Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

Bein' Liberal

iconoclast's favorite Jewish columnist has a column out today about antisemitism. In it he compares the actions of Mel Gibson against those of Naveed Haq, the man who shot up a Jewish organization in Seattle, and takes the media to task for paying much more attention to the first than the second.

Jacoby has a point. While Mel Gibson's actions were certainly deplorable, they pale in comparison to Haq's, and in fact Gibson's worst offense was probably driving drunk, something that's been pretty much ignored in the aftermath. The first amendment protects Mel Gibson's right to spout off with whatever bigotry he wishes to express, and the damage done by his cruel words can be undone by future actions if he so chooses. Haq's murderous rampage can never be taken back. The life he took can never be untaken.

Now of course Gibson's celebrity plays an enormous role in the disparity of coverage between the two events. Mel Gibson spilling an Ice Cream sundae on his suit jacket would get more coverage than the average murder does. But there does seem to be something else at play here. Namely the fact that liberals, and the media is primarily made up of liberals, appear to be loathe to point out the worst aspects of the religion known as Islam.

When Jacoby uses a term like "Spontaneous Jihad" he's both being sensationalist and mocking liberal attitudes towards mental illness. Most Muslims are peaceful people who are no more a danger to anyone else than your average Christian, Jew, or Atheist. Those who do lash out violently are typically members of radicalized congregations and have either made hateful statements or been in contact with terrorist organizations. Of course "professional" terrorists blend in with the peaceful crowds, which is a problem, but it's not like most Muslims are ticking time bombs.

On the other hand, the number of people who subscribe to radical islam is not insignificant, and their actions are far worse than the "radical right" we know in the west. When Jerry Falwell goes on television and blames gays for 9/11 he's being an enormous asshole, but we're able to laugh at him and go on with our day. Homosexuals in the Palestinian territories are not so lucky. The ban on gay marriage is ridiculous, but compared to state-sanctioned murder for people caught engaging in homosexual behaviors, well, it's fairly insignificant.

Why won't liberals admit that Islam has a serious problem and that these behaviors are utterly unacceptable? Why is it that if a Jew walked into a Mosque in New York and started shooting it would be front page news, but when a Muslim does the same to a synagogue it's pretty much "Dog Bites Man" and we treat that as acceptable? Why is it that we can't just say outright that Hamas and Hezbollah are horrible organizations of terror and destruction and that anybody who joins or supports them is a bad person worthy of scorn?

I think it comes down to a couple things. The first is that liberals feel that they have to counteract conservative propaganda. Conservatives are quick to paint all Muslims with the same brush and say things like "We need to go there, behead their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." Liberals should, and do, find this repellent and feel the need to strike back with "No, Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance!" Well it can be, but the form practiced in most of the Islamic world is NOT. Just as Christianity in the middle ages was steeped in intolerance.

Liberals also tend to practice cultural relativism, which is fine in many respects and wrong in others. There is no moral difference between pig meat and dog meat. There is a huge moral difference between treating women as the west does and as Saudi Arabia does. There is no moral difference between worshiping Jesus and worshiping Vishnu. There is a huge moral difference between blaming gays for hurricanes and stoning them in the street. We should say this. And we should deny the legitimacy of any government that does not allow women to vote or does not allow its citizens to express themselves freely.

As liberals we need to confront truth fearlessly and without prejudice. We cannot ignore atrocities nor dangerous ideologies of any stripe. The only difference between Hezbollah and Nazi Germany is power and efficiency. The philosophies are quite compatible. We should be able to say so AND condemn Israel for slaying innocent Lebanese. Likewise when a Muslim shoots up a Jewish organization in Seattle we should condemn both him and the ideology he subscribes to.

Tyranny and evil are not excused by repression or ignorance. They should not be ignored just because those that perpetrate them are also the victims of injustice. As liberals we need to do a better job of providing honest nuanced pictures of the world and its problems, and we should stop supporting heinous groups just because the right wing despises them.
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