever heard of the fire in a crowded theater analogy? The person who convinces other people a fire is about to consume them may not be responsible for the potential injuries and deaths resulting from the stampede, but he damn surely is guilty of being the catalyst for what follows when he does it.

  29. Justin Bowen says:

    So the next time some so called “Christian” shoots an abortion doctor, I guess it was said doctors fault for murdering babies?

    I think one of the problems that you and so many others are having is that you’re not distinguishing between ultimate and proximate causation.

    If a “Christian” shoots an abortion doctor because that doctor “murders” babies, then yes, that is the doctor’s “fault”. The “Christian” shot the doctor because the doctor “murdered” babies. It’s a simple if-then equation. That he was doing something that is legal or whether he should or shouldn’t perform abortions is completely irrelevant to the question of whether his actions prompted the “Christian” to act the way he did because that’s why the “Christian” acted the way he did.

    The nutjob burned the Koran. Nutjob Muslims started killing people because the nutjob burned the Koran. Therefore, the nutjob who burned Koran caused the nutjob Muslims to react the way they did to his actions. If the nutjob didn’t burn the Koran, then the nutjob Muslims wouldn’t have reacted to his actions because there wouldn’t have been anything to react to, and thus there would now be no nutjob-caused violence. This is not to say that the nutjob Muslims aren’t responsible for their own reactions to his actions – because they are – and that they, being fanatics, wouldn’t be violent in the absence of his actions, but he is still responsible because his actions caused the violence.

  30. JKB says:

    So what I’m hearing is that if someone does something knowing that a mob could be provoked to violence then they are guilty. So by this logic the jury the acquitted the police officers in the Rodney King case are responsible for the South Central riots, the Beatings of Reginald Denny and the destruction and murders that happened?

    Interesting.

  31. G.A.Phillips says:

    I think one of the problems that you and so many others are having is that you’re not distinguishing between ultimate and proximate causation.

    If a “Christian” shoots an abortion doctor because that doctor “murders” babies, then yes, that is the doctor’s “fault”. The “Christian” shot the doctor because the doctor “murdered” babies. It’s a simple if-then equation. That he was doing something that is legal or whether he should or shouldn’t perform abortions is completely irrelevant to the question of whether his actions prompted the “Christian” to act the way he did because that’s why the “Christian” acted the way he did.

    Most Christians hold human life sacred, my point is totally fair by way of many here’s logic.

    The nutjob burned the Koran. Nutjob Muslims started killing people because the nutjob burned the Koran. Therefore, the nutjob who burned Koran caused the nutjob Muslims to react the way they did to his actions. If the nutjob didn’t burn the Koran, then the nutjob Muslims wouldn’t have reacted to his actions because there wouldn’t have been anything to react to, and thus there would now be no nutjob-caused violence. This is not to say that the nutjob Muslims aren’t responsible for their own reactions to his actions – because they are – and that they, being fanatics, wouldn’t be violent in the absence of his actions, but he is still responsible because his actions caused the violence.

    The nut jobs I will bet you can not read the freaking Koran, regardless it preaches to do what they did and so do their clerics,savvy?

    Blame them and their demonic religion.

  32. matt says:

    Most Christians hold human life sacred, my point is totally fair by way of many here’s logic.

    Until that human “life” pops out of the womb…

    The nut jobs I will bet you can not read the freaking Koran, regardless it preaches to do what they did and so do their clerics,savvy?

    The Koran does not preach this activity anymore then the Bible does. As for the demagogues well I think we can agree they are a bunch of assholes trying to maintain power by creating an enemy for their flocks to hate. Like I’ve mentioned before it’s hard telling how much of this violence is the result of the burning and how much of it is people who are tired of outsiders bombing their country for the last 10 years and are just using this as an excuse. Since the violent response has been contained to Afghanistan I can’t help but wonder.

    To me the question is simple. Jones is allowed to be an asshole and allowed to do what he wants. That doesn’t mean I can’t stand here and call him an asshole for his actions and disregard of potential consequences others will shoulder as a result of his asshattery..

  33. MarkedMan says:

    Having lived two blocks down from the gay bar that Eric Rudolph bombed in 1997, and having a wife that worked for planned parenthood (another target of the oh-so-moral Rudolph), all I can say is that Justin is scaring me. He seems like just another murderer who somehow feels the need to justify his desire to kill, so wraps it in some high sounding cause. And his “jury nullification” seems an awful lot like what the oh-so-moral people of North Carolina did when they helped Rudolph hide from the police.

  34. TG Chicago says:

    Joyner’s logic on this issue is getting worse and worse. This post is horribly stupid.

    “So, why is a preacher in Florida burning a book being condemned by American political and military leaders for a days-long murder spree in Afghanistan?”

    Because it was well known that there would be violent reprisal, that’s why. It was a highly provocative act, and it was successful in provoking a violent reaction. What Jones did made Petraeus’ job much harder. That’s why Petraeus condemned it.

    How incredibly dense. I knew Joyner was misfiring on this issue when I saw how nonresponsive his “responses” in the comments have been. This is his second analogy post, and it’s even worse than the first. When you’ve fallen down a logical hole, stop digging.

  35. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago “This post is horribly stupid.” Explain.

    “What Jones did made Petraeus’ job much harder. That’s why Petraeus condemned it.”

    No doubt. But here’s the thing: Petraeus is a servant of the American public, not a judge of its citizens. His job is to defend American freedoms, not complain about how free people speaking their mind makes his job more difficult.

  36. G.A.Phillips says:

    Until that human “life” pops out of the womb…

    ?

    The Koran does not preach this activity anymore then the Bible does.

    lol….yes it does, it is pretty much all its about. The clerics preach it. I have read this crap my self. I have heard its translations from arabic, you know what it really says and what it used to say and what it all means and it’s history.

    Allah is greater…..

  37. Chad S says:

    PD: Brandenberg v Ohio doesn’t change my point. It ruled that ” the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Jones’ actions still don’t rise to that standard and still he shouldn’t be charged with anything. Which is what I said.

  38. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner:

    Jones was specifically trying to stir up violence amongst Islamists. Nobody wearing a low-cut blouse or an away team’s jersey is trying to stir up violence. Your analogies are terrible.

    And now you’re saying Petraeus should be expected to curtail his own right to free speech? Ludicrous.

    You’re saying that Obama, Clinton, Gates, Petraeus, Boehner, and a host of other political, military and religious figures are all wrong to condemn Jones, but that Jones’ act — which he intended to stir up violence — was morally pure.

    That’s horribly stupid.

  39. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago: But they’re all equally provocative to crazy people intent on violence.

    I don’t claim that Jones was morally pure; merely that he’s entitled to do what he did without interference from his government and that he bears no responsibility for criminal acts of barbarians across the globe.

    I haven’t heard all the statements. Obama’s, which generically condemned bigotry and intolerance, were right on the mark. But I’m very, very leery of government leaders condemning speech of private citizens.

    Petraeus’ remarks were borderline, I think. But I don’t think it’s the role of the uniformed military to comment on the actions of their employers. His job is to fight for freedom, not lament it’s downsides.

  40. Justin Bowen says:

    So what I’m hearing is that if someone does something knowing that a mob could be provoked to violence then they are guilty.

    I’m having a hard time understanding why the concept of causal relation is so hard to understand.

    George Tiller (for example) did countless things besides perform abortions. He probably brushed his teeth, drove to work, paid taxes, visited friends, and so on. Each of those actions had consequences, most of which were probably good and completely meaningless to other people (because he probably brushed his teeth, he probably avoided getting gingivitis). Scott Roeder didn’t kill Tiller because he brushed his teeth, drove to work, paid taxes, visited friends, or for any other reason besides the fact that he performed abortions. He killed Tiller because Tiller performed abortions. While it’s possible that Roeder might have killed Tiller anyways, we all know that the one and only reason for why he killed Tiller was the fact that Tiller performed abortions. Therefore, Tiller was killed because he performed abortions. The moral and legal aspects of what Tiller was doing don’t come into play here.

    Determining what the cause of something was is not the same thing as determining the morality (or rightness) or legality of what happened.

    Does anyone not understand this?

    Jones is allowed to be an asshole and allowed to do what he wants.

    Jones is allowed to be an asshole because society allows him to do what he wants, not because the government allows him to do what he wants. Society’s tolerance of bigotry is what allows it to live on. He could very easily be killed by someone who is willing to risk his or her own freedom for a greater cause, but he isn’t because every person has decided that his or her own freedom isn’t worth being risked to striking a blow against bigotry.

    He seems like just another murderer who somehow feels the need to justify his desire to kill, so wraps it in some high sounding cause.

    So then you’re a pacifist? If not, then you’re a hypocrite. Every member of the military, police officer, prosecutor who pushes for a death sentence, judge who orders a death sentence, and prison official who executes a death sentence is just as much of a murderer as any vigilante. They all justify their actions by claiming that they’re doing it for some high-sounding cause. The only people who can claim the moral high ground if the killing of other human beings is to be considered immoral are pacifists who actually live by their words.

    And his “jury nullification” seems an awful lot like what the oh-so-moral people of North Carolina did when they helped Rudolph hide from the police.

    You’re obviously completely ignorant of the legal framework and history of juries and jury nullification.

    And now you’re saying Petraeus should be expected to curtail his own right to free speech? Ludicrous.

    You’re saying that Obama, Clinton, Gates, Petraeus, Boehner, and a host of other political, military and religious figures are all wrong to condemn Jones

    Whether he’s saying it or not, that’s definitely my opinion.

    As private citizens, they should be absolutely free to say whatever they want to say. In their capacities as public officials, however, they should definitely not be free to say whatever they want to say. You lose that ability once you enter the public sphere.

  41. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner:

    But they’re all equally provocative to crazy people intent on violence.

    That’s silliness. A crazy person intent on violence could theoretically be incited by anything. However, burning a Koran was a specific act which was known to be specifically provocative to a specific group of crazy people.

    Jones knew he was provoking violence, and he desired it. Wearers of jerseys and blouses are not comparable. Please give up on these ridiculous, indefensible analogies.

    I don’t claim that Jones was morally pure; merely that he’s entitled to do what he did without interference from his government and that he bears no responsibility for criminal acts of barbarians across the globe.

    We agree on the “interference from government” part… unless you’re saying that Petraeus pointing out the simple fact that his job is made more difficult by Jones’ stunt qualifies as “interference”, in which case I’d ask you to explain that.

    How can Jones can bear no moral responsibility for his act unless the act is morally pure?

    You seemed to feel that Anwar al-Awlaki was responsible for the Fort Hood shootings, given that you said it was “good news” that a report (later learned to be erroneous) claimed that he had been killed by a “Yemeni air raid” (which, of course, was almost certainly actually carried out by Americans).

    But Awlaki’s involvement in the Fort Hood massacre was fairly similar to Jones’ involvement here. Awlaki has never been charged as a criminal conspirator in this case, despite the fact that the government has the email correspondence between him and Hasan. Thus he apparently did not commit a crime; everything he said fell under First Amendment protection. Yet you cheered reports of his death. I would assume you did so because you believe that Awlaki was morally responsible for the shootings. (While I can’t support the targeted killing of an American citizen who has never been charged with a crime, I certainly believe Awlaki was morally culpable for the Fort Hood massacre.)

    So why does Awlaki have moral culpability — enough to cheer on his death — while Jones has none?

  42. TG Chicago says:

    @Justin Bowen:

    So you say it’s wrong for any public official to criticize any private citizen? Why? What purpose would be served by Obama or Boehner or whoever refusing to comment on this? Can’t you see how our interests are being hurt by Jones’ stunt? Why on earth wouldn’t a public official point this out, in hopes of discouraging future incidents?

    (I should note that referring to Jones as a “private citizen” in the context of a publicity stunt is a bit odd)

  43. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago: Awlaki was a terrorist leader, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to orchestrate murders. Jones is a provocateur who neither advocates murder nor inspired followers to commit murder. Rather, some people committed murder because they were angry that Jones insulted their religion. The first has direct responsibility for crime, both legally and morally. The latter does not.

    Jones is a hateful bigot, which is not only morally problematic but, as Steven Taylor noted in a post earlier today, goes against the very teachings of the Christianity that he purportedly espouses. So, he’s not morally pure but not morally culpable for actions of others.

  44. Justin Bowen says:

    What purpose would be served by Obama or Boehner or whoever refusing to comment on this? Can’t you see how our interests are being hurt by Jones’ stunt? Why on earth wouldn’t a public official point this out, in hopes of discouraging future incidents?

    The problem with allowing public officials, in their capacities as public officials, to condone or condemn any action is that they are doing as representatives of the government. Politicians, and thus the government, should not be taking sides one way or another on matters of morality (or rightness or whatever you’d like to call it), regardless of how noble or heinous most people might consider the matters to be. They should be as impartial as humanly possible, even to the point of having no comments on actions that are either worthy of every form of praise or worthy of every form of condemnation.

    If you accept that politicians should be able to condone or condemn behaviors that you do or don’t like then you have to accept that politicians should also be able to condone or condemn behaviors that you don’t or do like (read that carefully again to make sure you understand it). If it’s okay for Obama to condemn Jones’ hateful behavior because you also find it detestable, then it would also be perfectly okay for another president to condone other nutjobs’ detestable behavior.

    And by the way, this is exactly what the government tries to prevent viz-a-viz military personnel. The UCMJ specifically forbids uniformed personnel from participating in public events while in uniform. Why? Because the government doesn’t want military personnel to create the impression that the government – which is supposed to be representative of the whole country and not just those people who say and do nice things) – supports one position or another. Uniformed personnel are prohibited from participating in civil rights marches just as much as they’re prohibited from KKK rallies. Politicians and upper-level bureaucrats should be held to the exact same standard because the standard is an appropriate one.

    (I should note that referring to Jones as a “private citizen” in the context of a publicity stunt is a bit odd)

    Here’s the difference: Jones speaks only for himself while politicians and bureaucrats claim to speak for other people. While some nutjob Muslims viewed him as representative of all Americans and his actions as representative of the actions of all Americans, the vast majority of all Muslims and other people throughout the world didn’t and don’t. When presidents and senators and representatives stand up in front of cameras and give their opinions about this or that, they’re do so with the full knowledge that a huge percentage of people in the country and elsewhere in the world are viewing them as representative of the people in this country and their states and districts and their opinions as representative of the opinions of the people in this country and their states and districts (and you know this is true). The next time a reporter asks a politician what he or she thinks about some event, reword (in your head or on paper) the question that is asked as follows: What do the people in [country, state, district] think about x. That is what is actually being asked of a politician and is something totally different than “What do you think about x.”

    And of course, it has to be understood that whenever politicians make public statements about anything what they are actually doing is getting on record as being in favor of or against whatever is being discussed for the purpose of getting elected or re-elected. The number one goal of any politician is to first get elected and then to get re-elected.

  45. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner:

    If you’re going to respond to:

    “Awlaki has never been charged as a criminal conspirator in this case, despite the fact that the government has the email correspondence between him and Hasan. Thus he apparently did not commit a crime; everything he said fell under First Amendment protection.”

    with

    “Awlaki was a terrorist leader, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to orchestrate murders.”

    …providing no evidence to back up your claim, then it’s clear you’re not engaging in a serious discussion.

  46. TG Chicago says:

    If it’s okay for Obama to condemn Jones’ hateful behavior because you also find it detestable, then it would also be perfectly okay for another president to condone other nutjobs’ detestable behavior.

    Absolutely correct. And then that president would face the standard political consequences for condoning the nutjobs’ behavior.

    Uniformed personnel are prohibited from participating in civil rights marches just as much as they’re prohibited from KKK rallies. Politicians and upper-level bureaucrats should be held to the exact same standard because the standard is an appropriate one.

    How would a politician ever get anything done this way? How would civil rights protections ever have passed if politicians weren’t allowed to advocate for them? What would political debates be like if nobody could express political opinions?

    It seems as if you feel it was wrong for President Clinton to say in regards to the Oklahoma City bombing:

    This terrible sin took the lives of our American family, innocent children in that building, only because their parents were trying to be good parents as well as good workers; citizens in the building going about their daily business; and many there who served the rest of us — who worked to help the elderly and the disabled, who worked to support our farmers and our veterans, who worked to enforce our laws and to protect us. Let us say clearly, they served us well, and we are grateful.

    If you believe that, well, more power to you. I imagine very few people will agree with you.

  47. matt says:

    lol….yes it does, it is pretty much all its about. The clerics preach it. I have read this crap my self. I have heard its translations from arabic, you know what it really says and what it used to say and what it all means and it’s history.

    Allah is greater…..

    You really don’t want to get into a war of the copy and paste because son for every crazy Koran passage you can find I can find at least one crazy bible passage (especially out of the old testament whew). You seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that Christianity and Islam share the same roots and a lot of the same crazy ideas as a result (which were “common sense” back in the day).

  48. JMB says:

    I am truly baffled by the lack of just simple common sense in this case. I suppose that there are moral and legal arguments that probably need to be wrangled in lofty notioned dens of academia, but to me it’s just ordinary math. A plus B equals C. A: The guy wants to burn a Koran, and wants it to be televised or otherwise displayed to the world. B: People all over the world, including Sec. Gates, Gen. Petraeus, and the people who are actually doing these things say that if the guy goes through with it, people are going to die. C: The guy does it and people are killed. You can come up with all kinds similes to describe what has happened, whatever makes you feel okay or smug about your particular point of view, but it doesn’t change the fact that people are dead and are going to continue to die over this particular argument and the argument of my god is better than your god that has been going on since the beginning of time.
    I understand and applaud the fact that as Americans, we can have these arguments without fear of arrest or reprisal, but the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. It’s arrogant to assume that everyone should do as we do and be as we are in manners political or religious. The fact is that this “minister” knew that his actions would cause these reactions. It doesnt matter whether it is right or wrong. He knew that it would happen and he’s acting baffled that it actually came to pass. I happen to be over “there” right now. When this happened last year, we were briefed on this, but nothing much happened. It’s different this time. It was more of a surprise. We are taking increased indirect fire, and other places over “here” are experiencing renewed levels of action. Honestly, as someone who is not religious, I’m baffled. All he had to do was not do what he did. Now people are dead. And more are going to die. To me, at it’s nuts and bolts it’s just tremendously sad.
    And James, do you think that Petraeus didnt have the backing of the Commander in Chief? Honestly? Are you that naive? If you’ve ever worked around the upper echelons of the military, you’d understand that it’s often as political as DC. And by the way, his job, also, is to protect the people who fight for him and this country, and I believe that that’s what he’s doing in this particular case.

  49. Southern Hoosier says:

    Doug Mataconis says: Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 19:46
    Here’s a thought.

    I think most reasonable people can agree that Terry Jones is not responsible, morally or legally, for the murders in Afghanistan. At least I would hope so.

    I guess Sen Reid and Sen Graham are not reasonable people since they are talking about holding hearing to blame Rev Jones for the deaths.