Fahrenheit 450

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I remember the first time I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I was a prisoner in an 8th grade English class. I also knew I was going to be facing Ayn Rand and George Orwell, with Anthem and Animal Farm looming on the syllabus. The teacher was clearly working on a bit of a motif.

The only motif my teenage mind could discern was: “Truckload of homework.” The teacher was endeavoring to instill a more profound lesson: Literary and intellectual oppression is anathema to civilized society. For those of you who are victims of teachers’ unions: Burning books is stupid.

Burning books also doesn’t work. The anti-intellectualism of someone who would torch even Al Franken’s idiotic drivel deserves even less respect than the driveller himself. Don’t sell Al’s deepest thoughts short — there’s that wobbly leg on the coffee table, for instance. More to the point: From the Nazi Säuberung to the Fairness Doctrine, even short-lived victories in a war on knowledge always end up buried under a pile of either bodies or ballots (in the Fairness Doctrine example, a pile of Dennis Kucinich speeches).

During my internment in 8th grade English, I would gladly have siphoned gas out of my teacher’s Oldsmobile to assist an effort to rid us of the collected works of Bradbury, Rand and Orwell.

I was 13. What’s Terry Jones’s excuse?

Jones, the pastor of the incongruously-monikered Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has announced that he and his congregants will be marking the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by putting the Koran to the torch. Despite cautionary notes sounded by everyone from the local fire department to General David Petraeus, Jones is going ahead with his bonfire of the inanities. Jones says he and his congregation are making a statement about standing up to the forces of terrorism embodied by the Islamofacists who flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

I say Jones is playing the part of a lowbrow Macbeth (bet Jones is no fan of Shakespeare, either). By throwing his pyrotechnic tantrum, he’s offering sound and fury, but signifying very little.

Standing up to the forces of extremism and stupidity by acting in an extremely stupid manner is… extremely stupid. I have perused the Koran and remain decidedly non-Muslim (it’s a bacon thing). Nor do I have any desire to set my copy on fire, because it’s a really nice leather bound edition and I am intelligent enough to read divergent doctrine and/or opinion without being overcome with the urge to reach for a lighter (or shop for a new vest in the Semtex department).

However, Jones and his flock burning the Koran won’t further inflame the hatred of those who venerate the 9/11 hijackers. Gainesville, Fla., is also home to the University of Florida. Give an Islamofascist an eyeful of what the Gator coeds are wearing on campus and the Dove World Outreach Center might as well festoon their building with flaming Suras.

“Akbar, did you see the church in Gainesville has burned the Koran?”

“I did, Mustafa. But did you see that girl outside the student union? I COULD SEE HER ARMS ABOVE THE WRISTS!”

“THAT’S IT! DEATH TO THE INFIDELS!!”

They’ve already drawn their proverbial line in the rubble. Besides, we’re already fighting them and have been for the better part of a decade. And for the millions of Muslims worldwide who want nothing to do with the Al-Qaida/Taliban brand of Islam, most are either smart enough to recognize crazy when they see it or will shake their heads with the same sad bewilderment which I feel every time Chris Matthews starts talking about Obama-induced tingling in his lower extremities.

I suppose I should note that liberals are — predictably — trying to cast Jones and his minions as members of the “religious right.” I should subsequently direct you to the aforementioned Fairness Doctrine for an example of who the Islamofascists’ kindred spirits are on this side of the pond.

The real issue here is that Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Centrists are morons, albeit morons basking in their 15 minutes of fame. They don’t represent the American people, so President Obama can scrap his latest apology to nations which stone women for flashing their ankles, and MSNBC’s “hosts” can stop wringing their hands.

If you burn books, you’re just an idiot — nothing more. If you’re concerned about idiots, look for the smoke, then walk the other way.

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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