Life’s too short to address everything that’s comically irrelevant and confused in Andrew C. McCarthy’s “Ground Zero Thought Experiment,” a what-if? exercise that opens with the destruction by “Christian extremists” of the holiest site in Islam, and that therefore, considering the source, reads more like “wish fulfillment” than “experiment.” Phase two, which I’ll focus on, runs as follows:
Now let’s say a group of well-meaning, well-funded Christians – Christians whose full-time job was missionary work – decided that the best way to promote healing would be to pressure the Saudi government to drop its prohibition against permitting non-Muslims into Mecca so that these well-meaning, well-funded Christian missionaries could build a $100 million dollar church and community center a stone’s throw from where the Kaaba used to be…
The post then moves on to some rhetorical reprimands of un-righthinking types, whom McCarthy clearly wants us to imagine being considerably less enthusiastic about such a project than they have been about the Ground Zero-Desecrating, Totalitarian Sharia- Advancing, 9/11-Celebrating, Osama Bin Laden-Idolizing, Terrorist-Enabling Islamic Muslim Victory Super-Mega-Mosque.
A couple of lefty bloggers (one for Fuster, one for Bob) with time on their hands have already done the dishonors, but there is one thing they missed: McCarthy either does not realize or does not wish to recall that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is an Arab-American who’s been operating for 27 years in Lower Manhattan, and that all of the backers of the project are American citizens. For the experiment to make even a little sense (a stretch, I know), he would have to conjure up some well-placed Christian Saudis who… well, I could go further, but this one is already so silly that even Andrew C. McCarthy would probably move on to some other pretext for railing at the Izzies.
Most likely, the result would be yet another portrayal of Muslims in America as agents of an alien and hostile power, as that’s McCarthy’s speciality. It works – well enough to sustain his NR gig, anyway – in part because a certain reasonably sizable segment of American opinion is receptive – as among the participants in the following chain e-mail that turned up in my inbox, having gone through at least six or seven re-sends by the time it reached me. Its text and image appear under the subject line “Fwd: This photo will stun you”:
If each person sends this to a minimum of twenty people on their address list, in three days, all people in The United States of America would have the message. I believe this is one proposal that really should be passed around.
THIS WILL CURDLE YOUR BLOOD AND CURL YOUR HAIR
The name of the book Obama is reading is called:
The Post-American World , and it was written by a fellow Muslim.
“Post” America means the world After America ! Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal. We must expose Obama’s radical ideas and his intent to bring down our beloved America !
Life is too short… Let’s just say that the kind of people who read and re-send an e-mail like the above are going to include many who find, say, Glenn Beck a little too suspiciously intellectual… a category that probably includes many more people than watch Glenn Beck. An even larger number of people, much larger, would include all those who never were inclined to like Muslims much even before 9/11, and who would presumably be subject to some of the same xenophobic impulses. These, in turn, match up with the assumptions underlying much public discussion of Park51.
Consider the widely cited polls documenting majority opposition to Park51. Here’s a typical “key question,” from the CNN poll, posed after a battery of set-up questions regarding attitudes toward Islam and Muslims in general:
As you may know, a group of Muslims in the U.S. plan to build a mosque two blocks from the site in New York City where the World Trade Center used to stand. Do you favor or oppose this plan?
To me “a group of Muslims in the U.S.” reads as “fish out of water” – “Muslims who happen to be here for some mysterious reason.” The question of their nationality is left open, in a way that suggests that some non-Americans probably are involved. Otherwise, the all-knowing pollster could have said “American Muslims.” A poll respondent might be forgiven for resorting to stereotype: The group in question, serious question, could consist of wealthy Saudi princes looking for trouble, or maybe poor Somalis overstaying their visas, or maybe other Muslims making some other kind of… drop-in visit…
The Quinnipiac version uses a two-part question, first asking respondents how much they have heard or read about “a proposal by a Muslim group to build a Muslim mosque and cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero,” and then asking whether “you support or oppose this proposal.” CNN is interested only in “a mosque.” Quinnipiac is aware of the cultural center, but puts the mosque first, and gets the word “Muslim” in twice. They don’t ask about a “911 Victory Mega-Mosque,” as I’m sure the “Great Champion of Freedom” Pamela Geller would have preferred, nor are they asked about “a Muslim proposal by a Muslim group to build a Muslim mosque and Muslim cultural center for Muslims two blocks from Muslim-attacked Ground Zero Muslim Muslim Muslim,” but the questions are loaded all the same.
As with almost all such polls on a social issue, merely posing the question tends to favor one side of the debate: The mere existence of the poll, and then the battery of set-up questions, legitimizes the idea of worrying about Muslim this and Islamic that… So here’s my very thoughtful thought experiment. What if Quinnipiac had asked this:
As you may know, a group of New Yorkers plan to build a cultural center two blocks from the site in New York City where the World Trade Center used to stand. Is it your business?
Or what if CNN had asked this:
As you may know, long-time area residents and American citizens who happen to be Muslims plan to build a cultural center with worship area two blocks from the site in New York City where the World Trade Center used to stand. Do you think people getting agitated about it should find other things to worry about?
Or how about a battery of questions on the trustworthiness of far right internet agitators and cable news shows, leading finally to this:
As you may know, assorted hate-mongering nutjobs, fanatics, and opportunists have been spearheading an attack on a law-abiding Muslim-American religious leader, seeking to stir up and exploit fear, anger, and pain associated with the 9/11 attacks of 9 years ago. Do you support or oppose this absolute disgrace and complete contradiction of everything this country supposedly stands for?
I experimentally-think, I rather hope, that even more people would “oppose” than seem to oppose Park51.