Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chris Matthews Cuts a Mean Promo on the Paris Terror Attacks and Religious Grievance-Mongering While The American Taliban's Bill Donohue Explains That 'Muslims are Right to be Angry'

Continuing the good conversation about the limits of tolerance in light of the Paris terror attacks on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and the blind spots in the American media to terrorism by the Christian White Right, that we began here.

[Thom Hartmann also echoed my observations. It would be great to appear on his show. Maybe the friends of WARN can email and tweet Thom with that gentle suggestion.]

The American Taliban and political Islam are more alike than they are different. Both expose violence as a legitimate means of resolving political disagreements in lieu of normal politics and civil society, they are pre-modern and anti-Enlightenment, intolerant, and do not believe in the separation of church and state. These facts stand naked before us; America's corporate media--blinded by American exceptionalism and white racism--are terrified of "connecting the dots" on the overlap between the Christian White Right and their ideological brethren among a small sect of Muslims.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, he who is one of the American Taliban, shared his sympathy for the feelings of "offense" that motivated yesterday's terrorist attack in Paris:

Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction. 
Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures. For example, they have shown nuns masturbating and popes wearing condoms. They have also shown Muhammad in pornographic poses.
While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. 
Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them. 
Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him. 
Anti-Catholic artists in this country have provoked me to hold many demonstrations, but never have I counseled violence. This, however, does not empty the issue. Madison was right when he said, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.”
Although he was not directly to Bill Donohue, and countering the latter's theocratic urge to make the inalienable right to free speech subservient to the magical thinking of the most extreme of those who are religiously minded, MSNBC's Chris Matthews cut a mean promo on politicized Islam, terrorists, and the argument that civilized people must try to sympathize and understand why some others would be moved to commit violence in the name of religion because they feel disadvantaged by secular society.

What are some of the best, worst, most incisive, or piss poor commentaries that you have seen in response to yesterday's attack by Islamic terrorists on the people of France?


Char said...

Both commentaries lack nuance. Matthew's promo resembles more the generic baby-face cheap play to the crowd, with a reliance on tired, warmed-over rhetoric, than it does a CM Punk pipe bomb destroying propaganda with truth and logic. Matthew's argument is an appeal to the White-centric perspective.

1) Matthews begins with the curious decision to only describe the attackers as Islamist, with no qualifiers such as "extremists" attached, as the media tends to do when discussing extremists from other demographics. He immediately proceeds to say "they" (the pronoun referring back to Islamists) hate liberty, equality, and fraternity. Not only does Matthews fail to distinguish between extremists and Islamists, but compounds the fault by portraying Islamists as incompatible with society.

2) Matthews plays to the fear of the Muslim boogeyman we must engage in epic battle to preserve our freedoms, wondering if the attacks are "an odd occurrence, or something we're going to have to live with for decades." As many minorities can attest to, suppression of our rights is something we've been living with for centuries. This kind of threat to free speech is only new to Matthew's White-centric perspective. Police reprisals against protesting citizens, the attempted bombing of a NAACP building, and death threats that have forced feminists in the gaming community to flee their homes and go into hiding are all recent happenings occurring on Matthew's home soil.

3) Matthews regurgitates the White-centric argument that minorities dissatisfied with their treatment under White-centric governments should leave the country. Such arguments position minorities as conditional, secondary citizens whose presence is tolerated so long as they don't become uppity. The attackers were both born in Paris, with just as much stake to French identity as any White citizen.To highlight the hypocrisy of the "go home" style of argument, their parent's are from Algeria, a nation that was exploited and colonized by France after a campaign of genocide.

Donohue makes some good points that are ultimately betrayed by his own extremism. The simple explanation that "Muhammed isn't sacred to me," reveals an all too common motive found at the heart of White-centric intolerance for other cultures. I earlier questioned the value of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons, beyond trying to insult Muslims on the deepest level. If the answer wasn't clear before, it is now. They did it because they could. Donohue is wrong in saying such speech can't be "tolerated," but he's not wrong about the disgusting motivation behind the cartoons.

KissedByTheSun said...

Excellent observations!

I perceive that not buying into the logic of "if we don't make fun of them the terrorist win" is seen as an admission that there is a God by some. Which is strange to me to say the least.

Char said...

What better time to raise these issues than while the subject is foremost in the public dialogue? I wish we lived in a society where we could observe a wait period and revisit an issue just as effectively, later on. Unfortunately, society doesn't work that way. The public attention span is short, aligning with the fleeting coverage of the 24 hour cable news cycle.

I have no problem saying Charlie Hebdo provoked the extremists. I can simultaneously allow that truth while still recognizing the response to that provocation as entirely disproportionate and criminal. I do not adhere to the thoughtless reactionism that dominates White-centric liberal thinking, simplifying complex situations into black and white binaries of right and wrong where the correct position is determined by taking the opposite stance to conservatives. Lasting narratives are being formed from the immediate reaction to these events. Truth cannot afford a day off.

Justin M. White said...

I'm not interested in binaries either, which is why I'm trying to be careful in how I represent my unease with some reactions. I'm not about to champion some divine, absolutist right of free speech in order to reduce the complexities of the issue. Individual rights are and should consciously be weighed against the justice of a society (over-emphasis on individualism has been a failure of liberal imagination for a very long time).

That is the scale I'm looking at: is the private, social harm of Charlie Hebdo to the point that the state should intervene after publication with censure of some sort, such as defamation charges or as hate crimes? I feel such things would better be solved in civil suits between individual parties, but again this is why I'm sticking to talking about my unease with some responses, rather than being prescriptive. To what extent should bigots be allowed to promote hate and provoke, especially when they have a large audience?

And how does our reaction to their provocation and the subsequent attack reflect our values? I really don't want you to come away thinking I'm saying we shouldn’t talk right now about the content of Charlie Hebdo and anti-Islamic bigotry and racism in France. It's that the way in which people combine that specific criticism with denouncements of the attacks can be problematic, and signal a limitation of the liberal imagination on how to respond to inflammatory rhetoric. That limit may easily be applied towards peoples whose free speech rights are not as secure as Charlie Hebdo's.

Char said...

"It's that the way in which people combine that specific criticism with denouncements of the attacks can be problematic, and signal a limitation of the liberal imagination on how to respond to inflammatory rhetoric."

Because these issues all came to a head the way they did, it's practically impossible to separate the issues, as they don't exist in a vacuum. We just have to be clear in distinguishing that criticism from justifications for the slaughter.

Char said...

Chauncey, I would nominate Tim Wise's commentary as a better counter to Chris Matthews' promo than the words of Bill Donohue:

"People seem to confuse the principle of free speech with the idea that one’s speech should be protected from pushback; and while violent pushback is always wrong—always—I am more than a little uncomfortable with the idea that we should make heroes out of those whose job appears to have been insulting people they deemed inferior (whether because of culture or because they were just 'silly superstitious' believers who deserve ridicule because Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher say so)."

Lewis Orne said...

So where are all the calls for the "good" catholics to denounce Bill Donohue in the same way they want muslims to denounce every terrorist attack that happens around the world ?... rolleyes...

KissedByTheSun said...

I don't think we know much about these killers to say of a surety that the recent conflicts between the west and Islamic countries had no bearing on their anger. It could be that Charile Hebdo's inflammatory images were seen as insult to injury. Nor do I think that Hebdo's images were benign like a weather report as though their suffering is wholly unreasonable. Unjustifiable certainly! But not totally unreasonable. The western narrative that these attackers are unthinking brutes is an attempt to deflect scrutiny of the west misdeeds toward Islam. Not wanting someone to treat you or the things you love with disrespect is not unreasonable. Killing them over it however is unjustified.

I also fail to see why so many think that to refrain from disrespecting another's beliefs is to somehow concede that those beliefs are true. Or it means that you are somehow subject to those beliefs if you don't deliberately seek them out and ridicule them. Charlie Hebdo was not doing something benign like drinking water from a fountain and got sidelined because said fountain was some kooks deity. Going back to my gang leader analogy I can criticize gang banging and drug dealing. I can speak against its evils and its effects. I can do this without drawing a picture of a gang leaders mother and then showing it off like "this is your mothers ugly face." I fail to see the need to disrespect what I don't agree with or believe in as if there aren't more dignified ways to express my contrary views.

Char said...

With respect, I'm disappointed by responses like the one you gave. It's as if consumers of the news have been conditioned to view matters through a simplistic lens that only allows zero-sum results. Wise in no way tried to excuse the violence of the extremists, nor did he deny the right of Charlie Hebdo to insult them.

"Now if these extremists were killing folks in retribution for those innocents whose lives had been taken by drones in Afganistan or those 122,000+ Iraqi civilians killed during the Iraq war this would make more sense."

That scenario may very well be the case. One recruited fighters to travel to Iraq and was arrested trying to travel there himself. The other is reported to have fought in Syria. With hard targets increasingly out of the equation, it seems like these extremists went after low-hanging fruit in Charlie Hebdo.

"I wouldn't excuse their violence and I would condemn them but it would make more sense."

That's exactly what Wise did. He condemned the attacks while simultaneously articulating his point that we should not heroize Charlie Hebdo.

"If you want to worship mythological beings that is your prerogative but if someone wants to criticize your mythological beings or make fun of them that is their prerogative as well."

If someone wants to make shooting targets resembling Trayvon Martin (and it has happened), that is also their prerogative. If someone responded to that by going on a execution-style shooting rampage, we would condemn those actions, but still hold contempt for what the victim did.

I use the word "victim" deliberately. In a society where White-centric liberalism too often identifies itself by opposition to conservatism, conservative victim blaming has given rise to an opposite liberal reaction which automatically condemns any criticism of a person's actions, once they are victimized. This is the zero-sum game I spoke to earlier.

"Next week it will be followers of Zeus who will want to forbid weather reporting of thunderstorms because it produces lighting and to do so would be an affront to the power of Zeus."

Your analogy does not fit. That's good, because it highlights a key distinction. The weather report isn't being done to insult Zeuslims. There is a competing and compelling interest in reporting the weather that overrides any thoughtful consideration for the sensibilities of Zeuslims. When asked why they insult Zeuslims by doing the weather, weather-reporters would respond by articulating that the value derived from the weather report necessitates risking offense to Zeuslims, though insulting Zeuslims is not their goal. They wouldn't respond by flippantly stating, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.”

joe manning said...

The media can't acknowledge that the US Taliban and ISIS are joined at the hip, if not the foot, hand and head. To do so would undermine the white coalition of liberals, conservatives, socialists, fascists, and activists who celebrate the "free speech" fake activism fabricated by the media.

chauncey devega said...

"To what extent should bigots be allowed to promote hate and provoke, especially when they have a large audience?"

Discussions about defamation laws regarding mythological figures should worry any person who believes in democratic ideals. Truly frightening. Are we going to all defenders of Jar Jar Binks and the Star Wars Prequels to have standing in the courts now too?

Bigots should be allowed to provoke and promote hate to the absolute limits of the law. Period. This is the price of freedom. Did we not resolve these matters a long time ago in the West?

chauncey devega said...

"Next week it will be followers of Zeus who will want to forbid weather reporting of thunderstorms because it produces lighting and to do so would be an affront to the power of Zeus.

Its all absurd beyond belief !"

Perfectly stated.

chauncey devega said...

"They wouldn't respond by flippantly stating, “Zeus isn’t sacred to me.”

I wish they would. Likewise, whenever people are tv talking about Jesus Christ, Allah, Muhammad, etc. I wish they would have the courage to not use some honorific like "Lord", "Savior", "Prophet" etc., esp. if they don't subscribe to such fantasies.

j.ottopohl said...

Only tangentially related. But, you might find this Washington Post article interesting.

Buddy H said...

I saw this comment by R. Moore on balloon-juice:

Muslims are a marginalized minority in France who face all kinds of official and unofficial discrimination. Cartoons lampooning Mohammed are not some kind of bold telling truth to power; they’re the European equivalent of cartoons making jokes about blacks eating fried chicken and watermelons. You can’t understand the reaction of militant Muslims to those cartoons without knowing about the broader social context of long-term political and social marginalization of Muslims in France, anymore than you can understand the response of black Americans to watermelon jokes without knowing something about Jim Crow.

Buddy H said...

I am an atheist. My wife is a believer. We agree to disagree. She has a friend who invites us to a barbecue every year. The friend is uber-religious; never met a church she didn't like. I attend the barbecue and keep my mouth shut, even when the guests express opinions I find bigoted and ignorant.

I know if I invited her to my house and aired MY beliefs (that there is no hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin in the sky watching over us) she wouldn't keep HER mouth shut.

And that's the trouble with religious fanatics. They won't keep their stupid mouths shut.

Lewis Orne said...

I would argue their religious beliefs/ideology are being lampooned, not their ethnicity. Also the mindset of many radicals such as Anjem Choudary is that ultimately the entire world should be converted to Islam.

Confusing religious beliefs for ethnicity is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. People make a choice to become muslim or christian. Black folks had no choice regarding the color of their skin.

These extremists are no different than the catholic inquisitors from days of old.

Buddy H said...

I sit quietly. My wife is liberal. She knows the priests and reverends and ministers are all about control. She doesn't buy their bullshit, but she still prays. If we visit her family, there are prayers before dinner. I was asked one thanksgiving to lead them in prayer, and I politely and awkwardly declined. (I spent the rest of the night fantasizing that I'd delivered Williams Burroughs' thanksgiving prayer):

We've had arguments in the past. I've learned to compromise. Her prayers give her life structure and make her feel better. And if she feels better, I feel better. That's how I look at it.

SW said...

Is the price of freedom not the onus placed on the speaker (or drawer), to be responsible for his or her own words?

In other words, we are all free to say what we like, for the most part, but are we free from the consequences of the words that we speak?

Regarding the law. The shooters in the hebdo murders were lawless actors. They had no regard for the laws that maintain the French's freedom of expression, and no regard for the laws that serve to minimize murder.

Knowing that a lawless individual may literally take your life for the content you create, would seem to require consideration by the creator, or speaker, beyond their perceived protections under the law.

SW said...

Further regarding the law, expressions intended to incite violence are not protected by American law. This of course does not apply to France, but does help to frame whether what hebdo was publishing was beyond anything that could be reasonably expected to be protected.

chauncey devega said...

So is the solution to riot and kill in response to cartoons and speech we don't like, thus making it an "incitement" to violence and prohibited by law?

Again, once we surrender basic principles the slope becomes very very slippery.

Char said...

Remind me, again, who props up the oppressive Saudi government? That would be the same nation that will work with its allies to kidnap and funnel people through secret prisons, torturing them, and detaining the indefinitely with no due process or regards for the most basic of human rights. That would be the same nation that effectively deports one of its citizens, for raising awareness about forced feeding, by not allowing him to reenter the nation after a trip to Africa. In this same nation the police openly call for punishment of athletes who wear shirts protesting police brutality and the Supreme Court works to find legal justification for denying Blacks simple rights like the right to walk down the street without being accosted and felt up by the police. In this same nation, something as benign as calling for more diverse representation in gaming is met with intimidation ranging from dumping a target's personal information onto the web to threats of Columbine style attacks, forcing many critics to flee their homes. In this same nation bombs are placed alongside MLK march routes and outside of NAACP buildings.

But lets all pretend freedom is under any more threat than it already was because this time it was a group of White bigots whose rights were infringed.

Char said...

Am I to take it, from your response, that you would prefer childish dismissals to well articulated explanations of the value of free speech?

Char said...

"Likewise, whenever people are tv talking about Jesus Christ, Allah, Muhammad, etc. I wish they would have the courage to not use some honorific like 'Lord', 'Savior', 'Prophet' etc., esp. if they don't subscribe to such fantasies."

If you haven't seen that, maybe you've been observing the enemy on Fox too much. The only one that's almost universally attached to an honorific, in my experience, is Muhammed, and that's likely to distinguish the prophet from all of the other Muhammed's out there. It's not exactly an uncommon name.

chauncey devega said...

I do suggest you reread my comment as I am pretty fair in my rejection of magical thinking across the board. I would also suggest taking a brief time out to collect yourself, take a breath, and get a bit of critical distance on the topic before commenting again as you seem a bit heated on the topic right now.

Relax and recharge for the weekend.

Lewis Orne said...

Or how about folks of the Jedi religion whose numbers are suggested as high as several hundred thousand world wide are suddenly offended by criticisms and satire of all things Star Wars. They decide to strike back against their critics, attacking and bludgeoning them to death with light sabre hilts.

Should we then forbid criticisms and satire of the Star Wars mythos?

Char said...

I'm not heated at all, Chauncey. I will say that you should perhaps hold a mirror up to yourself. While I don't think you're "heated," it does seem that you are allowing your attitude toward religion undue influence on your logic.

I bring up Fox, as that is the only channel where I see an expected level of dogma, where there seems to be a requirement for on-air personalities to express reverence for Christianity (though, yes, not all you listed), and going so far as to declare a war has been waged on Christmas just because some say "Happy Holidays."

If I'm mistaken, I'm open to being educated by some evidence showing a widespread fear among on-air personalities to omit honorifics. Attack the points, not me.

Char said...

You really don't even need the analogy. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons shouldn't be forbidden. That's not what some of us are arguing.

Lewis Orne said...

Excellent points, though you lost me with the comment regarding white bigots whose rights were infringed. Are you referring to the folks at Charlie Hebdo newspaper ?

Killing someone isnt infringing on their rights, it is murder. I thought the Charlie Hedbo folks satirized all religions, I had no idea they were considered bigots. Or have I misunderstood you?

Char said...

Murder infringes upon the most basic human right: the right to life.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons indeed satirize a number of targets, just as negative depictions aren't limited to minorities in American media, but take on a certain context when factoring in the context of the society in which those depictions are produced.

I've looked at the cartoons. Some do attempt to make a satirical point. Others are just plain mean-spirited with no other intent than to insult and in some cases serve as propaganda, such as their depiction of impregnated Boko-Haram rape victims as welfare queens.

chauncey devega said...

Reverence for Christianity is a given in American society and mass media; akin to false reverence for the police. It is part of the civil religion. Atheists are among the most disliked groups in the U.S. according to repeated surveys by Pew and others.

One could also make the observation that your attitude in favor of religion holds a high level of influence over your logic.

Your tone is a bit off point right now. I am issuing a temporary "time out" so that you can reevaluate and correct your tone.

Lewis Orne said...

Hmmmm, but when I look at the draconian laws in various islamic countries around the world I say to myself.. hell they abuse their own folks in worse ways.

Perhaps you do have a right to life, though break some law in an islamic country and they will take your life in the drop of a hat.

The sultan of brunei recently declared death senteces for the following actions, rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations and insulting verses
of the Koran and murder.

I won't argue about rape but adultery and insulting verses of the koran ? GTFOH !

Its bad enough for people of color in the U.S. regarding harsh laws and punishments, this mess in Brunei is insane and medieval.

chauncey devega said...

Comments were off for a bit, but back on now.

Char said...

"People make a choice to become muslim or christian. Black folks had no choice regarding the color of their skin."

While I agree with this distinction, it is important not to dismiss bigotry against religious groups, which often is just a cover for bigotry against ethnic groups.

If a person wanted to attack Whites in Utah without directly attacking their race, they might attack Mormonism instead. That's not to say all, or most, criticism of Mormonism is a covert attack on Whites, but you get the point.

France has anti-racism laws which would discourage overt attacks on race,religion, nationality, ethnicity, etc. Cartoons overtly attacking North African immigrants would be in violation of the law, but cartoons portraying the impregnated rape victims of Boko Haram as welfare queens are permitted. Cartoons overtly attacking Muslims are against the law, but hook nosed, lewd depictions of Muhammed fall just short of crossing the legal line.

Pool Party in Gurgaon said...

I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.