The sentence of the week from Andrew Koppelman :
If tolerance had to be based on a concession that the other guy’s views are reasonable, there wouldn't be much tolerance in the world.
From Ayaan Hirsi Ali :
I am often told that the average Muslim wholeheartedly rejects the use of violence and terror, does not share the radicals' belief that a degenerate and corrupt Western culture needs to be replaced with an Islamic one, and abhors the denigration of women's most basic rights. Well, it is time for those peace-loving Muslims to do more, much more, to resist those in their midst who engage in this type of proselytizing before they proceed to the phase of holy war.
It is also time for Western liberals to wake up. If they choose to regard Boko Haram as an aberration, they do so at their peril. The kidnapping of these schoolgirls is not an isolated tragedy; their fate reflects a new wave of jihadism that extends far beyond Nigeria and poses a mortal threat to the rights of women and girls. If my pointing this out offends some people more than the odious acts of Boko Haram, then so be it.
I find Ali's predictability scary for it shows that she has stopped growing and thinking. Oh well, she is adapting very well to the American Western modern contemporary intellectual terrain.
A cocorico for Anna Momigliano:
To some extent, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin. (...)What’s more, if placing the blame for the problems of a whole nation on a particular minority is increasingly considered “acceptable,” “mainstream,” and “not a threat to democracy,” then all minorities have reason to be concerned — because this paves the way for all kinds of scapegoating.
What should really worry us as Jews, then, is not just that some French people are scapegoating Muslims for the current economic crisis, but that most French people, or at least half of them, don’t seem to think that’s such a big deal.
I agree with Henry Farrell on this :
Bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry. Whether the people who implemented Bob Jones University’s notorious ban on inter-racial dating considered themselves to be actively biased against black people, or simply enforcing what they understood to be Biblical rules against miscegenation is an interesting theoretical question. You can perhaps make a good argument that bigotry-rooted-in-direct-bias is more obnoxious than bigotry-rooted-in-adherence-to-perceived-religious-and-social-mandates. Maybe the people enforcing the rules sincerely believed that they loved black people. It’s perfectly possible that some of their best friends were black. But it seems pretty hard to make a good case that the latter form of discrimination is not a form of bigotry. And if Friedersdorf wants to defend his sincerely-religiously-against-gay-marriage people as not being bigots, he has to defend the sincerely-religiously-against-racial-miscegenation people too.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Jonny Thakkar :
Sexuality and race are fairly obvious fault lines for oppression, as are class and gender. But if oppression is treating people otherwise than they deserve, there’s another category that tends to slip under our radar, namely the oppression of the ugly.
We don’t choose the configuration of our facial features any more than we choose our skin colour, yet people discriminate based on looks all the time. As the psychologist Comila Shahani-Denning put it, summarising research on the topic in Hofstra Horizons in 2003: ‘Attractiveness biases have been demonstrated in such different areas as teacher judgments of students, voter preferences for political candidates and jury judgments in simulated trials … attractiveness also influences interviewers’ judgments of job applicants.’ From the toddler gazing up at the adult to the adult gazing down at the toddler, we ruthlessly privilege the beautiful. The ugly get screwed.
I agree strongly with this from Brendan O'Neill:
One of the most striking developments of recent years has been the movement of conspiratorial thinking into the centre of political life and public debate. For decades, conspiracy theories about global affairs and domestic politics being controlled by largely hidden, unnamed actors with a malevolent agenda tended to flourish only on the fringes of society, especially among far-right groups. But today, it is commonplace to hear very mainstream thinkers and activists talk about the ‘cabals’ and ‘cults’ that allegedly control economic life and dictate the global agenda. As a result of a broader crisis of politics, of a long drawn-out evacuation of meaning and oftentimes purpose from the political sphere, political and economic developments can seem arbitrary and unhinged to many – and they respond by devoting their energies to obsessively hunting down the dark, dastardly thing which, they assume, must be puppeteering these confusing developments from behind the scenes.
A good reason to read and to love Belle Waring:
The past is a region ruled by the soft bigotry of low expectations. We all allow it to run up against the asymptote of any moral value we hold dear now. We are moved by the ideals of Thomas Jefferson even though we know he took his wife’s little sister, the sister she brought with her as a six-month old baby, the very youngest part of her dowerage when she married him—he took that grown girl as a slave concubine, and raped that woman until he died. We would all think it a very idiotic objection to The Good Soldier Švejk that women weren’t allowed to serve in the military at that time and so it didn’t bear reading. My favorite part of the Odyssey is book XXII, when Odysseus, having strung his bow, turns its arrows on the suitors and, eventually, kills them all. This is despite the fact that he and Telemachus go on to hang the 12 faithless maids with a ship’s cable strung between the courtyard and another interior building, so that none of them will die cleanly, and they struggle like birds with their feet fluttering above the ground for a little while, until they are still. There is no point in traveling into the land of “how many children had Lady MacBeth,” but, at the same time—the suitors raped those women, at least some of them, and likely all, if we use our imagination even in the most limited and machine-like fashion on the situation. Still it is my favorite, because I am vengeful.
From Elissa Strauss:
According to Gawker, [Michael] Bloomberg once told a female colleague to “kill it” when she announced her pregnancy, only after teasing her about being too ugly to be engaged. Another Bloomberg employee complained of the institutional harassment at Bloomberg LP in the late 1990s, and believed that the misogynistic workplace culture was linked to her being raped by her superior in a hotel room. Also, “in 2007 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Bloomberg LP on behalf of 78 women who claimed that Bloomberg — who at that point was not involved in the day-to-day company operations, despite being a majority shareholder — and Bloomberg LP ‘fostered, condoned and perpetuated’ a hostile work environment for female employees.”
This is pretty bad, right? Nevertheless, nobody seemed to really care when they elected him to mayor the first, second or third time. And nobody seems to really care now either.
Imagine if there was a similar history of his saying or condoning disparaging remarks against blacks or Jews. Our inboxes and Facebook feeds would be filled with celebrity-endorsed pleas to sign online petitions pressuring him to resign from office. He would feel obligated to at least mutter some public apology, even if it clearly wasn’t heartfelt. But talk down to women like this, and the outrage is barely existent. (Think I am over exaggerating? Remember what happened with serial misogynist Charlie Sheen? The actor’s career was derailed by a single anti-semitic comment, after years of reports of domestic abuse and porn addiction.)
Sure, sexism can be more difficult to define than racism or anti-semitism (because humans + sex drives = messy), but when there is a pattern of misogynistic behavior like Bloomberg’s, albeit alleged, I wonder why we are so darn tolerant.
Well, the answer to that question explains in part why Obama is president.
From Rod Liddle:
I have lost count of the times my own penis — a harmless enough creature, really — has been invoked, most usually by women, during an attempted refutation of some point I have made in an article. It is, I have been assured, minuscule, or inoperative, or unwashed, or diseased, or nonexistent. Sometimes all of these things at once. And as with Mary [Beard], the remainder of my physical being is not left unremarked: fat, hideous, stinking, vile, ugly… oh, lordy, we could be here for weeks. It is nothing to do with misogyny; it is just what people reach for when they, perhaps temporarily, hate someone. I remember a short while ago a complaint that Muslims in the public eye were subjected to the most horrid nastiness — the journalist Mehdi Hasan was one of the loudest complainants. Again, no, Mehdi; it’s not your religion, or the colour of your skin — it’s you. It’s just you.
Aahh, the only answer to Liddle is it isn't your penis, it's you. That said, Rod Liddle is a dick!
From Wendy Kaminer:
Death, disease, war and genocide are tragic; famine is tragic; climate change is potentially tragic. An isolated incident of anti-Semitic graffiti is unsettling and lamentable, but it is hardly a tragedy. It is human nature. Few of us will go through life without being insulted or disliked on account of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics. People can be mean and stupid. People harbour biases; they always have and always will, and their right to believe in the inferiority or sinfulness of particular groups is the same as your right to believe in equality.
America's, and for that matter the world's, increasing obsession with purity bugs me. It kills debate with self-righteousness and the idea that being right affords one the right to be ignorant, intolerant, and obnoxious.
From Duleep Allirajah over at Spiked on the fight against racism in English football:
Racist speech is, in other words, a modern taboo. It is no longer seen as the expression of a political ideology but as something more akin to a sin. Anti-racism, by the same token, is no longer a political project but an inquisition against racial name-calling.
Hum, something is rotten in the State of Denmark...I suspect that it is the fact that modern societies are too eager to abdicate the responsibility that they have in educating their members rather than to criminalize all of their shortcomings whether or not they become criminal acts.
From Richard Davenport-Hines :
Americans are increasingly sundered from judgements and values at variance with their own, and insulated in like-minded communities which reinforce ignorance, incomprehension and inhumanity.
I don't this is true solely of Americans.
Words to munch this weekend from Duleep Allirajah over at Spiked :
Anti-racism during the 1970s and 80s in Britain was primarily a political struggle aimed at powerful institutions – the police, the government and the immigration authorities. The problems faced by immigrants in Britain – deportations, passport checks, police harassment, employment discrimination - required social and political change. But, over the course of the past three decades, the definitions of racism and anti-racism have been altered beyond all recognition. The first big shift was the rise of multiculturalism in the 1980s. The multiculturalist policies of the ‘municipal socialists’ in local authorities turned a political issue into a cultural problem. Instead of demanding integration, as the US civil-right movement had done in the Sixties, multiculturalists demanded respect for different cultural identities. It was here, in the multiculturalist obsession with language and cultural sensitivity, that today’s tyranny of racial etiquette was born.
The second key shift was the 1999 Macpherson Report on the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Macpherson introduced the concept of ‘unwitting racism’, which recast racism as a psychological problem. Racism was now effectively a thought crime. As a consequence, anti-racism today is predominantly about gagging, censoring and punishing. It’s a policing issue, not a demand for equality.
My 'shot from the hip' reaction is that Allirajah is at least partly right, but even that means that there is something wrong with societies that persecute people for what the are thinking. The question that I keep asking myself is whether racism is racism is racism.
Quotes of the day, the first from A. Barton Hinkle:
The trouble with protecting feelings is that advocates of free expression have them, too: Many of them are genuinely pained by the prospect of government silencing people by threat of force. Flag-burners and bigots also have feelings – rather strong ones, judging by their willingness to suffer the hostility of their fellow citizens. Likewise, gays and lesbians have feelings that are hurt when religious conservatives call them sinful, and religious conservatives have feelings that are hurt when gay-rights activists call them haters. If we go around silencing any speech that might hurt someone’s tender ego, then before you know it nobody will be able to say much of anything. Defending free speech requires defending it when the speech makes you mad, not just the other guy. That’s a lesson that seems to need repeating – over and over.
The second from Gleen Greenwald:
My real question for those who insist that advocacy of violence should be suppressed is this: do you apply this view consistently? Do you want those who advocated the attack on Iraq - i.e., who advocated violence - to be arrested? How about those who cheer for the war in Afghanistan, or drone attacks on Pakistanis and Yemenis? The next time someone in the US or UK stands up and advocates a new war - say, attacking Iran - should they be arrested on the ground that they are advocating violence?
Or is it the case, as it certainly appears, that when people say that "advocating violence" should be suppressed, what they really mean is: it should be prohibited for those people over there to advocate violence against my society, but my society is of course free to advocate violence against them?
I disagree strongly with Peter Spiro on this:
(...) the Benghazi protests were prompted by this film depicting the prophet Mohammed in not very flattering terms. The equation from the protesters at the US consulate in Benghazi: this film was produced by an American; we will hold America responsible for it.
The result: national foreign relations are seriously compromised by the irresponsible act of an individual. For structural and functional reasons, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. (....) our European friends would argue that democracy is better served by banning such material. Either way, our exceptionalism on this score doesn’t serve us very well.
There are two main reasons for my disagreement. The first has to with the definition of hate speech and who/what decides what it is. The second is that I believe that the 'European model' isn't democratic at all, but paternalistic (mainly because of recent history) for at its core is the presumption that a society can never be mature enough to handle filth and thus the state must intervene to avoid that the kids do harm to each other.
Ethel Waters, for example, was the result of a forcible rape. (...)I used to work for James Robison back in the 1970s, he leads a large Christian organisation. He, himself, was the result of a forcible rape…(...) Even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things.
I am having a hard time swallowing (no pun intended) the expression 'forcible rape...' In any case, I think that people who don't believe that marriage is a requirement for women who shouldn't be able to et a divorce when they want one and cannot say no to their husbands because their body is his and giving is is their divine obligation shouldn't comment on rape.
To get back to the core of the issue, I think that 'qualifying' rape is always dumb and abominable for Huckabee could have as well said that great things come from any 'evil." He may have as well said that 'Blacks' and 'Jews' in America should be grateful for slavery and the Shoah because those tragedies enable them to become Americans and to have a shot at the American dream. That would have been as dumb, cruel, inculture and mean as what he said simply to defend his conviction that sex is rarely about violence for after all there is one that takes what is naturally his to take and one that should always feel fulfilled and grateful for the possession/penetration/insertion/abuse.
Brendan O'Neill's interesting take on Euro 2012 and the popular meme that both Poland and Ukraine are essentially racist countries:
What the great Ukraine racism panic reveals is the extent to which official anti-racism has replaced racism as the means through which the elite asserts its authority over allegedly backward peoples. Where once the ideology of racism was used to depict Slavs as inferior, now the ideology of ‘anti-racism’ is used to do something frighteningly similar. The only difference is that where earlier generations of Western elitists argued that Slavs were racially inferior, today’s elitists claim they are culturally inferior, that there is an endemic cultural problem rather than a hereditary problem. Yet all that this reveals is that, in an era when racial thinking has been well and truly discredited, talk of problematic ‘cultural traits’ has replaced talk of backward ‘racial traits’ as the preferred method of asserting one’s moral authority over strange, uneducated tribes Over There. Today, weirdly, a people like the Ukrainians is branded inferior not because of its racial traits but because of its alleged racialist thinking.(...)One possible end result of this relentless cultural assault on Eastern Europeans, the depiction of them as racist lowlifes and savages, is that they will respond in kind, kicking against their Western haters by causing some trouble for Euro 2012.
I don't disagree with O'Neill for too often or rater usually it assumed that racism and other forms of bigotry have to do solely with ignorance and stupidity when it doesn't and when experience sows that it is possible to be cultured and bigoted and to be an anti-racist/non racist and stupid or ignorant. It is too easy to blame culture or rather inculture and stupidity for racism because it simplifies the issue by making it being one of morality, of good vs. evil when the reality is more complex which explains why prejudices and stereotypes can survive erudition.
(...) And there’s the argument that the burqa objectifies women. I think the fact that women are often treated as objects for male use and control is a real problem. But let’s also think about porn magazines, the treatment of women in advertising and in the media, where women are treated as consumer objects and are encouraged to package themselves for male use and control in a way that eclipses their individuality. If you go to a high school dance, girls are wearing identical micro-skirts and packaging themselves as objects for a simulated group sex ritual that takes the place of dancing. There are lots of practices in our society that objectify women, unfortunately. To complain about one that happens to be the practice of the minority religion and not to examine yourself and the many ways in which you participate in such practices is terrible, especially when the force of law is brought to bear. In America, fortunately we don’t have bans on the burqa and the headscarf. But the French would ban you from walking down the street in a burqa, while you could wear a micro-skirt and your 4-inch heels and they’d think nothing of that. I think it’s just an ugly inconsistency.
Sugary excerpt from Garry Wills on the Vatican's slap of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious:
Last week, following an assessment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican stripped the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing most American nuns, of its powers of self-government, maintaining that its members have made statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning “political” activity (which is what Rome calls social work). Women are not capable, in the Vatican’s mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?
It is typical of the pope’s sense of priorities that, at the very time when he is quashing an independent spirit in the church’s women, he is negotiating a welcome back to priests who left the church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. These men, with their own dissident bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, formed the Society of Saint Pius X—the Pius whose Secretariat of State had a monsignor (Umberto Benigni) who promoted the Protocols of the Elder of Zion. Pope Benedict has already lifted the excommunication of four bishops in the Society of Saint Pius X, including that of Richard Williamson, who is a holocaust denier. Now a return of the whole body is being negotiated.
Just another proof that Sarah Silverman is right when she proposes to sell the Vatican to sell the world.
This bit from Jack C. Chow arguing that a President Rick Santorum would be good for 'Africa' is as offensive as it is narrow-minded:
Alone among his rivals, Santorum has staked out global health as one of his preferred instruments of asserting American power abroad. He is the only Republican candidate to declare he wants to "keep and expand" Bush's humanitarian aid push in Africa. In contrast, Mitt Romney is "very reluctant to borrow lots more money to be able to do wonderful things" if other countries and groups do not contribute more; Newt Gingrich has called for government-run foreign aid to be replaced with private incentives; and Ron Paul, a physician, has asserted that "all the foreign aid in the world will not transform Africa into a thriving, healthy continent." [...]His record so far is promising. [...]He has couched aid programs as "one of our best international investments" and credited humanitarian aid and fighting AIDS as critical to winning "hearts and minds" in competing against the influence of "China and Islam" in Africa. "We have done more good for America in Africa and in the Third World by the things that we've done," he said at the Nov. 22 debate. "And we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends." His reasoning echoes the arguments asserted by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke about saving Africa from a demographic cataclysm caused by HIV/AIDS.
Chow's argument is offensive for two reasons. The first is that he makes the ignorant presumption that African countries are all the same and therefore that their sole priority is to battle Aids. The second reason is that Chow obviously believes that charity is what African countries need most from America is aid or rather charity.
Thus, arguing that President Rick Santorum would be good for "Africa" is as condescending as it is paternalist because it reduces very different countries to a single aspect Aids while asserting ideologically that they need to be saved by an American president who will believe that it is his religious duty to do so.
Sugary excerpt of the day or rather of the night from Juan Cole:
Note to Muslim-hater Bill Maher, who should know better: It is not true that women cannot vote in 20 Muslim countries, and please stop generalizing about 1.5 billion Muslims based on the 22 million people in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, the only place where women cannot drive and where men can vote (in municipal elections) but women cannot. It would be like generalizing from the Amish in Pennsylvania to all people of Christian heritage and wondering what is with Christianity and its fascination with horses and buggies.
I have to admit that I have stopped watching Bill Maher years ago because I couldn't take him seriously. He is exactly like the people he criticized, arrogant and fanatically persuaded to be on the right side except that his views are seen more fashionable and more 'cultured' (some forms of inculture in America and elsewhere are tolerable/fashionable than others when they lead to more palatable conclusions).
Bill Maher doesn't care about the status of women in the "Muslin world," to use an expression that I hate. He is using it to make a cheap point to win an argument that isn't about women, but about a group of people he considers as savages. My own point here isn't that there is no there there, but to make the assertion that consistency matters when being self-righteous.
I will not foolishly assert that women in America are not privileged compared to others or that foreign countries especially those in certain parts of the world have a 'woman problem.' I will just argue that saying that isn't saying much for the question remains what is the ideal, what are absolute and universal values, and to stop using women as human shield, as props to win ideological wars.
Why is it that cab drivers–who are sometimes they themselves Black–still refuse to pick up Black people on a Saturday night?
Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard from other people when I’ve posed the question:
1.-the fear that Black people won’t have the money for a cab.
2.-not wanting to go into a “bad” (read: Black) neighborhood.
3.-the overwhelming belief that White people give really huge tips.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked that this kind of thing still happens but I am surprised because I’m not sure where it comes from. It should be so hard for two black girls to find a cab that we’re forced to go the other side of town to find one.
One word on the neighborhood issue: Overwhelmingly, it turns out that a lot of White people are going to the exact same destinations as Black people when it’s time to go home–especially in the advent of gentrification. So that can’t be it.
Or is it?
Insignificant disclosure: I just spent a few days in a land here most people are black and it was difficult to get a cab if you weren't well dressed or didn't look you are supposed to look when you have money. My point isn't that racism doesn't exist, but that it isn't extraordinary for it is about social prejudices and stereotypes.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Anjad Khan:
Essentially, Islamists have been successful in the UK where they have failed elsewhere. They have duped the establishment into thinking that they represent Muslims and Islam, all the while using that as a guise to promote divisive and potentially explosive identity politics. Their job has, of course, been made easier by soft deluded “liberal” multiculturalists who are in fact guilty of the racism of lower expectation and who don’t apply universal norms to the ‘exotic’ others who we can’t expect to behave like us.
Over at the OUPblog, Elvin Lim has the best article(and the last one I will quote) on the whole NPR and Juan Williams episode. Sugary excerpt:
But NPR, in firing Williams, wasted an opportunity to make such a pedagogical statement. It wrapped up its reasons in faux reasons of journalistic standards and objectivity, and ironically, ended up implicitly endorsing the legitimacy of Williams’ first, emotional, reaction. Indeed, I suspect that Juan Williams was fired because his bosses at NPR were, in turn, uncomfortable that he had articulated his own discomfort. And that is the problem. One reflex knee jerk begot another, but no reasonable explanation followed.
One thing we do know is that emotions cannot be bottled up. We either feel them or we don’t, and Juan Williams apparently feels them when he sees someone dressed up in Muslim garb. What NPR did, in firing him, was send the emotional message that his emotions were illegitimate. But – and here was their mistake – NPR said nothing about either the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the reasons which provoked Williams’ particular emotional reaction.
Emotions indicate the salience and intensity of issues, and they should be addressed even – and, in fact, especially – when they are based on bad reasons. NPR pushed a discussion of the legitimacy of these emotions under the carpet by firing Juan Williams under the faux reasons of journalistic objectivity and this is why in one fell swoop they lost both a journalist and a teaching moment. If NPR wanted to be politically correct, it might as well have gone all the way.
What has been alarming about the whole episode is the realization that America is under a strong emotional dictatorship, one where feelings ,especially when at their center is outrage or pain giving one the perception that s/he is victimized, are seldom questioned as the basis for political and other important decisions. I still remember George W. Bush responding to Al Gore's legitimate criticisms of his record as Texas's governor by saying that he was hurt that his heart was being questioned. Just take the one of Obama telling Democrats to either get over their disappointment or not to feel discouraged because it is only the first quarter of the game. In short, emotions are the center of every debate because they make it so difficult to think or rather so easy to shoot from the hip and to indulge on junk without even considering the need to exercise or to eat healthy.
Here is what I, Jay Rosen, New York Jew, liberal Democrat, and professional student of the press think... Given its existing codes NPR was in an untenable position from the moment Juan Williams started working for Fox, where his job is to be a liberal foil for the conservative alternative in news. There was no way he could abide by NPR’s rules–which insist on viewlessness as a guarantor of trust–and appear on Fox, where the clash of views is basic to what the network does to generate audience, and where Williams relished the give and take with outsized personalities like Bill O’Reilly.
NPR recognized the problem but tried to finesse it by re-classifying Williams as an “analyst.” Big mistake. The job of analyst, as NPR defines it, is so tightly constrained that it excludes almost everything Williams was doing for Fox. So why didn’t NPR simply get rid of Williams years ago when he began to generate view-from-somewhere controversies with his appearances on Fox? The likely reason was identified by Farai Chideya, who used to work at NPR: a diversity problem. NPR had almost no black men on the air.
Jay Rosen is right, but I'm also convinced that the focus on the 'whys' of the Juan Williams episode is convenient because it puts the essential question on the back-burner and that question is what does it mean to be a journalist in America. There are a lot of bad and discomforting answers to that question, but no sustainable attempts to provide thoughtful answers.
Quote of the day from Glenn Greenwald about the firing of Juan Williams from NPR for expressing his fears over 'Muslims' 'who look Muslims' in certain situations:
The principal reason the Williams firing resonated so much and provoked so much fury is that it threatens the preservation of one of the most important American mythologies: that Muslims are a Serious Threat to America and Americans.
I have to say that the whole thing makes me more than uncomfortable. America has entered an age where free speech is about content precisely because it is no longer possible for Americans to have a dialogue about issues. The goal of political or social discussions is to shut up the opposition and to make the argument that it is either simply or solely bigoted or dumb. Where there is a prevalent notion in a society that people have to be careful about what they say, it is in general because there also exists the prevalent and uncomfortable one that people can't change, that people are their vilest thought, and that education and dialogue don't matter.
Quote from Russel Kirk via Professor Bainbridge:
A Populist, whose basic conviction is that the cure for democracy is more democracy, conserves nothing - even though he may wish to do so. Populism, in effect, is what Walter Bagehot called the "ignorant democratic conservatism of the masses." It is the tendency later called Populism that Tocqueville dreaded when he wrote that the triumph of democracy might lead to the stagnation of the society of the future, all change being resisted by the conservatism of mediocrity and complacency. ...
Populism is a revolt against the Smart Guys. I am very ready to confess that the present Smart Guys, as represented by the dominant mentality of the Academy and of what the Bergers call the Knowledge Class today, are insufficiently endowed with right reason and moral imagination. But it would not be an improvement to supplant them by persons of thoroughgoing ignorance and incompetence.
Hummmm... For some reason, although I agree with Kirk and with Bainbridge, I found myself increasingly wondering whether the smart guys should escape responsibility, sanctions because their opposition is 'stupid,' 'scary' or simply inadequate. It seems to me that the fact that one is a smart guy means indeed that one has greater responsibilities and obligations than those who don't know better or don't even try to know better because they assume that normalcy and ordinariness mean stupidity and inculture. People would be and should be harsher on Einstein for asserting that 2+2=3 or for not having good results than on Forrest Gump especially if Einstein asserted that he was better, smarter and his opposition was just dumb. I have to say that I no longer believes that being smart makes one the best possible leader especially in an America where being cultured can be a burden or simply give the false sense that one knows better than anybody else. I used to like Blair for that reason because he sounded and was smart until I realized that his total certitude on his own smartness and sense of superiority led him to the darkness. Smartness shouldn't be a religion.
I woke up (I had a long Sunday) to headlines of Christine O'Donnell and the I dabbled into Witchcraft quote. I have to say that it made me laugh and then regret with a sadness that is vain that there is such a contempt for O'Donnell and whatever she represents that the other side doesn't even feel that it has to rise up and to make the case for reason or simply for their own ideals. Is the most troubling thing about O'Donnell really the fact that she believes in witchcraft? What does it say about the Left, the smart guys that they focus on side and wedge issues instead of offering an alternative view and defending their 'America?"
Politics in America and France is now about being against something, someone that has to be demonized. I guess most politicians like O'Donnell do believe in the Devil.
I don't agree totally agree with Mehdi Hasan on this, but the fact that I can't say he is just wrong, shows that he has a point:
On Thursday the US president said Pastor Jones's plans to burn the Qur'an would be a "recruiting bonanza" for al-Qaida. Yet he fails to recognise how the west's war in Afghanistan provides a similar boost to extremists – on both sides. The "enemy" in Afghanistan, concluded the IISS report released on Tuesday, is "incentivised by the presence of foreign forces". And inside the US the likes of Jones and rightwing Republican bigots, frothing at the mouth over the "Ground Zero mosque" take their cue from aggressive leaders like Blair, Bush and Obama – who send more and more troops to fight and die abroad, in faraway Muslim countries, while denying any link between Islamic militancy and western foreign policies.
Brilliant stuff from Ilya Somin on the "Ground Zero" mosque:
I lost half a dozen relatives in the Holocaust. But I don’t see any inherent problem with having a German cultural center near the site of a former Nazi death camp. So long as the center does not interfere with the operations of the memorial established at the camp, does not promote anti-Semitism, and doesn’t advocate the sort of virulent nationalism that helped cause the Holocaust, it should be unobjectionable. As Krauthammer notes, Germans as a group are not to blame for the Holocaust. And German culture is not reducible to Nazism and anti-Semitism. A center promoting elements of German culture that are not implicated in those phenomena does not somehow offend against the memory of Holocaust victims. A German cultural center that actually condemns Nazism and extreme nationalism while celebrating positive elements of German culture could actually make a useful contribution to reducing prejudice and honoring the victims.
I recognize, of course, that some Jews might still be offended, and avoiding such offense might be a pragmatic justification for not building the center. But the issue is whether the offense-taking would be justified. No one has a moral obligation to change their plans merely because others take unjustified offense.
The same points apply to the proposed Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero. Islam is not reducible to terrorism and oppression. A Muslim center near Ground Zero that promotes positive aspects of the Muslim tradition is unobjectionable. One that also denounces terrorism and radical Islamism would be a positive good.
It is difficult to say, but this controversy is just another proof that in America, it is increasingly becoming difficult to have serious conversations because too many are persuaded to have either "god" or "the truth" on their side and those who oppose them are just stupid or simply evil. The alarming thing is that the POTUS, the decider chose to avoid the debate even though he has always described himself as a man who isn't afraid of doing the right thing even if it means losing. Bush used to talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations, in Obama's case, I think we should talk about the flashy arrogance of great expectations.
I'm probably late to the game, but I was impressed by Obama's speech on Friday on the controversy over the construction of a Mosque near Ground Zero. I heard about it in the Cab that was taking me from JFK to Manhattan for I spent Friday in two airports and in a plane. My first thought was to say "at last, the Potus does something impressive that isn't solely self-serving." I thought the speech was on point and unlike the other flashy speeches Obama gives, I believed that it had meaning.
So was I disappointed by the fact that Obama "retreated" from his comment the next day? No and I wasn't even surprised. I expected him to do it for two reasons. The first is that Obama is a great politician and that as all great politicians of our era, he knows that it is difficult to educate the electorate or to lead on a issue when the real issues are fear and resentment. Obama said what was in his heart on Friday, but then had to clarify it because he did the math and realized that once again, being himself, saying what he meant wasn't going to be good for him politically in the short term.
The second reason why I expected Obama to kill the greatness of his Friday's speech with clarifications is that he isn't an ideologue in the good sense of the word. There are few things Obama is willing to die, politically, for, I would write that there is nothing, but I have decided to be nice because I'm still infected by the Parisian atmosphere.
Obama knows that he has to get reelected for his presidency to become meaningful and to be something more than a symbol of what America wanted to be when it elected him without of course having to work for it. I always thought to Obama was an attempt by a symbolically out of shape America to put itself back in shape by having surgery instead of course of exercising and deciding to have better eating habits.
I have never thought that Obama was too good for America, to the contrary, I have always thought that America didn't have enough faith in itself, in its ability to repair the wounds of its early and recent history (Bush's eight years) for it to choose Obama blindly knowing full well the odds of a rookie quarterback doing well without years of training are slim. But again, America loves believing in the improbable and it is also one of the reasons why it is a country to I love passionately.
The sugary excerpt of the day is from Norman Geras on the attempts to define down anti-Semitism:
(...) there are people who, keen to deny the scope of the problem of anti-Semitism, want to limit it to overtly anti-Jewish hostility of mind. 'Since I don't have the hostility,' they will confidently assure their audience, 'how can anything I say or do be anti-Semitic?' Such people fail to explain why the assumption behind their rhetorical question doesn't apply to other forms of racism; or why they temporarily forget the insight which elsewhere they recognize quite freely - as Howard Jacobson has lately expressed it, that 'language has a mind of its own'.
One of my favorite Paul Eluard's quote is "les mots ne mentent pas (words don't lie)", however I have to say that I have come to wonder whether the trouble isn't so much in defining down anti-Semitism or any form of bigotry than in making the end of any discussion, when it seems that bigotry always requires explanations and cannot be washed away or even just condemned with the idea of good or bad faith or with the idea that it is the end of something when it is its beginning.
Robin Hanson offers what is, I believe, an excellent definition of tolerance:
“Tolerance” is a feel-good buzzword in our society, but I fear people have forgotten what it means. Many folks are proud of their “tolerance” for gays, working women, Tibetan monks in cute orange outfits, or blacks sitting at the front of the bus. But what they really mean is that they consider such things to be completely appropriate parts of their society, and are not bothered by them in the slightest. That, however, isn’t “tolerance.”
“Tolerance” is where you tolerate things that actually bother you. Things that make you go “ick”, or that conflict with strong intuitions on proper behavior.
That means of course that most societies, even 'modern societies,' are pretty intolerant places.
I agree almost totally with Ken McLaughlin's assertion that Uganda's homophobia has been exacerbated (not created) by outside influences:
Care needs to be taken not to overstate the influence of three extreme and objectionable American evangelical Christians. Ugandans are not empty vessels waiting to be filled with whatever nonsense such people pour forth. The reasons for the current anti-homosexual climate are complex, influenced by historical, social, religious and cultural factors. However, the role of the West, from the colonial to the contemporary period, is of relevance when considering what is happening in Uganda today.
Attitudes to homosexuality in Uganda, as in most countries, have varied historically – at points being tolerant, at others intolerant. However, the current criminalisation of homosexuality is a legacy of British colonialism, whereby the colonial powers sought to punish local practices that they deemed to constitute ‘unnatural sex’. More recently, the US administration under George W Bush praised Uganda’s heterosexual, family-values policies and donated millions of dollars to sexual abstinence programmes. And now, Uganda finds itself being used as a proxy site for Western culture wars, with politicians, church leaders, gay and anti-gay activists getting involved in the debate and escalating the situation.
It is indisputable, in my opinion, that homophobia in Uganda and elsewhere has become a major political issue in part because of outside factors and influence. In those countries, it is used as both a political and an identity tool (identity politics here again is key); it is a way to reaffirm the omnipotence of traditional values which are seen as the basis of an imagined 'Africanity' which is seen as under assault from the outside world and oneeds to be revived to fix all problems including the one of development. I don't believe that the world should remain silent in front what is happening to Uganda, but rather that it should not make it an issue as one between the 'West' and the 'rest' by moralizing it, but rather should simply humanize it to avoid stupid debates about colonialism, neocolonialism, cultural imperialism, and every other silly pretexts used to justify the unjustifiable.
We are witnessing an unholy alliance of leftist feminists, right-wing bigots and Quebec nationalists. That's why Lucien Bouchard, former PQ premier, publicly warned his party last month against playing identity politics, something he said René Lévesque would never have approved of. Picking on Muslim women smacks of hypocrisy or, worse, the pathology of "bigots and chauvinists who, like bullies, direct their vitriol toward the weak,"
As always, Ann Coulter knows how to be dignified after suffering 'a setback' in Canada, here is her reaction:
You guys used to be so cool. You were smokers. You had epic hockey fights. We had half our comedians from Canada. Now you’re all a bunch of girls named Francois.
I wish Coulter had been able to speak in Ottawa and that Canadians to the contrary of American had been able to put her down nicely by showing her that she doesn't deserve to be taken seriously even though she is entitled to speak and by not taken the bait of antagonism and just ignoring. I will bet by favorite left toe that Coulter isn't going to have the guts to go through with her threat to file a human-right complaint alleging that she was the victim of hate speech. That would be a further proof that she is commercial figure who only believe in her principles when they protect her or earn her a few bucks.
I abhor the rightwing Muslim ideology behind the veils but I equally abhor the political rightwing xenophobes of Europe. The European political right – be it President Nicolas Sarkozy, his ultra-right rival Jean-Marie Le Pen (who did alarmingly well in the first round of those regional elections) or Dutch provocateur Geert Wilders – do not give a rat's ass about Muslim women or their rights: they are merely using the issue in an attempt to win votes.
The racism and discrimination that Muslim minorities face in many countries — such as France, which has the largest Muslim community in Europe, and Britain, where two members of the xenophobic British National party were shamefully elected to the European parliament — are very real. But the silence of the left wing and liberals isn't the way to fight it. The best way to support Muslim women would be to say we oppose both the racist right wing and the niqabs and burkas which are products of what I call the Muslim right wing. Women should not be sacrificed to either.
My disagreement with Eltahawy comes from the fact that I don't view women as victims or particular creatures that have to remain clean, pure, and always make good choices. I consider that they have the right to be whoever they want to be even if it means becoming an object and making disturbing choices. My point on the burka/burqa/niqab debate is simple, women are instruments to fight Islamic ideology or to promote secularism, they are normal individuals whose rights to individuality should be judge by the usual criteria used in a society to decide when individuality becomes criminal and dangerous to a society. I'm not against a burqa ban in France and elsewhere in the name of feminism, because I don't think that women's rights (whatever that expression means) is the issue, but that the right of women as human beings to define their womanhood and their femininity is in question. I'm still waiting for somebody to tell what is the male's equivalent of the burqa to reconsider my position.
I agree with Adam Serwer on this:
Mammy" is not a "positive" stereotype. There are no "positive" stereotypes, all stereotypes are created with a dehumanizing flip side that is inseparable from the faint "compliment" used to justify their invocation. But the legacy of the Mammy in particular is a grotesque one. Like every other carefully engineered old-school caricature of black people, it's meant to reinforce notions of what kind of behavior is appropriate--in this case, a docile, even happy acquiescence to white authority. "Mammy" was meant to depict black women as ugly and asexual, content to exist as surrogate mothers to the saintly white children of their owners or employers. Mammy's false happiness assures white people that the institutions of slavery and later Jim Crow have black people's consent and approval, her rotund body an alibi for the rampant exploitation of black women by their white slave masters.
There's simply nothing "positive" about it. Mammy may give some people the warm fuzzies, but that has to do with whom the stereotype flatters. It sure as hell doesn't flatter black women.
Their cult, a form of west African polytheism that came to Haiti with the slave trade, is being blamed by some followers of the rapidly growing Christian denominations - evangelicals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists - as the cause of God's anger in smiting their country.
"They say we're the ones who caused the earthquake. But we know ourselves that we didn't cause the quake, because it was a natural catastrophe," said Willer Jassaint, one of the priests, or houngans, leading the Voodoo ceremony.
Matters came to a head February 23, when a group of Protestant Evangelicals attacked a Cite Soleil Voodoo ceremony with a hail of rocks.
Max Beauvoir, supreme head of Haitian Voodoo, said two days afterwards that a repeat of the violence would lead to "open war," with his followers told to meet aggression with aggression.
Whether it is Voodoo or whatever else, it seems that religions always divinize the most potent, backwards, and fultile traditions in a society, which might explain its inabilities to progress and move forward by letting behind its heavy past. I'm trying to say diplomatically that the religious strife among Haitians based on whether a cult, a sect, a religion or whatever else caused the earthquake is indicative of wider problem and who the fact that in those societies it is difficult not to believe that someone/something else is in charge of one's faith because things are so chaotic and so despairingly dark otherwise.
Toby Young, my favorite judge of Top Chef, defends Geert Wilders in the Daily Telegraph by arguing that he is a freedom of speech warrior:
are the Dutch people just fed up with being told they’re not allowed to criticise Muslim extremists because to do so is “Islamophobic”? As a defender of free speech, I don’t believe for one moment that the Koran ought to be banned. But if I was a member of the Dutch electorate I would vote for Geert Wilders’ party nonetheless because I don’t think he deserves to go to jail for 16 months just for arguing that it should.
Wilders doesn’t really want to ban the Koran, of course. It’s a theatrical gesture — a situationist move — designed to underline the absurdity of trying to limit freedom of speech on the grounds that certain words or phrases or images might move people to violence. What Wilders is saying is that if you believe the critics of Muslim extremism should be silenced because their words might incite religious hatred, then, logically, you ought to ban the Koran on the same grounds. It’s not a serious suggestion, so much as a reductio ad absurdum of a completely untenable, illiberal position.
It is for precisely this reason that I have always believed that European countries are wrong to attempt to censor what they consider to be hate speech or speech denying certain historical events such as the Shoah. Hate-speech laws or any other laws that try to limit free speech based on its content always make the extremist the victim. Moreover, they force people such as Toby Young who likes to provoke and who believe that freedom of speech is the most sacred of values to defend Geert Wilders without seeking to see behind the trees. Guided by his orthodoxy about free speech, Young is convinced that Wilders can only be right because that it is always absolutely unjust to try to shut somebody hate because society doesn't like what he is saying or finds it too distasteful. It isn't an erroneous positon to take, just a limited and an absurd one because the conclusion seems to be that victims of censorship are always and absolutely right or rather they cannot be right or even extremist.
The Daily Telegraph has a portrait of Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-right politician whose party is calling for the stop of the Islamization of the Netherlands and increasing its popularity with that message. Sugary excerpt:
Wilders describes his far-Right label as "nonsense".
"My supporters say: 'At last there is someone who dares to say what millions of people think'. That is what I do," Wilders said before the European elections last year, in which the PVV took four of the 25 Dutch seats.
"People are fed up with the government; the leftist elite that has failed them," said Wilders.
(,,,).Arguing that "Islam is the Netherlands' biggest problem," Wilders has urged parliament to ban the Koran, comparing it with Hitler's "Mein Kampf."
He also wants a total ban on the burqa as well as a halt to immigration from Muslim countries and the construction of mosques in the Netherlands.
He is awaiting a hate speech trial trial at home and was barred from entering Britain last year to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages."
"I want to defend freedom, which I think will disappear into thin air the moment the Islamic ideology gains a stronger foothold on this country," Wilders, who is married to a Hungarian, told AFP.
I'm not alarmed by the ascension of Geert Wilders because his ascension and his views are not new in Europe, Extremism, both on the left and the right, tends to rise everywhere especially in times when there is so economic, social, and political distress, which none of the "legitimate" parties seem to be able to address to the satisfaction of an increasingly impatient and radicalized electorate. One only has to analyze the short, but tumultuous and tragic political career of Pim Portuyn in the Netherlands or even the long and flashy one of Jean-Marie Le Pen to realize that politicians such as Wilders are always very opportunistic, but that they are rarely able to leave any serious political marks or even to ascend to power without cleaning up their message or at least expanding because soon or later two things happen. The first is that their message is co-opted by other political parties who start to pay attention and to realize that they must find less "intolerant" ways to deal with the concerns of the voters who may be unsavory, but are very real. Sarkozy did it very effectively in 2007 and beat Le Pen at his own. The second thing that happens when politicians such as Geert Wilders are actually very good at politics or very ambitious is that soon or later, they come to the realization that they have to widen their message and that Islamization or any other message exploiting the fear of others and of unwelcome change is not enough to be more than a pestilent gadfly.
For these reasons, what I'm really wonder is whether Wilders is ever going to be willing to form a coalition with other Dutch parties of the right if his party becomes a political force or whether he will be content to remain on the margins believing that the system will collapse. I'm also wondering what is Ayaan Hirsi Ali's opinion of Geert Wilders.
John Lichfield has an article in the Independent, which proclaims solemnly Geoges Frêche, the sulfurous President of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Left:
Originally, the Socialist Party, at national level, had agreed reluctantly to back Mr Frêche's centre-left coalition, or "list". Last month, Mr Frêche once again outraged the leadership of the national party – and many other people in France – by making what appeared to be an anti-Semitic remark about the former Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius.
Mr Fabius is from a Catholic family of Jewish origin. After he had criticised Mr Frêche during a radio interview, the president of Languedoc-Roussillon retaliated by saying that the former prime minister had a "tronche pas très Catholique" – literally a "not very Catholic mug or hooter".
This may seem a trivial insult. Mr Frêche says that it was a version of a well-known phrase in the French south, "pas très Catholique", meaning not entirely straightforward. This is disingenuous. By referring to the "tronche", the face or nose, of Mr Fabius, Mr Frêche was indulging in just the kind of insidious, nudge-nudge anti-Semitism which still thrives in bourgeois, Catholic France, north and south.
This was far from Mr Frêche's first lapse. He has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks before, despite being a strong supporter of Israel. He once referred to two ex-"Harkis" – Algerians who fought on the French side in the colonial civil war – as "sub-humans". In 2007, he repeated a complaint once voiced by the far-right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, that there were too many black players on the France football team.
The trouble with Lichfield 's article is that it remains purposely on the periphery of the Frêche's issue. It does so in order to create a new monster and then to make the case with ease simply one of an anti-Semitic and racist socialist who shows that Le Pen is not an anomaly within the French political system. This is, in my opinion, a voluntary misreading of the situation for the Frêche's issue is neither about anti-Semitism and racism, but rather about the fracture of the French left between those who consider that politics is about management (the modernists) and the others who believe that it has to be also about values and the nation (the traditionalists). The French socialist are excluding Frêche and his supporters not because they believe they are racist but solely because there is a witch hunt that has begun in the party ahead of the next presidential election whose goal is to make sure that only a modern (Martine Aubry or Dominique Strauss-Kahn) is the socialist presidential candidate. It is a shame that John Lichfield because it is more flashy and more politically correct. to sell the story that French is Le Pen didn't dig deep enough to give his readers the whole context by pointing out for example that the most important French Jewish organization supported Frêche and that many influential socialists (Gérad Collomb, the mayor of Lyon and François Rebsamen, the one of Dijon) who can hardly be called racist or anti-Semitic have campaigned for him.
Ah, so people just have a narrow mind to see the need to defend "Africanity" even though it is an illusion and more importantly when their first instinct should be to condemn vile behaviors instead of focusing on the fact that they come from a particular group. Those were my first thoughts when I read this op-ed in the Mail&Guardian by Verashni Pillay :
Zuma's contravention of a certain public and cultural standard by having an extramarital affair is unlikely to earn him more than a slap on the wrist by his party and alliance.
In the double standards that attend reporting on our very African president, the international media seems to forget that dodgy behaviour on the part of men in power is hardly an exclusively African trait. Sex scandals are ubiquitous as they are deliciously satisfying media fodder.
The fact of human nature is that we can all be corrupted.
I need to take a moment to resist the urge to vomit.
Interesting comparison between Poland and France and the way their society deals with anti-Semitism from Konstanty Gebert; he seems to imply that France deals well with Anti-semitism I disagree strongly with him because I don't think that laws can eradicate bigotry, on the contrary they tend to victimize the bigots thus giving them too much of the spotlight, which enable them in turn to become larger than the hate they spread:
Because Polish anti-Semitism is as widespread as it is skin-deep. Let me explain. Take France. In France they had very strong laws against public expressions of anti-Semitism. If you express anti-Semitism in public you can be seriously penalised. This doesn't necessarily affect what Monsieur Dupont says at his dinner table (and I've sat at some of those dinner tables – I know) but in public if somebody makes an anti-Semitic statement you'd better believe he or she is serious, because they are willing to take the rap.
In Poland, anti-Semitism is not penalised, period. Just recently, the public prosecutor in the town of Krakow closed the investigation into soccer fans yelling "Gas them!" to the fans of another club which is labelled as Jewish because, historically, like 70 years ago, it had been Jewish. So they yelled "Gas them," and they yelled, "We'll always triumph over you, you fucking Jews," and the public prosecutor decided such contents do not constitute a crime and dropped the case. And this comes in the wake of similar statements by different public prosecutors. So anti-Semitism isn't penalised, therefore it becomes a convenient venue for the expression of frustration. So if somebody says in public it's all the fault of the Jews and they should be kicked out of the country, this does not necessarily mean, as it probably does in France, that he is a dyed-in-the-wool and dangerous anti- Semite. It might mean that he had a bad day at work, full stop. This is no less excusable morally...
Chris Dillow has a post in Stumbling and Mumbling, which argues that richer people are more “civilized” than poor people are. He uses the example of the fact that the crowd in Bucharest booed black players during a
soccer football game between Arsenal and Steaua Bucharest to prove his point:
[…] the rich know better than the poor that diversity is a source of wealth. Differences in tastes and abilities are what lie behind the division of labour, comparative advantage and hence prosperity. As the cliche goes, it takes differences of opinion to make a market. Instinctively, therefore, we rich people regard people of different ethnicities as providing opportunities to get rich, not threats to our status. We know better than the poor - and certainly better than those brought up under Communism - that the economy is a positive-sum game.
This mechanism predicts that those who got rich from trading will be more tolerant, on average, than those who got rich in other ways - through inheritance, say. How much evidence is there for this? Here's one datapoint.
What's more, this suggests there might be another growth trap. Poverty causes intolerance. But intolerance also retards growth.
I disagree strongly with Dillow for two simple reasons. The first reason is that Dillow is confusing wealth and education and that wealthy people in my opinion are less intolerant only if they are more educated and have more contact with different people. In other words, the variables here are education and diversity not wealth. The tragedy here is that it costs more to gain an education. and that diversity is not a fact everywhere. The second reason I take issue with the argument that wealthy people are more “civilized” than poor people is because it implies than wealthy people are better and that tolerance and “civilization” can only be attained with wealth. I will bet anything that there are differences between the threshold of tolerance between countries with a more diverse population and the one in countries with a more homogenous populiation. The racist chants and boos in the Bucharest game have less to do with the fact that the poor don’t know better and can't be tolerant because of their social status, than with the fact that they are less blacks in Romania than in England.
Moreover, I am willing also to push the point even farther by arguing that the following gross generalization is more accurate than Dillow's: in countries with diverse populations, the wealthy tolerate diverse population not only because they understand that diversity and immigration is good for wealth, but also because they don’t have to mix and to live next to the immigrants and people who have a different skin color or religion than them. In those countries, I am willing to predict than the most integrated neighborhood are not wealthy neighborhood, but the poor and middle class one. The point is that wealth makes it possible to “tolerate” difference most of the times because it inoculates the wealthy from having to experience the changes created from that difference and because they don’t have to change since they can afford to build walls between them and people that they don’t like. However, the poor learn to “accept” difference when they have to live next to it and when they have no other choice than to learn to trust their neighbor. It is for this reason, that some of the banlieues of Paris and more particularly of Marseille are both poor, but also the most integrated places in France.
I am all for provocation when it is based on something more than a childish attempt to attract attention and when it doesn’t use stereotypes and reinforces ignorance. That’s what Hugh Fitzgerald does in the following quote while trying to make the point, which I agree with that there are no excuses for terrorism. What is sad is that Fitzgerald uses Baudelaire and Gogol to try to cover up his ignorance and biases:
Ennui. Baudelaire's "Spleen." Gogol's "Skuchno na etom svete, gospoda" at the end of "Nevskij Prospekt." That's the ticket now.
First it was "poverty." But they all turned out to be middle-class or rich, far better off, and far better educated, than the run-of-the-mill Muslims, so it couldn't be that.
Then it was "sexual tension." But then there were those who pointed out that Bin Laden and many of his pals had all the wives they could afford, and then some, so it couldn't be that.
Now it's "boredom." So what are we Infidels to do? Shall we all become a race of Noel Cowards, with "a talent to amuse," and make sure we keep Muslims all around the world -- not known for their sense of humor -- constantly in stitches, or occupied with things to do, so that they don't, heaven forfend, become "deadly bored" with the "bored" part applying to them and the "deadly" part applying to us, their victims?
Might it, could it, just possibly be that Muslims, whose ideology covers everything, that is a religion and a politics and an economics and a geopolitics and a book of etiquette and a social order and a manual of hygiene and a guide to the right sports and a clothing guide and a guide to hairstyles and to everything under the sun, and who grow up in societies, or in families, suffused with Islam, or if they are new converts, are smothered by their minders -- they are assigned minders in the first period just after their "reversion" to make sure that there are no hitches, no backsliding, no finding out of something that might cause someone to change his mind -- with Islam, Islam, Islam, with what those texts-- Qur'an and Hadith and Sira -- say, actually have an effect on the minds of Believers, when those passages are known to all Muslims, when they are the stuff of the khutbas at Friday Prayers, when they are known or if not known by heart, known in their essence, known by the attitudes they create, the atmospherics that they give rise to.
All one needs to do to understand why Fitzgerald’s words are more insulting than provocative is to replace Muslims with another group and imagine what one can say that is horrible about it to make the point that they are responsible for their own faults. That said Fitzgerald has the right to write whatever he pleases about religion because religion isn’t sacred, that is something that can't be challenged and yes even made fun of or insulted, and that the religious, like all of the rest of the people, can be the victims of ignorance and foolish attacks masquerading as cultured analysis.
Gwyn Tophan has a great article on David Pryce Jones who wrote what I believe to be the most fanatical anti-French book of the last few years, Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews. Since I’m incapable of saying anything remotely objective about Pryce Jones although in spite of my lack of objectivity I believe that I’m fair and right when I state that Pryce Jones’s anti-French sentiment takes the form of fanaticism, which is similar to Chávezism, I’m just going to quote what Tophan writes:
But it turns out that if there's one group worse than the French, it's Muslims. Pryce Jones says "the Islamisation of France" has now becomes an electoral factor. The rise of Le Pen is indisputable, though any implication that Muslims are a crucial electoral force might be news to those in the banliueues.
It doesn't appear though that the latter have his sympathy. "100 cars are burnt every night in France. Who is burning cars? It is Muslims. They cry allahu akbar as they burn them." Does Pryce Jones really wander the streets of France listening to the cry of arsonists, or is he taking his thesis a little bit too far?
The Guardian had an article yesterday about the controversy, which a children book about gay penguins And Tango Makes Three has created in the US because some feels that homosexuality is an inappropriate topic for children. I wonder if the argument of those who protest is that homosexuality is a disease, which children can catch by just reading it about it. Sugary excerpt:
Though Parnell is keen to emphasise the story's connection with classic children's tales, Richardson, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia and Cornell universities in New York, focuses on the need that the book answers for many parents. "One of the areas that parents find very difficult to discuss with their children is homosexuality," he points out, "yet many children have classmates who live in families with two Dads, for example." His description of the book as a useful tool for parents will doubtless alarm its critics. When it comes to homosexuality, admits Judith Krug, director of the ALA's office for intellectual freedom, in the US, "people go a little crazy".
Last year the ALA was notified of 546 formal requests for books to be removed from libraries, most of which came from individual parents. The role of the ALA, Krug explains, is to help librarians resist these requests.
"We fight," she says, "to keep these books on the shelves. People who complain about And Tango Makes Three really believe that homosexuality is wrong, that it's against God's commandments, that it's harming society. The problem is that these children are growing up in a society where some of their classmates are going to come from same sex couples."
Well, we can really see that Pakistan has reached the bottom now that hugging a Frenchman can lead to the resignation of a politician. Nilofar Bakhtiar, Pakistan's Minister of Tourism, has been forced to resign after the furor created by the hug that she gave to her French tourist instructor. Clerics called her act obscene and issued a fatwa against her. The fact that such events can happen in Pakistan isn’t just shameful, but intolerable but the silence that is going to follow this resignation shows that for too many countries some behaviors, which if they happened in their own countries would lead them to blast cultural relativism, multiculturalism, and radical leftism, are acceptable because they are happening elsewhere. I disagree. Geography doesn’t determine morality neither does culture. There isn’t
something holier something different about Pakistan and Pakistani air that would make it acceptable that a hug to Frenchman whether he is old or not (he was in this case in his sixties and some have argues that because of his age, the hug wasn’t obscene), unacceptable.
Is it acceptable to speak ill of the dead? After seeing this video, I wonder if crossing certain boundaries isn't tolerable and even necessary if the act isn't as much of a transgression as it is about learning something or saying something that has to be said. But still, I'm not sure that I'm right.
The most intriguing article I read yesterday was the one in the Guardian, which discussed about the fact that Lawrence Dennis, one of the leading figures in the American fascist movement was black, but was able to pass himself as white for most of his life without ever divulging the fact that he was a black to his feloow fascists and even to his family. The revelation is made by Gerald Horne in his new book, The Colour of Fascism, which states that Dennis’s mother was African American and that it is unknown whether his father was too even though thef act that he was able to pass as white suggests that he wasn’t. I think this is fascinating because it shows that the controversial nature of the link between race and identity. The article in the Guardian also makes important point about “Passing” that is the phenomenon during essential the old South, which made light-skinned African Americans passed themselves as white:
"Passing" was common in American society at the time. Despite laws against miscegenation, the pervasive practice of masters raping their slaves had produced a large number of light-skinned people. Under America's rigidly enforced codes of racial supremacy, any child of a mixed-race relationship was deemed "black", regardless of their complexion. They called it the one-drop rule: one drop of "black blood" made you black.
Given the manifest benefits of life on the other side of the colour line, black people who could pass as white often did, even though doing so meant cutting themselves off from their family and their past. Passing has provided the dramatic tension for many a novel, including Philip Roth's The Human Stain, Walter Moseley's Devil in a Blue Dress and, most pertinently, Nella Larsen's Passing. "Every year approximately 12,000 white-skinned Negroes disappear," Walter White, the former head of the civil rights organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, claimed in the late 1940s. "People whose absence cannot be explained by death or emigration ... men and women who have decided that they will be happier and more successful if they flee from the proscription and humiliation which the American colour line imposes on them." White, who was light-skinned, used to pass himself as white at times when investigating lynch mobs in the South.