Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, October 7th, 2006.

The Tribe Closes Ranks

Congress, Religion, Republican Party

Holy Bleep. No, Unholy Bleep.

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

Bush Administration, Congress, Republican Party

Meanwhile, the president’s approval rating has fallen to a new all-time low for the Newsweek poll: 33 percent, down from an already anemic 36 percent in August. Only 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country, while 67 percent say they are not. Foley’s disgrace certainly plays a role in Republican unpopularity: 27 percent of registered voters say the scandal and how the Republican leadership in the House handled it makes them less likely to vote for a Republican Congressional candidate; but 65 percent say it won’t make much difference in determining how they vote. And Americans are equally divided over whether or not Speaker Hastert should resign over mishandling the situation (43 percent say he should, but 36 percent say he shouldn’t). [Marcus Mabry, Newsweek]

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Hate Speech and Its Consequences

big picture stuff, blogging, conservatism, entertainment and popular culture, War on Terror

Michelle Malkin is on the warpath, literally, because YouTube is pulling what she calls “anti-jihad” videos from its servers.

She presents one such video, of which she is clearly proud, on her site. I say it’s not so much “anti-jihad” as “anti-Muslim.” The point of the video is to present Muslims as murderous, violent people who must be “stopped.” As I watched I noticed a photo in which a protester held up a sign calling for the beheading of anyone who insults the Prophet. At least the jihadists are upfront about their intentions. Malkin fervently stirs up hate and fear and says jihadists must be “stopped,” but doesn’t follow through with explicit proposals for how to do the “stopping.” The clear implication of the video is “kill them before they kill us,” but Malkin lacks the intellectual honesty to say that and will, I assume, deny that’s what she meant.

That’s why I say the video is not “anti-jihad.” More accurately, it is “counter-jihad,” albeit with the punches (or beheadings, if you will) pulled. An “anti-jihad” video would be one that proposes peaceful and rational solutions.

As the Buddha said, hate is never appeased by hate, but by metta (loving kindness; Dhammapada 1:3). Jesus had an opinion on this matter also:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:43-48, King James Version]

Is that not clear? Is there some other passage in the Gospels where Jesus threw in qualifiers (e.g., Thou mayest make hateful videos and post them on YouTube) that I’ve missed?

Awhile back Malkin threw a fit over alleged insults to Christianity. At least she’s speaking out for a religion other than her own, since she clearly isn’t a Christian herself. But let’s go on …

[Update: Right-wing columnist Jeff Jacoby says Jesus was wrong.]

Malkin also alleges that YouTube is being inconsistent with its standards, because videos posted by Islamic jihadists are allowed to remain. I’m going to take her word on that, as I’m not terribly interested in spending the next several hours checking out the content of YouTube. I’m all in favor of consistency in applying standards. However, “they get to do it, so why can’t we do it too?” is not a compelling moral argument.

Sharing of web content — text, music, photographs, or videos — brings up a number of issues touching on intellectual property, fair use, copyrights, and free access to information. I don’t want to get into most of those now, except to say that lots of people have some fuzzy notions about “rights” and “fairness.” As of this morning YouTube is, still, a privately owned company, I believe. It may be aquired by Google soon, which would make it part of a publicly owned company. What it isn’t is a public utility. That means nobody has a right to post whatever they want on YouTube. The owners are perfectly within their rights to restrict content to that which works well with their business model and doesn’t get them into legal trouble.

I feel the same way about blog comments. This blog is my property, I pay for the bandwidth, and I get to decide what stays and what goes. To anyone who gets pissed because I delete their comment, I say: Get your own blog. I am under no obligation to disseminate “information” that I believe is false or opinions with which I do not agree.

Which is pretty much what Tbogg says to Michelle:

Now Michelle could post her videos at her own site or at Hot Air but doing so indicates a lack lack of revolutionary zeal, not to mention that the cost of bandwidth would come out of her own mom pants pocket…. so I won’t mention it. This might cause the Great Leap Forward to become a mere Stumble on the Sidewalk-Crack Forward and those revolutions take way too long and then the proletariat masses get bored and they wander back inside to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and wonder if they could afford one of those refrigerators that has the TV in the door because that would be really cool and besides, if you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell is brother you have to wait.


Offensive speech was one of the issues discussed at the Clinton Global Initiatives conference, such as in this panel discussion. The discussion was interesting but not entirely satisfactory. For example, at one point Farheed Zakaria asked why protests in the Muslim world about speech — for example, over the Danish cartoons and recent comments by the Pope — so often turn violent, even murderous. Queen Rania of Jordan responded by calling for “more interreligious and intercultural dialogue between all of us,” which is nice, but it doesn’t answer the question. However, in another part of the same discussion she described how violence begets violence —

I would like to say for example, like two months ago, before the war in Lebanon began. Here’s Lebanon, which is made up of a group of people that are peace-loving. They are very moderate and open and modern by nature. They are the natural allies to the global community. Then this war took place. And innocent civilians were seeing, on a daily basis, bodies of babies being put into plastic bags. The vital infrastructure was destroyed. A quarter of the population was displaced. And I can say that over the course of two months, the Arab public became much more radicalized. Because they saw this injustice. They saw this grief. And even the moderates, what we thought was a moderate majority started to shrink, and you can see this shrinking taking place. And the extreme voices came out as the victorious ones. And you could see that the voice of moderation, the voices that called for peace and diplomacy and engagement, they are losing currency. They are being marginalized.

So, if you want to strengthen the moderates, we have to see ― people have to see the dividends of moderation. They have to see the dividends of peace. And now, they are not seeing them. So again, I just want to say that if we want to gain the moderates, if we want to increase ― it’s almost percentages, you know. The percentage of extremists to moderates. If you want to increase and strengthen your moderate block, then people have to really feel an important difference in their lives. They have to see justice. They have to see ― and as I said, an honest engagement and an interest in their cause.

As I explained in this post, at the CGI conference several speakers said we shouldn’t be talking about a war on terrorism, but about a war on extremism. And fighting extremism with military aggression is a bit like using heavy machinery to re-arrange a china shop. The china may indeed be re-arranged, but the end results may still be unsatisfactory.

Further, you can’t reduce extremism with counter-extremism, but with moderation. That’s why we as a society need to discourage extremism in our own midst, just as we wish moderate Muslims would speak out more forcefully about extremism in their backyards. I’m not calling for censorship. I’m just saying, one private citizen to another: The counter-jihadist videos are not helping any of us.

I mean, what is the point? As I say, Malkin doesn’t provide strategies for dealing with Muslim hate and anger; she’s just interested in stirring up hate and anger against Muslims. Does she think people need to be warned about Islamic terrorism? Are we not, in fact, perpetually and robustly being warned about Islamic terrorism?

As an eyewitness to the collapse of the WTC towers, and as someone who spends time in New York City and its public transportation and other infrastructures (likewise my children and friends), believe me, I don’t need to be warned about the dangers of terrorism. I am genuinely worried about train and subway bombings, à la Madrid and London. I worry that eventually we’ll be plagued by suicide bombers in our major cities.

There’s free speech, and there’s irresponsible speech — yelling fire in a crowded theater, and all that.

It seems to me that the video Ms. Malkin is so proud of serves no other function than to fan the flames of hate. If she presented information that is not already very public, or provided some kind of strategy for dealing with Islamic jihadism, that would be different. But she doesn’t. The video is nothing but hate speech, IMO.

Back during the Danish cartoon flap I mused over whether American news outlets were right not to republish the cartoons. Malkin was heading up a crusade to get those cartoons re-published all over America, saying that not publishing the cartoons was giving in to terrorists. I said in the earlier post that solidarity with the free speech of Danish newspapers was certainly a compelling stand.

But then I looked at the cartoons, and for the most part they were crude and hateful and conveyed no other message than Muslims are bad. They were not cartoons most American news editors would choose to publish without the controversy. And it’s not like the cartoons were hidden, as they were all over the web. So what do you call it if newspapers allowed themselves to be bullied by righties into publishing something they didn’t want to publish? Is coercion ever acceptable?

One of the commenters wrote, “Sorry, but I can’t see how cultural sensitivity and respect (which are good) should EVER trump a fundamental value in our own culture.” I respect that. On the other hand, the fact is that news media self-censor themselves all the time for the sake of cultural sensitivity. Racist, sexist, anti-semitic, and other bigoted expression once common in the American press are pretty scarce now. This self-censorship is inspired mostly by marketing — publishers don’t want to drive away readers by offending them. Ah, the magic of free markets

Freedom of speech is a fundamental value in the West. Yet it has never been absolute, even here in the Land of the Free. The German Opera of Berlin was slammed recently for canceling a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo in which Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha are decapitated, a scene not in the original opera. Police had warned the opera company management that the production might incite violence. As a matter of principle I think the production should have been performed, even though (as an opera buff) most artistic revisionism of standard repertoire annoys me. Just get the best singers you can get and put them in pretty costumes and perform the damnfool opera, I say.

But it’s also realistic to assume that few if any opera companies in the U.S. would have scheduled that production at all. That’s because grand opera is so expensive to produce that opera companies cannot support themselves with ticket sales. This is true even of Big Shot companies like New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which consistently sells out performances even though the tickets ain’t cheap. The Met draws more than 800,000 attendees every season, their web site says. Yet the Met seems to be in perpetual telethon mode; I get solicited for donations at least once a month. In fact, this report says the Met gets more of its funds from “contributions and bequests” than from the box office.

I don’t know about the Met, but most opera companies in the U.S. depend in part on government grants to stay afloat. If you care to study it, here’s a financial statement from the Los Angeles Opera Company, for example.

That’s why I doubt any opera company in America would even consider mounting the Idomeneo production that was bounced in Berlin. Beheading Jesus might piss off too many contributors, corporate and private. Forget about selling ads in the program. And as for government grants — the wingnuts still get worked up about the photograph “Piss Christ” that was exhibited in bleeping 1987. They’ve been on a rampage to reduce or eliminate public funding of the arts since, in spite of the fact that public funding underwrites preservation and exhibition of traditional sacred art and objects (including Bibles) and uncounted performances of Handel’s Messiah.

Take also reactions to the Terrence McNally play, “Corpus Christi,” which depicts Christ and the Apostles as gay men living in Texas. These include death threats against actors and arson threats against theaters. What’s not documented are the number of theater companies that might like to produce the play but wouldn’t dare touch it with a ten-foot pool.

I’m rambling on longer than I intended to. My general point is that we’re real good at pointing out the logs in others’ eyes when we’re not so quick to notice the logs in our own (Matthew 7:1-5, sorta). And, really, nobody needs counter-jihadist videos on YouTube.

Update: Reuters reports:

Danish state TV on Friday aired amateur video footage showing young members of the anti-immigrant Danish Peoples’ party engaged in a competition to draw humiliating cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

The video images have surfaced little more than a year after a Danish paper published cartoons of the Prophet that sparked violent protests worldwide.

The images, filmed by artist Martin Rosengaard Knudsen who posed as a member of the party for several months to document attitudes among young members, show a number of young people drinking, singing and drawing cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad.

The faces of the young people were blurred in most of the footage. One cartoon appeared to depict the Prophet Mohammad as a camel, urinating and drinking beer. The competition took place in early August, according to Danish media.

Another cartoon strip aired in the partly masked footage on state TV seemed to show the prophet Mohammad surrounded by beer bottles and included an image of an explosion.

The news story is titled “Danish TV shows cartoons mocking Prophet Mohammad,” but it appears Danish TV was not mocking the Prophet but presenting a news story about young people mocking the Prophet, which is somewhat different.

Some of the children on the blosophere — by which I mean some rightie bloggers — have embraced the cartoons as their newest cause célèbre and are posting as many bits and pieces of the broadcast as they can get their virtual hands on. This is done in the same spirit of concerned interest that you find in any gang of eight-year-olds with a purloined Hustler magazine.

Somebody, please call their parents …

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