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Comments by adam
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On “For the annals of familiarity breeding contempt…

@ CK MacLeod:
There will always be plenty to talk about. Maybe we should see how this whole discussion looks a year from now.

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We're not going to get anywhere with equivalences here (saying x about Jews is the same as saying y about Muslims which is the same as saying z about blacks, or Christians, or Mormons, or whoever...)--I'm sorry I brought it up; or, more precisely, that I took up that part of your comment. We're really talking past each other here, because we see the threat of civil society destroying violence coming from different directions. I don't see any way of transcending such a difference, even on the level of finding a way to talk about the same thing. On other questions, I hope and believe our respective sense of where the fundamental problems lie will make very productive conversations possible.

At any rate, I appreciate the discussion. It's very helpful to get a stronger sense of where and how the lines are getting drawn at the moment.

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Well, anyway, for anyone interested in following this discussion into wider spheres, Richard Fernandez (aka Wretchard) has posted on it on Belmont Club/Pajamas Media, with over 100 comments already:

http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2010/06/12/outrageous-fortune/

Fernandez's discussion is useful, for me at least, in reminding one to move beyond name calling and complaints and just realize that it is a political struggle all around: those seeking to silence Geller have their political ends and those defending her have theirs. The law itself is just one more battlefield at this point--if you can find a way to sue your enemies out of existence, have at it! This is helpful (again, at least to me) because it forces one to get as clear as possible about what one's side is and why, and the problems are all reduced to finding and devising the appropriate means for your ends. Of course, not all means are equally available to all ends.

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I should say that what seems to me most interesting and important in such discussions are those points of incommensurability--is Geller a Nazi or a defender of the ignored victims of contemporary Islam? I don't think we have an objective standpoint from which to answet that question, but everything depends on the answer.

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@ CK MacLeod:
There’s nothing unique about ostracizing people who say “certain things.”

I also just noticed that you left out the crucial "use of violence" here. I suppose you could believe that the people in charge at Comedy Central just spontaneously recognized that South Park episode as "Nazi-like," as did all the major US media outlets regarding the Muhammed cartoons--but how credible is that?

who are we to judge?

And yet you are willing to judge some things. Are they only those things in which you are without sin? Which might those be? Or is the "we" that is incapable of judging here? In that case, nothing would be stopping you.

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@ CK MacLeod:

There’s nothing unique about ostracizing people who say “certain things.”

You're right about this.

If someone was directing the same kind of speech towards Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Buddhists, whomever, that Geller directs toward Muslims, he or she would also be ostracized.

This is obviously false. Of course, it depends what you mean by "the same kind." Plenty of speech by, e.g., atheists, to the effect that the Catholic Church, due to its doctrines, is a source of child rape, and don't get ostracized at all. Have Walt and Mearshimer been ostracized?

I doubt that Paypal would hesitate to disassociate itself from Neo-Nazi groups. I doubt Paypal allows its services to be used by the organizations that promote sex with children or hatred of the “mud races” either. There are plenty of types of speech that we don’t completely stamp out, but we declare “unsayable” or “taboo” (backed by indirect threat of force) in the sense you’re using the terms.

This is the crucial move, aimed at demonizing and closing discussion. I'd like to see the argument that what Geller says (and, I suppose, what Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, Hugh Fitzgerald and others say) is "like" Nazism.

I’d like to see the argument that ties honor killings intrinsically to Islam rather than to tribal/traditional cultures. There are non-Muslim cultures with similar practices. (I’m not sure whether India has finally succeeded in stamping out the practice of forcing widows to commit suicide.) There are Muslim cultures without such practices. A focus on honor killings, or genital mutilation for that matter, would be typical of someone seeking to manipulate emotional reactions. It’s true that the radical Islamists seek close identification with tribal/traditional cultures, in part because one of the main spurs to radical Islamism is the disruption of those cultures especially as a result of economic globalization.

The question is less whether it's tied to Islam intrinsically than whether the fear of addressing it is tied to the fear of appearing Islamophobic.

Are (very partial list) child pornography, drug addiction, widespread abortion, exploitation of factory workers, industrialized warfare, and genocide intrinsic to Judeo-Christian or Western civilization? ...If not, then why are honor killings a stain on Islam? If so, then who are we to judge?

All these things are intrinsic to Western culture, as is the very powerful, in most cases more powerful, movement to counter, mitigate and abolish these practices. Where are these movements in contemporary Islam?

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@ CK MacLeod:

The difference between people who are appalled by Pamela Geller’s undifferentiated attacks on “Muslims” and those who are appalled by Pamela anyone’s attacks on “terrorists” is a rather substantial difference… unless like certain recent visitors to this blog, commenters at the HotAir Greenroom, and rightwing opinion leaders you don’t in fact see a meaningful difference between defense of Muslims and “pro-terrorism.” “Pro-terrorist” isn’t just “partisan”: It’s a foul accusation – fighting words.

Those who want to defend Muslims would want to argue against and discredit Geller, not shut her down. (Yes, I know closing her Paypal account won't shut her down. But if this works, how about trying the same thing on whatever server hosts her? What about working towards "hate speech" laws? Etc. Again, I note the difference with the protests by those against the CI mosque) Those who want to shut her down are interested in a test of strength--they want to see what kind of threat will get what kind of result in what kind of forum regarding what kind of target. And they want to see this because they want to do more of the same, hopefully against more hardened or high profile targets. Insofar as terrorism is (among other things) the use of violence, or the credible threat thereof, to make certain things unsayable, certain claims or topics taboo, then "pro-terrorist" (not necessarily "terrorist") is an accurate description of those using threats to silence opponents. And I surmise that threats, or the allusion to the general background of such threats were used in this case.

I don't know how to measure how much a given blog does in the fight against terrorism, but I do know that Geller is unrelenting in focusing on honor killings of Muslim girls, which hardly anybody wants to touch. And on this point, I am sure she is very much in the mainstream.

As for “violence against Muslims,” Geller’s discourse is typical of a discourse of incitement

How?

The danger of violence entering our political culture is not from anti-Muslim sentiment, but from anti-Islamophobic sentiment. I hope people pressure Paypal on this, but more important is identifying who wages such campaigns and exposing them.

In a sense, all taboos in civil or other society are backed by the more or less distant threat of violence. Our taboos about race, for example, go back to the fratricidal violence of the civil war, and the miniature versions of it that plagued us until fairly recently. But that kind of taboo, one rooted in founding events of the community, is also grounded in the principles of the community--it's the way we worked out the principles of equality and freedom on a national level, which the Constitution left intolerably ambiguous. In this case, the taboos introduced under the threat of violence support a completely different principle--on the one hand, that of Islamic prohibitions, but more fundamentally, a new understanding of rights as pertaining to officially designated victim groups.

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@ CK MacLeod:
Perhaps John loses credibility with you here and gains it with others; nor, of course, is credibility the same thing as truth. You choose an odd passage to cite as an example of devastated credibility, though. Yes, we can surmise all kinds of things; we have no choice but to surmise every time we read, write or speak. The process of surmising is not particularly opaque here--unless we assume that Paypal has the staff to, on their own, constantly search through their clients for "offensive" sites, someone drew their attention to this one; if we consider that what gets considered "offensive" is itself the process of drawn out ideological battles, with political dimensions and at times violent margins helping to shape things, then we can place Paypal's decision here in the context of the refusal to publish the mohammed cartoons, the censoring of South Park, etc. The "pro-terrorist" is partisan, of course--we could just as easily say "those who don't like harsh criticisms of Islam" or "exposure of crimes committed in the name of Islam"; or we could say, "those who think Geller's site will incite violence against Muslims." But while you like to surmise that those who see things differently than you must "hate Muslims," where is the violence against Muslims? And where does Geller incite it? What would be the distinguishing features of discourse that incites such violence, and what would be the possibilities for pushing the line separating "incitement" from "criticism" in one direction or another? And who would be those especially interested in suppressing harsh criticism of Islam--what are they pro and what are they anti?

If you’re going to repeat someone else’s views, you ought to quote or credit them.

He is crediting Geller's account, but I suppose I should have been careful not to assume that he is simply repeating that account--the fact that I have seen it on several conservative blogs doesn't mean that he has. I was simply struck by what you might call the production of "prefab talking points," or a "line," which I consider inevitable any time a political faction emerges--so, it might as well be done well.

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@ CK MacLeod:
What's wrong with repeating things you agree with for a wider audience?

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@ CK MacLeod:
We need team players too--which is not to say that's all they ndo over there.

On “For the annals of familiarity breeding contempt…

At least the right wingers are learning to act in sync. Here's Power Line:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/06/026524.php

On “About those test results you’re (still) waiting for…

So, this is what you came up with by way of taking on some of the Left's encrusted assumptions and narratives? Seems kind of mild so far--not exactly the Glenn Beck treatment.

On ““Why Israel and not other, far more egregious examples?”

@ CK MacLeod:

Many observers, including Max Boot and even JE Dyer, have argued or implicitly acknowledged that Israel could have handled the events in a way that didn’t lead to bloodshed and an “incident.” That Israel gave its opponents what apparently was being sought may be forgivable and understandable, but it doesn’t suspend the law of physics mentioned in the top piece. There’s even a conspiracy theory in Turkey among regime opponents that Erdogan or operatives falsely informed the IDF that the flotilla “activists” were unarmed – which would make Israel guilty of letting itself get suckered. That may be much harder to forgive than the killings of 9 wanna-be martyrs – worse than a crime…

This is indeed the problem--Israel lets itself get suckered. And why? Because it is overly concerned with not giving even a pretext for even unfair criticism, etc. Playing defense makes it easier to get suckered. I would be very happy to see not only the kind of PR offensive you suggest but a broader political offensive of the kind Caroline Glick keeps calling for. Obviously there's nothing I can do to make it happen.

It's interesting, though, the way you pass over and neutralize the question of what happened. We need to be God to agree on the facts of the case--an intriguing claim! But, as long as your on the topic, what does Israel think is important, and what do its enemies think is important?

On “For the annals of familiarity breeding contempt…

@ factualizing frog:

The Saudis and others are playing the game full and hard, but they’re still playing catch-up and they’ll never succeed in pushing us into accepting their version of public discourse or conduct.

If by "us" you mean the "US," I agree, and made it clear that the US is the one place not joining the anti-Israel lynch mob (no matter how much effort our President puts into appeasing the mob). But in the rest of the world the game is already over.

On ““Why Israel and not other, far more egregious examples?”

@ CK MacLeod:
OK, to be less metaphorical, the international strategy is to South Africanize Israel--to make more and more of its policies, especially self-defense policies, intrinsically criminal. The establishment of an I have read, the Israelis are planning to invite international participants to their own commission of inquiry, which is very different from an international commission of inquiry. There is no debate about how international vs. how Israeli the commission should be--to support and international commission is already to presume its legitimacy will be greater than any Israeli commission will be. Your brief discussion seems to make my point but, of course, one could also say that it simply reveals incommensurable assumptions--after all, what you call "failure to adopt the Israeli line" is what I call "refusal to see what obviously happened."

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@ CK MacLeod:
Obviously I don't see it as very subjective. To show that, you might mention one place, aside from a (shrinking, but still solid, and mostly conservative) majority in American public opinion, Israel is presented as something other than a villain or, more precisely, war criminal, in any one of these events. There was a very brief moment in both the Hizbollah war and the Hamas war where Israel was seen, even in Europe, as the aggrieved party, but that was only until Israel's response became "disproportionate"--i.e., until they fought back.

On “For the annals of familiarity breeding contempt…

Just to be clear, my lack of a problem with Paypal does not indicate the existence of a problem with Geller--it just reflects a recognition that one shouldn't expect political courage from any corporation. And, regarding frog's comment #19, one also shouldn't expect such autonomous decisions from them--there is no doubt that Geller was brought to their attention, in an angry and threatening way, by people who could not only make the kinds of broad allusions about "liability" CK is referring to but who could suggest that there might even be more to worry about if they sustain such connections.

Which is to say you're both missing my point, but I'm loath to insist upon this much further. There is a real attack on freedom in the form of an attack on "Islamophobia"--the Minneapolis Imams from a few years back, CAIR, etc. I suppose we so take for granted that, of course, no media outlets would reprint the Muhammed cartoons, that there's not even anybody worth attacking or "pissing off" about that. But if you don't like McCarthy or Geller, how about Ayaan Hirsi Ali--would it be of interest to follow up on a recent Mark Steyn column and see how the left has been responding to her?

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@ CK MacLeod:

He proposed the kind of sustained protest that he believes kept the KSM trial out of Manhattan Federal Court. I believe that the “money quote” was included in the first “fight them all together” piece.

Exactly--no violence, no legal action--and no attempt to intimidate third parties, like Paypal.

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@ factualizing frog:

The more interesting question might be whether there’s a sufficiency of civic obligation owed by a for-profit company to the public discourse that might present a reason why such company would be hesitant to disassociate itself from gutter-level, loathsome, bigoted, stupidity such as that offered by Pamela Geller.

I agree with this, in terms of the explanation it offers for Paypal's actions. I.e., it is cowed by the politically correct mob, in its grand alliance with the Islamists--which was the point of my original comment.

On ““Why Israel and not other, far more egregious examples?”

@ CK MacLeod:
Yes, but Israel is never implicated in this as a complex symbol befitting all these entanglements--it is more the target of a global lynch mob.

On “For the annals of familiarity breeding contempt…

@ CK MacLeod:

Paypal and similar companies – credit card processors – are covered by numerous laws in numerous jurisdictions, and potentially subject to every imaginable liability claim if they fail to show due diligence.

Liability for what?

If you had a site that constantly described Jews as the enemies of all that was good and holy, constantly called for measures to curtail and restrict Jewish activities, described actions by or on behalf of Israel as actions “by the Jews” (“the Jews stopped the flotilla,” “the Jews’ propaganda says X,” “when the Jews invaded Lebanon”), would you have much of a problem with a corporation that decided to take its business elsewhere?

No--and, in a sense, I don't have a problem with Paypal--even if they just don't want good, progressive people saying nasty things about them, they have a right to institute and enforce their own rules of usage. But I wasn't suggesting you argue against Paypal's decision--I was suggesting that you look at the kinds of campaigns incessantly waged so as to make such decisions the easier one, and the consequences of such successful campaigns.

And let’s be clear: McCarthy didn’t “counsel suspicion” of the CI – which is aggressive but might amount in practice to “keep an eye on the CI.” He called for a campaign to prevent Cordoba House-NYC from being built, depicting it as a significant milestone in the “Grand Jihad” to “sabotage America” and turn it into a “Shariah society.”

What kind of campaign? One within the law, I assume, and without threat of violence, and without even denying the legal right to build the mosque.

Anyway, I get the point--you don't consider this a good candidate for pissing off the left.

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@ factualizing frog:
Not exactly. I'm suggesting that once you start looking into organized campaigns against the spirit of American freedom (as CK has defined it) by Muslim individuals and organizations that pass as "moderate" or interested in "dialogue" it might be more difficult to dismiss the arguments of McCarthy and others that would counsel suspicion of ventures like the Cordoba Initiative. But I don't want to suggest any conclusions--as long as CK is asking, I'd like to see what happens if he were to take a look.

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I just read the Pamela Geller's website has been cut off by Paypal for being a site of "hate speech," and therefore against their conditions of usage. Of course, Paypal is a private site, and can serve whom they like; still, I wonder whether and how you would defend the speech you hate against the very energetic activity of those who would like to demonize and if possible silence all criticism of Islam.

On ““Why Israel and not other, far more egregious examples?”

Your post addresses the issue of the amount of attention paid to Israel, not the question of the uniquely evil intentions and manipulative power attributed to the Israelis and their Jewish supporters.

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