Sullivan’s Double Standard

Andrew Sullivan was not amused by P. Z.’s post:

It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people. Calling the Holy Eucharist a “goddamned cracker” isn’t about free speech; it’s really about some baseline civility. Myers’ rant is the rant of an anti-Catholic bigot. And atheists and agnostics can be bigots too.

But wait a minute! Wasn’t Sullivan leading the charge in defense of the Danish newspapers that published caricatures of the prophet Muhammed? Yes, I believe he was. So here he is desperately trying to explain why what is obviously a double standard is, in fact, not a double standard:

My objection to PZ Myers – even as I defended his right to say whatever he wants and wouldn’t want him punished in any way – is not, in my view, a double standard. Printing a cartoon for legitimate purposes is a different thing than deliberately backing the physical desecration of sacred objects. I’d happily publish a Mohammed cartoon if it advanced a genuine argument, but I would never knowingly desecrate a Koran purely to mock religion.

Pathetic, no? Publishing a caricature of Muhammed is every bit as offensive and blasphemous to Muslims as host desecration is to Catholics. But in Sullivan’s eyes the former is merely an instance of free debate and serves a legitimate purpose, while exhorting people to the latter makes you an anti-Catholic bigot.

In fact, it is worse than that. In his initial post Sullivan singled out the part where Myers referred to the host as a “goddamned cracker” as the place where Myers crossed the line into bigotry. This he considered such a violation of baseline civility that Myers is to be deemed a bigot just for saying it. Not, mind you, the part where Myers encouraged people to abscond with consecrated hosts. Being disrespectful towards a doctrine of Catholicism makes you a bigot, but caricaturing a figue of veneration among Muslims is perfectly fine. Charming.

Do I really need to point out the obvious? Sullivan isn’t making any coherent distinction here between the Danish newspapers and P.Z. Myers. He’s just sore because Roman Catholicism is his religion, while Islam is not.

The reality is this: In both cases religious attitudes in desperate need of goring were criticized in provocative ways. Also in both cases the bounds of good taste were crossed, and both the Danish newspaper editors and P. Z. Myers would probably have done better to find a more tactful way of making their points. But, again in both cases, the insane reaction from many religious people and institutions was so out of proportion to the offense that it made the point far more powerfully than any blogger or newspaper editor could hope to do on his own.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 12, 2008

    Perhaps the difference for Sullivan is that his religion is “True” while Islam is obviously a made-up substitute for Christianity, invented by Satan to keep people from finding Jesus.

    Just a thought.

  2. #2 Nick
    July 12, 2008

    Things like the ‘Cracker incident’ are what is convincing me that religion is truly dangerous.
    http://godriddance.com
    Sincerely,
    Nick

  3. #3 Wes
    July 12, 2008

    The reality is this: In both cases religious attitudes in desperate need of goring were criticized in provocative ways. Also in both cases the bounds of good taste were crossed, and both the Danish newspaper editors and P. Z. Myers would probably have done better to find a more tactful way of making their points. But, again in both cases, the insane reaction from many religious people and institutions was so out of proportion to the offense that it made the point far more powerfully than any blogger or newspaper editor could hope to do on his own.

    I completely agree. PZ’s actions were not the best way to go about it. But it’s absurd when people say he’s the one being a “bigot”, not the people making death threats over a fucking wafer. The fact that in the most powerful country in the world people are still so superstitious and hateful that they would actually threaten someone’s life because he insult a wafer is very disturbing. And the enormous discrepancy between his blog post and the outpouring of hatred and threats against against his career and life makes the two hardly comparable at all.

    And pointing out the fact that it is just a “god damned cracker” is not “bigoted”. It’s just pointing out the obvious. PZ was challenging the very notion of something being “sacred”, so counter-arguing that he shouldn’t say it because people find it sacred is just question-begging.

  4. #4 jeffk
    July 12, 2008

    The second the word “bigot” started being applied to those being critical of ideas and beliefs it essentially became completely meaningless. Yes, I’m a bigot, apparently: against racists, homophones, conservatives, evolution and global warming deniers, morons in general, and to a lesser extent, Catholics (particularly the kid-buggering priests) and all Christians, for that matter.

  5. #5 Patrick
    July 12, 2008

    What Sullivan is really thinking in regards to Christianity Vs. Islam: “You’re imaginary friend is imaginary, but my imaginary friend is REAL.”

    That’s it, whether he can admit it to himself or not…

  6. #6 Jonathan Vos Post
    July 12, 2008

    On Andrew Sullivan’s blog, where he likes to use the word “exponentially” incorrectly, he says:

    Old School Crist

    03 Jul 2008 07:25 pm

    “After nine months’ dating, he gets married to a woman. I wonder if that was a condition for the vice-presidency. His parents, by the way, are ‘ecstatic.’ I’d say the odds of his becoming the veep – and McCain’s heir apparent – just increased exponentially. As a Crist fan, I’m happy – he’d be great for the GOP. But if I were McCain, I’d worry that if this is a marriage of political convenience and if it opens up questions about his past, we could be in a Michael Portillo situation. And no one will want that in a general election campaign.”

    Oh, wait a minute. Crist. Not Christ.

    Never mind.

  7. #7 SLC
    July 12, 2008

    Re Jonathan Vos Post

    Of course, Crist getting married fools nobody. It is well known in Florida that Governor Crist is gay or at least a switch hitter.

  8. #8 Divalent
    July 12, 2008

    The point of PZ’s initial post in the “crackergate” saga was to criticize the hyperbolic response by catholics to the student’s action (death threats, claims of hate crimes, etc).

    Thus, I view PZ’s response as similar to what many brave media outlets did after the initial Muslim reaction to the publication of the Danish cartoons: make a point of the absurdity of the reaction by publishing tacky items that they would not normally have published, just to show that the outragous element of cartoongate was the response of muslims, not the cartoons themselves.

    If anybody was of the opinion that Muslims were somehow different than catholics in terms of their viciousness to those that criticize them, crackergate should disabuse them of that notion.

  9. #9 Divalent
    July 12, 2008

    Let me rephrase my last sentence above to avoid implying that all (or even most) adherents to these religions are at these extremes:

    “If anybody was of the opinion that *some* Muslims were somehow different than *some* catholics in terms of their viciousness to those that criticize them, crackergate should disabuse them of that notion.”

  10. #10 Chris Bell
    July 12, 2008

    JeffK said:

    Yes, I’m a bigot, apparently: against racists, homophones, conservatives, evolution and global warming deniers, morons in general, and to a lesser extent, Catholics

    What do you have against words that sound the same?

  11. #11 Paul Murray
    July 12, 2008

    “Things like the ‘Cracker incident’ are what is convincing me that religion is truly dangerous.”

    If you need convincing, then I take it you are no student of history. Allow me to recommend “A World lit only by fire”, by (I think) Helen Ellerbe.

  12. #12 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    July 12, 2008

    Perhaps the difference for Sullivan is that his religion is “True” while…

    Pope Indulgence seems to agree:
    Pope: Other denominations not true churches
    (and note he was referring to other Christian denominations, not muslims.)

  13. #13 fongooly
    July 12, 2008

    If my waif can be blessed by a gay catholic, why not my wafer?

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    July 13, 2008

    Didn’t the publishers of that (far-right, by Danish standards) paper have to spend several weeks in the Middle East passing out their stuff, and adding more, before they found someone willing to oblige them with enough hysteria to make them famous?

    The imams ‘n’ ayatollahs are real slackers compared to Bill Donohue.

    It occurs to me to wonder whether Sullivan has turned his peerless eye to that stalwart self-appointed Defender of the Faith, but the question just isn’t important enough to justify a mouseclick.

  15. #15 Dr. Octoploid
    July 13, 2008

    The thing that gets me about all of this just how damn immature everyone is being, and I’m just stunned. P.Z. is a grown man, with a Ph.D., and he’s acting like a junior high kid. Grow up. Are the Catholics being ridiculous? Absolutely. And, yes, there’s more than enough room in the first amendment to allow anyone to mock essentially anything, but screwing around with something very important to some one else, even if there really is absolutely no reason for it to be so important, just to make them angry and upset, is not behavior befitting adults. PZ isn’t making any compelling point, he’s not exposing some truth, he’s essentially just delighting in messing with people. Both the Danish newspaper case and this case are just that. Freedom of speech may make them permissible, but it doesn’t make them good.

    Religious attitudes in desperate need of goring? Was the belief in transubstantiation of the eucharist really causing trouble for anybody? How does this idea hurt anyone except for the small number of people bound and determined to leave without eating the communion wafers? Of all the Catholic beliefs that could do with a little provocative criticism, this one seems pretty darn low on the list. Besides, virtually everybody knows its just a cracker, even all but a very small subset of Catholics would concede that it’s really just a cracker.

    Frankly, it’s these kind of attitudes that have turned me off from a whole slew of Evolution blogs. Even though I agree 100% with the science and truly love reading about it. Half the evolution-centric blogs out there consist in reality of very large percentage of “Ha ha, religious people are stupid! Look, they believe dumb things!” The evolution vs. creationism argument is one that can be won by our side easily on the scientific merits. If this is a scientific debate, the entire thing favors our side. The creationists have a literally unwinnable situation. If you turn it instead into just trying to mock and insult the other side, then you start leveling a playing field that shouldn’t be leveled. Plus you make evolution proponents look like elitist jerks. Whether they’re right or not.

  16. #16 fongooly
    July 13, 2008

    You mean ridicule is NOT one of the most effective means of inference?
    You mean creationists would argue on the merits if evolutionists would be a bit more respectful?

    You really mean the playing field shouldn’t be level?

  17. #17 Shirakawasuna
    July 13, 2008

    You mean ?

    I has poignancy!

  18. #18 Ernst Hot
    July 13, 2008

    Pierce R. Butler wrote:
    Didn’t the publishers of that (far-right, by Danish standards) paper have to spend several weeks in the Middle East passing out their stuff, and adding more, before they found someone willing to oblige them with enough hysteria to make them famous?

    No, but a group of outraged Danish Muslims traveled to the Middle East rallying for support, which was what blew the whole thing out of proportions. Some suspect them of not being entirely honest in their proceedings.

    Personally I still have mixed feelings on the issue, as Muslims in Denmark are in fact being persecuted to some degree. Unlike their whiny partners in woo, the American Christians.

  19. #19 ken
    July 13, 2008

    Was the belief in transubstantiation of the eucharist really causing trouble for anybody? How does this idea hurt anyone except for the small number of people bound and determined to leave without eating the communion wafers?

    UMM I think a few Jews over the past 1500 years have had a problem for not believing this.

  20. #20 Raiko
    July 13, 2008

    It’s like there’s a switch in the human mind. As soon as one’s personal religion is brought up and things that would be rational, reasonable, fine and accetable in any other context suddenly isn’t anymore. Sullivan makes that weakness so obvious, he should just admit to it and move on.

  21. #21 MartinM
    July 13, 2008

    Was the belief in transubstantiation of the eucharist really causing trouble for anybody?

    Well…yes. That’s how this all started. Weren’t you paying attention?

  22. #22 Interrobang
    July 13, 2008

    PZ isn’t making any compelling point, he’s not exposing some truth, he’s essentially just delighting in messing with people.

    Bunk. He’s making the compelling point that people who make death threats to people for what (in the case of Webster Cook, who set the whole thing off) seems to be a stupid mistake are batshit insane. Why are you blaming the victim(s) here?

    Webster Cook did a dumb thing out of apparent cluelessness and probably because he’s 20 or so years old (if you have a friend who’s interested in Catholicism, bring them to Mass with you). Catholics harassed Webster Cook and sent him death threats. Donohue, the guy who seems to be the Catholic League, said that what Webster Cook did was worse than anything else imaginable. PZ wrote a strongly-worded post to the effect that sending Cook death threats was insane and that Donohue was even more insane and so full of shit he squeaks to boot. Donohue’s flying monkeys descended on PZ and sent him death threats, too, whereupon PZ ratcheted up the rhetoric in response, saying that he’d show them desecration.

    Notice that PZ didn’t actually do anything. He didn’t desecrate anything, and if you can’t get extreme hyperbole out of the “smuggle a wafer out from under the armed guards and grim nuns” stuff, you haven’t been reading PZ long enough.

    Now everyone’s saying that PZ went too far. What about the bugshit nutters who sent him hate mail and death threats merely for saying that their getting all worked up about essentially nothing was stupid?

  23. #23 AL
    July 13, 2008

    Was the belief in transubstantiation of the eucharist really causing trouble for anybody? How does this idea hurt anyone except for the small number of people bound and determined to leave without eating the communion wafers?

    Well, that’s exactly the point. Why should someone who doesn’t eat a wafer be threatened with expulsion and death? It’s like saying rape is harmless, other than to the small percentage of the population that are rape victims. These things should not be suffered, period, regardless of how small the number of people.

    The evolution vs. creationism argument is one that can be won by our side easily on the scientific merits. If this is a scientific debate, the entire thing favors our side. The creationists have a literally unwinnable situation. If you turn it instead into just trying to mock and insult the other side, then you start leveling a playing field that shouldn’t be leveled. Plus you make evolution proponents look like elitist jerks. Whether they’re right or not.

    In the scientific community, sure, evolution vs. creationism has already been decided in favor of evolution by the scientific merits, so this is not a matter of “can be” but a matter of “is.” Unfortunately, “scientific community” is not the same as “public at large,” and scientific merits cannot overcome ridiculous rhetoric simply by being scientifically meritorious. As uncomfortable as this makes a lot of people, one straightforward way to overcome ridiculous rhetoric is in fact, to ridicule it in order to show how ridiculous it is.

    As an aside, none of the scienceblogs (even the dreaded PZ’s) consists of “just” mocking the other side. Yes, PZ mocks the Creationists/IDers, but always (AFAICT) in response to something very SPECIFIC said by a SPECIFIC Creationist/IDer, with SPECIFIC discussions about why the SPECIFIC reasoning used by the Creationists/IDers is wrong. There’s a context there that you are ignoring if you think all the sciencebloggers do is whine overly broadly/generally and ridicule strawmen.

  24. #24 tomh
    July 13, 2008

    Dr. Octoploid wrote:
    The evolution vs. creationism argument is one that can be won by our side easily on the scientific merits. If this is a scientific debate, the entire thing favors our side.

    As is obvious to anyone paying attention, this is not a scientific debate, it’s a political debate. It’s real science vs. political science and real science is losing. There is less acceptance of evolution in America today than there was fifty years ago. Evolution is being ignored in classrooms all over the country for fear of stirring up creationists in the community and as more ‘academic freedom’ bills are passed, as in Louisiana, this trend will only grow.

  25. #25 Dr. Octoploid
    July 13, 2008

    There have been a lot of responses, so I’ll just make a few points and then let this go:

    - Donohue et al are professional religious zealots–justifying being an immature jackass by pointing to the fact that they were bigger jackass is a pretty weak argument, and is once again the kind of junior high reasoning I was pointing to in the first place.

    - Comparing rape to stealing a communion wafer, which AL appears to be doing, is so offensive I’m not even going to deal with it.

    - I still think you win this argument primarily by convincing people of the merits of looking at scientifically. There’s a powerful tendency among the religious right to look at science as this force aligned against all “normal” people hold dear, and by engaging in this ridicule you just reinforce this us vs. them mentality. We win this debate by convincing people that looking at this in from a scientific perspective is what normal, reasonable people do. And really, I think most of the discussion on these sites can serve the argument by keeping evolutionists fully informed about the science so they can effectively argue elsewhere. Arguments (and ridicule) aimed at creationists here are pretty pointless, since you’re mostly preaching to the choir.

    - Do you really believe the issue between Jews and Christian was transubstantiation? Really?

    - I’m not saying there is isn’t any substance to the Evolution/ID discussion on the blogs, I’m saying that the proportion of real science to inane mockery is much lower than I would like. I appreciate the science side of the discussion, however I think it’s often overwhelmed by the mocking.

  26. #26 Dr. Octoploid
    July 13, 2008

    Just to clarify, I didn’t write exactly what I intended just now–AL appears to be comparing rape to being preventedfrom taking a communion wafer. Which is still offensive.

  27. #27 Paper Hand
    July 13, 2008

    Do you really believe the issue between Jews and Christian was transubstantiation? Really?

    Of course not. But many Jews *were* killed for allegedly desecrating the Host.

  28. #28 AL
    July 13, 2008

    - Comparing rape to stealing a communion wafer, which AL appears to be doing, is so offensive I’m not even going to deal with it.

    Where in anything did I say that stealing a communion wafer is comparable to rape? Nothing I said suggests anything of that sort, but if you feel this is a convenient way for you to play dodgeball, so be it.

    The point I was making is that you seem to be suggesting that the actions of the crazies who are sending out the death threats should not be decried simply because they represent a tiny number of people. Well, OK, moral crazies in general represent a tiny number of people, so by this reasoning, we shouldn’t condemn anything, ever.

  29. #29 AL
    July 13, 2008

    AL appears to be comparing rape to being preventedfrom taking a communion wafer

    Again, I did no such thing. Do you understand how an analogy works? If I say “apples are to oranges, as orchards are to groves,” will you get upset that I am comparing apples to oranges, or do you understand analogies sufficiently enough that the comparison deals with the relationship between a fruit and the plot of land upon which it is grown?

    Likewise, when you say that this communion wafer thing is a non-issue because only a handful of crazies are making the death threats (completely missing the point in the process that we are decrying specifically the death threats, and not the friggin’ wafer), and I say that this is analogous to claiming rape is not an issue because rape is only perpetrated by a small fraction of the population — can you see that rape is not being compared to the communion wafer death threats at all, nor is there any moral equivocation, but rather that what is being compared is the idea that we shouldn’t take issue with something if only a small number of people do it?

    Geez, so much typing to explain the simple idea of an analogy and your pointlessly dismissive “I’m not even going to deal with it” attitude.

  30. #30 AL
    July 13, 2008

    Sorry, the example analogy above should be “apples are to orchards as oranges are to groves.”

  31. #31 fongooly
    July 13, 2008

    A grove can be the same as an orchard, but an orange has never yet made apple juice. So much for analogous dexterity on either side here.

  32. #32 AL
    July 13, 2008

    Yes, I understand that a grove can be considered a type of orchard, as an orchard can be a more general term. However, most people will identify the plot of land for oranges as a “grove”, and one for apples as an “orchard.” It’s common usage that makes this analogy work.

    And anyway, this is beside the point. I’m not talking about botany or horticulture or any of that jazz, I’m making a point about how analogy works to someone who accused me of morally equivocating rape with death threats over a cracker simply because I made an analogy involving the two.

  33. #33 fongooly
    July 13, 2008

    AL, you were explaining how analogy works, and simply gave a bad example. Which is not exactly how to demonstrate the nature of a bad example.
    How about this:
    An apple is a fruit.
    An orange is a fruit.
    Apples and oranges are the same as they have a lot in common.

  34. #34 Dr. Octoploid
    July 13, 2008

    I said:

    Was the belief in transubstantiation of the eucharist really causing trouble for anybody? How does this idea hurt anyone except for the small number of people bound and determined to leave without eating the communion wafers?

    To which you said:

    Well, that’s exactly the point. Why should someone who doesn’t eat a wafer be threatened with expulsion and death? It’s like saying rape is harmless, other than to the small percentage of the population that are rape victims. These things should not be suffered, period, regardless of how small the number of people.

    I was referring to the small proportion of people want to steal communion wafers–you made an analogy to the small proportion of the population that are rape victims. I said belief in transubstantiation is harmless–you said that’s like saying rape is harmless. I never said death threats were harmless. I didn’t even refer to them. I don’t doubt that you don’t really equate rape and stealing communion wafers, but don’t blame me if you didn’t set up your analogy correctly.

  35. #35 Leni
    July 14, 2008

    Can’t we just make a rule: No effing analogies?

    It’s like they take on a life of their own. An annoying, pointless, and none to short life. “But an apple is like an orange insofar as they both have pectin and perhaps also because they grow on trees. Sure, their skins look different, but an apple skin is to a wafer-rape as a orange skin is to human-rape. See?”

    AAARRRGGGG! *stabs eyes out*

    Sorry. Pet peeve. I don’t mean anything personal by it. Someone really should make a law though.

    “If an anology is used, the probability that some stupid motherfucker will obsess over the minutia of the analogy instead of getting the point and letting it drop is exactly 1. This initial disturbance in the fabric of the thread will result in an ensuing number of posts proportional to nFc(G*10^(nE))/R where n are the number of variables in the analogy, F is the “freak out quotient”, c is the daily average number of commenters , and G is the Godwin Potential, E is the number of external links to the thread and R is relevance to the topic at hand.”

    There. Law.

  36. #36 AL
    July 14, 2008

    fongooly, the analogy works for the reason I gave. If you want to split hairs over different usages of the word grove and orchard, be my guest. But I am using terms that are commonly used in the way that I presented, regardless of the fact there may be subsets of people that use them in different ways. In any event, it doesn’t undermine my point and I’m not here to argue horticultural terms. If you don’t like the analogy, then let’s just go back to my not at all making any moral equivocation between rape and death threats, and leave it at that.

    Dr. Octoploid,

    I was referring to the small proportion of people want to steal communion wafers–you made an analogy to the small proportion of the population that are rape victims. I said belief in transubstantiation is harmless–you said that’s like saying rape is harmless. I never said death threats were harmless. I didn’t even refer to them. I don’t doubt that you don’t really equate rape and stealing communion wafers, but don’t blame me if you didn’t set up your analogy correctly.

    We aren’t talking about stealing communion wafers — we are, in fact talking about the death threats that have arisen as a reaction to the theft of communion wafers. You can deny explicitly referring to death threats, but this is quite implicit in your own original question, in which you said, “How does this idea [the eucharist] hurt anyone except for the small number of people bound and determined to leave without eating the communion wafers?”

    Now, if you aren’t referring to the death threats issued to this guy, then what do you mean by “hurt anyone except for the small number of people bound and determined to leave without eating the communion wafers?” What exactly is the “hurt” if not the death threat? You say you are talking about the act of stealing communion wafers — but substitute that in for the “hurt” part of your question and it will make no sense in that context at all. You are being disingenuous if you are trying to swap out “hurt for the small of number of people stealing communion wafers” with “stealing communion wafers”, which are two different offenses altogether, the first of which we were talking about and what is being decried, the second of which is the background context for the first and is not directly being discussed.

    PZ’s whole point (and the point of his supporters on this) is that the reaction (death threats most specifically) are out of proportion to the nature of the offense. Your objection is that we should not be decrying this sort of reaction, simply because it doesn’t happen often, doesn’t have many victims, is perpetrated by a few, etc. All that could be said of any outrageous thing, and then we’ve no room to decry anything. Once is one time too many, is my basic response.

  37. #37 AL
    July 14, 2008

    Can’t we just make a rule: No effing analogies?

    But that’s analogous to saying we should have a rule condemning any type of figurative illustration, as they can easily be mis-figured.

    Oh wait….

  38. #38 Blake Stacey
    July 14, 2008

    Dang. All I can say is, P-Zed has arrived. Next stop: The Colbert Report. Everyone wants to complain about his taste, but if you ask me, what the man really lacks is timing. You’re supposed to pull this kind of stunt when your book has already been published, man.

    (This whole crise du jour makes the secret mission he and I conducted with Ben Goldacre at TAM 6 all the funnier, but if I say anything before the photos and the podcast come out, both The Guardian and the University of Minnesota will disavow all knowledge of our actions.)

  39. #39 fongooly
    July 14, 2008

    The problem with using analogies is that in a way they ARE subject to interpretation, regardless, so some self-described stupid motherfucker will, as we have just seen, propose a “law,” which in realty will not be a law but some sort of mangled pseudo-axiom. And without even the saving grace of humor (no religious reference intended).

  40. #40 caynazzo
    July 14, 2008

    Here’s an analogy fer ya.

    PZ thwacked a hornets nest. And if the rage of a prodded hornet could be translated into words, it would, I believe, look very much like the white hot and incoherent hate in the worst of the emails PZ received from Catholics.

  41. #41 Leni
    July 14, 2008

    That analogy sucks ;)

    Ok it actually wasn’t that bad.

    Fongooly’s did though. (No shit it wasn’t a “law”, captain obvious. It wasn’t even an pseudo-axiom. It was an irate midnight rant, brought about by my bad decision to actually read several hundred of those iterating, worthlessly repetitive posts at PZ’s. And humor is subjective. Wait! Perhaps we should argue about that for 1300 posts now!

    Grr. Sorry. I’m just profoundly irritated by the whole affair right now. Like I said, it wasn’t personal.)

  42. #42 Leni
    July 14, 2008

    Al wrote:

    But that’s analogous to saying we should have a rule condemning any type of figurative illustration, as they can easily be mis-figured.

    Oh wait….

    LOL. I know, futile. Now shut it.

  43. #43 Pierce R. Butler
    July 14, 2008

    Ernst Hot: … a group of outraged Danish Muslims traveled to the Middle East rallying for support, which was what blew the whole thing out of proportions.

    According to http://wsws.org/articles/2006/feb2006/denm-f10.shtml (agreed, not always a reliable source), I was wrong about who traveled, but not about the repeated attention-seeking:

    When the anticipated reaction by the Muslim community failed to arise, the newspaper continued its campaign, determined to create a full-scale scandal.

    After a week had gone by without protest, journalists turned on Danish Islamic religious leaders who were well known for their fundamentalist views and demanded: “Why don’t you protest?” Eventually, the latter reacted and alerted their co-thinkers in the Middle East.

    At this point the head of the Danish government, Andres Fogh Rasmussen, and the xenophobic Danish People’s Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, swung into action. Fogh Rasmussen demonstratively turned down appeals by concerned Arab ambassadors for talks to clarify the issue. Even after 22 former Danish ambassadors appealed to the prime minister to hold discussions with the representatives of Islamic states, Rasmussen maintained his stance, arguing that “freedom of the press” could not be a topic for diplomatic discussion.

    The chairperson of the Danish People’s Party, Pia Kjaersgaard, insulted Danish Muslims who complained about the caricatures, publicly denouncing them as national traitors because they supposedly placed their religious beliefs above free speech.

    From the start, the campaign had nothing to do with “free speech” and everything to do with the political agenda of the Fogh Rasmussen government, comprising of a coalition of right-wing neo-liberals and conservatives, together with the Danish People’s Party.

    Clearly this analysis involves a degree of partisan bias, but it seems clear that the cartoon rage was deliberately stoked, which the cracker fury was spontaneous and instantaneous.

  44. #44 fongooly
    July 14, 2008

    Leni, I was illustrating what a really bad analogy should be, but you instead didn’t get it and called me a motherfucker. But of course I knew it wasn’t personal, because the odds are good that many of us do indeed fuck someone’s mother at some point. Or that we are one of the fucked mothers. And of course the word is often used to describe both pain and pleasure so perhaps I’m over-reacting.

  45. #45 Leni
    July 17, 2008

    FFS fongooly. I don’t really care what your intent was. It was a joke poking fun at the inevitable decent into arguments over the validity of various imperfect (or even bad) analogies, not a nuanced critique of your argument. This whole crackergate fiasco has brought out endless reams of hyperbolic ” But that would be just like…” arguments and, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m very tired of them. Especially when they are from otherwise intelligent people.

    Now please kindly get over it, it wasn’t even directed at you specifically. But feel free to continue taking pot shots at me every time I post if it makes you feel better.

  46. #46 fongooly
    July 17, 2008

    Leni, In what sort of comparative analysis, I wonder, would motherfucker qualify as an element of a nuanced critique? Something to do with what sort of practice makes a fucker perfect?
    Is motherfucker a position on a learning curve, for example, where proper sisterfucking is the objective?
    Or would it have to do with a hierarchy of perversions sorted by levels of appropriateness?
    And is the term not in itself inherently analogous, and too often assumed, incorrectly, as necessarily a bad thing?
    Or can we be comforted by the notion that the use of motherfucker by the otherwise intelligent is to be taken contextually as otherwise satirical?

  47. #47 Leni
    July 17, 2008

    *sigh*

    Or feel free to further illustrate my point.

  48. #48 fongooly
    July 17, 2008

    Well, I’m still not sure you are using the term motherfucker correctly, especially when “stupid motherfucker” seems to be a redundancy.

    According to Wikipedia,
    ‘The literal meaning of this word is “one who engages in sexual intercourse with his mother”, accusing him of committing an act of incest. It could also mean “one who engages in sexual intercourse with someone else’s mother, a friend’s mother, or a girlfriend’s mother”. It can be used as a taunt or crude insult, as in sleeping with another person’s mother. It can also be used to call someone a mama’s boy. Since the meaning is so offensive, this word is often used during crude arguments.’

    By crude motherfuckers, no doubt.

  49. #49 Leni
    July 18, 2008

    You’re absolutely correct. I was indeed hasty in my choice of adjectives.

    I should have said “annoying, histrionic motherfucker”.

  50. #50 Leni
    July 18, 2008

    Alright fongooly, enough. I’m not interested in your half-assed attempts at a flame war. Especially now that it’s devolved into you attempting to quote wikipedia ironically.

    Have fun googling the wiki for “histrionic”.

  51. #51 fongooly
    July 18, 2008

    Leni, you must understand that it’s not an honor to be the first person to be called a motherfucker on this blog perhaps ever. And for no particular reason other than to exhibit your own “sigh” histrionic bent. The peculiar power of this epithet is its tendency to evoke an image in the mind of the recipient of himself sticking it to his own mother. In some cases that might be a very nice image:
    http://www.adultpornblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/6941-985998-2048601.jpg
    But I suspect your intent was not to evoke fond memories. So I’m not particularly concerned with your good will at the moment. And to help erase the image in my mind of fucking my own mother (a pretty woman, but rather stern and unresponsive) I’ve tried to imaging what it would be like to fuck your mother in her place. But I’ll need your help with this. So if you please, try to imagine your mother, legs akimbo, smiling up at me as her head bounces off the headboard of the bed.
    Oh and every time you use that word in the future, I want that image to pop into your head.

  52. #52 Gregory Wonderwheel
    July 25, 2008

    “Publishing a caricature of Muhammed is every bit as offensive and blasphemous to Muslims as host desecration is to Catholics.”

    I agree, except that the modifier “fundamentalist” must be inserted before both the words “Muslims” and “Catholics”. Most Muslims and most Catholics aren’t really offended by such behaviors. As you stated before, most would just shrug.

    But among those who take their religion literally and are offended by affrontery to their idolatry, they do take blasphemy against their idols as a personal attack on their core self-identity.

    Nothing is more “deserving” in our eyes of a retaliatory attack than a challenge to our core identities. These are the ideas that we go to war over. In fact, we can discover what our core identities are made of by asking ourselves which challenges to our self-image or our ideas give rise to such impluses to strike back.

  53. #53 Gregory Wonderwheel
    July 25, 2008

    Can’t we just make a rule: No effing analogies?

    It’s like they take on a life of their own. An annoying, pointless, and none to short life. “But an apple is like an orange insofar as they both have pectin and perhaps also because they grow on trees. Sure, their skins look different, but an apple skin is to a wafer-rape as a orange skin is to human-rape. See?”

    ****

    I play a game with kids I call “How is a bee like a bonnet?” Pick any two things and say how they are the same. A bowling ball and butter. A car and an ear ring. This game shows the underlying unity of existence. ;-)

    I read some fun definitions of “learning” and “creativity.”

    Learning is making something strange into something familiar. This is done primarily by the bridging use of metaphors. “What is an Imam?” “Oh, it’s like a priest or minister.” That’s learning by metaphor. Sometimes the problem is we stick with the metaphor and only remember the similarity of the metaphor that helped us understand this new thing but forget that there are important differences even with the metaphorical similarities.

    Creativity is making something familiar into something strange (i.e., new, different, and unique). This too relies heavily on metaphor. And if the metaphor is lost, then the problem can be that the strangeness is too far out, too incomprehensible, and creative work becomes non-communicative and merely chaotic.

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