Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The T-Shirt Threat

With increasing frequency, events are occurring that will cause people decades from now to shake their heads and ask themselves "what were they thinking?" Some of these events are major and some go almost unnoticed, but collectively they indicate a spreading mass psychosis. I posted about this one last week. Here's the latest:
An Iraqi architect on Tuesday said he was forced to change his t-shirt before boarding a flight in New York because the shirt had "We will not be silent" written on it in Arabic and English.

Raed Jarrar wrote on his Internet blog ( that he was required to change out of the shirt prior to boarding a JetBlue flight from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to California this month because officials told him people were offended by the shirt.

In an interview with New York Public Radio on Tuesday, Jarrar said, "I grew up and spent all my life living under authoritarian regimes and I know that these things happen. But I'm shocked that they happened to me here, in the U.S."
Read Jarrar's full account of the incident on his blog here. Be sure to take a look at the photos of the t-shirt that terrified his fellow passengers.

Real leaders recognize their responsibility to temper the public's tendency to go off the rails every so often (and yes, that responsibility dovetails nicely with conservatism). Cynical, incompetent, and desperate leaders encourage that tendency and leverage it. For me, this is the root of Bush's failure as a leader, and it's why I have contempt for him. One word sums up that failure perfectly: "Islamofascist." Here's a short dissection of that word with which I basically agree.

As anyone with a sense of history knows, these periodic episodes of mass psychosis repeat every few generations here and, as Europe proved in the previous century, in other countries as well. (If you haven't read Charles Mackay's classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, it's worth checking out.) The real question is how much damage we'll do to ourselves -- and in our current state, to others -- before it ends.


Anonymous wendy said...

His entire narrative is horrifying. Being shunned as a US citizen in Jordan and Syria (even though he was there for relief efforts) and then here in America for wearing a t-shirt with Arabic script. I can't wait for this fucking election to be over!

8/30/2006 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Good post, CR. I suppose this is one of "those periods" that come around from time-to-time. But it's the first of those that I've had the displeasure of living through.

And as a comparison of, for instance, China in 1966-1970 vs. the US in 1946-1954 shows, all such eras are not necessarily created equal when it comes to the tally of total harm.

Nonetheless, I posted on the same topic this morning and I'm just as sickened as you are.


8/30/2006 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read Jarrar's account and felt a deep sense of sadness for how far we truly have fallen.

8/30/2006 9:29 PM  
Anonymous truth said...

Who knew Arabic calligraphy could be so threatening? This could come in handy for crowd dispersal purposes

"If I sit silently, I have sinned" T-SHIRT - Mohammad Mossadegh

8/30/2006 10:20 PM  
Anonymous nil said...

It's a trend in the land of the free and the home of the brave to whine about t-shirts until those who wear them are kicked off their flight.

8/30/2006 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

When Pat Buchanan starts to sound reasonable, we're definitely in the middle of an intellectual recession.

8/30/2006 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8/31/2006 12:46 AM  
Blogger FRx said...

But I see a silver lining, too. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with conservative friends and clients- I'm talking conservative to the core- that are absolutely sick with every bit of what CR's been discussing for months now. And most don't blog, so I know it's not just an echo chamber. More like a silent majority, I suspect (most of us are hardwired to respect the President and the government in general, and are not comfortable publicly talking about profound disappointment with our party- esp among friends). One of the most conservative told me yesterday he hopes the Dem's take back Congress(!!), knowing that will launch investigations, because he's curious to see what we'll find when we start turning over rocks. But mainly, he just wants to go back to the good ol' days when nothing ever got done in Washington.

Anyhoo, this Tshirt episode strikes me as something so inconceivable that when I first read about it I just assumed it was satire from the Onion.

8/31/2006 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cynical, incompetent, and desperate leaders encourage that tendency and leverage it. For me, this is the root of Bush's failure as a leader, and it's why I have contempt for him.

Fucking bingo! I wasn't born hating Bush - he earned it, and this exactly sums up how/why.

8/31/2006 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How far will this go? Do you think when innocent people are beaten to death or lynched enough people will step back from the brink or go completely mad? I'm serious. This crap scares me to death. But what scares me even more is if the elections are rigged yet again and the Republicans stay in power. Do you 'spose all those running for re-election and struggling to cast themselves and 'moderate and independent' from the jackass in the White House will still be 'moderate and independent'?

8/31/2006 6:17 AM  
Anonymous Kevin Wohlmut said...

TCR, thank you for pointing us to this stunning and erudite blogger. Holy crap, did you catch this part of his story?

He asked me if I had any other T-shirts to put on, and I told him that I had checked in all of my bags and I asked him "why do you want me to take off my t-shirt? Isn't it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?" The second man in a greenish suit interfered and said "people here in the US don't understand these things about constitutional rights".

That pretty much sums up everything right there. Explains how we got here and why it's so difficult to pull the country out of this rut.

8/31/2006 11:52 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

It just clicked for me: the most "fascist" Islamo-regime out there is Iran.

8/31/2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger Dualarity said...

This reminds me of the oft-noted contrast between the US home front in WW1 and WW2 - in the former, we had the teaching of German banned, and sauerkraut renamed to Liberty Cabbage. In the latter, one of the most potent symbolic expressions of Allied victory was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - and it was adopted in part precisely BECAUSE he was a German artist. We knew what we were fighting for - real ideas and values, not blood-and-soil nationalism.

8/31/2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

True conservatives despise what the Bush administration is all about and blah, blah, blah.

What are you going to do about it? Vote for Democrats? Or vote for a "real" conservative the next time?

One quibble with Buchanan's analysis - the Bush administration recognized Libya because Libya held off European and other investors for several years in favor of Occidental Petroleum and other US oil companies.

The Lockerbie settlement and the the dismantling of Libya's WMD program were ancillary issues.

8/31/2006 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dualarity -- if it wasn't for the rather hard-to-miss element of Japanese-American interment camps in WW2, I'd agree with you.

9/02/2006 6:43 PM  
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