Sunday, July 16, 2006

A distinction with a difference

I'm at a bit of a loss. I believe that the state of things worldwide breaks down into a few categories: Western capitalism-of-sorts against (largely) Eastern collectivism, though I'm not sufficiently versed in Asian culture to understand why collectivism should have so much persistence (albeit in corrupted form) there when it's clearly failed everywhere else; national wealth through general adherence to a code of fair play that we, at least, inherited from the British in the form of common law, versus national poverty and degradation through kleptocracy and rampant open corruption - I discount tribalism in this equation not because it doesn't exist, but because I believe it can coexist with common law; and finally, liberalism versus fascism, which at present means "liberalism versus Islamism." Not that there are no other fascists around; I'm certain that there are. But only Islamists marry the elevation of a central leader to a far-flung organization with enough coherence to coordinate attacks against the West and Westward-looking others, yet enough "looseness" to defy rounding up and fencing in.

Because to my horror, that option - fencing in the Islamic fascists - keeps occurring to me. "Circumscribing" might be a better term: I'm not talking about concentration camps here (God in His mercy forbid that we ever relive those days again), but about limiting the scope of their actions, financially, politically, and socially, not just by not preferring them under the law (see for instance last year's debate in Canada about whether to look to Shari'a as a source of legal precedent, a debate that fortunately ended correctly - for now), but by forbidding them to do certain things that we in the West take for granted, such as starting a school, without significant oversight. But as I said, it can't be done; the Islamists are too scattered, too independent whenever they choose to be, for even circumscription to work.

Point is, the struggle is existential, as I've said before, even if it's going on at a low level at the moment. I urge you to read all of this before you scoff:

“Asian youths,” a British euphemism for Pakistanis and Muslims from South Asia, in parts of Oldham are trying to create no-go areas for white people. One of them told: “There are signs all around saying whites enter at your risk. It’s a matter of revenge.” However, it’s not just the white natives that are targets of Muslim violence, but other non-Muslims, too. A report on Hindus being driven out of the English city of Bradford by young Muslims was described by some Hindus as “ethnic cleansing.”


Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post noted that some Muslim leaders explained that what they wanted was autonomy in their ghettos: “They seek to receive extraterritorial status from the French government, meaning that they will set their own rules based, one can assume, on Sharia law. If the French government accepts the notion of communal autonomy, France will cease to be a functioning state.” Following three weeks of unrest, the police said 98 vehicles torched in one day marked a “return to a normal situation everywhere in France.”


A researcher for the Netherlands Ministry for Immigration and Integration found that 40% of young Moroccan Muslims in the Netherlands rejected Western values and democracy. Six to seven percent were prepared to use force to “defend” Islam, and the majority were opposed to freedom of speech for offensive statements, particularly criticism of Islam.


In Denmark, the nation-wide organization of Women’s Crisis Centres claims that a number of taxi drivers with immigrant background are spying on female immigrants who are in hiding, sending information about their whereabouts to their families. It was a group of taxi drivers who informed a Pakistani man where he could find his sister. He murdered her in broad daylight outside a train station because she had married a man from Afghanistan against her family’s orders. 80% of the women seeking help at crisis centres in the city of Oslo, Norway, are from immigrant background.


A secret high-level UK police report concluded that Muslim officers were more likely to become corrupt than white officers, with complaints of misconduct and corruption against Muslim officers running 10 times higher than against their colleagues. “Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family [...] and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality.” The report argued that British Pakistanis live in a cash culture in which “assisting your extended family is considered a duty” and in an environment in which large amounts of money are loaned between relatives and friends. It recommended that Asian officers needed special anti-corruption training.

So. Is it possible to distinguish between a Muslim of a generally liberal bent and an Islamist? As a practical matter, walking down the street - no, just as it's impossible to distinguish between, say, me, and a granola-crunching (I love granola) Birkenstock-wearing (OK, my Birks just got "retired," but I'm in Tevas or barefoot six days a week anyway) Bush-hating (you've got me there) hippie in her middle years (no bifocals yet, but gray roots). However, there is a difference, and we must distinguish it. The challenge is in drawing the distinction without going all racist, though the people we, the liberal West, need to watch and guard against often share some physical characteristics that could invite cries of "racism!" How do we do it?

Heck if I know. But here, from a post entitled "Marx and Muhammed":

In many ways, there was a basic premise inherent in the policy of containment taken against the communist world: Wait long enough and the truth of the superiority of liberal societies will become apparent to the world. But a policy of containment against Islamic imperialism cannot hope for such eventual success. Since Islam does not make any ambitious proposal to improve the lot of its followers in the real world, but only in an imaginary [I'd say "an unobservable," but the point is taken. -ed.] afterlife, no amount of waiting can undermine its claim to truth.

There's my circumscription idea and yet another reason why it won't work against Islamism. What it points up is the necessity of figuring out ways to convince people fixed on the hereafter that the here is also worthy of attention, and not just the kind of attention that results in blowing it up in order to hasten the journey to the -after. So perhaps the solution is just to bombard everyone, all of society, with the superiority of life under a liberal banner; the people who already experience and accept that superiority will roll their eyes, order another latte or lassi or lager, and ignore it, while the unconvinced may - possibly - be drawn in against their will. It means rejecting multiculturalism, or at least that part of multi-culti that begins from the premise that all cultures are equally good and sufficient for their adherents.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Steyn making sense

Some more reasons why you ought to be reading Mark Steyn, whether for the humor or for the insight (you can't have one without the other):

The danger we face is not a Chinese superpower or an Islamist superpower: If it's a new boss, you learn the new rules and adjust as best you can. But the greater likelihood is of a world with no superpower at all in which unipolar geopolitics gives way to nonpolar geopolitics, a world without order in which pipsqueak thug states that can't feed their own people globalize their pathologies.

In other words, American hegemony: If not us, who? If not now, when? Read the whole thing; it points out that the threats we, and the world, face are not our opponents' (or even enemies') strengths, but their weaknesses. We have an unbeatable package right now. We won't always - that's the way of things - but at present, there is no other nation, nor even a group of nations functioning together such as the E.U., with the money, the military, the technology, or (much less "and"!) the will to do what we are doing by default: policing, funding, and establishing liberal (you know which "liberal" I mean) social and cultural norms for the world.

Or take this, concerning the recent "rolling hunger strike" of celebs, during which they each vowed to lay off the kibble for 24 whole hours before tagging out and letting the next undernourished accessory display fixture skip three squares:

Personally, if celebrities have to ''put their bodies on the line for peace, I'd much rather see them bulk up. How about if Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow promise to put on 20 pounds for every month Bush refuses to end his illegal war? Absent that, it's hard to see what a ''rolling fast'' does except confirm the vague suspicion one or two Americans may harbor that politically active celebrities are a lot of vain dilettantes unwilling to discombobulate their pampered lifestyles. It's unclear whether any of these celebrities will be ''starving'' long enough even to feel hungry. Bobby Sands and the IRA hunger strikers of the 1980s were never going to force Mrs. Thatcher to back down, but at least they did actually starve themselves to death.

How about if the celebs did that? Wouldn't that, after all, get right to the heart of the matter? Wouldn't that bring piercing clarity to the issue by forcing the American people to choose between tedious geopolitical responsibilities and Jennifer Aniston? Imagine if the flailing neocon warmongers had to explain to the American people why we were now down to one Dixie Chick.

No, I am not kidding: these vacuous infants actually thought it'd be a valid protest, a "sacrifice" worthy of measuring against the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers deployed in the Middle East, to do what crash dieters do by choice. Now. I just watched Emma Thompson's lovely Sense and Sensibility today, and I loooove a good costume drama, as well as a good action flick (I have an as-yet-unset date with the husbands of several of my friends to see X-3 since, inexplicably, neither my own husband nor my women friends are interested). I have great respect for a gifted actor as an actor; I have zero respect for an actor as an activist. Perhaps they just got confused, being used to reading lines on the fly and all, by the fact that the two avocations share some letters at the beginning.

Anyway. That's a decent segue into the world of the cinema.

In Depp’s hands, Cap’n Jack is more of a swishbuckler than a swashbuckler, and the more he swishes the more it’s the movie that seems to buckle. He’s worked so long and so hard and so ostentatiously on multi-layering the micro-details of his character that he leaves everybody else looking like preliminary sketches. It’s like Medea joining Charlie’s Angels: it’s bound to leave the other gals looking a little underwritten.

I haven't seen the first Pirates, about which Steyn was writing there, won't for some time since my oldest has declared it "too scary," and may not see the second ever if the first turns out to stink, but I love the Medea reference. Back in my extreme youth, back when I had a crush on one Jason and was into writing silly love stories, I couldn't imagine anything more romantic than his falling in love with a fictional Medea (even though I did know by then that Medea was a tragic heroine who had murdered her own children and that her marriage to Jason was, like, the definition of ill-starred love). I think I was the only thirteen-year-old in my school who had read the play. I may be the only almost-forty-year-old in my neighborhood who has, for all I know.

That's enough.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Escalation of hostilities

Anyone out there doing the same blog macarena that I do (DUM dadaDAdadadaDAda InstaPUNdit, DUM dadaDAdadadaDAda Protein WISdom, DUM dadaDAdadadaDAda FallbackBELmont...) will have seen the Frisch situation arise and quickly spiral out of control on Protein Wisdom - and I should note that this will be a link-free post, because there's altogether too much heat surrounding the exchanges already. Here's the background for interested parties who follow other blogs:

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom is an expert in hermaneutics. He's also a stay-at-home dad of a toddler. He's also multiply employed in academia and the World o' Blogs. He writes frequently about the cost to society of identity politics and the importance, in critique, of authorial intent, and believe me, these subjects are highly relevant in the world of politics-politics today. He's loathed by the Left generally, as far as I can tell from my seat in the Right's bleachers (though, to extend the metaphor beyond its logical limits, I'm more along the first-base line than way out in right field). He has a few intrepid dissenting commenters, who suffer a certain amount of verbal "abuse" (quotation marks because this post is about actual verbal abuse) and mocking from his more generally concurring commenters, plus he gets pretty regular influxes of ill-tempered and intemperate trolls from Glen Greenwald's site and elsewhere.

One such intemperate person was a woman named Deb Frisch, a psychology professor on the staff at the University of Arizona. She had some strongly dissenting comments to make about a post I can't even recall at the moment - strongly dissenting but presented in such uncivil terms that I, who avoid the term "troll" almost all the time, can find no other word for her. Jeff's regulars piled on her with the mockery, which she took relatively well for a little while. That's kind of the price you pay when you're working a hostile room, it seems to me.

Then she stopped taking it well. She decided, according to her later comments, that she felt "threatened" by some of the comments directed at her (she hasn't specified which ones, and although I was following the conversation at the time, I can't think of any that struck me as over the line - I remember insults but no threats, overt or implied), and she responded "in kind," also according to her own comments, by starting to say some very ugly, very scary things about Jeff's child, and some very insulting things about his wife. I'm not going to repeat what she said except this far: noting that Jeff lives in Colorado, she several times brought up Jon Benet Ramsey in a context involving Jeff's son that would give any parent (and ought to give any non-parent) pause.

Jeff, never one to recede meekly into the background, posted directly about her comments, and his commenters, some of them currently or formerly in law enforcement, urged him to contact the FBI and, themselves, contacted the UofA about Frisch's giant leap over the line. The comments, which started out in dogpile mode, rapidly progressed to a realization that this woman might be mentally ill; upon that realization, the comments stayed strongly critical of her words but at least started to involve calls for her to get help and calls for other commenters to lay off her personally because she might not be compos mentis. Problem being, of course, that she might read comments encouraging her to seek help as some kind of dismissive mockery rather than sincere wishes, which I believe almost all of them were, based on the people commenting. (No doubt a few were intended otherwise. Jeff's minions aren't all sweetness and light, though most of them are, between the lines.)

Cutting to the chase, she resigned her (temporary) post there and blogged a non-apology apology at her own blog. Meanwhile, in a possibly related incident (it's happened to him before, so it's unclear whether he ticked off someone else besides Frisch's supporters at the same time), Jeff's site was brought down by a DOS (denial-of-service) attack that, as far as I can tell, continues for some of us, at least; Instapundit and others report that the site's back up, but I can't get there yet.

I'm terribly troubled by it all. Stepping way back from the situation, I'm troubled by the fact that Jeff's often bitingly on-point critiques of matters on the Left are bringing about actual livelihood-threatening actions from his enemies such as this DOS attack. There's a difference between, say, boycotting a newspaper because you disagree with a columnist or the paper's editorial stance, and sabotaging the presses so that the paper can't be printed, which is the analogy that applies here. (Talk about your chilling effect...) I'm troubled that dissenting rhetoric so easily segued from simple rudeness to actively threatening a blogger's child because the blogger's commenters were rude back. But even more than these, I'm troubled by Frisch.

I read the non-apology she posted. Only two comments, at the time that I read it, supported her, which, this being the internet and all, is about the best I could've hoped for; even most of her ideological allies couldn't get behind her "tactic." But she herself ought to be frightened by the fact that she even had these thoughts, much less that she then made the decision, such as it was, to go public with them. As a psychologist, she ought to be terrified about what they reveal about her mental state. But that's the rub with mental states, isn't it: she may not be able to step way back, as I can. She may not see, even now, how dangerous she's been accurately perceived to be. I feel as if I've witnessed a full-blown break with reality, and it gives me renewed respect for those in the mental health field who see this kind of thing daily and do their best to help those going through it. On top of that, although my sympathies are almost all with Jeff here (I reserve some sympathy for Frisch if she is indeed over the edge - but I do not in any way condone any of her horrible comments about Jeff's family), it appears to me that Jeff's post may have been the factor that pushed her over. Now, as with the total engine failure of our recent houseguests' car upon their return to their home airport, it was going to happen regardless; if not this trigger, another one. But I wouldn't want it to happen on my watch.