Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Dancing in the streets

by edwin Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:14:21 AM EST

The stormy present responds to Private:

Before I could leave my office both towers came crashing down and Arab Muslims were literally celebrating and dancing in the streets of Paterson, New Jersey when the towers collapsed.

There is no direct evidence that this actually happened. No video, no photos, not even any first-hand accounts in New Jersey newspapers, and I do think they would have been all over it if they felt on Sept. 12 that they had jubilant terrorists living in their midsts. Because pretty much everyone with olive skin was under scrutiny at that point. Never mind that poor Sikh guy who got shot.
Private responds:

Regarding the "dancing in the streets" all I can say is that your position that there is no evidence is blatantly false. If you wish to contact the local news stations in the New York/New Jersey area that would probably have archives of tapes.
The stormy present responds:

Look, it's not my job to support your argument for you. As I said above, you have made a thus-unsubstantiated claim, which I have challenged. It's your job to support it with evidence. I'm not going to do your homework for you.

quotes start at European Tribune: A personal reaction to 9/11

While stormy present may not wish to do private's work for him or her, I think that it is worth a look.

From the diaries - afew


If the proof is sitting in the local news stations in their archives, and not in the newspapers and not on the Internet then we have a conspiracy story here, the flip side of the US did the 9/11 bombing. I could see some editor, or even a few editors saying - lets work to keep things calm. No need to cause further problems. I just can't imagine that all editors would say the same thing - especially after it was shown somewhere.

The view that Muslims were "dancing in the streets of the US" is a dangerous view. It needs to be countered.

google 9/11 attacks "dancing in the streets"
google "world trade towers" celebrations
google Paterson dancing 9/11

Bingo. First link is about folk dancing. The second is about Muslims dancing in the street in Patterson NJ. One very small problem though - the source is European Tribune. I'm sorry. This is not reliable proof. :)

It does look like a cable company showed a video of Muslims celebrating in Paterson NJ.

In case you are not aware, after September 11, Paterson went into a week long celebration. Happy Arabs openly danced in the streets and exchanged candies. Footage of dancing Palestinians quickly disappeared from our TV-s but footage of the celebrations on the American soil never made it to the public. I wonder why.
Nonna Berina   Daniel Pipes

Sorry about the poor quality of the quote, but it is the second best I could find on the Internet. The best follows.

Another painful example of the media's role in perpetuating anti-Arab and Muslim feelings is that false report that Arabs in Paterson, New Jersey were joyous and dancing after the attacks. This lie was repeated for a week, until it was pointed out that the video that was shown over and over was of a wedding in Palestine that was taken a number of years ago. The media deliberately broadcast this tape to inflame feelings against Arabs in the US, and did so until a number of American officials, among them those in Paterson, intervened, calling the showings incitement. There is no such thing as Arab joy over the terrorist attacks.

www.911digitalarchive.org

So just what type of credibility does the September 11 Digital Archive Have?

The September 11 Digital Archive was funded by a major grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and organized by the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
The September 11 Digital Archive

Unfortunately there is not much information here that can be used to try to track down which Cable Company was producing the video. It certainly seems to have sunk without much of a trace. While there is no proof, the trouble finding the source for that "week long" celebration points to an error rather than a cover up.

Snopes has some things about celebrating Muslims during 9/11:
Alleged flag desecration by Dunkin' Donuts employees
Budweiser employee allegedly witnessed Arabs celebrating 9/11 at a convenience store
A Shell service station allegedly refused to serve a US soldier

Snopes goes through a certain amount of effort to prevent selecting and quoting. I'll respect their wishes to have you read it from the source. Go to the Dunkin' Donuts debunking and read the last 4 paragraphs starting with "Beyond the myriad of "Is it true?" questions arising from such rumors lurks the larger issue of what rumors say..."

There were some celebrations. The big news was that the Palestinians were dancing in the streets.

www.israelinsider.com
watch.windsofchange.net

The big news was not that Arabs in Paterson NJ were dancing.

Searching for more information I went to Wikipdedia. They have an entry under

Celebrations of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The only celebration they note is again from Palestine. Interestingly they claim that the celebrations may have partly been staged. Who knows what the exact truth is with Wikipedia, but it is highly unlikely that they would miss Muslims celebrating in the streets of the US.

It is most unlikely that reactions from Palestine would upstage reactions from the US streets themselves.

Bluntly, it does not look like there were Muslims celebrating the attacks within the US. Perhaps private can find one or two individuals, and perhaps he can also find one or two Christians or Jews. Antiwar.com and youtube mentions Jews, and buried in the myriad of revisions on Wikipedia there are mentions of Christians.

I have found much more evidence of 5 Jews celebrating the attacks than Arabs in Paterson NJ, and I wasn't looking for celebrating Jews.

I haven't tried any hate sites yet. Ah: Some people think that Little Green footballs is a hate site. Yup, they have some stuff:

From Britain;

From Palestine.

But I didn't see anything from the streets of the United States. I didn't bother checking the comments.

The next stage is to find out whether and when Islamic organisations condemned the attacks. (using Wikipedia's September 11, 2001 attacks/Muslim American reaction for a list of Islamic orginizatons)

Islamic Society of North America
U.S. MUSLIM RELIGIOUS COUNCIL ISSUES FATWA AGAINST TERRORISM. This article is undated.

Council on American-Islamic Relations the Islamic Circle, and 143 other Muslim organisations signed the Fatwa against terrorism.

Finally, does the Koran say anything that would indicate that terrorism is bad?

"Whoever kills a person [unjustly]...it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur'an, 5:32)

Other applicable passages of the Qur'an and Sunnah were cited by the Fiqh Council of North America in their fatwa against terrorism issued on 2005-JUL-28:

  • "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil." (Al- Tirmidhi)
  • "We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind." (Qur'an, 2:143)
  • "Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil." (Qur'an, 3:104)
  • "All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family."
Religious Tolerance.org

Christianity says something about malicious rumours.

Exodus 20:16 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

And something about judging others.

Matthew 7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Display:
Thanks for doing this, edwin. I agreed entirely with tsp when she told Private it was up to him to substantiate his claims (and in general, any of us should bring data to back up what we say, or be ready to produce it if asked - it just isn't good enough to send questioners or contradictors away by telling them to look for it themselves!)

But I felt fairly sure private was repeating an urban legend, and it appears to be so. Private should actually produce evidence, or take back that "blatantly false". He might also, as a person who holds a position of responsibility in a major publication, reflect on the uncontrolled, unexamined nature of his thought patterns, and his willingness to exhibit them as a supposedly rational point of view.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 03:26:01 AM EST
reflect on the uncontrolled, unexamined nature of his thought patterns, and his willingness to exhibit them as a supposedly rational point of view.

Amen.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stormy, do you have some background on that Palestinian celebration on the street in the youtube video?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:00:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think one of the problems with that video is that there isn't much background to it.  It appears to be real, and from what I can gather was shot by Reuters, although APTN also had similar footage.

I can't make out what the man is saying at the end.  The kids in the beginning and the old woman are saying Allahu Akbar.

The question is how representative it is.  They filed these few shots of a few (not "thousands," as Fox News reported) celebrating Palestinians, but no other footage that I know of from Palestine that day -- for example, of people who weren't celebrating.  That's sort of the nature of television, they take pictures of people doing things, not of people not-doing things.

It's hard to find anything online about this from people who don't have some sort of political axe to grind.  Matt Taibbi in exile.ru had a long sort of rumination on it, in which he concluded that American television coverage of the Middle East is essentially the work of Satan.  I mean, he didn't say that, but he wasn't very happy with the editorial decision to broadcast the clips....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:23:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Snopes.com has a page on it: http://www.snopes.com/rumors/cnn.asp.

It's clear from snopes.com (search for "arabs celebrating") that a whole bunch of urban legends (snopes says "innumerable") grew up around the theme of Arabs celebrating in the US. Edwin links to some pages in his diary.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:00:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is the APTN camera that you can see in the footage with the woman in glasses.

I remember a swedish television show (but which one? Mediamagasinet? Faktum? Google did not help...) doing some investigation on that clip, and tracking down that woman. Her take on it was that she had been tricked. She had been paid (in money or goods) to perform as the journalists needed some footage of joyous Palestines, but either did not say what for or lied about it.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:18:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as a person who holds a position of responsibility in a major publication

Yikes!

Hold on...if his responsibility is payroll...that's one thing.  Or maybe advertising?  Or facilities, logistics, finance...of course!

If it's editorial or journalistic.

Yikes!

This is a very strange time, though.  Can anyone think of another period in history when deconstruction of any meme was so quick and so widespread?

I wonder what I'd be thinking about, say, the Iraq war if the internet wasn't around.

My latest example is the Hamas/Fatah situation.  From the news I get a sense of "Two groups of palestinians have been shooting at each other.  Our govts. don't like the Hamas group because they say they wish to destroy Israel.  As Hamas have beatten Fatah in Gaza our govts. are doing business with a Fatah guy in the West bank."

Huh?  Why are they fighting and--an important question--who is supplying these people with arms?

Two seconds later I'm at my first article.

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55797

So now I know the americans were offering arms to Fatah.  So...who or what is Fatah?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatah

Huh?  The americans are supporing Fatah?  Okay then.  Who or what is Hamas?

http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/

But there are so many links...so much information.  What is interesting, for me, is that Private can read through and find the facts that balance his worldview...

Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious and political organization founded in Egypt with branches throughout the Arab world.

...and then dismiss the "ideologically motivated" information that...well...the bit we don't agree with is disinformation.

And Jerome grows weary of fighting the...lies...for it is being caught out in a lie (Would you like lies with that dot com.  Arf!)...that's the humiliating one--your lie broadcast to the world!

And okay, some liars don't care...but I reckon they still do.  What mafia boss wants to know that behind his back he is called "Shit for brains"?  Well, every one of them wants to know so they can...what?  Stop 'em!

Yack yackety yack!

Who knows what the exact truth is with Wikipedia

I read that and thought...you could lose the "with Wikipedia" part.  If something is known as an exact truth, how could it not be in Wikipedia?  (I'm ignoring marginal articles about such things as Who Is Leader of the Zombie Brain Eaters sect in Yongshei province...and even that, if there is an exact truth, will end up being corrected or...I should say...can be corrected.

Wikipedia is a sort of centralising zone with no centre.  For hot topics they have special warnings.  I love [citation needed]...sort of like "sez you and, er, who else?"  Or it means: "Hey, we know--well, we think we know--that this is correct.  If someone knows the original source, please say."

How this will play out, I don't know, but I think it's unique...our new development in history.  

And somehow people like Private (and deep in our hearts maybe there is a part of us that will always be Private)...are learning too.  The internet is tolerant so I suppose it teaches tolerance.  If you're not tolerant, hey!  There'll be plenty of websites for the non-tolerant too!  And if, after a bout of heavy non-tolerance you fancy a bit of...well...that's Private...but, hey!  There are plenty of websites about...well...just about anything...yack yack!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:30:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm taking my lead from Private who says he was on the Editorial Board of an old public policy magazine and describes their discussion of where America was at five years after 9/11.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:48:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, private should have substantiated his claims. In effect private was dishonest by not backing up - or reporting "I know I saw it on TV but I can't find it". My hope is that a lesson has been learned, and a little less trust for the media will be the result for private. Any Muslim would be absolutely justified in feeling that this was a racist attack on them. The stormy present was absolutely justified in being pissed.

I am actually worried that private

holds a position of responsibility in a major publication
. Perhaps private has no connection with actual journalism, but one would hope that the basic ethics of journalism would still be known to one in such a position.

My operating assumptions were:

  1. Private did see something on television.
  2. Private actually did try to find collaboration on the Internet and could not.
  3. In some way what Private saw was not legitimate.
  4. If Private did see something, then so did a lot of other people and the more information out on the net debunking it the better.

Just for fun here are the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Preamble
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.

Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:
-- Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
-- Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
-- Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
[...]

Minimize Harm
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

[...]

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

[...]

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should:
-- Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
-- Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
-- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
-- Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
-- Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Emphasis is mine.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:16:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any Muslim would be absolutely justified in feeling that this was a racist attack on them.

Race and religion are not the same. While I agree that private's claim was both clearly unsubstantiated and clearly an effort of anti-muslim scaremongering and while it is very probably true that the majority of racists are also anti-islamists, it is simply inappropriate to equate anti-islamism with racism (consider, for example, the example of an orthodox Marxist - while most of these are certainly not racist by any stretch of the imagination, they are equally certainly anti-islamist, what with religion being considered the opiate of the people and all that).

Ignore this distinction at the peril of talking nonsense.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:33:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But Islamophobia can be racist. As showcased by this story.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 01:04:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Edwin - this was well worth the effort to nail the lie.

After the possibly billion hours of w*estern television devoted to the 'threat of Islam', it would be interesting to ask ordinary people what they know about Islam, what they have learnt from all they have seen. Could they, for instance, name and describe the 5 pillars of Islam?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_pillars_of_islam

Understanding comes from knowledge, not mob opinion. The overwhelming majority of muslims are like everyone else n this planet, striving for compassion, peace, dignity and friendship. They find daily succour in devotion and submission.

Should we describe Christianity in terms of its small fanatical groups?

There is no threat from Islam, if we offer it the respect that it deserves.The biggest threat, as ever, is our own ignorance.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 03:27:28 AM EST
Could they, for instance, name and describe the 5 pillars of Islam?

Heheh.  I watched one of my friends quiz two of my other friends on this, both of them Westerners living in the Middle East who really should have known something this basic, and neither of them could do it.

The biggest threat, as ever, is our own ignorance.

Amen.  (Which is also something they say in Arabic.)

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:33:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A language NOT understood by more than a handful of the thousands of Americans working at the new US Embassy metropolis in Baghdad - according to a report which I am now searching for (saw it yesterday, forgot to bookmark)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:41:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Happened to see a link to it on talkingpointsmemo.com: http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/003476.php

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:54:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no threat from Islam, if we offer it the respect that it deserves.

Respect is not something you are entitled to by birthright. Respect is something you must qualify for. Islam no more qualifies for my respect than does Christianity or any other religion.

There is a difference between respecting your beliefs and respecting your right to hold them. The latter I do, the former I see no need to feign.

Further note that the right to hold beliefs and practice them in the privacy of your own home and temple does not necessarily include the right to practice them anywhere else (the fact that any non-batshit-insane beliefs can be practiced in most places due to freedom of speech, press and assembly would render such a right unnecessary anyway).

As an aside, I would argue that the right to practice your religion in your home and temple is protected not so much by freedom of religion (which I view more as freedom from religious coercion) as by the inviolability of your home and the right to privacy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:46:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We'd have to define respect. I can't see a major difference - in my interpretation -  between respecting rights to hold a belief and respecting the belief itself.

Respect does not mean agreeing with, or not challenging a belief. But I believe a little more mutual respect in this world would go a long way to solving some of our more intractable problems. The kind of respect that I refer to involves understanding the other person's point of view - how it has evolved and what are the philosophical drivers behind it.

And I believe that all human beings deserve respect AS A BIRTHRIGHT. What are human rights about, if not that?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe that all human beings deserve respect AS A BIRTHRIGHT.

I think we all agree on that. But respecting a person (or a group of persons) and their right to have their own belief is not the same as respecting an ideology, religious or not. I respect Communists, I don't "respect" communism. In fact I don't know what respect means applied to an ideology or a belief.

You say:

There is no threat from Islam, if we offer it the respect that it deserves

I beg to disagree: There can be threats from Islam, as well as from Christianity (or communism) when they try to impose their rule on others. I has happened in the past and it could still happen.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:50:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, mon ami - now we get down to the real discussion: the separation of ideology from individual struggle.

The dichotomy is illustrated here
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=PTO0ZON1BQJV5QFIQMFSFGGAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/200 7/06/21/wnkorea121.xml

It is the story of a North Korean boy who was born in the cells of Camp 14 in Pyeongan province. It was the only world he knew. His mother and brother tried to escape and then he was tortured and forced to watch their public execution. He blamed them for his troubles thereafter. It was the only world he knew. It was the only cosmos he knew.

But somone later came into the camp and explained that there was a world outside. He and a companion later decided to escape to find this other world. They found themselves working in a lightly guarded area. They ran for it. His companion hit that not-understood electrical fence first and died, but in doing so made a hole in the fence, that, though Shin Dong-Hyok suffered terrible burns, made it possible for him to escape and find the freedom he sought.

What a metaphor!

The fact that any ideology represents a threat through the accumulation of unbridled power, does not, imo, affect my argument. We are all human, and that peer to peer 'respect', discussion and questioning could serve to limit the accumulation of 'unbridled power'.

Isn't that what ET is about? ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 03:04:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I believe that all human beings deserve respect AS A BIRTHRIGHT. What are human rights about, if not that?

Whatever happened to the word 'tolerance?' Tolerance is, indeed, a birthright (although arguably not an inalienable right; stabbing someone with a knife would, for example, forfeit the stabber's right to be tolerated by society - this lack of tolerance is usually represented by locking him up and throwing away the key).

By saying that respect is a birthright, it seems to me that you are either conflating the terms respect and tolerance or you are claiming that I violate Grossayatollah Ratzinger's human rights by holding him in contempt (since I consider contempt and respect pretty much mutually exclusive qualities). The former is linguistic sloppiness, the latter is frankly ridiculous.

We'd have to define respect. I can't see a major difference - in my interpretation -  between respecting rights to hold a belief and respecting the belief itself.

Permit me, then, a couple of examples.

I do not respect Mister Dick Cheney's views on corruption and corporate cronyism. In point of fact, I find them vile, contemptible and disgusting, which by any reasonable definition of terms precludes respecting them.

I do not respect Grossayatollah Ratzinger's views on - well on most things, but reproductive rights, the role of religion in society and the civil liberties of GLBT people are probably the most obvious points of disagreement. In fact, I find his views contemptible and below the level of discourse I expect from civilized human beings. Which, again, pretty much by definition precludes my respecting them.

I respect both Ratzinger's and Cheney's right to hold their views, however, in the sense that I believe that it would be morally wrong to attempt to silence them through the use of force (the flip side of that coin, of course, is that if Herr Ratzinger or Mister Cheney attempt to use force to silence their critics, they are morally as well as legally culpable).

By way of contrast, I do respect the view that religion and science form non-overlapping magistraria, even though I do not agree that it is a tenable philosophical position. I respect it because it is a civilized, mostly reasonable position that can be argued without resorting to too many obvious logical fallacies.

In other words, respect is what you extend to ideas and people that are, on the whole, civilized and respectable but with which you are not necessarily in agreement. I find very little about most religion [1] respectable or civilized, and hence I do not extend my respect to it. Tolerance? Certainly. Respect? No.

Respect does not mean agreeing with, or not challenging a belief.

No, but it does signify considering the belief worthy of discussion or consideration in polite company. Certain beliefs - such as the belief that condoms should be outlawed - are so clearly and obviously insane that they do not merit such respect.

But I believe a little more mutual respect in this world would go a long way to solving some of our more intractable problems. The kind of respect that I refer to involves understanding the other person's point of view - how it has evolved and what are the philosophical drivers behind it. [emphasis in original]

In a world where every human had infinite time at his disposal (as well as infinite patience for silly pursuits), this attitude would be commendable. In the real world, I do not need to go through the exact details of a perpetual-motion-machine proposal to know that it is nonsense, nor do I have to look up every reference in a creationist screed to realise that said creationist is lying through his teeth, and I do not need to analyse every sentence a politician says to know that he's lying to me (although if he's reasonably competent, I'll have to analyse every sentence he says if I want to prove it).

Similarly, when a religious nutjob argues that his religious feelings take precedence over other people's freedom of press and peaceable assembly, I don't have to study his theology and philosophy to realise that he's beyond-the-fringe crazy.

While I have followed the 'debate' over whether hurt feelings should trumph civil liberties fairly intently, it is entirely possible that I have missed a stunningly compelling argument against my position. So far, however, all I have heard is veiled threats (a.k.a. the risk of terrorism will increase if "we" continue being "disrespectful" of "them"), arguments from oppression (a.k.a. an oppressed people is always right) combined with copious amounts of special pleading (a.k.a. no, no, criticizing the [insert random religious figure] for his insane views is OK, but blasphemy against [insert random other religion] is soo bad).

I have heard those lines before, I have understood them, I still don't agree with them, and I am friggin' tired of being told that I have to 'respect' or 'understand' views that would under normal circumstances be considered batshit insane, simply because the guy espousing said insanity also happens to claim that he is extremely pious. I'm so very sorry for hurt feelings (well, not really...), but pious nonsense remains nonsense first and foremost.

- Jake

[1] I use religion throughout this post as a term for certain social trends and/or political organisations and private corporations (Scientology and the Roman Catholic Church are prominent examples of the latter) - I'm not taking any stand on any particular theological doctrine here, inasmuch as it does not affect the political stance and role of the religion in question (and I would argue that most theology affects neither).

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:46:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was pretty much in agreement with your take on this issue until I came to this passage:

While I have followed the 'debate' over whether hurt feelings should trumph civil liberties fairly intently, it is entirely possible that I have missed a stunningly compelling argument against my position. So far, however, all I have heard is veiled threats (a.k.a. the risk of terrorism will increase if "we" continue being "disrespectful" of "them"), arguments from oppression (a.k.a. an oppressed people is always right) combined with copious amounts of special pleading (a.k.a. no, no, criticizing the [insert random religious figure] for his insane views is OK, but blasphemy against [insert random other religion] is soo bad).

I'm not sure what to make of it because I don't think anyone on this thread is advocating "hurt feelings should trumph civil liberties". During the mid- late 90s there was a tone of Political Correctness that some wingers argued tended to do this kind of thing, limiting valid discourse so as not to offend a particular group, but I don't see that much anymore--at least not in the US. If anything, a perversion of the phenomena is happening, where certain representatives of fringe elements of a particular group get much more air time while the vast majority of that group --who happen to be sane, civil, and worthy of respect --are virtually ignored.

Two cases in point. Recently, Christine Amanpour  went out of her way to do a report on Islamic radicals in Great Britain, she interviewed  a transitional figure who at one pointed advocated violent jihad against the West, etc., but of course, the vast majority of Islamic clerics are opposed to the use of violence --especially against innocents. Their voices in these matters are hardly heard. Here's a snippet from Amanpour's write up:

In our investigation, we found shocking evidence of the bigotry, intolerance and hatred preached by some Muslim fundamentalists in the UK. We met men like Anjem Choudary of the now-banned Al-Mahajiroon extremist group, who denounces democracy and predicts Britain will be ruled by Sharia, Islamic law.

He publicly distances himself from suicide bombings here in the UK, mindful of Britain's tough new anti-terrorism laws, yet we filmed him openly condoning violent Jihad abroad.

"I happen to be in an ideological and political war," Choudary said. "My brothers in al Qaeda and other Mujahedeen are involved in a military campaign." (Watch a call for Islamic law in Britain )

This is hardly being 'bashful' for fear of hurting a particular group's (1.61 Billion Muslims) feelings.

Here's another instance. The Catholic church is a huge and ideologically complex institution. That is, there are threads throughout the Catholic tradition that are not very conservative at all (contra Ratzinger)...they argue for work with the poor, (Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers), political liberalism and various softer forms of socialism (Liberation Theology) and strongly disapprove of militarism (Ploughshares movement, represented by Phil and Dan Berrigan), ecumenicalism (Thomas Merton, Paul Tillich and other Catholic thinkers and theologians). Yet in the US, as perhaps in Europe, much of the Catholic tradition is understood only vis a vis its absolutely insane stance on birthcontrol and family planning matters in general.

Again, if you were to take a poll, I think you'd find that the majority of Catholics --at least here --don't identify with the Pope's rigid ideas about contraception--I would suspect that most find them--as I do--frankly, insane.

But contraception as well as abortion have almost become a 'signature' issue for the Catholic church--an identifier. Just as violent jihad has become a kind of signature issue or identifier for Islam. In both instances, it's actually fringe elements within the group that end up identifying and speaking for that group, which I think is the reverse of the special pleading that you're talking about. (Admittedly in the case of the Catholic church, the 'fringe' element isn't that fringy because unfortunately, it happens to be its very  obdurate and conservative hierarchical head).

One last thing, I think you're mis-characterizing a generally persuasive argument that we have to address the political, social and economic roots of  terrorism if we ever hope to 'defeat it' when you write:


"So far, however, all I have heard is veiled threats (a.k.a. the risk of terrorism will increase if "we" continue being "disrespectful" of "them")

Understanding and addressing the roots of violent behavior in any society is ultimately about the survival of that society and doesn't have much to do with respect or disrespect at all; to want to understand what causes a terrorist's behavior and to try and address it is simply a mark of social and political sanity.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 10:30:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was pretty much in agreement with your take on this issue until I came to this passage:

I should probably have marked that paragraph with a [snark][/snark] tag. I admit that I was venting a bit there.

I'm not sure what to make of it because I don't think anyone on this thread is advocating "hurt feelings should trumph civil liberties".

It is entirely possible that you're right. In fact, given that you know all involved better than I do (if for no other reason then by virtue of your having been a regular on ET longer than I), you very probably are right. It's just that clichés like 'treating [religion] with the respect it deserves' raise a lot of little red flags in my mind - particularly after this very line was used over and over and over again during the Cartoon Jihad in early '06 - by precisely the people who were arguing that we should stop spitting religious madmen in the eye to avoid upsetting their tender sensibilities.

During the mid- late 90s there was a tone of Political Correctness that some wingers argued tended to do this kind of thing, limiting valid discourse so as not to offend a particular group, but I don't see that much anymore--at least not in the US.

Our perspectives differ somewhat on this, I think. I agree with you that political correctness is not the overburdening problem of Western society (and frankly, good riddance). I also agree with you that some of the backlash against the norm of political correctness has been extreme (think Ann Coulter, Jörg Heider and our own Pia Kjærsgaard).

The problem is, however, that in the area of religion, we have not quite gotten rid of 'political correctness.' People's unsupported assertions are accorded an almost postmodernist credibility so long as they profess sufficient piety. Think, again, Ann Coulter. Or "Dr." Kent Hovind. Or, for that matter Bush 28.

(The scare quotes around political correctness in the preceding paragraph is due to the fact that religious apologetics has been around much longer than political correctness - I really don't think the two have much to do with one another, but I lack a better term for the undue reverence bestowed upon apologists.)

Another problem is that the nature of (modern) politics is that debates get polarized into two camps, split neatly along party lines. I largely blame the media for this. It would be highly unfortunate if the left were to start supporting anti-secular Muslims simply because the right opposes them and wants to bomb them.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened in many cases during both the Rushdie crisis and the Cartoon Jihad. Part of this may be due to the fact that saying 'I think the ayatollahs are crazy, but bombing Tehran is probably counterproductive' is too long for a soundbite by about a factor of three, it was often shortened to simply 'don't bomb Tehran' - while an admirable sentiment in and of itself, in the context of the debate it looked too much like bending over backwards to please a bunch of madmen. That being said, however, there really were fairly prominent people who argued that it would have been better if Rushdie had just kept quiet. And that's problematic, to put it very mildly.

I will concede that I very likely overreacted. I tend to get a bit (over)sensitive to people on 'my side' of the political spectrum repeating lines that I associate strongly with anti-secular apologetics.

A final disclaimer: I am not comparing the artistic quality of the Satanic Verses to a bunch of editorial cartoons - that would probably be demeaning to Rushdie's work. I simply use this as an example to broaden the scope of my argument a bit.

[snipped for size]

This is hardly being 'bashful' for fear of hurting a particular group's (1.61 Billion Muslims) feelings.

True. Then again, I would argue that one of the roles of the media is to shine the light of day on such vermin. The problem, as I see it, is not so much that they report on the Muslim madmen more than on the Muslim moderates - that's hardly surprising, since moderation is considered default behaviour. The problem is that they don't turn the same critical light on the neo-nazis, the Opus Dei or the bigots who assault and frequently attempt to murder GLBT people.

The impression that Islam is uniquely violent and bloodthirsty stems, I think, not so much from the reporting on Muslim extremists as from the embarrassing failure to report on almost all other kinds of extremists.

Here's another instance. The Catholic church is a huge and ideologically complex institution. That is, there are threads throughout the Catholic tradition that are not very conservative at all (contra Ratzinger)

That's certainly correct. One might privately wonder why they remain Catholic when they disagree with the doctrine that seems to an outsider to be the single most important feature of the Catholic Church, namely Papal authority. But hey, that's none of my business, and if it floats their boat...

...they argue for work with the poor, (Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers),

I have more than a few reservations regarding organisations that combine charity and missionary work. But let's leave that discussion to another day.

political liberalism and various softer forms of socialism (Liberation Theology) and strongly disapprove of militarism (Ploughshares movement, represented by Phil and Dan Berrigan), ecumenicalism (Thomas Merton, Paul Tillich and other Catholic thinkers and theologians).

In fairness to Herr Ratzinger, he does not strike me as a militarist. And in fairness to his predecessor, JPII actively distanced himself from the notion of militarism. And while we're on the subject of being fair to the Pope, he's actually pretty ecumenical (although not as much as JPII). In fact, given Herr Ratzinger's extremism in most other areas, I would personally prefer him to be a bit less big on ecumenicalism, but that's also another story for another day...

Yet in the US, as perhaps in Europe, much of the Catholic tradition is understood only vis a vis its absolutely insane stance on birthcontrol and family planning matters in general.

I think it is valuable to the discussion to distinguish between the Catholic Church (i.e. the corporation and upper-level clergy) and Catholics in general. The former is - pretty much by definition - in agreement with Herr Ratzinger (or whomever else wears the silly hat at the moment). The latter run the gamut of walks of life and political positions. Put in these terms, the Church must be opposed - sometimes with the aid of the majority of Catholics - but the laity (is that the right word?) should be evaluated on their individual merits, which may run from the atrocious (think Ratzinger) to the agreeable (think Ken Miller or J.F. Kennedy).

I think (or at least hold the probably forlorn hope) that many Europeans are able to distinguish between the two. And I think that to any American with a political memory that goes back to Kennedy, the distinction should be crushingly obvious.

But contraception as well as abortion have almost become a 'signature' issue for the Catholic church--an identifier. Just as violent jihad has become a kind of signature issue or identifier for Islam. In both instances, it's actually fringe elements within the group that end up identifying and speaking for that group, which I think is the reverse of the special pleading that you're talking about.

The special pleading I was talking about is in the sense of the logical fallacy by the same name. This logical fallacy can be employed by both majority and minority groups.

Furthermore, I would question whether those elements are as much of a fringe as you seem to argue: Who was, for instance, the last US president who did not pay at least lip service to the Christian Right? Which Mideast government does not pay at least lip service to the radical jihadi? (OK, I can answer the last question, Egypt doesn't, neither does, AFAIK, Lebanon or Jordan. Syria, I don't know about. But I can't off the top of my head think of any other that don't occasionally toss the nutters a bone to keep them semi-contend.)

One last thing, I think you're mis-characterizing a generally persuasive argument that we have to address the political, social and economic roots of  terrorism if we ever hope to 'defeat it' [...]

That was not my intention. I fully support trying to understand what pisses people off. I merely argue that there are some things we should not compromise on simply to prevent pissing people off (or, for that matter, compromise on at all). For example, it is the inalienable right of any human being to ridicule religious leaders and religious icons, or political dittos. If this pisses people off, then we're just going to have to live with the resulting terrorism (and I mean 'live with' as in 'accept as a fact of life' not as in 'go bomb some brown people when it happens').

Understanding and addressing the roots of violent behavior in any society is ultimately about the survival of that society and doesn't have much to do with respect or disrespect at all; to want to understand what causes a terrorist's behavior and to try and address it is simply a mark of social and political sanity.

I mostly agree with that, except for the implicit premise that terrorism is a real threat to our society. As someone who posted by the handle of downunder newt said on DailyKos:

The overriding message which I'm trying to convey can be summarized like this:  Terrorism is not a legitimate threat to Westerners.  There are almost no terrorists in the world who want to kill us, statistically speaking.  We know this because any dispassionate examination of the state of Western society should be telling us that if there were large numbers of terrorists who wanted to kill us, we'd be under constant, unrelenting attack.  And we aren't, so there isn't.

I haven't run the numbers, but I strongly suspect that the number of terrorists is statistically indistinguishable from the number of people who take a shotgun into a high school and gun down their classmates. Bombthrowing lunatics will find something to hang their hat on whatever we do, so I don't see why we should compromise with them. By all means, try to find out what drives them. But why change policies for the benefit of less than .1 per cent of the population, who will likely be violent lunatics whatever we do?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 07:25:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorta 100% in agreement, and yet thinking:

"The anger that comes across is...."

..you know the saying?  Where's there's hate, there's a relationship.

When you give up on something, when you think, "This has no more validity for me," rather than arguing with it, one tends to move simply...away...into other areas.

Those who have a beef with religion, in my experience, are those who grew up within its poisonous claws.

Those who are happily without the "One God, One Heaven, One Rule Book, One Hell" version of human events are...

less irritated by religions.

And I think, I honestly think that an indian brit like Salman Rushdie could be doing better things with his time than accepting baubles from the UK establishment.

He could've refused the thing!

He could've pointed out the...

Hey, what happened to Robin Cook's ethical foreign policy?

But no....

The posh set the rules, the poor get fucked over, and religion is always there...when conflict arises.

A friend said tonight, "Religion thrives on conflict."

I feel the need to quote Rumi.

O SUN, fill our house once more with light!
Make happy all your friends and blind your foes!
Rise from behind the hill, transform the stones
To rubies and the sour grapes to wine!
O Sun, make our vineyard fresh again,
And fill the steppes with houris and green cloaks!
Physician of the lovers, heaven's lamp!
Rescues the lovers! Help the suffering!
Show but your face - the world is filled with light!
But if you cover it, it's the darkest night!

http://www.rumi.org.uk/



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 08:45:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorta 100% in agreement, and yet thinking:

"The anger that comes across is...."

..you know the saying?  Where's there's hate, there's a relationship.

[...]

less irritated by religions.

Religion (or, if I want to be consistent with my use of the term, piety) is not what irritates me, per se. It's the demands we hear from some quarters for political concessions towards religion.

You seem to surmise that I am a deist or atheist. While I try to avoid commenting on my own philosophical positions when debating the role of religion in society (because such comments, I've found, tend to muddy the waters), I fail to see where you got that idea. I cannot find a place in my writings here where I have said anything not said by liberal theists and theistic rationalists, as well as deists and atheists. Re-reading my post, it's probably fair to assume that I'm not a catholic and not a republican, though :-)

And I think, I honestly think that an indian brit like Salman Rushdie could be doing better things with his time than accepting baubles from the UK establishment.

Of course. In fact, I was somewhat surprised that he accepted to take part in that show. But methinks we're wandering far afield here, since the criticism, such as it was, was focused mainly on the fact that the order was awarded in the first place. The question of whether to accept distinctions like knighthood and medals is a big subject that many people have written volumes on. I'd rather not go there right now.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 05:46:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice and persuasive response, thank you. I appreciate the time you took in getting back to my quibbles over your previous remarks.

A few comments: understanding and addressing the roots of terrorism may or may not equal a change in "policies for the benefit of less than .1 per cent of the population, who will likely be violent lunatics whatever we do..."

However, on balance, if such a change (and I'm not thinking of anything that would radically change our constitution --that in fact we have wrongly and sadly already implemented -- but rather of varying tweaks of foreign policy) could lessen the number of potential hotheads that might start using 'terrorist' tactics, it certainly seems to me to be worth looking at. Like your buddy at dKos, Robert Wright, the author of an excellent book called NonZero has opined that terrorism and the terrorists threat is really just a numbers game. Whether the conversion factor by which highly hateful Muslim adolescents become terrorists is one in 10,000; or one in 100,000--I'd argue it's nevertheless a concern because of an important point that I think you're too easily discounting:

For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people.

This is due Wright argues to a number of factors, easy access to lethal wmd type weapons, biological weapons, dirty bombs all of that, but also the increased ability to learn about these weapons and doing a kind of on your own basement bomber thing via the info that's readily available over the internet. Plus, of course, the internet can also be used to easily 'rally the troops' as it were.

So taken to together I think the 'threat' factor is worth consideration, but there's one other point Wright brings up that maybe will bring this argument into sharper focus:

The number of intensely aggrieved groups will almost certainly grow in the coming decades of rapid technological, and hence social, change.

He leaves off some of the darker visions that I would add coupling, for example, the effects of peak oil with global warming on already stressed populations all over the world.

Placating that .1% is important because today's angry adolescents are tomorrow's terrorists.


Sure, only one in 10,000, or in 100,000, of these adolescents stays angry enough to become a true terrorist, especially a suicidal one--and of that subset, only a fraction is smart, well-educated, and disciplined, and thus as dangerous as a Mohamed Atta. But it doesn't take many Mohamed Attas to markedly lower the planet's quality of life. So, keeping hundreds of thousands of adolescents from getting hateful today could save hundreds of thousands of Americans 10 or 20 years from now.

Not to mention what it might do for the rest of the world. And if we can do that by adjusting certain foreign policy initiatives (leaving Iraq, for example, weaning overselves off oil, balancing our very lopsided Middle East policy)it might save us from becoming locked into a model that will generate terrorist and terrorists wannabes for generations to come -- when the easier and currently available solution may not even be possible or within our control.

Those are all arguments from self interest. But of course, there's always the possibility that doing the right thing by ameliorating or resolving the demands of those disgruntled 1% is simply the right-- as in the ethical -- thing to do.

On another note, I think the tendency of both Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists to be 'prickly' disguises a deeper problem in their world view. I think both tend to look at religious doctrine as the ultimate authority over state authority. This is a fairly compelling problem and it seems to me this is what a large portion of your commentary hints at. I personally wouldn't mind seeing a diary fleshing out some of the themes you've outlined in this round of posts (with perhaps examples from both sides of the river  Xtians/Islam, their 'prickliness', what I would suggest is a by product of their insistence on religious authority over state authority,  etc...)-- I'm not saying I agree with your take on this, entirely, of course, but I do think it certainly warrants more discussion. Cheers!

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 12:08:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice and persuasive response, thank you. I appreciate the time you took in getting back to my quibbles over your previous remarks.

Nice of you to stay with me all the way through. I was thinking 'this is getting waay too long' when I posted it, but I was too tired to bother going back and cutting stuff out.

Whether the conversion factor by which highly hateful Muslim adolescents become terrorists is one in 10,000; or one in 100,000--I'd argue it's nevertheless a concern because of an important point that I think you're too easily discounting:

For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people.

This is true. And all the factors you list as contributing are certainly there. But the fact remains that so far, the median major terrorist attack kills 50-100 people and strikes less than once a year. Unless you wish to propose an almost exponential increase in either the number of terrorists or our ability to kill each other with products that can be bought in the local supermarket, there's a long, long way just to get to the point where riding the subway becomes equally dangerous to riding a car to work. 9/11, in this respect as in many others, is a far outlier - basing our policies on it is in many ways like basing your policies on coastal tourism on the '04 tsunami.

So, keeping hundreds of thousands of adolescents from getting hateful today could save hundreds of thousands of Americans 10 or 20 years from now.

Not to mention what it might do for the rest of the world. And if we can do that by adjusting certain foreign policy initiatives (leaving Iraq, for example, weaning overselves off oil, balancing our very lopsided Middle East policy)it might save us from becoming locked into a model that will generate terrorist and terrorists wannabes for generations to come -- when the easier and currently available solution may not even be possible or within our control.

I agree with you that we should implement such policies. No argument there. But we should implement them because they are so clearly right and just policies, not because some terrorist bogeyman is out there. The fact that they will, in the long run, also reduce terrorism is just a happy coincidence. Further, I would argue that even if those policies would increase terrorism, we should still implement them, because they are so clearly good policies, and terrorism is such a minor issue.

But if you want to use the terrorism factor to convince some conservatives to start supporting alternative energy, I'm not complaining in the slightest :-)

On another note, I think the tendency of both Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists to be 'prickly' disguises a deeper problem in their world view. I think both tend to look at religious doctrine as the ultimate authority over state authority. This is a fairly compelling problem and it seems to me this is what a large portion of your commentary hints at.

Precisely. This is precisely what I've been trying to say. Except that I don't really think being prickly disguises that view - it kinda seems to me to broadcast it loud and clear.

And while we're in the splitting hairs department, there is also a milder form that's still virulent: Some people seem to think not so much that their religious convictions are the ultimate authority on how to run society (i.e. on how other people should behave), just that they're superior to the secular laws (in the sense that they must always be permitted to do whatever their religious convictions tell them without interference). The end result is probably the same, but I don't think it's completely fair to the latter group to bunch them together with the outright theocrats.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 06:18:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm doing my best to follow this. Unfortunately real world stuff is intervening. I've had a poke or two at the "religion is evil" argument and am quite interested in doing a diary on what is religion. I'm not sure I can pull it off. My background is not particularly academic, and certainly not in religion.

The distinction between government and religion and their roles need to be made, but it is not an easy distinction to make. Religion and government share the same role. What is a church but a government on a very small scale, or in the case of entities like the Catholic Church - not so small a scale?

I think I can trace any religious function onto the US government and US society - including faith (American exceptionalism, American creation myth), texts (American constitution), piety (nationalism), prostelization (war in Iraq), ritual (the electoral process, pledge of allegiance) and so on.

Of course there are conflicts between government and religion. In Canada rare but re-occurring conflict concerns refugees. The government often wants to ship them back. Various churches give them sanctuary and defy the government. I am not sure I want to 100% reign in religion. It provides an interesting check on the power of government.

From a religious point of view I wear several hats. I could be called a Jewish atheist Quaker. Not by any means an unknown combination.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 10:16:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hadn't thought of the tension between government and religion as being terribly useful until you brought up the sanctuary example. Then it occurred to me that perhaps one of the most energizing forces in our civil rights movement here (which I think most will concur was a good thing) was, in fact, religion. MLK, a preacher, spent considerable time in state jails. His "Letters from a Birhmingham Jail" are still read today. Many conscientous objectors rely on the authority of religion (or conscience) to defy the state's rule. Ghandi & Thoreau, of course, are right in line with this tradition. Yet, they all thread an important needle. While denying the state's authority over their actions, they suffer the consequences of breaking the state's laws willingly: MLK did not try to avoid jail time. When Emerson went to visit Thoreau in jail (he refused to pay his taxes that would end up funding the Mexican war) he famously said "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?" So religion in the sense of carrying our ethical selves in opposition to state rule can be valuable. But Keirkegaard has done us the good work of noting that religion plays in two realms: the ethical realm and the spiritual realm. I'm watering down quite a bit, but as I understand it, conventional religion becomes relevant at a societal level in the ethical realm. It becomes individualized, and frankly incomprehensible to rational discourse at the spiritual level (see Keirkegaard's notes on Abraham & Isaac) so the thrust of my argument might be something like this. At the ethical level religion has an important ameliorating role to play in opposition to state government if necessary; it can deny the validity of certain laws based on persuasive ethical arugments, but cannot assume the 'authority' of the state in absolving the consequences of breaking those laws--because religion get its ultimate authority not from the ethical realm but from the spiritual realm, which, as I've tried to suggest, cannot be universalized. States that are agreed upon organizational units are based at least in theory on the concept of universalization and the rule of law. So the ultimate authority for the ethical realm is logically the state. Christianity pretty much accepts this, (or at least it used to ... Render onto Caesars what is Caesars, etc.)I'm not entirely convinced other traditions see it this way so that's probably why we're having this discussion.

The bottom line is we may all agree that building missiles is bad (based on either ethical or religious convictions), we may all decide to try and stop the building of missiles through sabotage etc., but when and if we are caught, I would suggest it's incumbent upon the civil disobedient to accept the authority of the state because at the societal level, the rule of law must be maintained. Our action becomes an appeal to the ethical nature of the people who make up the state to change their policies and laws. Ultimately, it's our faith in the ethical nature of humanity that makes this arugment possible. It's an appeal to the conscience of those who make up the state from the pricked conscience of a fellow member. (And for Jake's sake I'll note-I am almost entirely secular and so I am not arguing that you can only be ethical or have a conscience vis a vis a 'religion' of some sort--far from it--I'd argue that our ethical nature precedes any religion, or maybe I should say, given the number of awful things 'religion' has managed to muck up by itself, is more valuable than religion.)

Which brings up a last question-what happens when the edicts of religion actually go against our ethical nature? I think the Catholic church's stance on contraception is a case in point, and certain Islamic clerics advocating violence. What then is the proper response of the ethical individual, of the state?

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 11:56:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I may come back to this post later. I've got a toilet to install.

I hate to bring it up because it is extreme, and your argument reads reasonablly when we view the state as even semi-reasonably.

Two examples:

The state is at least partially unreasonable: Slavery in the US. There was a need to directly challenge the authority of the state here. The underground railroad did this.

Nazi Germany: In this case the entire state was illegimate. In this case, the Quakers are credited with - well what you are not happy about.

That's it for now. I have a toilet with my name on it.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 12:19:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I fully acknowledge that my argument is at least partially based on the premise that the state is democratic. In non-democratic regimes dissent is not constrained by the need to behave democratically, for instance...

I think, however, that you are putting the horse before the cart here. Opposing slavery because slavery clearly violates the inalienable right of the slaves to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (among many other things) is a good thing. Opposing slavery because it is your religious conviction that slavery is wrong is probably on balance also a Good Thing, since slavery is so horrible an institution.

But while I am not trying to belittle the effort and risk put into liberating the slaves by the Underground Railroad, opposing slavery on religious grounds is clearly morally inferior to opposing slavery on grounds of slavery being demeaning to our fellow human beings. To see why, try turning the respective arguments on their heads:

"It is my religious conviction that slavery is wrong" is no more or less convincing than "it is my religious conviction that slavery is right." By way of contrast I doubt that you would find anyone measurably smarter than a sack of hammers who would argue that "slavery is wrong because it is demeaning to our fellow human beings" is no more convincing than "slavery is right because freedom is demeaning to our fellow human beings" or "slavery is right because slavery is uplifting to our fellow human beings."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:47:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The distinction between government and religion and their roles need to be made, but it is not an easy distinction to make. Religion and government share the same role. What is a church but a government on a very small scale, or in the case of entities like the Catholic Church - not so small a scale?

I should hope that there is a difference. A religion is a club - a social construct that admits members according to certain club rules and provide a framework for the members in which they can do stuff they like to do. A government is a club of another kind; is a social construct that uses armed force or the threat thereof to enforce certain common rules. While you can leave the jurisdiction of a government (I support the right to popular self-determination - at least in principle), joining its jurisdiction in general does not require active assent. Furthermore, a club can exclude a member that breaks its rules - governments can not except in very special cases exclude citizens from its protection (the concept of banishment was - if you'll permit the pun - banished from Western legal tradition in the earliest Middle Ages). Having clubs impose their 'house rules' on society in general, through the application of governmental force, is undesirable, whether the club in question is the Union of Chess Players and Stamp Collectors or the First International Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I think I can trace any religious function onto the US government and US society - including faith (American exceptionalism, American creation myth), texts (American constitution), piety (nationalism), prostelization (war in Iraq), ritual (the electoral process, pledge of allegiance) and so on.

I disagree that the election process is equivalent to religious ritual (well, in the post-Diebold democracy it might be, but that's for another day). I also disagree that the US constitution is a sacred text - and I more than suspect that most of the people who wrote it (as well as the majority of the people who opposed it) would likewise disagree with your assertion. Tellingly, the USC can be amended by popular vote, something I can not think of any religious text that permits. The rest of the stuff you mention is at least quasi-religious, I agree with you on that. I also happen to think that they represent an unthinking autocratic undercurrent that probably exists in every society, but which I find no reason to praise.

I am not sure I want to 100% reign in religion. It provides an interesting check on the power of government.

But what provides a check on the power of religion? The very lack of checks and balances inherent to religious social structures is precisely what makes them both so potentially powerful and so very dangerous. At least the government has to act within the limits of the constitution - the Church rarely seems feel bound that way.

At the ethical level religion has an important ameliorating role to play in opposition to state government if necessary; it can deny the validity of certain laws based on persuasive ethical arugments,

But if you look at the persuasive arguments that are made, they are very rarely religious in nature. To take one of your own examples, Martin Luther King spoke most powerfully when he invoked arguments from common humanity. "I have a dream" is remembered not for its occasional religious trappings, but for its powerful invocation of equality before the law and the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

No sane person will deny that religious people can and do affect positive social change - nor that their motivations may well be religious (there are also people who merely garb themselves in religion to affect change, of course - the 'but he was just using religion' defense cuts both ways...).

But using religion to affect social change carries with it the inherent problem that it legitimizes the use of religious rhetoric in the public debate. And I cannot think of any point in time in any society where the crazy fundamentalists were not better organized and more determined than their progressive counterparts (they may not be more numerous, but that's beside the point - superior organization and morale permits a political party to defeat a numerically much larger opponent). Thus, I would argue that religion in the political debate is a greater asset to the reactionaries than to the progressives, and thus in a purely tactical analysis, its use should be discouraged (there is also the slight matter of religion being unable to convincingly argue for secularism, a value that I hold rather dearly).

Further, I happen to care about the logic used to support a position - even one that I agree with. And "God wants X" is simply not a valid reason to support X to my mind. Chiefly because it does not even pretend to be consistent. The only unifying principle is someone's say-so, be he God or the Pope or your local pastor. In effect, basing policy on religious doctrine is one long string of special pleadings. (This last point is probably what Kierkegaard alludes to when he says that spiritual convictions cannot be generalized.)

So the ultimate authority for the ethical realm is logically the state. Christianity pretty much accepts this, (or at least it used to ... Render onto Caesars what is Caesars, etc.)

This interpretation of that particular verse interests me greatly, since it seems so at odds with the way Christianity has been practiced throughout history. I think I have expanded upon my views of why Christianity currently accepts this doctrine elsewhere on ET, but suffice is to say that the transition from a state-within-the-state (or rather a state-above-the-state) to a body subservient to the state was neither smooth nor painless. The American language has a pithy adage that describes the process very well: "Being dragged kicking and screaming out of the Middle Ages."

(And for Jake's sake I'll note-I am almost entirely secular and so I am not arguing that you can only be ethical or have a conscience vis a vis a 'religion' of some sort--far from it--I'd argue that our ethical nature precedes any religion, or maybe I should say, given the number of awful things 'religion' has managed to muck up by itself, is more valuable than religion.)

Don't note that for my sake - do it for the sake of making a coherent and meaningful point :-P

Which brings up a last question-what happens when the edicts of religion actually go against our ethical nature? [...] What then is the proper response of the ethical individual, of the state?

From the state? Nothing, until and unless the clerics in question start doing something illegal. Revolution may be illegal, but being a member of a political group advocating revolution is not, and should not be. Unless, of course, the member in question is serious about the revolution thing...

From the individual? Protest if you're not a part of the organization, and leave it if you are. Stop giving money to it. Start giving money, if you have any to spare, to the organizations that it is trying to oppose (the RCC, for instance, has recently distanced itself from Amnesty over the question of reproductive rights, which is yet another good reason to give Amnesty money), or that oppose it. In other words, standard political activism.

In the case of religious groups saying bigoted and stupid things, an additional argument that can be employed (and that I think should be employed) is that religion has no place in the political debate. I.o.w., tell the preachers to sit down and shut up while the discussion is about politics - they have their legitimate functions, and politicking is not one of them. (Of course this line of argument will come around and bite you on the butt if you then go out and support another group of politicking preachers simply because you agree with them...)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS - you have a very narrow view of what religion is. When things do not fit you take your sledge hammer and make them fit.

Of course the process of voting is a ritual. That it actually accomplishes something is not a problem with rituals at all. I've worked on elections, I have voted, and I have monitored elections. I have difficulty in imagining how one could claim that elections are not a ritual.

Rather than try to go through your two comments - it is far to long and time consuming to do so, I will touch on two points you raise.

Tellingly, the USC can be amended by popular vote, something I can not think of any religious text that permits.

Quaker Faith and Practice The process of creating and modifying this book is consensus decision-making. (Technically it is slightly different than that but everyone else claims it is consensus and in this case being slightly inaccurate is less misleading than to try to exactly describe it.) Before you say the Bible, keep in mind that I am an atheist. Within the Quaker traditions, other texts are also very occasionally used at the discretion of whoever is speaking. For example I once used C Programming Language as a religious text.  If you have any questions about consensus being democratic, keep in mind that it is the decision making process used by the government of the North West Territories in Canada.

But if you look at the persuasive arguments that are made, they are very rarely religious in nature. To take one of your own examples, Martin Luther King spoke most powerfully when he invoked arguments from common humanity. "I have a dream" is remembered not for its occasional religious trappings, but for its powerful invocation of equality before the law and the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Really? Have you talked to people who knew Martin Luther King? It is not fair for you to claim that his arguments are very rarely religious in nature unless you have references to back it up. That you do not understand the religious nature of his life and work not an argument.

tell the preachers to sit down and shut up while the discussion is about politics - they have their legitimate functions, and politicking is not one of them.

I am glad that Martin Luther King did not listen.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 11:22:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS - you have a very narrow view of what religion is. When things do not fit you take your sledge hammer and make them fit.

Or perhaps your view of religion is overly broad. If you can read religious 'meaning' into every action then your use of the word 'religion' conveys no information.

So let's put the definitions on the table: I define religion as a collection of rituals and social norms justified through appeal to authority and/or untestable or tested-and-found-false claims about the nature of humanity and/or the world. I strive to be consistent in my use of terms, and I attempt to revise my definitions whenever they are shown to give nonsense results. But of course it's possible that I fail at that.

What's your definition?

Of course the process of voting is a ritual. That it actually accomplishes something is not a problem with rituals at all.

The level of reflection and abstract thought is, however. I have looked in a couple of places (dictionary.com and an old copy of the BBC English Dictionary to be specific) and both have definitions that place high emphasis on the rote and/or ceremonial nature of rituals. If your elections are carried out by rote, or are purely ceremonial, I'd recommend you look into getting dual citizenship.

Rather than try to go through your two comments - it is far to long and time consuming to do so, I will touch on two points you raise.

That is your prerogative, of course.

Tellingly, the USC can be amended by popular vote, something I can not think of any religious text that permits.

Quaker Faith and Practice The process of creating and modifying this book is consensus decision-making.

That is surprising. Your link consistently gives me a server time-out, however, so I cannot discuss the specifics.

If you have any questions about consensus being democratic, keep in mind that it is the decision making process used by the government of the North West Territories in Canada.

Oh, I don't. I have some questions about it being practical, but practicality is not a requirement for democracy.

But if you look at the persuasive arguments that are made, they are very rarely religious in nature. To take one of your own examples, Martin Luther King spoke most powerfully when he invoked arguments from common humanity. "I have a dream" is remembered not for its occasional religious trappings, but for its powerful invocation of equality before the law and the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Really? Have you talked to people who knew Martin Luther King? It is not fair for you to claim that his arguments are very rarely religious in nature unless you have references to back it up.

I make no claim about his motivations, nor the nature of most of his arguments. I'm not even saying that his religious arguments were not effective at the time and place that they were made. I am saying that the majority of his valid arguments are not religious. Appeals to authority, which, sad to say, forms the bulk of the religion-based arguments I've heard yet, are simply not valid in political debate. That does not prevent them from being effective, if course.

You may not care about the use of demagogy and other intellectually questionable methods to achieve admirable goals. I happen to do. Chiefly because I think it is, in the long run, counterproductive to legitimize demagogy.

tell the preachers to sit down and shut up while the discussion is about politics - they have their legitimate functions, and politicking is not one of them.

I am glad that Martin Luther King did not listen.

sigh

I have stated - repeatedly - that there are policies that are sufficiently illegitimate to justify otherwise illegitimate counter-measures. Violent partisan activity is normally illegitimate, but we do not condemn the South African ANC, because we consider the Apartheid regime even less legitimate.

MLK's use of religious demagogy does not make his campaign unethical, on balance, since Jim Crow legislation is a greater evil than MLK's use of demagogy.

The point is that this is a consideration that must be made whenever we employ ethically dubious methods: Do the circumstances justify this action?

Your syllogism of

MLK used religious dogmatism for political ends in his pursuit of emancipation
MLK's pursuit of emancipation was not unethical
Ergo, the use of religious dogmatism for political ends is not unethical

has the logical form

X is part of Y
Y is not Z
Ergo, X is not Z

simply does not, in general, follow. Try, instead of using MLK and religious dogmatism, to insert X=Use of violence, Y=the first intifada and Z=unethical.

Specifically, you are committing the fallacy of division.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 09:40:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
tell the preachers to sit down and shut up while the discussion is about politics - they have their legitimate functions, and politicking is not one of them.

Edwin, I, too, was actually put off by the boldness and even intolerance of this comment. For the record, in the US, despite our fire wall between church and state (which I deeply appreciate) the free speech rights of religious leaders are broadly protected by the U.S. Constitution. Clergy can and do address public policy concerns, ranging from abortion, gay rights and gun control to poverty, civil rights and the death penalty. They may support legislation pending in Congress or the state legislatures, or call for its defeat. They may endorse or oppose ballot referenda. Indeed, discussion of public issues is a common practice in religious institutions all over America.

The only thing organized relgion can't  do is endorse or oppose candidates for public office or use their resources in partisan campaigns. This restriction, which is found in federal tax law, is not limited to churches and other religious ministries. In fact, it is applied to every non-profit organization in the country that holds a tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. So churches can even go so far as to endorse individual candidates if they want to--but they risk losing their tax exempt status.

I have no idea what the situation is in Jake's country (Denmark?), but in the US, religion for good or bad has tended to play an enormous role in our politics. I personally favor actions and policies that derive from principles of universality rather than an appeal to religion for many of the reasons Jake has outlined, but it's disengenious--and not a little unfair--to expect religious groups not to participate in political debates when every other legitimate entity in the country can.

On the flipside, that this privilege has been abused is without doubt. From the Christian Coalition's infamous voter guides to The Church at Pierce Creek near Binghamton, N.Y. that lost its tax-exempt status  after the IRS determined it had violated federal tax law by publishing a full-page ad in USA Today  advising people that voting for Clinton was 'a sin' and soliciting tax-exempt donations to defray the cost of the ad, organized religion has stepped well outside the bounds of its tax exempt status. If that were the limit of the problem I wouldn't be so worried, but too often,  religion (especially in the US) has also been used as a hammer to demonize entire minority groups (gays) and even political groups (liberals). The Quaker and traditional peace churchs in the US are unfortunately quite small. The Southern Baptist Convention is enormous. While I sympathize with your objection to Jake's broad and intolerant declaration against all religions, I can also understand where he's coming from. The way to bridge the gap, I would argue, again, is to maintain  a healthy respect for the supremacy of legitimate Democratic state authority over religious authority at least in terms of our day to day living.  To advocate for the ascendancy of religious authority over the state is a dead end because of religion's ultimate subjectivity. Why? Ask yourself this: which one of the multitude of competing religions gets to have final 'say'? Which view is more ethical? The religious rights take on gays or the Quaker's take on war? I know I'd be with the Quakers in a heartbeat, I also know quite a few folks in my state who would side with the religious right. From there you are only a half a step away from a 100 year war.

 Here's Project Fair Play on the same issue:

Mixing religion and partisan politics could lead to religious majoritarianism and divisiveness. If the church electioneering bills become law, a large church, or a number of churches working together, could form a political machine. Religious groups could select candidates and support their campaigns. This would inevitably allow the largest denomination in each community to dominate political life.

A quick survey of conflict around the globe shows how dangerous it can be when religion and politics are injudiciously mixed. The last thing America needs is to take a step in that direction.


 I agree with this. I don't however find Jake's syllogism terribly persuasive because as he himself noted, MLK's most persuasive arguments were generally based on a view of a common humanity. I think Jake is trying to split off or separate that out from a religious view of humanity which is a rather tedious excercise. Many major religions hold as core  values the concept of common humanity and a common good. So when MLK 'uses religious demagogy' as Jake calls it, he's more than likely talking about our common humanity. Unless Jake is going to provide specific instances where MLK said, 'discimination is bad because the bible tells me so' quoting chapter and verse that specifically appeals to some divine authority rather than our common humanity, I don't think there's much of an argument here. Even if there is, his main concern is that MLK would prop up a movement that was widely ecumenical because it occasionally referenced a quote from the gospel (which in and of itself is a great place to begin to get a sense of a common humanity) as a touchstone? Hmm, as we Southerners say, I just don't think I have a dog in this hunt.  Or perhaps, more broadly, I will say there's simply no need to suggest it's EITHER religious dogmatism OR ethical humanism. Many perhaps most religions represent views that embrace both. If I were to do a diagram it might look more like a Venn diagram where common humanity is a subset of religious dogmatism, B included in A, MLK appeals to B inside of A meaning, effectively, BOTH. Now there are cases when that distinction is useful, when, in fact, the religious dogmatism goes against the ethical character of humanity B is NOT included in A --a cleric who advocates violence or a church that denies the use of condoms (thus sentencing millions to early and agonizing deaths from AIDS for example). In these instances, by all means, break away from the church, petition against it, and appeal to the authority of a legitimate state as a counter balance. Outside of these instances, as edwin rightly points out, many religious traditions have often overlapped and indeed re-affirmed the core progressive values of a common humanity where 'rights' can be easily predicated on our ability to universalize them, just like any good Kantian. And I would further suggest that many preachers will say it's the right thing to do because 'God tells you so', but, in the Xtian tradition, at least, what 'God' (in the gospel) has told them is exactly the core believe of ethical humanism: to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"...how much purer an example of universalism can you find than that?

Thanks to you both for the discussion. Now, out with the tomatoes!

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:36:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to be clear on my first point: I am arguing that religious entities should be allowed to voice their concerns regarding various 'ethical' issues that affect society. I would hope in a Democratic society those issues would be argued on the basis of universal appeal--thus whether it was a religious entity advocating for a particular position or not shouldn't matter.  But I think religious entities should be heavily  discouraged from  endorsing individual political candidates for the reasons mentioned above.
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:54:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to clarify I am in favour of the separation of church and state. In particular, Quakers ran Philadelphia as a "holy experiment" which is partly why we are as a group quite in favour of the separation of church and state. I think I can get away with saying that as a religion we have done it and it is wrong, and we don't support it any more.

I just have a problem figuring out how to deal with times that it becomes necessary - like Nazi Germany- to violate that principal.

I personally favor actions and policies that derive from principles of universality rather than an appeal to religion

I prefer that religious philosophies be indistinguishable on a practical level from those based on principles of universality. If they meet that criteria then why worry about it. If they are indistinguishable, then they are universal. I don't immediately see how one can have universality without imbedding it into a philosophy.

I think Jake is trying to split off or separate that out from a religious view of humanity which is a rather tedious exercise.

Yes he is trying, but you can't do it. One's faith/religion can be centrally tied to what he is trying to split off. It can be part of the definition of who one is. Do that with Quakers and you no longer have Quakers. I have a hunch that the same applies with MLK's religious views.

It goes back to the core of ones religious beliefs being derived from a principle of universality. You remove that universality then there is nothing.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 07:18:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
British Yearly Meeting's web site seems to be down. Philadelphia's Quaker Faith and Practice as well as a list of several other Faith and Practices are available here: (I am not familiar with any of them, though I would suspect that Philadelphia's Quaker Faith and Practice will in some ways be similar to Britain's.)

http://www.pym.org/publish/fnp/otheryms.php

In the US (Africa, and some other countries) there are 3 (not clearly defined) splits to Quaker faith. Two of the splits would fit your definition (more or less) of religion, one does not in my opinion. Britain has never split.

So let's put the definitions on the table: I define religion as a collection of rituals and social norms justified through appeal to authority and/or unstable or tested-and-found-false claims about the nature of humanity and/or the world. I strive to be consistent in my use of terms, and I attempt to revise my definitions whenever they are shown to give nonsense results. But of course it's possible that I fail at that.

Your definition is quite weak. There is a very strong philosophical component to many religions. It is here that you do injustice to MLK I think. As well your definition is self-serving as it assumes what it searches for - namely that religion is in some form evil.

According to your definition Quakers are probably not a religion, though one might be able to put together an argument about untestable or tested and false claims about the nature of humanity though I am not sure of that. I could certainly give it a go on the nature of several political parties in certain countries. Quakers are fringe in several respects so it is not surprising that they often fail to fit into various definitions of what is religion. What other Christian sect has 26% of its members saying that they either do not believe or are not sure that there is a god? On questions on the views of Jesus 14% believe that Jesus is the son of god. (British survey) Godless for God's Sake: Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism Facts and Figures Do Quakers believe in God, and if they do what sort of God? pp107-108

I don't really have a definition of religion. I am currently unable to come up with one. I am pretty sure that religion and philosophy often blend into one another and are not always distinguishable. Any definition of religion must contain a philosophical component or it is very weak. Not all religions have a philosophical component though.

At some point philosophies seem to me to be dependant on the phrase 'this is what I believe'. There is no absolute reason why we should do unto others as we want them to do unto us. Maybe I am big and strong and I prefer do what I want or I break your skull.

The other thing about religions is that they are not static. They are changing as the world changes. There is some movement - I don't know how large - away from traditional religious views, especially on the importance of god and the literal truth of the bible. The large percentage of atheists within British Quakers would be an example of that.

What seems to holds Quakers together is a philosophy that is very similar to humanism, though not identical, and a very strong sense of process. The big difference to humanism is that Quaker faith is set up in such a way that its philosophy can not be just read, but must also be interpreted by the reader. Typical humanist philosophy can be just read and absorbed. Besides the very strong philosophical component, Quakers also differ in that they do not "know". They are seekers - hence the requirement for interpretation. Because of the lack of knowing, some atheists who agree with the philosophical content find themselves welcome as equals. The same applies to people of non-christian faiths.

Appeals to authority, which, sad to say, forms the bulk of the religion-based arguments I've heard yet, are simply not valid in political debate. That does not prevent them from being effective, if course.

I can't argue with that. I'm not sure how much appeals to authority and being loud go together though. It may be that you just don't hear much about religions that don't appeal to authority. Perhaps you need to look on the Flying Spaghetti Monster discussion group and see what types of religious people post supportive comments there. :) Religions are changing with the changing morality of the societies that they exist in. Gay marriage is a good example of that. Religions are also affected by changes to how we view the world. Some will change and adopt new ideas of our relation to each other and the planet. Some will resist to varying degrees and some will go into open rebellion. You have a choice when viewing many religions - you can approach things from the view of is the glass half empty or half full. (I will admit to being a half-empty type of person so perhaps I shouldn't be too disagreeing of some of your analysis.)

Ah: Should have started with Religious Tolerance.org.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_defn.htm

Defining the word "religion" is fraught with difficulty. All of the definitions that we have encountered contain at least one deficiency:

Some exclude beliefs and practices that many people passionately defend as religious. For example, their definition might include belief in a God or Goddess or combination of Gods and Goddesses who are responsible for the creation of the universe and for its continuing operation. This excludes such non-theistic religions as Buddhism and many forms of religious Satanism which have no such belief.

Some definitions equate "religion" with "Christianity," and thus define two out of every three humans in the world as non-religious.
Some definitions are so broadly written that they include beliefs and areas of study that most people do not regard as religious. For example, David Edward's definition would seem to include cosmology and ecology within his definition of religion -- fields of investigation that most people regard to be a scientific studies and non-religious in nature.
Some define "religion" in terms of "the sacred" and/or "the spiritual," and thus require the creation of two more definitions.

Sometimes, definitions of "religion" contain more than one deficiency.

Our compromise definition:
This website's essays use a very broad definition of religion:

"Religion is any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, and a worldview."

(A worldview is a set of basic, foundational beliefs concerning deity, humanity and the rest of the universe.) Thus we would consider Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Native American Spirituality, and Neopaganism to be religions. We also include Agnosticism, Atheism, Humanism, Ethical Culture etc. as religions, because they also contain a "belief about deity" -- their belief is that they do not know whether a deity exists, or they have no knowledge of God, or they sincerely believe that God does not exist.

A long list of definitins of religion follow.

This is my favourate:

Barns & Noble (Cambridge) Encyclopedia (1990):
"...no single definition will suffice to encompass the varied sets of traditions, practices, and ideas which constitute different religions."


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 06:31:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this.

I remember that Palestinian celebration on the street, IIRC organised by one political party, was taken by the warbots and pro-Israeli folks as representative of all Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 03:37:42 AM EST
Forgot to point out that it was me who edited your links, and captions on top.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:01:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately writing is not my strong point. Thanks.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:28:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I am one of those people who are naturally curious and are always thirsting for more knowledge and for answers."

I think Edwin has satisfied such curiosity and thirst.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:36:30 AM EST
Bluntly, it does not look like there were Muslims celebrating the attacks within the US. Perhaps private can find one or two individuals, and perhaps he can also find one or two Christians or Jews.

Speaking of Christians and 9/11:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:07:00 AM EST
If my memory isn't failing me, the video of Palestinians celebrating on the streets was footage from a previous, unrelated celebration that had been recycled for the occasion.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:54:53 AM EST
No, it was real.  Afew linked to the snopes page.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:58:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although possibly real, Taibbi argued back then in the eXile, that CNN's broadcast of the clip was "one of the most outrageously irresponsible editorial decisions of our time", and explained why.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:13:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Time for a little storytelling of my own.

Afew above linked to the snopes page confirming that the  video of some Palestinians celebrating on 9/11 was real.

In another comment on this diary, I linked to a long column by Matt Taibbi in which he bemoans the use of the video because of the consequences its broadcast was likely to have.

The snopes page, right at the end, includes an excerpt from this Wall Street Journal piece written by an Italian journalist who was in Beirut on the day of the 9/11 attacks.  This is the extract they used:

Trying to find our bearings, my husband and I went into an American-style cafe in the Hamra district, near Rue Verdun, rated as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Here the cognitive dissonance was immediate, and direct. The café's sophisticated clientele was celebrating, laughing, cheering and making jokes, as waiters served hamburgers and Diet Pepsi. Nobody looked shocked, or moved. They were excited, very excited.

An hour later, at a little market near the U.S. Embassy, on the outskirts of Beirut, a thrilled shop assistant showed us, using his hands, how the plane had crashed into the twin towers. He, too, was laughing.

Once back at the house where we were staying, we started scanning the international channels. Soon came reports of Palestinians celebrating. The BBC reporter in Jerusalem said it was only a tiny minority. Astonished, we asked some moderate Arabs if that was the case. "Nonsense," said one, speaking for many. "Ninety percent of the Arab world believes that Americans got what they deserved."

An exaggeration? Rather an understatement. A couple of days later, we headed north to Tripoli, near the Syrian border. On the way, we read that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who donated blood in front of the cameras, was rejecting any suggestion that his people were rejoicing over the terrorist attack. "It was less than 10 children in Jerusalem," he said.

The passage excerpted seems to imply that the WSJ story was about celebration and happiness that the Americans were getting "what they deserved," but I read the bulk of the story a bit differently.  Most (not all) of the other anecdotes don't seem so much to me like joy, but rather indifference, or at least a refusal to be horrified.

The Italian journalist who wrote the story was in Lebanon on holiday for a grand total of seven whole days.  She does not speak Arabic.  I'm not sure that I'd necessarily rely on her interpretation of events, but I do think that she was seeing something.  I'm not positive that it's quite what she thinks it is, but it's something.

She gets near it at the end:

In the seven days we spent in Lebanon, we saw one young Arab woman with teary eyes. "The stories of the victims touched me," she said, and I began to regain my trust in humanity. Then she added: "But in a way I am also glad, because for once the Americans are experiencing what we in the Middle East go through every single day."

But here's my question:  If people danced, if people celebrated, so what?  Are they obliged to mourn for us?

I think maybe that question sounds a little harsh.  But here's what I mean.

There is this desire, in some quarters, to deny that there was celebration, that there was Schadenfreude, that people were saying even on that very day, the Americans got what they deserved.  But there was.  I saw it, and heard it.

September 12, 2001:  My clock radio goes off in the morning with the South African state radio news.  The main story, the only story, was what had happened the day before.

Up next was a talk show, one I usually enjoyed, hosted by the excellent Tim Modise.  Sure, Tim's show often got cranks who called in (my favorite was good old Eddie from Ficksburg, who claimed that the State Department was manipulating the weather to force South African farmers out of business), but it was also often a lively and vigorous debate on very real issues affecting the South African people, with voices from all sides, all races, all classes.

That morning, first caller:  I think the Americans got what they deserved.

Second caller, an elderly white woman:  I think the US government did this itself.

Third caller:  I hope they kill more...

I turned off the radio.

And buried my head in my pillow, and cried.

We heard these things everywhere.  The official statement of sympathy issued by the government said one thing, the people on call-in radio said something else.  The internet messageboard I was active in at the time was no relief.  One of the South African participants erupted into a frenzy of got-what-they-deserved.  And a lot of other people just kept quiet while he did it.

I was afraid.  I was afraid to leave my house.  I became convinced that the entire country was celebrating this attack that had felt to me like a physical one on my own body, it had left me feeling so literally out of breath and bruised, and here were these voices on the radio calling for more, people I had considered my internet friends calling for more.

I went to the grocery store and realized I was afraid to speak to the cashier with my American accent, afraid it would unleash another tirade of got-what-you-had-coming.

It shouldn't have been much of a surprise, really.  My government had supported the apartheid regime, had backed two vicious rebel movements in two different ruinous wars in southern Africa.  My government is not, and should not be, terribly popular there.

The next day, trying to get back into a routine, I go to my favorite morning-restaurant for breakfast, and like the Italian journalist, I start to get my faith in humanity back.  I have a newspaper spread out on my table.  The blaring headlines and the pictures are all still of one thing.  The waitress, who knew me well, who was always just the brightest ray of sunshine, stopped, went silent.  She touched the paper.

What happened in your country... she started to say, and paused.  I tensed.  Her too?

... I'm so sorry.  It's terrible.  She was almost crying.  I was crying.  It was the first expression of sympathy I had heard.

The following day, I met man who made a living sweeping the sidewalks in a wealthy neighborhood near my office.  Or, I should say, he barely eked out a living.

He hadn't heard about the attacks.  No idea what I was talking about.  Three days later, he still hadn't heard a word.  It's not that he didn't care, it's just that he had other things to worry about than what happened to three-thousand foreigners eight-thousand miles away.

This was the perspective I needed, really.  Because while this might have been a monumental occasion for me, it was not necessarily so for the vast number of people on this Earth, people who are far more concerned with feeding their families than with the fate of the passengers of United Flight 93.

As for the other stuff, the got-what-you-deservers, it didn't stop.  It got worse, as the war in Afghanistan loomed, arrived and was all but forgotten again as a new war loomed, arrived in Iraq.

Less than a month after 9/11, at a dinner with friends and their friends, a white woman I didn't know piped up from the end of the table:  I would be perfectly happy to drop a nuclear bomb on America and kill every last one of them.

Thanks, lady.  What am I supposed to say to that?  I can't hand out troll-ratings in real life....

Eventually, I just got used to it.  Stopped arguing.  What's the point?  Should I really have to spend my life arguing that nobody, regardless of his or her passport, deserves to die?

That's just it:  Nobody deserves to die.  American or South African, Palestinian or Israeli, Sri Lankan or Colombian, nobody deserves to die just because of who they are.  It shouldn't be a controversial statement to say that killing another human being is wrong.  I'd rather not dwell on who did what when, who said what when, who danced where when.  It's irrelevant, really.  I want to focus on whether the world is getting better or worse, safer or less-safe, more equal or less equal.  The answer to all of those is less.  It's worse, and it's getting worser.  And so rather than get caught up in some endless cycle of anger and recrimination and retribution and revenge, how can we stop the cycle?  So that not only will nobody feel the need to take comfort in another's misfortune, but there will be a lot less misfortune to go around?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:28:07 AM EST
There is this desire, in some quarters, to deny that there was celebration, that there was Schadenfreude, that people were saying even on that very day, the Americans got what they deserved.  But there was.  I saw it, and heard it.

I think the desire to deny the celebration stems from the realisation that this will just justify thouse Americans who believe millions of Arabs and Muslims now deserve to die. Or, at least, that it doesn't matter much if tens or hundreds of thousands of people die in Iraq, that the razing of Fallujah and the targeted extermination of all "military-age men" was "necessary" or a "lesser evil". How many times does the word "necessary" feature in the personal reaction to 9/11 that motivated this diary on the Arab street dancers?

Less than a month after 9/11, at a dinner with friends and their friends, a white woman I didn't know piped up from the end of the table:  I would be perfectly happy to drop a nuclear bomb on America and kill every last one of them.

Oh, at the end of 2003 I had this guy tell me to my face that it would be okay to kill a million people for each American who died on 9/11 if that's what it would take to "make America safe". That's 1/2 of the world's population right there. This all started because I pointed out that already ten times more Iraqi civilians had died than people on 9/11. The multiplier is at anywhere between 20 and 200 right now, still quite far from the 300,000 multiplier needed to exterminate all muslims.

For some reason, it takes very little to get people to ignore deaths, or justify them, or even wish them. If you look at the hidden comments, there is an American who just recently wished for a mushroom cloud over DC.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:43:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.  You are entirely, completely, totally, 100 percent right.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:35:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Italian journalist you quote is the same who was at the centre of the fake Niger documents scandal, the journalist to whom the documents were peddled.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:38:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Elisabetta Burba. She acted, knowingly (or quite possibly unknowingly) as a conduit for the Niger fakes. See a summary by Josh Marshall here.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:52:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whoa.  Uh, small world.  

I did not know who she was, I just saw the quote from her story in the snopes article.  I did, however, notice that she was writing this for the Wall Street Journal, and that it was in the opinion section....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not to take away from the account of your own experience, but Burba is, hmm... Possibly, but possibly not, out of the grey world?

She worked (may still, I don't know), for Panorama, a Berlusconi mag. De Gondi would be able to tell us more.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:24:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am curious.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure she can be counted as a shady type, tho' maybe partially naive or not standing up enough. But with the Niger documents, she first went for her own trip to Niger, to find just what Wilson found, and later she talked to the press about what she found. I heard of the affair first via a documentary in which she was interviewed, before I even knew who is Josh Marshall. (In fact, I believe I am the person who called Marshall's attention to the Burba episode in the story with an email.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:03:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Marshall article I link to is from 2005, but he was all over the Niger fakes story right from the start.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 01:31:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I emailed Josh on 19/07/2004, after reading this post of him, where I didn't understand why he speaks of the Italians summarising the documents to the CIA a year before the fakes were peddled to Burba, and some other timeline issues. But with an archive search, I find he mentioned her first already on 27 October 2003, after Seymour Hersh mentioned her. So shuck, there goes my glory... it appears BTW that the documentary I saw (9 December 2003 on German public channel ZDF) was based on Hersh's article, because it asked all the people in it plus Hersh himself.

Here is the quote from Hersh's article relevant to the original discussion:

The documents dealt primarily with the alleged sale of uranium, Burba said. She informed her editors, and shared the photocopies with them. She wanted to arrange a visit to Niger to verify what seemed to be an astonishing story. At that point, however, Panorama's editor-in-chief, Carlo Rossella, who is known for his ties to the Berlusconi government, told Burba to turn the documents over to the American Embassy for authentication. Burba dutifully took a copy of the papers to the Embassy on October 9th.

A week later, Burba travelled to Niger. She visited mines and the ports that any exports would pass through, spoke to European businessmen and officials informed about Niger's uranium industry, and found no trace of a sale. She also learned that the transport company and the bank mentioned in the papers were too small and too ill-equipped to handle such a transaction. As Ambassador Wilson had done eight months earlier, she concluded that there was no evidence of a recent sale of yellowcake to Iraq. The Panorama story was dead, and Burba and her editors said that no money was paid. The documents, however, were now in American hands.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 04:18:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My memory was of reading Marshall regularly on this issue, which he did a lot of work on (re Plame/Wilson in particular), from 2003. Which seems confirmed.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 03:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did she act like that as a result of her experience during that Lebanon vacation?

I know, I know, post hoc ergo propter hoc, but still...

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:09:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I realize this is just me, but I've never been big about debating with lunatics, be they holocaust deniers, religious fundamentalists or raving extremists such as "Private". I think it is a waste of time and achieves nothing except selling more blood pressure medication.

Purely for argument's sake, even if they were a number of [muslims/jews/christians/communists/UFO believers] that celebrated 9/11, I wouldn't let that bother me particularly.

It is not the most pleasant aspect of human nature, but each country/culture has history V days and parades celebrating the fact that, at one time or another, they massacred someone else -- with various degrees of justification (that's where it gets morally tricky).

In other words, if we were better, we would be above such celebrations ourselves. And since we're not, whom am I to begrudge someone else's moment of savagery.

by Lupin on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:57:12 AM EST
...I never use the blogs to publicize any of our books, except Mrs. Lupin's book about our move, because I don't think it's quite the place to do it, but this discussion reminds me of French science fiction writer André Caroff who, in the early 60s, penned a series of 18 novels for French publisher Fleuve Noir featuring a female Japanese "mad scientist" nicknamed Madame Atomos, who had lost her family in Nagasaki and was hellbent to make the US of A experience a taste of its own medicine.

More on Madame Atomos

We have been reissuing the books in France in new omnibus editions and I have often been struck at how prophetic they were, beneath their trappings of pulp fiction. Remarkably, Caroff didn't make Madame Atomos into a caricatural "Yellow Peril" villain (Fu Manchu isn't a caricature and I hate to use him as a comparison, but you know what I mean) and presented her  crusade with remarkable objectivity.

We have since commissioned several Madame Atomos short-stories and one American writer penned a very moving tale about the endless cycle of revenge that we'll print in Volume 4 of the series. Much of it could apply with few changes to 9/11.

by Lupin on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:09:28 AM EST
I was reviewing your comments. With this I will not be posting or commenting any further.

There seems to be a small group of you who have nothing to do during the day than to prevaricate over comments that do not exactly align with your perverse and tiny view of the world.

What Jerome posted were precisely what I saw and experienced that day. There were more but this was a snapshot. To question what I actually saw or heard is not debatable and is impertinent.

Is it relevant whether what the news was reporting as dancing and celebrations in the street was accurate? No. I was not there and only saw a clip on television. For you to assert that no one reported it is an outright lie and not even worth addressing.

I have seen facts twisted or even concocted by you people to support some warped perspective of the history of radical Islam. You even go as far as contradicting yourselves - you should read what you people wrote. It is laughable. Regarding radical Islam you seem to share a very limited, uninformed, and heavily biased view of that subject. So a dialogue with you would have been pointless.

You read into what I wrote what you wanted to which is typical of left wing rants who apply their own agenda where it is not even warranted.

It is evident from your comments that even if presented with hard facts you will not listen anyway and it is not worth my time to even dialogue with you.

What I found most humorous was your immediate belief that I was some right wing Republican and applying all that goes with it. Anyone who does know me would laugh and not think too highly of you people.

So you can go back to wherever it is you come from and basically do what all the other blogs do which is intellectually masturbate with each other and not learn a damn thing more than you came to party with in the first place.

by Private on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:30:16 AM EST
The real private has just been revealed.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:47:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The real private just stomped off in a huff and we all said.  "Ooooooh!"  Then we made slashing motions with our fingers and said, "Catty!"  Then private turned round and we all tried to look serious.  Then he turned around again and we rolled our eyes and stuck out our tongues and someone sniggered and someone else said "Shhhhh!"

Coz private: HE DA MAN!  He has radical muslims to defend us against--and just remember kids: It's all Bill Clinton's fault.

Quite amazing!  AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Right.  It's solstice time.  The sun is still in the sky and I'm gonnae get me some fresh air!

As crazy horse said:

Happy solstice!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:53:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually it was the facts that did it, I think. You'll note that Mr Private hasn't bothered to answer most of the factual posts, or point to any real research.

He just flails at people and calls them names.

Yes, we circle jerk here. We do it with honest research, links to primary sources, and critical discussions.

Some of us get off on that kind of thing. Go figure.

We could just flail at people and call them names, but that's sort of pointless and really not very convincing.

Meanwhile I'm enjoying the old media vs new media angle here.

Isn't it fun to watch what they're really about, and how much they hate having to deal with facts that don't fit the policy?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:23:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's always interesting when people go crazy like this isn't it?
But it can be sad too. Once I had a friend who had voted for GWB twice(!). We had what I was thinking was a pretty mild discussion when I mentioned that I thought GWB was a liar. My friend absolutely lost it, he was practically foaming at the mouth. I don't think he would have reacted so strongly if I had insulted his mother. Something wierd is going on in the world. Did people react this way when someone dissed the Fuhrer and his talking points?
by bil on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:41:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would really like to meet someone who actually stills entertains the possibility that Bush might not be a liar at all (in real life, that is - online, they are indistinguishable from trolls for me).

/wow, that was the hardest English word I ever typed

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you can go back to where you came from too.

Don't you?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:54:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have seen facts twisted or even concocted by you people to support some warped perspective of the history of radical Islam.

I though I saw that from you. Good-bye.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:03:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mean lefties haven't been kind to him... and now he's leaving...



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:35:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What has poor Calimero done to you?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:49:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it relevant whether what the news was reporting as dancing and celebrations in the street was accurate? No. I was not there and only saw a clip on television. For you to assert that no one reported it is an outright lie and not even worth addressing.

This is my diary, and I do not think I did what you are accusing me of doing. A quote would be helpful, or is it that you do not do quotes? I stated my operating assumptions in a comment above. One of them was that you did see something on television.

Depends on what you consider relevant. It is highly relevant that you saw what you saw and a number of other people undoubtedly watched the same thing. Your reactions are also highly relevant, and probably mirror in some larger or smaller way lots of other people.

The end result of the lack of accuracy maybe some "dancing in the streets" at the expense or in celebration of the misery of others, or perhaps the support necessary for an invasion or two - say of Iraq. There are always some extreme individuals. On a personal level as opposed to a national level the lack of accuracy leads to this:

I own a motel in SeaTac, Washington. In early October, 2001, one man came up to me while I was parking my car and said "Go Back to your country. We are coming over there to kick your ass." I explained to him that I was a Sikh who had been raised in India and then became an American citizen many years back. He did not care to listen to me and said, `We don't care. You all look the same.'
The same man returned to my motel on the morning of 19th October at 7:00 am and shouted at me "You still here?!" I told him "Where else can I go? This is my country!" He got even more angry and agitated. He took out a metal cane and hit me on my head and shouted at me "Go to Allah". I bleed profusely, was taken to the hospital and received ten stitches in my head.
-Karnail Singh, Sikh American man from SeaTac, Washington

Human Rights Watch United States: Testimonies from "We Are Not the Enemy" Hate Crimes Against Arabs, Muslims, and Those Perceived to be Arab or Muslim After September 11

That you seem to hold those same reactions after demonstrating that you have been manipulated is also relevant. That you seem to hold little sympathy for those who may have been victimised by the manipulation you have been subject to is likewise relevant.

There seems to be a small group of you who have nothing to do during the day than to prevaricate over comments that do not exactly align with your perverse and tiny view of the world.

Maybe it has something to do with the inability of some people who are high in media from engaging in careful, accurate reporting, and their inability to understand (let alone do) why they need to make corrections when they are wrong.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:37:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I posted your text here because I was hoping for some smart arguments, and that I did get, and I am very grateful to those that took (a lof of) time to provide these - historical context, links to various reports and stories, and explanations.

Some responded more angrily to you, and you've chosen to focus your comments (and replies) on those, using the pretext that some commenters were less polite to ignore all the detailed, thoughtful and polite answers you received, and, rather than trying to contribute to dialogue, you jumped into pointless ad hominems. Your choice of what to respond to says more about you than about this site and its regulars.

For instance, it IS legitimate to point out, as this diary does, that there were no recorded instances of Americans cheering on 9/11. That does not make your memory of that day different, but it might provide a different explanation as to why you have that memory (maybe you saw that shot of the Palestinians, and then heard press reports of similar demonstrations in the US but missed the further stories that went on to show that these reports were false, and the image stuck for you), and it does provide information that is relevant to the political discourse about 9/11 and how to react to it.

Also, please note that we're not a single-minded entity here. We don't have the same opinions on most topics, and may contradict ourselves - because we're different people speaking each with our biases, ignorance and pet peeves. It can be annoying as hell, but it is also the strength of the site.

I really thought that dialogue would be possible; I understand that it can be overwhelming to respond to dozens of comments from many different people, not everything in which is perfectly worded (remember that many of us here are not native english speakers) or exact (we all make mistakes, usually we're happy to acknowledge them, but maybe not so much when we're insulted for making them). But many of us responded in good faith and in great detail (and, for your information, we did the same a couple of weeks ago to a 9/11 consipracy theory diary.

It's your choice to ignore that.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do we contradict ourselves, or each other?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:47:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
private sent me a link which has some relevant info


Arab Americans Find Their Voice
By Jonathan Maslow
Herald News
Posted on Tuesday October 26, 2004

(...)

The three years since 9/11 have been trying times for the Arab-American community in North Jersey - starting with broadcasts on some cable television news outlets on Sept. 11 purporting to show Arabs dancing in glee in the streets of South Paterson after the terrorist attacks.

As I wrote him back:

That is additional information - and interesting about the Patterson community.

But as to the broadcasts, the article is pretty non-committal:

"starting with broadcasts on some cable television news outlets on Sept. 11 purporting to show Arabs dancing in glee in the streets of South Paterson after the terrorist attacks."

"purporting to show" - suggests that there may indeed have been broadcasts showing Arabs dancing with glee, and saying that it was in South Paterson, but it cast doubts on the actual reality of these dances (or at least on their location). So that article confirms that you may indeed have seen such reports, but not that they are true.

The distinction is important, I think. It means that you are in good faith, but it also means that those that investigated whether these dances happened also are.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:29:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a really good article.  I wonder if he actually read it, or just cherry-picked the one paragraph.

Incidentally, the following paragraph indicates even more strongly that the alleged video wasn't real.  It calls it "misinformation."

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:46:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I should indeed have posted it as well:


"It was horrible," said Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola. "I mean, we don't have palm trees in Paterson. We don't have dirt roads. We do have burned-out buildings - but not entire blocks. Horrible." Spagnola joined then-Passaic County Sheriff Ronald Fava, then-Paterson Mayor Marty Barnes and Arab-American community leaders at a Sept. 14 news conference at City Hall, countering the misinformation and asserting publicly that the local Muslim community condemned the attacks, like all Americans.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:50:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paterson, NJ is part of this story which also discusses people celebrating in the street: The White Van. Coincidence?
by Fete des fous on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:35:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I quoted from the www.911digitalarchive.org that basically confirmed the existence of TV broadcasts saying Arabs were dancing in the streets in Patterson NJ.

This lie was repeated for a week, until it was pointed out that the video that was shown over and over was of a wedding in Palestine that was taken a number of years ago. The media deliberately broadcast this tape to inflame feelings against Arabs in the US, and did so until a number of American officials, among them those in Paterson, intervened, calling the showings incitement.

I, for one, am reasonably convinced he saw something.

On the other hand, I am really getting tired of the evil Muslim line. It wears thin might fast. On the First Global Peace Index

Some selected countries.

Qatar 30
Malaysia 37
United Arab Emirates 38
Kuwait 46
Morocco 48
Libya 58
Jordan 63
Egypt 73
Syria 77
Indonesia 78
Saudi Arabia 90
Yemen 95
United States of America 96
Iran 97
Pakistan 115
Israel 119
Iraq 121

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Corrected link

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:22:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, I know you don't want to reveal too much about this gentlemen, but can you verify that his implicit claim to be on the editorial board of a major publication (I presume a US publication) is accurate? If so, I'd suggest his lack of response to quite a few quite compelling arguments here isn't just unprofessional, it's a fairly chilling indictment of our media and the way its currently structured. I'm  wondering how someone with his disposition  gets onto an editorial board.
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:32:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
got news for you dm, on some editorial boards his 'tude would be not only an asset but a requirement...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:49:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll buy that DeAnander, but please list who you're thinking of to give us some idea of what we're dealing with vis a vis 'some editorial boards'...I'm expecting the usual suspects: Fox News, Weekly Standard, etc., but I'd be curious if you had something different in mind...
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:24:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
at a guess -- not being an insider -- WashPo, Nat Review, WSJ, anything owned by Murdoch or the Conrad Black empire, and then there are all those far-right thinktanks with their interlocking boards and many publications, the BoD of ClearChannel...

US Talk Radio 90 percent conservative

FAIR (http://www.fair.org/) is a good clearinghouse for info on the Wingnut Wurlitzer.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:51:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 01:33:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, private, IF you are gone, so be it, but it is hard to believe that someone who lasts such a short time in this blog is going to last in any other.  Even the conspiracy blogs will have you for breakfast because people want valid information, not dogma.

Your need to impose your view rather than consider other possibilities proves you don´t want to discuss, nor learn anything, only impose your preset belief.  A real journalist has better communication skills than denial, changing the subject and name-calling, so I also have to question your veracity.

Anyone is easily accepted here if they are willing to doubt, admit not knowing it all and willing to discuss ideas.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:03:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Propaganda, rumours, misinformation and fabrications aside (though not to diminish the effort put forth in this diary), why can't we accept that fact that there are mean-spirited, ignorant or easily manipulated people in all countries, cultures & religions?  Somewhere in the world there will be someone dancing in the streets when Americans are killed.  Somewhere in America there will be someone dancing in the streets when Arabs or Muslims are killed.  And in both cases there will be people around ready to use these unfortunate acts to promote their own agendas.  

Are most Americans basically good peaceful people?  Probably.  Are most Arabs basically good peaceful people?  Probably.  Are most Christians and Muslims basically good peaceful people?  Probably.  Are we all at risk of behaving irresponsibly because of our ingrained fear/mistrust of the Other?  Yes.  Can iconic images and myths override reason in even the most educated cultures?  Yes.  It is easier to point fingers at extremists than to look in the mirror and ask what your role in all this is?  Yes.  

I guess I see it all in shades of grey & not in black and white.  My response to the erroneous vilification of people is not erroneous absolution of them.  The potential to do good or bad rests in us all, and we all are capable of making individual choices of how to act.  I don't care what religion you are...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:22:17 PM EST
There was an article by Panorama reporter Elisabeta Burba of the Niger docs fame. She was in Beirut on September 11 and reported celebrating in the streets. Her article was immediately picked up and published by the WSJ.

A fellow reporter in Beirut then debunked her by asserting that she was no where near the area of the alleged celebrations and had only reported hearsay, if not out right invented the Beirut celebration.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 01:46:01 PM EST
I just realized stormy present discussed the same article. That's what I get for writing comments before reading comments. Anyway, when the Niger forgeries case blew up, the other reporter did mention this on his blog. I don't have the link at the moment but may be able to find it when I touch computer base.

Elisabeta Burba is a controversial reporter who has been fairly silent for the past years. Her case intrigues me because of her long silence apparently caused by friction with her director at Panorama- the Berlusconi weekly- that spearheaded the Italian hate campaign leading up to the Iraqi war.

Burba suddenly stopped writing- or being published- after she did a superficial piece on Transnistria in February 2002, alleging all sorts of preposterous arms deals with terrorists and round the clock arms sweatshops. The strange thing is that the article seemed more of the pen of Pino Buongiorno, the top Panorama hardliner and inventor of crackball conspiracies, than hers.

She then resurfaced to write a very good article on the Niger forgeries in July 2003 as she was tangled up in that case with Rocco Martino.

Eisner and Royce have discussed her case at length in their highly commendable The Italian Letter. She obviously collaborated with them to her best.

Her brother-in-law, a leading magistrate, was subject to constant, illegal spying by the Sismi rogue, Pio Pompa, as he was earmarked as a major enemy of Berlusconi.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:05:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No worries at all, we wondered if you'd be able to give us the scoop on her!  I didn't make the connection with the Niger forgeries till folks here pointed it out.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:48:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Burba's article, "Whooping It Up", appeared on September 22nd, 2001, in the WSJ.
On September 29th, Michael Young of the Beirut Daily Star, took her to task and deconstructed her article in a piece "The Occidental Tourist". I recommend both pieces as lessons in 101 journalism.

When the Niger story culminated in July 2003 with the Bonini-D'Avanzo scoops, Panorama was forced to break silence and come clear, especially when, as Eisner and Royce report, Burba had put them before a fait accompli, her interview in the Corriere della Sera. At the time many of us wondered why Burba had not published the false scoop as false in October 2001. It would have been the scoop of her lifetime. But with Panorama as her employer that was out of the question. Panorama was, like the rest of the Italian rightwing press (Il Giornale, il Tempo, il Foglio, Libero, etc.), extremist in their pro-war position. Panorama distinguished itself under director Carlo Rosella by publishing outrageous, unsubstantiated claims under the guidance of Pino Buongiorno.

Michael Young once again took up the case of Burba in his article of July 24th, 2003, "Roman Scandal", pointedly wondering why she had turned over the forgeries to the US embassy.

But the real crux quickly appeared to be with Panorama. The US embassy episode, admirably covered by Eisner and Royce (who outdo Corn and Isikoff here), was after all suggested and set up by Rosella, not Burba. And a thorough control of the Panorama archives further reveals that Burba only wrote one article with her name to it in February 2002, kicking off the great Panorama chase for Balkan complicity with Saddam and al Qaeda which culminated in Pino Buongiorno's strange and "prescient" October 2002 article asserting a triangulation between Ukrainians and Nigerians (NOT Nigeriens) to sell uranium to Saddam. Now Panorama does not cite contributing writers or researchers, so it is not known what contributions she may have made to Buongiorno's fanciful reporting. But it is noteworthy that Burba simply disappeared from the printed page between February 2002 and July 2003.

According to The Italian Letter Rosella and Burba did not get along. She now asserts that she badgered her bosses to publish the false scoop as false when she heard Bush use the famous 16 words, but she was stonewalled. The authors, as top journalists, asked Rosella why. Rosella said that Burba was on the domestic beat- a strange claim about someone who was in the Balkans chasing leads on terrorism in September 2002 just before Rocco Martino showed up.

In the end the events around the forgeries leading up to the Iraq war have many dangling threads that are difficult to reconcile. Reality, once again, outdoes fiction.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:19:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting.  Thanks for that background, and for the links to Michael Young's take on her reporting.

It's interesting that he would be the one to debunk her.  He gets called a neocon in Lebanon, which I don't think is an entirely fair assessment.  But he was an early supporter of the Iraq invasion, and IMV his politics are decidely right-leaning.

I could take issue with one single and tangential statement that he makes, and that's Beirut inside baseball, regarding Hamra's "former opulence" when Burba was actually referring to Verdun Street, which is not Hamra and certainly would qualify as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.  But otherwise his assessment is spot-on.  Burba's account to me read like it had been written by someone who knows little about Lebanon, who believed pretty much everything anybody said to her, and who just couldn't fathom why everything in Beirut didn't come grinding to a halt on 9/11.  It sounded naive.

At the same time, my own experience tells me that there were people who took satisfaction in the attacks.  I don't think their religion is terribly relevant, nor is their region of origin -- the people I observed were neither Muslim nor Middle Eastern.  If I saw it in South Africa, I have no doubt that there was some of it elsewhere, including in Lebanon.
At this point it's worth quoting from Young's piece:

The point here is not to target a dreadful piece of writing, nor even chastise Opinion Journal for publishing something so simplistic, but to engage in self-defense. There is a sincere belief in the U.S. that the Lebanese were fully behind the air attacks. When the attitude in Washington is "You are against us if you are not with us," irresponsible pieces like Burba's are downright dangerous.

That's fear talking.  And that's also a very common thing in Lebanon, with its 18 confessional groups -- hello, hey, over here... we're not like those guys over there, please don't punish us for what they're doing....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:45:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for further in depth background, especially the Lebanese perspective that many of us- like myself- would have missed.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 01:46:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can anyone think of another period in history when deconstruction of any meme was so quick and so widespread?

I often think this.  deconstruction of the Jessica Lynch myth was pretty quick, and even that perfect Horst Wessel avatar Pat Tillman lasted in his sockpuppet iconic capacity only so long as it took his grieving family to figure out the military was lying through its teeth about the circs of his death and to go public with their anger and the docs they managed to dredge up.  Snopes is our friend!

OTOH, do recall that a substantial minority of Americans deny the theory of evolution (a slim majority of those registered Republican according to Gallup, see earlier open thread).  and a substantial minority still believe (variously) that Saddam had WMD, that Saddam planned the 9/11 attack, that returning Viet Nam vets were spat upon at SF airport by hippie girls, that wicked Iraqis tipped Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, that the US "had to" nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prevent the Japanese winning the war in the Pacific, that the Marshall Plan was sheer starry-eyed christian charity,  that global warming is a communist-inspired propaganda stunt, and so on, and so on, and so on.  memes that play into existing mythic narratives and justify or conceal intolerable perceptions have a life of their own, on which even Snopes and rooms full of evidence can apply little damping.  they burn on underground like Centralia.

Private seems like a well-educated troll.  having his propaganda unmasked for what it is, even on just one point out of an entire rant, he falls back on snarling insults [and so quaintly religio-patriarchal -- I mean, what's so inherently bad or wrong about masturbation, that it should be used as an insult? ... unless we believe that only het missionary-position sex that results in pregnancy is justifiable or, er, Manly?  can it be that the poor fellow still believes in the "sin" of Onan?  remarkable in this day&age!]  ... and stalks out in a huff.  ably played by John Cleese, faking an American accent and otherwise recapping his brillian role in, er, Privates on Parade.  [sorry couldn't resist].

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:28:19 PM EST


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:46:00 PM EST
Goood bye...
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 10:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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