A very apt analogy occurred to me as I read some news items about how certain individuals and groups wish to lasso the First Amendment and put it in a corral. For those who doubt that censorship is creeping ever closer, or are confused about the various issues and see no connections between them at all, the analogy will help to concretize the phenomenon.
We have all heard the joke with a thousand variations, such as, "You're a redneck if your front yard boasts three rusty washing machines and seven cars sitting on cinder blocks." Does a rank-and-file Muslim differ much from the legendary American redneck? Fundamentally, no. What defining characteristics do they share? They are notoriously non-intellectual, mentally arrested, tribal in outlook, and prefer to stick to traditional ways of living and of doing things. On the latter characteristic, they are hostile to the prospect of venturing into new and possibly better ways of thinking, living and doing things, and resent the imposition of having to think and choose. They prefer to be left alone to exist in an insular universe of the mundane and the perceptually familiar.
Their reading habits are mainly limited to violent and bloody ghost stories, that is, to the Bible and the Koran, which represent the limits of their grasp of a moral code. What they do not share are a thirst for alcohol and their traditional cuisines. A Muslim would faint with horror or walk away in a holy snit if served a plate of chitterlings by a waitress in a Hooters outfit, while the redneck would feel offended if offered Southern-fried goat meat or a falafel fajita. But they are otherwise cognitively inert, passive manqués who unthinkingly heed the advice of their Bible- and Koran-thumping spiritual leaders.
Their more "advanced" or ambitious brethren are activists of many suasions. For the redneck, these are represented by the Ku Klux Klan and religious conservative politicians. For the Muslim, these are represented by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qada and the Council on American-Islamic Relations or any of its well-heeled "watchdog" clone organizations throughout the country. The "activists" believe that the status quo, tradition and God's writ can be preserved for all time with violence or by insinuating their oppressive creeds into the larger polity under the sly guises of "tolerance" and "moral uplift and purity."
To this end, the Klan believed in instilling terror and obedience in the minds of Negroes, Jews, and Catholics, and in staging house burnings or lynchings to prove they meant business. Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qada believe in instilling wholesale terror in the minds of any group they designate "unbelievers" and blowing up as many of them as possible, and in a dozen or so beheadings and dismemberments, to show that they mean business.
The Klan would leave alone those who "knew their place" and submitted humbly to its "superior" moral code and a Jim Crow political system. Islamic activists claim they will leave alone those who humbly accept the status of dhimmitude and acknowledge their subjugation to a "superior" moral code and a theocratic leviathan, also known as a caliphate. The Jim Crow enforcers would impose a poll tax on those who were barred from voting and all participation in politics. The Islamists would impose a jizya on non-Muslims, and that would be the limit of theocratic politics in the caliphate, for Muslim and redneck unbeliever alike.
Enough of the analogy. I think the point is made. Two of the news items that triggered this diversion are these:
On December 13th, in "Our Saudi Foes," I remarked on how CAIR received, at CAIR's instigation, submission from the Fox network and diluted the moral appeal of "24" by "humanizing" Jack Bauer's Islamic enemies or by simply diversifying his enemies so that they weren't always Muslims. British Muslims, however, are bolder and are going after bigger game.
Lawrence Van Gelder, in a New York Times article on January 26th, reported in "Arts, Briefly," that:
"A British Islamic group complained yesterday that Western films as old as 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in 1981 have promoted a negative stereotype of Muslims, Reuters reported. The group's report called upon British censors to be given expanded power to cut 'objectionable material' and urged cultural watchdogs to be more effective in ensuring 'responsible coverage' of Muslims. 'There is no such thing as a Muslim good guy,' complained Arzu Merali, a coauthor of the report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Its study, attributed to responses from nearly 1,200 British Muslims, said that 62 percent felt the British media were 'Islamophobic,' and 14 percent called them racist. 'Cinema, both in Hollywood and Britain, has helped to demonize Muslims,' Mr. Merali said. 'They are portrayed as violent and backward. That reinforces prejudices.'"
As "violent and backward" as rednecks? Do not for a moment think that Mr. Merali and his colleagues on the Commission are unaware that it is Muslims who are raising holy hell - otherwise known as jihad - all around the world in a kind of global Hatfield and McCoy feud against each other's sects and everyone else, if the daily death toll in Baghdad is any measure. They are hoping that the employment of the term "prejudice" will scare off anyone who might make that point and ask that a Muslim "good guy" to be pointed out to him. They are hoping that no one remembers that uncounted thousands of Muslims around the world cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Madrid and London and Bali bombings, as well, and hailed the perpetrators as "good guys," if not heroes.
Indiana Jones or James Bond impersonators they were not. By Koranic standards, can there be such a thing as a Muslim "good guy"? The only Muslim "good guys" one can observe are the so-called "moderates" who express queasiness about the actions their "extremist" champions take against especially Westerners, but who won't lift a finger in protest against such "stereotyping."
"Prejudice"? A year ago I stopped patronizing a Muslim-owned tobacco shop for two reasons: I couldn't be sure that some of its revenue was being extorted by or "donated" Mafia-style to Islamic organizations up in northern Virginia's "Jihad Alley" that in turn funneled the money to terrorist gangs with sub rosa connections to CAIR and other domestic Islamic entities; and because I grew tired of seeing the otherwise gorgeous Muslim woman at the register going to fat and seed, garbed in hajib, and deferring humbly to her scruffy-looking Muslim husband. Call me prejudiced. I can live with the disapprobation.
Mr. Merali should not worry about Hollywood ever offending Muslim sensibilities or stereotyping Muslims. Other than producing a few insipid films that dealt with 9/11 but which barely mentioned or didn't mention Muslims at all, Hollywood has been resoundingly silent on the subject of Islamic jihad. In fact, the one portrayal of a Muslim that should not offend Muslims is that of Naveen Andrews, who plays the competent and eminently rational Sayid on ABC's "Lost." As a former Iraqi Republican Guard, Sayid has only once taken time to bow to Mecca. (I watch the program because I like some of the characters in it, but I have no idea where it is headed, and I don't think its producers and director knew where it was going, either, when they premiered it.)
Let us turn to the redneck notion of imposing dhimmitude.
The Wilmington, North Carolina Star on January 26th carried a story, "Republican: Scripts need reviewing, Movie prompts lawmaker's incentive idea."
"Citing the controversy surrounding the Dakota Fanning film 'Hounddog,' the leader of the state Senate [Phil Berger] says he wants the government to review scripts before cameras start rolling in North Carolina.
"That system, said Berger, would apply only to films seeking the state's lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury. 'Why should North Carolina taxpayers pay for something they find objectionable?' said Berger, who is having proposed legislation drafted."
In the film, 12-year-old Dakota Fanning's character reportedly is subjected to a graphically filmed rape. Berger may find the scene "objectionable," and so may many of his redneckier Christian constituents.
But, why indeed are North Carolina taxpayers being forced to subsidize filmmakers? In addition to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities? And any other governmental, tax-financed program that promotes "culture," whether or not it produces anything deemed of any esthetic merit? The artistic value or content, or lack of it, of a film is irrelevant. The article goes on to explain Berger's "objections":
"State law denies the incentive to films that are obscene. In state law, obscenity is defined as depicting sexual conduct presented in an offensive way that appeals to prurient interest, lacks any 'serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,' and is not free speech protected by the state or federal constitutions."
And who typically has the power to determine "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific" values? An appointed bureaucrat, otherwise known as a censor.
"Berger said the film-incentive ban should be broadened to include material considered objectionable. He said there should be no First Amendment concerns because the producer would be seeking money from the state government. But he did say that if constitutional questions confused the matter, it would be better not to have a film incentive at all."
True enough, and if the film incentive program were ever dropped, it would save Berger the bother and embarrassment of pondering the true meaning of the First Amendment. But nascent censors like Berger usually think of something else to spend taxpayer money on. Constitutional matters will always confuse or confound his ilk, but won't stop them from taking advantage of the confusion. It should be pointed out, however, that censoring films subsidized by the government is only one step away from censoring films not subsidized by it, on the grounds that they contain "objectionable" material or have no "definable" social or artistic value.
For a clue to what else other than badly made movies may be deemed "objectionable," please refer back to my commentary on the British Muslims above. What the Muslims and rednecks have in mind to fit over everyone's minds is not anything as skimpy as a veil or a hajib. It is a burkah.