One of the Culprits Might be Technology

A bigoted Christian pastor of a tiny fundamentalist church in Florida burns the Koran while noting that it burn “very good” and the flames could have cooked a burger or toasted a marshmallow.

The pastor posts a video of the act on the Internet.  The president of Pakistan calls it “serious set-back” in American relations with Muslim countries and the president of Afghanistan calls for criminal charges against the pastor.

The words of the Muslim leaders trigger violent protests in Afghanistan and an angry mob raids a United Nations office and brutally murders seven innocent people.  Riots continue for days and more than 22 people are killed and maybe hundreds are injured.

Who is responsible for the deaths and violence?

The pastor?  The Muslim leaders who took umbrage?  The protesters?  The media?  Christian fundamentalism?  Muslim extremism?

Most likely all of the above.

But perhaps we need to also point a finger at technology.  Because it is unlikely that before 2005 (that’s the year YouTube was founded) that an obscure pastor of a “church” of less than 50 members could have trigger such worldwide outrage.

The Web has made the world smaller and social media has made it more intimate.  Ten years ago, the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan would never heard of Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center.  Ten years ago, the media – now responsible for filling every minute of the day with breaking news because of the Internet – would likely have ignored Jones as a crackpot.

Progress, especially technological progress, comes with a lot of pain.

In the United States, Terry Jones – no matter how repulsive his act may have been to some – has every right to burn the Koran – or the Bible or Charles Dickens’ “Our Mutual Friend.”  He has the right because the United States has freedom of speech written into our Constitution and that right is a foundation of our democracy.

However, those same principles don’t apply in Afghanistan.  There is no freedom of speech and just like in most Muslim countries the penalty for defacing the Koran is harsh.

But the Internet has no boundaries.  The standards, customs and laws of one country have no bearing on a second country.  Content created in one jurisdiction can be experienced by people in every jurisdiction – and that content can be taken out of context or just interpreted differently.

A minor incident by a fringe player in one culture is experienced as a monumental attack in another.  And this is the result of the Internet.  This can be a good thing – showcasing the best, brightest and most creative endeavors and thinking from around the globe – but it can also be a dangerous and painful thing.

What are your thoughts on the Koran burning in Florida and the bloody aftermath?  Who do you blame?  What do you think could have stopped this tragedy?


Washington Post story on Koran burning

Washington Post story on aftermath of Koran burning

Wikipedia entry on YouTube

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: