Work to be done after Paris

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There is important work to be done after Paris, as we grieve lives lost and terror multiplied there.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was not written with a religion like Islam in mind. I am confident similar things could be said of other nations’ codes and constitutions.

Possibly the most crucial work to be done in political ethics today, therefore, is to define what constitutional freedom of religion means in the case of a religion that recognizes no constitution but its own, regards no freedom worthwhile except to live under its own highly restrictive law, and reacts violently against civil and military institutions built to protect freedom.

One of the more important things secularists could do in these days would be to cease fear-mongering over some supposed terroristic equivalence between Christianity and Islam. The difference in death toll speaks for itself. So does Western Christianity’s centuries-long history of relying on persuasion rather than legal or violent force to gain new adherents, not to mention our long, uniform reliance on democratic processes to advocate for social change. “Theocracy” may seem like a great rallying cry against conservative Christian social views, but it obscures real differences between religion that works within democracy and religion that seeks to replace it. Failure to distinguish between the two attitudes will undoubtedly end up hampering efforts to support democracy, which means that in the end, the “theocracy” cry will undercut its own drive for individual freedoms.

We Christians, meanwhile, need to look to the example of our predecessors who have stood for freedom and for the truth and life of Christ, even to the point of death. This has nothing to do with certain Muslims’ readiness to die and to kill for the sake of their prophet’s reputation. We have a Savior who was willing to be humiliated on our behalf, so that humble followers of his way could be raised up with him in his final exaltation.

Still the way of freedom requires some of us being willing to give our all. He has promised us life everlasting. Do we believe him? We may soon need to decide.

Update January 15: my thoughts on this have developed some since I wrote it. Please see the comments, esp. #2 and #23.

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86 Responses to “ Work to be done after Paris ”

  1. This week eight cartoonists, journalists and editors (from a satirical magazine that lampooned Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions) are murdered.

    Meanwhile, thousands feared dead as Boko Haram continues to overrun Nigeria (about 40% to 50% of the population of Nigeria is Christian).

    Eight, white, middle-age secularists (as well as four individuals not directly tied to the magazine) are murdered and the world stands up in unity.

    Thousands of black religionists continue to be slaughtered and the world barely notices.

    Our priorities are as corrupted as our morals.

  2. You suggest that “the most crucial work to be done in political ethics today … is to define what constitutional freedom of religion means …” How do you propose we get to work on this project?

    Here is a suggestion: Everyone should proclaim that (1) the purpose of government is only to promote economic prosperity and not to promote moral or spiritual goodness. Everyone should avow that (2) only individuals are spiritual, not governments. Everyone should agree that (3) God does not reward or punish the country as a whole with material things in return for the country’s supposed spiritual virtues or sins. And everyone should celebrate the fact that (4) diversity is essential for a country’s economic prosperity.

    In short, the government’s role is to store up riches here on earth; religion’s role is to store up riches in heaven.

  3. Hi Tom,

    “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was not written with a religion like Islam in mind.”

    Bill of Rights (including The First Amendment) was submitted to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789, and adopted on December 15, 1791.

    The Treaty of Tripoli, signed November 4th, 1796 contains the following,

    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    It seems to me the were very much aware of the religion of Islam, which is hardly surprising as it was more than 1000 years old at the time of writing.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  4. Your history lesson is fine. Read the rest of the sentence you cut off in the middle.

    I cannot believe the tendentiousness displayed in this kind of out-of-context comment. What, do you stay up late at night trying to find ways to disagree?

  5. Tom – Assuming #5 is referring to Shane’s comment #4, I can’t find a sentence he “cut off in the middle”, either from your post or the treaty he refers to.

  6. Oops, you’re right. What I was referring to was the description of Islam in the next paragraph. I was going from memory, and I thought it was part of the same sentence. So I accept that correction, with apologies.

    My complaint stands, however. It was only a few words later that I explained what I meant by that sentence. He could have bothered to read it.

  7. A further thought on Boko Haram in Africa. I wept when I heard about the massacre. It was, and is, outrageous and grievous and horrifying, all at once. So I’ve been trying to replay the writing of this blog post in my mind, asking myself why I left that out.

    What it was, I think, was this. Besides the deaths in Paris, I’ve also been reading about the Muslim-only zones in many European cities, and the fear that has kept many world media outlets from telling the whole story of Charlie Hebdo. And it seems to me that even though the numbers of deaths in Africa (and India, and Iraq, and …) far outstrip those in Paris, the fact is that Western democracy is being successfully overrun, in certain places, by extremely illiberal Islam. So while some parts of the world represent numerous extremist atrocities, this event represents a severe threat being raised against the institutions we rely on to contain those kinds of atrocities.

    It’s all tied together. Successful Islamic extremism in the West supports an environment that permits Islamic atrocities everywhere.

  8. I looked into those sources a bit. With the exception of the NY Times, they are mostly editorials and/or highly biased publications (that doesn’t make them wrong, but right now I suggest a rather large grain of salt). I followed The Middle East Forum to some of the sources for these “no go zones” they say the French Government lists… they are actually listed as “sensitive areas.” Even the NY Times report only says “Others describe ‘no go’ zones in Muslim districts….” with no sources cited.

    I suggest greater care for news sources. A large volume of overblown or simply wrong reports will not make this more accurate.

  9. Ehhh, this all makes me kind of nervous. The problem of radical and violent Islam, or any radical/violent *group* is a multi-faceted issue and I don’t think legal recourse is the wisest or even the most pragmatic approach.

    As a matter of study, I don’t think there’s been reliable and universal profile to the process of radicalization, but I think you can apply some common sense to the matter. The more people are isolated from an established moral community, the more the isolated people will foster a semi-justified paranoia. Throw in economic isolation and geographic isolation, and it’s going to get worse. What one might call a Muslim-only zone probably started out as an indirectly enforced ghetto.

    France, I think, has probably done more damage to freedom of religion out of all the Western Liberal democracies in our era. It’s ILLEGAL to pray in public in France. For anyone. Let that sink in. This is the danger of legal tools in combating a potentially dangerous religious group.

    As odd as it is to say, I feel like, in some ways, I have a lot in common with your average western Muslim. I disagree with the tenets of their faith, but we have faith-as-a-concept in common. This is no small thing in a cultural discourse that sometimes takes seriously the possibility of faith being a “brain-virus” or that faith should be some private, dirty secret in the midst of enlightened materialists. This is a dialectical resource that the Church is massively underutilizing, especially in Europe.

    I think the best hope we have for dealing with radical Islam is the Christian precept of a radical willingness to suffer for others. There isn’t going to be a “safe” way to “deal” with radical Islam, and I would think the last 15 years of war have at least HINTED at that. This problem could be the largest opportunity for a significant re-establishment of Christianity as a culturally relevant, historically vital entity in the West, in our lifetimes.

  10. Good thoughts. I do not intend to make anyone nervous by any implied answer to the questions I’ve raised in my third paragraph here. I really don’t know what answer could or should be given to them. I do think, though, that addressing them is one of the highest priorities faced by political ethicists today.

  11. I hear you. My issue is, so much ethical theory nowadays IS political. Too political. The conversation about rights is vital to a democracy, but I don’t see a lot of talk about what to do with those rights. Everyone falls in line and gives lip-service to “respect” and “community” and “tolerance” but the reality of our generation is a complete inability to disagree in a productive way. The Gen-X “rant” and satire are the most culturally dominant forms of discourse and it’s really pathetic. It’s failing, blatantly, and all we can do is fall on our swords over the “right” to piss in the face of a religious community that’s a billion strong. THAT’S THE BEST WE CAN DO!? That’s the best we can do…

  12. GM –

    in a cultural discourse that sometimes takes seriously the possibility of faith being a “brain-virus” or that faith should be some private, dirty secret in the midst of enlightened materialists

    But that ‘cultural discourse’ also seems to take seriously the idea that atheists and secularists may be possessed or at least influenced by demons, or that atheists shouldn’t be allowed to hold political office.

    The latter, BTW, relates to Tom’s point about “reliance on democratic processes to advocate for social change”. I’m quite willing to grant that I feel more threatened by Islamists than Christianists, all told. But that doesn’t mean I think political Christianity is completely hunky-dory either!

  13. Ray,
    Ok, and that would be where I have something in common with YOU as opposed to a radical Imam or Falwell-type Christian. I DO believe government should be secular (religiously neutral) and open to whomever is capable of doing a good job.

    So, both of our houses have some ordering to do. Got it. But, specifically, my point was in the case of French Muslims, most of them not radicals, who have to put up with cultural bullying from both the French Right and Left. Charlie Hebdo is a ferociously leftist publication, and they went out of their way to publish some of the most disgusting, childish garbage targeting the most sensitive of Muslim sensibilities as possible.

    And this is defended by secularists as a worthy cause, some “duty” that must be performed in a liberal democracy against ALL religions, precisely because faith is garbage and anyone who has it, no matter the form, is worthy of mockery that a five year old would be justly scolded for.

  14. Tom – Yes, I chose the work consciously. I’m not threatened by Islam per se so much as those adherents who want to force me to abide by it. Same with Christianity.

    GM – Hebdo targeted everyone’s sensibilities, actually. And sure, they’ve been disgusting and childish. But their quality or maturity is irrelevant. (And Salman Rushdie – you remember what he’s most famous for, right? — made the point this way: “What would a respectful editorial cartoon look like?”)

    I’ll defend the right of people to put out racist speech, too. I’ll defend the right of people to claim that atheists are hateful demon-possessed fools.

    I won’t make an exception for blasphemy and desecration. I think this case was both stupid and outrageous. He could be charged with trespassing, maybe. I can’t see how he damaged any property, or did any theft or vandalism. If you want secular law, then you have to accept that this prosecution was out of bounds.

  15. But Ray, you’re exemplifying the exact locus of my exasperation. I know Hebdo went after everyone. I’m not talking about LAWS. I’m talking about ATTITUDES manifesting in ACTIONS and the question of wisdom therein. Those are NOT irrelevant in any way as far as societal health is concerned.

    Should Hebdo be ALLOWED to publish offensive crap? That’s a stupid question, because we know the answer is yes. It’s not about rights, it’s about fixing a very serious problem.

    Rushdie’s point begs the question: Is the radicalization of a population, which is a matter of life and death, a WISE application of cartoons? Do the cartoons make us better people? Do they make us more generous? Do they initiate creative dialogue? Do they make the problem WORSE?

    Maybe if the cartoons don’t go far enough to somehow shock potential-radicals into normalcy, we should build a publicly owned Mosque so we can go in and shit on the floor! Maybe that’ll do the trick!

    I mean, no one is asking that kid in PA to offer some kind of political rationalization for his stunt, because it’s obviously some kind of nihilistic, stupid prank that a 15 year old would pull. So why do we swallow rationalizations from adult French “journalists” for doing the exact same thing!?

    (And no, I don’t think that kid should be in legal trouble, and I would scold the clergy for not defending him in order to show Christ-like forgiveness.)

  16. To further prove my point, from the senior editor of Charlie Hebdo:

    “You’re not supposed to use religion for your sense of identity, in any case not in a secular state,” Biard said. “In principle, the Arabs in France are not Muslims,” he contended—that is, Arabs in this secular, assimilationist nation are citizens like any others, and would be well served to renounce whatever attachment they may feel to Islam. “How is it going to help these people to make them believe they’re Muslims?” he asked.

    In France, this isn’t some fringe position, especially when it comes to civil law. It’s not uniform, by any means, but just as you say religion per se doesn’t threaten you, I say the same about secularism: We BOTH have forms of our different idealogies that are real and are legitimately threatening.

  17. @ toodles

    This is a noteworthy observation. I had a quick look at The Guardian’s custom Google search function (a leftist newspaper/ website that I have a love/ hate relationship with) and the term “Charlie Hebdo” returns 2,360,000 results, whereas “Boko Haram” returns 1,460,000 results.

    Some events are just so audacious that their impact can’t be measured by a simple body count. Perhaps this is one such event. There may be a recognition that the murders were intended to be a slap to the face of Western (largely) secular sensibilities and a fear that this affront was delivered by the enemy within. And yet there seems to me to be something else going on here.

    Is it that the mathematics just don’t add up unless the life of an erudite Western secularist really is worth more? Why exactly is it that politicians in my country feel the need to stand somberly in front of the gathered press holding hastily printed A4 sheets of paper but do and say nothing – literally nothing – when a hundred times as many people are killed by the likes of Boko Haram? Why have people the world over gathered in the city streets and squares to protest this atrocious event but remain comparatively silent in the face of the larger and consistent mass murders that will be a footnote on tomorrows paper? Why not stand with a sign saying “Ju suis une personne” instead? Is it that those people being murdered half-way around the globe are so distant and so different that it’s difficult for us to empathise with their plight?

    To add, I am absolutely not holding myself up as a paragon of virtue in any of this.

  18. Billy, you’re right. This is troubling. Western liberal democracy has been, and I think should be, a guardian of human rights everywhere. My point in this post and especially in comment 9 was that the West is abdicating this role right at home. After Paris, the West began to stand up for itself on its own turf. That’s good. It’s very incomplete and unsatisfactory, however, for the reasons you’ve just articulated.

    In case it isn’t obvious, I’m finding my own opinions on this are being re-shaped by this conversation. That’s a good thing. Thanks, all.

  19. In case it isn’t obvious, I’m finding my own opinions on this are being re-shaped by this conversation. That’s a good thing. Thanks, all.

    Yeah, the comm box has been interesting.

    I’m still not sure what to think about all this other than:

    1) What happened in Paris was a truly horrible and unacceptable event
    2) The response from the media, politicians and the public has been both understandable and also curious when measured against the relative silence in the face of other atrocities. Is this not a good example of Western bias?

    BTW, that Stephen Fry blog post was articulate drivel. I’m surprised that a smart guy like Ray was so taken by it that he took the time to provide us with a link. Fry is fine when he’s on a show like QI and not actively ranting against religion – which seems to be a rare occasion these days. Unless he starts writing articles against the sacking of fire chiefs because they express controversial views about homosexuality he is displaying a double standard when he suggests that Muggeridge destroyed his life’s work when he criticised a film because of its controversial parallels with the life of Christ.

  20. Some Secularist polemecists seem to think the puerile mockery of religion should be accepted in total silence, if not gratitude, by the people who are mocked. It’s the same insane defense of the bully who is only trying to “toughen up” his target.

  21. GM – I agree that laïcité, secularism in the French model, can be – and frequently is – taken too far. I like the balance generally struck in the U.S. far better.

    But I haven’t run across people claiming that mockery of religion – puerile or otherwise – should be accepted in gratitude. And I do think there is a major distinction between mocking ideas and mocking people. (Said so a year and a half ago, even. Further thoughts.)

    Is the radicalization of a population, which is a matter of life and death, a WISE application of cartoons?

    Depends a heck of a lot on context. Are the cartoons in response to a heckler’s veto, for example? (See my video, first link in #19, for exactly that.) That could make the cost worth it. Can “potential-radicals” be turned from radicalism? (The guy who killed Theo Van Gogh said “I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion.”.) If not, that could make the cost no cost at all – or, at least, already paid.

    I think I understand what you’re driving at. You’d like to see more respect all around – and I agree. And giving respect is a fundamental requirement for getting respect – sure.

    But recall, I come at this from the perspective of an atheist. And I have plenty of experience with people being offended simply by me acknowledging that I’m an atheist. (Just using the word ‘atheist’ in an advertisement is controversial.) Sometimes there literally is no way to put forth an idea such that nobody will take offense to it.

    So I guess I think the ‘practical floor’ of offense, the actual achievable minimum, is higher than what I gather you’re after. And so I suppose my expectations, and the practical actions I think wise because of it, are different.

  22. Billy Squibs –

    Unless he starts writing articles against the sacking of fire chiefs because they express controversial views about homosexuality

    The facts are still rather unclear on that one. (That source could not in any way be described as in favor of the firing, note.) If he was fired for the book, and hasn’t let his beliefs negatively influence how he’s carried out his job, then of course I oppose the firing. If he was, in fact, doing uninvited proselytizing with co-workers, that’s different.

    As to Boku Haram – I agree that priorities are well out of whack. Terrorism in the West simply isn’t an existential threat. Flashy and dramatic, yes – something that can tear down our civilization, not so much. Hurricane Katrina did way more damage to the U.S. than any terrorist has dreamed of – massive damage to a major city and seaport, and not much shy of 9/11 in terms of deaths – yet we’re still here.

    But for villages in Africa, and in many other places, militants are an existential threat.

  23. Ray,
    As far as mocking and asking people to take it with gratitude, re-read the quote from the Hebdo editor in #21, sourced from here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-secularism-religion-islam/384413/

    He’s convinced himself that he’s doing Muslims a favor, that if they just saw the HUMOR they’d be so much better off!. Now, of course, the motive of attempting to convince someone to not throw their life away in an insane blaze of murder is a good one, but it’s a patently foolish approach, and I think the whole “tough love” thing is a platitude to justify getting yuks at someone else’s expense.

    I mean, how many former neo-nazis say they left the movement because they were tired of being made fun of? The whole thing FUNCTIONS on social isolation.

    Again, the causes of radicalization are myriad and different individuals have different paths of attraction down that road. But, a search for identity does seem to be relatively common. If you have a bunch of socially and economically isolated people, mockery just feeds their paranoia. I mean, you’ve got young men and women with no economic future, they don’t have a say in their public identity formation, and then once their faith is fully atomized and privatized, the ONE THING they have left, their private devotion to something sacred, is pissed on for FUN. The last vestige of an existential anchor of identity is turned on them as a big joke. They’re not offered an alternative anchor, just derision, and the rest of the community may not join in, but they defend the whole affair with all the pretense of nobility that they can muster.

    That creates despair. And hopelessness. And some of those kids are going to turn around and bite you for it. That’s just common sense. That’s school-yard-lesson obvious truth.

    And I know the feeling, Ray. I’ve had people turn from very friendly to very hostile the SECOND I casually mention “Oh, I met my wife at church.” or something like that. I’m not that naive, people knee-jerk and paint others according to their assumptions, and there’s no avoiding that. But I’m prepared for it, and I’ve BEEN prepared for that since I was a kid, because I was taught well, I’m very grateful for that. Not everyone had the privilege.

    I know missionaries in the middle east, in really scary places. Like, when we correspond via email, we have to talk in code because the risk of saying “Jesus” might give them away to whoever might be listening and then no one would hear from them again. But they are able to be effective because they take the time to learn how to communicate with people who would cut your head off for saying the wrong thing. Is it SAFE? No. But it’s a hell of a lot safer than saying “Well, screw it, let’s just kick them in balls and have a laugh, and maybe they’ll get the joke. If not, we can always kill more of them than they can of us.”

  24. I mean, how many former neo-nazis say they left the movement because they were tired of being made fun of? The whole thing FUNCTIONS on social isolation.

    That’s a fair question, but I wonder how many people did not become neo-nazis because they were shown the humor in the position.

  25. Ok but that’s a pretty thin justification. Shaming people out of an action usually just forces dark positions underground. Racism in America is still a huge problem, FAR out of proportion to the amount of publicly professing racists. That’s because admitting racist inclinations is social suicide, so it all just becomes MORE insidious.

  26. I’m not so sure it is just “forced underground” as you describe. I’m 45 years old. When I was a kid, being openly racist was socially acceptable in many circles – my mother was. In my grandmother’s time racism was par for the course. In today’s world I have even seen open members of the KKK claim they are not racist. I sincerely believe that they do not see themselves as such.

    More importantly, the way people treat others is (frustratingly slowly of course) improving. As society tolerates less and less of a behavior, these kinds of viewpoints are less likely to be passed on to children. This is what social progress is. 100 years ago, many Americans would have joined in a lynch mob… today those same people would be more likely to give their lives preventing one.

  27. You’re missing the point. That a KKK member would deny that he is a racist is because “racist” is now a radioactive word. No one sees themselves as a racist because because “racist” is associated with a cartoon version of itself. No one was offered any kind of thorough explanation of where racist inclinations come from, it was just “This is bad, and wasn’t it awesome when Gene Hackman put that racist pig through the barber shop window?!”

    There was no attempt to understand where this evil comes from in an individual or society, they were just depicted as ape-men and no one relates to that image, so now no one knows that they are actually a racist. Thus it’s much harder to combat racism now. Yeah, good, we’re not hanging black people in the woods for sport, but now we have a ghettoized black population that’s absorbing thousands of bullets every year. There was a better way to handle this, and we didn’t do it, so now it’s become much more intractable.

  28. Look, this isn’t some dark-magic ethical mysticism. This was the basis of Dr. King’s entire theory of praxis. He refused to deny his enemy their humanity, he refused to shame them, he insisted that love was the vehicle for change. And we traded that in for a shame-based social penalty system.

    Shame as a personal compass is very powerful and when fine tuned by discipline and love, becomes a life saver.

    Shame as a social weapon adds a very toxic element of power to already toxic power struggles. Power struggles must be disarmed by empathy and self-sacrifice, otherwise they just become more and more entrenched. People adapt and play by the new rules to retain their power and avoid the new social penalties.

  29. I understood your point. I just don’t agree with it completely. I have no doubt that what you describe is a driving force to some extent; I just don’t think it is the primary one.

    What I remember being taught is the why racism and bigotry are wrong. I look at modern teachers, media, and politicians and they all talk about acceptance as an attempt to understand others before we judge them. I see social progress as an evolving dialogue where we are encouraged to step outside of what was once our tightly knit social circles.

    Interracial relationships are becoming more common. I think that leads to greater acceptance. Look at how many people travel today as opposed to years in the past. Of course a lot of that is because it is easier with modern technology, but the fear is also decreasing. When I was a kid, people who traveled to Africa or Asia were almost unheard of. Now, it’s almost a requirement of a college education. We are learning as a society to learn about others. We are not just suppressing our fears and rage that way you seem to suggest.

    Shame is one tool, it’s true. But it’s not the only one in play. I’m glad to see that you seem to think it has its place.

    Of course we both agree that no enemy should ever be dehumanized. I hope that needn’t be said.

  30. Bill L,

    What do you mean by social progress? You used the phrase a couple of times and I’m wondering if you think there is some ideal state that society can progress towards. Also, who is it that decides the point at which “the enemy” is being dehumanised?

  31. I agree that it was explained why it was wrong, but in my northeastern liberal american education was it ever examined as a set of comprehensible motivations. If a kid didn’t pick up on the ethical lesson, or just didn’t care, and grows up to develop racist inclinations, all he remembers is the condemnation, so he keeps them subtle. There’s a swarm of people ready to pounce on his social media and ruin his life if he says the wrong thing, so he doesn’t SAY anything, but maybe he doesn’t hire a black person at his firm. Or maybe he votes to keep people of color at a disadvantage. He certainly doesn’t HELP anyone. There’s more motivation to hide and behave with subtlety, or at least apathy, than there is to soul search, because his racist inclinations come from places that don’t match up to the pointy-hat picture. I mean, this is part of the basis of Nietzsche’s moral suspicion: When morality becomes a power struggle armed with shame, the moral community becomes the arbiter of power, or the group that deems who is shameful and worthy of exclusion, and we can very easily underestimate the damage that can do to us and what we’ll sacrifice to remain the arbiter of power.

    I mean, for all the talk of progress, we’re also looking at serious problems like social atomization, political hyper-polarization and an overall inability to listen to each other. I think given the state of discourse in america, which is horrifyingly bad by any conceivable measure, we need to really examine how our communication choices effect ourselves and who we are talking to, if we are not just talking to ourselves in the first place. The most viral emotion out there is a mix of anger and humor. I mean, just look on Facebook and tell me that you don’t see some joke meme about people that the poster disagrees with: It’s a process of disarming people that disagree with us by reducing them to a little plaything. Not only is disagreeing with this person righteous, but it’s FUN. They can’t just be wrong, they have to be pathetic and amusing and disagreeing with them feels so GOOD. This is why the Daily Show is the sensation that it is. I don’t have a problem with the show in of itself, but my generation became politically aware under this impression that mockery is part and parcel with disagreement and that’s insanely dangerous. The nigh-on political paralysis in this country did not just poof into existence, people are being needlessly wounded on a personal level and that just drives them further into error.

    When kids on the playground make fun of someone, we say “That’s not nice, good people don’t do that to each other.” We don’t say “This is for grown ups when they have a disagreement about things.”

  32. Here’s a flawless example that I just stumbled upon without even looking for it.

    http://www.vice.com/read/this-american-bro-an-ethological-study?utm_source=vicefbus

    You don’t even have to read more than a few sentences. This isn’t “Let’s take a minute and think about the state of the young American male and how we can address whatever internal crisis is causing this phenomenon.”

    This is straight up “I am so much better than this person I can’t even handle it. But I’m going to handle it because I’m laughing so hard.”

    WHAT IS THIS GOOD FOR?

  33. Billy Squibs,

    What do you mean by social progress? You used the phrase a couple of times and I’m wondering if you think there is some ideal state that society can progress towards. Also, who is it that decides the point at which “the enemy” is being dehumanised?

    I see social progress as moving towards good behavior in society. What is good behavior? Try to envision a bell curve with average behavior in the center, bad behavior on the left tail and good on the right. The left side is easy – the worst things you have ever seen or can think of. Most people will agree with you about what these are… murder, rape, destruction, and committing people to an eternity of torture in a lake of fire 😉

    Why are these bad? Because “bad” is what sentient creatures use to label sensations they do not like. You have to keep in mind that “bad” for the individual is not necessarily bad for society and vice versa.

    So what is good? Well, for starters, it’s less of bad. Most people would agree that those things that promote human well-being are good. Naturally you must weigh all the consequences (the difficult part).

    Also, who is it that decides the point at which “the enemy” is being dehumanised?

    Not sure if that’s rhetorical – Tough question. I suppose we all have to try to do that the best we can.

  34. Hi Tom,

    “My complaint stands, however. It was only a few words later that I explained what I meant by that sentence. He could have bothered to read it.”

    I did read it, obviously. There are 2.5 million muslims in the United States … do you really think they have a problem with recognising the authority of the constitution? The idea that there is a problem with the first amendment because of the actions of a handful of people makes no sense.

    Regarding why an attack on middle class white men in Paris resonates more with us than attack on poor African villagers … I would think the answer is obvious.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  35. Friends,

    I must admit, when I first read Tom’s blog I was upset at it’s tone and content, so I am pleased to return here a few days later and read the conversation which has ensued from Tom’s comments. I have quite a different “take” on the terrorist attack in Paris and am quite distressed by the reaction, as a Christian and as a multiculturalist, for several reasons., which I will attempt to explain.

    First, the reaction from the secular world and among atheists that I have read who have offered their reactions and analysis, is to frame the issue around freedom of speech. May question is this: Is the freedom of speech of the dominant society of France to use mockery, ridicule and caricature of personages and symbols that a religious and ethnic minority hold as sacred really threatened? Are we really even talking about a “right” at all? I heard an analysis on CNN the day after the incident where the guest explained that the message of the cartoons in question is that Muslims aren’t “French” enough to satisfy the French and it’s their fault for not seeking to assimilate, which entails abandoning their ties to and identification with Islam. In other words, Charlie Hebdo’s magazine’s message to the Muslim minority in France is what we call in my professional and academic circles refer to “forced march assimilation.” The message to Muslims is this: Assimilate and abandon your religious and cultural traditions and practices (because we, the majority, disapprove of them, or face dehumanizing mockery and ridicule of what you hold as sacred and holy. The majority appears to be asserting its “right” to use blasphemy and mockery for whatever purposes it sees fit.

    I find this very troubling as a Christian who believes that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are two inseparable human and civil rights. I truly believe that we Christians should not, of course, in any way condone terrorism and violence, but must also recognize that mockery and ridicule of religion harm all religions, and most especially, religious minorities in any society, which we who follow the Judeo-Christian tradition, have been historically, are now in some countries in the world, and could be again. What should be and would be our response to societal and political pressures to abandon our religious traditions from an intolerant secular society. If we believe that our religious freedom is worth defending through legitimate, non-violent social and political means, why shouldn’t the followers of Islam in France? I cut and paste a post from a Buddhist family member of mine from Facebook:

    ““One should not honour only one’s own religion and condemn the religions of others, but one should honour others’ religions for this or that reason. So doing, one helps one’s own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grave of one’s own religion and also does harm to other religions. Whosoever honours his own religion and condemns other religions, does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking “I will glorify my own religion”. But on the contrary, in so doing he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good: Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others.”
    Emperor Asoka 268-232 BC

  36. @ Bill L – Thanks for the response. None of my questions were rhetorical. I was just trying to better understand you.r position. I wont reply to your first answer as I’ll be leading us off on rabbit-trail. To your second answer I’ll keep it brief and say only that while I appreciate your candour I think the problem is that mockery can easily cross over into dehuminisation, especially when beliefs become inseparable from the person. This of course doe not mean that a belief or set of beliefs can be above criticism but there is surely a point whereby mockery becomes its own goal. The thrill of delivering a sublimely crafted insult that cuts your opponent down.

    Two interesting links. The first is a very short audio critique of Bill Maher thoughts by Randal Rauser – http://randalrauser.com/2015/01/a-response-to-bill-maher-on-religion-and-free-speech/

    The second is a cartoon critiquing satire that I linked to on Rauser’s site and that I’ve reposted it here for ease of access – http://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/jan/09/joe-sacco-on-satire-a-response-to-the-attacks

  37. GM –

    He’s convinced himself that he’s doing Muslims a favor, that if they just saw the HUMOR they’d be so much better off!

    Do you expect gratitude from the people you help? :-/

    But really, this just complicates things. How exactly are we to deal with people who genuinely believe they are doing good, but it happens to be diametrically different from what other people think is good?

    There was a better way to handle this, and we didn’t do it, so now it’s become much more intractable.

    What was the “better way”? This is a very honest question. Can you give me a short ‘alternate history’ or something? If you had your druthers, what would have been different in, say, the 1970’s, the 1980’s, the 1990’s?

    my generation became politically aware under this impression that mockery is part and parcel with disagreement and that’s insanely dangerous

    I’m trying to understand the parameters here. Is there ever a call for mockery? Was this, for example, misguided?

  38. I don’t necessarily agree with Jenna. While we as mere mortals may argue for “freedom of speech” and “religion” and such and believe it’s everyone’s right- as a Christian, God doesn’t give us the right to speak and say whatever whenever we want. So, we could argue (biblically and spiritually) that freedom of speech is not necessarily a Christian ethic (for us and for the world who blasphemes God)). We are to “tame the tongue” and “refrain from evil speech.” From a “divine” perspective God does not “honor” per se other people’s religion, on the contrary, He condemns them! Elijah most certainly mocked and condemned the prophets of Baal (not necessarily arguing that we should do the same). God “allows” them (other religions) to continue yes, but most certainly condemns them (Rom. 1ff.). In fact, Jesus says, “whosoever does not believe in me is condemned already” (Jn. 3:18). Jesus addressed the “woman at the well” implying her beliefs were way off (Jn. 4:22). My first encounter with people of other “faiths” is not to immediately blast them into eternal damnation and I am in no way meaning to sound harsh and bigoted, but I do at times believe we may accept more and/or “respect” more than what God would have us to. We should be careful when speaking of “human and civil rights” and most certainly see if what we are saying and thinking are in line with God’s Word. When we say that “the followers of Islam” in France ought to be able to do just that, follow, we are essentially condoning murder (though no one seems to want to address whose interpretation is correct-moderates or radicals). The Koran does teach killing of infidels-unbeliever. Blessings!

  39. Tom – I agree that Islam lacks something like Christianity’s “render unto Caesar”, and this has implications for how it will generally relate to a democratic regime.

    On the other hand… well, there are a lot of people who say they are Christian but others say are heretical. (Most Christian denominations about Mormonism, many denominations about Catholicism, lots of (for want of a better word) ‘conservative’ denominations about more ‘liberal’ denominations.) Islam has divisions, too. There demonstrably are threads/types/variants of Islam that can and do “work[] within democracy”.

  40. There demonstrably are threads/types/variants of Islam that can and do “work[] within democracy”.

    I think this is a fair statement. And yet surely we must be concerned for peaceful Muslims who are as much part of French society as any man but who now find themselves to be the targets. Perhaps it’s the far-far-right (e.g. Front National) that are the real winners here.

  41. Ray,
    Do I ever “expect” gratitude from people that I help? Well, I’m not helping anyone to earn some kind of atta-boy, if that’s what you’re asking. Christian charity is entirely detached from assumptions of arch-benevolence on behalf of those in need. In fact, it demands patience and loving-kindness no matter what. So no.

    I’m calling out the editor as behaving foolishly and duplicitously. He’s behaving like a bigot. It’s very hard to be convincing in good intentions when you do things that explicitly violate even the most thin definitions of good taste and kindness, especially when you seem to enjoy that aspect of the act so much. The cartoons show absolutely zero sensitivity to what their targets consider important. In fact, they show open hostility to that part of humanity IN ORDER TO GET A LAUGH. That he attaches some air of benevolence to categorical meanness is seriously misguided, immature and ignorant, if not dishonest.

    I don’t understand how this is confusing or controversial. Mohammed has no place on my register of the sacred. I want to open dialogue with people who DO hold him and his image as sacred, if ONLY just for the purpose of good social relations between my community and theirs. What well-adjusted adult with any capacity for empathy or any knowledge of community includes “THIS IS REALLY STUPID AND UGLY AND FUNNY TO ME!” in that dialogue? That’s dumb talk, Ray. That’s for children to be reprimanded over, OR for adults with serious issues to work out.

    Now, I do have to ask myself: What would I say to this guy’s face? Obviously, he’s suffered enough with losing his colleagues. But I’d have a lot of questions. “Does Islam or Muslims make you angry? Where does your anger fall specifically? Were you ever mocked over things that are important to you? Has religion wounded you personally and directly in some way?” and so on. If you want to correct a behavior in someone, you build a relationship with them, or at least you TRY to put it in their head that there ARE people who care about them personally and what they do.

    As far as the cartoon, I assume you know the difference between satire of a head of state and satirizing a disadvantaged minority group. The question is anything “worthy” of mockery? Sure. But that’s a hair’s breath away from rights language. Worthiness of derision does not automatically demand follow through to the point of mockery. That would be morally and practically preposterous. I don’t think there’s anything even approaching funny about Hitler. Even his over-the-top romanticism and pageantry is all part of the heartbreak and misery of mankind at it’s worst. This was a man who could have lived a good life. One wasted life of a child of God devoured millions for absolutely nothing. It’s just not funny.

    My question to you is, did Hitler jokes make anything BETTER? I mean, aside from the emotional relief of laughing as a distraction, did it SOLVE anything? Again, did they make us better people? Did it encourage and fortify personal virtue? Or did it just shield us from looking into the void as far as we could, to learn as much as we could about the human heart? Maybe it made the burden of the task and the lessons to learn easier to bear, but some lessons and tasks have to be truly grueling and horrifying and self-effacing if any tangible good is to come out of them. Jokes are a cheap and poor substitute.

    As far as dealing with racism, we pay a whole hell of a lot of lip service to Dr. King’s ideas and we just don’t DO them. I mean, America has no real equivalent to something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the abuse of black people. We have some speeches and marches that we like and got some laws passed, and yet 50 years later, white dominance is still the name of the game, just more subtle, more insidious. What Dr. King was talking about was a deep, existential exercise of love and empathy between individuals of all relationships to the problem. He wanted to tear down the standard mode of attack and bitterness when dealing with issues like this by a radical mass movement of living, continual forgiveness in order to change people’s hearts and foster deep bonds across lines of prejudice. If it started to happen, it didn’t continue. The relegation of blacks to 50 years of urban blight is proof of that. I would accept a response of “Well his ideas just aren’t realistic.” if I saw anything approaching a genuine effort. If “Counter hate with love” is just a platitude, let’s retire it from our cultural lexicon, but we haven’t earned the right to say that yet.

  42. Billy Squibbs,
    I would be careful, because the left/right divide in France is rather different. The National Front scores on a racial/immigration level, but the French left and right are both militantly secularist and have no problem demanding religious people scour any public-facing aspect out of their praxis. The French left is willing to fight for the Arab community’s equal civic rights on a racial level, but they just as gleefully join in mocking that same community’s religion, because public religion isn’t “French.”

  43. GM –

    I’m calling out the editor as behaving foolishly and duplicitously… I’d have a lot of questions… “Has religion wounded you personally and directly in some way?”

    You are aware that the first time they published ‘offensive to Muslims’ cartoons was in response to the 2006 controversy (and violence), and then in 2011 they got firebombed? In 2012 they published more, in response to the violence associated with the whole “Innocence of Muslims” thing. It seems you are acting like this is all just a lark. Like they just decided, “Hey, this would be funny!”

    As far as the cartoon, I assume you know the difference between satire of a head of state and satirizing a disadvantaged minority group.

    I suspect your notions about ‘power’ and ‘advantage’ might be influenced by getting firebombed, or seeing people killed. You might revise – upwards – your estimates of their ‘power’.

    Worthiness of derision does not automatically demand follow through to the point of mockery.

    Sure, not automatically. When does it, though? If ever?

    As Robert Heinlein put it, “One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.” It really is hard for me to just list the claims of, say, Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith with a straight face. I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are roughly as risible. Yet I wouldn’t start out being rude to Mormon missionaries, any more than I’ve been rude to the JW types who’ve come to our door on occasion.

    If they don’t accept my polite decline of their offer, though – I will escalate as needed. Hasn’t been necessary so far, but…

    Did you watch that video of mine? I’ll quote the end: “If you want to persuade me to accept your religion’s restrictions on behavior, then either convert me to your religion or at least give me a convincing logical argument that it’s in my best interest. Or if you can’t do that, try asking nicely. I’m a reasonable guy, I don’t want to offend people if I don’t have to. If it’s not a major inconvenience or a matter of principle, I’ll probably go along. But if you’re going to try to bully people, to terrorize people, then I have to say [a short phrase with words that don’t fit with this blog].”

    So here’s the thing. Pope Francis commented on the Charlie Hebdo thing. Francis defended freedom of speech as a fundamental right, and even a duty to speak out for the common good. But he said there were limits to free speech, especially when confronting another equally fundamental human right: the freedom of religion And “One cannot react violently, but if [someone] says something bad about my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s to be expected.”

    See, that comes across to me as, “I know I shouldn’t react violently… but I will.” It comes across as a threat of violence. And whether or not the Pope should follow that “turn the other cheek” stuff… I’m not a Christian, and I don’t feel the need to always turn the other cheek. I don’t react well to threats of violence. That comes across to me as someone starting a fight. Frankly, I’m half-tempted to organize an “Everyone Insult the Pope’s Mother Day” in response.

    My question to you is, did Hitler jokes make anything BETTER?

    Yeah, I think so. Claim to be a superior race, attack people for it, mockery’s the least you’ve got coming. Poking holes in falsely inflated egos, pointing out that the Emperor’s naked, I think that helps. Not just morale, but in the field of persuasion and rhetoric, too. Not always, but often enough.

    Note, still, I’m talking ideas, not people. That’s why I probably won’t agitate an “Everyone Insult the Pope’s Mother Day”; you’d have to insult a real, though presumably deceased, person to pull it off. I’ll mock the Pope’s insincere defense of free speech, but I won’t attack the Pope’s mom.

    Long enough, more later.

  44. I know the history of Charlie Hebdo’s publishing/response habits, and it doesn’t change anything.

    Look, a cartoon gets published, and a certain group of people go off the hook violent over it. This is obviously WAY outside of our western framework of understanding, and shouldn’t be tolerated. Any culture that mobilizes like that over ANYTHING needs to be changed.

    But so, what do we do? Do we self-examine? Do we see if there’s a grievance on behalf of the offended that we can address to establish some kind of sincere gesture of good will? Oh no, forget that, it’s “LET’S DO THAT THING AGAIN!” because defiance or bravery or whatever the hell. Classic tone-deaf white guy idiocy. “Oh, we’ve upset the dirt-worshipers again, let’s just double down.”

    Solid plan. I mean, what could go wrong?

    And just to be clear:
    “The aim is to laugh. … We want to laugh at the extremists — every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept.”
    -Laurent Léger, Charlie Hebdo

    As if the two options are to mock or accept extreme behavior. They should pass this on to hostage negotiators. “Hey guy with a gun willing to commit violence. You’re face looks like a butt!”

    When you cross cultural lines and even accidentally cause a fire-storm of the like that you can’t wrap your head around, wisdom and basic self preservation dictates that going forward, if you have a goal to achieve, it’s time to review your approach.

    Maybe, perhaps, you can’t find a bridge to reason with someone who’s gone over to the dark side. Sure, that’s possible, maybe even likely. But why engage in the exact USELESS behavior that helps create the environment that the dark side recruits from? This isn’t people getting butchered because of some sincere attempt at thoughtful dialogue. THAT is an assault on freedom of speech that must be met with defiance of repetition: “We are trying to create a better world in the wisest, most upright way that reflects the best of our values , and we will not stop, we will not be silenced.” Absolutely necessary, and the moral thing to do. If mockery is the best reflection of the best of your values, then your values suck.

  45. As far as the Pope’s comment, it’s clumsy, annoying, and potentially very wrong. I’m willing, up to a point, to give his English the benefit of the doubt, but even then, it sucks the nuance out of a time and argument that requires a lot of nuance.

    I THINK he’s basically saying “If you poke a bear, what do you expect to happen?” If you stupidly provoke the highly provokable, don’t hide behind some pretense of civility to rationalize your imprudence. If he’s not saying that, then he’s dead wrong and needs to be taken to task.

    And every benefit you listed to Hitler jokes can be accomplished by other means. Means that fortify respect for humanity, even in the hell of war, which, you know, has some benefits when it comes to things like war crimes and atrocities against civilians. The military didn’t take our soldiers and make them capable of torture by instilling resonant appreciation for the dignity of every individual.

  46. Also, to your point on power.

    Person A’s violent display of power gets them killed in the process.

    Person B’s violent display of power gets them re-elected.

    Who’s more powerful?

  47. GM

    I’ve read lots on all of this but just nothing that even approaches the level of understanding, intelligence and compassion that you demonstrate in you above posts. I’m truly humbled. You go on to say:

    If it started to happen, it didn’t continue. The relegation of blacks to 50 years of urban blight is proof of that. I would accept a response of “Well his ideas just aren’t realistic.” if I saw anything approaching a genuine effort.

    You are right again here. And you are right about the lack of “a genuine effort.” But it goes much further than that. It isn’t a lack of effort at all. It’s just the opposite in the opposite direction. The “50 years of urban blight” is, I believe, due to a very great effort and quite a calculated one.

    Dependent populations are controllable and those that control them want nothing more than to continue that control. Who has championed the 80+ Federal programs and the 20+ trillion dollars spent in the inter city since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Who reaps the political benefits of the dependent population those programs have created.

    Who riled up the masses in the recent “hands up don’t shoot”, “I can’t breathe” demonstrations. Oh, right, “black lives count” we’re told. But the people killing blacks are 100x’s more likely to be black than white but that matters not when the puppet masters say “jump”. The betrayal of the inter city by those who pretend to represent them makes anything Charlie Hedbo did look like child’s play.

  48. Bill,
    Thanks for the kind words. As far as the rest, I honestly don’t feel equipped to really interact with it too much. I will say, if the government involvement in the urban black community has taught me anything, it’s that there is no state substitute for love. I have a lot of issues with how the American Right has approached the subject, but black neighborhoods are where liberal social philosophy goes to die.

  49. GM –

    This isn’t people getting butchered because of some sincere attempt at thoughtful dialogue.

    First off, it is people getting butchered. I want to emphasize that. That’s a pretty central element.

    And secondly, it’s people getting butchered for jokes. Crude jokes, often enough. Arguably mean-spirited, in some cases. But still – jokes.

    If mockery is the best reflection of the best of your values, then your values suck.

    To quote GM, “If you stupidly provoke the highly provokable, don’t hide behind some pretense of civility to rationalize your imprudence.”

    Killing people over jokes can be construed – quite reasonably, I think – as a provocation. Indeed, one might almost say “THAT is an assault on freedom of speech that must be met with defiance of repetition”.

    Do we see if there’s a grievance on behalf of the offended that we can address to establish some kind of sincere gesture of good will? Oh no, forget that, it’s “LET’S DO THAT THING AGAIN!”

    I know that the Middle East (heck, most of the world) has legitimate grievances with the West in general and the United States in particular. I don’t have to speculate or soul-search to know that. I’m not surprised that terrorism happens, nor confused about what motivates a lot of it. (That doesn’t mean I sympathize, or justify, of course – just that I grasp at least some of why it happens.)

    The cartoons aren’t – or at the very least, are not just – ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. They are something else. And as I say in that link, Note also that “not provoking” is *very* different from “appeasing”. Not toppling elected governments, changing our own society and tech to not depend so much on oil so our money doesn’t prop up thugocracies, not blowing up wedding parties and such on a regular basis – that’s not appeasement.

    Letting butchers tell us what we can and can’t draw – sorry, that looks like appeasement to me.

    The military didn’t take our soldiers and make them capable of torture by instilling resonant appreciation for the dignity of every individual.

    Sorry, ‘dehumanization’ and ‘mockery’ are not identical sets. There’s some overlap – mockery can be used to dehumanize – but they are not automatically the same thing. It looks like you’re obscuring, or maybe just don’t recognize, that distinction. I can’t tell.

    And every benefit you listed to Hitler jokes can be accomplished by other means.

    And everything that war accomplishes can be accomplished by other means, too. Yet sometimes war is necessary. And sometimes mockery is necessary, too. Speaking of soldiers, just check this out. (It’s only 45 seconds, you can spare the time.) I hereby appoint you drill sergeant, with a strict no-mockery policy. How would you handle this situation? (Bonus question: Did the drill sergeant dehumanize the recruit?)

    Or, just tackle the question I asked in #47 (and repeated in slightly different form in #54): “Is there ever a call for mockery?” I still honestly have no idea what you think about that.

    Person B’s violent display of power gets them re-elected. Who’s more powerful?

    What violence did anyone at Charlie Hebdo carry out, and to what office were they elected? I’m confused.

  50. Yes, people did get butchered. Let’s take a look at that for a minute.

    The staff at Charlie Hebdo chose to actively engage in a unique, historical ongoing crisis with a specific modus operandi that has precedent. Jokes were sending certain people, a large amount of people, into violent hysterics. They saw some “calling” to repeat those jokes and put themselves in the line of fire, despite repeated calls from ALL SIDES to try and find a better way of handling the crisis. They claimed to know the risks and risks be damned! Vivre déchets parler!

    Now, did the four dead Jews in the supermarket have a say in the matter? Did the Charlie Hebdo janitor’s kids sign off on this risk?

    If the editors at Charlie Hebdo want to be heroes for human expression in it’s basest form, I’ll buy them a can of Krylon and a ticket to Mecca. Go to town guys! Just whatever they choose to do with their stunted moral imaginations, I’d appreciate it if they’d think about me and my family getting caught in the carnage because of their need to get their rocks off by kicking the hornets nest.

    Finding a better, more productive, cautious and humane way of dealing with this nightmare is not “appeasement.”

    This isn’t asking a rape victim how much she had to drink. This is people throwing common sense and their fellow neighbor into the wood chipper, out of spite.

    Allowing evil to entice us to abandon universally celebrated values like kindness, patience, wisdom and general self-awareness is the real capitulation to terror.

  51. You know Ray, I once asked you to give me a compelling appeal to forgiveness on a purely rational basis. You said to the person who refused to forgive “Then you’ll suffer. And you’ll probably bring other people down with you.”

    And I respect that. That’s absolutely valid. But it’s pretty useless when we trade it in for “He started it!”to justify our bad behavior.

    So, to the Stripes bit. Yeah, Francis is way out of line. He’s absurd. But say Francis actually DID kill Bill Murray for calling him Francis. We find him standing over his body with a loaded gun, heaving, sweating, wild eyed.

    WHO CALLS HIM FRANCIS IN THAT MOMENT?? Who’s looking to prove a point TO Francis by calling him Francis?! The time to prove a point is obviously for later. The immediate crisis is to get Francis to calm down, to find a way to communicate to something or someone outside of our standard frame of reference.

    This is Walter screaming at the dude after pulling a gun on Smokey.

    AM I WRONG DUDE?! AM I WRONG?

    No, Walter. You’re not “wrong.” You’re just an a**hole.

  52. And as far as comparing the necessity of war to some imaginary necessity for mockery, I’ll pose a challenge.

    You come up with a scenario where you think mockery is necessary, and I’ll counter with what I think is a better way to handle the situation.

  53. GM – I’m going to be very busy for a while, so I can’t respond to everything here in the detail it deserves until later. (And I appreciate the thought and passion you’ve put to this without getting rude!) But I’ll make two quick points:

    1. I’ve asked you three times now, “Is there ever a call for mockery?” I’d really appreciate an answer to that – ideally including “yes” or “no”. I’m okay with “Yes, but…” or “No, but…”; I’d just be grateful if “yes” or “no” appeared somewhere in there.

    2.

    You come up with a scenario where you think mockery is necessary, and I’ll counter with what I think is a better way to handle the situation.

    I… kinda thought I just did. The “Francis” thing. I even asked – explicitly, in these exact words – “How would you handle this situation?” You didn’t tell me. Instead you went ahead and posed a very different hypothetical indeed to me.

  54. Is there ever a call for mockery. There are two answers depending on the meaning of the question.

    Is there ever a duty to mock?

    No, I don’t think so. There IS at times a duty to condemn, however. Now, when you really look at it, the act of condemnation is a pretty solemn one, in proportion to the gravity of the object of condemnation. If I’m condemning something that people have deep attachments to, I’m well into the territory of offense that someone very well might take personally. I’d expect them to. Now, I don’t have a single ethical or social qualm with saying “The Qur’an is not the word of God and Muhammed is not God’s prophet.” I just committed blasphemy towards Islam. I believe what I just said is true, I have the legal and moral right to say it, and no person or persons has the legal or moral right to harm me for it. The moral difference here between condemnation and mockery is, am I trading in an appreciation of the solemnity of the act for personal amusement.

    Think of it like this. Mockery is to condemnation in the same way that vengeance is to justice. Justice can be satisfactory because it serves a greater good, it is public validation of a wrong that needs to be made right or answered for. Mockery makes MY base emotional needs a good that is more valuable than the good of the other. That’s not for me to take from the situation.

    Now, is mockery ever “called for” or permissible? That completely depends on things like social capital and context. Here’s an exmaple.

    I go on a camping trip with my buddies. My friend Tim leaves the cooler outside and raccoons eat all the food. It’s a bonehead move, Tim knows better, and now we’re in a tough spot. Well, Tim might get himself a “Smooth move dummy.” or a nickname for the rest of the trip. That’s because I know and love Tim, he’s knows there’s a bond there that’s a lot stronger than ribbing over some lost ground beef. He’s WILLING to pay the expense for the humor because we’re at the place in our friendship where the humor actually strengthens the bond, and I know this because I know him.

    Now, say one of the guys is new, a co-worker of a friend that no one really knows very well. He does the same thing as Tim. The exact same act doesn’t illicit the same response, because we just don’t have the same social capital. We haven’t put in the work yet. So we say “No big deal man, we’ll just run into town and see what we can scrounge up.” Maybe LATER we can give him the business, because that act of patience hopefully earned his trust. It’s all about trust and willful participation.

    So, say I’m Francis’s Lt. He says “If anyone calls me Francis, I’ll kill you.”

    Holy crap.

    So Ok, this is out of the ordinary, not what I would expect from someone, and it doesn’t make any sense. The first thing I’d do is just ask “Wait, why?”

    Maybe he gives me a long story about how the name invokes a really awful time in his life or whatever. Not likely, but the whole scenario is unlikely. But say he’s just irascible and not likable.

    “I just hate it, so shut up.”

    “Well, hold on dude. We’re here to do a job, and this whole ‘I’ll kill you’ thing isn’t going to fly. I got 15 other guys to think about and the last thing they need is accidentally calling you Francis and you going off the rails. No one is here to piss you off, no one’s looking for a problem with you, so you can fall in line like everyone else and do your job, and I think you’ll learn to like it here. If not, you’re not running the show, and if you have to make yourself miserable to do what you’re told, so be it. Just keep it off my radar, and I’ll do my best to look out for you. And for the rest of you guys, I don’t want to hear anyone starting crap with this guy. If he pulls anything towards you, you come to me and we’ll handle it.”

  55. Hi Tom,

    “Shane, my comment wasn’t about 2.5 million Muslims. It was about Islam.”

    Well that’s quite an interesting distinction. Do you believe a religion exists (in the present) if there are no people practising it? Is the First Amendment worded to protect religion instead of the religious beliefs of Americans?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  56. GM – First off, I think Dan Fincke does a good job covering the ground on the Hebdo thing.

    Now, you say, “Jokes were sending certain people, a large amount of people, into violent hysterics.” There’s more to it than that, though. Jokes in another country and culture were sending people into “violent hysterics” in their own country. These are threats, and actual violence, over what someone else does in their own home, as it were. This isn’t going over “Voice of America” radio, specifically aimed at majority-Muslim countries. This is a lot more analogous to walking by someone’s house and hearing them badmouth Mohammed in their own living room.

    I understand that – and why – many Muslims feel oppressed and attacked. And yet, as Fincke puts it:

    Now it is possible to reaffirm a moral commitment even as you denounce violence in its name. It is possible to think a cause is just even if you’re rejecting terrorist tactics in support of it. But saying, “violence is wrong, but so also is insulting religious people” basically puts those two things on the same moral level by putting them in the same sentence. It basically says, “Let’s stop doing both” as though both deserve equal condemnation. And if the violence stops because we “learned our lesson here” the terrorists are vindicated and the violence is rewarded. This is categorically different than saying something like “this terrorist act was wrong but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that this other violent or oppressive government action it was retaliation for was also evil”. A statement like that equates violence and violence and points out that a cycle is at work and it’s not just lopsided violence. But a massacre of insulting cartoonists is not a cycle of violence. It’s a violent reaction to (at most) offensive free speech. They’re not equivalent.

    And when you say “the murder is wrong but the speech was offensive” you are minimizing the murder. Because if you didn’t want to minimize the murder, you could have said “the speech was offensive but murder is wrong”… which one you put after the “but” shows which you think is most important. It’s the difference between “she was dressed provocatively but no one deserves to get raped” and “no one deserves to get raped, but she was dressed provocatively”. The former is a rejection of victim blaming and the other is an instance of it.

    That bit about “And if the violence stops because we “learned our lesson here” is expanded on later:

    In real-world power dynamics, extremists will not give up recourse to violence for as long as it accomplishes their goals. They will turn to softer tactics of persuasion only if forced by seeing that violence is simply futile and only causes more disrespect of their wishes and puts them more on defense against world opinion. Fundamentalist extremism must not be pandered to in its demands for deference. We must not do it the favor of sympathizing with its grievances.

    You referred back to our discussions about morality. And that’s legit – but I think you missed a point. I’ve argued several times in favor of strategies that are ‘nice, forgiving, clear’… but also ‘provocable’. As I already said above, “I’m not a Christian, and I don’t feel the need to always turn the other cheek.” Forgiveness is important; and it’s an option that I don’t think is explored enough. But it’s not universally appropriate, either, at least in my view. To wit:

    Allowing evil to entice us to abandon universally celebrated values like kindness, patience, wisdom and general self-awareness is the real capitulation to terror.

    And if we were going out and slaughtering random Muslims in response to the Hebdo massacre, you would have more of a point. But I – and lots of others – are calling for a drawdown on drone strikes and military intervention in general, while also sometimes putting out irreverent or even offensive cartoons.

  57. GM –

    Mockery is to condemnation in the same way that vengeance is to justice.

    Sorry, I don’t agree. Nothing is better than mockery at puncturing overinflated egos. It’s a tool – one that can be abused, or even just overused, but it is not inherently immoral or even problematic.

    I like your thoughts on social capital and such – in many circumstances, I even agree strongly. That said, I think you are extrapolating past the areas where your analysis holds.

    Let’s take Francis. The relationship between drill sergeant and recruit is different from the relationship between two co-workers, or even between boss and employee. That’s because soldiers go into combat, where coordination is paramount and seconds count. There often won’t be time to explain why some order was given, it just has to be acted on. Now.

    I don’t know if military training has to involve thorough, unquestioned rank dominance and intense discipline. But I also don’t know of a successful military that lacked them.

    There’s a scene in the novel “Starship Troopers” by Heinlein where a recruit asks a question, and the drill sergeant stops the training and gathers the trainees around to answer the question seriously and at length – rather like your scenario. This was written by a guy who’d been in, and loved, the military, and had gone up the ranks a bit.

    But note that this happened after the drill sergeants had established their authority and ‘broken in’ the ranks a bit. That Stripes excerpt happens on the first day, literally as the recruits are introducing themselves. With three words, the drill sergeant deflates Francis’ words and helps establish his own dominance. That’s efficient use of a tool.

    Fincke, in that Hebdo post, has some words about satire as well:

    And if you use this moment to say, “no one should have been killed but also no one should be blaspheming” all I hear is, “while killing is over the top, at least we can learn the lesson the terrorists were trying to teach us about not hurting religious feelings.” Giving into a violent expression of feeling and saying, “you know, maybe that person’s complaint really needs to be listened to…” is validating the violence.

    And:

    So, if critics of these religions are to be treated fairly, not only must people have the right to worship and revere God or gods and defer with reverence to their religious traditions, but atheists, dissenters, apostates, heretics, and members of minority or despised religions alike must be entitled to speech that tries to puncture the air of reverence which we believe is undue to those religions. It is our right as critics of received religions to express ourselves in ways that make clear the extent of our rejection of the reverence too often afforded influential religions.

    And:

    Religions’ entire authority and real-world power are undergirded by their abilities to command reverence and deference and create the illusion that they are sacred, sacrosanct, and immune from fundamental criticism or ridicule. Satire and blasphemy are the strongest tools for those who want to challenge that. And for those of us who believe religious influence is way out of proportion to the genuine intellectual or moral authority of religious institutions, we must insist on the right to use these tools for criticism when they are necessary and ultimately fair for this vital moral and intellectual purpose. It is vital as a matter of defying religious privilege and keeping it from gaining political footholds that deep criticisms and deep disrespect for religions’ pretensions be allowed morally.

  58. I find some of Fincke’s points to be highly suspect.

    “But saying, “violence is wrong, but so also is insulting religious people” basically puts those two things on the same moral level by putting them in the same sentence. It basically says, “Let’s stop doing both” as though both deserve equal condemnation.”

    Well, “basically”, no. This is semantic squirming about a statement that truncates the larger conversation. There would be a point only if there wasn’t a larger conversation. The truncation is made in a dialectical context where most everyone is on the same page, at least until clarification is needed. I can very easily say both insulting religious people and murder are morally wrong and then, if I have to or have the space to, talk about how each wrong should be responded to politically and socially. Saying that they should both be “condemned” doesn’t necessarily imply the same follow-through in action, and I don’t think it should. I haven’t seen a single critic of Charlie Hebdo calling for active government censorship and neither have I seen them say “We should let murderers have a freebie once in a while.”

    Most sensible people would put “harassment” and “murder” in the Wrong Column. The question then becomes how to respond to each in kind.

    And like I’ve said before, criticizing Hebdo and the like is NOT like accusing a rape victim of being implicit in their own rape, precisely because they chose to participate in a crisis in a very specific way. Of COURSE insulting speech is never a morally valid instigation of violence, but acknowledging the, now historic, fact that we are dealing with people who blatantly disagree is NOT validating their position. It is a fact that should inform us how to best move forward.

    I’m kind of stunned that you’d liken this to walking by someone’s house and overhearing a private conversation. There is no, and never has been, anything private about the front page of a newspaper. It’s a PUBLICation. Any westerner in 2015 who has any illusions of “Well, maybe they won’t find out that I put this out for the entire world to see.” is lying to themselves. No one is that naive anymore.

    Speaking of naive:

    “In real-world power dynamics, extremists will not give up recourse to violence for as long as it accomplishes their goals. They will turn to softer tactics of persuasion only if forced by seeing that violence is simply futile and only causes more disrespect of their wishes and puts them more on defense against world opinion.”

    Well, that’s a very narrow view of extremists’ goals. Every tactical action by terrorists feeds into the strategic goal of additional recruitment. It’s literally the only way global terrorism can continue to function. If the last 15 years have taught us anything, terrorism isn’t just a leadership issue, it’s a human supply issue. So now, yes, we killed the guys who carried out the Paris attacks, and maybe we kill the leaders who supported the attack from afar. But now, the leaders of EVERY extremist organization have the same exact narrative that is necessary to recruit in the first place: “The West is so committed to destroying Islam, they are all rallying behind mockery of the prophet and YOU AND ALL MUSLIMS as a moral good. They see YOU as contemptible. They want YOU to bow down and be ashamed of YOUR faith. Defend yourself and the faith of all Muslims everywhere.”

    It’s up to us to find the best way to maintain what goods we have and dismantle that narrative. Freedom of speech is certainly one of those goods, but we’re not using it very wisely. I think if we restrict our reasons that we give to the average Muslim to not radicalize to MATERIAL motivators, we’re only doing half of the job. The existential element is absolutely vital. I think America is doing a better job at the existential than the Europeans, but that could change if we start adopting the Charlie Hebdo approach.

  59. “Nothing is better than mockery at puncturing overinflated egos. It’s a tool – one that can be abused, or even just overused, but it is not inherently immoral or even problematic.”

    Ray, that’s both silly and dangerous. NOTHING is better?!

    If you mock an overinflated ego, you MIGHT disarm it. As in, I can imagine what you’re talking about. But I can just as easily imagine, and recall firsthand, scenarios where it backfires horribly and the situation only gets worse. An overinflated ego is, if anything, more probable to escalate in self-defense. If I trash-talk someone, to their face, and they come back with a performance that VALIDATES their ego, how much more likely are they to listen to any criticism at all? And even if they fail, there’s still an obvious risk that they will internally begin to foster their ego through delusions and paranoia. I mean, look at Sarah Palin and her supporters! The same thing goes for the Westboro Baptist Church. The mockery became part of their own motivational narrative and self-righteousness. “They mock what they fear! THEY FEAR US BECAUSE WE ARE RIGHT!”

    Satire works, at least IF it works, when you inspire the powerless/oppressed to reexamine their acceptance of an externally imposed power NARRATIVE as pronounced by those in power. That’s going to get VERY tricky when dealing with religious DOCTRINE that’s accepted by people who genuinely feel empowered by it. That’s where this whole catastrophe is such a blind endeavor on the part of a secular culture working with Islam. This is not Voltaire attacking the Pontiff. This is an individualized facet of faith that a hell of a lot of people ground their cultural, moral and existential identity in. If you can’t tell the difference, you’re just not equipped to engage.

  60. Ray wrote:

    “Nothing is better than mockery at puncturing overinflated egos.“

    Ironically, that sounds exactly like something someone with an overinflated ego would say.

  61. GM –

    Saying that they should both be “condemned” doesn’t necessarily imply the same follow-through in action

    Let’s say you really do think a woman who got raped was stupid, or at least foolishly imprudent, to have gone somewhere dressed ‘provocatively’. When do you bring it up? At the crime scene? In the hospital during the rape kit? As soon as she gets home? After a couple days?

    The funerals for the people killed at Charlie Hebdo hadn’t even been carried out before they were getting, er, ‘called out’ on their choices and people were implying they bore some responsibility for the hostages taken and killed in the manhunt.

    I see the equivalence in the way people set priorities about what’s important to say and when. I really do think Fincke has a point about ‘but’ and the order of the clauses.

    And like I’ve said before, criticizing Hebdo and the like is NOT like accusing a rape victim of being implicit in their own rape, precisely because they chose to participate in a crisis in a very specific way.

    And yet, somehow I doubt if a woman who “chose to participate in a crisis in a very specific way” got raped, you would condemn them the same way. Am I wrong? Do women who take part in such events get a share of blame if some ‘provoked’ guy rapes some other woman later that day?

    I’m kind of stunned that you’d liken this to walking by someone’s house and overhearing a private conversation. There is no, and never has been, anything private about the front page of a newspaper. It’s a PUBLICation.

    A publication in France, or Denmark, or the United States that ‘provokes’ violence in Nigeria, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, etc. Nobody did anything in those countries, or to those countries. That’s what I’m talking about. They are making demands about how people on the other side of the world must behave.

    That can be legitimate. I remember all the protests about South Africa. Or, today, people agitating to stop bloggers getting whipped in Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, that’s actions people were or are carrying out, not words and cartoons. And I don’t know anybody in the U.S. who’s killed a Saudi Arabian over it.

    Every tactical action by terrorists feeds into the strategic goal of additional recruitment… I think if we restrict our reasons that we give to the average Muslim to not radicalize to MATERIAL motivators, we’re only doing half of the job.

    Well, I think if we actually did tackle “MATERIAL motivators”, we’d be doing easily 80% of the job. Case in point – no form of propaganda isn’t going to eliminate suicide bombings… but something else will.

    “Speaking of naive”, removing a pretext will simply initiate the discovery or manufacture of a new pretext. Removing or reducing actual motivators will have a much more profound effect.

    An overinflated ego is, if anything, more probable to escalate in self-defense… Satire works, at least IF it works, when you inspire the powerless/oppressed to reexamine their acceptance of an externally imposed power NARRATIVE as pronounced by those in power.

    Satire seldom reaches the satirized, true enough. But as you note – and as I didn’t clearly express – it frequently reaches others they interact with. Take the case of Francis; the other soldiers also know the drill sergeant’s attitude now. I don’t think satire would deconvert an imam or a pope. But it can often reach the people who are hearing their messages, and affect the way they evaluate them. Should Soviet samizdat have eschewed all jokes and satire?

  62. The rape victim questions are all red herrings in this context. I’m just not going to sucked into that downward spiral. Women protesting the frequency of rape are not speaking out against some perceived sanctity of rape. Rapists are not defending the act of rape as some kind of important moral good that must be protected. There’s not a billion-strong community with a deep personal commitment to rape, whereupon condemnations of rape are perceived as direct insults to that billion-strong community and their entire way of life. There are no “moderate rapists” as opposed to “rape extremists” to pervert the otherwise peaceful tenets billions of people associate with rape. What are you even talking about?!

    That the cartoons were related to violence in other parts of the world is very much a part of the military and economic exploitation of these people. The cartoons and their celebration by Westerners just further destroy any credibility that we have left over there because they are the cultural backdrop against which all of the material concerns materialize at their front door. It isn’t JUST that a cartoon was drawn and people with zero other interests decided to involve themselves.

    “There are drones overhead, unexploded ordinance under our feet, and one thing we know for sure about the places that are raining death and discontentment on us, is that they hate our religion so much that they will die just to mock it. That is how deep their commitment to hating Islam is.”

    The cartoons REPRESENT US in their minds. WE are the ones who inserted ourselves in the region, and we are allowing anti-clerical bigots define what we represent to these people, from the backfield. Any diplomatic, sincere cross-cultural attempt at mutual understanding has to shout above the blare of stupid, crude jokes that serve no good purpose. Complaining that “removing the pretext of insult” will just be filled with some other pretext as justification for being crass is defeatist nonsense. If they react violently to any of our efforts or behavior, that’s on them. But if WE compromise whatever integrity we have with the broader population, that’s on US. Why buy into their paranoia?! You think you’re being defiant, you are just playing straight into their narrative.

    “Don’t trust these people, they really hate you and your beliefs, and they don’t even try to hide it. They even profit from mocking it. They may offer material goods, but they want to rob you of your salvation that they mock. Don’t sell out. Rise up and defend your faith.”

    The extremists are setting YOUR tone and you don’t even know it.

    That the satire is heard by the broader community is exactly the problem.

  63. GM –

    The rape victim questions are all red herrings in this context.

    Difference of degree, not kind. The protest is against “rape culture”, and yes, there are “extremists” (Google up “vox day rape” without the quotes), and “moderates”. If you don’t see the parallels, perhaps “you’re just not equipped to engage.” :-/

    It isn’t JUST that a cartoon was drawn and people with zero other interests decided to involve themselves.

    Which is exactly and precisely what I’ve been saying. If we take care of the drones overhead, and the unexploded ordnance underfoot, then the cartoons won’t matter. They’ll be – at most – a priming cap with no gunpowder and no bullet.

    Take away the cartoons, but leave the rest… and it’s just explosives waiting for some other spark to ignite. That’s why I pointed to the suicide bombing study – ideology isn’t really important in suicide bombing. It happens when people see their homeland being occupied by foreign soldiers, period. That’s it. If you have ‘occupiers’, then you will have suicide bombing; that’s the ultimate cause, regardless of the proximate causes. Polite and deferential occupiers won’t make any material difference.

    The cartoons are just the fuse, the priming cap, the spark. They’d be nothing but a brief flash without the huge pile of explosive resentment we’ve built. Take away the cartoons, the agitators will find something else, and quickly. Take away the ultimate causes, and the agitators won’t be able to spark terror no matter what tools they use.

    That’s not being “defeatist” at all. That’s being a hell of lot more practical than frantically blowing out whatever match happens to get close to the magazine.

  64. Mocking a religious symbol held dear by 1 in 5 people on the planet and speaking out against a CRIME and the social circumstances within our culture that enable it are not differences of degree.

    Comparing college males who have apparently shattered moral compasses to peaceful, productive citizens who ascribe to a certain religion while attempting to integrate their religious beliefs with a sometimes hostile globalized culture is a shockingly desperate insult to try to prove a point. I’m appalled right now.

    The fact that you think the cartoons “won’t matter” under de-militarized conditions is such a telling example of the unexamined arrogance Western civilization carries into other cultures. The Middle East is primarily constituted by shame/honor based cultures. Does that, as a product of an individualistic culture, inform you at ALL as to how to proceed? The anthropological FACT that you’re dealing with not just different normative ethics, but different ingrained ethical PARADIGMS means that you just have to play by a totally different set of rules.

    This isn’t “Hey, Western 20 year old, you’re actually way outside the goods of your own culture and you’re deeply confused, if not a total moral failure. You might have been malformed by a cultural mutation within the celebrated normative ethics that has moved you away from those ethics. Get with the program.” as spoken by a cultural insider.

    This is “Hey, your culture’s goods are actually not very good. There’s a better way. Everything you’ve been taught by your family, school, church, community, friends, and government on a normative basis from childhood as worthy of admiration needs improvement and radical re-alignment.” as spoken by a cultural outsider.

    But apparently, SCREW THAT! THAT SOUNDS HARD! We won’t KILL the barbarians, we’ll just create an imaginary intellectual ghetto where the White Educated Masters get to tell everyone else what “matters.” They’ll get Pizza Hut and Richard Dawkins as a trade off. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

  65. You also completely botched my defeastist point. I was arguing against the asinine assertion that “We don’t have to stop mocking these people for their beliefs because they’ll just find something else to be upset at.” That’s moral cowardice. That’s bigotry. That’s taking the repeated, point-blank statements by the Muslim community that “These cartoons really do hurt us deeply.” and saying “No they don’t! You’re just looking for a reason to get all upset.”

    It’s cold hearted, manipulative and self-serving.

  66. GM – There’s plenty of ‘appalled’ to go around, it’s not rationed. I mentioned “rape culture”. Those kids don’t have “shattered moral compasses”. They have actual active values. They accept that “rape” is bad, but the point is that they think “so long as she’s not actively fighting me off, it’s not ‘rape'”. Seriously, too, go look up that Vox Day stuff (and he’s not unique). There are cultural reasons why so few rapes get reported and so few of those reported rapes get prosecuted and why so few of those prosecutions are successful.

    The fact that you think the cartoons “won’t matter” under de-militarized conditions is such a telling example of the unexamined arrogance Western civilization carries into other cultures.

    From the perspective of being a significant factor in inciting terrorism, they “won’t matter” – if we actually do stop killing people and overthrowing governments and propping up thugocracies. I was perfectly clear about that rather important context. And I can point – again – to suicide bombing as an example. Ideology is simply not a significant causative factor there. Including in Islamic regions.

    We won’t KILL the barbarians, we’ll just create an imaginary intellectual ghetto where the White Educated Masters get to tell everyone else what “matters.”

    You are not responding to what I wrote, but instead to what you think (wish?) I wrote. Take a moment and reread what I just wrote about context.

  67. Someone who would force sex on a woman if they knew they could get away with it has a broken moral compass. I mean… Hence the conditions “no one would know and you would suffer no consequences.” They don’t know what the word “rape” means apparently, but they know forcing sex is at least a punishable act and SHOULD know that it’s somehow wrong.

    The vox thing is a weak example. I thought this was going to be someone actively defending rape as a good thing. He’s an MRA blogger who needs to be thoroughly re-educated, but there’s zero comparison to a “moderate Muslim” and “radical Islamist.”

    This is frustrating because the whole thing is an utterly moot point. That you’d equate mockery of a symbol and it’s surrounding community (the vast majority of which are peaceful and productive citizens) to decrying an evil ACT and the objectively rotten social conditions that encourage it is mind boggling. Some vague attachment to a subliminally encouraged concept of “masculinity” is not on the same register with “I actively adhere to this religion and it’s tenets.” There’s also no stylistic or semantic equivalent between anti-rape activist publications or protest placards and drawing the persons of the Trinity sodomizing each other.

    I don’t know who this is more insulting to, Muslims or anti-rape activists. And for what?! To find some kind of double standard in my moral and practical qualms against mockery as a socializing method?

    “Ideology is simply not a significant causative factor there.”

    That’s way too reductive. Middle Eastern Muslim culture, well up into the present day, has by and large accepted and practiced blasphemy laws: Insulting Islam is expected to be physically punished. That is the culture that these people are immersed in. Someone getting killed, harmed, or imprisoned for mocking Mohammed is not a scandal. So, if these people are willing to put their next door neighbor in front of a flogging post, or worse, what makes you think they are going to say “Oh, those silly white people. Just let them be.” You are ignoring the cultural realities.

    btw, I’m not just making up ideology as a factor in radicalization:
    http://www.radicalisationresearch.org/guides/francis-2012-causes-2/

    OBVIOUSLY these cultural conditions in the Middle East need to change. I’m not in any way saying that we shouldn’t speak out against it and work for a better life for these people. But you haven’t come close to demonstrating that mockery is an even remotely productive or wise or morally defensible way to accomplish that. Instead, you shift the topic of conversation and try to pigeonhole me as what? A rape apologist? I just don’t understand what you’re doing. I cannot understand why anyone would defend something so useless and selfish especially when it’s proving to be a totally dismal failure and how with JUST a little imagination, you can replace mockery with more constructive behavior, in Stripes and Starship Troopers or otherwise.

    I mean, I gave you my Stripes reply, and you gave me some vague appeal to efficiency. THAT’S IT?! I mean, what about the fact that the DI clumsily engendered an environment where the other troops could treat Francis as an outsider, and further convince Francis that he IS in fact an outsider? A false, secondary hierarchy within equals in the unit enforced by mockery that is NOT healthy, sanctioned by the DI. I’m pretty sure that could have an impact on a unit’s ability to be effective in combat, no? This is to say nothing of the fact that if someone told their DI that they would kill them if they called them Francis, the most efficient thing would probably involve AR 635-200.

  68. Ok, so I’ve given it some thought and I can now better articulate my problems with the rape culture examples.

    First, about questioning a rape victim. The circumstances under which I’d question a rape victim’s decisions would be something like this: She willingly goes to a place populated by people she knows have been accused of rape before, makes conversation with alleged rapists about how badly she wants to have sex with someone that night, takes a fist full of barbiturates and passes out nude in one of their beds. But at that point, I’d almost have to assume that this woman was not mentally stable, so “blame” doesn’t really enter into the equation. I would just have questions as to what compelled her to put herself in that position, recommend rigorous therapy, and then seek thorough prosecution of the attacker(s). In other words, the circumstances would have to be so severe and unusual, and the qualifications of cogent responsibility so absent, I don’t see it as a useful parallel at all to what we’re talking about here.

    As far as rape culture, I don’t think rape culture is a “culture” in the same way as “Muslim culture” or “European culture” or even “NASCAR culture.” The first stark differentiator is, the most sure fire way to identify someone as “part” of rape culture is that they deny the existence of rape culture. The fact that rape culture manifests in very specific, (sometimes) subliminal facets of our culture means it does not function in the same way as other cultures. There’s no rape table down at the multicultural food festival. Full-blown cultures have active, aware participants and purveyors who find pride and identity therein. They embrace everything about it, by name, for better or worse. The purveyors of rape culture advance rape culture exclusively by thinking they are doing something else by having warped moral underpinnings. This is to say nothing of active, self-aware rapists who understand what rape is and do it anyway.

    My critique of the dialogue surrounding rape culture is the way the Left tends to seemingly… gloss over the 800 pound gorilla in the room of a generation of boys being raised with an unlimited stream of pornography being pumped into their rooms from puberty to adulthood. This is the glorious legacy of the sexual revolution and Larry Flynt. To be sure, it’s kind of talked about in skirting ways. Objectification of women, the “media” we consume, etc. But it’s very rarely specific and often goes after soft targets like make-up commercials, because no one wants to come across as “puritanical.” This article in particular almost made my head explode:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/16/living/feat-teens-online-porn-parents/

    “”It’s just that it’s so different now than it was for me … my dad leaving Penthouse on the coffee table in case I was interested,” he said, according to Maddie. “You want to be careful that you are not just wildly clicking around, because there’s scary stuff.”

    and

    “Here’s what I’m concerned about, and let me tell you why,” Schroeder says parents can say. “The images you are seeing do not represent real life. They’re not made for your age group. However, here’s what there is, so it’s not cutting you off completely.”

    Not cutting them off completely! Just a moderate amount of pornography for the children! Then we’re utterly shocked when the 20 year old has callous ideas about sexuality and respecting women and themselves.

    The most “provocative” thing I’ve seen outside of, say, Femen, would be things like the “slut walk.” But this NULLIFIES mockery by reappropriating a derogatory term. It takes the pejorative power out of a word by claiming it for yourself. But the image of Mohammed isn’t a pejorative for Muslims to use against others, Charlie Hebdo was using it as a pejorative AGAINST Muslims. Femen, in fact, cuts themselves off at the knees because in advocating for a radical sexual liberality, they feed the very amoral/immoral underpinnings of the things that directly feed rape culture.

  69. GM –

    I was arguing against the asinine assertion that “We don’t have to stop mocking these people for their beliefs because they’ll just find something else to be upset at.”

    Why are there double-quotes around those words? I never said them.

    What I have been saying, repeatedly, is that there’s no point in worrying about cartoons when there are drones overhead and unexploded ordnance underfoot. It’s pulling a splinter out of someone’s pinky when they have a sucking chest wound. I think the problem of terrorism can be addressed, but cartoons are around two orders of magnitude less important than our militaristic policies – and the current economic and technological balance that drives those policies.

    And a defense of blasphemy is important, when there are regular attempts to spread blasphemy laws around the world. In short, I see the benefits of your approach to be extremely marginal, and not worth the cost in liberty, appeasement, etc.

    I don’t think we’re going to convince each other on sociological grounds. I’m not denying that ideology can be a factor, but (a) it’s the “situational” and “strategic” factors (from your link) that get gated by ideology (as in your link, the contrast drawn between Hizb and al-Qaeda), and (b) situational and strategic factors are more easily and directly dealt with. Again, suicide terrorism: not all occupied peoples resort to it, ideology makes a difference there. But occupation is a necessary precondition, and if it’s not present ideology is irrelevant.

    I’m not making you out to be a “rape apologist”. I admit I’m surprised you don’t find “[T]here is no such thing as marital rape. Once consent is formally given in public ceremony, it cannot be revoked” and “[E]ncouraging men to rape would be considerably less damaging to a society than encouraging women to enter the workforce en masse” and “At this point, unless a womann claims it was committed by a black or Hispanic man she didn’t previously know, all claims of rape, especially by a college woman, have to be considered intrinsically suspect” to be “radical”, but maybe you just didn’t read far enough. Maybe this guy will qualify in your mind, who knows.

    I didn’t claim – at any point – that Slutwalks were identical in every respect to Charlie Hebdo. The specific parallel I see is violating social norms (though in Hebdo’s case, not even their social norms) in a way that’s called ‘provoking’, and getting blamed if people respond violently. I know you think the violence is bad, and you think rape is bad. I’m focused on that violence, that crime – I don’t care about the ‘provocation’. I want to focus on the underlying causes, so that I don’t have to worry about who has a crappy violence filter.

    More specifically about mockery later.

  70. I do actually agree that the militaristic issues are significantly more important. If I was confused about what you meant about the cartoons, then I recant that quote.

    As far as the sociology, I would need to see a lot more discussion on how being ostracized is either unrelated to mockery or has no effect when it comes to either self-radicalization or the recruitment of new radicals. Because, with the way things are going over there, a complete military disengagement might not be the best idea. So if (huge if, but still) we do need to actually do more fighting in the middle east, I still think it’s very important that we represent ourselves and our culture in the best light, while still reserving the right to criticize and condemn evil. I hope I’ve never come across as advocating some excessing coddling of violent people, their feelings are secondary when they are killing people.

    But when this kind of stuff happens: http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/20/world/charlie-hebdo-violence/index.html

    “Today, we are telling France and world countries that while Islam orders us to respect all religions, it also orders us to punish and kill those who assault and offend Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.”

    I think that’s worth paying pretty close attention to, especially in Gaza where the French government has been a staunch vocal ally to the Palestinian people.

    I also would fully vet Vox Day as an ignoramus and a participant in rape culture, but I don’t think he’s the same KIND of radical as an Islamist. See comments in 82 for a better clarification of my issues with rape culture being used in this conversation. Vox Day is avoiding association between his concepts of masculinity and rape. He has some kind of concept of “rape is bad” as probably informed by watching a few episodes of Law and Order. He thinks women are “faking” rape or whatever, but if he could see it verified that they were, in fact, raped, he would condemn it. It’s all very stupid, but it’s not the same thing as “Sharia law and all of it’s harshness is the will of God and man’s highest good.”

  71. GM – Work’s been exceptionally busy and weekends my family takes priority, but I have some time now.

    As far as the sociology, I would need to see a lot more discussion on how being ostracized is either unrelated to mockery or has no effect when it comes to either self-radicalization or the recruitment of new radicals.

    Are you distinguishing between mockery of people and mockery of ideas, here? Either way, that’s a little beside my point – no matter how effective a catalyst is, if it’s not given any reagent to work with it won’t make any product.

    Because, with the way things are going over there, a complete military disengagement might not be the best idea.

    Nor did I propose that…

    I still think it’s very important that we represent ourselves and our culture in the best light, while still reserving the right to criticize and condemn evil.

    And I think allowing even childish and crude humor is, in fact, one of the best aspects of our culture. Take these morons. I think they are willfully wrongheaded, vicious, and just amazingly puerile. But if they got firebombed I’d defend them. The Klan gets to march, Illinois Nazis get to march, Westboro Baptists get to say their piece, even near funerals.

    Remember the Dutch cartoons. They were publicized in a – ahem – rather biased manner by imams who wanted outrage. They certainly didn’t present anything resembling the true context. What if we tried presenting that context? Explaining why people would do, or allow, such things – even if most people wouldn’t do it and don’t approve of it?

    I think that’s worth paying pretty close attention to

    If it comes down to violence and killing, though, in this particular area I’m willing to go with Napier. It may be their custom to kill people who insult Mohammed; it’s our custom to kill people who kill people over ideas and words. “You may follow your custom. And we will follow ours.” When combined with an effort to actually explain our values, I think it’s got a shot.

    I don’t think he’s the same KIND of radical as an Islamist

    Since I didn’t claim the situations were identical in every respect, I can just say, “Okay.” But this will take a separate post.

  72. GM –

    The circumstances under which I’d question a rape victim’s decisions would be something like this

    Well, see, the circumstances in which I’d question a cartoonists or satirists judgment (with respect to violence carried out on them) are similarly stringent. I can understand being angry, even furious, at boorish behavior. Taking that to violence ‘ain’t the same ballpark, ain’t the same league, ain’t even the same sport’. If one of my sons died, and Westboro Baptist decided to protest at his funeral, I’d be… ahem… ‘annoyed’. But I’d only punch them if they actually came up to me and got in my way.

    Full-blown cultures have active, aware participants and purveyors who find pride and identity therein. They embrace everything about it, by name, for better or worse.

    Sadly, cultures don’t have to be “full blown” to have powerful effects.

    a generation of boys being raised with an unlimited stream of pornography being pumped into their rooms from puberty to adulthood. This is the glorious legacy of the sexual revolution and Larry Flynt.

    Pornography is a larger topic than I want to tackle along with everything else going on here. It’s a discussion I’m open to, eventually, but given the spread of topics I think somepruning is in order. I’ll just say that (a) I don’t want, or allow, my kids to get uncontrolled access to alcohol either; and that (b) there’s middle ground between “banning Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and “Larry Flynt”.

    But the image of Mohammed isn’t a pejorative for Muslims to use against others, Charlie Hebdo was using it as a pejorative AGAINST Muslims

    Of course, the common point is that the Slutwalk people are doing exactly and precisely what “rape culture” in general tells them not to do – with the specific warning that by doing so they invite doom upon themselves. (And Hebdo was – very specifically, given the history we’ve stipulated – throwing pejoratives at violent Muslims.)

    But this is probably the time to get into mockery and its (de)merits.

    I mean, I gave you my Stripes reply, and you gave me some vague appeal to efficiency. THAT’S IT?!

    Far from it. Although, I challenge you to do as much in three words. Go to it.

    the DI clumsily engendered an environment where the other troops could treat Francis as an outsider, and further convince Francis that he IS in fact an outsider

    If the drill sergeant’s treatment of Francis were unique, you might have a point. I haven’t been through Basic myself, but the people I’ve talked to who have don’t exactly lead me to believe DI’s are chary with such comments.

    This is to say nothing of the fact that if someone told their DI that they would kill them if they called them Francis, the most efficient thing would probably involve AR 635-200.

    Oh, Francis was far less focused than just the DI. Indeed, it could be argued that his speech wasn’t even aimed at the DI, but rather his fellow recruits. It certainly included them. If there were a “secondary hierarchy”, Francis would have initiated it himself.

    Mockery works when ideas – or people – are taken (or take themselves) too seriously. Especially when such ideas are held to be beyond question. It can knock people out of habits of thought and get them to look at those ideas, or people (or, rarely for humans, themselves) in a new light. Let’s face it – humans aren’t all that good at applying reason to things that are shellacked in respect and reverence. As Heinlein put it, “Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.”

    Mockery isn’t a rational argument as such, but it’s aimed at something irrational. I have said, repeatedly, that it’s not generally the first choice – I use it when polite argumentation has failed – but it does work, often enough to keep it in the toolbox.

  73.