Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Particularly Slippery Slope

Something that drives me absolutely batty is the argument that every Muslim is somehow obligated to prove his "moderation" by denouncing the actions of a radical few. Jonah Goldberg posts a reader's email, then responds to it:

I agree with you concerning the oversensitivity of the public face of Islam, but I am curious just what you mean by this sentence:

"But these are the images even the moderate Muslims let loose upon the world without much objection"

So how are mobs in the street burning things "images let loose upon the world by moderates"? That doesn't even make sense. Do you expect that every time a mob gathers in anger at some pseudo-insult those Muslims who aren't really offended need to assemble a counter demonstration so that CNN and, by extension, you can see that not all Muslims are burning the Pope in effigy? Moderate Muslims are people with better things to do than hang around and demonstrate. They are people with jobs, families, and lives to preserve. They are people that live next door to the ever-present reality of violent Islam. They are people who don't want to call attention to themselves because they live in a dangerous world. It angers me to see someone as intelligent as yourself jump both feet forward into the event-driven-news-media portrayal of the Muslim world and take a cheap shot at a large number of non-violent Muslims while you are at it.

ME: I might have phrased it poorly, but yeah that's basically what I'm saying. Globally, Muslim leaders seem to all operate on the CAIR model, mumble stuff about how extremism is bad, but shout from the rooftops about how insulting Islam is outrageous and creates an atmosphere where the religion of peace becomes violent. In the meanwhile, moderates let the extremists speak for them by doing nothing. We have seen nigh upon infinite examples of Muslims saying, doing and hoping for horrible, evil and violent things in the name of Islam. I am of the opinion that these examples come from a minority of Muslims (but a significant number of them in absolute terms). These people are insulting Islam, it seems to me, far more than the Pope allegedly did.

This is an old argument now but it seems that Burke's line still applies: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
Quoting Burke of all people to support the idea of collective responsibility is ludicrous; the quote Jonah cites is a narrow observation by Burke about the strength of evil in the face of passivity. Burke rejected the idea of collective responsibility. A far more apt quote on the subject was this, from his "Speech On Conciliation With America" in 1775: "I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people." Burke described talk in France of "fraternity" as "terrible in it's nature, and in it's manifest consequences." Jonah's misguided citation of someone as central to conservatism as Burke is telling, and it's another reason why the words "titular" and "Right" deserve to go together more frequently these days.

Hypothetical and actual examples abound. Whenever a pedophile priest is arrested, is every "reasonable" Catholic obligated either to denounce pedophilia publicly, or proclaim his own innocence of it to his community? My ancestry is Italian. My last name is Italian. I look Italian. Does that mean I have the responsibility to denounce organized crime loudly and publicly every time some John Gotti-wannabe and his crew pull a heist or whack someone? Some on the Titular Right dismissed the abuses at Abu Ghraib as a few bad apples. I must have missed their entreaties to every member of the military to speak out against it.

An important reason to reject collective responsibility -- and Burke understood this -- is because it leads to collective guilt and eventually the imposition of collective punishment. While assigning collective responsibility is often a pretext for what comes next, it's not always done with ulterior motives. But that doesn't make it any less dangerous, because collective responsibility, once established, can be exploited later by those with far more nefarious intent.

An example that may resonate with Jonah is what happened when Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat in Paris, was assassinated by a Jew on November 7, 1938. The Nazis immediately held all Jews in Germany responsible and levied a fine of 1 billion marks against the Jewish community as punishment for the murder. On November 10, the following decree appeared in German newspapers: "Persons who, according to the Nurnberg law, are regarded as Jews, are forbidden to possess any weapon. Violaters will be condemned to a concentration camp and imprisoned for a period of up to 20 years." Der Angriff, a Berlin paper founded by Goebbels, stated that, "For every suffering, every crime and every injury that this criminal [the Jewish community] inflicts on a German anywhere, every individual Jew will be held responsible." This was against the backdrop of Kristallnacht ("night of broken glass") which arguably was the start of the Holocaust.

This isn't just about a nominally conservative member of the commentariat invoking Burke out of ignorance or laziness or both. It's about a specious, pseudo-intellectual justification for ever-expanding war by the radical Right -- from those who thought invading Iraq would "teach the entire Muslim world a lesson" to Tom "Take out their holy sites" Tancredo and the ideological offspring of Curtis LeMay -- and it's become alarmingly common in public discourse. The consequences of apathy about this slippery slope are far too great. With that, I think Burke would agree.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Whenever a pedophile priest is arrested, is every 'reasonable' Catholic obligated either to denounce pedophilia publicly, or proclaim his own innocence of it to his community?"

No, but in a free country we expect Catholics to make a reasonable effort to clean their own house. And when Catholic prelates fail to deal with pedophile priests but instead conceal the pedophiles' crimes, we expect lay Catholics to denounce these actions and demand better from their leaders (as they clearly do). If the Pope perfunctorily condemned the IRA but then went on and on about how "British imperialism" makes terrorism inevitable, American Catholics would be publicly outraged. But global Muslim leaders and groups like CAIR that claim to represent moderate Muslims often excuse Islamic terrorism while spending inordinate amounts of time condemning the Pope's comment or the Danish cartoons. If I were a moderate Pakistani Muslim, I'd try to vote for politicians who'd condemn the forced conversion of those Fox journalists before condemning the Pope. And if I were a moderate American Muslim, I'd try to find better leaders to represent my community than the people who currently run CAIR.

9/17/2006 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were a moderate American, I'd try to find better leaders to represent my country than the people who currently run the United States of America.

9/17/2006 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual, Jonah's logic can be simply restated:

"We have seen nigh upon infinite examples of Evangelicals saying, doing and hoping for horrible, evil and violent things in the name of Christianity."

9/17/2006 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting 17-18 september special report here...(if wayney's site stays up)

9/17/2006 11:47 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

As usual, TCR filets the titular right with true conservative thinking. These guys are so freakin' radical that they make Che Guevara look like Ronald Reagan.

On the catholoc question and pedophile priests as presented upthread, the analogy of accountability is not valid.

Catholics lay people do not have a responsibility to expunge criminals from the rectories or even speak out against them, rather that is the responsibility of the law enforcement apparatus of the state.

If catholics lived in a theocraic state headed by church officials, catholic parishoners would not have the ability as individuals to necessarily speak out against their leaders. Reference: the auto da fe and the Inquisition.

The enforcemnet power catholics have come from the various secular states inhabited by the clergy. If not for that, you could bet Der Panzerpapen and all his merry men would be very hard to keep civilized.

9/17/2006 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Catholic analogy presented here is totally bogus, primarily because nobody is holding Catholics accountable, only Catholic leaders - those that are part of the administration of the Catholic church - and rightfully so. We expect the leadership (which includes priests) to clean house and when they didn't in a manner that was acceptable to the public at large (this is an issue that is not self-contained to the church - it impacted the community as well) then the leadership as a whole were taken to task.

Of course lay Catholics denounced the actions - they were the victims! If it wasn't for them, there'd be no scandal for us to talk about.

9/18/2006 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll buy Goldberg's argument, as soon as every war-shilling right-winger "proves" their sincerity by enlisting.
-- sglover

9/18/2006 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonah just got owned. Thanks TCR.

9/18/2006 3:18 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

To respond to anonymous regarding catholics: the catholic church is not a democracy and never pretends to believe that the unwashed masses have any rights under the law. Practitioners of the faith do so at their own peril, and like I said, their only rotection is form the secular state.

So why would loyalists who ascribe to the authority of such an autocratic hierarchy question that said authority.

Catholics are, by definition, followers of the Pope and the hierarchy;Catholicism is not a congregationalist sect. Therefore it is not surprising at all that they would unquestioningly allow pedophilia within their parishes.

9/18/2006 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, a good takedown.

9/18/2006 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

would love to watch this debate...but think birth pangs condi/dicki should do it instead of W though...

9/18/2006 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

islamofascists have wickedly started a holy war and even want to impose tax on the world according to this...there can be no other choice but to nukem...if not soon then when the time and minds have 'ripened'...

9/18/2006 11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had an interesting conversation with one of my conservative friends the other day. He was bemoaning the PC atmosphere that 'us liberals' had created in this country and that he had to 'watch himself' so as not to violate these 'social rules' we had set up. So I told him he was full of shit and offered him this challenge. If he felt that way, why not approach the next black person and call them a 'nigger'. He refused even after I pointed out that no one but the 'nigger' would hear him. So in the end, he was either too afraid to do something he absolutely knew in his heart was wrong but had been spouting more accusations about 'liberals'. I fucking hate conservatives. Every last one of them.

9/19/2006 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anything above 71 is an obvious error of the bush iq numbers. bet the people who generated this were pressured in some way to overstate the bush iq numbers...they should be ashamed of themselves...

9/19/2006 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ahmadinejad attended a Bush-bashing summit over the weekend in Cuba..."

Is this reference to the recent Global Conference of non-Aligned Nations?

9/19/2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with TCR on every point he makes, I do think it's worth noting that an alarming large segment of the public in Muslim countries apparently (if polls are to be believed) agree that freedom of opinion doesn't extend to criticizing their religion, and that violence against those who dare to do so is justified.

I will also remark that it is HELPFUL to the cause of reconciliation and peace when Muslims who do not advocate such violence say so.

9/19/2006 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous 11:52pm wrote: islamofascists have wickedly started a holy war and even want to impose tax on the world according to this...there can be no other choice but to nukem...if not soon then when the time and minds have 'ripened'...

The URL referenced by this moron says nothing of the kind. No holy war, no "tax on the world". A bunch of Islamic guys want an apology. That's basically it.

9/19/2006 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so so pleased you see it that way...could you be in a small minority???

9/19/2006 9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9/20/2006 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

slightly modified version (less tax demand)...

9/20/2006 5:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this one has no 'head chop' but has tax demand...,2506,L-3305450,00.html

9/20/2006 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No more made up, anonymous, than 'moderate Christians' or 'moderate Jews'. After your visit to the proctologist and optometrist, you might utilize your newfound optical powers to look around the world and see that it's only a fraction of a percent of people who could be categorized as 'extremist reactionaries'. Regrettably, many of them are running U.S. foreign policy.

9/20/2006 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heds, what troubles is why mainstream reports carry tax and head chop threats from sources which are not verified...why publish highly inflamatory stuff which is not verified...what is the object of such reporting...

9/20/2006 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be to further inflame animosity in the run-up to November? Stoking the fires of fear? What? Here, in America, where we have 'nothing to fear but fear itself'?

Where could such rhetoric be emanating from?


9/20/2006 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were a moderate American, I'd try to find better leaders to represent my country than the people who currently run the United States of America.


9/21/2006 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny that you mention Osama. His presence at-large is testiment to the failure of our current leadership. "Dead or alive?" became "Don't really give him much thought" in the span of months.

Given that Osama has been granted provisional safe haven by our ally, Pakistan, one begins to think that Osama is: a paper tiger played by Karl Rove for political theater, or on the 'payroll', or that the current 'leadership' fuels Osama's recruitment objectives, by proxy, for the purpose of extending the conflict (and attendant profits) years into the future.

Which Osama were you referring to, Purple Avenger?

9/21/2006 2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"anything above 71 is an obvious error of the bush iq numbers. bet the people who generated this were pressured in some way to overstate the bush iq numbers...they should be ashamed of themselves..."

No, only you should be ashamed of yourself for being such an idiot

Lovenstein is a hoax.

Claim: According to a study by the Lovenstein Institute, President Bush has the lowest IQ of all presidents of past 50 years.

Status: False.

Origins: No, this isn't a real news report, nor does it describe a real study. There isn't a "Lovenstein Institute" in Scranton, Pennsylvania (or anywhere else in the USA), nor do any of the people quoted in the story exist, because this is just another spoof that was taken too seriously.

The article quoted above began circulating on the Internet during the summer of 2001. In furtherance of the hoax, later that year pranksters thought to register and erect a web site around it in an attempt to fool people into thinking there really was such an institute.


Speaking of IQ's, an ACTUAL study shows that Bush's IQ is higher than John Kerry's:

10/02/2006 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well spotted...glad that was pointed out...

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