Gainesville pastor Terry Jones says his church has been contacted twice by the Secret Service in response to the display at the Dove World Outreach Center that features an effigy of President Barack Obama hanging from a noose
. (The photograph sent to us shows an Uncle Sam dummy hung up; one from the Smoking Gun shows Obama in the noose
The Pulp spoke with him this afternoon about the display and about his declarations that he is running as a write-in candidate for president. Jones said the display was not meant to have any racial symbolism and was only "a symbolic action saying we do not, of course, want him reelected. It is death -- of course, not to him. To his political career."
When asked whether he thought his message might get lost behind the physical display of a black man with a noose around his neck, Jones said, "Quite honestly, I never even thought about that.
"We are not looking at him as a black man. He is not black; he is not white; he is the president of the United States," he said. "And the noose, of course, was to represent the death of his presidency and political career. Not at all to represent his race... His race has absolutely nothing to do with it."
He also said that the Secret Service was "definitely" justified in looking into the matter and that "we tried to make it clear that it's not a death threat."
I asked if he was concerned that rhetoric like this (a news release had the headline "Terry Jones on Obama -- Hang 'Em High") could lend legitimacy to people who don't see it metaphorically, people who do think the president should be harmed.
"I actually don't think so," he said. "I think these people who think like that, they are going to continue to think like that no matter what you do. They might use things that you do as an excuse."
When asked if he brought attention to his messages by doing intentionally offensive things, Jones said, "That's definitely not our reason. We have continued to do things whether we got attention or not... We're devastated by the condition of America."
Next question. A lot has been said about the frenzied tone of American political discourse over the past few years -- why do you think hanging effigies of the president is a productive way to influence the electoral discussion?
"I think it's a way; I think it may not be the best way, just like the burning of the Qur'an is not the best way to get your message across about radical Islam," he said. "[There's] a need to be [controversial] at times in order to shake us out of our apathy and perhaps bring attention to an issue that people then begin to examine... To a certain degree, it does appear that the American people are somewhat numb sometimes to normal rhetoric."
As for his run for president, Jones said it's "definitely very possible" that people who would have otherwise supported his platform
would be driven off by his publicity stunts.
"We definitely do have a lot of support, but... people think these type of methods are going a little bit too far, a little bit too intense," he said. "We chose those methods because they are the methods that we thought about, and we really felt a couple of these issues are so intense and so important that sometimes we do need a little bit of a shaking."