I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but the perpetually aggrieved Bill Donohue is a steaming, whistling little teakettle of a man, forever boiling over one thing or another. What is it this time, Bill?
The pope did not go far enough. Radical atheists like the British Humanist Association should apologize for Hitler. But they should not stop there. They also need to issue an apology for the 67 million innocent men, women and children murdered under Stalin, and the 77 million innocent Chinese killed by Mao. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all driven by a radical atheism, a militant and fundamentally dogmatic brand of secular extremism. It was this anti-religious impulse that allowed them to become mass murderers. By contrast, a grand total of 1,394 were killed during the 250 years of the Inquisition, most all of whom were murdered by secular authorities.
Yawn. Same old, same old. I’ve heard this so many times it’s starting to sound in my ears like the way adults talk in the Peanuts TV shows: Mwuh mwah muh mwah mwah mooah. Hitler an atheist? Nope. Stalin and Mao primarily driven by radical atheism? Pick your favorite response.
But let’s leave Mr. Donohue to his angry jitterbug on the stove burner and take a closer look at the more interesting theme here. One thing all three of those famous monsters actually had in common with Christianity was a belief in the teleological progression of history toward utopia, as well as in the redemptive, cleansing power of blood and violent sacrifice. Biblical scholars are united in saying that Jesus, assuming he actually existed as a historical person, was just one in a long line of Jewish apocalypticists. I know they don’t tend to emphasize this in devotional readings for some reason, but the entire point of his ministry was to prepare anyone who would listen for the coming end of the world, with violent retribution for all whom he felt deserving, followed by endless paradise. Since then, whether it’s based on visions of heaven, the classless society, or living in perfect harmony with nature, this idea that the ends justify the means pops up repeatedly throughout history. Utopia is waiting just around the bend, right after we get through the great purification by flood, fire, earthquakes or mass murder. It honestly has nothing to do with religion or the lack thereof. It’s an abstract concept of perfection that isn’t exclusive to anyone in particular.
As I’ve said before, I expect that we’re in for some hard times in the next few decades as the glory days of life in America fade further into the past, and we face choices over how far we’re willing to go to maintain our privileged position in the world, especially as nations like India and China look to get some of our standard of living for themselves. Perhaps some more equitable, balanced lifestyle will be the end result of our downward spiral, but human nature being what it is, I’m not optimistic. And because of that, I don’t see any reason to gleefully anticipate the chaos and upheaval that may come. Hell, I’d be happy to be wrong. For me, a rule of thumb is that if you’re so attached to your ideological convictions that you would rather see widespread suffering on a massive scale than to have to revise those convictions, if you can envision that sort of suffering while feeling smug over having accurately predicted it, you might just be the kind of zealot we’re talking about here.
Tony Blair said that many of the challenges facing the world today were similar to those that confronted Jesus and Mohammed, the founders of Christianity and Islam.…“We face an aggressive secular attack from without. We face the threat of extremism from within.”Arguing that there was “no hope” from atheists who scorn God, he said the best way to confront the secularist agenda was for all faiths to unite against it.
I heard someone earlier ranting about how often you see obese people in Walmart riding around on those electric mobility scooters, sometimes even having the audacity to be buying groceries despite being fat enough already, and it got me thinking.
On Wednesday, Nihad Awad, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, released a statement on “Draw Muhammad Day” that begins, “I will be the first to defend anyone’s right to express their opinion, no matter how offensive it may be to me. Our nation has prospered because Americans value and respect diversity. But freedom of expression does not create an obligation to offend or to show disrespect to the religious beliefs or revered figures of others.”
Note the subtle shift: you’re free to be offensive if you want, grumble mutter blargh, but you’re not obligated to be that way, pointed stare, hint hint. Well, no shit. No one is saying they are obligated to offend other people’s religious beliefs or revered figures. They choose to do so, which is part of the whole freedom of expression thing. What was the problem again?
Ah, that’s right. You’re free to be outspoken on issues that I’m not personally invested in. Well, as Noam Chomsky so memorably put it long ago, Stalin and Hitler were in favor of free speech for ideas they liked. The whole reason for constitutionally protected speech is that almost everyone is tempted to want to carve out an exception when it comes to their sensitivities, and since everyone is grievously offended by something different, it wouldn’t be long before there was nothing safe to publicly talk about, except maybe the weather. No, wait, that might lead to volatile disagreements over climate change. Better scratch that too.
You can do it your own way
If it’s done just how I say
But no one is really saying it should be illegal to insult Muhammed, Jesus or Bacchus, they’re just trying their hardest to pressure people into choosing not to do so. I’ve been both bemused and amused at reading so many of the typical liberal responses to Draw Muhammed Day, some of which make me think that they’d secretly be glad to see a fatwa declared against Reason magazine. It’s nothing new; these are the exact same whining complaints about civility and mean ol’ jerks directed at the “New Atheists” (and the only thing new about them is the willingness to not be cowed by public disapproval of atheists who have the gall to not act ashamed of themselves). I particularly appreciate the patronizing efforts of so many liberals to appoint themselves enlightened spokespeople for all the moderate, tolerant Muslims of the world and inform the Prophet-sketchers that they are needlessly infuriating more than a billion people (whereas I suspect a great number of them are just like the tepid believers of any religion: too indifferent and concerned with worldly pursuits to really care one way or the other).
Speaking of obligations, you would think it would be so basic as to need no explication, but people who do not belong to your particular clubhouse are not obligated to demur and show respect to the things you stand for, either. If this isn’t obvious to you, then you’re probably not all that tolerant and moderate to begin with. See, as a somewhat reasonable person whose first instinct is to assume that other people are also somewhat reasonable, and not impulsive savages who are prone to violent outbursts at the slightest provocation, I want to assume that these moderate Muslims we speak of are capable of looking dispassionately at the situation and seeing that drawing stick figures en masse is an appropriately light-hearted, mocking response to fanatics physically attacking people, issuing death threats, and burning down houses, aimed at showing solidarity and a refusal to be intimidated, and ultimately incapable of affecting their faith in the slightest way unless they choose to let it. I emphasize “response” because this is not a case of someone deciding to gratuitously pick some group at random and do something deliberately offensive for the simple fun of being a dick. Contrary to what Mom always told you as she forcibly separated you from the sibling you were fighting with, sometimes it does matter who started it.
Going along to get along is a perfectly fine thing to do in many situations. Of course, in others, it’s more important to speak the truth regardless of the consequences and stand for principles no matter how it inconveniences people, and as Isaiah Berlin taught us, sometimes virtues can end up in conflict with each other. The gulf between them wouldn’t seem so vast, though, if people could keep one other thing in mind: being offended really isn’t such a horrible thing. Honestly. Take a deep breath, relax your death grip on your narcissistic self-importance, and remember that if your beliefs and sensitivities have any depth to them at all, they’re not going to be seriously threatened by someone making rude and/or ignorant remarks about them. Sometimes, in fact, offense can be a good way to be jolted into introspection that you might not have been inclined to pursue otherwise. I read writers every day that I don’t necessarily agree with because I still recognize that they’re capable of provoking me into thought that I wouldn’t find in an echo chamber.
Brendon is, of course, doing his usual shock jock/frat boy thing in the presentation, but I don’t doubt that the underlying sentiment is sincere, as I’ve heard the same sort of thing from countless people before. We do love us the opportunity to sneer at substance abusers who just wouldn’t listen in middle-school health class, don’t we? Not so “cool” now, are you, stoner boy? Ah, we’ve come so far from the days when early church fathers like Tertullian and Augustine could openly talk about how one of the greatest pleasures awaiting the elect in heaven was being able to look over the ramparts and enjoy the spectacle of all the damned being tortured in hell.
I ask again: aren’t we supposed to be living in a post-Christian world or something? When is Idiot America going to finally get the memo? This relentless drive to moralize about absolutely everything under the sun is so fucking tiresome, not to mention misguided. The majority of human activity simply has no moral significance at all. There are no prizes for effort being handed out at the finish line. No bonus points, no credits, no frequent flyer miles being accrued. The universe does not give a hop, skip and a fuck how you die, at what age, or in what circumstances. John Calvin’s angry God is not going to be mollified if you make it to age 96, bedridden, full of guilt and regret for lost opportunities, and wearing a diaper. Precious few of us ever get to die with dignity intact, whether it comes by way of heroin in our veins, cheese and beef in our arteries, disease in our genes, or whether we just didn’t properly stabilize the ladder before cleaning out the gutters. Given that, you might want to recognize that your main responsibility while alive is to your loved ones, not to a resentful, humorless vision of life as a trial of endurance.
But I just can’t bear it when so-called serious journalism twists itself into pretzel claiming that the story is really “important” because it violated some sacrosanct “value” and therefore it is in the public interest to show pictures of hot babes on a loop and endlessly ruminate publicly about sex. (After which, without a pause, they rend their garments over how all this will affect the children.) The Tiger story is particularly grotesque because they are having such a hard time justifying their overwrought, prurient interest that they are reduced to fulminating about how he is despoiling his brand like anyone in their right mind should give a damn about such a stupid thing.
I would just note that when your “brand” is worth (according to one article I saw) a cool three-quarters of a billion-with-a-B, then it really isn’t all that irrational to be worried about tarnishing it. And let me reiterate that I find this interesting for the fact that even that astronomical sum of money, worldwide adulation and an überfrau who looks like she was assembled to exacting specifications at some Nordic Hot Babe factory wasn’t enough to make Tiger feel that the grass couldn’t possibly get any greener. Students of human nature, take note.
But what’s this? You think this tawdry spectacle didn’t violate some important value? Au contraire, mon frère! Expecting hapless celebrities to serve as repositories of our projections or conduits for our feel-good affirmations is as American as cruise missiles! His job was simply to stand there and keep grinning that huge post-racial grin, a charismatic, young, mixed-race guy who succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in the quintessential domain of stuffy old white men, a mirror to reflect our self-congratulatory vanity, a shiny symbol of our hopes and dreams, and now he’s, uh – he’s…um…
Whoa. Just had a particularly vivid sense of déjà vu. Sorry. Who were we talking about?
Should the unthinkable occur, and meaningful health care reform fail to materialize, I think we can all agree that one of the most important tasks to be dealt with immediately following will be the assignation of blame. Out of many worthy candidates, I offer here two for your early consideration:
- The Democratic President, the Democratic Congress, and their corporate owners, especially in the insurance industry
- An op-ed written by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods
So Rush Limbaugh says he wants Obama to fail as president. The sky is also pretty blue today.
Yet due, I suppose, to many liberals’ rekindled love for the Oval Office and the dreamy hearthrob occupying it, this has struck a nerve among the netroots. Blog after blog over the last several days had comments from outraged little soldiers demanding that tired old tactic, the advertising boycott (because it obviously worked so well the last time they used it).
I’ve seen this come up several times now over the past few years, and really, the only example that could even be partially described as a success was the Imus brouhaha from a couple years ago. Partially, because it wasn’t the netroots alone who applied pressure, and most obviously because Imus just had to lay low for awhile before getting right back in the saddle again. But everyone’s drunk on hopenchange juice and their own self-righteousness, so here we go again.
I’ve asked people before how they feel comfortable with such tactics, and they usually give some lawyerly response about how it’s not really censorship as long as government troops aren’t kicking his door down, that no one’s saying he doesn’t have a right to his opinions, just that he doesn’t have a right to broadcast them to a national audience on the public airwaves, that they’re perfectly within their own rights to refuse to patronize businesses that provide the funding that put him on the air. All of which is true in a limited sense. Unfortunately, it’s also sophistry. It’s extremely disingenuous, relying on indirect loopholes to shut someone up. Hey, I didn’t put a pillow directly over Grandpa’s face and smother him, I just locked him in an airtight room!
Ask yourselves this: when the same logic was applied to the Dixie Chicks case in 2003, did you see that as fair play? After all, no one was trying to say they couldn’t express their opinions to anyone within earshot, they were just saying that they didn’t have a right to a musical career, and the consumers were perfectly within their rights to tell radio stations that they would no longer listen to them if they continued to play songs by the Three French Hens. Amazing how everyone saw this for the bad faith effort to silence unpopular voices that it was. Liberals Progressives still occasionally bring up how terrible it was that Phil Donohue’s show got canceled despite good ratings because no one wanted to be associated with a slightly liberal show when the whole country was going apeshit with jingoism. I don’t know why, because after all, it’s all about making the consumers happy, isn’t it? How about when Michelle Malkin led a crusade against Dunkin’ Donuts for Rachael Ray’s scarf, or just a few weeks ago, when the fetus-fetish crowd went after Krispy Kreme? Was that grassroots democracy in action, or just paranoid, thuggish intimidation? (All of which brings up another important point: the right wing is much, much better at this sort of army ant behavior, so perhaps you should think long and hard about legitimizing this sort of strategy for dealing with political opponents.)
And you know, if your typical liberal progressive had any brains at all, they’d put Limbaugh, Coulter, Palin and the Plumber in a Real World-style setting with cameras and mics on at all times. Wind ’em up and let ’em go. Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican party! But no, the impulse to act like a hypersensitive shrieking ninny is too powerful, I suppose. The end result is that it does nothing but reinforce that besieged bunker mentality, to allow Rush to tell his herd how once again, the forces of political correctness are trying to keep them from hearing the truth, letting them wallow in their persecution complex. Even if you could somehow get his radio show removed from the airwaves, he’d reach his minions through direct mail, webcasts or some other means. What the hell is the point? It’s still good advice for people not overflowing with their own moral rectitude and self-righteousness – if you don’t like it, don’t fucking listen to it.
One thing that’s always struck me since beginning to read the mainstream political blogs is how the issue of concentrated media ownership never comes up, when it was a constant feature of actual leftist commentary. Instead, here you have these morons unwittingly trying to make it so that only someone like Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch can express a pointed or controversial opinion without having to fear for their job. Really, guys? You want to ignore people’s increasing dependence on corporate sponsors to provide anything like a platform or a megaphone that can cut through the oceans of white noise and Twittering idiocy while doing everything you can to make those advertisers more skittish and unwilling to take a chance on anything that doesn’t suit their already vanilla, anodyne standards? Brilliant!, as the Barq’s root beer ads go. Let’s make it so that opinions have to run the gauntlet of mob rule and fickle public opinion to get a fair hearing! Why, I can’t possibly see how this could come back to bite you on your oblivious asses.