Is Pastor Terry Jones to Blame for the UN Worker Massacre?

A heated debate surfaces after an Afghan protest over Koran burning turns deadly

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The tragic killing of seven United Nations workers in Afghanistan has triggered a heated discussion in the blogosphere over who to blame for the murders. The storming of the UN compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif occurred during a protest over the burning of a Koran in March by Florida pastor Terry Jones. While some are blaming the media for giving Jones's stunt extensive coverage last summer, others argue that the Florida pastor shouldn't be blamed for constitutionally-protected actions, no matter how egregious they are.

Tunku Varadarajan, editor of Newsweek International, said the U.S. media was at least partially to blame. "Not to excuse the savages who murdered the UN staffers," he tweets, "but I hold accountable all those who gave the oxygen of publicity to the Fla pastor."

Tim Elfrink at The Miami New Times agrees, saying cable news company's were "all too glad" to give Jones a microphone for his "ham-handed intolerant provocation." Elfrink expressed further disgust when Jones spoke to the press in the immediate aftermath of the killings saying "our President must take a close, realistic look at the radical element Islam."

"What a disgusting cycle of violence," writes Elfrink. "His comments, rebranded and rebroadcast in Kabul, will then inspire fresh new killings and bombings."

Countering the Elfrink view, John Ellis at Business Insider calls his line of thought the "BS media meme of the year." He points to a New York Times report saying that there were "conflicting reports" about whether "some insurgents disguised as demonstrators had used the protest as a pretext to attack the U.N. offices."

"Are we really supposed to believe that this massacre occurred because 'thousands of demonstrators' were 'angered' by what some nitwit in Florida did?" he writes. "If they were really 'angered,' why weren't they 'angered' on March 21st?  Or March 22nd? Or March 29? Did it really take 11 days for this 'anger' to percolate before it exploded?"

"Please. It seems much more likely that the 'insurgents' ... were the cause of this horrific violence," he writes. Meanwhile, Michael C. Moynihan at Reason warns against divining any significant meaning from the massacre. "The lesson here, it seems, is that if the United States allows cult leaders in Florida to burn Islam’s holy book, a gaggle of bloodthirsty knuckle draggers, acting on God's behalf, will brutally murder the nearest Nepalese," he writes.

In a similar vein, The Daily Caller's Mike Riggs raises a hypothetical for those blaming Jones and the media. "If a paranoid jingoist shot up a Mosque every time an Afghan burned the U.S. flag, would we blame the foreigner like we're blaming Jones?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.