November 30, 2002

Who will boycott the boycotters?

Who will boycott the boycotters?

Damian Penny found this adorable "quote of the day" via Shari Stein:

"I boycott everything that involves corporations," said Jennifer Durocher, a first-year anthropology and history student. "I think everything in this world should be boycotted."

The campus newspaper article from which this quote was pulled contains many other charmingly retarded gems of this kind. "Who could forget the time when Rosa Parks boycotted riding buses?" Not me.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:13 PM | TrackBack

The Compleat Shut Upmanship No

The Compleat Shut Upmanship

No one is more strongly in favor of free speech than I am. However...

John Leo identifies this and other "current anti-speech ploys" on campus.

(via Bill Quick.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:18 PM | TrackBack

The Mouse on the Mobius

The Mouse on the Mobius Strip

Reihan Salam describes France's position on the UNSC:

France is firmly opposed to any military action against Iraq that is not explicitly authorized by the Security Council. But France is on the Security Council, and wields a veto. But France is firmly opposed to any military action against Iraq that is not explicitly authorized by the Security Council. But France is on the...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:16 PM | TrackBack

Kinsley Report I don't care

Kinsley Report

I don't care how many times Michael Kinsley writes this column-- it's funny every time.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

I'm not sure why, but

I'm not sure why, but for some reason this totally cracks me up.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:04 AM | TrackBack

A Religion of Peace vs. a "Religion of Peace"

I have no interest at all in the inter-blog controversy over that Rittenhouse guy's decision to black out his links to every site with a Little Green Footballs link. I don't happen to agree with his assessment of LGF (for pretty much the same reasons given by Moira Breen and Natalie Solent-- though, like most people I hardly ever venture into the comments section which has aroused so much consternation.) But James Capozzola is free to omit links to whomever he pleases, for whatever reason he chooses. The whole thing smacks of troll-bait anyway-- and I dare say he got more hits from hooking Steven den Beste than from anything else he's written ever before or is likely to write henceforward.

Moira drew my attention to the discussion of similar issues in Thomas Nephew's excellent Newsrack blog (continued extensively in his comments section.) He objects to the use of the phrase "religion of peace" as an ironic caption for items about extremist violence, saying that it "tars all Muslims with the brush of extremism." Here's how he puts it:

"Peaceful Religion Watch" is a recurring post title at Charles Johnson's "Little Green Footballs" web site: the accompanying post is some real example of ugly, extremist statements or deeds by people claiming to be acting in accord with Islamic principles. It's not the stories that are false, it's the implication the title gives those stories: that this is all there is to Islam.

My first reaction to this was: that's not the implication at all. It did give me pause, though, because I've occasionally used this phrase in much the same spirit, when the irony presented by the juxtaposition of reality with the cliche became too powerful to resist. (The one time I remember specifically was way back in Feb., when I linked to this item about the Kalashnikov training program at the Finsbury Park mosque with the caption: "scenes from a religion of peace in gun-free Britain-- double-barrelled irony, so to speak.) In doing so, have I left the impression, even to a smart guy like Nephew, that my position is that all Muslims are irredeemably wicked and ought to be "swept into" the category of "extremist enemy"? I certainly do not hold this opinion, and I believe that anyone who does has, at minimum, at least a couple of screws loose.

It did make me think, though. If assigning the caption "a religion of peace" to an item about violent words or deeds isn't meant as a slight to all who practice the religion, what does it mean? Like many things, it only seems obvious until you try to articulate it. Bear with me while I try to puzzle it out.

"Islam is a religion of peace." I believe the sincere, ingenuous use of this all but meaningless sentence (for nothing is entirely "of peace") arises out of noble intentions and even reflects a considerable degree of truth, if not precision. It is intended to distinguish (a) the Islamist theo-thugs who murdered over 3,000 Americans and who dream of imposing a religious police state upon that proportion of the world's population they do not manage to kill, from (b) those Muslims ("the vast majority," in the equally platitudinous, equally accurate formulation) who are entirely free of such sentiments, sympathies, culpability or ambition. "Islamism" or "Islamofascism," the enemy's creed, Islam not as religion or culture but rather as a political ideology embodying the pursuit of a revolutionary-totalitarian societal transformation, is presented as a perversion or derailment of "true Islam," which is wholly benign, non-threatening, amenable to the interests of the US and the Western world. (As I know from letters sent to this site, many people don't realize that "Islamist" is not an exact synonym for "Muslim," but rather is something quite different. Thus the "Islamo-fascist" neologism is preferable, since its meaning is unmistakable.)

Assuredly, the distinction between (a) and (b) is a real one. Anyone who doesn't realize that there is such a difference (and I have no doubt that they're out there) probably does indeed need to be informed of the error with just such a crude, rhetorical sledgehammer. GWB seems to use the phrase every chance he gets, and this is presumably one of the reasons. There may, however, be other less creditable reasons: squeamishness about the potential offense that plain talk can give to particularized interest groups (i.e., the same sort of political correctness that drives the editorial choices of the New York Times and other media); and, still worse, a desire to appease powerful people and institutions who have solid, and often barely-hidden, connections to the sort of extremism that threatens us.

It seems to me that, far from being an attack directed at Muslims, the ironic use of "religion of peace" is actually a slap at George W. Bush and others who, no doubt with the best of intentions, have employed the banal phrase to avoid confronting or acknowledging a manifest reality: that the wickedness of those who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11 is inextricably enmeshed with the wickedness of the ideology of the perpetrators, their apologists, their fellow travelers, and their clandestine supporters; and that the ideology arises not out of a void, but from a variety of religious extremism that is propagated by some of our "allies" in the Middle East and their spokesmen and beneficiaries at home.

The fear that wrong-headed Americans might express their anger over 9/11 by targeting innocent Muslims for persecution was not an idle one, though in the event it turned out to be, for the most part, unfounded. (And no, I don't think that GWB's admonition had anything to do with it-- the American public isn't nearly as intolerant or blind to nuance as many suppose.) There are those who, sincerely or disingenuously, might mistake the required condemnation of the enemy's ideology for a blanket condemnation of all Muslims, which would be unequivocally wrong and foolish. There is also, to be sure, some sense in avoiding needless controversy when there are more important matters to attend to.

Yet the intimation that the bin Ladenite fascistic ideology has nothing whatever to do with "real" Islam, that it is nothing more than a bizarre perversion that practically no one in the Islamic world sympathizes with or accepts, the work of a handful of errant troublemakers, is a patently absurd and dangerous lie. The relationship between Islam (the religion) and Islamofascism (the ideology) is far, far more complex than that.

Steven Schwartz, who knows a fair amount about such things, in a recent interview rejected his interlocutor's conventional characterization of Wahhabism as "not Islam" (by which she meant not "true" Islam): rather, he noted that Islam has "many strains." He described the current situation as a "battle for the soul Islam," a battle which, in his view, the Saudi-funded extremists in the American Islamic establishment unfortunately seem to be winning. The American media (along, perhaps, with the American president) unwittingly collude by accepting American Wahhabis as the "official" spokesmen for Islam; these spokesmen "issue ameliorative statements intended to end discussion of the problem, and they closely watch the community and prevent traditional Muslims from expressing themselves openly about Wahhabism and its involvement with terrorism." Like this.

Whether or not it is the case that they are winning, it is clear that merely saying "Islam is a religion of peace" is a poor substitute for the kind of analytical approach that this complicated situation calls for. Yet that is, in fact, how it has been employed, as a substitute for honest, clear thought, and as an easy means for unscrupulous activists to derail discussion. The phrase retains what meaning it has only as an object lesson in how poor language can degrade discourse.

Irony can be a kind of protest against hypocrisy. That's what's going on here. For hypocrisy it is, or at least a contradiction requiring an explanation, to declare war upon the ideologues while excusing, defending, appeasing, even just failing to identify and call to account those who disseminate, fund, applaud or propagate the ideology.

Thus the problem with "religion of peace," the reason why many can't resist mocking it. At best, it's a well-intended platitude devoid of content. At worst, it's a pernicious platitude that has the effect of, in Moira Breen's apt phrase, "driving discussion into utter inanity." As much of this pseudo-controversy shows.

UPDATE: Rick Heller covers this angle more succinctly (i.e., better): "a sarcastic reference to a propagandistic platitude is hardly bigotry."

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:41 AM | TrackBack

November 29, 2002

Oy Vey Stephen Pollard has

Oy Vey

Stephen Pollard has this Sky News report report:

Just heard the ludicrous Abdel Bari Atwan, who Sky News persist in using as their Middle East 'expert', say this about the Kenyan attacks:

"Many people have criticised Osama bin Laden for failing to attack Israelis, and only targetting Americans and Westerners. They say he might be an Israeli agent".


And the Sky presenter didn't even raise his eyebrow in response.


His caption: Osama the Lubbavitcher.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:35 PM | TrackBack

A Royal Mess The relationship

A Royal Mess

The relationship between Prince Bandar, his wife, and the world of Saudi "charities," "relief workers," and "Islamic missionaries," in which diverse Saudi functionaries serve as donors, recruiters, protectors, and simple enthusiasts of terror, is elementary.

Stephen Schwartz explains.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:21 PM | TrackBack

Zero Tolerance Watch, continued Saddam

Zero Tolerance Watch, continued

Saddam hides arsenal in people's homes, according to the Times of London:

SADDAM HUSSEIN has ordered hundreds of his officials to conceal weapons of mass destruction components in their homes to evade the prying eyes of the United Nations inspectors.

According to a stream of intelligence now emerging from inside Iraq, the full extent of the Iraqi leader’s deception operation is now becoming apparent. As the UN inspectors knock on the doors of the major military sites in Iraq, suspected of housing chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, the bulk of the evidence is being secreted away in people’s homes...

Intelligence picked up from within Iraq and from electronic intercepts of Iraqi communications has revealed that scientists, civil servants and Baath Party officials have all been ordered to store key components of Saddam’s secret weapons of mass destruction programme in their homes.

Iraqi farmers have also been ordered to play their part, according to intelligence sources. One source said that farmers were being told to hide drums of chemicals among stocks of pesticides.

In each case, the scientists, officials and farmers are being warned that they and their families will face severe penalties if they fail to hide these stocks of chemicals and biological materials from prying UN inspectors. Computers and laptops containing vital information about the weapons of mass destruction programme are also being hidden in people’s homes


What's that you say? Material breach? Lack of cooperation? Read on:
The evidence of this latest concealment ploy is judged to be so damning that...

What, pray tell?
...President Bush and Tony Blair are considering...

Are considering what? Military action? Airstrikes? Condemnation? Declaring this activity to be a material breach of the UNSC resolution? Another penultimatum with another "this time we really mean it" post-it attached?

Not even. Their plan is much more subtle and ingenious. Here's the end of the sentence, what the article maintains Bush and Blair are daring to consider:

...making a personal appeal to the Iraqi officials involved to let the inspectors know what is going on.

Yes, that ought to do it. But just in case it's not enough, Tony "Mad Dog" Blair may go even further, if cooler heads do not prevail:
A senior Whitehall official said Mr Blair was considering reminding people in Iraq that they all had the same obligations as their leader to be open with the UN inspectors. It is hoped that at least some of those ordered to hide evidence in their homes might have the courage to come forward.

Yes, it is certainly to be hoped. Fingers crossed.

I doubt even Saddam imagined that hanging on to his weapons of mass destruction was going to be such a cakewalk.

Incidentally, the article also notes some "startling facts" emerging from recently-gathered intelligence. Among them, the straight dope on the referendum last month, when Saddam was "supposedly given a 100 per cent “yes” vote for continuing in office."

Baghdad claimed it was also a 100 per cent turnout. However, intelligence emerging since then has revealed that only one in three people actually voted.

You don't say? Color me startled.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:13 PM | TrackBack

Mark Steyn on Bush and

Mark Steyn on Bush and the Saudi Princess:

The fawning legions of ex-ambassadors to Riyadh have been all over the TV assuring us that, oh, no, al-Qa’eda hate the House of Saud and want to overthrow it. But, interestingly, though Osama’s boys are happy to topple New York landmarks, slaughter Balinese nightclubbers, blow up French oil tankers, kill Philippine missionaries, take out Tunisian synagogues and hijack Moscow musicals, you can’t help noticing they do absolutely zip against the regime they allegedly loathe. There are 6,000 Saudi princes, but none of ’em ever gets assassinated. And, if anything mildly explosive goes off in the Kingdom, it somehow manages to get blamed on Western bootleggers. Statistically speaking, if you’re looking for the spot on the planet where you’re least likely to be blown to shreds by an al-Qa’eda nutcake, it’s hard to beat Riyadh. If al-Qa’eda hated the rest of us the way they supposedly hate King Fahd and co., the world would be as harmonious as a Seventies Coke commercial.

Clearly, the House of Saud has come to an arrangement with al-Qa’eda, and this arrangement involves, among other things, money. More interesting is why the administration insists on pretending otherwise.

Indeed.

Great column, plus he quotes Matt Welch. What more could you ask for? Well, here's what:

One day the Democrats will stop sleepwalking over the cliff and realise that this is Bush’s weak spot, and they’ve got incriminating pictures and all that sycophantic audio. And, if the Dems don’t realise it, then John McCain will, shortly before he runs for president.

Hmm, I already said "indeed." Indeed.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

If you hate America enough,

If you hate America enough, you'll believe just about anything

I was halfway up the track that leads to the salt-mine at Taloqan, described by Marco Polo as producing the finest salt in the world, when an old man driving a donkey, two huge blocks of rock salt tied to its sides, stopped me and started jabbering in Persian. ‘He wants to thank you for getting rid of the Taleban,’ said my interpreter, as the man started shaking my hand. ‘Not at all,’ I said modestly. ‘Don’t mention it.’ ‘He thinks you are American,’ added the interpreter — rather snidely, I thought...

So begins this bracing piece comparing the Afghanistan of George Monbiot et al. to Afghanistan as it appears to one who has actually been there. Monbiot is chiefly notable for columns that regularly proclaim, in effect, his discovery that the word "gullible" is indeed in the dictionary. Unfair, selective, and slanted it may be (and I'm sure it would be possible to write a similar article exposing the predictions of pro-intervention American columnists to the same sort of ridicule); nevertheless anecdotes such as this ring true:
Shortly before I left on a trip to Afghanistan in August 2001, a left-wing don pointed me to an article by Jason Burke in the London Review of Books. ‘Very interesting piece. Apparently the Taleban aren’t that bad.’ It was nothing more than a credulous regurgitation of Pakistani propaganda. The Taleban, it claimed, were a spontaneous law-and-order movement of theology students revolted by the widespread rapes perpetrated by the warlords. This is rubbish. The Taleban were armed and funded by the Pakistani secret service to give Pakistan the control over Afghanistan that they thought was their right. And, despite looking hard, I have never come across any evidence of widespread rape of women in Afghanistan.

I read this article out to a class I took at Kabul University. I thought that they would find it quite funny, but halfway through I realised it wasn’t getting any laughs. I stopped because the women were angry. The few of them who had received any education during the long night of Taleban rule had done so at secret schools. The mother of one had been beaten with electrical flex because a spy from the ministry for the prevention of vice and propagation of virtue had heard her shoes clicking on the pavement.


‘Who is this man?’ she demanded. I said that he was the Observer’s chief reporter. ‘How can he say such things?’ ‘Because he hates America,’ I said. ‘He also says that all the Taleban did was to make law out of what had always been the case in rural areas.’ There was uproar. Even the men joined in. They thought that this was really impertinent and offensive. ‘He also says,’ I went on, ‘that there is no need to ban television because there aren’t any.’ ‘Who does he think we are. Of course we’ve got television.’ And that’s true. I’ve watched television all over the country, even in a Khirgiz yurt in the High Pamirs.


I doubt the lesson will be heeded by the journalists most in need of it: gullibility can be as bad, and even perhaps a bit more embarrassing, than triumphalism.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:47 AM | TrackBack

Those Devils in Skirts I

Those Devils in Skirts

I first learned the answer to this from this.

(via On the 3rd Hand.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:40 AM | TrackBack

Maybe they won't have to

Maybe they won't have to kill him again after all...

Swiss institute says bin Laden tape is not authentic

The latest tape statement attributed to Osama bin Laden is not authent