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Paper Monitor

10:24 UK time, Friday, 10 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There are not many issues on which the UK's newspapers are united. But wrongness of burning books is one of them.

American Pastor Terry Jones' plan to set fire to copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 11 September attacks - now, apparently, on hold - has thrust an obscure, sparsely-attended church in Florida into the international spotlight.

According to the Daily Mirror, the case is a "disturbing lesson in how an isolated religious idiot can wreak untold damage with the oxygen of publicity" - publicity facilitated, of course, by the Daily Mirror (and, indeed, by Paper Monitor).

The Guardian digs around Mr Jones' past and feature writer Jon Henley offers a potted history of book-burning:

There's something uniquely symbolic about the burning of books. It goes beyond the censoring of beliefs and ideas. A book, plainly, is something more than ink and paper, and burning one (or many) means something more than destroying it by any other means.

However, the Sun aims for the jugular. It carries the viewpoint of Patricia Bingley, who lost her son in the 2001 attacks, that the burning "would only have helped the extremists [in Afghanistan] justify their actions as they fight our brave soldiers".

Ms Bingley says it was "vitally important" that Mr Jones "was stopped somehow".

But as the Times notes, the only person capable of stopping Mr Jones was Mr Jones himself.

Alexandra Frean argues that the US constitution's First Amendment - which guarantees freedom of speech - is "what makes Americans American". The downside to this, as Professor Robert Goldman Goldstein of the University of Oakland tells Ms Frean, is "that a lot of dumb things get done in its name".

This point is drawn out in the Daily Mail by Richard Littlejohn, rarely a man hailed by the Twiteratti for his defence of tolerance and liberal values.

Mr Littlejohn regrets that a "crass stunt by an insignificant fire-and-brimstone preacher escalated into a major international incident".

But the columnist says the row is the flip side to that over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" planned in Lower Manhattan, two blocks away from the former site of the Twin Towers. While most Americans would abhor both, Mr Littlejohn argues, "they also revere their constitutional freedoms".

For now, no Korans will be torched. However much Mr Jones' threatened stunt may have inflamed tensions around the world, it seems to have had the odd side-effect of uniting Fleet Street, for once, in agreement.

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