Twitter, Pastor Terry Jones & An International Firestorm In Less than 140 Characters

Nothing brings home the raw immediacy of social media as powerfully as the ascendancy of an inconsequential Gainesville, Florida pastor with a congregation of fifty people who hijacked the international dialogue through a series of tweets.

Think about that.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingYou don’t follow him.  You never heard of him.  And yet back on July 12, Pastor Terry Jones sent this message out over Twitter: “9/11/2010 Int Burn a Quran Day.”   He followed this up by forming a Facebook Group and that proved the tipping point.

Other Pastors have burned the Quran.  Some have even posted videos of just that on YouTube (who shields this kind of content behind an ‘offensive by nature’ warning screen).  But Pastor Jones cannily tied his idea into the furor around the “Ground Zero” mosque and suddenly, he was holding press conferences.  He was issuing formal statements to established news outlets like CNN.  The top US military commander in Afghanistan felt compelled to issue a statement.  State Department and White House Spokesmen, the Attorney General and our Secretary of State all publicly denounced the act.  Even the President addressed the issue during an interview with ABC TV.

With one tweet of thirty-one characters, the conversation of the day changed from honoring the still raw and painful memory of the innocent five thousand American working mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers murdered by terrorists nine years ago to yet another inane exercise in hysteria.

Politicians and pundits can debate those issues; I simply find it amazing how social media–this recently emerged phenomenon of  ‘imMedia’–has so profoundly altered the way we communicate, determine news and afford credibility.

Certainly hate, that pornography of human emotions, plays a huge role in all of this.  But so does the power of an idea clearly put.  From the outset, Pastor Jones set up his protest as an “Int” day, a rather aggrandized vision of his sphere of influence entirely in keeping with the precedent he set by naming his church “The Dove World Outreach Center.”  He tied his ideology to one easily-understood and shared act and that notion spread like a viral disease.

Back in the day, AT&T implored us to “Reach Out and Touch Someone“.  Today, anyone can text out and touch millions of people all over the planet, all at once.

The unfiltered notion of that sounds pretty icky.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


2 thoughts on “Twitter, Pastor Terry Jones & An International Firestorm In Less than 140 Characters

  1. tom says:

    This incident just clearly illustrates what Twitter and social networks are great at, spreading controversy. Mr. Jones amplified, at just the right moment, feelings that others were having. The Tea Baggers are doing the same thing as well (I know that isn’t very PC but it is funny), they are giving voice an unvoiced fear or desire for action. They say crazy things to get noticed. I say all those misspelled signs are made on purpose.

    Tweets that are crazy or funny spread like rumors in a high school. Before you know it one crazy statement has the originator in the spotlight. This is why companies have a hard time harnessing social media like Twitter, they aren’t willing to take those chances, to say something that will spread like crazy. The closest they get is “I have a coupon” but how long will that last.

    Mr. Jones used Twitter to gain some notoriety and it is interesting to see the petrie dish of social networks react. He gave everyone, for a brief moment, something to rally around on 9/11/2010.

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