February 2, 2006

Identity Politics, Free Speech, and the Future of worldwide Liberalism

For those of you who haven’t been following the Allah cartoon flap too closely, Frontpage has a nice thumbnail timeline of the controversy to date that includes this editorial commentary:

[...] Islam is not a race; the problems with it are not the product of fear mongering and fiction, but of ideology and facts—facts that have been stressed repeatedly by Muslims around the world, when they commit violence in the name of Islam and justify that violence by its teachings. Noting, as some of the cartoons do, that there is a connection between the teachings of Muhammad and Islamic violence, is simply to manifest an awareness of what has been repeatedly asserted by Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Omar Bakri, Abu Hamza, Abu Bakar Bashir, and so many others.

[...]

“As it grows into an international cause célèbre, the cartoon controversy indicates the gulf between the Islamic world and the post-Christian West in matters of freedom of speech and expression. And it may yet turn out that as the West continues to pay homage to its idols of tolerance, multiculturalism, and pluralism, it will give up those hard-won freedoms voluntarily.”

[...]

The free world should be standing resolutely with Denmark, ready to defend freedom of speech. Insofar as it is not defended, it will surely be lost.

Michelle Malkin has also been closely following the flap over Danish free speech vs hardline Islamic prohibitions on iconography, which has taken on—to western sensibilities—the nature of ironic farce, culminating in calls to “Free Piglet” [see also, Chris Muir].  Sadly, though, not everyone finds humor in a situation that essentially has jihadists demanding the infidel surrender his ungodly crayons and inks, demands that have escalated into threats of death—and have become a propaganda tactic being used by some jihadists to gin up a war against the Danes.

A grass-roots response to “Buy Danish” has sprung up all over the internet.  [See Michelle’s roundup here; petition here]

Of course, not everyone is outraged; after all, where there’s an Other involved, there is sure to be a western elite offering some twisted and moderately exculpatory “explanation” for such cultural behavior as threatening cartoonists with beheadings and suicide bombings.

For this, we need look no further than France—generally quite nationalistic, but also, unfortunatly, increasingly frightened by the threat in their midst.  From MSNBC, ”Editor fired after publication of Islam cartoons”:

The Paris newspaper France Soir has fired its managing editor after the daily printed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that have sparked rising protests and boycotts in the Muslim world.

The daily confirmed that owner Raymond Lakah had fired Jacques Lefranc on Wednesday evening after a tumultuous day on which German and Spanish dailies ran the controversial cartoons that first appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten.

Angered by the drawings, Palestinian gunmen jumped on the outer wall of a European Union office in Gaza City on Thursday and demanded an apology. Masked gunmen also briefly took over an EU office in Gaza on Monday.

Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry. The drawings have prompted boycotts of Danish goods and bomb threats and demonstrations against Danish facilities, and have divided opinion within Europe and the Middle East.

[...]

The publication by French Soir drew a stern reaction from the French Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters that press freedom could not be called into question but urged restraint: “The principle of freedom should be exercised in a spirit of tolerance, respect of beliefs, respect of religions, which is the very basis of secularism of our country.”

The issue is sensitive in France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim community with an estimated 5 million people.

Mohammed Bechari, president of the National Federation of the Muslims of France, said his group would start legal proceedings against France Soir because of “these pictures that have disturbed us, and that are still hurting the feelings of 1.2 billion Muslims.”

Multiculturalism means never having to say your’re sorry…

Reaction in Middle East countries has been scathing.

“In the West, one discovers there are different moral ceilings and all moral parameters and measures are not equal,” wrote the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

“If the Danish cartoon had been about a Jewish rabbi, it would never have been published.”

Sure. But as commenter Kyle points out, “If a Jewish rabbi had spawned a death cult responsible for the death of tens (hundreds?) of thousands over the centuries, then that analogy might not ring so false.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said Riyadh considered the cartoons an insult to Mohammad and all Muslims. “We hope that religious centers like the Vatican will clarify their opinion in this respect,” he told the state news agency SPA.

In Beirut, the leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbollah said the dispute would never had occurred if a 17-year-old death edict against British writer Salman Rushdie been carried out.

“Had a Muslim carried out Imam Khomeini’s fatwa against the apostate Salman Rushdie, then those low-lifers would not have dared discredit the Prophet, not in Denmark, Norway or France,” Hizbollah head Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday night.

The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Muslims in 1989 to kill Rushdie for blasphemy against Islam in his book “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie went into hiding and was never attacked.

Predictably, we are simply seeing an Islamic version of identity politics finding its rhetorical niche:  western deptictions of the Other are inauthentic and are to be demonized—though, with the death of Edward Said and the subsequent and extensive real-world cartooning (pardon the pun) of Said’s position of cultural ownership over individual ethnic narratives (one propagated by fierce proponents of identity politics within the academy, often out of blinkered idealism, often out of a cynical recognition that such a philosophical paradigm greatly expands areas for “study” and lends to the new champions of these area studies the label “experts” in the various new ethnic identity studies “fields”), this argument is taking on more tangible and extreme manifestations.

The results, of course, are predictable—and some of us have noted for years that such a political endgame was a necessary feature of the philosophical underpinnings of a movement that grants autonomy of self-definition (free from the legitimate checks of “external” criticism) to individual groups who, once they pulled resources and settled internecine battles over what was to be the estabished cultural narrative, would be able to use the widespread “enlightened / academic” acceptance of the multiculturalist premise itself as very potent political and cultural weapon, one that culminated in the peculiarly dangerous sociopolitical situation in which cultures were allowed to define their own rules of authenticity (and so, by extension, could exclude based on behavior or internal dissent), as well as lay claim to persecution when the Other dared criticize the group’s established narrative.

And with this claim of persecution came the justification for “fighting back” against “intolerance” that dared question the established wisdom of the group under critical scrutiny—a critical scrutiny that, conveniently, was now deemed inauthentic by philosophical design, and with the imprimatur of our own western academic “experts” in the field.

Orientalism (in the sense Said envisioned it), in short, has become a convenient de facto intellectual totalitarianism—one that, when combined with our western history of guilt over colonial adventures, manifest destiny, imperialism, cultural hegemony, and our status as the world’s sole hyperpower, provides a powerful liberal (in the non-partisan sense) impulse for granting autonomy, and for promoting a soft cultural relativism.

Unsurprisingly, this whole philosophical movement—insofar as it was based first on essentialism and then, once the group could be defined down through blood, to the excommunication of apostates to that essentialist narrative after the battle over defining the official ethnic and political narrative was internally decided—was destined to end in a will to power.  Which is what happens when universalism—even in its softest and most agreed upon form (for instance, it could simply be a contractual, contingent universalism, to satisfy the sensibilities of post modernists)—is discarded in favor of the notion that individualism (the base point at which human universalism as an ideal is at its strongest, the point that Bush has cleverly made over and over again in his speeches) is to be surrendered to collectivism (the point at which the will of the most powerful within the group is always ascendant, and where apostacy, which we might call disagreement, is a legitimate offense), comes to mimic a kind of individualism by united front:  “The Arab Street.” “The Jihadist.” Etc.  These are types taken as individuals.

The way to fight back against such an historical drift toward a postmodern conception of a world defined by warring narratives vying for itinerate temporary ascendency (what is commonly called relativism, though the concept is not by nature evil) is to discredit the underlying mechanisms that allow them to form, take root, and aquire justification through intellectual means (be those means the academic acceptance and defense of the underlying premises, or the political and public policy adoption of the lessons offered by such defenses).

Britain (and other western European countries, Denmark among them) is learning firsthand the failures of such a philosophical paradigm; consequently, the Brits are left with vast swatches of London and its environs as essentially mini-autonomous countries who, though their inhabitants are granted legal claim as British subjects/citizens, are by an other measure in distressingly large numbers enemies of the state—often latent, but always potentially active.  Which is wny it is no surprise that many terrorist experts fear that the next wave of terror will come from the westernized radicalism such poorly-considered social experimentation has wrought.

For its part, France has tried an ultranationalist approach—but one that has backfired because its attempts to assimilate were never more than lipservice; instead, they have created a caste system that is obvious both by the geography and the national attitude of the French in discussions of the plight of their internal problems [Mark Steyn has done interesting work on this].

So far, the US has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls facing European countries who have themselves for years relied on immigration and a folding in of former colonial subjects to keep their economies running.  Part of our success, such as it is, has been the separation by ocean and distance of the immediacy and ease of immigration.  But for the most part, our major success in keeping the “American” identity singularized (which is to say, “diverse” but united under its diversity) has been a commitment to assimilation—though over the past 30 or so years, the “melting pot” metaphor that was so crucial to the success of America has been doing battle with the mulitculturalist alternative of the “quilted” America, on country where balkanization is misguidedly, in my opinion, presented as a celebration of diversity rather than called what it is:  a measure of dividing us up along ethnic and religious lines as a way to push identity politics and, from a cynical political perspective, to create ready-made groups to whom politicians are able to appeal. 

Because let’s face it:  it is more difficult winning the fidelity of 280 million individuals than it is to win the fidelity of ethnic “leaders” (who bargain for promises, power, influence) and who then direct their followers how to vote. It’s a form of lazy electoral outsourcing that, in this country, both parties are guilty of indulging in—though the modern conservative / libertarian movement often argue vehemently against the kernel precepts that enable it, while many progressives embrace the pragmatism of the political marketing convenience and pre-made collectivism these precepts have already prepared the groundwork for.

Longtime readers of protein wisdom will note that my own thesis is that philosophical and public policy missteps emerge from a fundamental (though popularized) misuse of the way language is “designed” to function.  For more on that thesis, see, for instance, here and here.

****

See also Strata-sphere, Two Babes and a Brain, Hyscience, Real Clear Politics, Kathleen Parker

(h/t Terry Hastings, Kyle)

update:  Brian T sends along two additional Wretchard posts worth reading.

Note: I forwarded this post along to several bloggers covering the cartoon kerfuffle; so far, I’ve received no responses.  Which, I’m beginning to think it’s time to take Tbogg’s advice and just stick to the cutesy quips and staccato sentences.  Not only do blog readers prefer such formulations—but I’m told, too, that the chicks really dig it.

See also, Brussels Journal (h/t Tom Pechinski)

Posted by Jeff G. @ 6:30pm
60 comments | Trackback

Comments (60)

  1. I dunno.  You used some pretty long sentences there.  As such, I have no choice but to conclude that you are a moron.  Q.E.D.

  2. Because let’s face it:  it is more difficult winning the fidelity of 280 million individuals than it is to win the fidelity of ethnic “leaders” (who bargain for promises, power, influence) and who then direct their followers how to vote. It’s a form of lazy electoral outsourcing that, in this country, both parties are guilty of indulging in—though the modern conservative / libertarian movement often argue vehemently against the kernel precepts that enable it, while many progressives embrace the pragmatism of the political marketing convenience and pre-made collectivism these precepts have already prepared the groundwork for.

    This is a very powerful observation which very succinctly explains why liberty must remain ever-vigilant.

    And for God’s sake, Jeff, keep it up. The proponents of Theory have to be made to recognize the fact of the water in which they swim. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated or consistent with internal logic a new way to bundle sticks is. In the end it’s still a fasces. And fascism is as fascism does because fascism does as fascism is, a la the frog and the scorpion.

    yours/

    peter.

  3. It is worth noting that this is certainly not the first timean image of Mohammed has been publically displayed, nor the first time such an image has been less than flattering.

    However, it may be the first time that Islamic leaders have seen such an image and had the political/propaganda savvy to play the hate card to attempt to shut it down.  They are learning the leftist American game faster and better than those who invented it.

  4. When that painting, ‘Piss Christ’ was completed, I didn’t catch any fatwa’s in the local church bulletins.

    I think those jihadists just need to lighten up and quit being so supersensitive.  Yesh, like a gaggle of wailing, katana waving old women; they are.

  5. Jeez, Jeff that post is tboggdignanian., long enough to drive off the hardiest of tbogg’s readers.

    I, myself, will be visiting a Dane Decor this weekend and buying something woodish.

  6. Brilliantly argued, Beck. Here, here.

    Jeff’s point was that collectivism turns on Positive Law [pssst: that’s law you make up, as in posit], and not Natural Law of the more American creeds of individualism. To the extent that Europe embraces crazy-wack-a-do philosophy, multi-culti collectivism, they serve no greater ends but tyranny of the strongest faction, because no greater law exists.*

    So blame the multi-culti idiotarians for tolerating the intolerable and for righteously marching out their puritan anti-hypocrite hordes to defend freedom of speech by severely circumscribing it.

    Thanks, morons. Now please go play in traffic, and leave the West to unfuck itself from the “arch-competitive, moral-capitalist” liberal mooks who have worn out their welcome.

    *Also, if no greater law than society exists to bind them, murder could be a matter of the eye o’the beholder. And slavery could be a virtue, thus treating men as property, by definition again without universal rights.

  7. The strange thing about Islamism is that, while the other major religions don’t believe (or act as if they believe) that nonbelievers are obligated to follow their tenets, Islamists evidently do believe that nonbelievers are (or ought to be) as bound by Islam as they are themselves. The strange thing about the West is that there are so many going along with this notion.

    It’s a curiously modern alternative to conversion at the point of the sword: as long as you’re willing to act Muslim, maybe they’ll let you live.

    http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com (Belmont Club’s current location) has some interesting posts up on the subject. Wretchard isn’t a laff riot like our fine host here, but he’s mighty deep.

    I loooove the term “crazy-wack-a-doo.” Thanks, V!

    TW: All eyes are on Europe.

  8. Not to state the obvious, but the once-sacred freedom of speech—especially for pornographers and obscene gay rights parade goers—will likely be the latest leftwing sacrificial lamb on the altar of capitulation to radicalism.  Only in the bizarre world of leftist politics will porn addicts and nancy boys one day join Danish grandmothers in a joint ideology. 

    (At least for as long as it takes for the Left to find another impossible, relativistic contradiction to rub the world’s nose in.  Nicely said, Vercingetorix.)

    tw:  A member of Hilary’s Socialist Liars Party…

    Thanks, morons. Now please go play in traffic, and leave the West to unfuck itself from the “arch-competitive, moral-capitalist” liberal mooks who have worn out their welcome.

    …working to fuck the US even as the EU wises up.  (Hey, ‘08 is closer than you think.)

  9. Jeff

    Of course we’ll soon see the moral equivalency argument that American Xtians are no better..that they, too, protest being mocked.

    A conservative advocacy group accuses NBC of “hitting back” at the Christian community in an upcoming episode of “Will and Grace.”

    The April 13 episode will mock the crucifixion of Christ, the American Family Association said.

    [...]

    “Call your local NBC affiliate and ask them not to air the April 13 episode of “Will and Grace,” AFA said in a message to supporters.*

    But this is a no brainer—it’s bullets and beheadings v letterwriting and phone calls.

  10. It’s a curiously modern alternative to conversion at the point of the sword: as long as you’re willing to act Muslim, maybe they’ll let you live.

    No, not act Muslim, but dhimmi. If you agree to live as a serf, surrendering rights to property, dignity, self-defense, and speech, then you may live and worship for as long as the Muslim masters feel it benefits them.

  11. …the cartoon controversy indicates the gulf between the Islamic world and the post-Christian West in matters of freedom of speech and expression.

    Where are all those people mocking Chimpy for saying “they hate our freedom?” Cause, you know, it looks like they really do.

  12. …If you agree to live as a serf, surrendering rights to property, dignity, self-defense, and speech, then you may live and worship for as long as the _________ feel it benefits them….

    Isn’t it funny how “Democratic leadership” would also fit in this sentence so appropriately?

    Well, it’s really not that funny.

  13. Yeah, I’ve been following it. How can you not? It’s the whole Islam vs. The West fight in a nutshell. Lots of seething and threats on the Jihadi side, mostly bemused horror on the civilized (or non-barbaric) side.

    The whole “no graven images” stricture has been carried way to far in Islam, IMNSHO. They’re unhappy that their prophet has been pictured.

    The commandment is against “graven images” of FALSE GODS, you nitpickin’ twits. Get a freakin’ grip.

    Tough shit if you’re offended. I’m offended by muzzie jihadi pricks cutting off “infidel” heads, and I think my offense has a lot more validity than some pre-civilization ban on cartoons, but that’s just me. YMMV.

  14. The odd thing is this, most newspapaers in America publish cartoons that are much more insulting to American Christians and American Soldiers every week.  When Americans complain the response is simply “tough.” Yet these same newspapers have been very careful to avoid this controversy or show the Danes any support at all.  Why is that?  Is it simply cowardice?  Are they only willing to “confront” people they know won’t hurt them?  Or is it exactly what Jeff is pointing out.  That they have twisted speech and its uses into such odd pretzels that, in their world, free speech no longer truly exists.

    Sorry about all those clauses in that last sentence.  Let me distill it down.  “BECAUSE OF THE HYPOCRISY!!!”

  15. Which, I’m beginning to think its time to take Tbogg’s advice and just stick to the cutesy quips and staccato sentences. 

    My guess: You make “classical liberal” arguments in a language that’s owned by the “radical” (i.e. institutional) side of “liberalism” (which it isn’t). This doesn’t work (much).

    Non-neocon Republicans just don’t talk like this (and when the neocons do…let’s skip that), libertarian types don’t pay enough attention to these softy “humanities” things (their arguments are moral-intuitive or policy-wonky (the fuckers are hopeless, seriously)), and lefties who fancy themselves liberal are offended (they’ll just insult you, feminist style (“That cute little Republican thinks it’s people!”) or Derrida style (cf. the Foucault memorial speech he gave which consisted of 50% his saying he would never be so vile as to continue one side of an argument with a corpse, and 50% his continuing one side of an argument with a corpse (imperious territorial assholery, I’m saying))).

    There’s no audience for this.

    That’s why it’s good.

    (And only one of the sentences is confusing (first mention of Said).)

  16. Hey, most of us in the Vast Right-Wing Religious Conspiracy have already decided to give the Britney/W&G thing a pass. I mean, 1) Britney, 2) you actually have to express a thought or idea to commit blasphemy, 3) W&G is so 3 years ago. It’s why almost none of us got exercised about Brokeback Mtn, though some in the media tried to manufacture Christian upset. I mean, who cares? It takes a little more to épater the bougiousie these days, Hollywood!

  17. I can honestly say that Islamic extremism is a subject I would Ted Rall would tackle with the full force of his “talent.”

    Just before taking a vacation in Iran, ideally.

  18. BoZ —

    You’re right, re:  the first Said sentence, which e was missing its second half.  Fixed.

  19. “Which, I’m beginning to think its time to take Tbogg’s advice and just stick to the cutesy quips and staccato sentences.  Not only do blog readers prefer such formulations—but I’m told, too, that the chicks really dig it.”

    Not all blog readers.

    Long sentences just had a pretty long century, but yours may be painfully necessary.

  20. Jeeez, Jeff.  You posted at 1330, and it’s 1540. Some people have day jobs, and I was taking a nap.

  21. I’m in the NyQuil phase of beating the flu, so all I can offer is this South Park episode featuring “he who shall not be seen”…

    http://www.scientomogy.com/south_park_scientology.php

    Amazing post Jeff.  Cheers!  (tilts back NyQuil cup)

  22. I think that the big advantage American culture has when it comes to the war of ideas is that it is extremely assimilative of other cultural ideas that work.  Americans are free to take a look at other cultural ideas (anywhere from artistic schools to whole sets of ethical values), adopt the ones that work, toss the ones that don’t, and move on.

    Less competative cultures (such as France) insist on cultural purity… no foreign words in the language, restrictions on foreign artistic content, etc.  This keeps the culture pure, but when cultural offerings of other cultures filter through they’re all the more powerful.  If all you had access to was French films, you’d probably be satisfied with what you have.  But when the American films show up, which have taken an influx of ideas from Chinese, Japanese, British and other artisitc schools, then the local stuff may not satisfy, and the local consumers may start to rebel.

    Islam seems to be the extreme limit of cultural purity in the modern world, with many sects of Islam insisting on rigid cultural purity in many different aspects of life, and insisting on spreading that purity to others.  In the short run, this gives Islam-as-culture a short-term advantage in that one can enforce uniformity across a wide group of people, and this allows leaders great control as long as viable alternatives to Islam do not stand.  The Danish newspaper cartoons, like Israel, stand as a direct challenge to the self-declared superiority of Islamic culture.

    Further adding to the cultural conflict is the internal conflict between strains of American culture.  My observation has been that American culture is so vast that at least at the superficial level, two Americans easily may have very little in common culturally.  My hobbies, interests, tastes in food and clothing, politics, spiritual beliefs, etc. may be completely different than my next door neighbor.

    In my opinion, the American Intellectual Left is waging a cultural civil war by proxy, seeking to expand their own subculture while restricting American subcultures they don’t like.  They protest fast food chains in Europe not because of the globalization, but because they don’t like fast food anywhere.  If it was American-vegan restraunts being torched, they’d be up in arms.  ‘Anti-Americanism’ is, to some degree, a product of American culture.  They dislike assimilation because it doesn’t produce enough liberals.

  23. Civilis, you give me hope:

    Islam seems to be the extreme limit of cultural purity in the modern world, with many sects of Islam insisting on rigid cultural purity in many different aspects of life, and insisting on spreading that purity to others.

    Does that sound like any Evil Empire of recent history? The roots are different, but the goal is the same: cultural purity, as you say. And we beat them with a combination of:

    * overwhelmingly dominant pop culture – remember how “Coke and Levi’s won the Cold War”?

    * insidious infiltration of their culture – remember all those tourists who’d smuggle the aforementioned Levi’s into the USSR in their luggage and sell or give them away to Soviet citizens?

    * *ahem* frankly superior stuff

    * and of course, demonstrable willingness to fight.

    We have all of these going for us right now. Yes, yes, the pendulum can swing, a certain stripe of Muslim youth can join with a certain stripe of Muslim cleric to reject Americanism or whatever you’d care to call it as impure and actively polluting… but “[f]ully 86 percent of Iraqi households reported having satellite TV at the end of 2005,” according to Karl Zinsmeister here.

    TW: I won’t start planning the victory ball yet, but I’m smiling.

  24. Glad I sent this post of to some of the big sites on the right.  I’d hate to see it languish while more important stories (BREAKING:  LEFTY POLITICIAN CALLS RIGHTY POLITICIAN “DUNCE”) are driving the political discussion.

    Question:  when the blogosphere begins looking like the O’Reilly Factor, is it time to bow out?  Or maybe just switch to an oldies or light rock format?

  25. Light rock, I love the Eagles…or Supertramp or whatever it was they all called themselves.

  26. Islamic extremism. Redundant.

  27. Short, Smart-assed Posts = Peppermint Schnapps

    Long Posts = 8 course feast

    I gots to have both.

    TW: asked

    As in: Not that anyone asked me.

  28. * overwhelmingly dominant pop culture – remember how “Coke and Levi’s won the Cold War”?

    * insidious infiltration of their culture – remember all those tourists who’d smuggle the aforementioned Levi’s into the USSR in their luggage and sell or give them away to Soviet citizens?

    * *ahem* frankly superior stuff

    Hey, I’ve been advertising beer, bacon and porn drops in the mideast for some time now. Give those folks a taste of what they’re missing, and the 72 virgins will lose a bit of their appeal, methinks.

  29. Christ. I hate the fucking Eagles!

  30. Ditto, man.

  31. Hey, I’ve been advertising beer, bacon and porn drops in the mideast for some time now. Give those folks a taste of what they’re missing, and the 72 virgins will lose a bit of their appeal, methinks.

    There’s something else I forgot to add that you reminded me of.  “They” have to be able to achieve that American dream, or at least believe that its possible.  This isn’t a matter of zero-sum economics, but of repressive governments.  They might not want beer and pork rinds specifically (I don’t have a particular desire for either myself).  They want a better future for their kids, be it in materiel posessions, freedoms, anything.  Then someone in authority says “everything will be better if Israel dies!  Go kill Israelis!” and they do.

    Where the left-wing goes wrong is they spend too much time assigning blame, and when they’re not doing that, they’re complaining that the solution is not perfect.  I’m an engineer.  Perfect is impossible.  You have to settle for good.  As long as its better and improving, it works.

    What might be best in the short run is for the people who want a better life to decide that its the mullahs and imams and petty dictators that stand in between them and a better life, and that the people are capable of overcoming that roadblock to prosperity.  We may be halfway there in Iran (I hope).

  32. I Support Denmark

    In it’s struggle for Freedom of Speech.

    Sign the Petition NOW!

    I am #425

  33. “Which, I’m beginning to think its time to take Tbogg’s advice and just stick to the cutesy quips and staccato sentences.  Not only do blog readers prefer such formulations—but I’m told, too, that the chicks really dig it.”

    Actually, this chick vastly prefers your intellectual and linguistic gymnastics, thank-you-very-much. wink

    btw, there are many portraits of Muhammed in Islamic tradition, but he is depicted as a blank cut-out or his face is veiled, hiding his features.

    umm…the big problenm with Islam is evolution (heh).  As an ESS (evolutionarily stable strategy) it has very strong organic unity–it is hard for mutant strategies to invade.  But it will happen eventually.

    Consider the bad old days of the RCC–the religious guild burned heretics at the stake and put the heathen to the sword.  But the strategy set of the RCC has undergone evolution–the RCC had to become more modern and flexible or become extinct.  Islam will evolve also, and hopefully in time to avoid Wretchards Three Conjectures.

    and, there are things we could be doing to help the evolutionary process….

  34. Islam seems to be the extreme limit of cultural purity in the modern world, with many sects of Islam insisting on rigid cultural purity in many different aspects of life, and insisting on spreading that purity to others.

    Civilis!

    Not to quibble, but I would say that rather than cultural purity, what the Islamists seek is a virtue society. Likewise, the left also seeks a virtue society, merely predicated on a different definition of virtue. Osama doesn’t see it as “freedom” for women to expose their hair; rather, it’s a sin. Likewise, the left doesn’t see it as “freedom” to get rich; it’s a sin. It’s also why both of them hate the United States, the basis of their common cause, such as it is.

    yours/

    peter.

  35. Go to http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/freespeech1

    to sign a petition supporting Denmark.

  36. It’s also why both of them hate the United States, the basis of their common cause, such as it is.

    Now that is a meme I have written about time and time again! In the words of Robert A. Heinlein.

    Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire

  37. So far, the US has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls facing European countries.

    I dunno, maybe as to Muslims, but in CA at least we have huge areas that are separate countries.  And, one by one, these isolationist “communities” are failing economically as well as socially, and CA is going broke trying to fix it.  It’s a powder keg.

  38. Oh, and NBC and CNN have declined to show the cartoons “out of respect” for Islam.  Bow down before your new overlords!

    Wonder what brave “Koran flushing story” Newsweek will do?  The cartoon story is at least true.

  39. and here are two more posts for you–

    Calculator is someone i would consider a “moderate” muslim.  Like Marcus Aurelius says, is the blogverse’s over-the-top mockery and satire hurting our cause with moderates?

  40. Mr. Goldstein,

    Alive! I congratulate you on presenting this masterpiece. This type of writing and thinking is the best validation for the interweb.

    [t/w] dense: This work is so dense it is going to take me a few days to deconstruct it, bringing it to life over and over again.

  41. what i really think.

    after all, i usta be a barmaid.

    Courtesy of the Most Gracious and Pussillant Khan of Gene Expression.

  42. Not to quibble, but I would say that rather than cultural purity, what the Islamists seek is a virtue society. Likewise, the left also seeks a virtue society, merely predicated on a different definition of virtue.

    There’s no reason it can’t be both at the same time.  My point about Islam is that for almost everything it holds the belief that ‘if it isn’t part of our culture, it’s crap.’ The American left-wing subculture has the virtue that it is superficially mulitculural; that, at least for little things like clothing styles and food choice, it’s willing to allow and even encourage diversity and experimentation.

    The trap the left-wing subculture seems to have fallen into is that they have come to believe as an immutable doctrine that non-American/non-Western cultural products are automatically good merely because they are different.  They have a disdain for American/Western cultural products (at least those that are not left-wing, and especially those associated with the right-wing) because they are traditional.  This ignores the virtue of whether the cultural products are actually better.

  43. and also, as a quasi-scientist myself, i am forced to at least make the token objection to you linking hyscience=junkscience.

    sure, lotsa people got taken in by the schiavo effect last year, but they didn’t pretend to be science blogs before and after they did it.

  44. …is the blogverse’s over-the-top mockery and satire hurting our cause with moderates?

    If it is, can we still consider them moderate?

  45. If it is, can we still consider them moderate?

    well, my point is they won’t be.

    look…this is a standard fundamentalist tactic, inflame the populace, destroy the middle ground , and drive the moderates into the extreme camp.

    this is memetic warfare.

    if you look at what Calculator said, and Big Pharoah, they are muslims and they hate the way Muhammed is portrayed, but they don’t advocate putting the west to the sword over it.  But if you look at stuff like Dr. Rusty’s fatwa contest, that might push moderates into aligning with the extreme faction.

    I think, the initial cartoons were sort of healthy for Islam in general, forcing people to think, a change vector, a way for Islam to mebbe start evolving.  but perhaps some of the stuff i’ve seen at lgf (i’m a huge fan of lgf, btw) and jawa is playing right into the hands of the fundamentalists.  after all, the fundamentalists made some more offensive fake cartoons they have tried to pass off as part of the original set.

    i would just like us to be more subversive in the meme wars, and more considerate of the moderates’ faith.  thass all.

  46. “The economy of hatred”predicted just this back in ‘02.  Noteworthy in that paper is the idea that leaders will fan hatred if it advances their cause, which is certainly relevant to this case.

  47. and, i don’t mean to say that the concern over the muslim world’s reaction to the cartoons isn’t justified in some sense.

    but, umm, from my sailing lessons growing up on Lake Michigan…

    Here lies the body of John O’Day

    who died defending the right of way

    he was right, dead right, as he sailed along

    but he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong

    we can be filled with righteous indignation over the muslim reaction to the cartoon flap, or we can try to understand it and use it.

  48. My point is, if a Muslim is more outraged over the cartoons than the true outrages that inspired the cartoons, I don’t think they were moderate to begin with.

    …this is a standard fundamentalist tactic, inflame the populace, destroy the middle ground , and drive the moderates into the extreme camp…

    I understand this concern, but why must the moderates go to the extreme camp?  Why not migrate away from it?  And if we are going to get the reformation/enlightenment movement that Islam desperately needs, it seems to me clearly delineating the battle lines is a logical first step.

  49. mojo had a really good point yesterday: muslims simply need to get over it. It would be really cool if every newspaper in the modern world ran those cartoons. Sometimes, when some folks get irrationally intolerant, the best thing you can do is get in their face with it. We can tell them that they’re going to run every week until they give up their ridiculous 14th century illiterate goat-fucker interpretation of their otherwise great religion.

  50. a different perspective from Dafydd ab Hugh.

    i don’t think the west really understands the concept of faith.

    Faith is a real, living concern for moderate muslims.

    Kinda like christianity was during the burning of the albigensian heretics and the War of the Roses.

    like Dafydd says–

    But they’re not dealing with a modern, civilized religion; there aren’t many “Moslem Methodists,” as I noted back in September. One needn’t always rush to do whatever one has the “right” to do; a bit of circumspection is often in order. In this case, shouldn’t somebody ask “is this the right time and place for a war, and is a cartoon the cause under whose banner we march?”

    moderate muslims shouldn’t have to abrogate the principles of their faith to evolve.  we put up with Jehovah Witnesses not dancing, and Mormons not drinking.  Portraiture is haaram in the Qu’ran–shouldn’t the moderates be allowed to practice their faith?  Saying they hate the cartoons, like Big Pharoah and Calculator, is not the same as saying thay are going to kill someone over it.

  51. B Moe, what i see here is actually that the west is pushing moderate mulims into the extremist camp.  They are all lumped together with the fanatics and fundamentalists.  You just did it yourself.

    By attacking Islam unilaterally you fuse the moderates with extremists.

    look what mojo said.

    “get over it”.  They can’t.  It is part of their faith.

  52. I’m with Nishizono – I woke up in the night in a cold sweat about the fact that I’d blogged on this subject but had forgotten to note that I don’t advocate disrespecting any religion’s peaceful teachings. (I’m for disrespecting the common def. of “jihad” as much as possible, but not picturing Mohammed is harmless, and a convention I think the West could and would live with, generally, if we weren’t threatened with harm for breaking it. Reverse psychology…) It’s the fact that some radical Muslims appear to believe that non-Muslims must also adhere to fundamentalist Islamic teachings that makes the uproar unacceptable, and is the basis for my Havarti-and-ham purchase today.

    Free speech and free press are fundamental parts of our common “religion,” values for which we are willing to fight and sometimes to die (pace Dafydd), so – who knows? – the Archduke might be expiring as we speak.

    TW: We’re sitting eye to eye and daring one another to blink.

  53. I’m not pushing anybody anywhere, I am calling them out.  I don’t have time for a big post now, I will try to explain more later.

  54. Which, I’m beginning to think its time to take Tbogg’s advice and just stick to the cutesy quips and staccato sentences.  Not only do blog readers prefer such formulations—but I’m told, too, that the chicks really dig it.

    ***

    Glad I sent this post of to some of the big sites on the right.  I’d hate to see it languish while more important stories (BREAKING:  LEFTY POLITICIAN CALLS RIGHTY POLITICIAN “DUNCE”) are driving the political discussion.

    Question:  when the blogosphere begins looking like the O’Reilly Factor, is it time to bow out?  Or maybe just switch to an oldies or light rock format?

    It depends on your idea of the ‘sphere, your audience and your purpose.

    For example, if we imagine the ‘sphere to be an endless magazine rack, the “big sites on the right” would be like Time or Newsweek—if either was conservative.  It seems possible to me that such outlets have a perception of their audience and their purpose that excludes pieces that contain sentences like:

    Unsurprisingly, this whole philosophical movement—insofar as it was based first on essentialism and then, once the group could be defined down that way, to the excommunication of apostates to the official narrative of the essentialist who won the internal battle over defining the official ethnic and political narrative—was destined to end in a will to power.

    Perhaps the more popular sites underestimate the intellect of their audience.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps they have made the judgment (consciously or not) that shorter and simpler blog posts are preferable due to the nature of the medium, i.e., reading text from a screen is more taxing than ordinary print.  Perhaps they have become as fixated on the moment-to-moment gyrations of the daily news to the point that they have no time or concentration to look at the big picture of what is a war of ideas.

    Perhaps these factors combine to push bloggers in the direction of effective propaganda, by which I mean the categorization of information into categories such as: (1) Why we are the good guys; (2) Why they are the bad guys; (3) What we must do now to advance, etc.

    The issue then becomes one of Jeff’s purpose.  I like a lengthy thinkpiece, but (returning to the mag rack metaphor) I am in a distinct minority in reading journals that publish them.  At law school, people are taught a form of trial advocacy based on the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” model.  When the ‘sphere was small and Internet usage was more rare, the audience was probably more educated and elite.  As it moves to being more of a mass medium, it can be expected that the audience will be less educated and elite.  Please note that I’m not condescending; I’m merely noting that most people do not know who Foucault is (or Said, etc.) let alone the perverse influence he has had on society.  It’s simply outside the experience of most people.  For similar reasons, I would be lost at a site debating esoteric theories of quantum physics (despite the fact that it is important subject).

    If Jeff wants more linkage from bigger sites, it seems likely that he would have to find a way to take sophisticated philosophical arguments and boil them down without dumbing them down.  Jeff does at least two things extremely well here—the serious, philosophical pieces and the short, funny sharp pieces.  What he generally does not do here (so I have no way of knowing whether he would do it well) is the middle where aspects of each could combine.  I admit that doing such is not an easy task, so Jeff would have to decide whether that would make blogging too much like work.

    An alternative strategy would be to promote to the bigger sites the short, funny items in the hope that people will discover the site and stick around for the deeper pieces.

    Jeff knows I like his blog and have put my money where my mouth is.  I like Protein Wisdom as is.  My intent here is not criticize.  To the contrary, I’m writing because Jeff seems a bit discouraged, so I wanted to lay out some of his options.

  55. I see a glimmer of hope.  Grand Ayatolla Ali al-Sistani has come out and stated that the Muslim community is as much to blame for any distortion of Islam’s image.  He seems like the only sane voice in that community at the moment, and one that they just may listen to.

  56. Brian, that is very encouraging. 

    Soon it will be the tenth day of Musharrm (feb 9) the feast of Ashurra, when all devout shi’ia should make pilgrimage to Najaf, to the Shrine of the Imam.  For thirty years Najaf has been closed inside Saddam’s Iraq, so there is a great desire for the faithful to go to Najaf this year.

    Perhaps Sayed Ali al-Sistani will have an opportunity to speak to many, many shi’ia on this issue.

  57. “get over it”.  They can’t.  It is part of their faith.

    No. No no no no no.

    My God, Nishizono, what are we talking about here? “Respect.” “Heresy.” “Offense.” “Faith.” “Jihad.”

    In the non-abstract world these are merely thoughts. Thoughts, bouncing around in the brains of people. They don’t exist outside of anyone’s skull, and to that extent they’re not real.

    They’re just thoughts in people’s minds, and anyone can change their minds. Some may choose to and some may choose not to, based on whatever other thoughts they have, but anyone can change their minds. You think you are somehow respecting them by deferring to their faith, but the truth is you are infantalizing them.

    yours/

    peter.

  58. Courage for free speech is the highest form of patriotism because without it, there can be little else than the slavery of domination over ideas, ideals, and actions.

    There cannot be democracy without free speech, and any attempt to harness the thoughts of the public for silence is the false but invisible imprisonment of the person.

    Women and children being seen but not heard is the embrace of such false imprisonment.

    Intimidation methods to prevent free speech that exist at work or at leisure is the intimidation doctrine of tyranny.

    Only free speech can offset evil, or the tyrannical use of men’s minds against them for particular benefit. There is no other reason to prohibit free speech than to create a climate where some are free to think and act, while others are forced to remain silent.

    Without free speech, there can be no democracy.

    Only free speech can separate reality from insanity.

  59. Pingback: Blaming the "Blame the Left First" Crowd

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