« Quote of the Day | Main | Link of the Day 2 »

February 09, 2006

On The Riots

David Brooks, still behind that nasty Times Select wall, gets this rather right:

At first I sympathized with your anger at the Danish cartoons because it's impolite to trample on other people's religious symbols. But as the rage spread and the issue grew more cosmic, many of us in the West were reminded of how vast the chasm is between you and us. There was more talk than ever about a clash of civilizations. We don't just have different ideas; we have a different relationship to ideas.

I've been able to muster up little more than sadness over the cartoon controversy. Andrew Sullivan absurdly compares the rioters to the Nazis, complaining that now as then, The New York Times fails to recognize the danger. But these aren't the Nazis. The Nazis were a political movement commanding an industrialized, technologically-advanced society that they rapidly transformed into a war machine. They were more firmly fixed in modernity than the countries they initially attacked. They nearly exterminated a race and attempted to take over a continent. These extremists, in contrast, are so delicate and vulnerable that they can't countenance cartoons. And the rioters they've whipped up are, as is so often the case, mere pawns in a far larger game:

"It was no big deal until the Islamic conference when the O.I.C. took a stance against it," said Muhammad el-Sayed Said, deputy director of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Sari Hanafi, an associate professor at the American University in Beirut, said that for Arab governments resentful of the Western push for democracy, the protests presented an opportunity to undercut the appeal of the West to Arab citizens. The freedom pushed by the West, they seemed to say, brought with it disrespect for Islam.

He said the demonstrations "started as a visceral reaction — of course they were offended — and then you had regimes taking advantage saying, 'Look, this is the democracy they're talking about.' "

The protests also allowed governments to outflank a growing challenge from Islamic opposition movements by defending Islam.

As is so often the case in the Middle East, the current paroxysms of violence are an interplay between societal rot, autocratic regimes, and fears of modernity. This is a tantrum thrown by an adult, and it is sad to watch.

February 9, 2006 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c572d53ef00d83472de6353ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference On The Riots:

Comments

We don't just have different ideas; we have a different relationship to ideas.

I'm curious as to what he really means by this. There are many cultures that have a different relationship to ideas than the USA or even Western Europe. People in places like Japan and Korea view ideas very differently than in the USA, but those are friendly, stable democracies. Obviously, differing relationships to ideas is not the problem here.

I keep beating this drum, but the people invovled in the violence are willing to do so because they feel alienated from any ability to otherwise effect change. I agree that the problem is a combination of autocratic regimes, societal rot and fears of modernity. But this is no "tantrum thown by an adult." It is, like so much else coming from the Middle East, a carefully calculated and orchestrated spate of violence meant to serve the ends of a few at the expense of the many.

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 9, 2006 12:19:59 PM

At some point, those who apologize for the actions of the Muslim extremists and the mainstream majority that suppports them will have to come to terms with the fact that the other side does, indeed, consider this a religious war. Don't believe me? Just ask the 'Muslim-on-the-street' in Iran, Pakistan or Syria.

Until the West understands this simple fact, they will forever be at a disadvantage.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 9, 2006 12:26:44 PM

Thanks, Ezra, for crystallizing something I've been thinking myself - that this is a war with the anti-Nazis, people who don't want to trample on individuals for progress, but indeed for the opposite: to stop it.

And Fred, while I agree that some Muslims see this as a religious war, we've had a strain of radical Chtristianity here that believes much the same thing. The answer, I don't think, is to agree with them (about this being a holy war), but to fight them with the one thing we have that works: secular modernity. It's coca cola and miniskirts and malls that will ultimately change their way of life, and while that is an srgument that our religion (i.e. shopping) is better, it's not arguing it on the "whose higher power is more truly the way of all that is good and right." There's really no winner in that one.

Posted by: weboy | Feb 9, 2006 12:53:55 PM

I think that there are parallels and differences between Nazis and Islamist groups. I don't know that I would call the comparison absurd, but certainly to say they are identical would be false.

It has occurred to me during the unfolding of this controversy that this is not a new tactic being employed by the radical Islamic groups but an expansion of a tactic they have used successfully in their own areas. To a large degree, violence and the threat of violence have already silenced dissent in many Muslim nations. This is why the 'moderate Muslims' are so elusive. It also shows us why we cannot allow that tactic to succeed in western societies. If violence can silence dissent then only the violent will have a voice.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Feb 9, 2006 1:05:53 PM

Perhaps it's having grown up around Berkeley, perhaps it's that my brother got decked by an out-of-shape cop whose chase a protestor was in the process of eluding, and perhaps it's that my then-roommate went to the Rodney king riots in San Francisco and looted himself a nice dark t-shirt at the Gap, but I think Brooks and most of the clucking biddies are wrong on this. "We" are not at all different. You and I may not riot, but we Americans sure do, and recently, too.

We may not riot when cartoons are published (though I could see 'Piss Christ' having spurred something in a city in the Bible Belt), but we riot when our sports teams lose big, and when they win big. We may not have sectarian riots, but we have race riots, sometimes (as in Tulsa) turning into something more like war, or slaughter. Hell, we manufacture fake violence for political purposes, or have you all forgotten Forida 2000 already?

We have no standing to lecture anyone. Brooks is a disingenuous tool, and the comments-thread Stalinist actually seems restrained by his usual standards today, but Ezra, I expected more from you.

Posted by: wcw | Feb 9, 2006 1:14:43 PM

OK.... everyone agree with wcw. Maybe he will feel better. That seems to be what it takes.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 9, 2006 1:27:26 PM

Brooks comment just contains more of his infuriating reductionism and stereotyping. News Flash: There is no The Muslims.

i have to say the most informative sight on this issue has been BagNews

Posted by: TheDeadlyShoe | Feb 9, 2006 1:33:45 PM

"But these aren't the Nazis. The Nazis were a political movement commanding an industrialized, technologically-advanced society that they rapidly transformed into a war machine. They were more firmly fixed in modernity than the countries they initially attacked. "

I'm not sure I'd agree with that. Industrialism and modernity are not the same thing. The Nazis reacted vigorously against modernism in all its forms and associated lines of thought - modernist art, Freudian/Reichian psychology, Bolshevism. Their religious ideology was all about harking back to some mythological past, while their architecture was crassly neo-classical.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Feb 9, 2006 1:37:55 PM

TheDeadlyShoe makes a comment which brings up an interesting issue-- why aren't the American Muslims rioting? Why haven't they rioted outside the Danish consulates all over the country? If there were The Muslims, then this is what would be happening in the US, but it isn't. Either (a) muslims in Denmark and Syria and Lebanon are much more prone to violent rioting than American Muslims or (b) Muslims are being goaded into rioting by agitators in those specific areas but not elsewhere.

Posted by: Constantine | Feb 9, 2006 2:27:21 PM

Fascism is not anti-modern; viz the Italian Futurists, after all, who were essentially arty, modernist fascists. Cf also Roger Griffin's work; he argues that fascism proposes an alternative to paradigms it despises, like liberal democracy or communism, and hence is essentially forward-looking, seeking a utopia after the (admittedly often mythically described) utopian, fascist rebirth of society.

The sure had bad taste in art and architecture, but Futurism is pretty strong evidence that that need not be a characteristic of all fascists.

Posted by: wcw | Feb 9, 2006 2:33:49 PM

Spontaneous Combustion and other myths.

Posted by: slickdpdx | Feb 9, 2006 3:35:36 PM

"(though I could see 'Piss Christ' having spurred something in a city in the Bible Belt)"

But you didn't. Nor did you see riots with the other 'art' exhibits (cross in elephant dung, upside down Jesus with Bin Laden face).

I wonder how the Muslims would respond to a picture of Mohammed in a pile of shit.

"why aren't the American Muslims rioting?"

The same reason you didn't see American Muslims and terrorist sympathizers dancing and celebrating in America on 9/11.

"the people invovled in the violence are willing to do so because they feel alienated from any ability to otherwise effect change."

I think I heard the same thing after 9/11. It was a piss poor excuse then too.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 9, 2006 4:16:32 PM

Well said, Captain. It has always been a poor excuse and those who parrot this excuse are certainly the apologists for the Muslim extremists.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 9, 2006 4:46:32 PM

The same reason you didn't see American Muslims and terrorist sympathizers dancing and celebrating in America on 9/11.

You're trying and failing to be pithy. Give it another shot.

Posted by: Constantine | Feb 9, 2006 5:13:12 PM

"we have a different relationship to ideas."

this from a leading bomb-the-middle-east cheerleader? no, not all of us have a different (peaceful) relationship with ideas.

Posted by: jami | Feb 9, 2006 5:28:10 PM

After Dave Justus' 10:05 I'll have to rethink reflex disagreement.
Shall we cheer Hillary to state bald truth without fear of being shouted down ?

Posted by: opit | Feb 9, 2006 10:34:41 PM

I think the way in which select Muslims are handling this is quite barbaric. Considering that many Muslim countries consistently publish anti-jew cartoons (jews eating Palestinian babies, etc.), I find their own reactions to be nonsensical. The Koran teaches nonviolence and here we see violent reactions, destruction and anger. I know this isn't true just for Muslims; many other religious sects do not "practice what they preach." I just wish people of all religions would stick to their teachings and not worry what is published, etc. unless the published works actually censure/deprive/physically-threaten individuals. I'm tired of the violence and I'm tired of paradoxical actions to a person's own religious beliefs. So, my main point: "practice what you preach."

Posted by: glidephish | Feb 10, 2006 9:08:51 AM

Until the West understands this simple fact, they will forever be at a disadvantage.

What disadvantage would that be? Fear or terrorism? Are YOU really afraid of Muslim extremists right now in your daily life?

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 10, 2006 11:04:18 AM

The same reason you didn't see American Muslims and terrorist sympathizers dancing and celebrating in America on 9/11.

Which would be? I'm almost certain I will agree with your answer, but why not state it?

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 10, 2006 11:26:34 AM

It was a piss poor excuse then too.

It would be a poor excuse if it were an excuse. An excuse implies a justification for an act. If one explicity sets forth that act as not justifiable, as Stephen has clearly done in this post and in others, then what this is is not an excuse, but an explaination. And that is the difference between you and Stephen. He wishes to truly explain what is going on and why, for that is the first step toward coming up with an reasoned response. You're not interested in reasons. You hate Muslims and wish to start and perpetuate a Crusade. You're no better than a common thug, just like the extremists. Pathetic.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 10, 2006 11:35:56 AM

Adrock,

Muslims and terrorist sympathizers didn't dance in the streets of the US on 9/11 because they knew it would not be tolerated, just like violent protests in the US by Muslims over a cartoon would not be tolerated.

You call me an extremist because I don't want to hear an 'explanation' of why the Muslims hates us and committed 9/11. Maybe fifty or a hundred years from now our great grand kids can study why Muslims were so fucked up at this time in history. But right now, an 'explanation' is an insult to anyone who lost a loved one.

You call me an extremist because I don't care why the Muslims are so fucked up and want to kill us. I call you an apologist and fool for wanting to waste your time with an 'explanation' of why they want to kill us. And that is why the Democratic party will not regain power. I guess I am mainstream and you are extremist because most Americans could give a shit less about why Muslims want us dead and take an explanation for Muslim violence as an insult.

There is no excuse the double standard and the one-sided arrogance of Muslims. They insult and desicrate every other religion out there, yet if you draw a picture of Mohammed, they can kill you. And Adrock and Stephen want to 'explain' why.

Why do Muslims behead innocent civilians? Why do Muslims bomb women and children? Why do Muslims execute school children at school? Come on Adrock and Stephen, justify what Muslims do.

Maybe the Brits should have tried to find out why the Germans wanted to bomb them in WWII. Do you think that would have helped?

Muslims, as liberals, are like children throwing a tantrum.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 10, 2006 12:10:06 PM

Muslims and terrorist sympathizers didn't dance in the streets of the US on 9/11 because they knew it would not be tolerated, just like violent protests in the US by Muslims over a cartoon would not be tolerated

Could it be that American Muslims overwhelmingly reject Al Qaeda version of Islam?

Posted by: djw | Feb 10, 2006 12:19:13 PM

Dude, Toke, Adrock just stipulated to the fact that for him and Stephen "there is no excuse" is such a obvious given that it doesn't really needs to be stated. We all agree on that. No excuse for rioting about cartoons, knocking over towers with planes, etc.


You call me an extremist because I don't want to hear an 'explanation' of why the Muslims hates us and committed 9/11. Maybe fifty or a hundred years from now our great grand kids can study why Muslims were so fucked up at this time in history.

Here's the thing: having an understanding of the motivations and actions (that are not, as we all happily agree, excusable in any way) might help us better formulate policies to prevent it. This is so obvious it shouldn't need to be stated, but it's obviousness aludes so, so many.

And no, to anticipate one common reaction, it doesn't mean we should find out what's upsetting them and just automatically stop doing it. I like free speech and modernity too much to give them up just to make others less angry, and so (I hope) do you. But we're smart people, as least some of us are. We can do more with knowledge and understanding that just react.

Posted by: djw | Feb 10, 2006 12:28:36 PM

Frankly, I don't believe Mr. Brooks has much of handle on this situation at all. If the U.S. became the theocracy it is shuddering towards, any remark, cartoon, expression that violated the Sacred Ones would be met with much the same reaction (one need only read some of the Op-Ed columns) although, perhaps not quite as physically violent. Those people are angry, perhaps frightened, by the changes in the world which they have no control over - and this anger is easily used by those in positions of authority to produce even more violence.

Posted by: un malheureux vetu de noir | Feb 10, 2006 1:53:41 PM

Could it be that American Muslims overwhelmingly reject Al Qaeda version of Islam?

What action on the part of the Amrican Muslims would make anyone think that? All the American leaders have done is give some pretty wimpy lip service. The fact that they are in an overwhelmingly Christian nation could account for that.

What do you think blind polling of American Muslims would yield?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 10, 2006 2:52:26 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.