Tag Archives: Michelle Goldberg

Journolist Strikes Again!

Jonathan Strong at Daily Caller:

Katha Pollitt – Hayes’s colleague at the Nation – didn’t disagree on principle, though she did sound weary of the propaganda. “I hear you. but I am really tired of defending the indefensible. The people who attacked Clinton on Monica were prissy and ridiculous, but let me tell you it was no fun, as a feminist and a woman, waving aside as politically irrelevant and part of the vast rightwing conspiracy Paula, Monica, Kathleen, Juanita,” Pollitt said.

“Part of me doesn’t like this shit either,” agreed Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent. “But what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals.”

Ackerman went on:

I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

Ackerman did allow there were some Republicans who weren’t racists. “We’ll know who doesn’t deserve this treatment — Ross Douthat, for instance — but the others need to get it.” He also said he had begun to implement his plan. “I previewed it a bit on my blog last week after Commentary wildly distorted a comment Joe Cirincione made to make him appear like (what else) an antisemite. So I said: why is it that so many on the right have such a problem with the first viable prospective African-American president?”

Several members of the list disagreed with Ackerman – but only on strategic grounds.

“Spencer, you’re wrong,” wrote Mark Schmitt, now an editor at the American Prospect. “Calling Fred Barnes a racist doesn’t further the argument, and not just because Juan Williams is his new black friend, but because that makes it all about character. The goal is to get to the point where you can contrast some _thing_ — Obama’s substantive agenda — with this crap.”

(In an interview Monday, Schmitt declined to say whether he thought Ackerman’s plan was wrong. “That is not a question I’m going to answer,” he said.)

Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?”

But it was Ackerman who had the last word. “Kevin, I’m not saying OBAMA should do this. I’m saying WE should do this.”

More Strong

Instapundit:

Those who suspected that the media was collaborating to spin the coverage in Obama’s favor were righter than they knew. . . .

Andrew Breitbart at Big Journalism:

American journalism died a long time ago; today Tucker Carlson got around to running the obituary. What The Daily Caller has unearthed proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that most media organizations are either complicit by participation in the treachery that is Journolist, or are guilty of sitting back and watching Alinsky warfare being waged against all that challenged the progressive orthodoxy. The scandal predictably involves journalists posing as professors posing as experts. But dressed down they are nothing but street thugs. They deserve the deepest levels of public consternation. We must demand that they do.

The only way that the media will recover from the horrifying discoveries found in the Journolist is to investigate and investigate until every guilty reporter, professor and institution is laid bare begging America for forgiveness. Will they do it?

If the powers that be don’t comply with this demand, we can always call Jonathan Alter and Eric Alterman racists.*

The media is filled with left-wing activists.

The race card is the first and last refuge of liberal scoundrels.

The race-card playing liberals in the media tried their best to whitewash Barack Obama’s radical ties to Jeremiah Wright and other race demagogues.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, but it’s always useful to see all the plotting and evidence in writing.

Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media:

And don’t forget to have CNN declare their network a “Wright-Free Zone” — a week after praising to the hilt Wright’s performance at the annual convention of the NAACP.

Matt Welch at Reason:

Ackerman’s characteristically juvenile bravado did draw JournoList rebukes from Mark Schmitt and Kevin Drum, the Daily Caller reported. Read the whole thing here; Reason on JournoList here.

As this whole episode describes a world utterly alien to me–listservs, major-party affiliation, political team identity, desire to help out politicians–I am experiencing this mostly as a consumer of entertainment news (with the caveat that I have met several of the people involved). There is a certain poetry, however, to seeing Joe Conason’s name associated with it all.

Ben Domenech at The New Ledger:

Fred Barnes is a devout Christian and a gentleman, a respected writer who has never given any indication of racist views. The fact that Ackerman would recommend this wrathful and baseless attack isn’t surprising. But it does say something about membership in the menagerie of tame conservatives that where Barnes is maligned by the Left, Douthat is exempted.

Mona Charen at NRO

Jules Crittenden:

The best defense is to be offensive. It’s what wriggles when you lift the JournoList rock. Chatter at Memeorandum. Spencer “Call them Racists” Ackerman’s FDL site here. At Wired here. At last check, crickets in response. Maybe because a good character assassination plot, as the DailyCaller’s reporting illustrates, takes planning. It’ll be interesting to see if Wired wants to keep a scribbler who tried to influence a national election by engineering unwarranted venal ad-hominem attacks.

HotAir: The objections weren’t whether it was right or not. They were about whether it would work.

National Review: The well-worn accusation of racism has been losing its punch. But rarely do we see the motivation so baldly stated.

Hey, if they keep it up, maybe we will end up post-racial. And post-racialist, starting with Ackerman. It would be kind of ironic if the only character that ended up getting assassinated out of all that plotting is his own.

Salon scribbler doesn’t see what the big deal is with liberals plotting to randomly smear Republicans as racist in order to divert attention from a presidential candidate’s distracting racist problem. After all, belief in Republican racism is a liberal given. Which makes it OK.

Moderate Voice: Just because the right-wing is paranoid doesn’t mean the lefty media wasn’t out to get them. (To TMV’s credit, that’s not exactly how they put it.)

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:

I think we’re finally getting to a point where the overuse of the “racism” charge since Barack Obama became president has weakened its sting. This story should weaken it further, as it reveals how comfortable some of our most passionate racism watchdogs are with sowing racial discord for partisan advantage.

I think this is healthy—for those falsely accused, for the political process, for race relations, and for those who suffer real racism of the sort that’s not immediately politically useful to a listserv of mostly white journalists in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: Strong here and here

Ann Althouse

Matt Welch at Reason

Ezra Klein

Jeffrey Goldberg

Byron York at The Washington Examiner

Nate Silver

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

UPDATE #2: More Strong

Matthew Yglesias

Jim Lindgren

Ed Morrissey

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time

Andrew Sullivan

Jonathan Chait at TNR

UPDATE #3: More Strong

Ed Morrissey

DRJ at Patterico

Jonathan Zasloff

UPDATE #4: Bill Scher and Conor Friedersdorf at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Roger Simon at Politico

Alex Pareene at Salon

Dan Riehl

Greg Sargent

UPDATE #6: Reihan Salam at Daily Beast

Heather Horn at The Atlantic

UPDATE #7: Instapundit

UPDATE #8: Michelle Goldberg and Dayo Olopade at Bloggingheads

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Filed under New Media, Politics, Race

There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses

Dana Chivvis at Politics Daily:

A government group representing lower Manhattan voted last night in favor of plans to build a controversial mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site. After four hours of discussions between opponents and supporters of the proposed Muslim community center, called Cordoba House, the community board voted 29-to-1 in favor of the plans.

The vote is not binding in any way, but is seen as a gauge of public opinion. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn support the plans for the 13-story building, which would include a swimming pool, auditorium , exhibition space and as an area for worship.

Still, many others nationwide have voiced their opposition to the plans, saying the mosque will be an ugly reminder of the extremist ideology behind the terror attacks. Julie Menin, the community board chairwoman, told The New York Times she had received hundreds of calls and emails about the plans, most of which were from outside New York.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

My conservative cousin from New York writes:

Plans to build Cordoba House, a 15-story Islamic Center two blocks north of Ground Zero, received a major boost yesterday when a Manhattan community board backed the proposal by a 29-to-1 vote. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said the center would help “bridge and heal a divide” among Muslims and other religious groups.

Perhaps the Imam is sincere but I find the whole project an outrage. The name Cordoba House at best conveys a total insensitivity to the families of victims of the attack at worse it shows sympathy with the terrorist’s goals. Cordoba, was the Capital of Al-Andalus the Islamic Caliphate that ruled much of Spain during the Middle Ages. One of Al-Qaida’s main goals announced after the 9/11 attack was the restoration of the Cordoba Caliphate in Al-Andalus.

The Project is said to cost $100 million and no one seems to know who is paying for all of this. There are hundreds of Mosques in the New York area in a nation dedicated to religious freedom. If the Imam wants to “bridge and heal a divide” among Muslims and other faiths he should look beyond Manhattan. There are no churches or synagogues in Mecca, Riyadh or Kuwait. In Egypt, Iran and other Islamic nations those who don’t adhere to Islam practice their faiths at great risk to themselves and their families. I don’t understand why Mayor Bloomberg and other local officials are supporting this project.

Can anyone explain?

I can’t. But the name of the Center should help increase our understanding of Islam.

Julie Marsh at The Stir:

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear up front: I’m no fan of Islam. Then again, I’m no fan of the Catholic church or fundamentalist Christianity either. I confess that Mormonism befuddles me, and I’m weirded out by Wicca.

But the First Amendment allows all of these religions and more to be practiced freely here in the United States. Meanwhile, the Fifth Amendment covers private property rights, among others.

Conservatives love to cite the Constitution when arguing a point, but in the case of the proposed Cordoba House community center in lower Manhattan, they’ve conveniently forgotten about both of these amendments.

First, I’d like to dispel some misinformation regarding this project. The site is not at ground zero, but a few blocks away — an existing building already owned by the two groups spearheading the project. It’s not set to open on September 11, 2011, but will take three to five years to complete. It’s not just a mosque but an entire community center, including “a performing arts center, swimming pool, culinary school, child care facilities … [and] it would provide 150 full-time jobs, 500 part-time jobs, and an investment of more than $100 million in infrastructure in the city’s financial district.”

The project sponsors voluntarily presented their plans to the Community Board of lower Manhattan on Wednesday, May 5; they did not have to do so. As board member Ro Sheffe noted, “They own the land, and their plans don’t have any zoning changes.” The board members present at the meeting voted unanimously to support the project.

Rod Dreher:

There are some things you just don’t do, no matter how well-intentioned. You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity. If reconciliation and peace is what one wants to see between Jews and Christians in the Holocaust’s wake, erecting a site of Christian religious worship on the site where millions of European Jews were gassed and burned is not the way to do it.

Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah. I see the desire to erect such a building on that site not as a gesture of interreligious peace and reconciliation — which we need — but rather as an outrageous act of nerve and arrogance

Gabriel Winant at Salon:

Mark Williams, a Tea Party leader and Fox News commentator, wrote on his blog, “The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.” He added, “In the meantime I have a wonderful idea along the same lines as that mosque at Ground Zero thing… a nice, shiny new U.S. Military Base on the smoldering ruins of Mecca. Works for me!”

At WorldNetDaily, the Birther Web publication popular on the conservative fringe, an article, written in classic WND style, begins by acting like a straight report — albeit laced with purple prose about “that fateful day when time stood still.” Then author Chelsea Schilling moves on to ominously noting that building inspectors had trouble investigating construction complaints — almost as if somebody was hiding something. She finishes up by quoting a random selection of racist blog commenters: “Muslims are doing this only to see if they get away with it. It’s the way Islam spreads in every country these days, like a cancer — through incremental totalitarianism,” writes one. Another writes, “This is not different than allowing the Nazis to establish their headquarters and propaganda office in NYC in 1938. How come people could tell right from wrong then and not now?”

Lest you think it’s just anonymous trolls producing this stuff, though, check out Pamela Geller, the head of the group “Stop Islamization of America,” talking to Joy Behar on CNN. According to Geller, instead of a mosque, the site should be host to a monument to the “victims of hundreds of millions of years of jihadi wars, land enslavements, cultural annihilations and mass slaughter.”

You’d think someone who runs a group with “Islam” right in its name might know that the religion is about 1,400 years old — not “hundreds of millions.” I know that all that desert stuff seems super-ancient — “sands of time” and and all that — but honestly. “Hundreds of millions”? That’s way, way older than homo sapiens as a species. (Maybe that explains Williams’ “monkey god” reference?)

Then there’s Andy McCarthy, National Review writer and recent author of a book arguing that liberals are consciously conspiring to betray America to the ravenous Muslim horde. McCarthy recently pointed out on Fox News that there are 2,300 mosques in America, but no churches or synagogues in Muslim holy cities Mecca and Medina.

First of all, I think this fairly puts to rest any notion that the more militant strain of anti-Islamist hawkishness is anything other than full-scale, civilizational hatred. After this eruption, it’s going to be a stretch to take seriously claims that the interest of the right-wing base in armed conflict in the Middle East is about anything but an active desire for full-on race war. (I’ve taken some heat in the past for using this term, but I stand by it. The occurrence of the phrase “monkey god,” I think, makes my point rather neatly.) Moreover, it’s penetrated quite far into the mainstream of the right, with the flowering of a sub-literature that treats migration patterns and labor markets in Europe like they’re the secret plan for the conquest of Christendom.

In recent years, liberals have become fond of pointing out that this kind of belligerent overreaction to the terrorist threat is exactly what makes terrorism effective. It plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden to treat Islam like our foe in a global, apocalyptic struggle. That’s exactly how he sees it, and joining him in this fantasy endorses al-Qaida’s ideology.

This is a true and important point, pragmatically. But there’s something even worse going on here. It’s not just that Gellar, McCarthy, Williams and the rest in the War-with-Islam group are inadvertently playing into the hands of Islamic extremists. They are, exactly, their analogue within our own society. The same things that benefit Islamic radicals benefit anti-Islamic militants. Both groups feed off conflict, and prosper when violence erupts. Their only break from accusing Islam of guilt in wars and mass violence seems to come when they call for wars and mass violence against Muslims.

UPDATE: Pamela Geller at Big Government

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time

UPDATE #2: Michelle Malkin

Alex Pareene at Gawker

UPDATE #3: Charles Johnson at LGF on the ad

Greg Sargent

Jim Newell at Gawker

UPDATE #4: Stephen Schwartz at The Weekly Standard

Jules Crittenden

Scott Johnson at Powerline

UPDATE #5: Michelle Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #6: Robert Wright on Schwartz in NYT

Jonathan Chait at TNR

Matthew Yglesias

2 Comments

Filed under Religion

Do/Don’t Take Your Guns To Town

nuns_with_guns_big

Megan McArdle:

I think carrying guns to protests is entirely counterproductive.  Indeed, I’m not sold on the general virtues of protesting, which worked for Gandhi and the civil rights marcher, but has a dismal track record on other concerns.  But I think people have a perfect right to do it, including with guns, though I also think the secret service is within its rights to ensure that they don’t have a sight line on the president.

But the hysteria about them has been even more ludicrous.  Numerous people claim to believe that this makes it likely, even certain, that someone will shoot at the president.  This is very silly, because the president is not anywhere most of the gun-toting protesters, who have showed up at all sorts of events.  It is, I suppose, more plausible to believe that they might take a shot at someone else.  But not very plausible:  the rate of crime associated with legal gun possession or carrying seems to be very low.  Guns, it turn out, do not turn ordinary people into murderers.  They make murderers more effective.

Jason Zengerle at TNR:

This is very silly. Look, just on a basic level, the Secret Service’s capacities aren’t infinite: protecting the president is hard enough in normal circumstances; throw in the job of making sure gun-toting protestors don’t have a sight line on the president, and the agents’ jobs become that much more difficult. Even if the gun-toting protestors whose rights McArdle is defending pose no harm to Obama, keeping a constant eye on them takes up resources–resources the Secret Service might need to thwart people who do mean to do harm to the president.

Then McArdle goes from silly to offensive, writing:

“So perhaps unsurprisingly, when offered the opportunity to put some money down on the proposition that one of these firearms is soon going to be discharged at someone, they all decline.”

Or maybe they just have enough basic decency not to wager on whether or not Obama–or anyone else, for that matter–is going to get shot.

McArdle responds:

Well, I’m betting on good behavior, which doesn’t seem that offensive to me.  Zengerle et. al. are the ones claiming that people openly carrying guns have a significant probability of hauling off and shooting someone for no good reason.

I find that rather offensive, given how little the people saying this sort of thing actually know about the protesters.  They may, to be sure, be gun-mad lunatics dying for a chance to shoot some random stranger. Me, I’d expect the gun-mad lunatics are probably carrying their gun concealed somewhere on their person, the better to use it without being stopped.   But I don’t know. The point is, neither does the other side.  All these confident predictions of impending violence do not, to me, seem to rest on much more than the belief that people who openly carry weapons near a rally must be gun-crazed lunatics who want to intimidate Democrats with threats of violence.  This is somewhat circular to say the least.

Zengerle also conflates this with presidential assassination, as have many other commentators.  As far as I know, only one chap has been near the president, and he was a publicity stunt.  The others seem to be at less august meetings.  If a gun nut wants to assassinate a minor Senator or Congressman, he doesn’t need to carry a rifle to a protest somewhere.  They’re not that well protected.  And also, not that frequently attacked.

Do I think guns should be near Obama?  I think that is for the Secret Service to say, and I would support whatever decision they rendered.  But we don’t know where this guy was, or if he ever even saw Obama.

Jamelle at The League:

Insofar that liberals are spooked by the presence of firearms at town halls or events attended by the president, it’s not because we believe that firearms possess some magical ability to turn Mild-Mannered Citizen into Bloodthirsty Domestic Terrorist.  Indeed, the suggestion (or implication, really) is more than a little dishonest; very few – if any – liberals have argued that the mere presence of a firearm is enough to spark political violence.

No, liberals are worried about the potential for violence because the ingredients seem to be there.  Last year’s election revealed the extent to which the conservative base is filled with angry, anxious and scared people desperate for some explanation as to why their lives are falling apart.  And since Obama’s inauguration, men like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have successfully convinced a large swath of those folks that the Democrats deserve the lions share of the blame, not only for making their lives miserable, but for electing a socialist, communist, Nazi, America-hating liberal who wants nothing more than to take what’s rightfully theirs (read: America) and redistribute it to minorities, gays and illegal immigrants.

Now, for the vast majority of these people, this is almost certainly a symbolic belief.  If push came to shove – would admit that Obama probably isn’t the second coming of Joseph Mengele, and isn’t trying to off grandma in a desperate attempt to save money.  For them, this really is just something pleasurable to tell themselves about their enemies, and not something to actually act on.  For a very small minority however, these fears are completely – and terrifyingly – real.  In a very real sense, they are cloistered and isolated from reality.  They sincerely believe that Barack Obama has usurped the presidency, and that the United States is well on the road to a totalitarian dictatorship.  What’s more, their fears are bolstered by a steady stream of misinformation and fear-mongering, some of it from fringe talk-radio hosts, and some of it from prominent Republican politicians.

Rufus at Grad Student Madness:

But, again, I’m not worried that the stupid asshat with the “blood of tyrants” poster is going to get a few shots off, or even try to. I’d be willing to bet money that none of the geeks showing off their guns at these rallies will try to use them. There have been a good number of assassinations in American history, but they were never done by people who came in telegraphing “Look at me! I’ve got a gun! Ask me about Ron Paul!”

More McArdle:

A lot of commenters seem sure that having a legal gun around substantially increases the likelihood that someone will, in a moment of rage, shoot someone–so sure that they are clearly convinced I am a lunatic for even suggesting otherwise.  I understand the intuition, and maybe it’s right.  But the evidence for the proposition is not all that strong.

First of all, as it shows in the articles I linked earlier, something like 90% of homicides are committed by people with criminal records, i.e. people who probably cannot legally own a gun. A lot of the rest are committed by juveniles, or mentally unstable people, who also cannot legally own a gun.

It is perfectly true that adding a gun to a dispute involving violent criminals increases the likelihood that someone will be shot.  But violent criminals are not like the rest of us.  They have very poor impulse control, and, well, a demonstrated willingness to use violence.  They also are not likely to apply for a permit before packing heat.

Murder is not something that usually just happens, even among family members.  The people who do it are usually abnormal in some way, and it shows.  For all the fears that allowing concealed carry would lead to murderous road rage and bar fights, these incidents have failed to materialize.  I have managed to find one murder in Florida that was even arguably the result of having a gun available in a heated moment–the few others were either clearly premeditated, or involved a weapon other than a handgun.  Given how small the number is, as far as I can determine, the good done by defensive uses of concealed weapons would virtually have to outweigh the harm, since several concealed carry holders have stopped violent crimes.

UPDATE: Jason Zengerle:

She thinks liberals should stop demonizing those people who do bring guns to Obama events (although, contra McArdle, people brought guns to two Obama events, not just one, last week); I’m willing to grant her the point that the people openly bearing arms at Obama events probably aren’t going to try to take a shot at him, but my main concern is that their presence at these events makes the job of the Secret Service that much harder–and therefore increases the risk that the Secret Service won’t be able to stop someone (presumably carrying a concealed weapon) who does want to try to assassinate the president. McArdle never really bothers to address my point, although she does propose the compromise that if liberals stop demonizing people who bring guns to presidential events, then those people will stop bringing guns to presidential events. Deal!

There’s one thing about McArdle’s post, though, that’s just too bizarre not to comment on–and that’s the strange weight she continues to give to betting. In her original post, McArdle argued that since no one who says these gun-toting protestors pose a threat is willing to wager $500 with her that one of them will try to shoot Obama, they don’t really believe what they’re saying. I said this was an offensive argument, to which McArdle replies:

“Well, I’m betting on good behavior, which doesn’t seem that offensive to me.  Zengerle et. al. are the ones claiming that people openly carrying guns have a significant probability of hauling off and shooting someone for no good reason.”

Is this really that hard to understand? People very seldom bet on something they don’t actually want to happen; if and when they do make that sort of bet, it’s usually as an emotional hedge about something that’s not that important (like the NCAA tournament bracket I fill out every year that has UNC losing in an early round so that, if that does come to pass, my correct bracket will cushion the blow of UNC’s loss). So the fact that no one is willing to enter into a contract with McArdle under which Obama being shot nets them $500 from McArdle is hardly proof of lack of conviction on their part. I think McArdle really needs to come up with a better test for determining what’s a real belief and what’s a symbolic belief.

UPDATE #2: McArdle responds to Zengerle:

On the other hand, lots of things make it harder for the Secret Service to do their job.  Protesting is much harder on the Secret Service–almost certainly harder than one guy openly carrying a gun, because the protesters are a crowd of people who have to be watched constantly for suspicious movements.  Should we ban protesting?  Or force the people who do it off the premises and into a park eight blocks away?

Of course not.  Expression in a free society is important–important enough even to let us risk the president’s life, as we are indisputably doing every time we allow a protest, or for that matter a crowd, near him.    You can say, well, free speech is really important, and carrying a gun isn’t, but that’s begging the question.  I’m going to stop discussing this after the post, because what it comes down to is liberals saying, “Conservatives with guns make me extraordinarily anxious and upset,” and clearly, they’re right.  Nonetheless.  Carrying a gun is clearly an attempt to make some sort of political statement, though we may not know what–rather like flag burning.  And the supreme court takes a very dim view of “Fighting words” type excuses to limit constitutional rights.

Rather like flag burning, it shouldn’t happen, even though you’ve a perfect right to do this.  The problem with taking a narrow position is that everyone wants to push you into the broader position.  It’s easier to argue with the opposite of your position than a halfhearted compromise.  And making narrow arguments in the face of towering rage and anxiety seems, well, kind of wussy.

UPDATE #3: Will Wilkinson weighs in

Zengerle answers Wilkinson and McArdle

Tbogg

Chris Bodenner at Sully’s place

UPDATE #4: Doug J.

UPDATE #5: E.D. Kain at The League

Via Patrick Appel, Thoreau

UPDATE #6: Via John Cole, Thomas Levenson

UPDATE #7: Michelle Goldberg and Megan McArdle at Bloggingheads

Moe Lane

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Filed under Guns

Burka Brouhaha, En Francais

burka

Sarkozy and the Burka (or Burqa).

Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily:

From the Associated Press:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

From the New York Times:
“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women.”

Charles Johnson at LGF

Saira Khan in The Mail

And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.

The veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom.

My parents moved here from Kashmir in the 1960s. They brought with them their faith and their traditions – but they also understood that they were starting a new life in a country where Islam was not the main religion.

My mother has always worn traditional Kashmiri clothes – the salwar kameez, a long tunic worn over trousers, and the chador, which is like a pashmina worn around the neck or over the hair.

When she found work in England, she adapted her dress without making a fuss. She is still very much a traditional Muslim woman, but she swims in a normal swimming costume and jogs in a tracksuit.

Jessica Valenti at Feministing:

Banning the burqa doesn’t further women’s rights – it limits them. Now, obviously there’s a difference in Islamic women’s dress from the hijab to the burqa – but legally banning any of them erases all agency from Muslim women. (I’m especially wary of Sarkozy’s comments and this potential ban given that France banned headscarves from public schools in 2004.)

If you’re interested in hearing Muslim women talking about the hijab, here are a couple of interesting vids.

Amad at Muslim Matters:

This French President, described in a recent book (failed to be blocked from publication — so much for free speech!) as an uncaring father and a womanizer wants to now tell Muslim women how to dress. I’d like to ask Sarkozy that if he can tell us how we should dress, then under equal rights of the “republic”, why can’t Muslims tell French women how not to dress?  We are even willing to donate some extra clothing material to help the near-nudity on display everyday in this model nation!

For a President to devote significant time to the hijab in an important speech to the Parliament, the first one since the 19th century, is a clear indication that Sarkozy is running out of ideas to save the country from its economic and social ills. By letting the public focus on a clearly divisive issue, but one whose inherent prejudice bonds French citizens across the political spectrum, Sarkozy wants to use this “coalition of bigots” to distract the public from real problems.

At The Corner, Veronique de Rugy:

I have mixed feelings about this one. I am generally against all prohibition, and I am against encroachments of the freedom or religion. However, I also have read enough (here for instance) about the treatment and condition of Muslim women to find the Burqa troublesome (as the visible sign of their oppression).

Andrew Stuttaford

That said, although almost all societies do enact dress codes that reflect their notions of decency, banning the burqa from the street seems to me to be both a step too far and, quite possibly, counter-productive. What Sarkozy should do, however, is ensure that his fellow-citizens are as free to criticize the burqa as he is. In a country that stamps on free speech in the name of combatting the bogeyman of “Islamophobia,” it’s by no means clear that this indeed the case.
And more Stuttaford
Ambrose Burnside at Daily Kos:

The question remains, though.  Would a ban of the burqa be a women’s rights victory?  Or a regressive act that would stifle the free will of women who wish to wear the burqa?  Personally, I’m not in favor of banning any sort of clothing, religiously based or not, with a few exceptions such as making people remove face-coverings for ID photos, court appearances, for the police, and similar situations.

If a woman wants to wear a burqa out in public, and she’s doing it completely by her own free will, there is no reason why she shouldn’t be able to and a law banning the burqa would be a slap in the face for women’s rights.

However, if it turns out that women generally only wear the burqa to avoid being abused by jealous males, banning the burqa would be an important step toward women advancing in society.

UPDATE: Freddy Gray in TAC:

In 2003, when France decided to ban the Islamic veil from schools, there was at least an arguable case that state schools represented a public – and therefore necessarily secular — space. But to propose that hijab and niqab be expelled from French society is a more radical idea, one that carries a strong whiff of secular absolutism.

Sarkozy says that the Islamic veil is “not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.” Of course it isn’t. It would be a great shame if all French women began covering their faces. (Imagine if we could not behold the elegant features of Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni.) But is it not an equal, or even greater, affront to women’s independence to demand that they show their faces? What if a woman chooses to hide her face from the world? Is that not a legitimate expression of her freedom, religious or otherwise?

UPDATE #2: Michelle Goldberg in American Prospect:

A ban on burqas would, of course, be unthinkable in the American context, because our understanding of church state separation, and of free speech, is quite different than the one prevailing in France. “Here in America, the separation of church and state is about the protection of religion from the state,” Scott says. “In France, the idea is to protect individuals from the claims of religion. The state can intervene on behalf of individuals when they are thought to be oppressed by some communal group.”

Yet such state interventions can end up working against individual women. Last year, for example, a Moroccan woman married to a French man was denied French citizenship because she wore a burqa at her husband’s request. The ruling declared her “radical practice of her religion (and) behavior in society incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably the principle of equality between the sexes.” According to the scholar Cécile Laborde, political parties, intellectuals and journalists praised the decision almost unanimously.

Likewise, Sarkozy’s prospective burqa ban has significant feminist support, including the backing of the feminist group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, or Neither Whores Nor Doormats, which has its roots in France’s Muslim ghettos. It’s worth taking the position of Ni Putes Ni Soumises seriously, since the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism has been, for them, a matter of life and death. Like the Somali-Dutch feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, their activism serves as a crucial corrective to multicultural pieties.

Ultimately, though, there’s no evidence that most burqa-clad French women regard themselves as oppressed. “There are women who wear burqas who are not being forced by anyone, who think that form of modesty is appropriate for who they want to be in the world,” says Scott. “It’s hard to distinguish between them and those who are being forced.” And so in the end, a ban putatively passed to further women’s rights could instead impinge on their freedom, and take from them something they value. Even worse, it could lead to those in the most fundamentalist of households being trapped inside their homes altogether. It would be cruel to limit these women’s options in the name of liberation, even if their clothes are a rebuke to the secularism that the French rightly hold sacred.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias:

A woman whose husband and/or other male relations have enough power over her to force her into a burqa against her will is only going to be forced by those same men further underground by this sort of rule. The only kind of person who would be genuinely unveiled by this kind of legal measure would be someone with enough autonomy to be in a position to choose compliance with the law over compliance with tradition. The French have a strong tradition not just of secularism, but of a kind of illiberal egalitarianism that holds that everyone should really be the same, and I think it tends to push them toward measures like this that don’t ultimately help anyone.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez

UPDATE: James Kirchick at Commentary

UPDATE: Now the burquini has been banned. New York Times.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in Slate

Shikha Dalmia at Forbes

UPDATE: Ryan Brown at Salon

Jim Newell at Gawker

Rod Dreher

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