[…]the outrage should not be directed at the Koran burners, but the lunatics who would kill others over what a bunch of nobodies did on their own private property that harmed no one in a city that most of those likely to be violently outraged have surely never heard of.
It really doesn’t interest me that something ugly or offensive is going on in Florida. Every day millions of things will happen that are offensive, either to me or others, and it makes no difference to me at all. If someone organised an Atlas Shrugged book burning in Iran I wouldn’t care; it would be pretty much inconsequential to me. I might take it as evidence of a cultural rot, and certainly good cause to not associate with the individuals involved (should the opportunity arise), but other than that I really wouldn’t care.
There is no shortage of idiots doing offensive things in any country that values free speech, and that isn’t a problem. Their right to say what they want is met with mine to ignore them.
However, what does concern me is the initiation of violence. Offending someone is not an initiation of violence; in some ways offence is a mutually derived feeling, since it requires the offended to hold ideas which make him take offence at the actions of the offender. Someone might hold a bizarre ideology which makes him think sex is offensive, but that does not mean we are all obliged to cease doing it. Similarly, if someone has decided that to damage book of fairy tales supposedly written in the name of a deity is offensive, that is his own choice. Of course, that is not to say that some things are not properly, objectively (that is; derived through rational standards) offensive, only that we must recognise that actions, when merely offensive, are not initiations of force.
The initiation of violence concerns me greatly. It is a direct threat to my life, freedom and happiness. If somebody was offended by something I did, and in response they decided to attack or kill me, I would be in an unenviable situation for obvious reasons. When somebody decides that in response to mere offensiveness they are going to initiate force, the boundary has been crossed: that person is a major concern. We cannot tolerate such behaviour, the diversity of human ideas is so enormous that it seems almost guaranteed that every action you take will offend at least somebody. The rationality, or lack thereof, of the offense is irrelevant – it is not the role of the state to play the Spanish Inquisition – it doesn’t matter whether we are dealing with one lunatic being offended by porcelain teapots or one million mystics being offended by a bonfire. If I am not free to offend people, I am not free to do anything at all, the state must perform its primary function and secure my freedom.
If the burning caused deaths and violence due to muslims being offended, though I am not sure this is an entirely evidence-based hypothesis, then the muslims involved must take 100% of the blame, since no human has ever lived without being offended by something.
The mistake being made is one of attributing the wrong sort of causal relationship to such an affair. “X offends Y which causes Y to attack Z” is the model we are presented, but this is not the full story, it does not take into account that all the actors are volitional. As detailed above, offending is somewhat mutual. The proper model is “X decides the actions of Y are offensive. X chooses to respond with violence”.
It is important to distinguish what each side here is guilty of. The Floridian Christians are guilty of doing something ugly and offensive: but entirely forceless. Muslims who respond to them with violence are guilty of initiating force against a human for no reason other than their ideology.