Fall from infamy: Florida pastor’s 15 minutes go up in smoke

Sayonara, you old coot.

Now that the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy has passed, one lingering question remains: What ever happened to that crazy would-be-Koran-burning zealot Terry Jones?

After nearly a month in the global news spotlight—with pundits lining up to bash Florida’s pistol-packing pastor as an intolerant bigot while simultaneously defending his unalienable First Amendment rights, not to mention protests and American flag burnings in his honor halfway around the world—Jones has receded into virtual obscurity among his like-minded religious rednecks. No daily updates on his book-burning plans or meeting arrangements with New York City mosque Imams—just fervent fundamental religiosity and quiet Sunday congregations at the Dove World Outreach Center (perhaps the greatest misnomer of all time).

Which brings me to another question: Was Jones’ decision to halt his desecration of the Muslim holy book a bad PR move?

Let us examine the facts, shall we. Prior to his inflammatory plan, which he dubbed the International Burn a Koran Day, Jones was a complete nonstory: a small-time pastor with some crazy ideas and a miniscule flock of fundamentalist Christians. Not exactly front-page stuff, right? But after news of his proposed demonstration began to spread just weeks before September 11th, the story was simply too juicy for the shock-starved media to ignore. Soon every high-profile politician was weighing in on the controversy, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

Really? The President? Even scarier is the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Jones personally and politely asked him not to piss off every Muslim on the planet by burning their sacred text.

Now, just so we’re clear: We won’t participate in one-on-one talks with North Korea to prevent an all-out nuclear war, but we will directly engage one God-twisting religious fanatic threatening to torch a few books?

For Jones, the attention garnered from his proposed Koran-burning was a public relations boon. Everyone—including the Leader of the Freakin’ Free World—was discussing him, his church and his warped religious ideology. He was story numero uno, the darling of the 24-hour news cycle. Not a bad time to pass that collection plate around, eh?

So why ruin a good thing by calling off the biggest book-burning since World War II? Acquiescing to public pressure held no benefit to Jones and his church. When every sensible person who hears your story already hates you, you risk nothing by going through with the fundamentalist bonfire and resulting firestorm. But, by compromising your tightly-held beliefs in intolerance and Christian extremism, you lose everything—your front-page status, your newfound political pull, and your credibility with other Muslim-hating hillbillies.

Sure, Jones has probably seen his church’s congregation and coffer grow by leap and bounds since his meteoric rise to national notoriety, but imagine what the response would have been had he actually gone through with it.

Remember this, Terry Jones, as you fade into our pop culture past: There’s no such thing as bad publicity, even for book-burning nutjobs like you.

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