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Marine Le Pen Is What Happens When You Try to Meet Racism in the Middle April 25, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, France, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It’s curious.  The notion of “appeasement” is widely misused to justify all kinds of illegal military invasions.  Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler, so now for all time forward it is legitimate to attack anyone we don’t like.  They must not be “appeased.”  Saddam must not be appeased, Gaddafi must not be appeased, Iran must not be appeased, North Korea must not be appeased, Assad must not be appeased, etc. etc. etc.

(This doctrine, curiously, was not applied to South African Apartheid, to Chile’s Pinochet, Cuba’s Batista, Haiti’s Duvalier and a host of other tyrannical rulers.  Nor is it applied today to Egypt’s Sisi or Turkey’s Erdogan or the Saudis, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention Israel’s Netanyahu.  Curious.)

But where do we appease when we shouldn’t?  We do we lack the courage or the moral fibre to confront such cancerous social phenomenon as racism?  Read on.

marine-le-pen-france-election-1493045458-article-header Photo: Aurore Marechal/Sipa/AP

SHAME ON THEM all. French leaders from across the political spectrum could not prevent a far-right candidate who has denied the role played by her country’s wartime Vichy government in the Nazi Holocaust from reaching the second and final round of the presidential election.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen became only the second National Front candidate in French history to make it through to the second round — the first was her Holocaust-denying father, FN founder Jean Marie Le Pen, in 2002 — where she will face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on May 7. Never before in the history of the French Fifth Republic have both the Socialist and the Republican candidates failed to reach the presidential run-off. This is nothing less than a political cataclysm.

So who is to blame for the rise and rise of Le Pen and the FN? The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Go back to September 1984, when the Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius, told a TV interviewer that the elder Le Pen, a card-carrying racist and neo-fascist, was posing the right questions but giving the wrong answers. A few years later, the Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, declared that France had reached a “threshold of tolerance” in terms of the impact of immigrants.

In 1991, after clashes broke out between French police and youths of Arab and North African descent, politicians from the left, right, and center fell over one another to denounce immigration and bash French Muslims. In June of that year, for example, it wasn’t the elder Le Pen who decried an “overdose” of immigrants who brought to France “three or four wives, some 20 children,” plus “noise” and “smell.” It was former center-right prime minister (and later president) Jacques Chirac. A month later, it wasn’t Le Pen who announced that the French government would charter planes to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants. It was then-Prime Minister Edith Cresson, a Socialist. Just a few months later, in September 1991, it wasn’t Le Pen who warned of an “invasion” of immigrants and called for French citizenship to be based on “the right by blood.” It was former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Every time the established politicians and parties hardened their stance on immigration, or on Islam, the FN became less fringe, more mainstream. Perhaps the biggest boost to the LePenization of French politics came from Nicolas Sarkozy. As president of France between 2007 and 2012, he actively courted FN voters and helped dismantle the “Republican pact,” under which the two main parties had pledged to work together to defeat the FN at a national and local level. Remember: It was Sarkozy who launched the “Great Debate on National Identity” in 2009; who ordered the ban on the face veil, worn by only 2,000 out of the roughly 2 million adult Muslim women in France, in 2010; who absurdly declared halal meat to be the “issue which most preoccupies the French” in 2012. And it was Sarkozy who called the FN “a democratic party” and deemed its values “compatible with the Republic.”

The French left, however, also has a lot to answer for. Manuel Valls, Socialist prime minister between 2014 and 2016, defended a ban on the burkini and said the “most important thing” is not unemployment but “the identity battle, the cultural battle.” Marine Le Pen herself could not have said it better. Valls’ Socialist colleague Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for women’s rights, compared Muslim women who choose to wear the headscarf to “American negroes who were in favor of slavery.” And the far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth on Sunday, condemned the candidacy of a headscarf-wearing female Muslim candidate in the local elections of 2010.

These are the moral depths to which French socialism has fallen.

With enemies like these, who needs friends? Should we be surprised then that Marine Le Pen has pulled off an unashamedly cynical policy of dédiabolisation (or de-demonization) in recent years, based on playing down the FN’s (unpopular) anti-Semitism while playing up its (more popular) Islamophobia? Without much resistance, she has framed the party’s hard-line stance on immigration as a liberal defense of French laicité, or secularism, against fanatical and illiberal Muslims at home and abroad.

Islamophobia long ago united French public figures from across the spectrum. “That anti-Muslim rhetoric can be used from the far left to the far right … illustrates the convergence of points of views about Muslims,” Yasser Louati, a French human rights activist, tells me. “They can disagree on everything but not Islamophobia.”

To fight the FN, he says, there has to be a recognition of the role that endemic racism and religious discrimination still plays in French society, from the boardrooms to the banlieues. A former colonial power like France, argues Louati, has “racism enshrined in its DNA.” The official statistics on rising hate crimes, like Sunday’s election result, seem to back him up.

Nevertheless, to also be fair to the French, the latest polling suggests around two out of three of them will vote against Le Pen and in favor of Macron in the run-off next month. Macron is on course to win a resounding victory — but Le Pen has made clear she is here to stay. Le Pen and her fascist friends will be back in 2022 to fight again, enthused and energized, not to mention legitimized, by achieving such success in 2017 — and by forcing both left and right to dance to their bigoted tunes.

So it’s time for a reckoning. The French elites’ strategy of trying to defeat the Le Pens by aping their rhetoric, stealing their policies, and pandering to their voters has been a political and moral failure. As Gary Younge wrote in The Guardian after Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shock victory in the first round in 2002, “Every step you make in the direction of a racist agenda does not ‘neutralize’ racists but emboldens them.”

Fifteen years on, nothing has changed. You cannot appease fascism by meeting it in the middle; you cannot beat racism by indulging or excusing it. Perhaps French politicians should re-read their national motto. Fighting for égalité and fraternité, regardless of race or religion, is the only way forward.

Top photo: Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses activists at the Espace Francois Mitterrand in Henin-Beaumont, north of France, on April 23, 2017.

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning British columnist, broadcaster, and author based in Washington, D.C. He hosts UpFront on Al Jazeera English and has interviewed, among others, Edward Snowden, Hamid Karzai, Ehud Olmert, and Gen. Michael Flynn. He is also the author of two books — a biography of former U.K. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband and an e-book on the financial crisis and austerity economics. Mehdi has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Times of London, among others, and is the former political director of the Huffington Post U.K. and a contributing editor to the New Statesman. He has been included in the annual list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world and named as one of the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter.

Warning: Canada Is Not What You Think It Is February 21, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Immigration, Racism, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I have read some journalism with the theme: can the Trump phenomenon happen in Canada.  Well, my friends, it already has, and it is called “Stephen Harper.”  Just as I refer to current Toronto Mayor John Tory as “Rob Ford minus the crack cocaine,” I would characterise the now departed Canadian Prime Minister (Harper) as Donald Trump without the Tweets (but with hair).  Although the Harper government was soundly defeated in the last election, Harper’s fear mongering legacy lives on in the Conservative Party, which as spawned a gaggle of would-be leaders, who are counting on the Trump effect to further inspire Canadian bigotry.

 

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If you assume Canada is a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Trump, you may be mistaken.

By Andrew Mitrovica

February 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  Warning: if you believe Canada is a pretty, picture-postcard Islamophobia-free zone, then I recommend you stop reading this column. You’re about to be profoundly disappointed, shocked, or both.

Scratch its inviting surface and you will discover quickly that, as in most other Western democracies, Islamophobia is not only alive and rampant in Canada, but it has long been a defining characteristic of at least one of its major political parties and large swaths of the country’s corporate media.

The most recent evidence of this unassailable fact has been on unsavoury display in the still raw residue of the massacre of six Muslim Canadians at prayer in a Quebec City mosque earlier this month.

Immediately after the terrorist attack, politicians went about the ritual of decrying the murders, while praying for the victims and their grieving families and urging their countrymen to rally around the Muslim community as a sign of unity and support.

Meanwhile, after a burst of attention to blunt any criticism that it took a terrorist attack on Muslims in Canada by a white, reactionary male as seriously as attacks in Paris, Brussels or London, much of the establishment media promptly went on its way, as the carnage in a mosque receded comfortably into the rearview mirror.

But difficult questions remained unanswered. Chief among them: What to do about the Islamophobia that was stoked into a raging bonfire by some of the very politicians and media that were pleading – with all the faux solemnity they could muster – for harmony and understanding?

Condemning Islamophobia

Wisely sceptical of the flowery rhetoric, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – a prominent voice for Canada’s Muslim community – has written an open letter to politicians of all persuasions, urging them to take concrete steps to confront Islamophobia and racism and discrimination that exists plainly in their midst.

leitch-harperHarper and Leitch, the dynamic duo of Canadian racism, source: montrealsimon@blogspot.com

 
Finally, the NCCM threw its powerful backing behind a largely symbolic, non-binding motion sponsored by a governing Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that calls on the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and all religious discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec city attack.

For context, it’s important to note that after a few hours of perfunctory debate, Canadian parliamentarians unanimously adopted another Liberal MP’s motion in 2015 condemning the “rise of anti-Semitism around the world”.

Not surprisingly, Khalid’s motion has faced a much more different, tumultuous and instructive fate.

Rather than be approved swiftly and unanimously, Motion 103 has morphed into a running spectacle that has not only dominated Canada’s political agenda but has also exposed the pus of Islamophobia still oozing from Canadian politicians and media that only a few weeks ago were expressing sympathy for men murdered during evening prayers because they were Muslims.

‘Phantom horrors’

Leading the hysterical charge in opposing the motion is Canada’s Conservative Party and the bevy of candidates who are vying to lead it. All but one of the leadership candidates have signalled their vehement opposition to the motion, claiming that, among other phantom horrors, it would stifle freedom of speech and possibly act as a precursor to the invocation of “Sharia Law”.

This is, of course, lunacy. But it is lunacy that has coursed its malevolent way through the core of the Conservative Party for a long time and not, as some have suggested, emerged only lately from the swamp of Islamophobia to take up residence at the party’s radical “fringes”.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them. 

This is a revisionist lie. Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of his tenure fuelling and satisfying the not-so-latent Islamophobia that was politically appealing to his legion of supporters by making the niqab a racist dog-whistle and lauding “old-stock Canadians”.

By the way, the NCCM has sued Harper and his former spokesman for suggesting that the respected advocacy group had “documented ties to a terrorist organisation such as Hamas“.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them.

Perhaps Harper’s signature legacy in this sorry regard was first encouraging, and then promoting, the political career of Kellie Leitch – who, in turn, repaid her patron’s largesse with unrivalled zealotry and loyalty.

During last year’s election campaign, Leitch fronted the unveiling of a Harper-approved “tip line” for reporting so-called “barbaric cultural practices” – a thinly disguised, bureaucratic euphemism for Islam.

And, today, as a prominent and popular Conservative leadership candidate, Leitch keeps channelling her former boss’s odious modus operandi while attending a “freedom rally” stuffed with avowed Islamophobes who are convinced Motion 103 is an Islam-inspired plot to undermine Canadians’ rights and freedoms.

“It’s great to be in a room full of severely normal people tonight,” Leitch told the adoring crowd. “Canadian values are not fringe, and together, I know, we are going to fight for them.”

Leitch is Harper without the filter.

READ MORE: In Quebec, calls for unity amid rising Islamophobia

Cheering her on is an equally hysterical mob of largely right-wing journalists who have pounced on Khalid and her motion, chomping at the bit of Islamophobia while insisting, unconvincingly, that their objections to Motion 103 are motivated solely by their oh-so-sincere concern that it would grant one religion “special status” over all others.

Khalid put an emphatic lie to this transparently spurious reasoning after rising in the House of Commons to read out a sampling of the relentless torrent of hate, death threats and Islamophobia she has endured in the days since proffering her motion.

She has been called a “terrorist” and a “camel humping” “scumbag” who should be shot by a “Canadian patriot” or deported “like a disgusting piece of trash.” She has advised her staff not to answer the phone and to lock the office door behind them.

Undeterred, Khalid rightly excoriated the remnants of Harper’s Conservative caucus for its “cynical, divisive tactics … to try to start a fake frenzy around the word Islamophobia, instead of tackling the issue at hand.”

So, the next time you’re inclined to praise or even consider moving to Canada because it’s allegedly a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Donald Trump, it might be best to remember these obscenities before you act on your impulses.

Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Trump Is a Symptom Not the Disease December 16, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Right Wing, Trump, Uncategorized.
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racism

By Hamid Dabashi

December 11, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  On the same day that the depth of Donald Trump’s racist bigotry hit a new low bycalling for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, another news item emerged that was overshadowed by the circus surrounding Trump: Candice Miller, a US Congresswoman, introduced a bill, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015.

If passed, the bill will suddenly cast US citizens of Arab, Iranian, and Muslim descent as second-class citizens in their own country – a “legislation that will effectively create two classes of Americans – Americans with Middle Eastern or Muslim background, and Americans without that background”.

“If you thought Donald Trump’s divisive, bigoted and blatantly racist rhetoric was just a reflection of the silliness we always face during primary campaigns”, as one observer rightly put it, “think again”.

As world attention is focused on Trump’s racist theatrics, the House of Representatives has just passed the bill with an overwhelming vote of 407-19.

Nothing new

In a country where US-Israeli dual citizens go and as mercenary soldiers fight to steal more of Palestine, and their New York Times columnist father publicly brags about that fact, if an American of Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian, or Libyan origin as much as sets foot in his country of birth she or he is subject to systemic suspicion and discrimination.

These are not easy days for Muslims who live in the US and the horrid criminal acts in San Bernardino or Paris have very little to do with these developments.

They are just a subterfuge. People like Trump and his ilk did not have to wait for the San Bernardino or Paris attacks to occur for their hatred of Muslims or Arabs to surface. That surfacing is a sign of much deeper troubles.

Trump is a symptom not the disease. He is a decoy, a diversion so outrageous, so disgusting, that it overwhelms and hides the real disease.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the US, or his earlier remark to single out and profile Muslims, or his fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson stating point blank that no Muslim should ever become president, are only the most obnoxious versions of a much more deeply rooted bigotry and racism against Muslims that has been dominant in the US for a very long time, but particularly since 9/11.

If you are distracted by the noxious symptom of Trump you will forget that the democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton only a few weeks agoprided herself to have the entire Iranian people as her enemy.

Today leading American liberals such as Michael Tomasky, taking their cues from like-minded Islamophobes gathered under the banner of “New Atheists,” unabashedly expose their racism and single out Muslim Americans and order them to prove their peaceful citizenship in the US by declaring to Muslim Americans that “the rights you have as Americans have to be earned, fought for”. Why? By what authority? Who died and made Michael Tomasky the judge and the jury of Muslim Americans peaceful citizenship?

To me this fundamental abrogation of human decency is worse than Trump’s vulgarity. It is a fundamental democratic principal that a citizen is innocent unless proved guilty, that a citizen is entitled to his and her inalienable rights, and need not “earn” it or “fight for it”.

But who has heard of Tomasky, busy as people are denouncing Donald Trump – and yet to me the roots of Trump are precisely in the pretty liberalism of Tomasky and his ilk.

Historic challenge

The threat the Muslims face today in the US is not limited to fascist wannabes like Trump.

The challenge is much deeper and firmly rooted in the political culture of a country that began its history by the mass murder of Native Americans, continued by the systematic slavery of African Americans, and most recently with a stroke of a pen ordered the US population of Japanese descent incarcerated in concentration (internment) camps during World War II.

Today, US Muslims are in serious danger of the same interment camps to which Japanese Americans were subjected to under similar circumstances.

In every generation the task of fighting racism and bigotry shifts from one scapegoat minority to another.

Arabs, South Asians, Iranians are today in the noble company of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/Latina Americans, Asian Americans, fighting racism and discrimination by one brand of white supremacists or another.

Today, Muslims around the world face not one, but two, dangerous fronts: One internal, the other external.

Internally we are being eaten alive by a gang of murderous mercenary cannibals who have stolen the most sacrosanct insignia of who we are and what we believe in and call themselves “Islamic” one thing or another.

There is no battle more urgent and more noble than this moral and intellectual struggle against the criminal thugs who call themselves the Taliban or al-Qaeda one day, or ISIL and Boko Haram another.

Equally urgent is the external terror visited upon us as we are subject to incessant demonization by the ferocious Islamophobia of the conservative and liberal brands, aided and abetted systematically and financially by Zionist propaganda machinery that wishes to silence the legitimate, non-violent, and dignified critics of their colonial project in Palestine (now best represented in the BDS movement) by frightening us into complacency.

It is not accidental that we learn that Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the US “rests on research from the Center for Security Policy, a neo-con think-tank run by Frank Gaffney, who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy and has been called ‘one of US’ most notorious Islamophobes: by the Southern Poverty Law Center”.

We will have to face these two fronts simultaneously, bravely, consistently and with quiet but determined dignity. Other Americans for generations have fought that battle and continue to do so.

It is now our turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The historic task of defending the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is now squarely on our shoulders too.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

© 2015 Al-Jazeera English

European Lives Have Always Mattered More Than Others January 17, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Imperialism, Nigeria, Race, Racism.
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Roger’s note: to my fellow white congenitally Eurocentric readers, this is what we look like from the outside.

columbus
The White Power Rally in Paris
by AJAMU BARAKA

“The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world.

– James Baldwin

I have witnessed the spectacle of Eurocentric arrogance many times over my long years of struggle and resistance to colonial/capitalist domination and dehumanization. The grotesque, 21st Century version of the “white man’s burden,” which asserts that the international community (meaning the West) has a moral and legal “responsibility to protect,” is one current example; the generalized acceptance by many in the West that their governments have a right to wage permanent war against the global “others” to maintain international order is another.

Yet, when I think I have seen it all, along comes the response to the attack at the racist, Islamophobic publication Charlie Hebdo. Even though I shouldn’t be surprised, I am still left in complete wonderment at the West’s unmitigated self-centeredness and self-righteous arrogance.

The millions who turned out on Sunday claimed to be marching in solidarity with the victims at Charlie Hebdo and against terrorism. They were joined by political leaders from across Europe, Israel and other parts of the world – on the same weekend reports were emerging that 2,000 Nigerians may have lost their lives at the hands of Boko Haram, another Muslim extremist group.

Surely there would be expressions of solidarity with the survivors in Nigeria at a gathering ostensibly to oppose terrorism and uphold the sanctity of life. But the expressions of solidarity never came. In fact, based on the attention the massacre received from the Western press, it was if the massacre had never happened.

It is clear that there was a different agenda for the march and a different set of concerns for Europe. The people of France mobilized themselves to defend what they saw as an attack against Western civilization. However, the events in Paris did not have to be framed as an existential attack on the imagined values of the liberal white West. Providing some context and making some political links may have been beneficial for attempting to understand what happened in the country and a political way forward beyond the appeal to racial jingoism.

The attack could have sparked an honest conversation about how many Muslims experience life in contemporary France and viewed French policies in various Muslim and Arab nations. It could have examined the relationship between the rise of radical Islam and the connection of that rise to the activities of various branches of the French intelligence services. An open discussion might have framed it as a classic blowback operation resulting from the weaponization of radical Whabbanism as a tool of Western power from the late 1970s to its current assignment in Syria. But those ideas were not allowed a forum on that massive stage.

Je Suis Charlie: European lives have always mattered more than others

The Je Suis Charlie slogan like one of those mindless advertising themes meant to appeal to the unconscious and the irrational, nevertheless, has to have cultural reference points, culturally embedded meanings that evoke the desire to want to buy a product, or in this case to identify with an imagined civilization. It does not matter that the supposed superiority of KillingTrayvons1Western civilization and its values is based on constructed lies and myths, it is still the basis of a cross-class, transnational white identity.

The white identity is so powerfully inculcated while simultaneously invisibalized that identification is not seen as the essentialized identity politics that people of color supposedly engage in, instead it is just being “human.” And as we witnessed this weekend and throughout the colonial world, identification with whiteness is not limited by one’s racial or national assignment.

It is not necessary in this short essay to even address the contradictory nature of the European self-understanding, how that self-perception is utterly disconnected from its practice, and how many people in the world see the 500-years European hegemony as an interminable nightmare.

However, for those folks who believe the simple assertion that black lives matter and that “racial progress” will be realized through progressive legislative reform derived from a better understanding of the harmful impact of racially discriminatory practices, the unfiltered expressions of white solidarity and the privileging of white life should be a wake-up call.

The humanity and cultures of Arabs and Muslims have been denigrated in France for decades. Full recognition of the humanity of Arabs and Muslims has always come at a cost – Arabs and Muslims are required to “assimilate,” to mimic French lifestyles, embrace the language, adopt the values and worldview of their cosmopolitan patrons. Older generations of fully colonized individuals subjected themselves to that degrading ritual, but later generations see this requirement as the colonial assault on their being that it is and have resisted.

It is the arrogant lack of respect for the ideas and culture of non-European peoples that drove the French ban on the wearing of the niqab and other traditional veiling clothing for Muslim women, just one example of the generalized discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslims in France. In this lager context, Charlie Hebdo’s blatant disregard and disrespect for another religion, shielded by an absolute commitment to freedom of speech that gives them blanket immunity, is now compounded by the “Je Suis Charlie campaign,” orchestrated in the name of upholding the values of liberal, Western civilization.

What it means for many of us in the Black community is that Je Suis Charlie has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.” In short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.

A shared ethical framework under the system of capitalist/colonial white supremacy is impossible. Deeply grounded in the European psyche and in the contradictions of its “humanist” traditions, who was considered fully human always had qualifications, and equality was always a nuanced concept.

The contradictory ethical framework that informs the world view of Parisians is grounded in the colonial division of humanity that emerged out of the liberal humanist movement of the 18th Century. This tradition allowed for humanity to be divided into those people who were considered fully human with rights that should be respected and those peoples consigned to non-being. Those non-beings became eligible to have their lands taken, to be enslaved and murdered at will.

The valuation of white life over everyone else is a fundamental component of white supremacy and not limited to those people that might be defined as white. That is why no one cares about the families that weep for their love ones in Nigeria and no one marches for them. That is why anti-Muslim and anti-Arab violence has exploded across France but the only mention in the Western press is the supposed fear in the Jewish community. And that is why that after the attack in Baga, Nigerian authorities were largely silent until Nigerian President Goodluck finally issued a statement on terrorism where he forcefully condemned the attack in Paris!

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com

 

A Secular Humanist Jew’s Thoughts on Yom Kippur: On Atheism and Theism, and on Religion and Organized Religion October 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: Here is a thoughtful article on Judaism and organized religion in general.  We live in an age of superstition and no-nothingism, and this is most frightening.  Fanatic  fundamentalist anti-intellectual and arrogant theism has reached to the highest levels of power and authority in the U.S. Republican Party, and in India and much of the Islamic world Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism also has become ubiquitous in places of great political, social, cultural and economic power.  Overcoming this institutionalized irrationality with Fascistic overtones is one of the great challenges of our time.

 

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 10/14/2013 at 16:13:26

Being some reflections on the Jewish High Holy Day and its meaning that I wrote down after attending the Kol Nidre service at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London this past month.  The lead sermon was given by the congregation’s retired Chief Rabbi, David Goldberg.  Two years ago I heard him give a sermon at Kol Nidre service which he began with his modification of a famous quote taken from the English historian A.J. Toynbee: “I don’t believe in God; but I miss him.”

For Secular Humanist Jews like myself Yom Kippur is not a day of atonement, as it is for theist Jews.  We may well have done wrong things in the past year, but we do not regard them as “sins.” “Sin” is a religious concept requiring the existence of an unknown, unknowable, and unprovable, yet somehow all-powerful super-natural being which at some level has control over our lives or parts of them.   For us, Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish calendar, is a day of renewal and rededication. We reflect, we restore, we renew — we look ahead, not behind.

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/11278061@N05/7925325910/: Humanists Celebrate Reality, without prejudice (except when told what religious views to hold, by law)
Humanists Celebrate Reality, without prejudice (except when told what religious views to hold, by law) by Napolean_70

Before getting on to what I resolved to renew my efforts in dealing with, let me say that as a humanist, an atheist, for my whole life, I am used to be looked down upon (or worse) by theists.   Imagine my surprise, then, when I read of what the new Pope, Francis, had to say about atheists, of which I am surely one, in a lengthy response to a journalist’s questions (click here): ” “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying — and this is the fundamental thing — that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.   Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience [emphasis added].”

Even in a column like this one, I have to say “Wow, that is quite a statement,” especially coming from the Pope.   (One can hardly imagine it coming from any of the lay or clerical leaders of the Republican Religious Right in the United States.)   It did make me return to consider a line of reasoning about religious persons, as contrasted with organized religion, that I have held for quite some time.   The Pope made it clear that he does not have a problem with atheists, per se.    And so, I would like to make it clear that I do not have a problem with theists, per se.   Yes, I do understand and agree with all of the arguments against the existence of an unknown, unknowable and unprovable “God” or “Gods” (think Hinduism, of which there are about 1 billion adherents).   But I do think that it is a waste of time to argue against the concept, and worse to make fun of it, that majority of the world’s population who are theists of one sort or another hold to.

The problem, for atheists/humanists and, at many times in history theists of one sort confronting theists of another sort as well, is Organized Religion, like the Catholic Church, like the Republican Religious Right (political by definition), like political Islam, like indeed political Orthodox Judaism in modern Israel.   Our argument is not, or should not be, with belief and the believers.  The struggle of humanists and believers alike who are devoted to the fundamental interests of humanity must be focused not on each other but on our common enemy: those who use religion to advance their own political and economic interests to arrogate to themselves and their patrons resources and the product of economic activity that neither benefit humanity as a whole nor have anything to do with religion, those otherwise known variously as “corporatism,” the “global economy [privately held],” and capitalism.

Further, it must be understood by all that over the centuries of human civilization, more of our brethren have been killed in religious wars, or wars waged for “religious” reasons, or in wars in which organized religions have been an ally of one or more of the warring states, than for all of the other causes put together.   In the Second World War, hardly a religious war in the sense that the crusades or Catholic/Protestant wars of 16th and 17th century Europe were, nevertheless, on the belt buckle of every German Wehrmacht soldier was the slogan (originated by the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s) “Gott mit Uns.” The traditional Japanese religion of ancestor worship, Shinto, was mobilized by the fascist leadership to help them mobilize the whole population behind the war effort.   The Catholic Church was closely allied with both Benito Mussolini’s (Italian) and Francisco Franco’s (Spanish) fascist states.   In the United States, it was not like that, but there were the frequent imprecations to God for support in battle and even a popular song that I remember well from my youth during that conflict: “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”

Presently, The US Republican Party runs in major part on the issues that are central to the Fundamentalist Christians and Jews who are central to the Republican base: homophobia, religious determinism in policy governing the outcome of pregnancy, the introduction of organized religious activity into the public schools, and in general the steady erosion of the Constitutional boundaries separating church and state.   In political Islam, “Islamism” is very clear that its goal is to take full political power so that it may rule under the provisions of “Sharia Law.”   (Funnily enough, many of the provisions of Sharia Law, against which the Islamophobes of the Republican Religious Right just love to rail, are strikingly similar to the law that the latter would like to impose across the United States.   The central feature of both is that “religious law” [as they interpret it of course] should stand above any civil constitution.   Don’t believe me?   Just ask Rick Santorum, the Dominionist Mike Huckabee, Antonin Scalia, and etc.)   For many Israelis on the Right, the whole policy that has been followed by their Right-wing governments over the years, the gradual erosion and (the hoped for) eventual expulsion (voluntary or involuntary) of the Arab population in the Occupied Territories is based on the Biblical concept of the “Land of Israel.”

Through my writing I have been fighting the forces of the Republican Religious Right for some years.   The original of my current book The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel ( http://www.puntopress.com/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/ ) was published in 1996.   And so, what is my renewal for this, the Jewish New Year?   To rededicate myself to that struggle, but to feature the line of reasoning that I have outlined above.   Our struggle is not with religion, per se, nor with its adherents, as individuals.   Our struggle is most correctly with Organized Religion and how it is used to further the interests of Reaction by every government around the world that does use it in one way or another, which in modern times means capitalism and all of its present and future negative outcomes for all of mankind, whether theist or humanist.   That is our challenge, and for the preservation of our species and indeed many others, that is the challenge we have to meet.

 

 

http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/

 

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books on health policy, health and wellness, and sports and regular exercise. In (more…)

Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths December 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, Political Commentary.
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Etiquette-based prohibitions on speaking ill of the dead should apply to private individuals, not public figures

By Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com, December 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2005 file photo, British essayist Christopher Hitchens speaks during a debate in New York.  (AP Photo/Chad Rachman, File) (Credit: Associated Press)

One of the most intensely propagandistic weeks in the last several decades began on June 5, 2004, the day Ronald Reagan died at the age of 93 in Bel Air, California. For the next six days, his body was transported to, and his casket displayed in, multiple venues around the nation — first to a funeral home in Santa Monica; then to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it remained for two full days as over 100,000 people paid their respects; then onto the U.S. Capitol, where his casket was taken by horse-drawn caisson along Constitution Avenue, and then lay in state under the dome for the next day-and-a-half; then to a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral presided over by President Bush and attended by dozens of past and present world leaders; and then back to the Presidential Library in California, where another service was held and his body finally interred. Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death; as CNN anchor Judy Woodruff observed the day Reagan’s body arrived in the capital: “Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.”

Each one of those mournful events was nationally televised and drenched in somber, intense pageantry. At the center of it all was the prominently displayed grief of his second wife, Nancy, to whom he was married for 52 years. The iconic moment of the week-long national funeral occurred on the last day, at the internment, when she broke down for the first time and famously hugged and kissed her husband’s casket, while holding a folded American flag, seemingly unwilling to let him go immediately before his body was lowered into the ground.

But the most notable aspect of that intense public ritual was the full-scale canonization of this deeply controversial, divisive and consequential political figure. Americans — including millions too young to remember his presidency — were bombarded with a full week of media discussions which completely whitewashed Reagan’s actions in office: that which made him an important enough historical figure to render his death worthy of such worldwide attention in the first place. There was a virtual media prohibition on expressing a single critical utterance about what he did as President and any harm that he caused. That’s not because the elegies to Reagan were apolitical — they were aggressively political — but because nothing undercutting his deification was permitted. Typifying the unbroken,week-long media tone of reverence was this from Woodruff at the start of CNN’s broadcast on the day Reagan’s casket arrived in Washington:

We are witnessing a moment in history, a moment when this city, which is hustle-bustle personified, a city where people fiercely protect their interests and lobby for the issues that matter most to them, all that is put aside, politics is put aside, while we pay respects and deep honor to this president, who literally changed a generation, if not more, of American students of politics.

I have talked to so many young people over the last few days who came up to me and said, I started paying attention to politics because of Ronald Reagan.

Just a little while ago, I was talking with Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House. He, I got into politics. He said, I ran to be chairman of the my precinct. He said, I was a businessman. I was running an insects — he called it a bug business. It was insect removal. And he said, Ronald Reagan inspired me to get into politics. I’d been sitting around griping, and he was the one. He gave me reason to get involved and to think that we could make a difference.”

So he changed, he inspired, and we now have a chance today and through this whole week to take note of him.

The key claim there was that “politics is put aside.” That’s precisely what did not happen. The entire spectacle was political to its core. Following Woodruff’s proclamation were funeral speeches, all broadcast by CNN, by then-House Speaker Denny Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney hailing the former President for gifting the nation with peace and prosperity, rejuvenating national greatness, and winning the Cold War. This scene repeated itself over and over during that week: extremely politicized tributes to the greatness of Ronald Reagan continuously broadcast to the nation without challenge and endorsed by its “neutral” media — all shielded from refutation or balance by the grief of a widow and social mores that bar one from speaking ill of the dead.

That week forever changed how Ronald Reagan — and his conservative ideology — were perceived. As Gallup put it in 2004: Reagan had, at best, “routinely average ratings . . . while he served in office between 1981 and 1989.” Indeed, “the two presidents who followed Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, each had higher average ratings than Reagan, as did three earlier presidents — Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower.”

Though he became more popular after leaving office (like most Presidents), it was that week-long bombardment of hagiography that sealed Reagan’s status as Great and Cherished Leader. As media and political figures lavished him with politicized praise, there was virtually no mention of the brutal, civilian-extinguishing covert wars he waged in Central America, his funding of terrorists in Nicaragua, the pervasive illegality of the Iran-contra scandal perpetrated by his top aides and possibly himself, the explosion of wealth and income inequality ushered in by “Reagonmics” which persists today, his escalation of the racially disparate Drug War, his slashing of domestic programs for the poor accompanied by a deficit-causing build-up in the military budget, the racially-tinged (at least) attacks on welfare-queens-in-Cadillacs, the Savings & Loan crisis resulting from deregulation, his refusal even to acknowledge AIDS as tens of thousands of the Wrong People died, the training of Muslim radicals in Afghanistan and arming of the Iranian regime, the attempt to appoint the radical Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, or virtually anything else that would undermine the canonization. The country was drowned by a full, uninterrupted week of pure, leader-reverent propaganda.

This happened because of an unhealthy conflation of appropriate post-death etiquette for private persons and the etiquette governing deaths of public figures. They are not and should not be the same. We are all taught that it is impolite to speak ill of the dead, particularly in the immediate aftermath of someone’s death. For a private person, in a private setting, that makes perfect sense. Most human beings are complex and shaped by conflicting drives, defined by both good and bad acts. That’s more or less what it means to be human. And — when it comes to private individuals — it’s entirely appropriate to emphasize the positives of someone’s life and avoid criticisms upon their death: it comforts their grieving loved ones and honors their memory. In that context, there’s just no reason, no benefit, to highlight their flaws.

But that is completely inapplicable to the death of a public person, especially one who is political. When someone dies who is a public figure by virtue of their political acts — like Ronald Reagan — discussions of them upon death will be inherently politicized. How they are remembered is not strictly a matter of the sensitivities of their loved ones, but has substantial impact on the culture which discusses their lives. To allow significant political figures to be heralded with purely one-sided requiems — enforced by misguided (even if well-intentioned) notions of private etiquette that bar discussions of their bad acts — is not a matter of politeness; it’s deceitful and propagandistic. To exploit the sentiments of sympathy produced by death to enshrine a political figure as Great and Noble is to sanction, or at best minimize, their sins. Misapplying private death etiquette to public figures creates false history and glorifies the ignoble.

* * * * *

All of this was triggered for me by the death this week of Christopher Hitchens and the remarkably undiluted, intense praise lavished on him by media discussions. Part of this is explained by the fact that Hitchens — like other long-time media figures, such as Tim Russert — had personal interactions with huge numbers of media figures who are shaping how he is remembered in death. That’s understandable: it’s difficult for any human being to ignore personal feelings, and it’s even more difficult in the face of the tragic death of a vibrant person at a much younger age than is normal.

But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writing but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent.

Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket  (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it. As one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell, put it perfectly in Homage to Catalonia about the anti-fascist, tough-guy war writers of his time:

As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.

The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.

I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them. As Robin put it:

Hitchens had a reputation for being an internationalist. Yet someone who gets excited by mass murder—and then invokes that excitement, to a waiting audience, as an explanation of his support for mass murder—is not an internationalist.  He is a narcissist, the most provincial spirit of all.

Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker‘s John Cook, who — in an extremely well-written and poignant obituary – detailed Hitchens’ vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being “sluts” and “fucking fat slags” for the crime of mildly disparaging the Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”; indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.”

Subordinating his brave and intellectually rigorous defense of atheism, Hitchens’ glee over violence, bloodshed, and perpetual war dominated the last decade of his life. Dennis Perrin, a friend and former protégée of Hitchens, described all the way back in 2003 how Hitchens’ virtues as a writer and thinker were fully swamped by his pulsating excitement over war and the Bush/Cheney imperial agenda:

I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he’s now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.

In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with “Just you wait!” and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets–with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he’d always said so. It’s amazing that he’d dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won’t care.

Currently, Hitch is pushing the line, in language that echoes the reactionary Paul Johnson, that the U.S. can be a “superpower for democracy,” and that Toms Jefferson [sic] and Paine would approve. He’s also slammed the “slut” Dixie Chicks as “fucking fat slags” for their rather mild critique of our Dear Leader. He favors Bush over Kerry, and doesn’t like it that Kerry ”exploits” his Vietnam combat experience (as opposed to, say, re-election campaign stunts on aircraft carriers).

Sweet Jesus. What next? I’m afraid my old mentor is not the truth-telling Orwell he fancies himself to be. He’s becoming a coarser version of Norman Podhoretz.

One of the last political essays he wrote in his life, for Slate, celebrated the virtues of Endless War.

* * * * *

Nobody should have to silently watch someone with this history be converted into some sort of universally beloved literary saint. To enshrine him as worthy of unalloyed admiration is to insist that these actions were either themselves commendable or, at worst, insignificant. Nobody who writes about politics for decades will be entirely free of serious error, but how serious the error is, whether it reflects on their character, and whether they came to regret it, are all vital parts of honestly describing and assessing their work. To demand its exclusion is an act of dishonesty.

Nor should anyone be deterred by the manipulative, somewhat tyrannical use of sympathy: designed to render any post-death criticisms gauche and forbidden. Those hailing Hitchens’ greatness are engaged in a very public, affirmative, politically consequential effort to depict him as someone worthy of homage. That’s fine: Hitchens, like most people, did have admirable traits, impressive accomplishments, genuine talents and a periodic willingness to expose himself to danger to report on issues about which he was writing. But demanding in the name of politeness or civility that none of that be balanced or refuted by other facts is to demand a monopoly on how a consequential figure is remembered, to demand a license to propagandize — exactly what was done when the awful, power-worshipping TV host, Tim Russert, died, and we were all supposed to pretend that we had lost some Great Journalist, a pretense that had the distorting effect of equating Russert’s attributes of mindless subservience to the powerful with Good Journalism (ironically, Hitchens was the last person who would honor the etiquette rules being invoked on his behalf: he savaged (perfectly appropriately) Mother Theresa and Princess Diana, among others, upon their death, even as millions mourned them).

There’s one other aspect to the adulation of Hitchens that’s quite revealing. There seems to be this sense that his excellent facility with prose excuses his sins. Part of that is the by-product of America’s refusal to come to terms with just how heinous and destructive was the attack on Iraq. That act of aggression is still viewed as a mere run-of-the-mill “mistake” — hey, we all make them, so we shouldn’t hold it against Hitch – rather than what it is: the generation’s worst political crime, one for which he remained fully unrepentant and even proud. But what these paeans to Hitchens reflect even more so is the warped values of our political and media culture: once someone is sufficiently embedded within that circle, they are intrinsically worthy of admiration and respect, no matter what it is that they actually do. As Aaron Bady put it to me by email yesterday:

I go back to something Judith Butler’s been saying for years; some lives are grievable and some are not. And in that context, publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.

That’s precisely true. The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role, in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class. It’s a way the political and media class protects and celebrates itself: our elite members are to be heralded and their victims forgotten. One is, of course, free to believe that. But what should not be tolerated are prohibitions on these types of discussions when highly misleading elegies are being publicly implanted, all in order to consecrate someone’s reputation for noble greatness even when their acts are squarely at odds with that effort.

Glenn Greenwald
Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

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  • navamskeSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 9:42 am

Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death; as CNN anchor Judy Woodruff observed the day Reagan’s body arrived in the capital: “Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.”

I wonder if Woodruff thought she was commenting pithily on what might charitably be called the pageantry, because that was simply a factual statement: Prior to Reagan, the last state funeral for a president was that of Lyndon Johnson, in 1973. (Richard Nixon, who died in 1994, didn’t get a state funeral — as per his own wishes, I believe, and not because he was, you know, a crook.) LBJ’s funeral wasn’t choreographed down to the last detail as Reagan’s was — how serendipitous that the closing moments of the spectacle coincided with the setting of the sun over the 40th president’s tomb and the Pacific beyond — so perhaps Woodruff could have commented on that aspect.

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:08 am

I seem to recall JFK’s funeral was fairly dramatic too.

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  • Starogo
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:40 am

JFK was murdered while in office. Reagan died an old man well after his presidency was over. How could you even compare the two?

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

To rebut the following: “Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death.”  Don’t get me wrong, as I am saying that JFK’s funeral was much more dramatic, being the first such event broadcast world-wide via live television.  As you point out, that was for an assassinated President (Lincoln’s slow train ride back to Illinois also comes to mind), but Washington’s funeral procession was just as comparable, if not more so.

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  • Idiotland
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 12:26 am

Forever and always, living in a self deluded bubble.

  • navamskeSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

I seem to recall JFK’s funeral was fairly dramatic too.

Choreographed. Dramatic. Two different words, two different meanings. Capiche?

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

Again, I wasn’t the one to claim: “Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death.” Perhaps your beef is with the author of those words instead of me?

  • navamskeSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Perhaps your beef is with the author of those words instead of me?

No.

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Few doesn’t mean none, douchebag

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It will be so sad when Jimmy Carter goes.  Oh, the humanity!

  • OliverSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

I scarcely know where to begin.  So I’ll just remark that yours is among the most cogent and thoughtful columns I’ve ever read… “Cogent” because it is lens through which so much of the past decade (+) comes into focus; and “thoughtful” because it skips the reflexive in favor of the insight.

Thanks Glenn. You make a difference.

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:35 am

I took my 2-year old son to Simi Valley that next day, and we waited in a huge line for a bus to take us to the Ronald Reagan Library so we could pay our respects.  Hitchens won’t get anything close to that.

  • BeleckSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

Pay your respects to Reagan?

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:55 am

Yes.

In the interest of consolidating my comments into a single post, you’re welcome, Glenn. To talesofunrest: no, and I don’t hate America.

As for namvaske, do you also think that no other US President has received the following?

“For the next six days, his body was transported to, and his casket displayed in, multiple venues around the nation — first to a funeral home in Santa Monica; then to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it remained for two full days as over 100,000 people paid their respects; then onto the U.S. Capitol, where his casket was taken by horse-drawn caisson along Constitution Avenue, and then lay in state under the dome for the next day-and-a-half; then to a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral presided over by President Bush and attended by dozens of past and present world leaders; and then back to the Presidential Library in California, where another service was held and his body finally interred.”

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  • okieprof
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 12:38 am

I sent a small piece, mildly critical of Reagan to the faculty where I teach a few days after his death. It was personally polite, but critical of many of his policies. It asked where the morning was for the dead in Central America, AIDS victims, etc.

I’ve sent a lot of emails to that faculty over the years, before and since. And I’ve never had such a large and harsh response from so many so called liberals. How dare one speak ill of St. Ronnie? While I received as many responses in support, it was shocking to me just how many people buy into the notion Glenn describes.

And let’s be clear. “Speak no ill of dead Reagan” IS a covert endorsement of his politics in much the same way as “support the troops” is really just an endorsement for war. I’ll believe people are sincere in their speak no ill of the dead ethos when they apply it to bin Laden or another leader opposed to right-wing American interests (just wait until Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Noam Chomsky, or Jane Fonda dies…I’m betting no such hagiographic love fest). I’ll believe they support the troops when they quit passing anti-homeless ordinances which disproportionately effect vets and when they start supporting ALL the troops, including Ehren Watada and Bradley Manning.

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  • okieprof
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Ick, mourning.

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Great and thoughtful post.  Worthy of Hitchens’ own critique of Reagan and his ‘rictus of senile fury’ in his 2004 Slate piece ‘Not Even A Hedgehog’, which he later softened in February of this year with his follow-up, ‘Would America Have Been Better Off Without A Reagan Presidency?’.

Nudnik alert: shouldn’t “internment” be interment(?):

“The iconic moment of the week-long national funeral occurred on the last day, at the internment, when she broke down for the first time and famously hugged and kissed her husband’s casket, while holding a folded American flag, seemingly unwilling to let him go immediately before his body was lowered into the ground.”

Ibn al Rahman

  • PedinskaSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:59 am

Re: “internment”.

That’s what you call one of them Freudidlian slippages. ;-}

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:04 am

So we can all agree that Hitchens was a miscarriage then?

One of the clearest examples I know of for the ritual and protocol is in the reactions to the deaths of Edward Said and George Plimpton, who died on thesame day — 25 September 2003. Plimpton, a figure of little if any lasting note but threatening to none and obedient sycophant when power required, was hailed with unalloyed, glowing words across the spectrum.

Said, by contrast, was treated very cautiously, when he was treated well. Plenty — including Christopher Hitchens, who had once been a friend of Said’s — excoriated Said in vicious, often deceptive if not outright false language.

Astonishingly, something similar happened when the genuinely great political philosopher John Rawls died. Rawls was no progressive, but his theories seemed to carry pretty straightforward liberal, redistributive implications. The first New York Times obit to run described some of his views as “nonsense” (the Times’s own words). Wow. It took several days, an op-ed obit by (the now pro-torture) philosopher Martha Nussbaum to alter the tone on Rawls.

Look at the treatment of other genuine iconoclastic humanitarians and you will see no concern in the mainstream to treat them with respect in death.

Then, of course, there are the cases of people like Yasir Arafat, treatment with something approaching contempt by The New York Times and NPR. Okay. Maybe the man was ultimately contemptible. But why war criminals like Menachem Begin or Rehavam Zeevi or Ronald Reagan should be treated so gently tells us more about the toadying sycophants of mainstream media, Washington and academia than it does about those who have died.

One of the most intensely propagandistic weeks in the last several decades began on June 5, 2004, the day Ronald Reagan died at the age of 93 in Bel Air, California. For the next six days, his body was transported to, and his casket displayed in, multiple venues around the nation — first to a funeral home in Santa Monica; then to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it remained for two full days as over 100,000 people paid their respects; then onto the U.S. Capitol, where his casket was taken by horse-drawn caisson along Constitution Avenue, and then lay in state under the dome for the next day-and-a-half; then to a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral presided over by President Bush and attended by dozens of past and present world leaders; and then back to the Presidential Library in California, where another service was held and his body finally interred. Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death; as CNN anchor Judy Woodruff observed the day Reagan’s body arrived in the capital: “Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.”

Each one of those mournful events was nationally televised and drenched in somber, intense pageantry. At the center of it all was the prominently displayed grief of his second wife, Nancy, to whom he was married for 52 years. The iconic moment of the week-long national funeral occurred on the last day, at the internment, when she broke down for the first time and famously hugged and kissed her husband’s casket, while holding a folded American flag, seemingly unwilling to let him go immediately before his body was lowered into the ground.

But the most notable aspect of that intense public ritual was the full-scale canonization of this deeply controversial, divisive and consequential political figure. Americans — including millions too young to remember his presidency — were bombarded with a full week of media discussions which completely whitewashed Reagan’s actions in office: that which made him an important enough historical figure to render his death worthy of such worldwide attention in the first place. There was a virtual media prohibition on expressing a single critical utterance about what he did as President and any harm that he caused. That’s not because the elegies to Reagan were apolitical — they were aggressively political — but because nothing undercutting his deification was permitted. Typifying the unbroken,week-long media tone of reverence was this from Woodruff at the start of CNN’s broadcast on the day Reagan’s casket arrived in Washington:

We are witnessing a moment in history, a moment when this city, which is hustle-bustle personified, a city where people fiercely protect their interests and lobby for the issues that matter most to them, all that is put aside, politics is put aside, while we pay respects and deep honor to this president, who literally changed a generation, if not more, of American students of politics.

I have talked to so many young people over the last few days who came up to me and said, I started paying attention to politics because of Ronald Reagan.

Just a little while ago, I was talking with Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House. He, I got into politics. He said, I ran to be chairman of the my precinct. He said, I was a businessman. I was running an insects — he called it a bug business. It was insect removal. And he said, Ronald Reagan inspired me to get into politics. I’d been sitting around griping, and he was the one. He gave me reason to get involved and to think that we could make a difference.”

So he changed, he inspired, and we now have a chance today and through this whole week to take note of him.

The key claim there was that “politics is put aside.” That’s precisely what did not happen. The entire spectacle was political to its core. Following Woodruff’s proclamation were funeral speeches, all broadcast by CNN, by then-House Speaker Denny Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney hailing the former President for gifting the nation with peace and prosperity, rejuvenating national greatness, and winning the Cold War. This scene repeated itself over and over during that week: extremely politicized tributes to the greatness of Ronald Reagan continuously broadcast to the nation without challenge and endorsed by its “neutral” media — all shielded from refutation or balance by the grief of a widow and social mores that bar one from speaking ill of the dead.

That week forever changed how Ronald Reagan — and his conservative ideology — were perceived. As Gallup put it in 2004: Reagan had, at best, “routinely average ratings . . . while he served in office between 1981 and 1989.” Indeed, “the two presidents who followed Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, each had higher average ratings than Reagan, as did three earlier presidents — Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower.”

Though he became more popular after leaving office (like most Presidents), it was that week-long bombardment of hagiography that sealed Reagan’s status as Great and Cherished Leader. As media and political figures lavished him with politicized praise, there was virtually no mention of the brutal, civilian-extinguishing covert wars he waged in Central America, his funding of terrorists in Nicaragua, the pervasive illegality of the Iran-contra scandal perpetrated by his top aides and possibly himself, the explosion of wealth and income inequality ushered in by “Reagonmics” which persists today, his escalation of the racially disparate Drug War, his slashing of domestic programs for the poor accompanied by a deficit-causing build-up in the military budget, the racially-tinged (at least) attacks on welfare-queens-in-Cadillacs, the Savings & Loan crisis resulting from deregulation, his refusal even to acknowledge AIDS as tens of thousands of the Wrong People died, the training of Muslim radicals in Afghanistan and arming of the Iranian regime, the attempt to appoint the radical Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, or virtually anything else that would undermine the canonization. The country was drowned by a full, uninterrupted week of pure, leader-reverent propaganda.

This happened because of an unhealthy conflation of appropriate post-death etiquette for private persons and the etiquette governing deaths of public figures. They are not and should not be the same. We are all taught that it is impolite to speak ill of the dead, particularly in the immediate aftermath of someone’s death. For a private person, in a private setting, that makes perfect sense. Most human beings are complex and shaped by conflicting drives, defined by both good and bad acts. That’s more or less what it means to be human. And — when it comes to private individuals — it’s entirely appropriate to emphasize the positives of someone’s life and avoid criticisms upon their death: it comforts their grieving loved ones and honors their memory. In that context, there’s just no reason, no benefit, to highlight their flaws.

But that is completely inapplicable to the death of a public person, especially one who is political. When someone dies who is a public figure by virtue of their political acts — like Ronald Reagan — discussions of them upon death will be inherently politicized. How they are remembered is not strictly a matter of the sensitivities of their loved ones, but has substantial impact on the culture which discusses their lives. To allow significant political figures to be heralded with purely one-sided requiems — enforced by misguided (even if well-intentioned) notions of private etiquette that bar discussions of their bad acts — is not a matter of politeness; it’s deceitful and propagandistic. To exploit the sentiments of sympathy produced by death to enshrine a political figure as Great and Noble is to sanction, or at best minimize, their sins. Misapplying private death etiquette to public figures creates false history and glorifies the ignoble.

* * * * *

All of this was triggered for me by the death this week of Christopher Hitchens and the remarkably undiluted, intense praise lavished on him by media discussions. Part of this is explained by the fact that Hitchens — like other long-time media figures, such as Tim Russert — had personal interactions with huge numbers of media figures who are shaping how he is remembered in death. That’s understandable: it’s difficult for any human being to ignore personal feelings, and it’s even more difficult in the face of the tragic death of a vibrant person at a much younger age than is normal.

But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writing but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent.

Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket  (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it. As one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell, put it perfectly in Homage to Catalonia about the anti-fascist, tough-guy war writers of his time:

As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.

The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.

I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them. As Robin put it:

Hitchens had a reputation for being an internationalist. Yet someone who gets excited by mass murder—and then invokes that excitement, to a waiting audience, as an explanation of his support for mass murder—is not an internationalist.  He is a narcissist, the most provincial spirit of all.

Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker‘s John Cook, who — in an extremely well-written and poignant obituary – detailed Hitchens’ vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being “sluts” and “fucking fat slags” for the crime of mildly disparaging the Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”; indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.”

Subordinating his brave and intellectually rigorous defense of atheism, Hitchens’ glee over violence, bloodshed, and perpetual war dominated the last decade of his life. Dennis Perrin, a friend and former protégée of Hitchens, described all the way back in 2003 how Hitchens’ virtues as a writer and thinker were fully swamped by his pulsating excitement over war and the Bush/Cheney imperial agenda:

I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he’s now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.

In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with “Just you wait!” and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets–with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he’d always said so. It’s amazing that he’d dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won’t care.

Currently, Hitch is pushing the line, in language that echoes the reactionary Paul Johnson, that the U.S. can be a “superpower for democracy,” and that Toms Jefferson [sic] and Paine would approve. He’s also slammed the “slut” Dixie Chicks as “fucking fat slags” for their rather mild critique of our Dear Leader. He favors Bush over Kerry, and doesn’t like it that Kerry ”exploits” his Vietnam combat experience (as opposed to, say, re-election campaign stunts on aircraft carriers).

Sweet Jesus. What next? I’m afraid my old mentor is not the truth-telling Orwell he fancies himself to be. He’s becoming a coarser version of Norman Podhoretz.

One of the last political essays he wrote in his life, for Slate, celebrated the virtues of Endless War.

* * * * *

Nobody should have to silently watch someone with this history be converted into some sort of universally beloved literary saint. To enshrine him as worthy of unalloyed admiration is to insist that these actions were either themselves commendable or, at worst, insignificant. Nobody who writes about politics for decades will be entirely free of serious error, but how serious the error is, whether it reflects on their character, and whether they came to regret it, are all vital parts of honestly describing and assessing their work. To demand its exclusion is an act of dishonesty.

Nor should anyone be deterred by the manipulative, somewhat tyrannical use of sympathy: designed to render any post-death criticisms gauche and forbidden. Those hailing Hitchens’ greatness are engaged in a very public, affirmative, politically consequential effort to depict him as someone worthy of homage. That’s fine: Hitchens, like most people, did have admirable traits, impressive accomplishments, genuine talents and a periodic willingness to expose himself to danger to report on issues about which he was writing. But demanding in the name of politeness or civility that none of that be balanced or refuted by other facts is to demand a monopoly on how a consequential figure is remembered, to demand a license to propagandize — exactly what was done when the awful, power-worshipping TV host, Tim Russert, died, and we were all supposed to pretend that we had lost some Great Journalist, a pretense that had the distorting effect of equating Russert’s attributes of mindless subservience to the powerful with Good Journalism (ironically, Hitchens was the last person who would honor the etiquette rules being invoked on his behalf: he savaged (perfectly appropriately) Mother Theresa and Princess Diana, among others, upon their death, even as millions mourned them).

There’s one other aspect to the adulation of Hitchens that’s quite revealing. There seems to be this sense that his excellent facility with prose excuses his sins. Part of that is the by-product of America’s refusal to come to terms with just how heinous and destructive was the attack on Iraq. That act of aggression is still viewed as a mere run-of-the-mill “mistake” — hey, we all make them, so we shouldn’t hold it against Hitch – rather than what it is: the generation’s worst political crime, one for which he remained fully unrepentant and even proud. But what these paeans to Hitchens reflect even more so is the warped values of our political and media culture: once someone is sufficiently embedded within that circle, they are intrinsically worthy of admiration and respect, no matter what it is that they actually do. As Aaron Bady put it to me by email yesterday:

I go back to something Judith Butler’s been saying for years; some lives are grievable and some are not. And in that context, publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.

That’s precisely true. The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role, in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class. It’s a way the political and media class protects and celebrates itself: our elite members are to be heralded and their victims forgotten. One is, of course, free to believe that. But what should not be tolerated are prohibitions on these types of discussions when highly misleading elegies are being publicly implanted, all in order to consecrate someone’s reputation for noble greatness even when their acts are squarely at odds with that effort.

Glenn Greenwald
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Writers Cited in Breivik Manifesto Have Spoken at US Military Colleges as Anti-Terrorism Experts July 31, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Racism, Religion, Right Wing, War on Terror.
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Sunday 31 July 2011
by: Chris Rodda, Truthout                 | Op-Ed

In February 2009, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) received some very good news. A woman named Brigitte Gabriel had been disinvited from speaking at the United States Air Force Academy, due to MRFF’s year-long battle to stop the US military from allowing Islamophobic fear-mongers to speak at our military’s colleges and service academies under the guise of anti-terrorism training.

Just about a year earlier, in February 2008, the Air Force Academy had invited a group called the “3 ex-Terrorists” to speak at its 50th Annual Academy Assembly on the topic “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.” One member of this trio of self-proclaimed ex-terrorists turned evangelical Christians was Walid Shoebat.

After repeated demands for equal time to counter the anti-Muslim preaching of these so-called terrorism experts, the Air Force Academy eventually allowed MRFF founder and president, and Academy graduate, Mikey Weinstein, MRFF Advisory Board member and Islam scholar Reza Aslan, and MRFF Board member and former Ambassador Joe Wilson to speak to the cadets.

If the name Walid Shoebat sounds familiar, it’s because CNN just did an exposé on him a few weeks ago (article, video: part 1, part 2). As CNN reported, Shoebat is still being hired to speak to Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies, despite the fact that he has repeatedly been exposed as a fraud by both journalists and academics. Shoebat’s mission is clear — to spread a fear of Muslims and rail against all that liberal political correctness that’s causing so many Americans to treat Muslims just like everyone else.

The message of Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT! for America and author of Because They Hate is the same as Shoebat’s. In June 2007, Gabriel, who has also been brought in as a terrorism expert by several government agencies, delivered a lecture at the US military’s Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) as part of the JFSC’s Islam elective for American military and national security personnel.

During the Q & A part of this lecture, a JFSC student asked Gabriel, “Should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation?” This was Gabriel’s answer:

“Absolutely. If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”

Gabriel then proceeded to give the following reason for a Muslim’s oath of office being meaningless:

“A Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to make Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in the long run. A Muslim sworn to office can lay his hand on the Koran and say ‘I swear that I’m telling the truth and nothing but the truth,’ fully knowing that he is lying because the same Koran that he is swearing on justifies his lying in order to advance the cause of Islam. What is worrisome about that is when we are faced with war and a Muslim political official in office has to make a decision either in the interest of the United States, which is considered infidel according to the teachings of Islam, and our Constitution is uncompatible [sic] with Islam — not compatible — that Muslim in office will always have his loyalty to Islam.”

Gabriel also expressed her views on immigration:

“Those Al Qaeda members and Hezbollah members who are coming into the United States, they are immediately going from the Mexican border into the major cities where there is large Islamic concentration in the United States, such as ‘Dearbornistan’ Michigan…”

So, what does all this have to do with Norwegian Christian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik? Well, Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel are two of the anti-Muslim activists who show up in his manifesto. Shoebat is quoted about fifteen times throughout the manifesto, and a link to a 45-minute Brigitte Gabriel video is provided for further information on one of the sections.

But the most frequently cited author in the manifesto is Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam. Spencer is quoted by Breivik over three dozen times, in several places at great length, and Breivik wrote, “About Islam I recommend essentially everything written by Robert Spencer.” Breivik even used a take-off on Spencer’s book title for a section of his manifesto, which he titled “A politically incorrect guide to the lynching of multiculturalist traitors.”

MRFF is quite familiar with Robert Spencer’s book, having received numerous complaints over the past few years from service members who want it removed from the military’s PXs and BXs, where it is usually displayed right next to the military Bibles.

Three other authors quoted or recommended by Breivik — Serge Trifkovic, Bat Ye’or, and Abdullah Al Araby — all appeared in the same Islamophbic pseudo-documentary with Shoebat and Spencer, “Islam: What the West Needs to Know.”

In 2008, when the politically useful anti-Muslim film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the Westwas being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers, MRFF discovered that this same film, which featured both Shoebat and Gabriel, was being used by the US military. MRFF was able to stop some of the screenings of this film, but many others did take place. The packaging of the “campaign” version even carried the endorsement of a professor from the Naval War College, lending the credibility of the US military to this piece of Islamophobic propaganda.

In short, all of the popular anti-Muslim writers and speakers cited in Breivik’s manifesto have essentially the same message — Muslims are taking over the “Christian” world and must be stopped. And these same writers and speakers all have multiple connections to each other. They appear in the same films, link to each other’s websites, promote each other’s books and videos, are listed by the same speakers bureaus, serve in various capacities in each other’s organizations, etc.

Because I work for MRFF, my focus needs to be on stopping the tide of Islamophobia within the military, but, after reading Breivik’s manifesto, it would be impossible for me not to be thinking about the other dangers posed by these Islamophobic fear-mongers, who are feeding countless Americans — some of whom might be unstable enough to carry out a “mission” like that of Breivik — a steady diet of justification for their twisted religious or political ideologies.

While it is clear from Breivik’s manifesto that he began to formulate his ideas several years before the post 9-11 “popularization” of Islamophobia, I think it’s completely legitimate to ask the question: Just how much did the constant validation of these ideas by the likes of Gabriel, Shoebat, and Spencer play a role in Breivik’s ultimate decision to actually carry out his terrorist attacks?

Editor’s Note: MRFF President Mikey Weinstein is a member of Truthout’s board of advisers.

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Chris RoddaChris Rodda is the senior research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the author of “Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.”