Saturday, June 17, 2006

Unwelcome Comments

A couple of days ago, I wrote that Saudi Arabia was governed by fundamentalist nutjobs. That post attracted an anonymous comment containing a phrase which I considered inappropriate. For the sake of clarity, the comment referenced the inability of "camel jockeys" to defend themselves.

This is, sadly, not the first time that this sort of thing has happened in recent days. The first, on this post, was disparaging towards Jews. In that instance, I explained that I found the phrase comment "unpleasant" and "particularly distateful". Again, for clarity, the phrase was "the diseased mentality of the parasitical and predatory Red Sea Pedestrians".

As there does appear to be a section of "the left" which seems to indulge in this sort of nasty thinking and as most people would consider me to also be of "the left", I decided at the time to leave the comment up and to respond in order to make it clear that I absolutely do not condone that sort of language or attitude.

At the time, I thought it was a one off. Now, with a second desparaging racial comment coming just a few days afterwards, I think it's time to make things clear. From today, all descriptions of that sort based on racial or ethnic characteristics are going to be deleted.

I almost never delete comments. In fact, apart from spam, I think these might be the first. Having decided on this deletion policy however, I have also deleted the comment directed against Jews. Again, let me stress that I absolutely do not condone racial prejudices of any sort.

One final thing. I suspect some people will question whether my use of the phrase "fundamentalist nutjobs" to describe the Saudi government was appropriate. I'd ask you to consider this.

Pat Robertson, the conservative Christian US religious broadcaster, infamously said that Ariel Sharon's stroke was caused by the divine retribution of God. Sharon, he said, had paid the price for "dividing God's land". He is a fundamentalist nutjob.

If you're happy with that, but not happy with my use of the term to describe the Saudi government, why is that?

If you are opposed to anyone being called a "fundamentalist nutjob" that's a seperate mater. I'd argue that people's beliefs should always be open to criticisms, even mocking and disparaging ones.

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Blair said...

While I completely agree with you, the one exception other may have might be the use of the word fundamentalist... I am sure some fundamentalists are not nutjobs... when the truth might be better said "fundamentalist extremist nutjobs"... Just thinking

. said...

I find the first comment more offensive than the second, although the first is obviously more jocular while the second is harsher and of a stream of far-left thinking that rarely adds anything to the debate. Does that make me an anti-semite, as Melanie Philips seems to think everyone on the left is? Not that I agree with it, just surmising here.

Fundamentalist nutjobs though is fine, in fact, I'd think it's a rather mild comment on Pat Robertson, and other "fundamentalist nutjobs" of various religions.

Darkwinter said...

I see nothing wrong with the phrase "fundamentalist nutjobs" - the two words are independent of each other. You can be fundamentalist without being a nutjob, just as you can be a nutjob without being fundamentalist.

This said, recent developments mean that "fundamentalism" is often equated with "extremism". Technically they have rather different meanings, but have converged over the last few years.

Blair said...

To darkwinter... holding to your premise would lead the term "camel jockey" to be ok since one can be a camel without being a jockey, and vice versa... which is why the caveat should be introduced... being a fundamentalist is ok, being an extrtreme one is going so far to the edge of the continuum that using it to disparage that certain group of people/mammals that fall there would be ok... still thinking...

Nosemonkey said...

I clearly need to investigate left-wing racism a bit more - especially this supposed anti-semitism business (unless that means I have to get into the Israel/Palestine thing again - gah...).

The whole thing's very confusing - largely because I've always (perhaps wrongly) equated the left with small-"L" liberalism rather than socialism/communism, and I can't see how any true liberal could be a racist...

CuriousHamster said...

Blair, I see what you mean. On the other hand, it could be argued that adding "extremist" is unnecessary because the "nutjob" part already has that covered. Possibly.

Given that so many people in the West seem to believe that extremism is supported by mainstream Muslim opinion, it might have been better to explicitly make the distinction.

CuriousHamster said...

Simon, I've just been reading reaction to Philips' book over at Comment is Free. It's troubling that so many people are prepared to defend her increasingly hysterical and reactionary views.

It's seems obvious that the sort of virulent anti-semitism which does pop up on the extreme left is not at all representative of "the left" as a whole. Not to Mel apparently. For someone who cliams to be so worried about the unjustified demonisation of a particular group, she displays an extrordinary propensity to do just that to other groups.

CuriousHamster said...

NM, Israel/Palistine is a prickly business alright. I've tried posting any number of times but always end up hitting delete rather than publish.

From what I've seen, outright anti-semiticm is rare on the left but does exist. It certainly doesn't seem to be endemic as some people would have us believe.

That section of "the right" who unjustifiably protray "the left" as a whole as anti-semitic puzzles me. I've yet to come to a definitive view as to whether they genuinely believe their claims or whether its a cynical attempt to smear their opponents.

I would say that I do sometime worry about underlying, perhaps subconcious assumptions of some on "the left". It's that whole moral agency thing. The violent actions of the Israeli government are criticised unreservedly. The violent actions of Palistinians are qualified by their situation.

Although there are obvious differences in the situations, I also wonder whether there's actually a repressed old fashioned paternalism lurking around here. The implication, possibly, is that Palistinians, being brown, are not considered to be responsible moral agents for their own action in the same way as white Jews are. Just thinking aloud on that really.

As for your understanding of the left, it saddens me to hear that another comerade has renounced the revolutionary struggle and become a lackey to the bourgeoisie...

Ahem. I'd actually agree about the left and liberalism, perhaps wrongly too. One of the things that surprised me when I started blogging was just how broad "the left" is.

Blair said...

CH - I am not so sure... When I see the word nutjob I think of crazy or insane not extremist...
What seems to strike me is that the broadness also applies to the right. But that may be because regardless of one "position" (right versus left) I think there is an underlying idea that "they" (those on the other side) are all extremists when they are not of our opinion.. but then I am just thinking... still... one wonders if I could ever finish a thought.

BTW - this is an interesting discussion!

CuriousHamster said...

I see what you mean. Perhaps "fundamentalist extremist nutjob" would have been better.(I guess there's also the issue of whether using a phrase connected to mental ill health is appropriate at all. There's a whole other conversation there but it'll have to keep for the personal blog I keep meaning to start writing.)

As someone who believes in certain universal human norms, I suppose I could be considered a fundamentalist too. Going back to the Saudis, HRW says "Saudi law allows for maiming, including the severing of limbs and severe flogging, as judicial punishments". To the universalist in me, that sort of thing goes beyond political or cultural disagreement and is just fundamentally unacceptable behaviour.

On the left/right political thing, I like this - "I think there is an underlying idea that "they" (those on the other side) are all extremists when they are not of our opinion".

Thinking about it, it was only after I started reading "rightwing" bloggers that I realised that most of "the right" are not actually "nutjobs" after all (he half joked).

Seriously, I guess its the lack of understanding as to why someone holds a different view which is the root of the problem. As positions become entrenched and lack of trust grows, a false impression as to to what "they" believe is created. Interesting indeed.

Blair said...

Boing... I think you hit the nail on the head... but the question arises... how does one build trust in that environment (where one side is sceptical of the other sides)? I think there is also an applicability to international relations... I mean, not many folks trust the USA, or the super powers, and since I am not sure where that origin of distrust lies, I don't know if we can address it.

Osama Saeed said...

"I would say that I do sometime worry about underlying, perhaps subconcious assumptions of some on "the left". It's that whole moral agency thing. The violent actions of the Israeli government are criticised unreservedly. The violent actions of Palistinians are qualified by their situation. "

Garry, I think the left is a whole lot less ideological about the Israeli-Palestinian situation that the right is - I guess if you're a lefty then you epitomise that.

Those that would describe themselves as pro-Palestinians are clear about who is the oppressor and who is oppressed. Israel and the Palestinians are not equal players.

For those pro-Palestinians, they're not just looking at this through the limited prism of bombings and killings - there's the issue of a racist colonial settler project, 6m refugees who have now been there for generations, and the occupation. These things are not reported in the media and are not in people's consciousness but are vital to understanding the situation.

Let's though assume that it's not a policy of lang grabbing Israel are persuing, but one of anti-terrorism against the Palestinians. The left comdemn the heavy handed terror laws in this country, like yourself quite rightly. But when it comes to Israel and their lets say much harsher measures, they seem to go soft for some reason.

If you're interested in seeing more for yourself, there's a delegation actually going to the area in July. - would make for great blogging.

CuriousHamster said...

Thanks for that, Osama. Lots of food for thought there.

I can't speak for others but I'd say my own reluctance to express opinions on what's happening stems from the feeling that I don't know enough about the history/context to be able to write with confidence. Your comment is a welcome reminder that I ought to do something about that.

First stop, the SPSC website.

CuriousHamster said...

Blair, it's a good question. It definitely applies to Int. Relations too.

At the risk of sounding a bit wishy-washy liberal, I guess the key is to try to keep an open mind, avoid hostile language, and be patient of and respectful towards those with other views.

(Something I try to do when blogging but, to be fair, don't always manage.)

It's when trust has broken down completely that the real problems occur (like with me and Tony). A conversation between the US and Iranian governments just isn't going to be conducted in a spirit of open-mindedness. It's very difficult to see how to rebuilt trust in that sort of situation.

Osama Saeed said...

Out of interest, why are you so disparaging of the MCB on the righthandside of your blog?

They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but surely lumping them in with Blair, Wade and Stephen Green is harsh?

CuriousHamster said...

Actually, I think you might be right about that, particulary the company they're in. It was a Google Bomb which didn't work and I'd forgotten it was still there.

To explain why it was, from what I've seen the people who run the MCB do have an over-inflated sense of their own importance and are not as representative of the Muslim Communities in the UK as they like to claim.

Also, at the time I was making the point that they shouldn't be immune from criticism simply because they are Muslims. I try to treat all people as equals, and therefore equally open to ridicule. I think that to do otherwise, to say you can't criticise a particular person or group because of their religion or ethnicity, is itself a form of prejudice.

But, as you say, they don't quite belong in the company they currently keep on my blog. I'm going to remove the link. Still think it's true though, I'm afraid.

CuriousHamster said... say you can't criticise a particular person or group...

Just to clear up a possible confusion, what I mean is "for me to say to myself that I can't criticise a particular person or group...

I wasn't trying to suggest that you were saying I couldn't. Claerly, you were not. That's probably obvious already. I really shouldn't try to write anything at this time of night.

Osama Saeed said...

Ah is that how the Google bombing malarkey works. Just checked and the Tony one is still operational.

MCB is a difficult beast. There's a lot of people involved, but most people only see one or two. Certainly I would say that the dedicated people they have running all the various strands of work do so almost thanklessly. Whether there are some who are full of self-importance, doesn't everyone have them? And to be a successful organisation, isn't it to an extent necessary?

I'd rather have the MCB than them not existing. There's a long way to go in representation, sure (e.g. I think more people of my generation should be at the forefront) but relations between Muslims and wider society were a whole lot more difficult before they came into existance.