I had a new thought this morning, new for me anyway. It occurred to me that the familiar use-mention distinction can and should be applied to images, including cartoons. I recently posted a pornographic Charlie Hebdo cartoon that mocks in the most vile manner imaginable the Christian Trinity. A reader suggested that I merely link to it. But I wanted people to see how vile these nihilistic Charlie Hebdo porno-punks are and why it is a mistake to stand up for free speech by lying down with them, and with other perpetual adolescents of their ilk. Those who march under the banner Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie) are not so much defending free speech as advertising their sad lack of understanding as to why it is accorded the status of a right.
So it occurred to me that the use-mention distinction familiar to philosophers could be applied to a situation like this. To illustrate the distinction, consider the sentences
'Nigger' is disyllabic. The use of 'nigger,' like the use of 'kike' is highly offensive. Niggers and kikes are often at one another's throats.
In the first two sentences, 'nigger' and 'kike' are mentioned, not used; in the third sentence, 'nigger' and 'kike' are used, not mentioned.
Please note that nowhere in this post do I use 'nigger' or 'kike.'
I chose these examples to explain the use-mention distinction in order to maintain the parallel between offensive words and offensive pictures.
Suppose someone asserts the first two sentences but not the third. No reasonable person could take offense at what the person says. For what he would be saying is true. But someone who asserts the third sentence could be reasonably taken to have said something offensive.
Jerry Coyne concludes a know-nothing response to a review by Alvin Plantinga of a book by Philip Kitcher with this graphic:
Coyne added a caption: AL-vinnn! Those of a certain age will understand the caption from the old Christmas song by the fictitious group, Alvin and the Chipmunks, from 1958. ( A real period piece complete with a reference to a hula hoop.)
Here's my point. Coyne uses the image to the left to mock Plantinga whereas I merely display it, or if you will, mention it (in an extended sense of 'mention') in order to say something about the image itself, namely, that it is used by the benighted Coyne to mock Plantinga and his views.
No one could reasonably take offense at my reproduction of the image in the context of the serious points I am making.
Likewise, no one could reasonably take offense at my reproduction of the following graphic which I display here, not to mock the man Muslims consider to be a messenger of the god they call Allah, but simply to display the sort of image they find offensive, and that I too find offensive, inasmuch as it mocks religion, a thing not to be mocked, even if the religion in question is what Schopenhauer calls "the saddest and poorest form of theism."
By the way, journalists should know better than to refer to Muhammad as 'The Prophet.' Or do they also refer to Jesus as 'The Savior' or 'Our Lord' or 'Son of God'?
Ready now? This is what CNN wouldn't show you. Hardly one of the more offensive of the cartoons. They wouldn't show it lest Muslims take offense.
My point, again, is that merely showing what some benighted people take offense at is not to engage in mockery or derision or any other objectively offensive behavior.
Suppose there are two groups, the As and the Bs. Some of the As are really bad actors. And some of the Bs are as well. But most of the members of both groups are tolerably well-behaved. Suppose there is a third group, the Cs. Some of the Cs comment on the bad behavior of the bad actors among the As and the Bs. But they comment in two very different ways. These commenting Cs attribute the bad behavior of the bad actors among the As to their being As,while they attribute the bad behavior of the bad actors among the Bs, not to their being Bs, but to factors that have nothing to do with their being Bs. The commentators among the Cs can be said to apply a double standard in respect of the As and the Bs as regards the etiology of their bad behavior. They employ one standard of explanation for the As, a different one for the Bs.
That's the schema, presented schematically. Instances of the schema are not hard to locate.
Consider cops, Muslims, and lefties. (Some leftists will complain about 'leftie' which I admit is slightly derisive. But these same people do not hesitate to refer to conservatives as teabaggers, right-wing nutjobs, etc., terms which are not just slightly derisive. Here then is another double standard. "We can apply any epithet we like to you, but you must always show us respect!" But I digress.)
So you've got your cops, your Muslims, and your lefties. The behavior of bad cops -- and there are such without a doubt -- is said by many lefties to derive from something 'institutional' or 'systemic' such as 'systemic racism.' Cops are racists qua cops, if not by nature, then by their professional acculturation in 'racist Amerika.' But the bad behavior of some Muslims, such as committing mass murder by driving jumbo jets into trade towers, or slaughtering those, such as the Charlie Hebdo porno-punks, who 'diss' their prophet, does not derive from anything having to do with Muslims qua Muslims such as their adherence to Muslim beliefs. A spectacular example is the case of Nidal Malik Hasan, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter who killed 13 people and wounded many more. His deed was dismissed by the Obama Administration as 'work place violence' when it was quite clearly a terrorist act motivated by Islamist beliefs. Wikipedia:
Once, while presenting what was supposed to be a medical lecture to other psychiatrists, Hasan talked about Islam, and said that, according to the Koran, non-believers would be sent to hell, decapitated, set on fire, and have burning oil poured down their throats. A Muslim psychiatrist in the audience raised his hand, and challenged Hasan's claims. According to the Associated Press, Hasan's lecture also "justified suicide bombings." In the summer of 2009, after completion of his programs, he was transferred to Fort Hood.
So here we have a double standard, an unjustified double standard. (Are double standards by definition unjustified? This is something to explore.)
Of course, there is a lot more to be said on this delightful topic. For example, police brutality does not derive from the professional training that cops receive. They are not trained to hunt down and kill "unarmed black teenagers" who are harmlessly walking down the street or "children" on the way to the candy store. But Muslim terrorism does derive from Muslim teachings. Not all Muslims are terrorists, of courses, but the terrorism of those Muslims who are terrorists is not accidental to their being Muslims.
Note the difference between
A Muslim who is a terrorist is not a true Muslim
A cop who is corrupt is not a true cop.
The first sentence is a clear example of the the No True Scotsman Fallacy. The second is not. Why not? Well, there is nothing in the cop-role that requires that a person who plays that role be corrupt. Quite to the contrary. But there is something in the Muslim-role, or at least the Muslim-role as presented by many teachers of Islam, that requires that players of this role make jihad against the infidel.
Douglas Murray's article from The Spectator is so good I have reproduced the whole of it. (HT: Joel Hunter) Study the article. Pass it on. If you live in the West and enjoy its freedoms and liberties, then you have a moral obligation to do your bit in defense of it and them. People have shed blood in defense of these freedoms and liberties and you are too lazy to inform yourself about these matters and to speak out? In particular, you must speak out against the mendacity of Obama and his underlings who refuse to refer to Muslim terrorism as perpetrated by Muslims acting from (what they take to be) Islamic beliefs and which are, the experts tell me, really Islamic beliefs.
The only weak point I find in Murray's piece on a quick reading is the author's claim that no religion is peaceful. A religion is not the same as its adherents. It is certainly true that no religion is such that all of its adherents are peaceful. But aren't Buddhism and Christianity in their doctrines and approved practices peaceful in stark contrast to Islam and its doctrines and approved practices?
It occurs to me that there may be a second weak point. The author says nothing about the need to examine immigration policies. Shouldn't we be having a 'conversation' about this? Liberals love 'conversations' about this, that, and the other thing. Do you liberals really believe in free inquiry and open debate? Prove it!
UPDATE, 1:45 PM. This just in from Joel Hunter:
1. "‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. [. . .] Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion."
I do not agree. While public denunciations from Muslim leaders to the larger world may be muted, qualified, or even nonexistent, I think the militant nature of secularism puts plenty of heat on Muslims at all levels of society to reassure the rest of "us" that they either (a) have nothing to do with the fanatics and/or (b) are taking steps to shun and ostracize them from "acceptable" (within the secular sphere) society. My impression is that this message, though delivered in and by western societies with a velvet glove, is pretty constant.
2. "Because the violence of the Islamists is, truthfully, only to do with Islam: the worst version of Islam, certainly, but Islam nonetheless."
I think this is self-serving and reductive. The violence of Islamists has to do with Islam, yes. But only Islam? Ridiculous. This is equivalent to the claim that the violence of the Christians in the Crusades had only to do with Christianity.
3. "Here we land at the centre of the problem — a centre we have spent the last decade and a half trying to avoid: Islam is not a peaceful religion. No religion is, but Islam is especially not." As you pointed out, he overreaches here. He goes on to cite stories about Mohammed from the Hadith that indicate Mohammed was no pacifist. He wants to infer that Islamists are acting on the violent history of their founder. But nowhere does he show that Muslims teach that emulating all of the actions of their Prophet are what a good Muslim does, nor that Muslims believe that.
To "fight" Islamists will require more than a total surveillance state, state-of-the-art military equipment, and combat soldiers. It will require a more difficult examination of historical, non-religious causes emanating from western societies. This Guardian article discusses this perspective. It has its weaknesses, too, but I think gives a more complete picture of what is needed from our leaders to "defeat" Islamism and rescue the idea of the secular.
An aside: Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote that Joseph McCarthy might have been the most brilliant conspiracy ever created by the Reds, for what other person, what other rhetoric, would be likely to elicit sympathy for communism? In a similar vein, it strikes me that the militant atheists are best explained as an elaborate plot by theists to garner sympathy for believers and interest in their ways.
Thanks for posting all of the Murray article - it's quite good.
But readers might find your "Update" confusing. Could you show more clearly where Joel Hunter is speaking and where you are speaking? I'm inferring that Joel Hunter states the following:
"But nowhere does he show that Muslims teach that emulating all of the actions of their Prophet are what a good Muslim does, nor that Muslims believe that."
Unfortunately, Islam does teach that a good Muslim does emulate Muhammad in every respect. Fortunately, most Muslims do not do so, nor do most mosques talk about Muhammad's 'bad' actions, for whatever reasons.
BV: The material above the first update is wholly mine, while the material in the first update is wholly Hunter's. So Jeff's inference is correct.
The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault.
In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month. It is what David Cameron said after two British extremists cut off the head of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, when ‘Jihadi John’ cut off the head of aid worker Alan Henning in the ‘Islamic State’ and when Islamic extremists attacked a Kenyan mall, separated the Muslims from the Christians and shot the latter in the head. And, of course, it is what President François Hollande said after the massacre of journalists and Jews in Paris last week.
All these leaders are wrong. In private, they and their senior advisers often concede that they are telling a lie. The most sympathetic explanation is that they are telling a ‘noble lie’, provoked by a fear that we — the general public — are a lynch mob in waiting. ‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. First, because the general public do not rely on politicians for their information and can perfectly well read articles and books about Islam for themselves. Secondly, because the lie helps no one understand the threat we face. Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion. And fourthly, because unless mainstream politicians address these matters then one day perhaps the public will overtake their politicians to a truly alarming extent.
My argument against the use of these terms is simple and straighforward. A phobia, by definition, is an irrational fear. (Every phobia is a fear, but not every fear is a phobia, because not every fear is irrational.) Therefore, one who calls a critic of the doctrines of Islam or of the practices of its adherents an Islamophobe is implying that the critic is in the grip of an irrational fear, and therefore irrational. This amounts to a refusal to confront and engage the content of his assertions and arguments.
This is not to say that there are no people with an irrational fear of Muslims or of Islam. But by the same token there are people with an irrational fear of firearms.
Suppose a defender of gun rights were to label anyone and everyone a hoplophobe who in any way argues for more gun control. Would you, dear liberal, object? I am sure you would. You would point out that a phobia is an irrational fear, and that your fear is quite rational. You would say that you fear the consequences of more and more guns in the hands of more and more people, some of them mentally unstable, some of them criminally inclined, some of them just careless.
You, dear liberal, would insist that your claims and arguments deserve to be confronted and engaged and not dismissed. You would be offended if a conservative or a libertarian were to dismiss you as a hoplophobe thereby implying that you are beneath the level of rational discourse.
So now, dear liberal, you perhaps understand why you ought to avoid 'Islamophobia' and its variants except in those few instances where they are legitimately applied.
I was reading your recent post on religious profiling in which you said, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims." I totally agree, but it's something I've been thinking about lately. I saw someone else make the same claim just last week on another blog, and a liberal vehemently objected, claiming that the reason "most terrorists are Muslims" is that we don't use the word 'terrorist' for all the Catholic murderers in the South American cities with the highest murder rates in the world.
The idea behind this objection, it seems, is that if we were consistent, we'd call Christian murderers (such as baptized Catholics in South America who work for drug cartels and perhaps occasionally visit a Catholic church) terrorists too, and once we did that, we would no longer end up with the result that most terrorists are Muslims. Furthermore, once we did that, we wouldn't think Islam had a problem with violence any more than Christianity does, so we shouldn't pick on Islam.
I think this line of thought has multiple mistakes, but it does bring to the surface an interesting question. How do we define 'terrorist'?
One obvious thing that distinguishes Islamic extremists, such as the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack, is that they are motivated to murder in the name of their religion, whereas the South American drug cartel members do not murder in the name of Catholicism.
My reader is exactly right. Muslim terrorists murder in the name of their religion. And please note that this is so even if it could be shown that there is nothing in Islam when properly interpreted to justify terrorism. Even if you think, incorrectly, that Muslim terrorists have 'hijacked' true Islam, they are still Muslim terrorists and must be counted when we tally up the number of Muslim terrorists in the world. Can someone give me an example of a Jesuit terrorist who in recent years has slaughtered human beings to the tune of ad majorem dei gloriam? Or the name of a Buddhist terrorist who has murdered while shouting a Buddhist precept?
There are two important related distinctions we need to make.
There is first of all a distinction between committing murder because one's ideology, whether religious or non-religious, enjoins or justifies murder, and committing murder for non-ideological reasons or from non-ideological motives. For example, in the Charlie Hebdo attack, the murders were committed to avenge the blasphemy against Muhammad, the man Muslims call 'The Prophet' and consider Allah's messenger. And that is according to the terrorists themselves. Clearly, the terrorist acts were rooted in Muslim religious ideology in the same way that Communist and Nazi atrocities were rooted in Communist and Nazi political ideology, respectively. Compare that to a mafioso killing an innocent person who happens to have witnessed a crime the mafioso has committed. The latter's a mere criminal whose motives are crass and non-ideological: he just wanted to score some swag and wasn't about to be inconvenienced by a witness to his crime. "Dead men tell no tales."
The other distinction is between sociological and doctrinal uses of terms such as 'Mormon,' 'Catholic,' Buddhist,' and 'Muslim.' I know a man who is a Mormon in the sense that he was born and raised in a practicing Mormon family, was himself a practicing Mormon in his early youth, hails from a Mormon state, but then 'got philosophy,' went atheist, and now rejects all of the metaphysics of Mormonism. Is he now a Mormon or not? I say he is a Mormon sociologically but not doctrinally. He is a Mormon by upbringing but not by current belief and practice. This is a distinction that absolutely must be made, though I won't hold it against you if you think my terminology less than felicitous. Perhaps you can do better. Couch the distinction in any terms you like, but couch it.
Examples abound. An aquaintance of mine rejoices under the surname 'Anastasio.' He is Roman Catholic by upbringing, but currently a committed Buddhist by belief and practice. Or consider the notorious gangster, 'Whitey' Bulger who is fortunately not an acquaintance of mine. Biographies of this criminal refer to him as Irish-Catholic, which is not wrong. But surely none of his unspeakably evil deeds sprang from Catholic moral teaching. Nor did they spring from Bulger's 'hijacking' of Catholicism. You could call him, with some justification, a Catholic criminal. But a Catholic who firebombs an abortion clinic to protest the evil of abortion is a Catholic criminal in an entirely different sense. The difference is between the sociological and the doctrinal.
As for the South American drug cartel members, they may be sociologically Catholic but they are not doctrinally Catholic. That's my second distinction. And they operate not from Catholic doctrine rightly interpreted or interrpreted in a twisted way, but from crass motives. That's my first distinction.
Anyone whose head is clear enought to grasp these distinctions has a head clear enough to appreciate that most terrorists at the present time are Muslims, and that the existence of sociologically Catholic mafiosi and drug cartel members is irrelevant.
My reader continues:
So, you might think that the definition of 'terrorist' has something to do with religious motivation. But, this sort of definition does not catch terrorists who are motivated by power or greed.
You could go with a definition that sticks more closely to the word 'terrorist', defining it as someone who uses extremely violent acts to create fear and terror to accomplish political goals, but this sort of definition is pretty broad, and it isn't as obvious that "most terrorists are Muslims" when we define it that way, is it? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about this.
Although it is true that Muslim terrorists are religiously motivated, it would be a mistake to define 'terrorism' in such a way that it could have only religious motivations. Terrorism could have purely political motivations: purely secular separatists might resort to terrorism to achieve their goal. It is worth adding that Islam is not a pure religion, but a blend of religion and political ideology; hence the roots of Muslim terrorism are religious-cum-political. Islam is as much a political ideology as it is a religion. So even if one defines a terrorist as one who uses violence indiscriminately, against comabatants and non-combatants alike, to achieve political goals, it would still be obvious that most terrorists at the present time are Muslims. Theocracy is both a political and a religious concept, and its instantiation, world-wide, is what Islamists want.
This brings us to the important question as to what a terrorist is. One cannot count Xs unless one knows what counts as an X. To evaluate the truth of the quantified statement, 'Most terrorists are Muslims,' we need to have at least a working definition of 'terrorist.' It is not easy to say what exactly a terrorist is in general terms -- which are the only terms in which one could give a viable definition -- easy at it is to identify terrorism in specific cases. I suggested the following in an earlier post from November 2009. It is not without its difficulties which are for me to know and you to discover.
I suggest that the following are all essential marks of a terrorist. I claim they are all individually necessary conditions for a combatant's being a terrorist; whether they are jointly sufficient I leave undecided. 'Terrorist' is used by different people in different ways. That is not my concern. My concern is how we ought to use the term if we intend to think clearly about the phenomenon of terrorism and keep it distinct from other phenomena in the vicinity.
1. A terrorist aims at a political objective. This distinguishes terrorists from criminals. No good purpose is served by lumping John Gotti and 'Whitey' Bulger among terrorists. Criminals may 'terrorize' as when a loanshark microwaves a delinquent's cat, but criminals who terrorize are not terrorists. This is because their aim is personal, not political. It is not impersonal ideals that motivate them but base personal desires. And although terrorists commit crimes, they are best not classified as criminals for the same reason. Treating the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as criminal matters showed a lack of understanding of the nature of terrorism.
2. A terrorist does not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. This distinguishes terrorists from the warriors of a legitimate state. All are fair game, which is not to say that in a particular situation a terrorist might not have a reason not to target some combatants or some noncombatants. This distinguishes a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah from the Israeli Defense Forces. As a matter of policy, the IDF does not target noncombatants, whereas as a matter of policy Hezbollah and other terrorist outfuts such as Hamas target anyone on the enemy side. The deliberate targeting of civilians also distinguishes terrorists from guerilla fighters.
3. A terrorist is not an agent of a legitimate state but of a nonstate or substate entity. A terrorist is neither a criminal (see #1 above) nor a warrior (see #2) ; a terrorist act is neither a criminal act nor an act of war; a terrorist organization is neither a criminal gang nor a state. Strictly speaking, only states make war.
Of course, a state (e.g. Iran) can arm and support and make use of a terrorist outfit (e.g. Hezbollah) in pursuit of a political objective (e.g., the destruction of Israel). But that does not elide the distinction between states and terrorist organizations. It is also clear that states sometimes 'terrorize'; but this is not a good reason to think of states as terrorist organizations, or some or all of their combatants as terrorists or of any of their acts as terrorist acts. The Allied firebombing of Dresden in February of 1945 was a deliberate targeting of combatants and noncombatants alike in clear violation of 'just war' doctrine. But whatever one's moral judgment of the Dresden attack or the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of these acts count as terrorist for the simple reason that they were the acts of states, not terrorist organizations. Some will bristle at this, but if one wants to think clearly about terrorism one must not confuse it with other things.
But what about the 'Islamic State' or ISIS or ISIL or whatever you want to call it? The short answer: it is not a legitimate state. What makes a state legitimate? With this question we are deep in, and the going gets tough. At this point I invoke blogospheric privilege and my maxim, "Brevity is the soul of blog."
4. A terrorist is not a saboteur. Sabotage is one thing, terrorism another. Analytical clariy demands a distinction. Infecting computer networks with malware or attacking the power grid are acts of sabotage, but they are not strictly speaking acts of terrorism. An act is not terrorist unless it involves the killing or maiming of human beings or the threat thereof.
I am indebted to the discussion in Louise Richardson, What Terrorists Want, Random House, 2006, Ch. 1
I heard Nicholas Kristof use the phrase the other night. But is there such a thing as religious profiling?
I have argued that there is no such thing as racial profiling. The gist of my argument is that while race can be an element in a profile, it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense racially to profile you. Similarly, apparel can be an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. I can profile you, but it makes no sense sartorially to profile you.
The same holds for so-called religious profiling. There is no such thing. Religious affiliation can be an element in a profile but it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense religiously to profile you, or to profile you in respect of your religion.
There are 1.6 billion or so Muslims. They are not all terrorists. That is perfectly obvious, so obvious in fact that it doesn't need to be said. After all, no one maintains that all Muslims are terrorists. But it is equally obvious, or at least should be, that the vast majority of the terrorists in the world at the present time are Muslims. To put it as tersely as possible: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.
It is this fact that justifies using religion as one element in a terrorist profile. For given the fact that most terrorists are Muslims, the probability that a Muslim trying to get through airport security is a terrorist is higher than the the probability that a Buddhist trying to get through airport security is a terrorist.
Or consider the sweet little old Mormon matron from Salt Lake City headed to Omaha to visit her grandkiddies. Compare her to the twenty-something Egyptian male from Cairo bound for New York City. Who is more likely to be a terrorist? Clearly, the probability is going to be very low in both cases, but in which case will it be lower? You know the answer. Liberals know it too, but they don't want to admit it. The answer doesn't fit their 'narrative.' According to the narrative, we are all the same despite our wonderful diversity. We are all equally inclined to commit terrorist acts. Well, I wish it were true. But it is not true. Liberals know it is not true just as well as we conservatives do. But they can't admit that it is true because it would upset their 'narrative.' And that narrative is what they live for and -- may well die for. A terrorist 'event' may well be coming to a theater near them, especially if they live in New York City.
It is the same with Muslims as with blacks. Blacks, proportionally, are much more criminally prone than whites. That is a well-known fact. And as I have said more than once, a fact about race is not a racist fact. There are facts about race but no racist facts. There are truths about race, but no racist truths. The truth that blacks as a group are more criminally prone than whites as a group is what justifies criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
Again, there is no such thing as racial profiling; what there is is criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
There are two mistakes that Kristof makes. He uses the unmeaning phrase 'religious profiling.' Worse, he think there is something wrong with terrorist and criminal profiling, when it is clear that there isn't.
But Kristof's heart is in the right place. He doesn't want innocent Muslims to suffer reprisals because of the actions of a few. Well, I don't either. I have Turkish Muslim friends. I met Zuhdi Jasser a while back. (The sentence I just wrote is logically independent of the one immediately preceding it.) Perhaps you have seen him on The O'Reilly Factor. An outstanding man, a most admirable Muslim man. May peace be upon him and no harm come to him. I mean that sincerely.
But, of course, there’s more here than mere tone deafness to public opinion. The president’s flat line response to the Charley Hebdo massacre and then the terrorist attack on the kosher market in Paris (which he failed to characterize as an act of anti-Semitism in his public statement after it happened) illustrated his lack of comfort on this terrain. This is a president that has spent his time in office trying desperately to reach out to the Arab and Muslim worlds to change their perception of the United States. That he has failed in this respect is no longer in question but his disinterest in taking part in a symbolic response to extremist Islam stands in direct contrast to his eagerness for détente with an Iran that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The cold shoulder he gave the Paris march resonates not so much because of the odd and very conspicuous absence of an American representative of any stature, but because it fits with the perception of his attitudes.
London Karl is a young Irishman living in London. I had heard that Birmingham is a 'no go' zone, so I asked London Ed about it. Ed told me that it is 80% 'no go' but that nobody would want to go there anyway: it is rainy and like Detroit. When I mentioned this to London Karl, he wrote back:
Funny you mention Birmingham. I went there for the first time on Saturday. It has a reputation for having a large Asian, Black, and Muslim population, and this was certainly very noticeable on the streets. I also saw the usual table on the main thoroughfare with Muslims handing out free Korans and Islamic literature, with a few Whites availing. One could say this was insensitive, given what was going on in Paris, or one could say that it was non-violent Muslims trying to ensure their faith was not being confounded with that of the terrorists.
Actually, the real ghettos in England are further north. An acquaintance of mine lectured in the University at Bradford, and told me it was a nightmare, as large numbers of the undergrad intake couldn't even speak, let alone write, English! He was instructed by the admins to pass them anyway, as if he didn't, there would be the inevitable 'racist' outcry. Unfortunately the press are so soft and PC in the UK that anyone who even raises legitimate fears is immediately slapped with the 'racist' tag, as indeed is the case in Ireland.
I think one thing people are underestimating is that it only takes small bands of dedicated elitists to change the course of history and certainly the history of ideas and religion. Think of Christians in the first three centuries, Protestants in the 16th, French revolutionaries, Nazis, Bolsheviks etc.
Karl is quite right and wise beyond his years: it only takes a few to bring about huge changes some of which eventuate in disaster. This is why decent people ought not sit back and do nothing. You must do your bit. Speak out. Vote. Blog.
It doesn't take much to shut down a great city such as Paris or Boston. A pressure-cooker bomb, an armed assault of an editorial office by a few Muslim fanatics. What are you PC-ers waiting for? A nuclear event in Manhattan? Do you think that might make a dent in your precious 'lifestyle.'
You say it is "unimaginable"? Then I suggest your powers of imagination are weak. People said the same about 9/11 before 9/11 became 9/11.
In reaction to the murderous attack by Muslim terrorists on Charbonnier and Co. at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many have jumped on the "I am Charlie" bandwagon. It is quite understandable. But perhaps a little thought should be given to the question whether one ought to endorse a political pornographer who publishes stuff like the following. Might there be something called toleration extremism? Might it be that while one has a legal right to publish almost anything, one has a moral obligation to exercise restraint? Why do we value freedom of speech? Is it valuable as an end in itself or only as a means to valuable ends? Is it reasonable to maintain that any and all public self-expression is a good just in virtue of its being self-expression? I hope to say something about these questions in the next few days. Meanwhile, please think a bit before trumpeting your identity or rather solidarity with 'Charlie.'
My point in posting the following, needless to say, is not to mock the Christian Trinity but to raise in a graphic manner some very serious questions that require careful thought.
Pope Francis is a foolish man, and folly brings danger in its train. That is my harsh judgment. For documentation, I refer you to an excellent article by William Kilpatrick, Looking at Islam Through Catholic Eyes. Kilpatrick is too politic to draw the harsh conclusion; he prefers to say that the good pope has "clouded the issue." Excerpts (bolding added):
Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation seems to be in line with Massignon’s attempt to put a Christian face on Islam. The part that stands out is the following: “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” [my emphasis]. Here, the Pope goes beyond the Vatican II documents and beyond the conciliatory statements of his recent predecessors. Some will call it a step forward, but there are reasons to think it is a step in the wrong direction.
The Koran is replete with admonitions to commit violence and terror. What can Pope Francis possibly mean by saying that a “proper reading” of the Koran shows that it is “opposed to every form of violence”? There are many violent passages in the Old Testament as well, but Christians believe that these have to be understood in light of the New Testament. However, there is no New Testament in Islam. Islam’s other “sacred” documents such as the Sira (the life of Muhammad), the Hadith (collections of the words and deeds of Muhammad), and the various law manuals confirm the violent teachings of the Koran. These books give us a fuller picture of Islam than does the Koran, but in no way do they soften or reinterpret the violent passages. If anything, they cast doubt on the peaceful passages. The Islamic doctrine of abrogation, which is based on sura 2:106 of the Koran, holds that if two passages in the Koran contradict each other, the later verse cancels or abrogates the earlier verse. Since most of the peaceful Koranic verses come from the early Meccan period, many Muslim authorities hold that they are superseded by the latter violent verses.
Some Sufi and Ahmadiyya sects have come up with more spiritualized interpretations of the Koran but, as noted before of the Sufis, they are far out of the Islamic mainstream and are often persecuted as heretics. Recently, an Ahmadi doctor was arrested in Pakistan for reading from the Koran because, as reported in the Ahmadiyya Times, “According to the laws of Pakistan it is a criminal act for an Ahmadi to read the Holy Qur’an or act in a manner that may be perceived as the Ahmadi is ‘posing as a Muslim.’”
[ . . . ]
Yet, at the risk of redundancy, it bears repeating that the spiritual tradition of Rumi, al-Hallaj, and the Sufi masters lies at the margins of the Islamic faith. For example, the use of music, poetry, and dance in rituals practiced by Rumi’s followers are considered un-Islamic by many, if not most, Islamic authorities. But, thanks in large part to the work of Massignon, this mystical tradition is looked upon by many influential Catholics as the authentic Islam. Thus, one man’s skewed and partial reading of Islam has come to color the “official” Church view of Islam.
As Pope Francis asserts, it is possible to read the Koran as being “opposed to every form of violence.” We know it is possible because that it is the way that some have read it. However, to say that this reading is the “proper” or “authentic” one is debatable, even misleading. At a time when clarity about Islam may be a matter of life or death for many Christians, the Pope’s statement may, unfortunately, only further cloud the issue.
This is a substantial revision, in the light of recent events, of an entry from about six years ago. This post examines the fallacy that Antony Flew brought to our attention and suggests that 'No True Muslim' is an equally good name for it.
In logic, a fallacy is not a false belief but a pattern of reasoning that is both typical and in some way specious. Specious reasoning, by the very etymology of the term, appears correct but is not. Thus a fallacy is not just any old mistake in reasoning, but a typical or recurrent mistake that has some tendency to seduce or mislead our thinking. A taxonomy of fallacies is useful insofar as it helps prevent one from seducing oneself or being seduced by others.
Fallacies are either formal or informal. An example of a formal fallacy is Affirming the Consequent. An example of an informal fallacy is Petitio Principii. Note than an argument that is formally valid can yet be informally fallacious. Arguments that beg the question are examples.
Among the so-called informal fallacies is Antony Flew's No True Scotsman. Suppose A says, "No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge." B replies, "But my uncle Angus puts sugar in his porridge." A responds, "Your Uncle Angus is no true Scotsman!"
Second Example. Call it 'No True Muslim.' A says, "Islam is a religion of peace; Muslims do not do things like murder cartoonists and journalists with whose ideas they disagree." B replies, "On 7 January 2015, two Muslim gunmen forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France and killed Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the satirical weekly, and several others." A responds, "Those gunmen were not true Muslims."
Third Example. A: "Nowadays all chess players use algebraic notation." B: "Not so, Ed Yetman does not use algebraic notation. He uses descriptive notation exclusively." A: "Ed Yetman? You call him a chess player?!"
Fourth Example. A: "When a complete neuroscience is achieved, we will know everything about mind, brain, and consciousness." B: "I can't agree, even a completed neuroscience will not explain how consciousness arises from brain activity." A: "A neuroscience that can't explain consciousness would not be a completed neuroscience."
Clearly, something has gone wrong in these examples. Person A is making an illicit dialectical move of some kind. The general form of the mistake seems to be as follows. Person A makes a universal assertion, one featuring a quantifier such as 'all,' 'no,' 'everything' whether explicit or tacit. Person B then adduces a counterexample to the universal claim. Person A illicitly dismisses the counterexample by modifying his original assertion with the use of 'true' or 'real' some equivalent designed to exclude the counterexample. Thus Uncle Angus is excluded as a counterexample by dismissing him as not a true Scotman, and the Muslim gunmen are excluded by dismissing them as not true Muslims.
The fallacy is informal since the fallaciousness depends on the content or subject matter. So we need to ask: When is it not a fallacy? By my count, there are at least four classes of cases in which the No True Scotsman move is not fallacious.
1. When the original assertion is either a logical truth or an analytic truth. If I point out that all bachelors are male, and you reply that your sister Mary is a bachelor, then I am justified in dismissing your 'counterexample' by saying that Mary is not a true bachelor, or a bachelor in the strict sense of the term.
2. When the original assertion is synthetic but necessary. If Saul Kripke is right, 'Water is H2O' is synthetic but necessary. If I say that water is H2O, and you object that heavy water is not H2O but D2O, then I am entitled to respond that heavy water is not water.
3. When the original assertion involves stipulation. Suppose Smith defines a naturalist as one who denies the existence of God, and I respond that McTaggart is an atheist who is not a naturalist. Have I shown that Smith is wrong? Not all. Smith may respond that McTaggart is not a naturalist as he defines the term. Wholly or partially stipulative definitions cannot be said to be either true or false although they can be more or less useful for classificatory purposes. Second example. Suppose Jack claims that libertarians favor open borders and Jill responds by adducing the case of libertarian John Jay Ray who does not favor open borders. Jack is within his epistemic rights in saying that Ray is not a full-fledged libertarian.
4. When the original assertion specifies the content of a belief-system or worldview. Suppose I point out that Communists are anti-religion, believing as they do that it is the opiate of the masses, an impediment to social progress, the sigh of the oppressed, flowers on the chains that enslave, etc. You say you know people who are Communists but are not against religion. I am entitled to the retort that such 'Communists' are not Communists at all; they are not true or real or genuine Communists, that they are CINOs, Commies in Name Only, etc. I have not committed the fallacy under discussion.
Back to the Muslims. A Muslim is so-called because of his adherence to the religion, Islam. There are certain core beliefs that are definitive of Islam, and thus essential to it, and that a Muslim must accept if he is to count as a Muslim. To take a blindingly evident example, no Muslim can be an atheist. Also: no Muslim can be a trinitarian, or a pantheist, or a polytheist, or believe in the Incarnation. And of course there are more specific doctrines about the Koran, about the prophet Muhammad, etc., that are essential to the faith of Muslims.
Now suppose I point out that Muslims deny that Jesus is the son of God. You reply that your Muslim friend Ali accepts that Jesus is the son of God. Then I commit no fallacy if I retort that Ali is no true Muslim.
"A senior Islamic cleric in Ireland has issued a warning against reproducing Charlie Hebdo's front page depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, after the massacre of journalists and police at the magazine's offices." (HT: Karl White)
From 1789 on, a defining characteristic of the Left has been hostility to religion, especially in its institutionalized forms. This goes together with a commitment to such Enlightenment values as individual liberty, belief in reason, and equality, including equality among the races and between the sexes. Thus the last thing one would expect from the Left is an alignment with militant Islam given the latter’s philosophically unsophisticated religiosity bordering on rank superstition, its totalitarian moralism, and its opposition to gender equality.
So why is the radical Left soft on militant Islam? The values of the progressive creed are antithetic to those of the Islamists, and it is quite clear that if the Islamists got everything they wanted, namely, the imposition of Islamic law on the entire world, our dear progressives would soon find themselves headless. I don’t imagine that they long to live under Sharia, where ‘getting stoned’ would have more than metaphorical meaning. So what explains this bizarre alignment?
1. One point of similarity between radical leftists and Islamists is that both are totalitarians. As David Horowitz writes in Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (Regnery, 2004) , "Both movements are totalitarian in their desire to extend the revolutionary law into the sphere of private life, and both are exacting in the justice they administer and the loyalty they demand." (p. 124)
2. Horowitz points to another similarity when he writes, "The radical Islamist believes that by conquering nations and instituting sharia, he can redeem the world for Allah. The socialist’s faith is in using state power and violent means to eliminate private property and thereby usher in the millenium." (129)
Perhaps we could say that the utopianism of the Left is a quasi-religion with a sort of secular eschatology. The leftist dreams of an eschaton ushered in by human effort alone, a millenial state that could be described as pie-in-the-future as opposed to pie-in-the-sky. When this millenial state is achieved, religion in its traditional form will disappear. Its narcotic satisfactions will no longer be in demand. Religion is the "sigh of the oppressed creature," (Marx) a sigh that arises within a contingent socioeconomic arrangement that can be overturned. When it is overturned, religion will disappear.
3. This allows us to explain why the secular radical does not take seriously the religious pathology of radical Islam. "The secular radical believes that religion itself is merely an expression of real-world misery, for which capitalist property is ultimately responsible." (129) The overthrow of capitalist America will eliminate the need for religion. This "will liberate Islamic fanatics from the need to be Islamic and fanatic." (130)
Building on Horowitz’s point, I would say the leftist in his naïveté fails to grasp that religion, however we finally resolve the question of its validity or lack thereof, is deeply rooted in human nature. As Schopenhauer points out, man is a metaphysical animal, and religion is one expression of the metaphysical urge. Every temple, church, and mosque is evidence of man's being an animal metaphysicum. As such, religion is not a merely contingent expression of a contingent misery produced by a contingent state of society. On the contrary, as grounded in human nature, religion answers to a misery, sense of abandonment, and need for meaning essential to the human predicament as such, a predicament the amelioration of which cannot be brought about by any merely human effort, whether individual or collective. Whether or not religion can deliver what it promises, it answers to real and ineradicable human needs for meaning and purpose, needs that only a utopian could imagine being satisfied in a state of society brought about by human effort alone.
In their dangerous naïveté, leftists thinks that they can use radical Islam to help destroy the capitalist USA, and, once that is accomplished, radical Islam will ‘wither away.’ But they will ‘wither away’ before Islamo-fanaticism does. They think they can use genuine fascist theocracy to defeat the ‘fascist theocracy’ of the USA. They are deluding themselves.
Residing in their utopian Wolkenskukuheim -- a wonderful word I found in Schopenhauer translatable as 'Cloud Cuckoo Land' -- radical leftists are wrong about religion, wrong about human nature, wrong about the terrorist threat, wrong about the ‘fascist theocracy’ of conservatives, wrong about economics; in short, they are wrong about reality.
Leftists are delusional reality-deniers. Now that they are in our government, we are in grave danger. I sincerely hope that people do not need a 'nuclear event' to wake them up. Political Correctness can get you killed.
Communists are not against religion. We are against capitalism.
A communist who is not against religion would be like a Catholic who is not against atheism or a teetotaler who is not against drinking alcoholic beverages.
What we have here is further proof that truth is not a leftist value.
Leftists, like Islamists, feel justified in engaging in any form of mendacity so long as it promotes their agenda. And of course the agenda, the list of what is to be done (to cop a line from V.I. Lenin), is of paramount importance since, as Karl Marx himself wrote, "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it." (11th Thesis on Feuerbach). The glorious end justifies the shabby means.
As for Islamists, their doctrine in support of deception is called taqiyya.
Islamism is the communism of the 21st century.
You should not take at face value anything any contemporary liberal says. Always assume they are lying and then look into it. Obama, of course, is the poster boy for the endlessly repeated big brazen lie. It is right out of the commie playbook. "If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan."
Jeff Hodges just now apprised me of a post of his featuring the following bumpersticker:
My take is as follows.
Just as tautological sentences can be used to express non-tautological propositions, contradictory sentences can be used to express non-contradictory propositions.
Consider 'It is what it is.' What the words mean is not what the speaker means in uttering the words. Sentence meaning and speaker's meaning come apart. The speaker does not literally mean that things are what they are -- for what the hell else could they be? Not what they are? What the speaker means is that (certain) things can't be changed and so must be accepted with resignation. Your dead-end job for example. 'It is what it is.'
There are many examples of the use of tautological sentences to express non-tautological propositions. 'What will be, will be' is an example, as is 'Beer is beer.' When Ayn Rand proclaimed that Existence exists! she did not mean to assert the tautological proposition that each existing thing exists; she was ineptly employing a tautological sentence to express a non-tautological and not uncontroversial thesis of metaphysical realism according to which what exists exists independently of any mind, finite or infinite.
Similarly here except that a contradictory form of words is being employed to convey a non-contradictory thought. But what is the thought, the Fregean Gedanke, the proposition? Perhaps this: Islam is not the religion of peace. Since Islam is supposed to be the religion of peace, to say that Islam has nothing to do with Islam is to say that Islam has nothing to do with peace, i.e., that Islam is not the religion of peace, or not a religion of peace. Since one meaning of 'Islam' is peace, the saying equivocates on 'Islam.' Thus the proposition expressed is: Islam has nothing to do with peace. This proposition, whether true or false, is non-contradictory unlike the form of words used to express it.
Here is another possible reading. Given that many believe that Islam is terroristic, someone who says that Islam has nothing to do with Islam is attempting to convey the non-contradictory thought that real Islam is not terroristic.
Such a person, far from expressing a contradiction, would be equivocating on 'Islam,' and in effect distinguishing between real Islam and hijacked Islam, or between Islam and Islamism.
My philo cronies and I were discussing this over Sunday breakfast. Why don't leftists -- who obviously do not share the characteristic values and beliefs of Islamists -- grant what is spectacularly obvious to everyone else, namely, that radical Islam poses a grave threat to what we in the West cherish as civilization, which includes commitments to free speech, open inquiry, separation of church and state, freedom of religion, freedom to reject religion, and so on? Why do leftists either deny the threat or downplay its gravity?
Here is a quickly-composed list of ten related reasons based on my own thinking and reading and on the contributions of my table mates Peter Lupu and Mike Valle. A work in progress. The reasons are not necessarily in the order of importance. ComBox open!
1. Many leftists hold that no one really believes in the Islamic paradise. The expansionist Soviets could be kept in check by the threat of nuclear destruction because, as communists, they were atheists and mortalists for whom this world is the last stop. But the threat from radical Islam, to a conservative, is far more chilling since jihadis murder in the expectation of prolonged disportation with black-eyed virgins in a carnal post mortem paradise. For them this world is not the last stop but a way station to that garden of carnal delights they are forbidden from enjoying here and now. Most leftists, however, don't take religion seriously, and, projecting, think that no one else really does either despite what they say and pretend to believe. So leftists think that jihadis are not really motivated by the belief in paradise as pay off for detonating themselves and murdering 'infidels.' In this way they downplay the gravity of the threat.
This is a very dangerous mistake based on a very foolish sort of psychological projection! Conservatives know better than to assume that everyone shares the same values, attitudes, and goals. See Does Anyone Really Believe in the Muslim Paradise? which refers to Sam Harris's debate with anthropologist Scott Atran on this point.
2. Leftists tend to think that deep down everyone is the same and wants the same things. They think that Muslims want what most Westerners want: money, cars, big houses, creature comforts, the freedom to live and think and speak and criticize and give offense as they please, ready access to alcohol and other intoxicants, equality for women, same-sex 'marriage' . . . .
3. Leftists typically deny that there is radical evil; the bad behavior of Muslims can be explained socially, politically, and economically. The denial of the reality of evil is perhaps the deepest error of the Left.
4. Leftists tend to think any critique of Islam is an attack on Muslims and as such is sheer bigotry. But this is pure confusion. To point out the obvious, Islam is a religion, but no Muslim is a religion. Muslims are people who adhere to the religion, Islam. Got it?
When a leftist looks at a conservative he 'sees' a racist, a xenophobe, a nativist, a flag-waving, my-country-right-or-wrong jingoist, a rube who knows nothing of foreign cultures and reflexively hates the Other simply as Other. In a word, he 'sees' a bigot. So he thinks that any critique of Islam or Islamism -- if you care to distinguish them -- is motivated solely by bigotry directed at certain people. In doing this, however, the leftist confuses the worldview with its adherents. The target of conservative animus is the destructive political-religious ideology, not the people who have been brainwashed into accepting it and who know no better.
5. Some leftists think that to criticize Islam is racist. But this too is hopeless confusion. Islam is a religion, not a race. There is no race of Muslims. You might think that no liberal-leftist is so stupid as not to know that Islam is not a race. You would be wrong. See Richard Dawkins on Muslims.
6. Many leftists succumb to the Obama Fallacy: Religion is good; Islam is a religion; ergo, Islam is good; ISIS is bad; ergo, ISIS -- the premier instantiation of Islamist terror at the moment -- is not Islamic. See Obama: "ISIL is not Islamic."
7. Leftists tend to be cultural relativists. This is part of what drives the Obama Fallacy. If all cultures are equally good, then the same holds for religions: they are all equally good, and no religion can be said to be superior to any other either in terms of truth value or contribution to human flourishing. Islam is not worse that Christianity or Buddhism; it is just different, and only a bigot thinks otherwise.
But of course most leftists think that all religions are bad, equally bad. But if so, then again one cannot maintain that one is superior to another.
Leftists are also, many of them, moral relativists, though inconsistently so. They think that it is morally wrong (absolutely!) to criticize or condemn the practices of another culture (stoning of adulterers, e.g.) because each culture has its own morality that is valid for it and thus only relatively valid. The incoherence of this ought to be obvious. If morality is relative, then we in our culture have all the justification we need and could have to condemn and indeed suppress and eliminate the barbaric practices of Muslims.
9. Leftists tend to deny reality. The reality of terrorism and its source is there for all to see: not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terroists at the present time are Muslims. Deny that, and you deny reality. But why do leftists deny reality?
A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Juan Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.' That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Naziphobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values. "You, sir, are suffering from a phobia, an irrational fear; you need treatment, not refutation."
When a leftist hurls the 'Islamophobe!' epithet that is his way of evading rational discussion by reducing his interlocutor to someone subrational, someone suffering from cognitive dysfunction. Now how liberal and tolerant and respectful of persons is that?
10. Leftists hate conservatives because of the collapse of the USSR and the failure of communism; hence they reflexively oppose anything conservatives promote or maintain. (This was Peter Lupu's suggestion at our breakfast meeting.) So when conservatives sound the alarm, leftists go into knee-jerk oppositional mode. They willfully enter into a delusional state wherein they think, e.g., that the threat of Christian theocracy is real and imminent, but that there is nothing to fear from Islamic theocracy.
A lively 'conversation' about Islam. Affleck outs himself as a perfect idiot while getting slaughtered by the Maher-Harris tag team. Around 2:05 he starts to quote the Declaration of Independence (second paragraph) and the line about all men being endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and then 'corrects' himself substituting 'forefathers' for 'Creator.' Unbelievable. Does this idiot really believe that our rights come from the contingent decisions of certain fallible human beings?
Addendum 10/7: Affleck's view is not only stupid, but dangerous. But note that rejecting it leaves two options: rights come from the Creator; rights are simply part of the nature of things. What exactly the second option means, and whether it survives scrutiny, are nice questions.
Affleck is a representative instance of the HollyWeird liberal who has swallowed the leftist 'narrative' hook, line, and sinker. Pretty boy infidels like him would be among the first to have their throats cuts should the Islamists get their way. A useful idiot.
Addendum 10/8: Nicholas Kristof, another of the participants in the above-referenced 'conversation,' is also deserving of severe criticism for his mindless NYT-leftism. Dennis Prager does the job here. The column concludes:
But it was later in the dialogue that Kristof expressed the most dishonest of the left's arguments on this issue:
"The great divide is not between Islam and the rest. It's rather between the fundamentalists and the moderates in each faith."
"In each faith," Kristof?
Where, sir, are the Christian and Jewish jihadists? The only Jewish state in the world is one of the freest countries on earth, with protections for minority religions and women and homosexuals unknown anywhere in the Muslim world. And virtually every free country in the world is in the Christian world.
Presumably, these are just "ugly" facts.
This debate was valuable. Even more valuable would be if Maher and Harris came to realize that the death of Judeo-Christian values and their being supplanted by leftism is producing hundreds of millions of people who think like Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof.
I have found that it is dangerous to assume that others are essentially like oneself.
Psychologists speak of projection. As I understand it, it involves projecting (etymologically, throwing outward) into others one's own attitudes, beliefs, motivations, fears, emotions, desires, values, and the like. It is classified as a defense mechanism. To avoid confronting an unsavory attitude or trait in oneself, one projects it into another. Suppose one is stingy, considers stinginess an undesirable trait, but doesn't want to own up to one's stinginess. As a defense against the admission of one's own stinginess, one projects it into others. "I'm not stingy; you're stingy!"
I once had a superficial colleague who published a lot. He was motivated more by a neurotic need to advance himself socially and economically, a need based in low self-esteem, rather than by a drive to get at the truth or make a contribution to his subject. He was at some level aware that his motives were less than noble. Once, when he found out that I had published an article, he told me that my motive was to see my name in print. It was a classic case of projection: he could not understand me except as being driven by the same paltry motives that drove him. By projecting his motives into me, he warded off the awareness of their presence in him, or else excused their presence in him on the spurious ground that everyone has the same paltry motivations.
Most of the definitions of projection I have read imply that it is only undesirable attitudes, beliefs, and the like that are the contents of acts of projection. But it seems to me that the notion of projection could and perhaps should be widened to include desirable ones as well.
The desire for peace and social harmony, for example, is obviously good. But it too can be the content of an act of psychological projection. A pacifist, for example, may assume that others deep down are really like he is: peace-loving to such an extent as to avoid war at all costs. A pacifist might reason as follows: since everyone deep down wants peace, and abhors war, if I throw down my weapon, my adversary will do likewise. My adversay is histile out of fear; if I remove the reason for his fear, he will be pacified. By unilaterally disarming, I show my good will, and he will reciprocate. But if you throw down your weapon before Hitler, he will take that precisely as justification for killing you: since might makes right on his neo-Thrasymachian scheme, you have shown by your pacific deed that you are unfit for the struggle for existence and therefore deserve to die, and indeed must die to keep from polluting the gene pool.
Projection in cases like these can be dangerous. One oftens hears the sentiment expressed that we human beings are at bottom all the same and all want the same things. Not so! You and I may want
Harmony and understanding Sympathy and trust abounding No more falsehoods or derisions Golden living dreams of visions Mystic crystal revelation And the mind's true liberation
as expressed in that characteristic '60s song, Aquarius, but others have belligerence and bellicosity hard-wired into them. They like fighting and dominating and they only come alive when they are bashing your skull in either literally or figuratively. People are not the same and it is a big mistake to think otherwise and project your decency into them.
I'll say it again: people are not the same. We are not 'equal.' Or do you consider yourself the moral equal of Chechen Muslim ingrates who come to our shores, exploit our hospitality, go on welfare, rip us off, and then detonate explosives at the finish line of a great American event that celebrates life and self-reliance? I am referring to the Boston Marathon.
I said that the psychologists classify projection as a defense mechanism. But how could the projection of good traits count as a defense mechanism? Well, suppose that by engaging in such projections one defends oneself against the painful realization that the people in the world are much worse than one would have liked to believe. Many of us have a strong psychological need to see good in other people, and this can give rise to illusions. There is good and evil in each person, and one must train oneself to accurately discern how much of each is present in each person one encounters.
Our humanities and social science departments are filled with scholars and pseudo-scholars deemed to be experts in terrorism, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, anthropology, political science, and other diverse fields, who claim that where Muslim intolerance and violence are concerned, nothing is ever what it seems. Above all, these experts claim that one can’t take Islamists and jihadists at their word: Their incessant declarations about God, paradise, martyrdom, and the evils of apostasy are nothing more than a mask concealing their real motivations. What are their real motivations [according to these experts]?
Insert here the most abject hopes and projections of secular liberalism: How would you feel if Western imperialists and their mapmakers had divided your lands, stolen your oil, and humiliated your proud culture? Devout Muslims merely want what everyone wants—political and economic security, a piece of land to call home, good schools for their children, a little leisure to enjoy the company of friends. Unfortunately, most of my fellow liberals appear to believe this. In fact, to not accept this obscurantism as a deep insight into human nature and immediately avert one’s eyes from the teachings of Islam is considered a form of bigotry.
Harris has put his finger on a mistake that too many in the West, whether you call it psychological projection or not make, namely, the mistake of assuming that everyone, deep down, cherishes the same values and has the same motivations. This mistake is one of the planks in the platform of political correctness.
And as we should have learned by now, political correctness can get you killed.
What's the reasoning behind Obama's statement? Perhaps this:
1. All religions are good. 2. Islam is a religion Ergo 3. Islam is good 4. ISIL is not good. Ergo 5. ISIL is not Islamic.
This little argument illustrates how one can reason correctly from false/dubious premises.
Are all religions good? Suppose we agree that a religion is good if its contribution to human flourishing outweighs its contribution to the opposite. Then it is not at all clear that Islam is good. For while it has improved the lives of some in some respects, on balance it has not contributed to human flourishing. It is partly responsible for the long-standing inanition of the lands it dominates and it is the major source of terrorism in the world today. It is an inferior religion, the worst of the great religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Schopenhauer is surely right that it is the "saddest and poorest form of theism." See article below. Its conception of the afterlife is the crudest imaginable. Its God is pure will . See Benedict's Regensburg Speech. It is a violent religion scarcely distinguishable from a violent political ideology. Its prophet was a warrior. It is impervious to any correction or enlightening or chastening from the side of philosophy. There is no real philosophy in the Muslim world to speak of. Tiny Israel in the 66 years of its existence has produced vastly more real philosophy than the whole of the Muslim world in the last 400 years.
So it is not the case that all religions are good. Some are, some are not. This is a balanced view that rejects the extremes of 'All religions are good' and 'No religions are good.'
. . . if Islam is intrinsically flawed, then the assumption that religion is basically a good thing would have to be revisited. That, in turn, might lead to a more aggressive questioning of Christianity. Accordingly, some Church leaders seem to have adopted a circle-the-wagons mentality—with Islam included as part of the wagon train. In other words, an attack on one religion is considered an attack on all: if they come for the imams, then, before you know it, they’ll be coming for the bishops. Unfortunately, the narrative doesn’t provide for the possibility that the imams will be the ones coming for the bishops.
Note that the following argument is invalid:
6. Islam is intrinsically flawed 2. Islam is a religion Ergo 7. All religions are intrinsically flawed.
So if you hold that Islam is intrnsically flawed you are not logically committed to holding that all religions are. Still, Kilpatrick's reasoning may be a correct explanation of why some want to maintain that all religions are good. Kilpatrick continues (emphasis added):
In addition to fears about the secular world declaring open season on all religions, bishops have other reasons to paint a friendly face on Islam. It’s not just the religion-is-a-good-thing narrative that’s at stake. Other, interconnected narratives could also be called into question.
One of these narratives is that immigration is a good thing that ought to be welcomed by all good Christians. Typically, opposition to immigration is presented as nothing short of sinful. [. . .]
But liberal immigration policies have had unforeseen consequences that now put (or ought to put) its proponents on the defensive. In Europe, the unintended consequences (some critics contend that they were fully intended) of mass immigration are quite sobering. It looks very much like Islam will become, in the not-so-distant future, the dominant force in many European states and in the UK as well. If this seems unlikely, keep in mind that, historically, Muslims have never needed the advantage of being a majority in order to impose their will on non-Muslim societies. And once Islamization becomes a fact, it is entirely possible that the barbarities being visited on Christians in Iraq could be visited on Christians in Europe. Or, as the archbishop of Mosul puts it, “If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”
If that ever happens, the bishops (not all of them, of course) will bear some of the responsibility for having encouraged the immigration inflow that is making Islamization a growing threat. Thus, when a Western bishop feels compelled to tell us that Islamic violence has “nothing to do with real Islam,” it’s possible that he is hoping to reassure us that the massive immigration he has endorsed is nothing to worry about and will never result in the imposition of sharia law and/or a caliphate. He’s not just defending Islam, he’s defending a policy stance with possibly ruinous consequences for the West.
Of course, presidents and prime ministers say the same sorts of things about Islam. President Obama recently assured the world that “ISIL speaks for no religion,” Prime Minister David Cameron said that the extremists “pervert the Islamic faith,” and UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond asserted that the Islamic State “goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.” They say these things for reasons of strategy and because they also have a narrative or two to protect. In fact, the narratives are essentially the same as those held by the bishops—religion is good, diversity is our strength, and immigration is enriching.
Since they are actually involved in setting policy, the presidents, prime ministers, and party leaders bear a greater responsibility than do the bishops for the consequences when their naïve narratives are enacted into law. Still, one has to wonder why, in so many cases, the bishop’s narratives are little more than an echo of the secular-political ones. It’s more than slightly worrisome when the policy prescriptions of the bishops so often align with the policies of Obama, Cameron, and company.
Many theologians believe that the Church should have a “preferential option for the poor,” but it’s not a good sign when the bishops seem to have a preferential option for whatever narrative stance the elites are currently taking on contested issues (issues of sexual ethics excepted). It’s particularly unnerving when the narratives about Islam and immigration subscribed to by so many bishops match up with those of secular leaders whose main allegiance is to the church of political expediency.
When the formulas you fall back on are indistinguishable from those of leaders who are presiding over the decline and fall of Western civilization, it’s time for a reality check.
Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. [There needn't be any contradicting of our principles: they do not dictate national suicide.] You think all men are equal, but that is not [believed by all to be] true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.
Archbishop Amel Nona
Chaldean Catholic Archeparch of Mosul, now exiled in Erbil
There is more to the Islamist passion for decapitation than psychological warfare and a hunger for notoriety. There is also Muslim theology and history, and a mandate going back to the Koran. In a 2005 study published in Middle East Quarterly, historian Timothy Furnish quotes the famous passage at Sura 47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks.” For centuries, Furnish observes, “leading Islamic scholars have interpreted this verse literally,” and examples abound throughout Islamic history.
After 9/11, no one should be surprised to learn that Islam is turning the West’s superiority back on itself. What is surprising is that a lone historian saw this coming in the 1930s. [emphasis added.] The great Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc, friend of G.K. Chesterton and a prolific historian, was prescient as no other writer about the resurgence of Islam in our own era.
Here are just of the more salient passages from his work on the threat of Islam to the West:
“We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps if we lose our Faith it will rise.”
“The future always comes as surprise. . . .but I for my part cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the return of Islam.”
“And in the contrast between our religious chaos and the religious certitude still strong throughout the Mohammedan world. . .lies our peril.”
“There is nothing inherent to Mohammedanism to make it incapable of modern science and modern war.”
“[Islam] still converts pagan savages wholesale. . . .No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book, its code of morality, its organized system of prayer, its code of morals, its simple doctrine. In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a rival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam on Christendom.”
Suppose you were a Christian living in an Iraqi village about to be conquered by ISIS, and you’ve already heard about your co-religionists murdered at the conquered village up the road. You have the choice between fleeing to a just arrived team of U.S. church pacifists trained in “interpersonal conflict transformation.” Or you could accept the protection of U.S. armed Kurdish or Iraqi armed forces, supported by U.S. air power. Which would you choose?
Radosh is rock-solid. A former lefty, he knows whereof he speaks. And of course leftists hate him mindlessly for his apostasy. Somebody ought to explore the connection between the attitudes of leftists and radical Islamists toward apostates.
In 1949, sociologist Jules Monnerot described communism as 20th century Islam. To which I add: radical Islam is the communism of the 21st century.
In Terrorism and Other Religions, Cole argues that "Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions." Although we conservatives don't think all that highly of Bill Maher, we cheered when he pointed out the obvious, namely, that Islam, and Islam alone at the present time, is the faith whose doctrines drive most of the world's terrorism, and that the Left's moral equivalency 'argument' is "bullshit" to employ Maher's terminus technicus. Why should pointing out what is plainly true get Maher labeled a bigot by Cole?
So I thought I must be missing something and that I needed to be set straight by Professor Cole. So I read his piece carefully numerous times. Cole's main argument is that, while people of "European Christian heritage" killed over 100 million people in the 20th century, Muslims have killed only about two million during that same period. But what does this show? Does it show that Islamic doctrine does not drive most of the world's terrorism at the present time? Of course not.
That is precisely the issue given that Cole is contesting what "the bigot" Maher claimed. What Cole has given us is a text-book example of ignoratio elenchi. This is an informal fallacy of reasoning committed by a person who launches into the refutation of some thesis that is other than the one being forwarded by the dialectical opponent. If the thesis is that Muslims who take Islam seriously are the cause of most of the world's terrorism at the present time, this thesis cannot be refuted by pointing out that people of "European Christian heritage" have killed more people than Muslims. For this is simply irrelevant to the issue in dispute. (I note en passant that this is why ignoratio elenchi is classifed as a fallacy of relevance.)
Someone born and raised in a Christian land can be called a Christian. But it doesn't follow that such a person is a Christian in anything more than a sociological sense. In this loose and external sense the author of The Anti-Christ was a Christian. Nietzsche was raised in a Christian home in a Christian land by a father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, who was a Lutheran pastor. Similarly, Hitler was a Christian. And Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, was a Muslim. But were Ataturk's actions guided and inspired by Islamic doctrine? As little as Hitler's actions were guided and inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. Here is a list of some of Ataturk's anti-Islamic actions.
Having exposed the fundamental fallacy in Cole's article, there is no need to go through the rest of his distortions such as the one about the Zionist terrorists during the time of the British Mandate.
Why do leftists deny reality? A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.'
That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Nazi-phobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values.
A reader asks whether Israel's actions against Hamas are defensible according to the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE).
According to the New Catholic Encylopedia, an action is defensible according to DDE if all four of the following conditions are met:
(1) The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
(2) The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may merely permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect, he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
(3) The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words, the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
(4) The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect.
My example. An obviously hostile knife-wielding intruder breaks into my house. I grab a gun and shoot him, killing him. My intention is not to kill him but to stop his deadly attack against me and my family. The only effective means at my disposal for stopping the assailant is by shooting him. But I know that if I shoot him, there is a good chance that I will kill him.
There are two effects, a good one and a bad one. The good one is that I stop a deadly attack. The bad one is that I kill a man. My shooting is justified by DDE. Or so say I. As for condition (1), the act of defending myself and my family is morally good. As for (2), I do not positively will the bad effect, but I do permit it. My intention is not to kill a man, but to stop him from killing me. As for (3), the good effect and the bad effect are achieved simultaneously with both effects being directly caused by my shooting. So I am not employing an evil means to a good effect. As for (4), I think it is obvious that the goodness of my living compensates for the evil of the miscreant's dying.
In the case of the Israeli actions, the removal of rocket launchers and other weaponry trained upon Israeli citizens is a morally good effect. So condition (1) is satisfied. Condition (2) is also satisfied. The IDF do not target civilians, but military personnel and their weapons. Civilians deaths are to be expected since Hamas uses noncombatants as human shields. Civilian deaths cannot be avoided for the same reason.
Condition (3) is also satisfied. The good effect (the defense of the Israeli populace) is not achieved by means of the bad effect (the killing of civilians). Both are direct effects of the destruction of the Hamas weaponry.
But what about condition (4)? Is the good effect sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect? The good effect is the protection of the Israeli populace. But the cost is high in human lives given that Hamas employs human shields.
Are numbers relevant? Suppose that 1000 Gazan noncombatants are killed as 'collateral damage' for every 100 Israeli noncombatants. Is the 'disproportionality' morally relevant? I don't think so. For one thing, note that Hamas intends to kill Israeli noncombatants while the IDF does not intend to kill Gazan noncombatants. There is no moral equivalence between the terrorist entity, Hamas, and the state of Israel.
It would be the same if were talking about fighters as opposed to noncombatants. If 1000 Hamas terrorists are killed for every 100 IDF members, the numbers are morally irrelevant. They merely reflect the military superiority of the Israelis. No one thinks that in the WWII struggle of the Allies against the Axis, the Allies should have stopped fighting when the total number of Axis dead equalled the total number of Allied dead.
My tentative judgment, then, is that condition (4) of DDE is satisfied along with the others.
I was actually impressed by Obama's speech last night. The greatness of the office he occupies, together with the external pressure of events and advisors, has resulted in a non-vacuous speech and wise decision, a two-fold decision: to launch air strikes against the advancing terrorist ISIS (or ISIL) forces and to drop supplies to the beleagured religious minorities under dire existential threat, the Christians and the Yazidi.
To understand what Hamas is all about, one has to turn to historian Jeffrey Herf’s important article about the organization. Based on a close reading of the Hamas charter, Herf shows that its aims and its ideology and philosophy are “rooted in the totalitarianism and radical anti-Semitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s.” This truth, he correctly writes, is one “unnoticed by reporters, editors, and pundits who race to comment on Hamas’ war with Israel.”
The organization, which has not refuted its charter, acts today in accordance with the goals enunciated in its 1988 “Covenant.” Most people and journalists know that the document calls for the elimination of the Jewish state, and the establishment of an Islamist society in its place. But their understanding stops with that alone. What Herf shows is that Hamas, unlike the Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas, directly says that their aim is to eliminate not only Israel, but all Jews as well. And that aim is a religious one that is based on their belief in what the Koran says. Herf explains:
It promises to remake the world in the name of Islam, which, it regrets, has been wrongly driven from public life. This is its slogan: “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, and the Koran is its constitution: Jihad is the path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.” This celebration of martyrdom and death had been a key theme in Hassan al-Banna’s writings and subsequently became a commonplace for Islamists.
Anyone who believes Hamas’ claim that all religions would live peacefully on an equal basis under Islamist rule are more than naïve; they are deluded. Moreover, Hamas specifically refuses to accept any two-state solution, which they explain is against their basic religious beliefs. Unlike previous Arab movements, once allied with the former Soviet Union and friendly to Marxism-Leninism, Hamas instead gives up that ideology completely. In its place they have consciously adopted what Herf – who is a historian of Germany — writes is “the classic anti-Semitic tropes of Nazism and European fascism, which the Islamists had absorbed when they collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.” Hamas’ charter puts its views of the Jews and the Zionists in these words:
With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies, such as Freemason, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
This theory is in fact taken directly from Nazi Germany’s wartime propaganda. Unlike those who oppose Israel by arguing that it is a pawn of American imperialism, Hamas reverses that and claims that it is Israel that controls the United States, since it is the all-powerful Jews who are responsible for the plight in which the citizens of Gaza and the Arab world find themselves in. It was the Jews, they argue, that were behind and were responsible for both World War I and World War II, from which they greatly enriched themselves. Finally, it is not the Arab world that is seeking to destroy Israel and push it into the sea, but Israel that seeks to destroy each Arab nation one by one.
Once you know what Hamas stands for, you can gain the clarity one needs to understand why Israel must be supported fully by the United States, and maintain the strength it has so that Hamas can eventually be defeated.
In the current fight, Hamas has used the destruction of Gaza and the death and devastation created by using its civilian population as an effective tool to create sympathizers who see only the human suffering, and not Hamas’ cynical use of the people they supposedly represent as pawns whose position can be used to create antipathy for Israel.
If Hamas is to be defeated and delegitimized, first what it stands for and what its leaders believe have to be clearly understood.
Although Sam Harris is out of his depth on philosophical topics, and wrong about religion, he talks sense on politics and is courageously blunt about the threat to civilization of radical Islam. Hats off to Harris! Excerpts with emphases and comments added:
One of the most galling things for outside observers about the current war in Gaza is the disproportionate loss of life on the Palestinian side. This doesn’t make a lot of moral sense. Israel built bomb shelters to protect its citizens. The Palestinians built tunnels through which they could carry out terror attacks and kidnap Israelis. Should Israel be blamed for successfully protecting its population in a defensive war? I don’t think so.
[. . .]
But there is no way to look at the images coming out Gaza—especially of infants and toddlers riddled by shrapnel—and think that this is anything other than a monstrous evil. Insofar as the Israelis are the agents of this evil, it seems impossible to support them. And there is no question that the Palestinians have suffered terribly for decades under the occupation. This is where most critics of Israel appear to be stuck. They see these images, and they blame Israel for killing and maiming babies. They see the occupation, and they blame Israel for making Gaza a prison camp. I would argue that this is a kind of moral illusion, borne of a failure to look at the actual causes of this conflict, as well as of a failure to understand the intentions of the people on either side of it.
BV: Harris ought to have pointed out that nine years ago, in 2005, Israel withdrew all of its settlements and military from Gaza. In what sense, then, is Gaza under occupation? True, Israel kept control of the borders, sea-lanes and air space, but if they didn't, Hamas could import even more rockets and other armaments. Even much of the cement that should have been used for peaceful purposes has been diverted into tunnel construction.
[. . .]
The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them. The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. It looks forward to a time, based on Koranic prophesy, when the earth itself will cry out for Jewish blood, where the trees and the stones will say “O Muslim, there’s a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” This is a political document. We are talking about a government that was voted into power by a majority of Palestinians.
According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to "open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution." President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an "immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" -- again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.
If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?
The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.
"Cease-fire" and "negotiations" are magic words to "the international community." But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish?
In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.
At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.
But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States.
It is not at all clear what Israel's critics can rationally expect the Israelis to do when they are attacked. Suffer in silence? Surrender? Flee the Middle East?
Or -- most unrealistic of al -- fight a "nice" war, with no civilian casualties? General William T. Sherman said it all, 150 years ago: "War is hell."
If you want to minimize civilian casualties, then minimize the dangers of war, by no longer coming to the rescue of those who start wars.
Israel was attacked, not only by vast numbers of rockets but was also invaded -- underground -- by mazes of tunnels.
There is something grotesque about people living thousands of miles away, in safety and comfort, loftily second-guessing and trying to micro-manage what the Israelis are doing in a matter of life and death.
Such self-indulgences are a danger, not simply to Israel, but to the whole Western world, for it betrays a lack of realism that shows in everything from the current disastrous consequences of our policies in Egypt, Libya and Iraq to future catastrophes from a nuclear-armed Iran.
Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours.
As for the ever-elusive "solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflicts in the Middle East, there is nothing faintly resembling a solution anywhere on the horizon. Nor is it hard to see why.
Even if the Israelis were all saints -- and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race -- the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos.
A penetrating article by William Kilpatrick. The following comparison of Islamism and Communism is very good. Liberals ought to study it unless they wish to remain enclosed in their dangerous, and possibly terminal, ignorance. Emphasis added.
Let’s draw an analogy to another globe-spanning ideology—communism. Take the case of Soviet-bloc communism. Should we have wanted it to succeed or fail? Considering the oppressive nature of communism, it’s surprising how many in the West had mixed feelings about the question. Many Western elites had the same attitude toward Soviet-bloc communism as they do today toward Islam. Like Islam, Soviet communism also seemed permanent—an inevitable force of history with which, it seemed, we had to come to terms. Western apologists for communism were willing to grant that Soviet communism had its faults, but that was because it was a misinterpretation of true communism. It needed reform, yes, but the basic model was sound. Yet, for all its Western cheerleaders, Soviet communism did fail, and it failed in large part because Western leaders stopped making accommodations with communist ideology (as they had during the Carter administration) and began to challenge it instead.
The analogy to Soviet communism limps, however, in one crucial respect. Soviet communism was not a religion. In fact, many attributed the evils of communism to its godless nature. As with the Nazi threat which preceded it, communism was perceived to be a political, not a religious, movement. Although Hitler tried to revive pagan-Teutonic mythology and although Stalin encouraged a religious-like cult of personality around himself, no one in the West thought of Nazism or communism as legitimate expressions of religion.
It’s a different story with Islam. Islam is looking more and more like a world-threatening ideology, but it is more immune to criticism than either Nazism or communism because it is a recognized and long-established religion. To challenge it is to court charges of anti-religious bigotry. In addition, something in our conscience makes us reluctant to reprove a fellow religion.
We are conditioned to have a favorable view of religion—especially other people’s religion. It somehow doesn’t seem right to contemplate Islam’s failure. To get around this difficulty, some critics of Islam contend that it is nothing but a political ideology and ought to be labeled as such. But this rebranding effort is a difficult sell because, by most standard definitions of the term, Islam does qualify as a religion. To most people, moreover, it certainly looks like a religion. The pagan-like symbols and ceremonies of the Nazis were clearly ersatz, but the same can’t be said of the centuries-old observances of Muslims. When people prostrate themselves in prayer five times a day, it’s hard to make the case that what they’re doing is nothing more than a power play.
The truth of the matter is that Islam is a hybrid: it’s both a political ideology and a religion. And although the political side of Islam may turn out to be every bit as dangerous as Nazism or communism, the religious side provides considerable protection from criticism. Because of its religious nature, it seems improper to engage Islam in the kind of ideological warfare the West waged against fascism and communism.
Yet the threat to the West and to the rest of the world is, by all appearances, increasing. Egyptians, Nigerians, Kenyans, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and others are finding it difficult to arrest the spread of radical Islam within their borders. In Europe, Islamization moves on apace, and no one has found the formula for resisting it. In Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has proclaimed the creation of a new caliphate state, declared himself caliph, and has called on Muslims worldwide to join him in waging war against infidels. We hear a lot about all the different forms of Islam, but the idea of the caliphate is that there should be only one unified Islam. Like communism, the caliphate is intended to be a borderless community—a trans-national and ever-expanding empire of true believers. That’s because, like communism, Islam aspires to be a universal belief system.
Unlike communism, however, Islam has the advantage of conducting its proselytizing activities under the banner of religion. During the Cold War, communists did not have the benefit of being able to set up recruitment and indoctrination centers all over the free world. Yet, in effect, Islam does. Mosques are not just places of worship; they are often centers of political activity and, not infrequently, of jihad activity. As a popular Muslim poem puts it, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers.” That may seem like a bit of poetic exaggeration, but it is taken seriously in the Muslim world. Recep Erdogan went to jail for quoting those lines when Turkey was still a secular state. That he is now the leader of that country provides a good indication of which way the wind is blowing.
Of course, for a non-Muslim to even hint at the possibility that mosques might serve such purposes is to invite accusations of Islamophobia and bigotry. Likewise, to suggest that there are similarities between Islam and communism or between Islam and Nazism puts one on the fringe of acceptable discourse. Which goes to prove the point: Islam’s religious status puts it beyond criticism. You can criticize very radical Islamic radicals and very extreme Islamic extremists—just as long as you add that, of course, their activities have nothing to do with the religion of Islam.
As usual, the mainstream media is all wrong about Islam. In FrontPage Magazine, Daniel Greenfield points out that “looting was the core of Muhammad’s conquests.” And it came with Allah’s seal of approval. Numerous passages in the Koran and in the biography of Muhammad attest to the legitimacy of booty as the proper reward of fighting. Islam has no trouble with looting, says Greenfield, because it is “innately a gang religion”:
The gang … finds meaning in the ethos of the fight and in the comradeship of fellow gang members. That is why jihad is so central to Islam … Jihad is the gang culture of Islam. Its bonding rituals are central to Islam, whose original elements derive mainly from the raids of Mohammed and his companions…
Young men don’t join gangs just for the booty, but also for the sense of brotherhood the gang confers, and, perhaps primarily, for proof of masculinity. Psychologists and sociologists have known for a long time that gangs are particularly appealing to fatherless boys because boys who lack the guidance of fathers are most likely to feel insecure about their masculine identity, and thus most likely to seek confirmation of it in the ultra-masculine activities of gangs. Social scientists were hardly the first to discover this basic fact of male psychology. From the earliest times, almost all societies developed special rites of initiation for males to assist them in the passage from boyhood to manhood, and to channel them away from anti-social activities.
When boys grow up in communities without the guidance of fathers and elders and without established rites of initiation and confirmation, they tend to create their own initiation groups and rituals of passage. This is why modern urban areas with high concentrations of fatherless boys are the places where gang formation is highest.
The epidemic of fatherless boys is a worldwide phenomenon and it spells more recruits for the Islamic jihad. The reason the jihad doesn’t have a recruitment problem is that it appeals to basic masculine psychology. It promises action, male bonding, legitimate looting, a cause to fight for, subservient females in this world, and dozens more in the next. It’s the reason Muslims have been extremely successful in recruiting prisoners to Islam both in Europe and America. As I noted in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism:
In the United States, roughly 80 percent of inmates who find faith during their incarceration choose Islam. Many of these men are in prison in the first place because they were attracted to the masculine world of gangs. Now they’re being offered the chance to join the biggest, most powerful “gang” in the world. We’re seeing the beginning of a trend in the West: fatherless boys joining gangs, then ending up in prison, then coming out of prison as converts to Islam and the jihad. (p. 169)
There seems to be no shortage of young men willing to join up with the warrior culture of Islamic jihad. How about our own warrior culture—the U.S. military? The military still produces warriors, but the military culture is changing in ways that may make it less attractive to potential future warriors. Traditionally, the military has served, among other things, as an initiation into manhood. Past Marine recruiting campaigns, for example, were built around themes such as “The Marines Make Men” or “A Few Good Men.”
I don't believe I have ever read a column by Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club that is more penetrating, thought-provoking, or chilling than his Seven Gambit. Excerpts:
Just as soon as Israel accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Hamas fired 47 rockets killing one Israeli citizen. Anyone who has followed the conflict could have predicted this with certainty; the point of a ceasefire — for a terrorist organization — is to break it for exactly the same reason it purposely attacks women and children.
Dr. Anna Geifman tried to explain that the reason why innocents are selected as terror targets is because “children are the last consecrated absolute”. That is just why they must be killed in the cruelest way possible. For “militant nihilism strives to ruin first and foremost what their contemporaries hold sacred”.
Nihilism isn’t the absence of a belief. It is something subtly different: it is the belief in nothing. The most powerful weapon of terrorism is therefore the unyielding No. “No I will not give up. No I will not tell the truth. No I will not play fair. No I will not spare children. No I will not stop even if you surrender to me; I will not cease even if you give me everything you have, up to and including your children’s lives. Nothing short of destroying me absolutely can make me stop. And therefore I will defeat you even if you kill me. Because I will make you pay the price in guilt for annihilating me.”
It’s an extremely powerful weapon. The Absolute No is a devastating attack on the self-image and esteem of civilization. Hamas will demonstrate the No, the Nothing. It will show that deep down inside Israelis — and Americans — are animals like them.
[. . .]
The power of Hamas lies in that they will never stop hating. No ceasefire, concession, negotiation or entreaty will move them. That is their inhuman strength. The Jews can even exterminate them, but only at the cost of destroying all the ideals they hold dear. If the last Hamas activist could speak he would say this:
“Shoot! I am the last. Carry out your ethnic cleansing, just as the Nazis tried with you. You will never be able to look yourself in the mirror again. The price of victory is to win on our terms. Nothing will remain of your precious Jewish self-esteem, of the illusion that you are a civilization dedicated to morality. What will you do after you kill me? Go to your synagogue and a hymn of praise to your God?
“At that moment your faith will desert you. For you claim your God does not desire blood, that yours is a God of love and I say therefore He is false. The only real Gods are those of Hate. A God that does not live by blood does not exist as my God who lives by blood exists; and when you pull the trigger you will be worshipping at my altar! I have won at last. Come to prayer. Come to Islam.”
[. . .]
Wars through history have exacted an irreparable spiritual price from its [their] combatants.
[. . .]
It’s not an original thought. William Tecumseh Sherman knew before Collins that War is Hell; that the only excuse for it was the belief that you could in the subsequent peace, chain up the devils. He wrote in his letters, “you cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it … If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war.”
Nor has its character changed much. Curtis LeMay, during what we remember as the Good War, shared his formula for defeating the enemy. “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting.”
Human beings are remarkably good at calling up the devil in their fellow human beings. They start out Christian enough, but give them time. In the first Christmas of the Great War, when fighting was but a few months old, there enough fellow-feeling among the combatants remained to spontaneously create what is now remembered as the Christmas Truce.
Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides—as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units—independently ventured into “no man’s land”, where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another.
By the next year they were modifying their bayonets so it would hurt more when you stabbed the enemy. When we look at Hamas we are looking at some[thing] very old and ancient. Does the devil win in Seven? For that matter does he win on earth?
Say no if you can. For Hamas is determined to prove that you too are like them. Just like them.
To deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed is indeed moral and tactical insanity. But it rests on a very rational premise: Given the Orwellian state of the world’s treatment of Israel (see: the U.N.’s grotesque Human Rights Council), fueled by a mix of classic anti-Semitism, near-total historical ignorance, and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog, these eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.
In a world of such Kafkaesque ethical inversions, Hamas’ depravity begins to make sense. This is a world in which the Munich massacre is a movie and the murder of Klinghoffer is an opera — both deeply sympathetic to the killers. This is a world in which the U.N. ignores humanity’s worst war criminals while incessantly condemning Israel, a state warred upon for 66 years which nonetheless goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid harming the very innocents its enemies use as shields.
It’s to the Israelis’ credit that amid all this madness they haven’t lost their moral scruples. Or their nerve. Those outside the region have the minimum obligation, therefore, to expose the madness and speak the truth. Rarely has it been so blindingly clear.
What follows is an old post from about ten years ago worth dusting off in the light of current events. If 'true' admits of degrees, what I say below is truer now than it was then. Just two of several current examples. Barack Obama, the most Left-leaning president in U. S. history, traded Bowe Bergdahl for five of the worst Gitmo terrorists. Was that a prudent thing to do? Only someone who is blind to a clear and present danger could do something so utterly irresponsible. The second example is the Iraq pullout, the effect of which, whether intended or not, is to make the whole region safe for ISIS. Anyone with his head screwed on right would have seen that coming. But not a leftist insensitive to danger. I could go on, the Southern border . . . .
Conservatives take a sober view of human nature. They admit and celebrate the human capacity for good, but cannot bring themselves to ignore the practically limitless human capacity for evil. They cannot dismiss the lessons of history, especially the awful lessons of the 20th century, the lessons of Gulag and Vernichtungslager. They know that evil is not a contingent blemish that can be isolated and removed, but has ineradicable roots reaching deep into human nature. The fantasies of Rousseau and Marx get no grip on them. Conservatives know that it is not the state, or society, or institutions that corrupt human beings, but that it is the logically antecedent corruption of human nature that makes necessary state, social, and institutional controls. The timber of humanity is inherently and irremediably crooked; it was not first warped by state, social, or institutional forces, and cannot be straightened by any modification or elimination of these forces.
I used the word 'know' a couple of times, which may sound tendentious. How do conservatives know that evil is not a contingent blemish, or that human beings are so fundamentally flawed that no human effort can usher in utopia?
They know this from experience. But although experience teaches us what is the case, and what has been the case, does it teach what must be the case? Here the lefties may have wiggle room. They can argue that failure to achieve a perfect society does not conclusively show that a perfect society cannot be achieved. This is true. But repeated failures add up to a strong inductive case. And these failures have been costly indeed. The Communists murdered an estimated 100 million in their social experiments. They did not hesitate to break eggs on a massive scale in quest of an omelet that never materialized. They threw out 'bourgeois' morality, but this did not lead to some higher morality but to utter barbarity.
I would also argue that experience can sometimes teach us what must be the case. We have a posteriori knowledge of the essential (as opposed to accidental) properties of some things. These are tough epistemological questions that I mention here only to set aside.
The main point I want to make is that the Left is insensitive to danger because of its Pollyannish view of human beings as intrinsically good. Leftists tend to downplay serious threats. They are blind to the radical evil in human nature. This attitude is betrayed by their obfuscatory use of the phrase 'Red Scare'to the very real menace the USSR posed to the USA in the 1950's and beyond. It wasn't that conservatives were scared, but that the Soviets were making threats. This is now particularly clear from the Venona decrypts, the Mitrokhin archives, and other sources. I especially recommend reading Ronald Radosh on the Rosenberg case.
The Left's insensitivity to danger is also betrayed by their attitude toward the present Islamo-terrorist threat. They just can't seem to take it seriously, as witness their incessant complaining about the dangers to civil liberties after the 9/11/01 attacks. There is something deeply perverse about their attitude. They must realize that a liberty worth wanting requires security as a precondition. See my Liberty and Security for an exfoliation of this idea. But if they grasp this, why the unreasonable and excessive harping on individual liberties in a time of national peril? Don't they understand that theliberties we all cherish are worthless to one who is being crushed beneath a pile of burning rubble? How could Katrina van den Heuvel on C-Span the other day refer to Bush's playing of the 'terror card'? Such talk is border-line delusional.
It is as if they think that conservatives want to curtail civil liberties, and have seized upon the 9/11 attacks to have an excuse to do so. In the lunatic world of the leftist a conservative is a 'fascist' -- to use their favorite term of abuse. This is absurd: it is precisely conservatives who aim to conserve civil liberties, including the politically incorrect ones such as gun rights.
Terrorists and the rogue states that sponsor them pose a very real threat to our security, and this threat must be faced and countered even if it requires a temporary abridgement of certain liberties. Thatis what happens in war time. Leftists ought to admit that it is precisely their insensitivity to the threat posed by such Islamo-terrorists as Osama bin Laden that led to the 9/11 attacks in the first place. If a proper response had been made to the 1993 World Trade Tower attack, the 2001 attack might never have occurred. We were attacked because we were perceived as weak and decadent, and we were perceived as weak and decadent because leftists in the government failed to take seriously the terrorist threat.
It must be realized that liberty without security is worthless. Genuine liberty is liberty within a stable social and political order. I may have the liberty to leave my house any time of the day or night, but such a liberty is meaningless if I get mugged the minute I step out my door. So if the Left were really serious about liberty, it would demand adequate security measures.
A question: Do you remember the title of your blog post in which you argued, if I recall correctly, that the Taliban damage to the Buddha statues would be evil -- or ought not to take place -- even if nobody ever got to know about it? I also recall dimly that the post was a reply to Peter Lupu. Is the post still online, somewhere?
Vlasta, I believe you are referring to this post. It was a response, not to Peter Lupu, but to Mike Valle. (I had the pleasure of their company at Sunday breakfast yesterday.)
Here is how the post begins:
This by e-mail from a doctoral student in Canada:
I am writing to you because I have a couple of questions . . . about your recent (May 12) blog post, and I was curious to hear a bit more about your views. [. . .] My questions concern your assertion that "I also agree that if one is going to violate people's beliefs in the manner of that 'artist' Andres Serrano then one ought to do it on one's own time and with one's own dime, as the saying goes." I assume that you're referring to "Piss Christ" and the controversy that surrounded it.
1. Why do you feel that "Piss Christ" (or Serrano's other works--again, I assume you're referring here mostly to the religious icons and bodily fluids) is (are) a "[violation] of people's beliefs"? The claim that it "violates beliefs" is much stronger than simply saying that it is distasteful, since it ascribes an active quality to the work.
Of course, it is more than distasteful or disgusting, although it is that; it shows profound disrespect and contempt for Christianity. And it is not the work itself that violates the beliefs and sensibilities of Christians and plenty of non-Christians as well, but the work in the context of its production and public display. It should be offensive to any decent person, just as "Piss-Buddha," if there were such an 'art work,' would be offensive to me and other non-Buddhists. Buddha was a great teacher of humanity and should be honored as such. (That is why decent people were offended when the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddhist statuary.) The same goes for Jesus and Socrates and so many others. Christians of course believe that Jesus was much more than a great teacher of humanity, but whether he was or not is immaterial to the point at issue. Or imagine "Piss-King" in which a figurine of Martin Luther King, Jr. is supended in urine. Everyone would take that, and rightly so, as expressive of contempt for the black American civil rights leader, as offensive as Southern racists' references to King back in the '60s as Martin Luther Coon.
The decadent art of the 20th century reflects not only the corruption of aesthetic sensibility but also a moral corruption. So my objection to Serrano is not merely aesthetic but moral. The purpose of art is not to debase but to elevate, refine, ennoble.