This issue has been bothering me for awhile. I have heard it reported several times now that two to three of the 9/11 hijackers attended a Christian college here in the US, where they were ridiculed and taunted by their Christian classmates for their Islamic beliefs. That's to be expected--religion and persuasion do not go hand-in-hand.
I wonder though what would have happened if in contrast, the Christian students had told these future mass-murders that if they respected the students' right to hold their Christian beliefs, the students would in turn respect their right to hold their Muslim faith--in effect, that "I'll respect your mind, if you respect mine."
Could one honestly expect such a statement from either side? Or are different faiths, by definition, irreconcilable?
I of course pull for the latter explanation. No truly consistent advocate for religion is going to turn around and say that, "well, I think sinners are an affront to God and they are all going to hell, but we still need religious freedom." The support for religious freedom is the exception to one's religious creed--not the product of it.
But how then does one explain America, where we have religion, and religious freedom? I think part of explanation can be found in the lingering embers of the Enlightenment-a time when reason and persuasion were held in high regard.
Yet I think a more honest (and disturbing) explanation is that many of religious engage in the following calculus: there may be widespread support for religion as such, but not for their particular faith. In the battle to establish a national religion for America, they would simply loose, so America must preserve its religious freedom.
Consider as evidence the passion by which the religious seek to impose the more ecumenical statements of faith though our government, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, school prayer and the national motto. The just position would be to have a government that makes no statement of faith and that is neutral toward the private beliefs of all its citizens. Yet the religious argue otherwise, saying that since the majority holds religious beliefs, these beliefs ought to be reflected in the government.
We have the neo-conservatives to thank for this new development. It is the neo-cons who have emboldened the religious wing of the Republican party and who have argued for majoritarianism and the erosion of judicial checks on the whims of the majority.
So mark my words: the most important--and most dangerous effect of the Bush presidency is the rise of religion as a political force in America.
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:22 PM |donate | link
Friday, February 10, 2006::
Another wet-eye moment for the fallen
The Rocky Mountain News is offering a very moving photo slide show of the funeral of Marine Corporal Brett Lundstrom.
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:10 PM |donate | link
Thursday, February 09, 2006::
The Myth of the 'Moderate' Muslim
An acquaintance asked me recently, in response to a statement of mine in a past article on the Danish cartoon crisis, if it was not possible for Islam to undergo the same "taming" process that Christianity underwent. Wouldn't most Muslims see the differences between the freedom of Western nations and the tyranny of Islamic nations? I had written: "Fundamentally, there is no such thing as a 'moderate' Muslim or a 'civilized' Islam, not when the core beliefs of the Koran and commands of the Hadith sanction the murder and enslavement of non-Muslims in an on-going jihad that will end only with the establishment of a global caliphate."
My answer was two-fold: In dozens of injunctive instances, the Koran sanctions murder and conquest. For example, the Koran 2:191 commands, "And slay them wherever ye catch them" -- "them" being any and all unbelievers in Allah. It is not necessary to cite any of dozens of similar commands to be found in the Koran and Hadith; they are all equally homicidal in nature, competing in lunacy with the ravings of a Charles Manson. To believe they can be interpreted as non-belligerent and pacific modes of serene tolerance is a gross evasion of the fact that words mean what they mean. No prism of interpretation, not by Western non-believers, not by Islamic scholars, can change the literal meanings of "slay," "kill," "terror," "smite," "cut off" and all the other gory verbs and nouns.
The second part of my answer addressed my acquaintance's concern with the "moderate" Muslims. Surely they outnumber the "extremists" and "fanatics" among them, and could play a role in taming Islam.
My answer was that this was unlikely, given the nature of the creed and what it demands of its rank-and-file adherents, which is intellectual torpor and unquestioning "submission." I replied that every Muslim I had encountered personally, or had observed in the press and the news media, did not seem to care about the differences between the West and Islam; that, in fact, it was the wealth and freedoms enjoyed in the West that are regularly condemned as "decadent" by their mullahs and imams.
"Moderate" Muslims choose not to question that official estimate of the secular West. They are taught from day one never to question the wisdom or statements of their "experts" or "holy men," that to do so would amount to questioning or doubting Mohammed himself. Depending on the mood of a Muslim judge, this could be deemed either blasphemy or apostasy. Either way, it would earn the transgressor the death penalty, the loss of some of his limbs, or some other bestial retribution, with no chance of repentance. Here I cite the Koran 2:39: "But those who reject Faith and belie our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire." That is, murdered or banished, and presumably destined for Hell.
I wrote to my acquaintance: "This is an instance of being caught between a rock and a hard place. The man who would extricate himself from that dilemma would no longer be a Muslim. He would be quite extraordinary." Not to mention brave. He would have earned and deserve our respect for such a soul-wrenching feat. I ended my answer with the observation that it took Christianity about 1,500 years to leave barbarism behind, dating, say, from the murder in 415 of Hypatia, the pagan philosopher and mathematician by Christian monks outside the Alexandrian Library in Egypt. The instigator of that atrocity was St. Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria. How long would it take Islam to abandon its jihadist agenda and relegate its saints and prophets to the dustbin? Could the West survive such a wait?
Islam can be "reformed" only by surgically removing its homicidal injunctions. What, then, would be left of Islam? Perhaps a "belief system" that would be as truly pacific as that of the Amish or Quakers. But then it would no longer be Islam.
The foregoing is in the way of broaching the subject of the craven behavior of the Western press in its frantic scramble to hide behind the aprons of "moderate" Muslims to wiggle out of its responsibility to unequivocally and proudly assert the paramount importance of the freedom of speech.
To date, only two American newspapers have published one of the cartoons, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Austin, Texas American-Statesman. Of the broadcast giants, ABC showed the Mohammed in a bomb turban cartoon once, then pleaded "sensitivity" and refrained from further display of any of the cartoons. CBS and NBC anchors reported on the cartoons and demonstrations, as well, but with unconvincing sanctimony announced they would not show the cartoons out of "respect" for the beliefs of Muslims. Fox News, however, had the moral spine to show some of the cartoons. About two dozen American Muslims picketed outside the offices of the Inquirer. Editor and Publisher on February 8th reported an imam claiming that the cartoon run by the Inquirer was "disrespectful to us as a people. It's disrespectful to our prophet to imply that he's a prophet of violence."
That assertion, certainly not as suavely fork-tongued in delivery as the protestations of some Islamic scholars and Mideast studies professors in American and European universities, surely deserves an award for dissemblance. First, it stresses the equation of Islam with race; second, it ignores the homicidal injunctions that pepper the Koran.
Editor & Publisher also quoted USA Today deputy foreign editor Jim Michaels's denial that it was fear that was stopping his paper from running the cartoons. "It was made clear that it is offensive," he said, neglecting to mention by whom. "I don't know if fear is the right word. But we came down on the side that we could serve readers well without a depiction that is offensive."
Why have other newspapers and broadcast media refrained from running any of the cartoons? A better question is: Why have they not upheld their First Amendment right to run them and proclaimed loudly and clearly that they would assert such a right, and not be browbeaten by Muslim bellicosity and threats?
In my original article on this subject, "The Muslims' New Program for Thought Control," I named the reason: fear of retribution, of the kind of threats of violence that are rife in Europe and the Arab world. But no news organization is going to concede such cowardice. Instead, they have retreated behind the apron of the "moderates," and claimed "sensitivity" to their beliefs. But even that is not substantive enough an excuse. They would need some authoritative reference for not defending their right to free speech.
Daniel Pipes provided it on February 7th in a National Review Online article, "The Clash to End All Clashes? Making sense of the cartoon jihad." The NRO solicited the views of some experts on Islam and the Mideast on if it was "a clash of civilizations." Pipes, a respected authority on Islam who has condemned its jihadists and who is certainly no mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden, answered in his article, "It certainly feels like a clash of civilizations. But it is not."
After citing a handful of Muslims who condemned the fatwah on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses in 1989, he concluded his article with this statement:
"It is a tragic mistake to lump all Muslims with the forces of darkness. Moderate, enlightened, free-thinking Muslims do exist. Hounded in their own circles, they look to the West for succor and support. And, however weak they may presently be, they eventually will have a crucial role in modernizing the Muslim world."
So, where are these "enlightened, free-thinking" Muslims? A Muslim by definition can be neither "enlightened" nor "free-thinking," not if he conscientiously subscribes to the tenets of Islam and is not inclined to risk losing the approbation of his fellow Muslims. If he attends Muslim services and practices the required rituals, but plays golf and the stock market, drinks alcohol, lingers over Victoria's Secret ads, reads Shakespeare and is fascinated by the longevity of the Mars rovers, then he must be a counterfeit Muslim, as counterfeit as are many model Christians. Fire-breathing mullahs and imams would be the first to point that out. So, how much of a "crucial role" then could he have in "modernizing" the Muslim world?
None. Rank-and-file Muslims do not "interpret" or "sanitize" the Koran and Hadith. Their duty is to discuss its contents, seek clarification, and obey. Interpretations and meanings are left to their ordained holy men. More "liberal" interpretations might surface if it were not for the existence of the equivalent of Mafia hit squads and enforcers: Hamas, the Glory Brigade, and other gangs of theocratic killers. What average, law-abiding Muslim or imam is going to risk their wrath by committing what the "faith police" would regard as blasphemy or apostasy?
In short, how much "reforming" influence can we expect of a cowed congregation of Muslims? Has any American newspaper troubled itself with these questions, or made these observations? It is doubtful. Political correctness, that poisonous mantra of non-judgmental egalitarianism, has enfeebled the minds of most editors and journalists.
Britain has a more vitriolic population of Muslims than has the U.S. To date, no British newspaper has reprinted the Danish cartoons. Again, fear of retribution has caused the British press to take cover behind the apron of "respect" for Muslim beliefs.
In the London Sunday Telegraph story of February 2nd, 2006, it was reported, "Muslim protests are incitement to murder, say Tories." Many of the placards carried by Muslim protestors outside the Danish embassy read, "Whoever insults a prophet, kill him," "Massacre those who insult Islam," and "Behead those who insult Islam." Can anyone credibly claim these injunctions are open to "interpretation"?
The question is: Who, hypothetically, is being incited to murder? The sign-carriers? Those who are the intended victims of massacres, beheadings, and killings? Or are the sign-carriers guilty of "inciting" others to commit those crimes? The concept of incitement as it is used in this circumstance is ambiguous.
David Davis, the British shadow home secretary, stated in the article, "Clearly some of these placards are incitement to violence and, indeed, incitement to murder -- an extremely serious offence which the police must deal with and deal with quickly....Certainly there can be no tolerance of incitement to murder."
The authorities are trying to pin the blame for the inflammatory placards on "extremists" among the Muslim demonstrators, while excusing the rest of the chanting mob as their right of legitimate protest. However, just how blameless are those "moderate" chanters? They where there, and if by chance the "extremists" broke through the police cordon and set fire to the Danish embassy, would not the "moderates" have joined in the destruction and arson or shouted "God is Great" in encouragement, celebration, and triumph?
If "law-abiding" moderate Muslims are so "peaceful," why are they so silent when their brethren promise death, destruction and vengeance? Is not such a silence a sanction of the violent actions of the "extremists"? Who gives leave to the "extremists" to speak and act in their name? Those "moderates." They are not as guiltless as one might suppose. Their creed demands mental passivity, and they comply.
The same London Daily Telegraph, in an editorial on February 6th, under the heading, "Why extremists treat us with contempt," posed the question after recounting the London demonstrations and questioning the wisdom of the police in arresting two men who counter-protested with placards bearing cartoons of Mohammed, but did not raise to finger to arrest Muslims carrying the inflammatory signs. "Might there be a connection between this cowardice and the contempt some Muslims feel for us?"
Good question, but the Telegraph itself provides the grounds for Muslim contempt. Three paragraphs later, it "submits" to Islam with this cowardly, craven genuflection to the West's mortal enemy:
"This newspaper has a deep regard for Islam, that purest and most abstract of the monotheistic faiths, to whose tenets we recently dedicated a series of color supplements. We share the admiration of Rousseau, Carlyle and Gibbon for the Prophet, which is why, on grounds of courtesy, we have chosen not to cause gratuitous offence to his followers by reproducing the cartoons at the center of this row."
The Telegraph prepared the reader for that kowtowing in another article on February 5th:
"This newspaper would not have published the cartoons of Mohammed at the center of this controversy, images which we regard as vulgar and fatuously insulting." If freedom of speech is abridged in deference to religious "sensibilities," it will be implemented or enforced for the sake of the sacrosanct "moderates," in this instance, "moderate" Muslims. They are the ones climbing into the belly of this Trojan horse of censorship by degree. The answer is not to open the gates and pander to their emotional, non-reasoning "sensitivities." But the Western press is opening them, and we shall all suffer the consequences.
The only solution to "modernizing" the Muslim world is its complete collapse, and the first thing in it to be discredited and discarded is Islam as a "religion of peace." It is, after all, the "moral" basis of that culture. Where is the "Muslim" intellectual who would light the fuse that would demolish Islam? He might possibly step forward if the Western press, as well as Western politicians, displayed the Churchillian courage to speak out against our latter day Hitlers. It is indeed a clash of civilizations, and the one with the most confidence in its own value will be the one to triumph.
::: posted by Edward Cline at 4:03 PM |donate | link
Announcement: Front Range Objectivism Law Conference
The American legal system is in real trouble. Many solutions have been offered–limitations on tort damage awards, restrictions of intellectual property rights, limits on class action suits, increases and decreases in various criminal penalties, and even changes in the Senate confirmation procedure for Supreme Court Justices. Many of the reforms sought do not address the fundamental issues involved, and therefore will ultimately fail. But how does one decide whether a particular reform is appropriate?
To establish and preserve a free society, citizens must recognize, as the foundation of that society, the principle of individual rights. Rights are "the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context" and provide "the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society" (Ayn Rand, "Man's Rights").
The fundamental question to be asked in evaluating any of the proposed reforms to the legal system is whether this change better ensures and protects individual rights, and, if so, how. This weekend conference, the first to focus on the application of Objectivism to legal issues, will seek to bring a richer understanding of individual rights to four topics: 1) judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, 2) property rights as they relate to eminent domain, 3) unenumerated rights, and 4) the right to privacy. These lectures relate to some of the most significant legal issues in America today.
Indeed. The registration deadline is approaching fast, so I recommend that if the state of the law is important to you, you blaze a trail to the Front Range website ASAP.
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:29 PM |donate | link
The Primacy of Consciousness President
The Harry Binswanger List continues to be one of the most important forums in Objectivism and I heartily recommend it. Recently, Objectivists at HBL have been debating the nature of the Bush presidency and its impact on America. Here I stand with Objectivist and historian John Lewis on his point that Bush is not about advancing individual rights domestically or defending America internationally.
The effect of the war has been worse then had it not been fought at all. America is not more secure as a result of Bush's expeditionary campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan when the jihad still survives, when both nations can vote themselves into Islamic republics and when Iran—the fountainhead of Islam and America's key enemy--remains unchecked.
Objectivists who are sympathetic to Bush argue that he represents both the best and the worst in the "honest American" while his cowboy demeanor depicts the vibrant American spirit. If only. The more realistic appraisal is that that Bush's cowboy persona runs only skin-deep, while his neo-conservatism (a literal cross of both liberalism and religion) has advanced some of the worst ideas to be offered in American politics since the rise of the New Left.
Bush spent months begging the UN for permission for the US to protect its interests, only to couch that interest in sacrificial language. Bush's "Ownership Society" died stillborn for want of a moral argument. The "Forward Defense of Freedom" assumed that the liberty-hating people of the world nevertheless desire freedom and that it is for America to bring it to them. The Bush administration and the Republican congress can't even find the sauce to abolish the NEA, let alone correct any substantive spending injustice--or prevent the rise of new ones. And don’t even ask me about antitrust or fundamental tax reform under Bush.
All the while, Bush has been energizing the wing of the Republican party that seeks to establish theocracy in America. The White House doesn’t call an Objectivist when it has a problem--it calls an evangelical preacher. The Bush presidency is a disaster.
People animated by a revolutionary philosophy such as Objectivism ought to be highlighting these facts and explaining the principles that drive them. This debate goes far beyond the question of which political party can do a worse job--it's a question of what Objectivists have to say about the current state of the world and how we will publicly present our antidote to today's unabated orgy of irrationality and sacrifice.
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:22 PM |donate | link
Wednesday, February 08, 2006::
Cartoon Protesters Direct Anger at U.S.
This story has got to take the cake:
Police killed four people Wednesday as Afghans enraged over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad marched on a U.S. military base in a volatile southern province, directing their anger not against Europe but America.
The U.S. base was targeted because the United States "is the leader of Europe and the leading infidel in the world," said Sher Mohammed, a 40-year-old farmer who suffered a gunshot wound while taking part in the demonstration in the city of Qalat.
"They are all the enemy of Islam. They are occupiers in our country and must be driven out," Mohammed said. [AP]
The US is leader of Europe? Wow! I had no idea. And all this time I thought Europe simply hated us American cowboys and wanted noting to do with our pesky little war against militant Islam.
But on the serious side, Sher Mohammed reveals an important part of the jihadist's playbook. He and his fellow jihadists may hate Europe and Israel, but America alone is the "Great Satan."
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:27 PM |donate | link
Poll: 'Communist' China is leading backer of free market
This story caught my eye:
A new poll conducted in 20 countries around the world made a striking finding: The country with the highest level of support for free-market capitalism is communist China, while the part of the world most critical of it is Latin America.
Furthermore, contrary to daily claims by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro that world capitalism is on its death throes, the opposite seems to be taking place. While the poll found that most of the world wants more regulation of large corporations, global support for the free market is rising.
The poll of nearly 21,000 conducted by GlobeScan, a firm that does much of its work for the BBC, and by the Program of International Policy Attitudes of the University of Maryland, asked respondents around the world whether they agree with the statement that ``the free market economy is the best system.''
A record 74 percent of those polled in China said yes, followed by 73 percent in the Philippines, 71 percent in the United States, 70 percent in India and South Korea, 66 percent in Great Britain and Nigeria, 65 percent in Germany and 63 percent in Poland.
By comparison, only 42 percent of Argentines, 57 percent of Brazilians and 61 percent of Mexicans agreed with that statement. The only other country that showed similar skepticism about the free market was Russia. [Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Hearld]
Very interesting, especially the part about China. Notice though that the question did not ask respondents what they thought of capitalism--it asked what they thought of the "free market."
The difference: In China, plenty. China lacks the rule of law, the governing party still tries to control thought, but according to the poll, the Chinese people nevertheless support economic freedom. Might we be witnessing the genesis of a new form of government: free-market authoritarianism?
I’m serious, and I don't think that's as big a contradiction as it sounds. From what I see, China has a lot of economic freedom--and as long as you don't fall within the sights of the ruling (we really can't call them communist anymore) party. Yet China obviously still lives under tyranny.
But I don't think China is fascist--the fascists nominally left business free, while controlling output. Is this the case in China? I'm not sure. After all, how does one then explain that the mass of Chinease support the free market?
Comment away . . .
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:49 PM |donate | link
Tuesday, February 07, 2006::
American Muslims seek censorship?
Now we are starting to see the response of the American Muslims to the cartoon controversy:
More than two dozen Muslims offended by The Inquirer's decision to reprint a caricature of Muhammad that has inflamed the sensibilities of their co-religionists across the world picketed the newspaper yesterday morning.
The cartoon, originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September, depicts Islam's chief prophet with a lit bomb inscribed with Arabic letters stuck in his turban. It ran in Saturday's editions of The Inquirer with a story about the dilemma faced by the media over reprinting a cartoon that has led to wounded feelings, burnt flags and torched embassies worldwide.
According to Islamic tradition, any pictures or images of Muhammad are considered sacrilegious. But the Danish cartoon is particularly insensitive, the local protesters contended, because it perpetuates a stereotype of Islam as a militant religion.
"It's disrespectful to us as a people," said Asim Abdur-Rashid, an imam with the Majlis Ash'Shura, an umbrella group for mosques in the Delaware Valley. "It's disrespectful to our prophet to imply that he's a prophet of violence."
Amanda Bennett, The Inquirer's editor, and Carl Lavin, a deputy managing editor, talked with the protesters outside the building.
"Neither I nor the newspaper meant any disrespect to their religion or their prophet," Bennett said in an interview. "I told them I was actually really proud of them for exercising their right to freedom of speech."
But Bennett stood by the decision to publish the cartoon, saying it "is one of the things newspapers do to communicate directly with people" about issues important to all communities.
Most U.S. newspapers have decided not to reprint the cartoon. As a gesture of free-press solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, newspapers in Europe have run the caricature as well as 11 others pillorying the prophet. One image depicts Muhammad halting a line of suicide bombers at the gates of heaven with the cry, "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins."
The line refers to the belief by Islamic extremists that those who die in a holy war are rewarded with virgins in the afterlife.
One demonstrator, 54-year-old Aneesha Uqdah of Philadelphia, argued that precedent exists for newspapers to withhold some information to prevent harm: "If a woman was a rape victim, you wouldn't publish her name," she said.
The harm in this case, according to the pickets, is to the reputation of Islam at a time when Muslims in the United States already feel under siege.
The demonstrators carried signs that read, "Freedom of Speech, Not Irresponsible Speech," "No to Hate," and "Islam = Nonviolence." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Brilliant. And that was a nice patronizing line by Bennett to a mob of people who seek to silence her paper lest their religious sensitivities be offended. But it gets even better--the Council on American-Islamic Relations has now weighed in on the controversy:
At the news conference, CAIR will: 1) urge the American Muslim community and American media outlets to continue to show the restraint they have exhibited during this controversy, 2) reiterate the Muslim community's strong belief that the controversy is not an issue of free speech, but is instead based on concerns over hate speech and incitement, 3) condemn all violent actions by those who are protesting the cartoons, and 4) preview educational initiatives that CAIR is formulating in response to the defamatory attacks on the Prophet Muhammad. [Council on American-Islamic Relations]
Not an issue of free speech, but instead a concern over hate speech and incitement? Like the same way an unveiled woman is an incitement for lustful thoughts and rape. Gimmie a break.
So we have both an American Muslim street protest and a leading American Muslim advocacy group calling for self-censorship when it comes to any criticism of the Muslim faith and its mores.
How about this: the Islamic faith and its prophet Muhammad are repellant and Muslim sensitivities do not constitute a check on anyone's mind, mouth, or press.
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:15 PM |donate | link
Must we 'allow' all literature?
In the wake of the Mohammad cartoon controversy, I was asked by a reader if we ought to "allow" all literature--for example, literature specifically designed to engender hatred and contempt for other cultures or beliefs.
My answer: there should not be any limits placed on literature and we should "allow" all its forms. Literature by itself is inanimate; it has no volition; it cannot act. Therefore, one cannot credibly "prosecute" it, or hold it criminally responsible for actions taken by a person who has read it and might commit a crime. It is the person who is motivated by the literature who should be held responsible; after all, he chose to take the action. I stress here the role of action, or the initiation of force in a criminal act. Hate literature, such as literature that promulgates the notion of racial supremacy, bigotry, or that even advocates the overthrow of a legitimate government, cannot itself commit harm. To think it does or that it is in any way culpable is a ludicrously irrational notion that recalls the practice in the medieval era of judges trying and executing animals for crimes. It is the person or persons who take actions to advance an irrational cause who should be charged with a crime. And, here I stress crime.
Now, the authorities can be alerted to a group that distributes hate literature, and even monitor its members. But the authorities cannot legitimately act until that group takes a criminal action, such as blowing up a building, or until they have reason to believe that the group is conspiring to take such an action. And when the action is taken, then qua initiation of force, it should be deemed murder, or assault, or destruction of property, and the criminals, if apprehended, should be charged with that crime alone, and not with a "hate crime."
The concept of "hate crimes" is an insidious concession to the collectivist notion that groups have rights. Only individuals have rights. If a "hate monger" murders one individual, then the appropriate charge of murder should be laid against him. If he has committed mass murder (such as the Oklahoma City bombing), then he should be charged with as many deaths and injuries as his action caused. And with nothing more. The man who recently slashed and shot men in a Massachusetts gay bar was to be charged with a "hate crime," not just with assault with intent to kill. (He fled, and was killed in a gun battle with Arkansas police.) "Hate crime" laws are becoming a norm in the U.S., and usually carry heavier penalties than do capital crimes. Not good news.
During a trial, or during a journalistic expose of it, the hate literature that played a role in a crime can be used only to explain a motive, and of course can earn public opprobrium. (And it cannot be denied that much "hate" literature, such as the literature that claims the Holocaust never happened, is despicable.) That should be the limit of its role in the prosecution of a criminal offender. When Nazi leaders were put on trial at Nuremberg, they were not tried for the "hate" literature they were responsible for, but for their crimes of mass murder. One could claim that Hitler's Mein Kampf is hate literature and ought to be banned, or that Uncle Tom's Cabin perpetuates racial stereotypes and ought to be banned from schools and libraries. But Mein Kampf did not bring Hitler and the Nazis to power. It was a culture that put them in power, a culture that was receptive to such literature. And Uncle Tom's Cabin did not perpetuate racial stereotyping; people perpetuated their own ignorance.
In the context of the Danish cartoons and the Muslim demonstrations against them -- demonstrations that in the Arab world resulted in death and destruction -- it is becoming evident that the malicious signs one saw being carried in London were the work of so-called "extremists" acting on orders from Arab governments. This is just now coming out, that Muslim clerics wanted to make the cartoons an issue to test the alleged inviolacy of the freedom of speech and the West's commitment to that inviolacy. Islam is at war with the West. These "extremists" are agents of hostile foreign powers, and should be rounded up and tried as enemy agents. And if they are British citizens, they should be charged with treason and sentenced as harshly as the British allow. In either case, their placards were tantamount to a declaration of war on Britain and the West -- qua their roles as agents of foreign powers.
This ought to be the policy of the United States, as well. Unfortunately, the harshest official response to the London demonstrations has been a call to adopt "hate crime" legislation (the "incitement to violence and/or murder bill"), which happens to be a subject of debate in the British parliament.
Parenthetically, in order to be clear on this point of "allowing" hate or any other kind of literature, and because my reader introduced the term "allow," the "allowance" should not be a matter of legislative permission. It is not a government's function to prescribe what is "good" literature and what is "bad," it is not its proper function to be the arbiter of the quality or content of any kind of literature, whether it is personal letters, essays, books, posters, cartoons, or propaganda, and have the power to "allow" it or prohibit it. This includes the distinctions between portraits of nudes and pornography.
The whole campaign against "hate" literature and to make its creation and propagation a capital offense is a collectivist burglary tool employed to disguise censorship by degrees. After all, who is to determine what is "hate" literature? And what could constitute it? My essays? My novels? I could write a brilliant essay against second-handers, or Islam, or southern Baptists, or homosexuality. I'm sure someone who reads it might deem it "hate" literature. He is free to disagree with it, and to call it what he wishes, but not free to physically assault me or imprison me or ask the government to punish me because his "sensibilities" have been "offended," or in any way to deprive me of my liberty and freedom to write. He can always walk away from it, or ignore it, or compose a rebuttal.
In the same way, Muslims can ignore cartoons of Mohammed. Those who don't reveal their real agenda: they want to subvert the concept of freedom of speech in order to shield themselves from legitimate criticism and opprobrium. It is not irrational skinheads or racists they want protection from, but rather rational, reasoning individuals whom they could not rebut in civilized discourse. You might have noticed in the news that some mullahs, imams and even "distinguished" Islamic scholars at universities are "deploring" the violent demonstrations, chiefly because they claim the protests are giving Islam a "bad name." Too late, that! They are merely playing "good cop, bad cop" with the West, and their protestations are just more yada-yada-yada lip service to beguile the unwary and disarm the undiscriminating.
One Islamic scholar from the American University in Washington this morning on ABC complained in an interview with Charley Gibson that the violence is damaging the move to reconcile the irreconcilable between Islam and the West. Jesus Christ and Jews, however, are legitimate subjects of virulent Arab cartoons; prophets are not. He asserted that it is incumbent upon Westerners to understand this and extend the hand of tolerance and respect, while rank and file Muslims don't need to understand us. He might have added: We are just the infidels ready for beheading and slaughter unless we submit and become servile, ingenuous followers.
Gibson brought up the subject of Jill Carroll, the kidnapped reporter facing execution, and the murders by Islamic "extremists" of Westerners and even other Muslims, but the scholar danced around that and left Gibson sounding like Elmer Fudd. Gibson, like many Western journalists, just couldn't grasp the either/or ultimatum lurking in the scholar's gentle, seductively unbombastic rhetoric.
The only literature that can be held responsible for a consequence is libel -- that is, the author of a libel can be held responsible -- when someone's written or broadcast words demonstrably damage a person's livelihood or reputation. Slander is a form of libel. These actions, however, are not crimes, but civil torts to be adjudicated in a civil, not a criminal, court.
I might add that the Danish cartoons are not instances of slander or libel. Nor can they be called "hate speech" or "hate literature." Islam, like Christianity, Hinduism, or any other system of mysticism, is just that: mysticism posing as a moral code based on the unprovable existence of a commandment-issuing ghost. Any organized faith or creed is a legitimate target for mockery or satire because it is the epitome of irrationality and foolishness. All creeds are merely elaborate systems of tarot cards, ouija boards and crystal balls supplemented by voluminous instruction manuals, and we do not scruple to satirize those frauds and their "prophets."
How often was Richard Nixon caricatured by cartoonists and in television satire as an oily used car salesman? Or Gerald Ford as a bumbler prone to "locomotion malfunctions"? Did those portrayals result in riots or demonstrations by used car salesmen or fiery rampages by the lame and halt? No. Nor did Nixon, Ford, the used car salesmen or the lame and halt sue for their presumably injured "sensibilities."
One can't slander or libel the irrational. One's aim is to stylistically ridicule it, to cause people to recognize and laugh at the irrational or the foolish, to not take it seriously, to communicate to them a faith's inherent appeal to dupes and fools. Islam, however, is an especial candidate for satire and mockery, since under its drab patina of daily humility, devotion and selflessness lurks a bloodthirsty, homicidal maniac. This has been demonstrated countless times; the consistent, truly devout are obeying the central tenets of the creed, and the "Arab street" follows and sanctions. Now, if one calls a killer a killer, verbally or in print, to his face or in an editorial or a cartoon, is that an instance of slander or libel? No. That is identifying a fact. And if a mystic or killer demands "respect" for his beliefs and asks us to refrain from "insulting" them, he is asking us for the unearned, for an esteem to which the irrational is not entitled.
So, all forms of literature are rationally permissible -- that is, free to be written or expressed. To paraphrase a popular saying in the U.S., "Literature doesn't shoot people, people shoot people." If governments or courts begin to regulate literature, however, then that initiation of force -- or censorship -- would justify the only means left for a free people to save themselves from slavery or secular dhimmitude: to revolt, or, as the heroes in Rand's Atlas Shrugged did, go "on strike," which is much the same thing.
::: posted by Edward Cline at 12:11 PM |donate | link
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:41 AM |donate | link
Town Rejects Plan to Evict Souter
It seems the "Lost Liberty" Hotel has reached the end of the line:
Residents on Saturday rejected a proposal to evict U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter from his farmhouse to make way for the "Lost Liberty Hotel."
A group angered by last year's court decision that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development had petitioned to use the ruling against the justice.
But voters deciding which issues should go on the town's March ballot replaced the group's proposal with a call to strengthen New Hampshire's law on eminent domain.
"This is a game," said Walter Bohlin. "Why would we take something from one of ours? This is not the appropriate way."
Souter, who grew up in Weare, a central New Hampshire town of 8,500, has not commented on the matter and was not at the meeting.
Joshua Solomon, a member of the Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights, was disappointed with the vote.
"We lost today, not because there isn't support in this town but because the turnout wasn't here," he said. "It's not exactly the message we intended to have." [AP]
Um, wouldn't a lack of turnout indicate a lack of support? Face the facts, New Hampshire residents don't like eminent domain for private gain and they aren't going to support it--even against an eminent domain proponent like Souter.
The "Lost Liberty" hotel plan was out of line from the start--simple Libertarian mindlessness. You don't meet outrage with outrage--you meet it with a moral argument.
::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:31 AM |donate | link