Taking the Bait

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conservatism, Middle East, Religion, War on Terror

Via Buzzflash — what they’re not telling us about the Mohammed cartoon controversy and why the violence is erupting now and not when the cartoons were first published in September 2005.

According to this blogger, the cartoon controversy erupted because of a classic rightie-style misdirection campaign perpetrated by the Saudis. The plan was to get people worked up about the cartoons to take public attention away from the deaths of 350 pilgrims at the Hajj.

These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media’s radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

Many European papers, including the right-wing German Springer media group, fanned the flames by reprinting the cartoons. And now you have the situation we are in today, with lots of video footage of angry crowds and the storming of embassies and calls for boycotts of Danish and European products. [emphasis added]

What did I say about not taking bait?

Meanwhile the Right Blogosphere has gone foaming-at-the-mouth, hair-on-fire crazy over the cartoon controversy. They’ve worked themselves up to a screaming pitch about the mad dog Muslims who are fixing to massacre Europe. They have gone off the insufferable self-righteousness scale because most American newspapers will not republish the cartoons, and those newspapers and the State Department and, of course, liberals are all wussie sell-outs of democratic principles.

Can we say they’ve come unhinged? I think we can.

Michelle Malkin, who must have steam coming out of her ears by now, wants to know what the Left has to say. In the past couple of days a few leftie bloggers have offered opinions, including me. Here’s a sampler.

Via Roxie, Josh Marshall says,

… there is a hint of the absurd in this story, the way continents of people get swept up in reaction to some simple pictures. But this episode seems like a model for what I imagine we’ll be living with for the rest of our lives. There’s something peculiarly 21st century about this conflict — both in the way that it’s rooted in the world of media and also in the way that it shows these two societies or cultures … well, all I can think of to use is the clunky 21st centuryism — they can’t interface. The gap is too large. The language is too different. One’s coming in at 30 degree angle, the other at 90.

He’s not letting rioting Muslims off the hook:

An open society, a secular society can’t exist if mob violence is the cost of giving offense. And that does seem like what’s on offer here. That’s the crux of this issue — that the response is threatened violence and more practical demands that such outrages must end. … So liberal mores versus theocratic mores. Where’s the possible compromise? There isn’t any. On the face of it this gets portrayed as an issue of press freedom. But this is much more fundamental. ‘Press freedom’ is just one cog in the machinery of a society that doesn’t believe in or accept the idea of ‘blasphemy’. Now, an important cog? Yes. But I think we’re fooling ourselves to reduce this to something so juridical and rights based.

And it’s not just Muslims:

I don’t want to imply this is only a Muslims versus modernity issue. I know not all Muslims embrace these views. More to the point, it’s not only Muslims who do. You see it among the haredim in Israel. And I see it with an increasing frequency here in the US. Is it just me or does it seem that more and more often there are public controversies in which ‘blasphemy’ is considered some sort of legitimate cause of action — as if ‘blasphemy’ can actually have any civic meaning in a society like ours. Anyway, you get the idea.

The idea I get is that this entire clash appears to be happening on the Right end of the political scale. Muslim extremists and western wingnuts are whipping each other into a mutual hate frenzy. Liberals, for the most part, aren’t getting caught up in it. We’re not taking the bait.

This next paragraph of Josh Marshall’s is brilliant, so I’m going to quote it even though it stretches the scope of this post a tad.

Much, probably most of what gets talked about as the ‘war on terror’ in politics today is a crock — a stalking horse for political power grabs, a masquerade of rage and revanchism, a running excuse for why we’ve made so many stupid decisions over the last five years. In some cases, on a more refined plain, it’s rooted in intellectual or existential boredom. But beyond all the mumbojumbo about how we’re helping ourselves by permanently occupying Iraq and running the country’s finances into the ground, there is a conflict. There is a basic rupture in the world.

Wow, that’s good.

Anyway, elsewhere on the Left Blogosphere, Dr. Atrios says,

I’m not too sympathetic with the notion that anything under the cover of religion is automatically entitled to deference. On the other hand, “don’t be an asshole” about peoples’ religious beliefs when they aren’t trying to impose them on you seems to be reasonably good etiquette. The cartoons weren’t funny and the visual portrayal of Mohammed was done just to “be an asshole” without any larger point to it. It’s like parading around in blackface just for the hell of it. There’s no point other than “I’m doing this to see who I can piss off.” I certainly defend the right to piss people off, though not always the decision to do so.

Sensible. Shakespeare’s Sister takes note of Atrios, and adds,

I’m not totally sure I would classify radical Islamists as not trying to impose their religious beliefs. I believe that is, in fact, one of their primary goals, both religious and political, which makes me inclined to feel that commentary on those goals, even in the form of cartoons likely to offend, is fair game, and therefore defensible. (The flipside of that is that I find this response of radical Muslims, including calls to kidnap Danes and “cut them into as many pieces as the number of newspapers that printed the cartoons,” and assertions that this conflagration never would never had erupted “if a 17-year-old death edict against writer Salman Rushdie been carried out” because “then those lowlifers would not have dared discredit the Prophet,” indefensible.) I’m a bit concerned that in our attempts to rebuke the rightwing onslaught to denigrate all of Islam as fundamentally violent, we have begun to minimize the reality that there is indeed a segment of Islam that actively seeks to convert infidels and slaughter those who refuse. It strikes me as dangerously naïve to ignore the ambitions of an extremist Islamic element who, given the first opportunity, would happily impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us, and just because a jihadist hasn’t knocked on one’s door peddling their wares doesn’t make it any less true.

Steve Gilliard has a long post that I urge you to read. It includes an interlude by Steve’s blogging partner, Jen, who is more sympathetic to the Danes than is Steve.

Jazz at Running Scared links to and explicates a rightie blog post, and observes:

The bottom line is this: Shackleford is at least coming very close to admitting what many on the far Right clearly seem to believe, but are not willing to openly state. That is, we are not simply fighting terrorists and radical extremists, but are in fact engaged in a holy war against Islam.

This, IMO, gets to the heart of why the Right Blogosphere is obsessed with this story, the way they were obsessed with the recent French riots. They want a holy war against Islam. They are itching for it. Not that any of them would volunteer to fight, of course … See also Jazz’s post “The Bloodlust of the Unhinged Right Wing.”

The Green Knight sums it up:

There’s still the fact that the rioters are being idiots. Sometimes, there’s no good guy. A newspaper prints cartoons that are meant to “test the limits of political correctness” (i.e. to offend people on purpose, i.e. to be an asshole); the completely over-the-top result is riots around the world.

Nope. No good guy here.

Not that Malkin will ever link any of this.

See also a Muslim’s opinion.

Update: See also Amanda at Pandagon: “We’re All Batshit Crazy Crusaders Now.” Georgia10 asks, “Where the hell is Karen Hughes?” And Steve M writes to Michelle Malkin.

Update update: Malkin is still claiming the Left is “silent” on the cartoon issue. If you want to click on Malkin’s links to other rightie comments on the so-called “silence” of the Left, you see a whole lotta straw man arguments — e.g., “I’m hearing this argument – that only Muslims are fair game for criticism, and that editorial cartoonists never, ever savage Christianity or Judaism” — followed by examples of anti-Bush cartoons that skewer Bush’s religiosity. And one crude cartoon savaging Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Likud party is provided as an example of something “anti-Semitic.” The examples are all from the British press, btw; apparently the blogger couldn’t find examples from American media that were nasty enough to suit him.

Then the fellow goes on to say (in effect; I am, of course, paraphrasing) that because these British cartoons offended him, then American newspapers had better publish the Mohammed cartoons to defend freedom of expression. Yes, once again we see the foundation of all American conservative moral principles — they do it too.

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20 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Bonnie  •  Feb 5, 2006 @9:39 pm

    I think there is a great need for every one to lighten up a bit.

  2. modus potus  •  Feb 5, 2006 @9:53 pm

    What, you mean the Saudis, our tight ally in the GWOT, pushed an inflammatory story in order to distract people from a government blunder? For shame! We would never think of doing something like that here…

  3. Roxanne  •  Feb 5, 2006 @10:15 pm

    Okay, I’ll let you call me Roxie. But only because I like you so much.

  4. Donna  •  Feb 5, 2006 @11:52 pm

    Whew, With great pious arrogance, some Christian fundamentalists may really believe that all this unfolding turmoil is ‘according to God’s plan’ just as they believe that our illegal military invasion of Iraq was somehow ‘according to God’s plan’.

    For some 15 years or so, there has been a movement focus among some fundies to further “The Move of the Holy Spirit in the 10/40 Window”.

    What I just put into quotes is the title of a book I purchased out of curiosity. My curiosity was stirred when, in the summer of 2003, I attended a mega-church with people I was visiting and was appalled to hear a sermon which seemed to exhort that ‘we’ next bomb Iran. This preacher kept referring to the ’10/40 window’ and, yep this book was right there for sale in the foyer.

    From the book under the subtitle, The Battle for the Window:
    ‘An estimated 95 percent of the world’s unreached people live in an area that is referred to as the 10/40 Window. This spriritually dark region of the world is located 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator, spanning the globe from West Africa through the Middle East and Central Asia to East Asia. The 10/40 Window includes approximately 60 countries. Every major non-Christian religion–Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, and indigenous religions, as well as atheism–has its headquarters in the 10/40 Window. This area is also home to 85 percent of the world/s poorest of the poor.’
    ‘How many people reside in the Window? A staggering 3.6 billion! This represents two-thirds of the world’s population.’……….
    ‘Some observers of current trends in the 10/40 Window feel that the task of penetrating and overpowering the demonic strongholds there seems almost impossible.’……….’The 10/40 Window represents Satan’s last geographic stronghold. And the battle for the souls of these unreached people is fierce.’

    Well, that’s enough quoting from that book. I just think it is an important time right now to consider whether some escalation rhetoric coming from our rigid righties may stem from unquestioning evangelical fervor based upon a belief that God only speaks through Christians.

  5. modus potus  •  Feb 6, 2006 @1:51 am

    Umm, isn’t most of the “red” US also in the “10/40 Window?” Certainly all of the South and SouthWest (including the headquarters of the Southern Baptists, the largest Christian denomination in the US, in Nashville, TN) lies below the 40th parallel. Are Southern Baptists satanic?

    Then again, I know nothing about Faith-based Geography. Perhaps on their globes the 40th parallel jogs down under Florida and continues along the Gulf Coast.

    But seriously, there are far too many people around who live and act like Armageddon is at hand for comfort. And, yes, it’s Jesus vs. Satan, and if you aren’t on Jesus’ side, you’re aiding the terrorists — I mean the forces of Satan.

  6. A Canadian reader  •  Feb 6, 2006 @11:35 am

    “The Town Anti-Semite”. Charming name. It just reconfirms that when you come right down to it, the extreme right and the extreme left can agree on one thing: it’s all the fault of the Jews.

    Thanks for reminding me.

  7. maha  •  Feb 6, 2006 @1:10 pm

    “The Town Anti-Semite”. Charming name. It just reconfirms that when you come right down to it, the extreme right and the extreme left can agree on one thing: it’s all the fault of the Jews.

    Thanks for reminding me.

    I deleted the post that offended you. Sorry it stayed up so long. I don’t personally blame the Jews for anything in particular. I’m keeping a sharp watch on Canada, though. 🙂

  8. alyosha  •  Feb 6, 2006 @4:04 pm

    Of course the righties want war. Some concoct theological justifications for it, such as “the 10/40 Window” (thanks Donna), which at its root is driven by Matthew 24:14:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

    But secular righties want war too. They want it in much the way the average homeowner reaches for a can of Raid when s/he sees roaches running across the floor. It’s their fear of The Other.

    Theology aside, righties want war because they believe it’s better to get Them now, before They get us. Hence, the drumbeat about a nuclear Iran. It’s caveman thinking, but it would be naive to ignore the threat.

    Bush wanted war when he gave us the phony reasons to invade Iraq. The reasons were just PR, he and his cabal had along ago made up their mind that they wanted their invasion, mainly so the US could continue to play King of the Hill. More caveman thinking.

  9. Chris  •  Feb 6, 2006 @5:51 pm

    What is particularly hypocritical about the Right’s reaction to this issue is that when the Newsweek Guantanamo/Koran story broke, they were quick to assert that Newsweek was responsible for the way the Muslimns reacted. I saw many statements on right wing blogs to the effect that the blood of those who dided in the rioting was on Newsweek’s hands. Now that the offending publication is on the Right, and there’s no benefit in trying to intimidate them into limiting criticism of the war, the outrage is all about the Muslims. How consistent.

  10. A Canadian Reader  •  Feb 6, 2006 @9:23 pm

    Thank you, Maha. I’m keeping a sharp watch on my country’s new government too.

  11. maha  •  Feb 6, 2006 @9:41 pm

    Wow, Chris, you are right. I’d forgotten that. Good catch!

  12. erinyes  •  Feb 7, 2006 @6:43 am

    Creating new realities.(T.M.)
    Riots in the Muslim World
    Where did they get all those Danish flags to burn?
    Bombers of the USS Cole escape from a prison in Yemen
    Iran plotting to get Nukes
    We gotta fight them over there to keep them outta here.
    Who’s gonna stop the fire?
    Where’s my Xanax?

  13. Al_Mujahid_for_debauchery  •  Feb 7, 2006 @9:28 am

    “This, IMO, gets to the heart of why the Right Blogosphere is obsessed with this story, the way they were obsessed with the recent French riots. They want a holy war against Islam. They are itching for it. Not that any of them would volunteer to fight, of course … ”

    You summed up in a sentence, what I have been feeling since this whole controversy erupted.

    “Can we say they’ve come unhinged? I think we can.”

    Amen! brother.

  14. Jason  •  Feb 7, 2006 @4:38 pm

    I don’t know if the right wingers are unhinged or not. I haven’t read the blogs, but if anyone is unhinged it’s the rioters, and the governments who are inciting these riots.

    They went WAY overboard about some stupid drawings and people are now dead because of it.

    Sure, some people over here are going to jump on these events and try to paint all Muslims as crazed wackos, but I can’t blame anyone for criticizing the actual crazed wackos who are torching emabssies and calling for beheadings over some stupid drawings.

    Like someone said earlier, people just need to lighten up (in a major way.)

  15. Jason  •  Feb 7, 2006 @4:40 pm

    Sorry, I should have been more specific.

    right wingers should read right wing blogs.

    I see the point now that it’s the right wing on both sides that are becoming unhinged.

    I hope not, because righties and lefties will all be swept into it eventually. Righties won’t let lefties stay out of it for long.

  16. maha  •  Feb 7, 2006 @5:18 pm

    Jason — I agree that the riots were way overboard. So there’s a clash of cultures and all that, but torching embassies and inciting lethal violence over cartoons is beyond the pale.

    Righties won’t let lefties stay out of it for long.

    Righties can’t incite me to get into it unless I allow myself to be incited. And I have no intention of doing so. I believe this crisis is showing signs of letting up now, anyway.

  17. robert rubenfeld  •  Feb 10, 2006 @2:43 pm

    ,,,,,hi saw you on c-span , you were excellent,,,,smart and to the point,,,simple,,,,,not uppity,,,,,liberalism has been cleverly demonized,,,,,,,,i tried to call while you were there,,,,,,to point out that liberals are pulling their hair , cause we cannot live our lifestyles while the extreme right is in office,,,,,on the other hand, they can do their little conservative thing, when the liberals are in charge,,,,,,,we don’t want to erradicate their lifestyles,,,,damn we care less what they do,,,short of interferring in our lives [abortion , right to die, right to marry, right to educate on every level, decriminilizing victimless crimes, start ridiculous wars, 1984 our personal freedoms,,,etc],,,,,,,let them go to church til the roosters fly,,,,,,just don’t make us go too,,,,,and don’t make laws based on their church’s philosophy,,,,,,,,,my parents were holocaust survivors, and i know that countries can change fast, if the people are not using their brains, and watching carefully,,,,,,,,thanks for your good work,,,,,,rob rubenfeld

  18. D. Lashbrook  •  Feb 10, 2006 @3:11 pm

    Saw you on CSpan today–Couldn’t help but feel sorry for the students who are being fed the liberal pap you preach–Same old Demo talking points without solutions just obstruct–You must be aware that Rush has referred to himself as “Maha Rushie” for years–Try a little originality for once—

  19. gerry welch  •  Feb 13, 2006 @4:57 pm

    I also enjoyed you last week on C-Span
    did Lashbrook catch Mike Pence R Ind
    on C-Span who is doing his conservative dog and pony show for the looters who build build rainforests to Ames or Iowa City a well as the bridge to oblivion and almost all GOP earmarks,
    By ideas Lash and the GOP use it for a code word to get rid of oversights and regulationsa that hamper earsdropping and safety for miners and all workers who are not sons of Chinese Lobbyists, the official Lobbyist of RED CHINA is Bush #41 at 200 mill per this along with his Congress and CIA-Pres. Pension is what ideas are all about
    The GOP idea machine has come up with a beaut, Bushit announced it in his on his address to the gullible,
    it is Synthetic Biology -aka Nano’s, they won’t need cannon fodder or guinea pigs, the problem is unless your the Terminator Cheney or some other alien they won’t need humans at all.

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