Jun 27 2007

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate

My recent blog post on the MetroBlogging Vancouver website about a recent protest in downtown Vancouver against Islamic terrorism and political Islam seems to have found a way around the laws of thermodynamics, generating much heat, but little light amongst some of its readership.

A brief excerpt of the post is as follows:

There were various groups represented outside the VAG: The Worker-Communist Party of Iran, the Third Camp and others. These people are opposed to Western militarism. They’re no Fox News propagandists.

But today, they were protesting Iran’s atrocious human rights record, persecution of women activists and the torture of political prisoners.

They weren’t doing this to argue for some kind of military response – actually, their sign specifically said no to war. But they were protesting the negative and violent consequences of political Islam – overseas, as well as right here in Canada.

Finally, some of the people who take part in Vancouver’s very active peace movement seem to be making the distinction that protesting brutal anti-Western dictatorships doesn’t make you a stooge of George W. Bush – it just means you have a conscience.

I’ve received a number of comments alternately implying I’m a propagandist for George W. Bush, an ahistorical hack and quite possibly an apologist for the Ku Klux Klan. Rather than try to confront these outrageous assertions on the MetroBlogging site and clogging up its comment space, I’m moving this stupidity over to my own site, where I can hopefully get everything out of the way at once.

Following a response to a BeyondRobson blogger Sean Orr has left the following comments:

Umm…I’m pretty sure that by demonstrating “against the evils of Western imperialism, US and Israeli militarism and Canadian participation in the the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan” they are by proxy protesting against the political impetus that fuels Islamic Terrorism.

So, what you’re saying is that when Iranians chant “death to America”, what they’re really demonstrating against by proxy is… terrorism and human rights abuses committed in the name of political Islam? Is that right? Well, in that case, we’re all on the same side, and just didn’t know it! Hooray!

But I digress. In response to his next comment, I stated simply that not all Islamist terrorism was a reaction to Western imperialism.

Possibly, just possibly, some of the people who would like to blow up buses in London, hijack planes and fly them into buildings, or behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Allah’s name are motivated by old fashioned racial hatred, ethnic nationalism and good dose of mental illness. Indeed, since most Islamic terror is actually directed against fellow Muslims, not Westerners, at least part of it could reasonably be explained by the factors I’ve mentioned above.

Orr’s response to my comment follows:

Name one example before Western Influence in the region. Name one time there was a suicide bombing. The only one I can think of is the bombing of the Hotel Daivid by extremist Jews.

My response:

Sean, your response is exactly what I was blogging about. Thanks for making your own position clear to all, in any case.

Have a great weekend, and say hello to Osama for me.

With his last comment, Orr effectively excused every single act of terror, state or freelance, carried out in the name of political Islam. This is exactly what the protesters last week were demonstrating against. Essentially, he has supported by default the position of Al Queda: that all Western influence (not merely military, but cultural, economic and religious) is a monstrous evil that must be fought to the death, Muslims are always victims, and all types of violence against Westerners, civilian or military, is justified because it is resistance.

Orr’s response:

Oh I get it, because Israel was founded on terrorism (Stern Gang, Irgun), then I am automatically in favour of a different religion’s terrorism. Logic much?

Actually, my response had made no reference to Israel. I only pointed out the depravity of always condemning violence by Western forces and always choosing to dodge the issue of condemning violence perpetrated in Allah’s name.

My response, to clarify things:

By your words, you liken Westerners and Western thought to some kind of lethal contagion that ought to be fought violently – much as racist North Americans about one hundred years ago justified their attacks on Chinatowns or the KKK in the American South justified their own lynching of black people.

I repeated the example in a later comment. Sadly, my metaphor seems to have been misinterpreted in the worst possibly way. In addition to inspiring Orr’s next completely irrelevant spam comment (simply copying and pasting a lengthy partial historical list of Western militarism in the Middle East – tsk, tsk, my friend), another MetroBlogging author, Jeffery Simpson, has chosen to offer the following:

Okay but I’m going to have to take exemption with the example of the KKK. While clearly the KKK had their own motivation for their actions let’s not forget that the African Americans were enslaved, brought to America and were generally following the post-Civil War Constitutional Amendments when the KKK began to target them. They were nowhere near as proactive in causing the KKK to hate them as America has been in angering fanatics in the middle east.

Um, Jeffery, are you seriously suggesting that black people were “proactive” at all in causing the Ku Klux Klan to hate them? I really hope that I’m somehow misreading you. Am I?

In any case, that is certainly not my position. Indeed, senseless racial hatred was the root cause of the persectution of black people in the American South. I’m only claiming that the same sort of base racial-ethnic hatred would seem to apply a
t least partially in the case of terrorism motivated by terrorists blowing up buses for Allah.

The comments on my MetroBlogging post certainly haven’t refuted the central thesis of that post. If anything, they only seem to furnish more examples of making excuses for kidnappers, murderers and suicide bombers. So I throw down the gaunlet:

To Sean Orr, all his super-cool buddies, and anyone who has attended a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery protesting the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, or imperialism (old fashioned, or neo-; it’s all good):

I’m perfectly willing to say that George W. Bush is a dink, the US-led invasion of Iraq has been a catastrophe and Israel’s occupation of parts of the West Bank and the Golan Heights gives Arabs heartburn, diarrheah and impotence.

Are you willing to admit that the violence and atrocities committed by Al Queda, the Taliban and affiliated psycho nut jobs is horrible and ought to be condemned in no uncertain terms?

Will you say plainly that jihadi terrorists who want to blow up Canadians are scum?

Are you able to say with a straight face that people who blow up dozens or hundreds of people in a crowded market anywhere in the world are deluded, diabolical bastards… without adding a clause starting with “but”?

I’m waiting…

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”

  1. on 27 Jun 2007 at 8:10 am

    I hereby declare that I find all terrorist acts reprehensible. Happy? Way to shift the debate into a predictable, you’re either with us or against us paradigm. But doesn’t it make more sense for Canadians to protest Canada’s involvement in comical War on Terrorism, rather than protest something they have absolutely no control over? Its our tax dollars that are killing Afghan children. It is our elected representatives. It is our men and women being sent home in body bags to fight a war against a country that never posed a threat to Canada. As I said in my very first comment, Peace activists are for peace: therefore the condemnation of terrorism is implied. You know, because of the whole PEACE thing.

    Peace, Sean Orr.

  2. on 27 Jun 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Good morning, Sean. Yes, actually, this makes my day.

    I’ll have to disagree with your last point, though. Frankly, the silent partnership between groups like Stop-the-War, other Canadian groups and radical Islamists is too well-documented to simply say that condemnation of terrorism is implied in its peace marches. Clearly, it ain’t.

    As for protesting things we have no control over, such seemingly insurmountable challenges never stopped people from protesting the Chinese annexation of Tibet. You wouldn’t think a totalitarian government would really be listening, but people make the effort all the same.

    But in the spirit of mending fences, I’ll shout out a happy smack-George-W-Bush-in-the-crotch Day to y’all.


  3. on 27 Jun 2007 at 4:40 pm

    It’s good to see a position that is not just a knee-jerk response driven by where you see yourself on the political spectrum (e.g., “the enemy of Bush is my friend”), but actually shows thought and judgement.

    And Sean, I find many peace activists often, um, selective as to what they demand peace for. You say “condemnation of terrorism is implied.” Perhaps some peace activists should make it a little less implied and a little more explicit.

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