Terry Jones burned a Koran, and an Afghan mob killed at least seven UN personnel. Connected? Surely, but that hardly makes Jones responsible for murder, he told ABC News in a Nightline interview last night:
Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who oversaw the burning of a Koran last month, said he did not feel responsible for the violent protest at a United Nations compound in Afghanistan today that left at least 11 dead. Instead, he said the violence proved his point.
“We wanted to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element,” Jones said. “I think [today’s attack] proves that there is a radical element of Islam.”
As for the 11 dead, which included seven U.N. staffers and guards, Jones told “Nightline” anchor Bill Weir, “We do not feel responsible, no.”
Interestingly, I had a conversation about this with a family member yesterday. While I agreed that Jones was a publicity hound looking for attention, that doesn’t make him responsible for murder. The only people responsible for murders are those who commit them, and those who specifically incite them to kill. Any other position eventually wipes out free speech, free religious practice, and freedom altogether. If we held others responsible for the acts of every nutcase whose violent reactions may or may not have connections to something they did or said, we would have no speech at all — a point we made repeatedly during the Left’s Loughner frenzy, which they conveniently forgot during the Madison protests.
James Joyner warns today about acknowledging the “murderer’s veto”:
Should Jones have burned the Koran? No. But not because doing so might incite some evil people halfway around the world to commit atrocities against innocents. Rather, he shouldn’t have done it was needlessly hurtful without adding any value to the debate. Indeed, aside from generating publicity for himself, he’s likely generated sympathy for Islam and disdain for churches of his ilk.
But Jones is not the slightest bit culpable for the actions of others. Yes, he was warned that violence might ensue. But we’re not responsible for the evil, illegal actions others might take in response to our freely expressing our thoughts. Even if they’re ill-informed, half baked, bigoted thoughts. If we allow the possible reaction of the most dogmatic, evil people who might hear the message to govern our expression, we don’t have freedom at all. It’s worse than a heckler’s veto; it’s a murderer’s veto.
The responsibility for these murders lie with the people who committed them, just as with the murders and violence following the publication of the editorial cartoons in Denmark a few years ago.