Monday, February 27, 2006

Bigotry-Baiting

Bigotry is obviously wrong but so is bigotry-baiting. What is bigotry-baiting? Like race-baiting, it is a form of manipulation. Race-baiting relies on the inflammation of passions relating to racial prejudice—generally hate, loathing, and fear. Bigotry-bating seeks to induce guilt generally by intimidation, innuendo, and baseless accusations; all in an attempt to manipulate guilt-prone individuals. Bigotry and bigotry-baiting both undercut rational analysis by emotional manipulation and thus poison the atmosphere required for a healthy public debate.

During the late 1980s, Japanese corporations went on an international buying spree that included American corporations and landmark real estate, such as Rockefeller Center. Critics, generally Democrats but also some conservatives, expressed concern over foreign ownership of American corporations and real estate. Often these concerns were dismissed by playing the race card, i.e. bigotry-baiting. Democrats were generally cowered by such tactics.

It became clear to me, while I was arguing for foreign investment with one Democratic opponent, that such bigotry-baiting was cheap and unfair. He was concerned with labor issues given distinctive Japanese management practices. While I disagreed with his argument, dismissing him as a bigot would have been an evasion unworthy of either of us. I was embarrassed to see some of my libertarian friends playing the race card on this issue. Of course, this momentary lapse is far cry from the perennial “racial hucksters” constantly in the media. Bigotry-baiting on the national stage undermines public debate.

It’s happening again today.

Stunned by the public’s objections an Arab/Islamic country’s interest in port management, editorial writers, media talking-heads, arm-chair pundits, academic bloggers, and chattering sophisticates are all playing the bigotry-card. (I discuss the port issue specifically in the previous blog entry and comments section.) And this includes many people I respect. Here’s Larry Kudlow. Both Tom Palmer and Charles Steele seem to agree. These libertarians have valid concerns but when they slip into bigotry-baiting that worries me. (To their credit it is not the gist of their argument.) But they are not alone; conservatives express much the same. Rich Lowry mentions in passing that Congress is “worried at being portrayed as anti-Arab” and James K. Glassman calls objections to the port deal “rank racist nonsense.” The eclectic uber-blogger, Andrew Sullivan, is yelling “xenophobia and paranoia.” Oh, please! Let's get some perspective.

Let’s see how we got here.

After the 9/11 attacks, Americans wondered what kind of people could commit such vicious acts. Beyond those directly involved, bin Laden, the leader of the operation, was considered a hero through out the Islamic world and Pew polls showed that he remained a hero to the majority of Muslims for years after. As America looked for reasonable answers all they got was instant clichés: “it’s the act of an evil one” who has “hijacked” a “peaceful religion.” Any thought to the contrary was deemed bigotry: don’t dare think such thoughts.

The President’s critics agreed: don’t disparage “the other.” But they added: we brought it on ourselves. If there is widespread hate in the Islamic world, it is an understandable reaction to our policies. For the left, it is unthinkable to disparage another culture (unless one administers an equal or greater dose of self-flagellation.) Negative generalizations specifically about Muslims or Islamic culture are strictly verboten.

But reality refused to conform to these ideas.

Islamic hatred of the Jews was explained away. Islamic hatred of America was considered understandable. But it didn’t end there. What about Islamic-driven violence against Buddhist monks in Thailand? Surfers in Bali? Hindus in India? Commuters in London and Madrid? School children in Beslan? And who could blame the Islamic uprising in France on their foreign policy? And why are they shouting: “Death to Denmark?” Who could hate the Danes?

Clearly excuse-making was wearing thin both for the critics of America’s policy and for the President himself. The Hamas victory puts a lie to “it’s just a few.” The theocracy growing in Iraq and Afghanistan refutes the notion of universal innate ideas and desires. The revolution in Iran to overthrow the mullahs hasn’t materialized. The problem is deeper than the administration originally thought.

If one is to understand and integrate all of these events, one needs to make generalizations. But there is a standing order that damns embryonic negative generalizations as bigotry before they are fully formed; this prevents the integrations required for conceptual understanding and leaves a sense of confusion in its wake.

The public has been ill-served by our writers, intellectuals, and political leaders who’ve defaulted on providing conceptual guidance. If the public must form crude generalizations, don’t damn them as bigots; damn the intellectuals for their betrayal. I’ve argued on this venue that one can distinguish between the ideology, Islam, and demographic group, Muslims. There is room for debate about an appropriate measured generalization about a foreign culture, but not in an atmosphere of guilt-manipulation and bigotry-baiting where debate is strait-jacketed by bigotry-baiting tactics.

This isn’t the first time that intellectuals have failed America. Back in the Red Decade, it was popular to praise the Soviet Union as a noble experiment and dismiss critics as exhibiting bourgeois prejudice. Religious critics were dismissed a prejudiced against an atheistic philosophy. Russian refuges were considered disgruntled losers, biased against the new order. The spirit of Pragmatism brushed aside time-worn principles as antiquated dogma while urging an open disposition to the brave new world.

After WWII, Communism swallowed the eastern part of Europe and half of Asia. Americans were shocked and angry—shocked at the grave threat that seemed to suddenly appear and angry at the betrayal of our intellectual leaders. There were too few intellectuals who could lead an intelligent opposition based on a fundamental understanding of Communism’s nature. If the first generation of anti-Communist warriors seemed crude to some, so be it. It takes several iterations to get an idea right.

Today we are as blind to the Islamic threat as we were to communism 70 years ago. Few understand Islam’s fundamental nature or the vast and disparate demographic group, Muslims. Public debate is stifled by a political correctness that permeates our culture. The public’s ability to respond to a major catastrophe in a measured manner is slim to none. An overreaction is most likely. Whenever the public is told a lie that paints an idyllic picture, disillusionment will lead to embracing its anti-thesis instead of an accurate measured generalization. Knowledge takes time, rational deliberation, and extensive dissemination.

The credibility of today’s intellectual leaders is at a low. A well deserved low!

Update: Michelle Malkin

27 Comments:

Blogger LASunsett said...

Excellent piece, Jason.

I think some people desperately want to believe that centuries of radical ideology is all supposed to be gone now, except for the so-called "handful that have hijacked this religion of peace".

Jihadists (of the tongue) use this tactic you mention, to suppress any legitimate debate about anything that has to do with Islam. Thanks for drawing attention to the subject.

2/27/06, 9:30 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks, LA. By the way, you added some interesting comments over at GM Roper's. I wish I had the time to add some of my own. So much to read!

2/27/06, 10:34 PM  
Blogger leelion said...

Jason that was a well written and thought out piece. What is it that ultimately prevents a leftist from disparaging an aspect of another culture? It's not just the fear of envy thing Jack Wheeler talks about. It's something deeper i believe. Do they undermine western values because they themselves lack those values?

2/28/06, 12:35 AM  
Blogger Nate said...

I think you are approaching Islam from a different position that I, but I agree with your points as well. Too many people live in fear, that is why there is no free speech, they are too scared to offend others. But with what is happening (destruction, murder, violence) something needs to be addressed about Islam and we shouldn't be afraid to do so.

2/28/06, 1:15 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I'd agree if were weren't talking about the United Arab Emirates.

The reasons I claim there is a racist component to some arguments is because the UAE has been extremely cooperative in the war on terrorism and with military operations with the United States. The US Navy ports there for shore leave.

First this issue was exploded as "Arabs taking over our ports!" which got all the people who let their televisions think for them all in a tizzy, to the point rational discussion can't take place becuase you have to explain every 30 seconds that SOME terminals (docks and piers) are going to be operated by Dubai Ports World at each port city, NOT THE ENTIRE FRIGGIN' PORT.

The only reason to ban this transaction is to keep out foreign government owned businesses. But you've got a boatload of other countries to apply this to, in the shipping industry alone.

So it's either racism, ignorance of US-UAE relations and war on terrorism history, or a Quixotic attempt to boot out foreign investment in America that just so happens to have been brought about by seeming racism and seeming ignorance coincidentally with the UAE's business getting the port deal.

Bush is right on this.

2/28/06, 2:30 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Pow

2/28/06, 3:32 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Here is a little bit about UAE's racism as it applies to the ports deal. Worth reading.

(Hat tip: Democracy Frontline)

2/28/06, 8:25 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Today, February 28, Sixth Column has put up an interesting article about Dubai Ports.

2/28/06, 8:31 AM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Jason,

"Bigot" is just one of the many ad hominem tactics used by the Islamophiles to scare off those of us who have identified the difference between valid and invalid moral codes, and who reject the latter with confidence and without hesitation. We've been called all sorts of things, from "racist" all the way down to "intolerant."

Personally, I regard the term "bigot" as a badge of honor in this case; I am a "bigot" and proud of it. Here's why - the definition from MSFT's "Encarta World English Dictionary" (1999):

"Bigot: somebody who has very strong opinions, especially on matters of politics, religion, or ethnicity and refuses to accept different views."

On the basis of this definition, I am certainly a bigot. I will never accept the view that Islam is anything but an evil horror show.

Three cheers for BIGOTS!

2/28/06, 12:01 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Let me get this straight...if you accuse someone like Jason who makes a blanket condemnation of a billion people (i.e. all muslims) without knowing his ass from his elbow about the history of the religion or the many countries involved then you are "bigot baiting"? Or is Jason jst a bigot?

I am really amazed how this nation became Islamic scholars in such a short time.

Well, whatever. Look at Iraq for the Doctrine of Logical Consequences.

Next Beamish will explain to me how Dubai taking over port management in Miami will have anything to do with Israeli goods shipping into Dubai one way or the other.

Next thing you know he'll admit that he thinks the "war on terror" is real. War on Terror...too freakin' funny.

2/28/06, 12:54 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I never looked up the word before. I had assumed it was an unwarranted negative opinion. However, several dictionaries suggest that it merely means: strongly opinionated or partial to one side. Of course, the opposite would be relativistic, agnostic, or perhaps undecided.

Some dictionaries equate bigotry with intolerance but that begs the question: intolerant of what? Is intolerance of irrational hatred make for bigotry? With words like tolerance (or intolerance) self-exclusion has to apply. Tolerance is only a valid concept when it doesn’t include “tolerance of intolerance.”

When I was using the word bigotry, I had in mind “unwarranted” negative judgment but it is interesting that connotation became attacked to a benign word. If bigotry means no more than strongly help opinion, I’d have no problem with the word. Thanks, Cubed, for the info. And, of course, stated with gusto!

In any case, when people throw out charges of “prejudice,” “bias,” "bigotry" (the way most use the word), I ignore these charges if they are only a small part of the argument and the person has other points worth addressing. I don’t even dignify them by acknowledging the charge and I don’t cower. As a matter of fact, I tend to dig-in my heels when it is clear that someone is trying to manipulate me. I loathe underhanded psychological tactics by verbal bullies. And I hate to see others subjected to such manipulation, even when they are applied to those with whom I have a difference.

2/28/06, 1:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Oh as an aside on how this is going to go down, Beamish. The facts aren't going to change regarding the Dubai deal but they will change your perception.

There will be some holding company like Halliburton (don't know why I picked that one) assigned to port management through legislation. Now since we don't have a single experienced port management company in the country the task will be subcontracted...to Dubai and China and anyone else who holds our indebtedness.

They'll just powder your right wing ass, Beamish. Surely you must be starting to see that.

2/28/06, 1:00 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

It’s not hard to learn about Islam or Communism. One doesn’t have to become an expert: the salient features of these ideologies and the history of horror when they are put into practiced is too obvious. What was that phrase from the sixties … “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

2/28/06, 1:03 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

It isn't hard to learn about the firestorm that laissez-faire economics created at the turn of the twentieth century either, Jason but you aren't capable of that effort.

Anyway, equating a religion with a political system is tenuous and you don't have the knowledge to handle the task.

Do you really think that identifying yourself as a "libertarian" does anything more than brand you as a doctrinaire dilletante?

2/28/06, 1:15 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Ducky, you are tiresome. Obvious “laissez-faire” is a limit-term designating a degree of capitalism: total. Opposing only “laissez-faire” doesn’t mean the complete abandonment of capitalism and most who praise capitalism don’t join the libertarian camp for the complete “laissez-faire” package.

Communism and Islam, on the other hand, are rotten to the core. It’s hard to miss.

2/28/06, 1:27 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Jason_Pappas said...
It’s not hard to learn about Islam or Communism.

Beautifully said, Jason; it's all about concept formation. Words like "Islam" and "Communism" subsume VAST quantities of knowledge, something lost on many of our postmodernist friends.

Or maybe not, which is why the tactic of throwing out so many details is used; the trick is to try to cause us to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

2/28/06, 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason,

I have been engaging in a debate on Diana Hessiah's blog in Paul's most recent post. I have been making many of your arguments. If you want to chime in (and I hope you do) here is the link:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2006/02/non-appeasers-in-poland.html

Go to the comments.

D. Eastbrook

2/28/06, 2:20 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Cubed, September 10th you didn't know or care that Islam existed.

Now you're a scholar. Please stop.

2/28/06, 2:28 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Eastbrook, you've done an excellent job. I think the general reader can see your opponent is bogged down in legalese trying to salvage what’s left of his original purpose. You’ve said more than enough unless someone else wants to discuss some aspect of what you've written, I’d let the readers digest what you’ve written.

2/28/06, 3:41 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Jason

Lets see a Marxist Duck is worried about Muslims. The USSR sent scores of them to Siberia did anyone say a word. This is fake concern at best.

2/28/06, 9:13 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I don't think Jason is a racist at all.

I specifically name as racists the Democratic party leadership for bringing up this false concern about "port security in the hands of Arabs" when the DPW company will not be handling port security, at all, when there candidate for President in 2004 specifically singled out Saudi Arabia because "most of the hijackers were Saudis," the same Saudi Arabian government that owns a company that has operated port facilities in nine American seaports since 1997, when the media is doing its damnest to not inform the American people how commonplace foreign government-owned port facilities are in America, and doing its damnest to not inform the American people about the US-UAE relationship and the UAE's record AGAINST terrorism, specifically Al Qaeda... I could go on and on. The Republicans that have jumped on this bandwagon will probably jump off as these questions and more unfold.

At least I hope.

It will be a shame if Democrats shut down this ports deal to slight an ally in the war on terror and a strategic partner that sits across the Straits of Hormuz from the world's largest terrorist supporter and Democratic Party contributor.

You know, the guys that Kerry wanted to give nuclear materials to see if they'd build a nuke with it?

2/28/06, 11:25 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Kaboom!

3/3/06, 1:59 AM  
Blogger Pim's Ghost said...

Ducky, please. Many of us were studying the rest of the world and the many cultures outside of our own before 9/11. I for one have been a critic of Islam since far before 9/11.

As for not thinking that the War on Terror is real, keep that head in the sand, baby. cubed's posts are well informed and brilliant, and if you want to see further discussion in this area, please see the comments on my article that you considered "predictable tripe" on my site. I believe that Jason has provided a link

3/3/06, 8:38 AM  
Blogger American Crusader said...

Yes, excellent piece.

President Bush needs to stop calling Islam a "Religion of Peace" hijacked by a few extremist and call it what it is. A religion of hate and conquest. Of course, by doing so he would be labeled a bigot.

Let me ask you this, if Dubai refused visas to blacks and supported white supremacist who wanted to eliminate blacks would we even be discussing the port deal?

3/3/06, 2:13 PM  
Blogger Ouzian said...

on the topic of dubai ports deal...

I live in dubai and know for a fact that many asians come here illegally through ports.... hundreds... thousands... many of whom managed to get passports illegally...

3/8/06, 3:14 AM  
Blogger RD said...

Fantastic post!

3/11/06, 11:41 PM  
Blogger Freedomnow said...

Ducky,

You defend Islam as if it is somehow smeared or slandered. I agree that many Muslims are good people, just like any others. However, many of the things that are done in the name of Islam are horrible. I have a couple of questions for you.

Why arent infidels allowed in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina? Is Islamic apartheid justifiable?Will you seek to repress information pertaining to Islamic bigotry that leads to laws preventing the public display of other religions and the death penalty for Muslims who convert?

What about terrorist groups that kill innocent people in the name of Islam? Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, etc.... Is this a proper expression of religious activism?

You say that "equating a religion with a political system is tenuous", however Sharia law is a real world application of such a system and there are many Islamic groups that advocate religion as a political system. Why does it bother you when people object to that?

Your arguments are not thought out properly because they are strictly propaganda and do not utilize rational thought...only the manipulation of information (and misinformation) to support your positions.

3/13/06, 12:06 PM  

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