Sam Harris has a brand new blog, and already has managed to lard it with roughly what you’d expect: tendentiousness, insistence that religious is wrong because it won’t change (and that religions which do change are illegitimate for doing so), and the usual pro-repression politics.

Referring to Florida’s Pastor Jones, who finally burnt a Quran after spending the last year threatening to do so, and who inspired (as predicted) violence in Afghanistan as a result, Harris asks Do We Have the Right to Burn the Koran?. To which the simple answer is: Sure, but that doesn’t mean anyone should do so.

And now the longer, more complicated answer:

Harris feels the need to say much more in defense of Quran-burning, mostly quoting his earlier defense of repressive Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose eugenic opposition to immigration from Muslim countries and illiberal desire to ban Qurans and forbid the establishment of Islamic schools is so far out of the acceptable mainstream of politics that Glenn Beck called Wilders a fascist. And Beck knows from fascists!

The problem is that Harris’ question is wrong. We have a right to burn a flag, Illinois Nazis (“I hate Illinois Nazis!“) have a right to march through Skokie, and the KKK has a right to burn crosses (with some exceptions). But none of those are good ideas. I want groups like the ACLU to stand up for the legal right to do those things, because I believe that the best remedy for bad speech is more speech. Which is why it’s necessary that people decry Pastor Jones’s inflammatory actions, and why I find it so strange to see atheists, skeptics, and others trying to defend Jones, or simply focusing on the question of whether he was legally entitled to burn copy of a book he owned.

It’d be one thing if the defenses were of the form offered for the Phelps clan during its recent Supreme Court case – reluctant “everyone deserves a defense,” “the first amendment protects all speech” sorts of arguments. And while I’m a First Amendment maximalist and wouldn’t want to see this argument made it court, I think a plausible case could be made that Jones’s actions crossed a line that the Phelps’s never did. Jones seemed intent on inspiring violence and in intimidating Muslims in a way that could well fall into the murky “fighting words” exception to the First Amendment, or the analysis laid out in Virginia v. Black, where a Virginia law against cross burning was challenged by KKK members convicted of violating the law. The court ruled that the state law, which outlawed “burning of a cross” in a public place or on someone else’s private property, when done “with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons.” The Court held that, given the long history of cross burning, the act was “a particularly virulent form of intimidation,” and it was acceptable to outlaw the act when done with the intent of intimidation. The law was wrong to the extent it held that burning a cross was inherently an act of intimidation, so there’s still a free speech right to burn crosses, but the First Amendment doesn’t protect such acts when used to inspire violence.

Did Pastor Jones’s burning of a Quran cross that line? Given the warnings he received from top government officials last year, he certainly would have known that burning the Quran, especially after conducting an absurd “trial” for the bad things he thinks the book is responsible for, was likely to cause violence. I can’t imagine a sense in which it wouldn’t be seen as intimidating by American Muslims and by Muslims in American-occupied countries. He surely couldn’t predict how many would die because of his actions, but it was almost inevitable that someone would die. Whether he can or should be held legally culpable for those deaths, I have no doubt that he is morally culpable for them, and should be held to account in the public sphere.

To which Jones’s not-quite-defenders will insist that the blame should still rest primarily on the shoulders of those who actually killed a dozen UN workers in Afghanistan. Which is true, but only to a point. It’d be an easier case to make if the Afghan people didn’t have some cause to feel like they are in the midst of a war being waged against them and their religion by a coalition of Christian Western countries. You and I know that Jones is a nutjob who uses his cult-like church as free labor for the furniture business he and his wife run, and that he is just an attention whore, using this stunt to get free press. But given all the attention he’s gotten over the last few months from the media and our government, Afghans can be excused for thinking he might be an influential figure in American political and religious life.

It’s also not unreasonable to think that Afghans would have a lower threshold for American anti-Islamic acts than Muslims elsewhere. On a fairly regular basis, Afghan weddings get bombed and their trucks shot up by American planes and helicopters. As much as a given Afghan may not have liked the Taliban, the American puppet government is corrupt and plenty deadly in its own right. It’s fine for us to say Afghans are being too sensitive if they think a jackass in Florida is a threat or intimidation, but put yourself in their shoes.

Provocations like Jones’s are hardly new. British MP (and then cabinet member) John Denham, during Jones’s previous bout in the headlines and similar provocations in Britain:

drew comparisons with the anti-Semitic marches of the 1930s, led by Oswald Mosley’s ‘blackshirts’ and the British Union of Fascists. He said the anti-Islamics were using similar tactics to incite violence …

Mr Denham pointed to historical “parallels” with the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ in October 1936, when Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, attempted to lead supporters through a Jewish area of the East End of London, leading to violent clashes.

“You could go back to the 1930s if you wanted to – Cable Street and all of those types of things. The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups.”

However he added: “All we are facing at the moment is small. It’s nothing like the 1930s.

“But I think we need to take it seriously enough to say that there are obviously people who would like to be provocative, hope that there is not just a reaction but there is an overreaction, then people blame the people who overreact and the situation gets out of control.”

As PalMD pointed out around the same time, burning books is “not an entirely benign form of expression.” Some of Jones’s semi-defenders have trivialized the act, ignoring the symbolism and the historical resonances. PalMD wrote: “State-sponsored book burnings in Nazi Germany may be the most extreme manifestation, but book burning as a way to intimidate and to ‘erase’ ideas has a long history.” Comparing the then-threatened Quran burning to PZ Myers’s “Crackergate” stunt from a few years back (in which PZ destroyed a consecrated communion wafer), PalMD explains:

Catholics are not a “despised minority” in the U.S. It is unlikely that the public desecration of something Catholic would lead to an existential threat to the Catholic population (something that was very different a century ago when Catholics, especially Irish and southern Europeans, were systematically discriminated against). This doesn’t make Crackergate “OK”, but it puts it on a different level in a continuum of intolerance.

Muslims, on the other had, are at risk. The anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. continues to escalate, creating real fear and real harm. The planned Qur’an burning in Florida flames this hatred. It creates a real threat to a minority already under siege….

Hateful, threatening acts like book burning must be called what they are: bigoted, evil, violent.

R. Joseph Hoffman also picks up the comparison to Crackergate, too, and speculates that Jones may be guilty of murder precisely because he – unlike PZ – intended that people die because of his actions.

To me, the most important comparison comes from an essay by John McGreevy and Scott Appleby, scholars of American Catholicism, who wrote last fall about the uncomfortable parallels between the anti-Muslim sentiment seen in actions like Jones’s, in protests against an Islamic center in lower Manhattan (the so-call Ground Zero Mosque), etc, and the anti-Catholicism of earlier eras.

For much of the nineteenth century Catholics in America were the unassimilated, sometimes violent “religious other.” Often they did not speak English or attend public schools. Some of their religious women–nuns–wore distinctive clothing. Their religious practices and beliefs–from rosaries to transubstantiation–seemed to many Americans superstitious nonsense.

Most worrisome, Catholics seemed insufficiently grateful for their ability to build churches and worship in a democracy, rights sometimes denied to Protestants and Jews in Catholic countries…

Like many American Muslims today, many American Catholics squirmed when their foreign-born religious leaders offered belligerent or tone-deaf pronouncements on the modern world….

It took Catholics more than a full century to attain their current level of acceptance and influence, and they made their share of mistakes along the way, occasionally by trying too hard to prove their patriotic bona fides. (Exhibit A: Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose name is now, paradoxically, a synonym for “un-American activities.”) …

Historical comparisons are bound to be inexact; but American Muslims, like American Catholics, are now building their own religious and cultural institutions, and they are seeking guidance from a wide variety of religious sources–some few from jihadists, most from accommodationists.

We are faced with a choice (with many choices, of course, but one stands out at this moment). We can push Muslims away, slap down any attempt at moderation or accommodation (from their community and from ours). In doing so, we can force an insular dialog, in which the voices of extremism will shout down moderates, silencing them and dragging the community further into the hands of fundamentalism and authoritarianism.

Or we can reach out and support those voices, forcing those internal debates to happen in the broader context of global society, a global conversation in which authoritarianism has been repudiated time and again. By engaging, supporting, and elevating the moderate and liberal voices, we can help them marginalize the extremist voices, and show how much their is to be gained by Islamic leaders and by the Muslim world in productive engagement with the West, and with the norms of liberal democracy.

The solution to bad speech, whether the fundamentalist sermons from certain mosques, or the hateful rhetoric of Terry Jones, is more speech. We won’t turn Jones around any more than we’ll turn bin Laden around, but we can push the hateful views both of them espouse out of civil discourse.

See also: “Ayaan Hirsi Ali should not testify before Rep. Peter King

Comments

  1. #1 Glendon Mellow
    April 2, 2011

    Josh, I could agree with almost everything here – book burning as incitement to violence, as a form of intimidation, the way many Afghans feel toward Americans in their country and so on.

    But boil it all down and you have a man burning a book to intimidate, incite violence, and belittle a minority under siege and on the other side you have an enraged mob killing and beheading people to much the same effect.

    There’s a history of privileged Christians and Westerners burning books for fear of the Other, yes. But there’s also “historical resonances” of radical Islamists engaging in murderous mob behaviour over cartoons and other forms of not entirely benign, critical expression.

  2. I’m glad someone feels the way I do: that Terry Jones had a legal right to do what he did, but he was a provocative idiot for doing so.

  3. #3 Christina
    April 2, 2011

    Personally I think everyone’s overlooking the biggest factor. This pastor was just the leader of a small insignificant group. His threat to burn the Quran would be equally insignificant if the media hadn’t insisted on covering it in great detail, arguing over whether he had the right to do so, and so on and so forth. If the media had simply ignored him, he could’ve burned a dozen qurans and no one would’ve cared, much less died.

    So, shouldn’t the blame really rest on the media and not on this insignificant cult-leader?

  4. #4 Andy
    April 2, 2011

    The US Government has burned thousands of Bibles up until now I haven’t seen where any Christians have killed anyone because they did, may I remind you in one of there countrys they will kill you if you have a Bible and are talking to one of them or if a Muslim is caught with a Bible he will be killed! It is time the Muslim world understands there still is freedom of speech and expression in America even though they are trying to take it away! The Killings we saw was the direct result of the fact that the Koran instructs the follower, it is ok to kill one that isn’t a Muslim!!!

  5. #5 Barry
    April 2, 2011

    Josh, per Harris’s final question, do you think those moderate Muslims you reach out to in friendship support crackpot Jones’s right to burn the Quran?

  6. #6 Laurent Weppe
    April 2, 2011

    I find it so strange to see atheists, skeptics, and others trying to defend Jones

    Maybe because said atheists & co are not taking a principled stance but a tribalistic one. I said it a few times while comenting earlier posts, but as I’ve seen for the past few years people with anti-democratic ambitions using more and more often the lingo of atheists and/or secular humanists to hide said ambitions, I’m unsurprised to see some self-proclaimed free thinkers siding with a fascist conman masquerading as a devout pastor.

    Jones seemed intent on inspiring violence and in intimidating Muslims in a way that could well fall into the murky “fighting words” exception to the First Amendment

    Well, translated in normal language, burning a Quran means “I’d love to murder a lot of Muslims but since I lack the firepower to do so I’m gonna do the much more petty but easier act of burning something that symbolizes them”.
    So yes, I’d say that it definitelly qualifies as an intent of violence.

    It’d be an easier case to make if the Afghan people didn’t have some cause to feel like they are in the midst of a war being waged against them and their religion by a coalition of Christian Western countries

    And if members of the US millitary were not activelly trying to proselitize them:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/05/proof_of_christian_proselytizi.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/12/mrffs_latest_discovery.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/12/more_on_afghan_military_missio.php

    In a region where christian missionaries were acting as agents of colonial powers less than a century ago.

  7. #7 Mr Z
    April 2, 2011

    Jones is a dick BUT he has a right to burn any book he wants to demonstrate to the world that he is a dick. It was JUST a book. A book. Anyone who thinks it is more than just a book is a bigger DICK than Jones. It’s arguable that burning the original books of Galileo would be a crime or books that he doesn’t own, but burning a copy of something? meh!

    No religion, not even one, is above criticism or ridicule. Those who think so and will turn to violence and murder as a result of such criticism or ridicule are in need of psychological assistance and probably more appropriately in need of criminal prosecution.

    THERE IS NO GOOD OR SANE JUSTIFICATION for violence in return for criticism or ridicule. Let that sink in. Those who killed people because someone burned a book should be tried and locked away for life without the possibility of parole if found guilty. There is NO excuse for their behavior other than criminal insanity.

    The voice of reason is to prosecute them as murderers or declare their nation as one in need of blockades until their government decides to play nice with the rest of the world. Yes, I know this is Afghanistan and they already have problems which are well outside the boundaries of ‘normal’ but still, a common face needs to be presented.

    Unless and until Muslims are willing to peacefully say criticism and ridicule are distasteful and leave it at that, their lives will be judged by the vociferous and murderous idiots who speak in their name. Any religious person who proclaims themselves a believer MUST shoulder the burden of the crimes committed by their fellow believers until they have the intestinal fortitude to say enough is enough and begin demanding civility from all believers. Civility is NOT respect, but respectful behavior.

    The religion of peace is now responsible for more murders because someone burned a book. If you are Muslim and reading this, why are you not speaking out about your fellow Muslims who have murdered PEOPLE because a BOOK was burned? If you want respect, show some for other people. Demand the murderers be tried for their crimes of murder, incitement to murder, and other atrocities as my apply. Yours should be the loudest voice on the planet right now. Demand civil justice or leave Islam. To do neither is to admit your culpability in the deaths of those people who were killed or maimed because someone burned a book.

    Yes, that is exactly right. I’m blaming ‘good’ Muslims for this. They are the only ones that can speak out and demand that wrongs be put right and that no more wrongs like this ever happen again. If they won’t do so, then I’m quite justified in tarring them all with the same brush. When are people going to see that is how things are? Sure, it can cause some problems, but as we’ve seen in the news lately, there are plenty of Muslims willing to stand up for justice and freedom around the world. They need to keep talking and speaking up at whatever cost if they want respect for their lives and beliefs. Only Muslims can change this problem. No amount of capitulation or talking will EVER change it.

  8. #8 Drachasor
    April 2, 2011

    Eh, I think Harris had a pretty good point on this. While not 100% clear, he seems to think burning the Koran was wrong (he calls the guy a crackpot at least, though doesn’t explicitly comment on the act of burning). Killing people over something like this is grossly disproportional.

    I think you are judging the Afghans by a very, very low standard here. They are too stupid to distinguish between the crazy acts of one person and what a nation does. They are also too undeveloped morally to distinguish between how wrong burning a book is and killing 10 people. And we shouldn’t expect them to distinguish between U.N. workers and Americans. Hence we shouldn’t really judge them THAT badly for those things, because they don’t really understand what they are doing. They are just ignorant savages, after all.

    Seems to me that’s an extremely patronizing attitude.

    And yes they ARE being too sensitive over this. If they killed 10 people in retaliation for people that were killed somewhere, at least that would make some greater amount of sense (though still be wrong). While working with the less radical elements of Islam IS important to strengthen them, it is indeed troubling how violent and touchy some of their members can be, and how extremely reluctant to denounce such violence even the moderates are. There IS something really screwed up with that on a societal level, and that should be an issue of concern. That’s something that is going to have to change in Islam as a whole for it to truly be compatible with the modern world. Note, I am not saying Islam is inherently a violent religion here, merely that right now there is a great deal of accommodation within it towards the elements that are extremist and violent.*

    This is pretty rare in the western world. While you can get some crazy preachers who might not denounce a bombing on an abortion clinic, you certainly get a lot of people (both religious and non-religious) that do even if they are pro-life. As best I’ve seen, and correct me if I am wrong, this kind of denouncement is extremely rare in the Muslim world when someone gets violent over a perceived slight against Islam.

    *Obviously most Muslims aren’t violent like this by nature, otherwise things would be much worse.

  9. #9 scott
    April 2, 2011

    The burning of the Koran doesn’t bother me, it’s a piece of shit book that insist that anyone who insults it must die. In this case the followers of the book decided to kill someone else besides the ones who burned it. Why did they do that, because they were so enraged that they became irrational, anger that was encouraged by “their” Islamic teachings.

    Moderate Muslims should be shouting from the roof tops, discouraging any fundamental Muslims from taking the Koran too literally. They should encourage all Muslims to follow the very best ‘cherry picked version’ that they’ve came up with so far.

    Now, Pastor Jones burned the Koran because he thinks its of the devil. Well that’s just about as hypocritical as anything I’ve seen. Any other religion could look at the bible and rightly decide that it is of the devil, or whatever evil spirit their religion proclaims.

    I might not agree with his reasoning for doing it, he was trying to make a statement. If burning a book is how you want to make a statement, then so be it. Innocent people around the world should not die because of it. The Koran is evil, not because it is of the devil, but because it was written by men to satisfy their own selfish desires and insist on killing anyone who doesn’t agree. And that creed is still followed today by a large number of people who irrationally refuse a better “cherry picked version”.

    Now I expect some people on this blog to start calling me a racist, bigot or islamaphobe. None of which actually fits who I am. I discourage all irrational beliefs, some more than others depending on the consequences.

  10. #10 Lesley Fellows
    April 3, 2011

    Josh, I think this post is spot on, and I agree with everything you write. (Going to be one for my weekly round-up). Book burning is always stupid – it is done by stupid people trying to make everyone else as ignorant as them.

    However, I do think that the New Atheists have a point about the right to free speech that has been fought for in the West.. and we must preserve it.

    I put a post on my blog about the Qu’ran containing contradictions (genuinely opening the debate up, not closing it down) and someone DM-ed me, terrified that I would receive death threats. Liberal Muslims do live in fear for their lives, and it isn’t just Muslims.. I know of a woman too scared to get a divorce because if she did she thinks her family would carry out an honour killing.

    But like I say – I agree with all you write and Terry Jones is clearly an idiot of the first order, or worse…

  11. #11 Josh Rosenau
    April 3, 2011

    Barry: I suspect that they support it at least as much as you and I do. Pew’s 2007 survey of American Muslims (http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf) found them pretty moderate, interested in assimilating to American values, and opposed to suicide bombing and other terrorism.

    Oddly, I can’t find any polls at all about the public’s view on Quran burning, let alone breakdowns by religion.

  12. #12 Laurent Weppe
    April 3, 2011

    @ MrZ

    A book. Anyone who thinks it is more than just a book is a bigger DICK than Jones

    Its more than “just a book” to Jones own audience: for them, its a stopgap: they cannot assault Muslims, so they use burning their holy book as a substitute.

    As a consequence, Quran burning has never, ever been intented as criticism or ridicule: the meaning of Quran burning is, let me repeat it once again: “The idea of cmmiting genocide against you dark skinned ragheads gives me a boner, but I don’t have the firepower to satisfy my murderous urges yet”. And no one can be stupid enough to not realize something this obvious while having a brain functionnal enough to use a keyboard.

    THERE IS NO GOOD OR SANE JUSTIFICATION for violence in return for criticism or ridicule

    Hey remember when I was talking about rethorical deceitful trick? Here’s a perfect exemple of rhetorical deceitful tricks used to hide one’s racism behing lofty principles: pretending that Quran burning is about criticism and ridicule while it is in fact about fascists with genocidal fantasies who cannot keep those to themselves indulging in ritualized symbolic murder while awaiting the day when they will be able to commit the long awaited (for them) Shoah 2.0: Same Intent but with New Targets.

    Of course, that does not mean that violence in return for ritualized symbolic murder is justified, especially when the victims of said violence (UN workers) are not even the one doing the ritualized symbolic murder and actually despise those who indulge in ritualized symbolic murder.

    But it is certainly extremely dishonest to pretend that the sociopaths who either commit ritualized symbolic murder or node approvingly when one of them is doing so and who would doubtlessly go way beyond symbols were it not for their fear of being arrested and condemned for actual murder somehow have the moral high ground compared to a mob worked into a frenzy by demagogues who lied to them.

    Unless and until Muslims are willing to peacefully say criticism and ridicule are distasteful and leave it at that

    Another rhetorical deceitful trick: pretending that Muslims are not willing to peacefully say criticism and ridicule are distasteful and leave it at that, despite the fact that tens of millions of Muslims living peacefully in western countries while abiding to the laws of the land they live in constitute an undeniable (by honest people) proof that the previous quote is full of shit.

    their lives will be judged by the vociferous and murderous idiots who speak in their name

    I trully hope that no one will ever try to judge the lives of scienceblogs readers by the behavior of vociferous idiots like you.

    Any religious person who proclaims themselves a believer MUST shoulder the burden of the crimes committed by their fellow believers

    Rhetorical deceitful trick number three: the use of collective guilt… A trick that is, by the way, not used only by Z.
    Should Jews shoulder the burden of the crimes commited by West Bank settlers? Including the crushing majority of Jews who never ever agreed or excused or tried to justify those acts but are way less visible than the insane minority because sane and decent and well adjusted people rarely appear in the headlines?
    Should atheists shoulder the crimes of Stalin & co, or the state sponsored discrimination against religious communities commited in, say, China?
    Of course not. But there is a very important fact to be remembered: people using the collective guilt are always trying to justify either hatred toward the target of their ire or social dominance tendancies: no one thinks that Jews should shoulder the burden of the crimes commited by West Bank settlers, except antisemites, and no one pretends that atheists should shoulder the crimes of Stalin of the policies of China, except religious supremacists who want to live in a society where their hegemon is never challenged. So I will forgive myself for thinking and saying that people who claim that “Any religious person MUST shoulder the burden of the crimes committed by their fellow believers” are politically somewhere in the vincinity of Jim Crow.

    If you are Muslim and reading this, why are you not speaking out about your fellow Muslims who have murdered PEOPLE because a BOOK was burned? If you want respect, show some for other people. Demand the murderers be tried for their crimes of murder, incitement to murder, and other atrocities as my apply. Yours should be the loudest voice on the planet right now

    Every time Muslims openly take a stance against violence (like here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IofpsHOosE&feature=player_embedded ) people like you ignore them.
    Every time a religious authority in Islam openly attack advocates of violence, people like you act like if nothing was said.

    There are a lot of outrage out there which are built upon lies: like the whole “Muslims aren’t protesting enough!” meme. And you know what, Z? I’m pretty sure that all this pseudo-righteous furry you display in your text is in fact, faked, as a way to hide the most contemptible aspects of your personality, as a way to make you ethnocentric tribalistic preopossessions appear principled.

    ***

    @ Drachasor

    I think you are judging the Afghans by a very, very low standard here. They are too stupid to distinguish between the crazy acts of one person and what a nation does -> They are just ignorant savages, after all.

    Except that Josh never said any of this: he said that people whose countrymen are being killed by bombing with sloppy targetting, or caught in crossfire between the Coalition and the Talibans, and whose government is a corrupt parasite that would already have collapsed if not for the protection of the sloppy bombers are more likely to desire revenge against the US and its allies. You don’t need to be an “ignorant savage” to desire revenge against someone you feel is screwing with you, hurting your country and killing innocents among your compatriots with impunity.

    Plus you cannot demand that people act rationally once in a mob: almost no one acts rationnally once in a mob, and unless you personnaly managed to remain a paragon of calm and clearheadedness in the middle of a degenerating protest, I’d suggest that you do not demand it from other people.

  13. #13 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    He has the right to burn the book, incite violence, be prosecuted for that violence, and go to jail for it.

    He chose to exercise those rights.

    I think the key point here is he was told by US officials (experts in Arab relations) last year that people would die if he did this. If you knowingly act in a way that causes murder, are you not responsible?

    No-one would even consider defending a radical imam who knowingly whipped the same people into a frenzy before they killed UN workers. Just because he did it from across a religious divide, doesn’t change his responsibility

    To say things like “the murders was disproportionate to the burning” is simply outside the realm of legal debate. The only question should be “did he know people would die?”

    The answer is “yes, he was told be experts people would die”

    I can’t see any real argument against that.

  14. #14 msironen
    April 3, 2011

    I can’t see any real argument against that.

    Except that maybe we shouldn’t let religious extremists from some distant country dictate to us what expression is allowed and what isn’t?

  15. #15 moonkitty
    April 3, 2011

    I can’t imagine a sense in which it wouldn’t be seen as intimidating by American Muslims

    How about the ordinary, everyday sense: American Muslims aren’t stupid. They know that there are people who don’t like their holy book and that this particular little nobody (Jones) chose to express that fact symbolically. No threat to anybody’s physical well-being was ever implied.

    To which Jones’s not-quite-defenders will insist that the blame should still rest primarily on the shoulders of those who actually killed a dozen UN workers in Afghanistan. Which is true, but only to a point.

    Only to the point where the facts and all actual moral and personal responsibility for the murders end. Beyond that, of course, anyone is free to tut-tut about the offensiveness of Koran burning and defend the Afghani murderers (who no doubt felt so “intimidated” by the actions of some nobody in the U.S. burning a few copies of a BOOK they could not help themselves) to his heart’s desire.

  16. #16 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    msironen –

    it isnt about them. It is about whether he could reasonably forsee his actions would lead to deaths. He could, and they did. That is the issue here

    Would you honestly exercise your right to freedom of speech if you *knew* it would mean people would die? Do you think you should be allowed to?

    For some reason some people in America seem to think personal freedom is the opposite of personal responsibility

  17. #17 msironen
    April 3, 2011

    It is about whether he could reasonably forsee his actions would lead to deaths.

    Only way burning a Koran can kill someone (barring some extremely unlikely accident during the burning itself) is if some psychopath threatens to kill someone if you do it, and then makes good on the threat.
    The longterm solution here can not be to capitulate to psychopaths whenever such situation arises.

  18. #18 Phillip IV
    April 3, 2011

    I have no doubt that he is morally culpable for them, and should be held to account in the public sphere.

    Now Pastor Jones wasn’t among the victims himself, but I think it’s undeniable that that was only for lack of opportunity – if they had been able to, the Afghan rioter would just too gladly have killed Jones as well. In which case your argument would amount to “Jones is morally culpable for his own death.”

    Responsible for his own death, because he should have known his burning of one of his own books would inspire fanatics to violence? How is that different from blaming a victim of rape for wearing a short skirt?

  19. #19 Felix
    April 3, 2011

    Josh says referring to Jones act of burning the Koran:

    “I can’t imagine a sense in which it wouldn’t be seen as intimidating by American Muslims and by Muslims in American-occupied countries.”

    This seems to me a ludicrous statement.

    Small town , ignorant, known-loony, puts a book on trial, burns it, and people should feel intimidated?

    Even though this loony has been condemned by the secretary of state and many others and is therefore publicly known to be a ineffectual wacko?

  20. #20 Russell
    April 3, 2011

    The analogy between Jones and the KKK burning a cross prior to a lynching doesn’t hold water. Jones wasn’t inciting anyone to violence. Jones didn’t encourage subsequent violence, but discouraged it. Those who committed the violence were remote from Jones’s act. And they did so in opposition to Jones’s act.

    The notion that Jones would have some legal liability because of their action under American law flies in the face of the 1st amendment. That’s not a defense of Jones or what he did or why he did it. It’s a statement of what freedom of speech means here.

    I’m a bit surprised to see no one comment on Karzi’s role in this. There was no reason for him to public denounce the Quran burning. Afghanistan’s politicians must take the lead, if anyone is going to help reduce the fanaticism there. Karzi, instead of denouncing the Quran burning, could have downplayed Jones’s importance and called on Afghan Muslims to show the world a measured and reasoned face in response, instead of acting in violence and fanaticism.

  21. #21 kinem
    April 3, 2011

    > Only way burning a Koran can kill someone (barring some extremely unlikely accident during the burning itself) is if some psychopath threatens to kill someone if you do it, and then makes good on the threat.
    > The longterm solution here can not be to capitulate to psychopaths whenever such situation arises.

    Well put. That is exactly the point.

    If the psychopaths threaten to kill people if women walk around without their faces covered, or if gays don’t renounce their nature, and then make good on that threat, are we to blame the women and gays? Jones is no different.

    Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are under worldwide attack by islamists – that is a real threat.

  22. #22 DuckPhup
    April 3, 2011

    OK. With these recent developments, I sense that egos and attitudes are sufficiently (albeit unjustifiably) bruised, battered, over-sensitized and hysterical now, such that my diabolical plan for permanently settling Islam’s hash should get implemented right away, while the time is still ripe… and before it is too late.

    This conundrum can be resolved, quickly… easily… economically… once and for all… and without (excessive) guilt.

    The simple solution requires only that for one whole month, every newspaper in the free world devote the bottom-half of its front page, and every prime time TV news show devote the first 2 minutes of every broadcast, to offensive pictures, cartoons and skits, ridiculing Allah (peace on him) and Mohammed (peace on him, too). By the end of that month, most of Islam will have self-destructed in a paroxysm of snits, hissy-fits and terminal apoplexy. Then, we can reason with those who remain, whom we might be justified in treating as if they’re reasonably sane.

    WARNING: This will not be pretty… but the world will be a much better place for it, afterward.

    My lingering regret in this is that I can’t think of a similarly uncomplicated, cost-effective and efficient stratagem for dismantling the Christ-cult; but, oh well… one thing at a time. One only does what one can do.

  23. #23 Glendon Mellow
    April 3, 2011

    Philip IV #17 said:

    ” How is that different from blaming a victim of rape for wearing a short skirt?”

    Exactly. How is it different? As misguided and wrong and idiotic as the Pastor is, even in asking for violence, the enraged Afghans who murdered the UN workers (and who have moved on to other things) still have a choice, provoked or not.

  24. #24 TB
    April 3, 2011

    This isn’t about rights or about religion. It’s about responsibility. He was told that lives would be lost if he went through with the burning. Lives were lost last year when even the rumor of burning occurred, so it’s not like he didn’t know.
    Maybe he should have gone to Afghanistan and done the deed himself in the middle of the street.
    And it’s here where the analogy of rape and the short skirt fails.
    An more apt analogy would be an uncontrolled, outlaw land where outside authorities know young women get raped. So he finds some innocent woman who doesn’t know she’ll be harmed, gets her to dress up way more provocatively than she would ever normally dress and sends her into that land unprepared, where she’s raped.
    Do we blame the young woman? No! Do we blame the outlaws for their actions? Yes! Do we blame the pastor for putting her in that position knowing she’d be harmed without doing anything to save her? Damn right we do.
    Maybe, MAYBE, if some kind of greater good was being served and some real change came about as a result then doing something like this might somehow be justified in the end.
    I don’t see anything approaching that, either in the analogy or the real life situation. And we knew that would be the case before he burned it.

  25. #25 J. J. Ramsey
    April 3, 2011

    Phillip IV: “How is that different from blaming a victim of rape for wearing a short skirt?”

    Because we aren’t blaming the victims, who are the UN workers.

  26. #26 julian
    April 3, 2011

    He burned a book. Paper! Bits of processed wood!

    It’s so comforting to know just how well my life stacks up against it. If that’s honestly the world you want who am I to get in your way.

  27. #27 julian
    April 3, 2011

    @Ramsey

    No you’re just shifting guilt onto someone who did the equivalent of burning an American flag.

  28. #28 KW
    April 3, 2011

    @ TB #24

    The “greater good” is the defense of freedom of expression. There is simply no good way to prevent this without going down some exceedingly unpleasant paths. Do you wish to deem him culpable for violence conducted in Afghanistan? Let’s face it, dishing out responsibility for one person based on what a group of other people deem to be sufficient provocation for murder/mass murder is simply ridiculous.

    You’re effectively allowing fanatics in Afghanistan to drag the Overton Window all the way to the crazy, which is accomodationism taken to absurd extremes. Under no circumstances should these possible murderers be allowed to influence social and political discourse; in that situation they will have done something so beyond the pale that the only civilized thing to do is to exclude them from discourse. You do not get to hold a gun to someone’s head while negotiating, only when you put that gun down will you be deemed to be negotiating in good faith.

  29. #29 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    Yup Last week brought a sober reminder that every religion has its extremists, as Christian radicals burned one copy of the Quran (and Muslim radicals attacked a half-dozen churches, burned dozens of Bibles, and slaughtered 321 people in 26 terror attacks in just 7 days).

    Three. Two. One.

    Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! Beg! Beg! Beg! Cower! Cower! Cower!

    The Scienceblogs Workout! “Scienceblogs: the way to tink you’re courageous and principled while being an abject coward!”

    I honestly do not know how you lot can live with yourselves, and I sincerely hope that you will not be able to do so much longer.

  30. #30 KW
    April 3, 2011

    @ TB #24

    The “greater good” is the defense of freedom of expression. There is simply no good way to prevent this without going down some exceedingly unpleasant paths. Do you wish to deem him culpable for violence conducted in Afghanistan? Let’s face it, dishing out responsibility for one person based on what a group of other people deem to be sufficient provocation for murder/mass murder is simply ridiculous.

    You’re effectively allowing fanatics in Afghanistan to drag the Overton Window all the way to the crazy, which is accomodationism taken to absurd extremes. Under no circumstances should these possible murderers be allowed to influence social and political discourse; in that situation they will have done something so beyond the pale that the only civilized thing to do is to exclude them from discourse. You do not get to hold a gun to someone’s head while negotiating, only when you put that gun down will you be deemed to be negotiating in good faith.

  31. #31 Drachasor
    April 3, 2011

    Laurent Weppe said:

    Except that Josh never said any of this: he said that people whose countrymen are being killed by bombing with sloppy targetting, or caught in crossfire between the Coalition and the Talibans, and whose government is a corrupt parasite that would already have collapsed if not for the protection of the sloppy bombers are more likely to desire revenge against the US and its allies. You don’t need to be an “ignorant savage” to desire revenge against someone you feel is screwing with you, hurting your country and killing innocents among your compatriots with impunity.

    Plus you cannot demand that people act rationally once in a mob: almost no one acts rationnally once in a mob, and unless you personnaly managed to remain a paragon of calm and clearheadedness in the middle of a degenerating protest, I’d suggest that you do not demand it from other people.

    If people in a mob go and kill a dozen or so people, they are held responsible in the West. Even if their anger is justified.

    Let’s look at a similar hypothetical situation in the West. The police are corrupt in an Inner City area, where they take bribes, abuse the populace, and generally don’t do their job but instead instill terror into the people. Eventually people riot, some then go into an upper class neighborhood and kill a couple families.

    Oh wait, no, let’s change that a bit. Someone in City B makes fun of the people in the inner city of City A above. It’s tasteless and crude. For some reason THAT sparks the riot.

    While we’d all abhor the situation that led to the riot, I don’t think anyone for a moment would pretend the rioters who killed those families were remotely justified. Nor would anyone pretend it was the tasteless joker who was responsible for their deaths (however despicable as a human being that person was).

    Yet in this situation in Afghanistan I see many people making excuses for such despicable behavior. Yes, people behave differently in a mob, but we don’t typically say that makes murder a lesser crime or remotely ok. In fact, this is a reason why a violent mob is something we view as bad from the get-go, especially one that acts out against innocents. There are acceptable ways to rebel, even acceptable violent ways to rebel against an unjust rule.

    Of course, that isn’t even getting into the fact that they were violent for an extremely petty reason, the burning of a book. If someone burned the bible and a mob killed a dozen innocent people because of it, we’d rightly view the people in that mob as more than a bit crazy.

    Yes there are problems in Afghanistan, and we do need to maintain a realistic view in dealing with the Muslim world in general. That means focusing on working with the moderate and liberal voices there. That doesn’t mean we should forget that at the moment that seems to be working with the lesser of two evils; the one that tends to condone violence but not practice it. We should also remember that killing people over a picture, image, words, or non-violent acts IS disproportionate and wrong in the extreme. That kind of crazy thinking is the sort of thinking that needs to eventually be stopped in the Muslim world, though it might take decades or centuries to do that.

    While Josh didn’t directly comment on judging the Afghans by a lower standard, it was implicit in what he did say and how he did judge them. Problem is, if you don’t correctly identify what thinking is crazy, then you aren’t going to be able to take good steps to get rid of that thinking in the long run.

    Not that I am saying what the Pastor did wasn’t stupid, dangerous, and ignorant. Much the same way that taunting an unhinged man who is wielding a gun is stupid, dangerous, and ignorant. The lion share of what is messed up is in the unhinged man, however.

  32. #32 J. J. Ramsey
    April 3, 2011

    Drachasor: “If people in a mob go and kill a dozen or so people, they are held responsible in the West.”

    Yes, and if someone helps stir up that mob, he or she is considered partly responsible, morally if not legally.

  33. #33 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    Ramsey, you would have been a hit in the Old South. “Yeah, if them uppity negroes in the North stir up the good church goin’ folk down here, they’re partly responsible for lynchings!”

  34. #34 Drachasor
    April 3, 2011

    Ramsey, the people stirring up the mob to violent acts were the Mullah’s preaching about the burning of the Koran and how violence should be taken in response.

    I do not disagree that the western Pastor was wrong to burn the Koran (in the current geopolitical context). Again, in the same way someone provoking an unhinged man with a gun is wrong. It’s an extremely stupid thing to do. That doesn’t remotely make killing or shooting someone in response to either ok, however. The core of what is wrong in either situation is the crazy thinking (I’m speaking non-technically here) that makes people think responding with murder is acceptable.

    So yeah, sometimes you should tiptoe around crazy people, until they can get the help they need. Such people NEED to change, because destructive impulses like that are harmful to society and civilization in general (and often themselves as well). With the unhinged man, it is probably easier to get him help. With a twisted society that finds murderous violence in response to mere imagery acceptable, it is a much trickier thing.

    Again, my point is that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fundamental problem here. Islam in a lot of places needs to change to where practitioners do not view such ridiculously disproportionate murder as acceptable. Like Christianity and many other religions, there’s no reason such violence needs to remain as part of the faith in practice. I think we are largely doing a good job within the United States, since we have a long history of assimilating people into our culture. Europe is generally having a harder time of it (they aren’t as big on assimilation, which is a big problem), and getting countries like Iran and Afghanistan to change will be even harder.

  35. #35 Adam
    April 3, 2011

    This post is surreal.

    Scientologists and Mormons are mocked and humiliated almost on a daily basis.
    So are they free to behead some bystanders? Why not? You don’t think their religious beliefs are important to them? I’m sure it’s deeply important to them. And does anyone doubt that they are hurt by being mocked by the mainstream

    What Josh is really saying is that those simple brown-skinned people over there are more like savages and can’t be held accountable for their actions.

    Eight makes a great point about the logical conclusion of Josh’s argument. That Jews were partially to blame for the Holocaust and that blacks were partially to blame for lynchings in the South. Seriously, why provoke ignorant, racist whites when you know it could lead them to violent behavior.

  36. #36 Ken Pidcock
    April 3, 2011

    Jones seemed intent on inspiring violence and in intimidating Muslims in a way that could well fall into the murky “fighting words” exception to the First Amendment, or the analysis laid out in Virginia v. Black, where a Virginia law against cross burning was challenged by KKK members convicted of violating the law.

    I’ve run across this analysis elsewhere, and I have a serious problem with it. Incitement involves inspiring violent action from within one’s group. What Jones did, while reprehensible, is not incitement. Were those who “inspired” the KKK’s violence by refusing to be intimidated guilty of incitement?

    I’m all for condemning Jones, but he isn’t a party in the fascist reaction.

  37. #37 J. J. Ramsey
    April 3, 2011

    Eight:

    Ramsey, you would have been a hit in the Old South. “Yeah, if them uppity negroes in the North stir up the good church goin’ folk down here, they’re partly responsible for lynchings!”

    You just equated “uppity negroes” protesting their oppression with a bigot who did the rough equivalent of burning Muslims in effigy.

  38. #38 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    Every opponent of Jones bearing responsibility for this, including most of the bloggers here, is arguing against a strawman

    “If we hold him accountable it takes away from the accountability of the murderers”

    NO, it doesnt. Not even slightly.

    If everyone cant see that they need their logic centres examined.

    The murderers are guilty of murder.

    Just for a second, step outside the bounds of your country, where it is considered a legal right in many places to carry concealed semi-automatic or automatic weapons and consider this (absurd) example –

    If you knew 100% that eating food on a Thurday would kill someone on the other side of the world, but not eating that day would prevent their death, would you eat?

    Easy answer right? Even though everyone (according to the UN) has the right to eat.

    I am willing to live in a society that restricts my rights, within limits, to protect others. ANY AND EVERY RIGHT. The limit is I will not allow that restriction to cause harm to myself or others.

    If that restriction extends to burning the Koran, so be it. If it extends to not using gun metaphors in political discourse, so be it. If it extends to NOT CARRYING ASSAULT WEAPONS, so be it.

    Liberals in America have been hoodwinked. This is the insidious push from the right that happened in America, that went under the radar while everyone was fighting corporate interests.

    Know the world does not operate like America. And the rest of the first world has lower murder rates, lower crime rates, lower intolerance, higher education, better health and more happiness. All of those things are actually backed up statistically.

    If even one person at this blog reads this and actually has a good hard think about their views on ‘personal liberty’, that deified thing in American life, I am happy. You are believing in a religion, just because it is dressed as secular doesnt make it rational. It is based on a belief that individual freedom trumps individual responsibility, and the world gives you the scientific answer.

    The answer is that you are wrong, and it is a dangerous, damaging and lethal approach to take

    This guy acted in a way that he knew would lead to deaths, and he did it anyway. He would not have been harmed by not burning the Koran, so he fails the above mentioned test. He is responsible for the outcomes of his actions. As are the Afghani murderers

  39. #39 Tacroy
    April 3, 2011

    I have to ask: what is the difference between Pastor Jones burning a Quran and “provoking” murder, and a woman wearing revealing clothing and “provoking” rape?

    Is it the fact that Pastor Jones wasn’t one of the victims himself? Would that have made it more okay for him to burn the Quran, if he was murdered for his efforts?

    Do we simply have different standards for Muslims? Are they considered not fully in control of their actions, unlike American rapists, so that it is reasonable to tip-toe around them?

    As far as I can see, in one case we agree that condemning the person who did the “provoking” is bad, and it is in bad taste to say “well, she just shouldn’t have done that”; in the other case, condemning the person who did the “provoking” is okay, and it is perfectly reasonable to say “well, he just shouldn’t have done that”. This seems inconsistent to me. What makes these cases different?

  40. #40 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    Tacroy and all others raising the Rape Debate:

    I honestely don’t get this. Are you arguing a woman who gets raped (she is the victim) should be punished for the crime?

    Or that a preacher who leads to the deaths of others (he is not the victim) should not be?

    If he got killed, it would not be ‘incitement’. It would be ‘provocation’.

    You know, like rapists argue in court? “The way she dressed provoked me to do it”. They sometimes even succeed, as horrendous as that is.

    Everyone raising this as an ‘argument’ clearly is straight up bonkers. Incitement and provocation are different things. OK?

  41. #41 Laurent Weppe
    April 3, 2011

    Now Pastor Jones wasn’t among the victims himself, but I think it’s undeniable that that was only for lack of opportunity – if they had been able to, the Afghan rioter would just too gladly have killed Jones as well. In which case your argument would amount to “Jones is morally culpable for his own death.”

    Had a dirty little cowardly fraud like Jones really been at risk of being lynched for burning a Quran, he would never have done the act. Don’t go around pretending that this SOB is some potential martyr of freedom of speech.

    ***

    Small town , ignorant, known-loony, puts a book on trial, burns it, and people should feel intimidated?

    Conservative beltway insiders take advantage of the buzz created around the loon by sycophantic media in order to score political points through dog wisthling while increasing the clout of ethnic cleansing fetichists among the rulling class: yes people should feel intimidated.

    ***

    If people in a mob go and kill a dozen or so people, they are held responsible in the West. Even if their anger is justified.

    And no one pretended here that members of the mob were not to be held responsible. What was argued by Josh was that the behavior of the mob must not be used as a get-out-of-jail free card by Jones and his croonies, and what was argued by me was that many people pretending to be morally superior to the mob would not have done better in similar circumstances.

    While we’d all abhor the situation that led to the riot, I don’t think anyone for a moment would pretend the rioters who killed those families were remotely justified.

    And I did not pretend that the very real rioters in Afghanistan were justified, nor did Josh, so would you kindly stop beating this poor strawman with man name on it with your hypothetical stick?

    Of course, that isn’t even getting into the fact that they were violent for an extremely petty reason, the burning of a book

    Except that the burning of the book was not the reason, but the pretense. That does not make the murders right, but we should not pretend to not see the real causes behind the mob anger.

    That doesn’t mean we should forget that at the moment that seems to be working with the lesser of two evils; the one that tends to condone violence but not practice it

    The moderate and liberal muslims do not condone violence: their voice tend to be drowned by the shouts of the extremists and what we still manage to ear is then treated as irrelevant, or worse, non-existant by pseudo-secularists with ethnicist agendas; pseudo-secularists who tend to have way more influence among the western world ruling class than what western world citizens are willing to publicly admit.

    ***

    I do not disagree that the western Pastor was wrong to burn the Koran (in the current geopolitical context)

    Jones’ Quran burning is not wrong because of “current geopolitical context”: it is wrong, because, once again, it is a ritualized symbolic murder. It is a statement of intent as clear and unmistakable as any fatwa calling for the murder of infidels.

    ***

    Europe is generally having a harder time of it (they aren’t as big on assimilation, which is a big problem)

    Europe is having an harder time because Muslims here are more numerous and poorer: think blacks or latinos, who have been targeted through both rethoric and actual policies by the conservatives in the US for a long time. It is therefore easier in Europe than in the US to use Muslims as the cement of an alliance between know-nothing racists and upper-classmen willing to maintain their privileged status by divide and conquer tactics (pitting not-so-wealthy whites against poor muslims). Don’t pretend that the US is any better than the EU, because, really, you aren’t

    ***

    This post is surreal

    What’s surreal here is the number of commenters pretending than burning Qurans are mere mockery while book burning has been used as a call for murders for centuries as well as the number of people willing to lie about the content of Josh post right under said post

  42. #42 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    Awww – isn’t dat cute! Little Ramsay thinks he can defend himself while ignoring the people who are actually, in reality being burned!

    Nah, nah you suck. As do you SoulmanZ.

    This guy acted in a way that he knew would lead to deaths

    “Jes like them uppity Negroes!”

    I’d ask, would you be crawling this way if it were a burnt Bible and Christians had decided to go on a rampage – if I weren’t sure that you would be crawling this way.

    Let me throw this one down. Let’s say that I threaten to blow up a bus if you, Ramsey, Josh and fatman Myers write anything else that offends me. By your lights those deaths will be your fault and your responsibility.

  43. #43 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    Another little boot-licker:

    Jones’ Quran burning is not wrong because of “current geopolitical context”: it is wrong, because, once again, it is a ritualized symbolic murder. It is a statement of intent as clear and unmistakable as any fatwa calling for the murder of infidels.

    Notice the total, absolute lack of any sort of concern for those who are genuinely being murdered.

  44. #44 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    honestely don’t get this. Are you arguing a woman who gets raped (she is the victim) should be punished for the crime?

    Soulmanz, sure thing, if the rapist has a bunch of friends who’ll riot and murder if she isn’t – that’s according to your light and your standards.

  45. #45 Anthony McCarthy
    April 3, 2011

    I have to ask: what is the difference between Pastor Jones burning a Quran and “provoking” murder, and a woman wearing revealing clothing and “provoking” rape?

    This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve read this year. Jones burned the Quran as a publicity stunt that he’d been warned by people at the highest reaches of the government that it would most likely provoke lethal violence. He knew it would provoke lethal violence. He had every reason to know what has happened, would happen. He intentionally provoked it.

    I doubt any women have dressed with an intention of inviting a violent attack, I’m sure if they thought it would be a virtual guarantee of an attack that they would avoid it. And I doubt that any rapist would consider that their intended victims are dressed so as to not “deserve it”.

    Is it the fact that Pastor Jones wasn’t one of the victims himself? Would that have made it more okay for him to burn the Quran, if he was murdered for his efforts?

    He’s not one yet, that doesn’t mean he might not be. However, he must realize that could be one of the results, though I’m sure he believes it’s a remote one. Who knows how ignorant he is.

    No, of course it wouldn’t make it “more okay” for him to be among the victims of the violence he knowingly incited. Is the suicide in a murder suicide less guilty of the murder?

    It’s always a real eye opener to read a comment thread like this. Not a pleasant surprise, however.

  46. #46 Laurent Weppe
    April 3, 2011

    I nearly landed on a job for a NGO in Afghanistan: If not for a few twists of fate, I would be as potential fodders for frenzied afghan mobs than those UN workers.

    You are the one using the death of UN workers as a tool to disguise your own despicable incestuous tribalism as a principled position: Don’t you dare put on me your own vices.

  47. #47 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    To clarify – Rapists do have and do use that defense. So do murderers (like beaten wives who plan and carry out murder rationally). The question is how much that excuses the actions

    In the case of a burnt book – it doesnt at all. Being brutalised for years in a locked in marriage might

    Are people not already personally responsible for how their actions affect them? In the vast majority of cases people’s responsibility toward themselves is not a legal quaestion.

    We are discussing how someones actions affected others. That is a legal question

  48. #48 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    I nearly landed on a job for a NGO in Afghanistan: If not for a few twists of fate, I would be as potential fodders for frenzied afghan mobs than those UN workers.

    Assuming someone like you is even capable of honesty – pity you weren’t. You defend the mob, you can die by it.

  49. #49 Laurent Weppe
    April 3, 2011

    This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve read this year

    Not the stupidest: the most dishonest and and cynical: First by treating UN workers and Jones as the same entity: its like claiming that pointing fingers toward Jedibiah Stipe is akin to supporting rape; and second, by using rape victims as tools to justify one’s own ethnocentric prejudice.

    He knew it would provoke lethal violence. He had every reason to know what has happened, would happen. He intentionally provoked it.

    More importantly: he knew there was virtually no chance that He, personnally, would be the target of said violence, that he could go around and playact the virtuous hero of free speech while not taking any real risk. So we can add cowardice and willingness to have someone better than him taking the bullet for him as reasons to despise this man.

  50. #50 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    Eight @ 42.

    Just once, I will bite.

    [Let's say that I threaten to blow up a bus if you, Ramsey, Josh and fatman Myers write anything else that offends me. By your lights those deaths will be your fault and your responsibility.]

    The question is not could the law of incitement be applied,the question is could a application succeed.

    Would a reasonable person reasonably believe you would blow up a bus? Have you done so every time you have been offended before? Did you five minutes ago when you were offended?

    Would a reasonable person reasonably be able to judge what “may offend you” (hint: “everything you write” is not a good answer here)

    Would a reasonable person be able to avoid doing what offends you without undue harm to themselves or others (not really a concern here)

    Answer those questions yourself. Then reverse you answer. Then you know what a reasonable person would do.

  51. #51 Laurent Weppe
    April 3, 2011

    Eight: you just are not talented enough to hide the fact that you are a psychopath who revel in the death of others.

    Come on: you just openly wished that I had been murdered by the mob, demonstrating (if that was still necessary at this point) that you are at the same level than those who worked said mob into a frenzy. But fortunatelly for me and more importantly for people living around you, I am quite certain that like Jones, your fear of being arrested and punished for murder will always suffice to stop you from acting upon your own murderous fantasies.

  52. #52 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    Gotcha Soulmanz – being willing to use lethal violence at the drop of a hat exempts you from moral judgment (or what passes for moral judgment from you). Nice to have that clarified.

    You know what I’m looking forward to? I’m looking forward to seeing this blogging community deciding to advance creationism and mandatory prayer in schools – which will happen just as soon as the goons decide to make it a matter of asking for it with violence. Then they’ll all crawl, and they’ll have little spiritual shysters like you telling them it’s the right thing to do.

  53. #53 Anthony McCarthy
    April 3, 2011

    Way too much blog commenting happens from the safety of those sitting in safety on North America. It seems to make people loud and stupid. The place being a college town doesn’t seem to be a guarantee it won’t be.

    I wish more of it came from people who knew what they were talking about because they are on the ground where real things happen.

  54. #54 Eight
    April 3, 2011

    Laurent, nah, nah don’t flatter yourself – you don’t even rate the level of the mob. Listen to me: under every horror in human history there have always the monsters, the killers, some of them raised to garganguan scale, the Hitlers, the Maos.

    They’re not the problem. They’re evil, they need to be killed. End of story. No, the problem is not them, but the endless swarm of the little excusers and compromisers. The problem isn’t the SS guard loading the train, it’s the hundred maggot-souls who quietly turn around and look the other way.

    That’s what you are.

  55. #55 Adam
    April 3, 2011

    It’s absurd to say that Jones knew this would be the result.

    Nobody cared until it was ginned up locally.

    Sam Harris is completely correct. It’s simply about the way Islam is particularly combustible.

    Also, can I now behead a random person when I see the American flag being burned??? Is the moron burning the flag morally responsible for the murder. As with Jones, the flag burners seek attention and TV cameras.

  56. #56 TB
    April 3, 2011

    “I have to ask: what is the difference between Pastor Jones burning a Quran and “provoking” murder, and a woman wearing revealing clothing and “provoking” rape?
    Is it the fact that Pastor Jones wasn’t one of the victims himself? Would that have made it more okay for him to burn the Quran, if he was murdered for his efforts?”

    It’s not a question of whether it’s “OK” for him to burn the Quran. The question is whether it’s OK to do something that knowingly put other people in danger. People who weren’t given a choice in whether he did what he did or not.
    If he did it himself in an Afghan street, he’d be putting only himself in danger. Would I want him to be killed? No. Would I be surprised if he was? No, and that’s not the same thing as “blaming” him for getting murdered either.

    The rape analogy just does not apply here, and the idea that the paster bears some responsibility for all this doesn’t remove any culpability of the mob that actually carried out the killings.

    I think some people commenting here are just blinded by their hatred of religion. This was an act of religious intolerance that got innocent people killed. If he can’t be prosecuted, I hope the families of the UN victims sue him.

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    April 3, 2011

    Sam Harris is completely correct. It’s simply about the way Islam is particularly combustible. Adam

    Islam is particularly combustible? As if riots only happened among Muslims. There’s nothing simple about it, no more than violence erupting in the Balkans, Northern Ireland or India is a simple ethnic trait. It’s complex, rooted in history. I think Harris is particularly unsuited to comment on this because of his history of anti-Muslim bigotry and his meditations on preventative nuclear strikes on Muslims “killing tens of millions in a day”.

  58. #58 Josh Rosenau
    April 3, 2011

    Eight: I’m going to have to cut you off there. Trolling, creatively done, can be amusing. You aren’t creative. And thinly-veiled death threats are a bridge too far.

    *plonk*

  59. #59 julian
    April 3, 2011

    And now we’re going to sue Pastor Jones! My aren’t we the high minded and inclusive bunch. Go on a bloody rampage get a pat on the head. Not your fault, you’re just a dumb ignorant mud person. It’s that white guy who should know better then to upset you.

  60. #60 Anthony McCarthy
    April 3, 2011

    I guess Iago was just an innocent bystander, too.

  61. #61 Gary Connolly
    April 3, 2011

    It seems ironic that you have “point-missing” in the title of this post. You criticise Harris for pointing out what is essentially a fact. He pointed out that one loon burning a book should not cause us to question our actions in the face of lunatic extremist assholes killing people who had nothing to do with it. So what if it was an act of “religious intolerence”. If some lunatic bunch of racially motivated extremists started killing people because someone burned a copy of mein kampf I doubt we would be having this conversation. We should not, can not bend to the inimidation and savagery of religious zealots.

    Families of victims sue a guy for doing something entirely legal…..F.F.S.

    The burning of the Koran was intentionally provocative. No doubt about it. So what?
    If a bunch of american nutcases formed a mob and started killing arab people in new york in responce to the american flag being burned in Kandahar would we be worrying about the “right to burn the flag”?

    Incidentally, you can prejoratively describe Wilders any way you want. He is trying to deal with a brutally intolerent religion in a country that is entirely tolerent. Call him a eugenicist or a racist or a fascist or whatever, he is trying to defend his counrty from a bunch of lunatics. How many more times are people going to have to die in the netherlands directly as a result of the hate-mongering of Islam before Wilders is cut some slack. Muslims, within the netherlands, have established Sharia courts and they mutilate the genitals of little girls and all you can do is criticise the one guy trying to put a stop to it. Harris is spot on. We are going to try to blame ourselves for yet another example of the hideous religion of violence that is Islam. Yous is a sorry morality when you lay blame on one bufoon for the violence of an irrational mob. I hope the west does not deploy your version of freedom too widely. Oh yes, we are free to do a lot of things but we aren’t going to because the crazies said they would kill someone if we do. Spineless capitulation of the worst kind. You talk about moderates; moderate muslims who will come out and declare unequivocally that the burning of a Koran does not warrant the taking of a life will be few to none. The “moderate” muslims are almost always most conspicuous in their silence. I can’t say I blame them though, we know what happens to anyone who dare go against the Mullahs. Let’s validate their violence and intolerance by focusing on the idiot pastor.

  62. #62 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    Gary – it is nice to see that you hold uneducated Afghans in a non-democratic nation to the same standard you hold Americans. Maybe that should highlight to what standard you want to hold educated Americans?

    Should Afghans be held to account for burning a flag if they knew – as in were told by people who judge stuff like that for a living – if they knew it would lead to deaths? Yes, they should be. Anyone who acts in a way that leads to deaths is responsible.

    They have the burden to prove that their action was more important than those deaths.

    So yes, I think the Afghans burning flags and effigies, if they lived in a judicially fair democracy, should be held accountable for the deaths that causes. Their judicial and political system is a mess

    But you live in America. This happened in America. Fix your mess

  63. #63 Anthony McCarthy
    April 3, 2011

    The burning of the Koran was intentionally provocative. No doubt about it. So what? Gary Connoly

    So, the fact that people will be provoked by an action isn’t just an incidental and unimportant matter. Would someone in the late 19th or early 20th century South who started a rumor that led to a lynching be immune from criticism because they didn’t take part in the actual murdering?

    If a bunch of american nutcases formed a mob and started killing arab people in new york in responce to the american flag being burned in Kandahar would we be worrying about the “right to burn the flag”?

    If that would be the predictable result, yes. Though I don’t think that the matter of it being a legal “right” to burn a Koran is important. I don’t think anyone here believes that the law will prevent the next attention seeker from doing it, that doesn’t mean people don’t have the right to criticize it and to try to talk the media into not giving them the publicity which is their motive.

  64. #64 julian
    April 3, 2011

    Rofl

    So if I wanted to murder rape and pillage all i’d have to do is move to a backwards country and convert to the local religion. I’m dark enough to pass for Pakistani. Maybe when I hit my EAS I’ll move there.

  65. #65 Sam C
    April 3, 2011

    Of course the killing of the UN folk was wrong and it seems that the Quran-burning was a pretext for violence rather than the actual cause of it. Both words and actions often have more significance than their superficial interpretation. It’s not just religious nutters being evil; there’s more to the matter.

    One thing that bothers me is the endless bleating about Jones’s “right” to burn this book. America has a fine constitution, but it is the USA’s constitution, it is not a set of universal laws for the entire planet. The constitution was not handed down by an omniscient being, it was not agreed unanimously by all nations, it was not agreed by all peoples. It is America’s alone.

    Rather than a right, freedom of expression is actually a privilege. Of course, Americans are entitled to view their country’s constitution as the best in the world, and it may well be so, but it is also important for Americans to understand and accept that other parts of the world operate to different standards, some better, some worse, some just different.

    But the fact is that freedom of expression in most of the world is only nominally a heavily qualified right at best, and is often non-existent. To its great credit, the USA has worked hard to extend the privilege of free speech to its citizens and sanctifies that privilege as a right.

    The Brayton Clan view free speech as being the universal path to all excellence. But in many, probably most, countries, free speech is seen as secondary to a harmonious society. It would be good if more Americans could understand that, even if they don’t approve of it. But it is an unequal exchange if the rest of the world is expected to respect Americans’ self-appointed privilege to insult anybody they wish while Americans do not respect other countries’ self-appointed privilege not to be insulted.

    And no, I’m not saying that any of the crap with killing rape victims etc. is acceptable – the world is not monochrome. But if you prod people with metaphorical sticks they might regard it as acceptable to respond with literal stones, even when you shout “unfair! unfair! that’s not according to the rules we impose on you!”

  66. #66 Adam
    April 3, 2011

    Unreal. Free speech is a “privilege”. You can’t make that stuff up.

    Yeah, you are right, free speech is protected by the US Constitution which is not the law of the planet. Last time I checked, Florida is in the fucking United States.

    You talk about an unequal exchange where Americans gleefully insult other cultures while taking offense at insults to America. How does that work? People burn the American flag all over the world all the time. Nobody gets massacred over it. And we don’t have the thought police telling us what to believe. You are free in this country to be an idiot holocaust denier and free to think Obama wasn’t born here.

    As for as prodding people with metaphorical sticks…hard to even respond. It’s perverted to think that one cannot criticize a murderous people simply because they might kill somebody. So are Hitchens, Harris et al responsible for inciting murder? They disrespect the Koran constantly. Is that their “privilege”? Should we take that “privilege” away from them?

  67. #67 Adam
    April 3, 2011

    “But you live in America. This happened in America. Fix your mess”

    Exactly. Peacekeepers slaughtered like cattle in Afghanistan by religious lunatics. When will America fix it’s mess. Unreal.

  68. #68 Raging Bee
    April 3, 2011

    We need to be more willing to hold the media responsible for hyping up and publicizing events like this, when there’s no reason to do so. Every town has its raving loonies, many of whom say things far more inflammatory than Jones did — or rather, things that WOULD be inflammatory if anyone paid any attention to them. So why is Jones’ idiotic, substance-free stunt “news” while our other loonies aren’t? ONLY because some assholes in a media company arbitrarily decided that this loony bigot fit a story they wanted to tell, and a bunch of other loonies, possibly living within twenty miles of the favored loony, did not.

    People in Afghanistan aren’t dead because some asshalo in Florida burned a Koran; they’re dead because the media took that irrelevant act of pointless spite and made it an “incident” — knowingly and possibly with malice aforethought.

  69. #69 TB
    April 3, 2011

    Julian: “Go on a bloody rampage get a pat on the head.”

    Gary Connolly : “If some lunatic bunch of racially motivated extremists started killing people because someone burned a copy of mein kampf I doubt we would be having this conversation. We should not, can not bend to the inimidation and savagery of religious zealots.”

    Such brave talk here on the internet comment board. And yet, I can’t help but remember the words of real brave men and women who warned about what might happen last year. I wonder if they still think that way? Wait, they DO!

    “The burning of the Koran at a small Florida church — an event that resulted in a third day of deadly riots in Afghanistan — creates new dangers for the US-led mission against the Taliban, US General David Petraeus told the Wall Street Journal.”

    “Petraeus, commander of the US-led international force in Afghanistan, deplored the burning as “hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant.”
    “Every security force leader’s worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob, if you will, especially one that can be influenced by individuals that want to incite violence, who want to try to hijack passions, in this case, perhaps understandable passions,” Petraeus told the Journal.
    “Obviously it’s an additional serious security challenge in a country that faces considerable security challenges,” he said.”
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hi3Jd528KvkhV5MC-p730FXwRh0w?docId=CNG.276f10547dfe0aeeaaf1c86d88bbf200.2e1

    Ah, but who cares! A bunch of goofs writing in their mom’s basement know more than any general or troop on the front lines. And, hey, it’s their JOB to die for our right to blather online with Cheeto-stained fingers about how important it is that SOMEONE ELSE die for our right to be enormously intolerant. And that’s OK, because somehow we’ll rationalize it so that WE’RE the victims, and by not provoking a distant mob is not only somehow a terrible affront to our liberty, but it’s actually a defacto endorsement of fundamentalism at its worst.

    Or, not.

    I think, maybe, I’ll support our troops by not doing things that put them in needless danger.

  70. #70 Tacroy
    April 3, 2011

    I made the rape analogy because, to me, it seems to be an analogous situation where the general consensus is reversed, despite the situations being similar. I mean, I’ve lived in rowdy college towns, so I have seen flyers and newspaper articles saying that you should wear a coat when you go out partying, because walking in the streets in a revealing outfit may increase the risk of being raped, or be careful how much you drink because that also might lead to rape.

    So yeah, I guess I just don’t get it. What exactly is the difference here? Pastor Jones was warned that burning the Quran could lead to violence in the Middle East, and yet he did it anyway, because it is his right to do so; women are occasionally warned that wearing revealing clothing and drinking too much alcohol may increase the chances of being raped, and yet do it anyway because it is their right if they want to. I fully support all of them, and I believe they should all be able to live in a world where those dangerous consequences do not happen.

    I mean, what else are we supposed to do, exactly? Restrict some people’s rights because other people are violent bastards? Say “people are not allowed to publicly burn the Quran because some Muslims are violent”? Say “women are not allowed to drink alcohol and must wear burqas because some men are violent”?

    What exactly are you guys proposing be done about this? Should we start restricting people’s rights based on threatened violent repercussions? Because it seems that’s the policy a lot of the commenters here are proposing.

  71. #71 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    To follow up on what TB just said …

    Hell, try him under the auspices of national security! He put way more lives at risk with one selfish (and abhorent) action than any spy ever did

    Should a US citizen be allowed to put soldier’s lives at risk in a war zone? Does free speech extend to that?

    What is the difference between that and ‘freely speaking’ the locations of US units on the ground?

  72. #72 SoulmanZ
    April 3, 2011

    Tacroy –

    You ask a question “Should we restrict some people’s rights because other people are violent bastards?”

    How can you answer that a definite no? The answer has to be “sometimes” right?

    If Jones burning a single Koran had led to a previously threatened nuclear bomb detonation in Washington, killing 100s of thousands, would you still defend his right to free speech? To the death, as it were?

    Some people live in the real world, where compromises solve problems.

  73. #73 Eight
    April 4, 2011

    Sunshine, look again. That’s not a death threat, not even a “thinly veiled one”.

    Tacroy & other reasonable people, I’m sorry to tell you that you are wasting your time. Take a look at the record of these poltroons. Not one member of this “community” took a position of solidarity with the Danish cartoonists when there were lynch mobs in the streets. None of them did, not Josh nor Orac nor Drayton nor fatman Myers. They all waited about two years to see that other people could do it before they had to take such a position.

    They’ve never taken a position that requires an iota of pride or principle and they never will. They just want the frisson of thinking that they stand for reason or against clerical barbarism without ever encountering the slightest risk. This has some way to go before it reaches the level of pathetic.

  74. #74 TB
    April 4, 2011

    “I made the rape analogy because, to me, it seems to be an analogous situation where the general consensus is reversed, despite the situations being similar.”
    Tacroy, I understand what you’re saying but it’s just not analogous. He’s not putting himself in danger to the extent that he’s putting others in danger.
    The victims are other people who have nothing to do with his decision.

  75. #75 Anthony McCarthy
    April 4, 2011

    The idea that a rapist would be less inclined to rape a woman who dressed in a way that the third party commentator would consider sufficiently modest so as to not “invite” a violent attack, is absurd and no different from one of the more infamous jury swaying tactics of a rape defense based in misogyny.

    There is a world of difference between a woman choosing her own clothes and an attention seeking huckster performing an irresponsible act to get attention.

    Reading this thread, I’m struck at how the same people who are condescending about what they say is the irrationality of people in Islamic societies are demonstrating they aren’t exactly paragons of enlightened reason. It sounds like some of the more ignorant old farts I’ve heard gassing on in bars and barbershops.

  76. #76 Peter Mayhew
    April 4, 2011

    The bottom line for me here is that I’m afraid to openly call Islam or Muslims into question for anything they do because I know it’s risking my life or that of someone else, particularly in an arab country. This is simply dictatorship, pure and simple. I don’t want to live in a world like that. We need to be able to criticise EVERYONE if we want to live in a free and democratic world. As it is, we can’t.

  77. #77 TB
    April 4, 2011

    Peter Mayhew: “The bottom line for me here is that I’m afraid to openly call Islam or Muslims into question for anything they do because I know it’s risking my life or that of someone else, particularly in an arab country.”

    Really? I’m not. Killing innocent people because some idiot burned a Quran is just wrong. Forcing prepubescent girls into marriage, oppressing women, destroying schools – the list goes on. It’s wrong. But I also recognize that it’s not what Islam has to be, and not how some Muslims practice it.

    As for what I would do, Tacroy, I would recognized that I’m not giving up my right to burn a Quran when I voluntarily choose not to do so at the request of someone in authority who is concerned about the safety of lives in a country we do not control.

    Long term, I would like us to get the troops out of those countries and end those wars. And I’d like us to develop new energy sources so we’re not sending money to people who support dangerous fundamentalists.

    But even if we do all that, I probably wouldn’t exercise my right to burn a Quran because I recognize it as an action of religious intolerance. And I’m free to make that choice.

  78. #78 Raging Bee
    April 4, 2011

    If y’all want to talk about what REALLY HAPPENED, here’s what at least appears to be a much more informed and fact-based take on the incident:

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/03/fareeds-take-quran-firestorm/

    Like the Toon Tantrum a few years back, this wasn’t a bunch of people reacting to something offensive that someone we’ve never heard of before did; this was the result of a concerted campaign of agitation and thuggery by a SMALL NUMBER of organized extremists.

    Here’s some selected quotes:

    “The Quran burning took place two weeks ago – to not much publicity. It was not highlighted by the international media and was not a big story in Afghanistan. There had been a few small, peaceful protests last Wednesday.

    “Then, Afghan President Hamid Karzai decided to try to capitalize on the issue and score some political points.

    “Last Thursday he made a speech loudly condemning the burning and calling for the arrest of Pastor Jones…

    “That is when all hell broke loose.

    “But even then, the killings appear to have been the handiwork of Taliban agitators who were using the occasion to score points against the United States, the Karzai government, and to generally cause chaos in the streets.

    The senior UN official in Afghanistan said that there was abundant evidence that the killings were not the result of out-of-control mobs but rather deliberate acts of murder by Taliban militia.

    “Keep in mind that these protests have been extremely small by Afghan standards – not a single one had more than 100 people at it, according to the U.S. army spokesman.”

  79. #79 Meh
    April 4, 2011

    Mmmno. Journalists know that burning paper is not news and that it doesn’t affect anyone’s life. It only gets reported because it attracts attention by provoking indignation or shock or fear or has a freak factor to it, just like everithing else that gets reported these days. So it’s actually the so-called media (_sellers_ of reports of events) who are the attention whores.
    I’d go as far as saying that 99% of what is important in the world (on any scale) actually goes unreported.

  80. #80 scott
    April 4, 2011

    Raging Bee @77 said:

    “Keep in mind that these protests have been extremely small by Afghan standards – not a single one had more than 100 people at it, according to the U.S. army spokesman.”

    You think those are small crowds, how about the crowds of Afgan Muslims protesting against the violent killings, those are the real heroes in my book. Only problem is not a single one has more ZERO people at it.

    And if you want to blame someone for inciting violence you might as well go all the way and blame the real culprits, like Mohammad and the imaginary god he claimed to get his info from. Heck any god or prophet would surly have known that this type of violence would have came about. Clearly this violence was intended and expected to be carried out, right?. The instructions for doing so are the word of god as far as they know. So an imaginary God and a person who claimed to communicate with him are to blame. Without either one of them none of this would have happened. People should be given the option to know better. Instead they are oppressed into the closed mindedness of religion.

  81. #81 Meh
    April 4, 2011

    It’s mostly the sense of danger that would keep you glued to your tv or paper or whatever. If it’s not potentially dangerous to you, than you don’t need to know. That’s why you get these kind of reports in a competitive/market media environment.
    (see what I did there?)

  82. #82 Anthony McCarthy
    April 4, 2011

    And if you want to blame someone for inciting violence you might as well go all the way and blame the real culprits, like Mohammad and the imaginary god he claimed to get his info from. scott

    More than a billion Muslims don’t care what you think of their beliefs. That’s called a fact. Adults deal with facts and act in view of them. Atheists have their idols too, and they get really worked up when those are sullied.

  83. #83 Raging Bee
    April 4, 2011

    You think those are small crowds, how about the crowds of Afgan Muslims protesting against the violent killings, those are the real heroes in my book. Only problem is not a single one has more ZERO people at it.

    scott, that statement proves you’re nothing but an ignorant, bigoted, uncaring simpleton, and you clearaly have no understanding of what’s going on the Muslim world.

  84. #84 Drachasor
    April 4, 2011

    [blockquote]There is a world of difference between a woman choosing her own clothes and an attention seeking huckster performing an irresponsible act to get attention.

    Reading this thread, I’m struck at how the same people who are condescending about what they say is the irrationality of people in Islamic societies are demonstrating they aren’t exactly paragons of enlightened reason. It sounds like some of the more ignorant old farts I’ve heard gassing on in bars and barbershops. [/blockquote]

    Because killing people over what an attention seeker huckster did is not incredibly irrational? There ARE some very severe and dangerous irrationalities in Islamic Countries that are backed up by their interpretation of Islam. It isn’t like the west didn’t have to deal with this same problem regarding Christianity either; we had the Crusades, Inquisitions, etc.

    [blockquote]The moderate and liberal muslims do not condone violence: their voice tend to be drowned by the shouts of the extremists and what we still manage to ear is then treated as irrelevant, or worse, non-existant by pseudo-secularists with ethnicist agendas; pseudo-secularists who tend to have way more influence among the western world ruling class than what western world citizens are willing to publicly admit.[/blockquote]

    I’ve seen plenty of liberal and moderate Muslims who actually live in Islamic Countries refuse to denounce murderous acts as wrong. You can find such people in Western Countries, where evidently they feel safe enough voicing such statements. I don’t suppose you can post a video of a dozen or so people in Islamic Countries denouncing violent acts of extremism in the name of Islam as wrong? You found one featuring American Muslims, but that’s not at all the same thing.

    [blockquote]Jones’ Quran burning is not wrong because of “current geopolitical context”: it is wrong, because, once again, it is a ritualized symbolic murder. It is a statement of intent as clear and unmistakable as any fatwa calling for the murder of infidels.[/blockquote]

    Really? Burning a book is ritualized symbolic murder? That’s what I call overreacting. It’s crass, rude, and insensitive, but it isn’t symbolic murder. It is certainly insane to go murder people in response to such an act. Some no-name loser burning a book is no cause to do anything in response to it.

    Would you say someone burning the Bible and saying Christianity is a bunch of myth to be doing a ritualized symbolic murder of Christians? I think not. It would be a dramatic statement, but it isn’t remotely the same as murder.

    The same goes for when people in any country burn the American Flag. You certainly don’t see Americans going and killing people vaguely affiliated with that country in response. Nor would anyone pretend that somehow makes even twisted sense to do so.

    [blockquote]Europe is having an harder time because Muslims here are more numerous and poorer: think blacks or latinos, who have been targeted through both rethoric and actual policies by the conservatives in the US for a long time. It is therefore easier in Europe than in the US to use Muslims as the cement of an alliance between know-nothing racists and upper-classmen willing to maintain their privileged status by divide and conquer tactics (pitting not-so-wealthy whites against poor muslims). Don’t pretend that the US is any better than the EU, because, really, you aren’t[/blockquote]

    Europe doesn’t have a significantly different Muslim population by percent, well, most E.U. countries actually have a far smaller percentage of Muslims than America. How immigrants are treated is very different though. We have a very strong emphasis on assimilation in America. Europe took a more “keep your entire culture” approach that results in immigrants not feeling very connected to their new country.

    While Europe is certainly better than American in several other ways (such as Health Care), in this one aspect America is definitely ahead.

  85. #85 Anthony McCarthy
    April 4, 2011

    Because killing people over what an attention seeker huckster did is not incredibly irrational? ,/i> Drachasor

    Of course it is. It’s immoral as well. Are the people who egged on Scott Roeder but who didn’t pull the trigger morally innocent of his murder?

    There ARE some very severe and dangerous irrationalities in Islamic Countries that are backed up by their interpretation of Islam. It isn’t like the west didn’t have to deal with this same problem regarding Christianity either; we had the Crusades, Inquisitions, etc. Drachasor

    Yes, and there is a major figure in contemporary atheism mentioned in the post this thread is attached to who has advocated the idea of killing people for what they think, without any action to justify it and who has called for thinking about “preventative” nuclear attacks on cities in Islamic countries which would “kill tens of millions of people in a day”, yet he is widely adored as a great thinker by many atheists. You think that doesn’t add to the atmosphere that we have today?

    People who knowingly do things that are likely to incite irrational people to predicted, murderous violence are morally responsible for their actions. The people who actually do the murdering are also morally responsible.

  86. #86 Barry
    April 4, 2011

    Josh:”I suspect that they support it at least as much as you and I do. Pew’s 2007 survey of American Muslims (http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf) found them pretty moderate, interested in assimilating to American values, and opposed to suicide bombing and other terrorism.

    Oddly, I can’t find any polls at all about the public’s view on Quran burning, let alone breakdowns by religion.”

    Josh, I just wondered whether you are able to point to any moderate Muslims that you reach out to who have written a defence of Jones’ actions, however misguided? Or who have criticized the completely unacceptable behavior of the many muslims who need such little provocation to propel them to murder innocent civilians?

    I haven’t seen polling data specifically on bible burning, but thought this relevant from the UK. http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/257
    and
    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/262
    With quotes to the relevant data sources included.

    I guess my overall point is that the sensationalist headline to your post misses the point that Harris posed a highly relevant and pertinent question that your bias either caused you to overlook or mischaracterize in a way that is depressingly predictable of you.

  87. #87 Josh Rosenau
    April 4, 2011

    Barry: It’s well-known that the British Muslim population is far more conservative and extremist than American Muslim populations, so the comparison is not apples-to-apples, nor is it obvious what results in particular you found relevant from those links.

    You say Harris’s question was “highly relevant and pertinent.” I clearly disagree, and you haven’t offered an argument in favor of its relevance, let alone a compelling argument.

    Harris’s question seems, at root, to suggest that if Muslims have not defended Jones’s free speech right to burn a Quran, then they are somehow complicit in the riots in Afghanistan. Stated so bluntly, it’s absurd (fallacy of guilt by association, fallacy of the excluded middle, etc.). But strip that aspect away, and it becomes simply a red herring. What does it matter whether Muslims have defended Jones’s free speech right? Have any American Muslims tried to establish legal (or extralegal) restrictions on Jones? Nonviolently condemning his actions, as I do and as many non-Muslims and Muslims do (even many Muslims in that Afghan crowd!), is not a restriction of his rights, it is simply an expression of our own right to speak freely and to petition for redress of grievances.

  88. #88 Glendon Mellow
    April 4, 2011

    “Harris’s question seems, at root, to suggest that if Muslims have not defended Jones’s free speech right to burn a Quran, then they are somehow complicit in the riots in Afghanistan.”

    Was that what he meant Josh? I saw it as a challenge for someone in the moderate Muslim community to speak up.

    You’re correct in saying that nonviolently condemning his actions is not a restriction of his rights: now go the one step further and see that the Pastor burning the Koran is not a restriction of anyone’s rights either. But doing a stupid provocative thing should be met with verbal and written condemnation –mmmmmaybe a court challenge– not murder of uninvolved UN workers.

  89. #89 Meh
    April 4, 2011

    Josh, this is not about free speech. If a CNN anchor announces “John Doe says Josh’s mother is a *******” (pick whatever), then you would be forced (by social conventions) to take a different course of action compared to whatever you’d do if someone said this in private, if bothered at all. A smart person won’t be forced by social conventions to do anything, but social conventions are social conventions because people don’t normally live outside them.
    Would you discuss free speech then? No, free speech has nothing to do with it – it’s just horribly pointless and mean, from the point of view of a limited minority. And before you counter this example – there are as many people called Josh then there are taliban, and some would be the kind people who would think it’s meant for them only.

  90. #90 Meh
    April 4, 2011

    It’s a case of “don’t feed the trolls”, really, except that in this case there is troll, and multiple organizations that troll by proxy or directly (the media).

  91. #91 Just to be fair
    April 4, 2011

    How about we build a really big fire and throw ALL the “holy” books in it. We could practice “equal opportunity book burning” and get a chance to conduct an experiment. Make sure there are a bunch of people around the fire so all the books are tossed in at the same time. (Show no preference.) Leave no religion out. Burn them all. And of course, be sure to post it on YouTube.

    After all, most rational people know that all the so called “holy books” are just fairy tales and ancient myths with an occasional smattering of common sense. (And frankly little of that.) (“Thou shall not kill”… wow… deep.) Not a one of them answers a single legitimate question that science hasn’t answered already.

    So let’s burn Bibles, (Old and New Testaments) Torah’s, Korans, The Mormon’s books, Dyanetics, The Divine Principal (Moonies), the Tao, Rastafarian stuff and Children of God stuff, and don’t forget all the crap put out by every single one of the nut-jobs at Trinity Broadcasting Network. (Just be sure to pick out the DVD’s, they pollute the Earth severely when burned.) Pick your stupid book and throw the damn thing in the fire.

    And then wait and see who dies and who does the killing.

  92. #92 Meh
    April 4, 2011

    (and trolling falls outside free speech, at least on moderated forums, for good reasons)

  93. #93 scott
    April 4, 2011

    Raging bee @ 68:
    “People in Afghanistan aren’t dead because some asshalo in Florida burned a Koran; they’re dead because the media took that irrelevant act of pointless spite and made it an “incident” — knowingly and possibly with malice aforethought.”

    You claim that I have no idea what’s going on in the Muslim world yet you make a claim that the reason people are dead is because of the media. My claim is that people are dead because of a belief in an imaginary god. Is my claim not true? also do you have information that Muslims in Afghanistan are organizing themselves in a public manner to decry what their fellow Muslim brethren done. If it is happening then I’m with them, if its not happening then why not? I’m sure there are a lot of Muslims that think what has happened is deplorable, yet fear retaliation if the speak out. Reminds me of Salman Tazeer, He knew that speaking out against blasphemy laws could get him killed, and it did. Killing people or threatening to kill people is terrorism, and its how they oppress people who oppose their views.

    Does anything I’ve said make me a bigoted , uncaring simpleton, who is ignorant of whats going on? People are dead, their dead because of irrational religious beliefs, period.

  94. #94 Anthony McCarthy
    April 4, 2011

    Well, scott, what do you propose to do about it? You going to go put yourself in the place of those folks who got killed, you going to go tell off the people who were enraged by the provocation from the furniture factory huckster? Just what do you think should be done to convert the heathen to the real right way of thinking?

    Keep in mind, you’ve been warned that more than a billion Muslims don’t care what you think, though they might if you go to the location where the violent reaction took place and gave them a lecture.

    I must say, now we know what it takes for a flock of new atheists to stand up for the free speech rights of a far-right, evolution denying, bible thumping bigot. I’m learning something from it.

  95. #95 scott
    April 4, 2011

    Anthony,

    The only thing I can do is play a small role, I can educate my children so that they don’t grow up believing in imaginary things like you do Anthony. I might even throw a few bones to my kids friends who are being indoctrinated so that they will at least question their beliefs. I can suggest to everyone I know to do the same. Maybe a few people will take that advice. I will then feel that I’ve at least done something. What are you going to do about it Anthony? Are you going to be a small part of the solution, or will you be a part of the problem? Knowing that you are an accommodationist and apologist for religion, in my view you’re a part of the problem.

    And if only one Muslim cares about what I think it would be a victory to me. So I’ll keep trying.

    I will stand up for a persons rights whether I agree with them or not. Just like I would stand up for your right to believe 1+1 might equal 3 sometimes. It doesn’t mean I agree with your conclusions, and it definitely shouldn’t shield you from my criticism.

  96. #96 Anthony McCarthy
    April 4, 2011

    Just like I would stand up for your right to believe 1+1 might equal 3 sometimes.

    scott, let me give you some advice. Don’t try to get into a game you don’t begin to understand. It was Russell who was pushing the eccentric argument on the What is Religion thread, I was the one who said that for the large majority of people 1+1=2 was believed on the basis of their daily experience instead of an esoteric string of symbolic logic. It was a pretty lame move on his part but it was really about the last thing he could have played, avoiding my point.

  97. #97 AndrewFinden
    April 5, 2011

    I find it so strange to see atheists, skeptics, and others trying to defend Jones, or simply focusing on the question of whether he was legally entitled to burn copy of a book he owned.

    Of course, if they actually spoke out against the religious mockery they’d realise they would be hypocrites to continue to mock Christianity. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and you can’t take a stand against mocking just one religion.

  98. #98 Gary Connolly
    April 5, 2011

    The point missing here is pretty incredible.

    To remove any doubt let me phrase how I see this in the most straight forward terms possible.

    You want to allow crazy violent people to set the standards of our discourse. People died because of a few cartoons too.
    Should we stop all cartoons that are critical of Islam. If you follow your spineless, gutless, cowardly logic to its conclusion you will arrive at a position where any criticism of Islam is the foremost taboo because as we all know, “religion of peace” not withstanding, some muslims will kill people for any percieved slight.
    Many, many countless people died to earn the freedoms we so enjoy. How disgusted they would be to see us seeling back those freedoms so cheaply. A few religious loons throw a fit over some pulp and ink and we all start calling for another religious loon to held accountable. It would be funny if it weren’t so trgic.

  99. #99 Laurent Weppe
    April 5, 2011

    I think some people commenting here are just blinded by their hatred of religion

    Or by their contempt toward poor people from a different ethnicity. As I already said, I don’t think that the bloodlust displayed by some self-proclaimed paragons of rational thinking toward Muslims is caused by atheism, but that atheism is invoked to make perverse intents look like high-minded principle.

    ***

    Pastor Jones was warned that burning the Quran could lead to violence in the Middle East, and yet he did it anyway, because it is his right to do so; women are occasionally warned that wearing revealing clothing and drinking too much alcohol may increase the chances of being raped, and yet do it anyway because it is their right if they want to

    Jones burned the Quran because his cult is brimming with murderous intent toward Muslims, and, since they don’t have the firepower to act upon their murderous intent, they chosed the safest erzatz (destroying a book symbolizing the community they’d like to slaughter), while knowing, because the powers that be told him so, that not only violence could ensue, but that said violence would most probably not directly be directed toward him.

    So Jones’ is definitely not comparable toward a woman wearing a mini-skirt: If you really want to keep a rape metaphor, what he did is more akin to going to craiglist, writting the adress of a woman under the lines “I’m a whore with a rape fetish, please come to my house and violate me”.

    ***

    The senior UN official in Afghanistan said that there was abundant evidence that the killings were not the result of out-of-control mobs but rather deliberate acts of murder by Taliban militia.

    Sorry, but surviving UN workers present there already confirmed that it was indeed an attack caused by the mob, riled up by local clerics. Said clerics might be taliban sympathisers, mind you, and its not impossible that taliban militia hid in the crowd, but the mob did happen.

    But appart from that, the repport is essentially right in saying that without demagogues taking advantage of the situation, no one would have been killed, in other words, that the meme “Afghans killed UN workers because they are Muslims” is a despicable lie.

    ***

    Really? Burning a book is ritualized symbolic murder? That’s what I call overreacting. It’s crass, rude, and insensitive, but it isn’t symbolic murder

    Then why do you think that it is only far-right extremists, you know, the people who are so systematically prone to start either ethnic cleansings or apartheid systems when they are in charge, who actually do the burning? Book burning is quite clearly a tool of eliminationist rethoric: it is most satisfying for those who do it because they are actually destroying something instead of simply saying they wish they were, and at the same time, because no blood have been spilled (yet), they are still mostly safe regarding the law.

    Would you say someone burning the Bible and saying Christianity is a bunch of myth to be doing a ritualized symbolic murder of Christians?

    Burning a book and saying “Christianity is a bunch of myth” are not the same thing. Criticism and ridicule targets the contents of a religious doctrine, burning religious books are thinly-veiled death threats targeting the readers of the book. Not the same thing, at all. So if someone started to burn Bible in a public space, the first thing I would think would be “Oh shit, that guy wants to genocide my relatives” and I would definitelly call this ritualized symbolic murder. (Mind you, I would also call burning the Origin of Species a ritualized symbolic murder of the natural-selection literates)

    Europe doesn’t have a significantly different Muslim population by percent

    For fuck sake, do your homework before saying things like that:
    Islam in the EU: 19 million people, 3,8% of the population as of 2010
    Islam in the USA: approximately 3 million people, 1% of the population in 2007
    Yeah, four times more is percentage et 6 times more in raw numbers is definitely insignificant.

    well, most E.U. countries actually have a far smaller percentage of Muslims than America

    And most of the EU’s Muslim population (“most” as in 98,5% of the Muslim population) live in countries were they represent a far higher percentage of the population than American muslims. And guess what: its in those countries that the anti-muslim rethoric was develloped by far-right parties who wanted to justify their anti-immigrants stance.

    So, I stand by what I say: the difficulties encountered by Muslim in Europe is not caused by some european inferiority compared to the US, but by the fact that they are in a similar situation than immigrant from latin america living in the US.

    We have a very strong emphasis on assimilation in America. Europe took a more “keep your entire culture” approach that results in immigrants not feeling very connected to their new country.

    France (were a quarter of the EU’s Muslim population lives) is more assimilationnist than the US: the culture of a french Muslim is essentially the same than the culture of a french Catholic (although some local Catholics love to pretend that it is not the case): most of the problems do not come from culture clash between people who have the same culture, but from the fact that the local Muslims know that when it comes to finding a job or a house or dealing with legal authorities, the dices are rigged against them. This is the same problem in every other EU country with a significant Muslim population: cultural differences are either a secondary problem or are completelly non-existant.

    ***

    Anyway, this comment thread has been a den of dishonesty, with a bunch of comments claiming that expressing well-deserved contempt toward an ethnicist con-man was exactly the same as displaying support toward the mob that killed UN workers or toward the demagogues that moved it into a frenzy. Self-proclaimed lovers of free-speech trying to bully people they don’t like into silence by employing guilt by association fallacies.

  100. #100 Gary Connolly
    April 5, 2011

    TB,

    Firstly, I’m not american. I have never eaten a “cheeto” and I don’t live in my mothers basement. Ironically, you are also commenting on the internet, so I can safely presume all those things about you? Aside from your taste in snacks and current residence though I can tell for certain that you are a tool.

    American soldiers do not die to “defend” anything. America reoutinely invades other countries (most often Muslim ones) and you have the gall to talk about respect. Why does america do this? Oil for the most part. Certianly it is for “American interests”. These soldiers also kill hundreds of thousands of the residents of these nations. I don’t see much concern for Arab lives from the american military. Of course, lets not forget that an American life is worth so much more. America (and lets face it, American soldiers) have “put lives at risk” and by that I mean they have blown the shit out of anyone who gets in their way, “collateral damage” be damned. They have gone to other peoples countries and killed them in the tens of thousands. Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, that might have something to do with why the American soldiers are at risk in the first place.

    Perhaps we should have adopted Sharia law in the west. If we had, we might have prevented 9/11 and 7/7. By your reasoning we all have blood on our hands, after all, the west had been warned what would happen. It is a bit like gunman holding hostages who demands that a bunch of criminals be released. When they aren’t and the hostages are shot, you start calling for the governers head as his decision cost lives.

    To be absolutely crystal. F**k the sensitivities of a bunch of zealots. They will find an excuse to be violent assholes not matter what we do. Oh, and for the record, you can bet your ass I am intolerent of the hateful, oppressive evil that is Islam. You say it like it is a bad thing. Are you “tolerent” of racists? Should you be?

    You implied I am a coward because it is not my life at risk. Are you suggesting that what you believe changes with your proximity to danger? or are you suggesting that I have no right to an opinion on the matter unless I am in danger?
    If the notable people of history had “compromised” in the face of threats of violence, we would all be living very different lives. I strongly doubt we would be the better for it.

  101. #101 TB
    April 5, 2011

    “The point missing here is pretty incredible.

    To remove any doubt let me phrase how I see this in the most straight forward terms possible.”

    You’re right, you did miss the point. Well done (clap clap clap).

  102. #102 Meh
    April 5, 2011

    @Gary Connolly
    No. Koran burning is not criticism, it’s trolling and preventing discourse. Unfunny cartoons are not discourse either – if they were funny, then it would be different.

    Saying “social norms that hold ‘honor’ related to religious or sexual taboos in a regard high enough to justify killing people have no place among people living in the modern world” is crticism, and not inflamatory. See the diference?

  103. #103 Laurent Weppe
    April 5, 2011

    No. Koran burning is not criticism, it’s trolling and preventing discourse. Unfunny cartoons are not discourse either

    Unfunny cartoons are not at all as bad as book burning, as they rarely carry the “I want to kill you for reading that book” not-so-hidden message.

  104. #104 julian
    April 5, 2011

    This is ridiculous. Unsatisfied with demanding Pastor Halfwit be held responsible for what happened, we’ve moved onto demanding the same of everyonewho’s ever made so much as a flippant remark.

  105. #105 Cody
    April 5, 2011

    It’s fine for us to say Afghans are being too sensitive if they think a jackass in Florida is a threat or intimidation, but put yourself in their shoes.

    Too sensitive? I don’t recall ever hearing murderers referred to as “sensitive”. Nor can I put myself in the shoes of someone willing to commit murder (or violence even) in the name of a belief. I’d call them psychotic, or inhuman, or—dare I say it—terrorists.

  106. #106 Anthony McCarthy
    April 5, 2011

    Some people are intentionally misidentifying what Jones did. He didn’t merely burn a book, he burned a book after he’d been warned by credible authorities that the likely consequences would be that it would incite violence and people would die.

    Just calling it a “book burning” is leaving out the most important part of what he actually and intentionally did. When it comes to people dying abridging out of convenience doesn’t get things closer to the truth.

    Jones intentionally chose to incite violence that got people killed, he knew that was the likely result and he chose to do it anyway. There was no important, competing consideration in his doing it, no lives were saved, no ones interests were advanced except his desire to get attention for himself and his sham of a ministry.

  107. #107 scott
    April 5, 2011

    If a Denver Broncos fan shows up at the Oakland coliseum on game day wearing a shirt that says Broncos Rule-Raiders Suck and gets violently attacked by worked up Raiders fans, which is followed by a mass brawl in which 5 innocent football fans die, who should we rest the blame on? Should we blame the guy wearing the shirt for the deaths? After all wouldn’t he have known that he might incite a violent reaction.

    A real life scenario played out last week at a Dodgers/Giants game in LA. A Giants fan named Brian Stowe was wearing a Giants jersey and after the game was attacked without provocation and beating to within an inch of his life. His only crime was wearing the opposing teams gear. Was he asking for it?

    In both scenarios the victims knew that wearing the opposing teams gear may cause some problems, including violence. Its common knowledge at major sporting events. But they did it anyway. The were simply being supportive and declaring the allegiance to their team. In my view its the people who felt compelled to attack in the name of pride, honor and respect for their team that we should lay the blame on.

    I know for a fact, as do many of you, that there are people out there who plan in advance to intimidate any one they perceive as opposing their team. They are prepared to use violence if and when they decide it is necessary to get their point across. These guys are the real thugs, and I equate them with the rioters in Afghanistan. Ive walked through the parking lot in Oakland at a Raiders/Bronco game. It wasn’t pretty if you were a Broncos fan.

    I’m a Cowboys fan who was there with a friend who is a Raiders fan. I don’t care much for either of the teams who were playing. But guess what I was wearing? Black and silver with a Raiders hat and Raiders coffee mug in hand. I really didn’t want to get my ass kicked for no reason. My momma didn’t raise no fool, although I haven’t always exemplified that.

    I don’t agree with what Jones did, And I wouldn’t have done it myself, but there is absolutely no reason to kill someone over it. Lets not take our eye off the ball here.

  108. #108 Barry
    April 5, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy: “Jones intentionally chose to incite violence that got people killed, he knew that was the likely result and he chose to do it anyway.”

    Please explain why we knew “…that was the likely result…”? Sure, Jones is an idiot. He had the right to burn the book and should have excercised better judgment. Do we see a problem that’s bigger the Jones doing a stupid thing? If a tenth of the energy people have invested in condemning Jones had been applied to the unacceptable and disproportionate behavior of some Muslims (even “moderate Muslims), we might be able to shift the dialog into the 21st century. It’s hard to do that if you don’t see this form of religious belief as a big part of the problem.

  109. #109 Barry
    April 5, 2011

    Josh: “It’s well-known that the British Muslim population is far more conservative and extremist than American Muslim populations, so the comparison is not apples-to-apples, nor is it obvious what results in particular you found relevant from those links.”

    The comparative polling to the UK study has not been replicated in the US. The relevance is in the religious basis to polarized muslim opinion regarding violence and acts of terrorism – this was shocking when it was uncovered in the UK and we really don’t know the extent of this in the US. So not exactly “apples to apples”, but we are still talking about fruit.

    Your predictable and relentless criticism of everything Harris says is what I’ve come to expect from you. I was just pointing out that, even where you substantially agree – as I think you do on Jones’ behavior – you just can’t control that jerking knee. This bias leads to completely irrational interpretations such as…”Harris’s question seems, at root, to suggest that if Muslims have not defended Jones’s free speech right to burn a Quran, then they are somehow complicit in the riots in Afghanistan.” There is absolutely nothing in Harris’s post that suggests this. Project all you want, but there is no evidence for this assertion. What, exactly, is your beef with Harris on his main point? –

    HARRIS: “The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.”

  110. #110 Barry
    April 5, 2011

    Josh. I just wanted to correct an error in my previous post. It was completely unintentional. I made the point that I thought your post and Harris’s agreed on substantial points. What I failed to point out is where you disagreed. Harris condemned the murder of innocent people and you didn’t. You spent the whole post explaining why this kind of behavior is understandable. Very responsible behavior Josh. Your moral vacuum is not one I would choose to live in.

  111. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    April 5, 2011

    Barry, Jones was warned by world leaders, including Barack Obama and Sec. of Defense, Gates, that burning the Koran would very likely lead to violence when he was threatening to do it last Summer. There was someone shot the because of his threats last year.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1310820/Man-shot-Terry-Jones-9-11-Koran-burning-protests-Afghanistan-NATO-base.html

    There is no possibility that he was unaware of the likely consequences if he carried through with it this time. He knew what he was doing would almost certainly lead to people dying.

    I’m really finding it an eye opener how people are reacting to it, especially people who never lose an opportunity to blame “Xians” for everything, even when they are opposed to what they get blamed for.

  112. #112 kevin
    April 5, 2011

    Did the fact that this self proclaimed “first amendment maximalist” is writing an article outlining the conditions in which free-speech should be limited?

    It’s a completely misuse of the word / blatant lie.

  113. #113 Kevin
    April 5, 2011

    (corrected for terrible English)

    Did the fact that this self proclaimed “first amendment maximalist” just wrote an article outlining the conditions in which free-speech should be limited seem obvious to anyone else?

    It’s a completely misuse of the word / blatant lie.

  114. #114 Glendon Mellow
    April 5, 2011

    Laurent Weppe #103 said “Unfunny cartoons are not at all as bad as book burning, as they rarely carry the “I want to kill you for reading that book” not-so-hidden message”

    But I don’t see the “I want to kill you for reading that book” message, I really don’t. It’s an ugly act, maybe with someone with more power could make it intimidating too.

    And in case it’s escaped your notice, there are radicals who in the name of Islam, would kill over cartoons. To you cartoons are not as bad as book burning. To radical Islamic men, unfunny cartoons depicting their prophet are just as bad!

    This is precisely why freedom of expression is so valuable. The standards differ for everyone. You don’t think the prophet cartoons are as bad as holy-book burning. Well, some radical Islamists do. Speaking as an atheist-artist, I find both kind of limited by their shock value, but I don’t find either especially offensive.

    Now, who do you want to set the rule for everyone else? As Gary Connolly noted at #98, should we “allow crazy violent people to set the standards of our discourse,”? You? Me?

    Or should the standard be free and open speech and expression, knowing some people will be offended no matter what we do?

  115. #115 Anthony McCarthy
    April 5, 2011

    kevin, what if Jones or some other right winger does something every week to enrage Moslems, causing continual bloodshed resulting in thousands of deaths?

    Is there a level of pointless incitement, past the point where anyone could deny that was the purpose of the incitement, that would make it necessary to do something?

    I can guarantee you that if it impinged on the profits of oil companies, the newly absolutist free speechers on the Supreme Court would find an excuse to stop it.

  116. #116 josh
    April 5, 2011

    “…trying to bully people they don’t like into silence by employing guilt by association fallacies.” – Laurent Weppe

    The irony jedis are going to sense that one from far, far away.

    Anyhow, right-wingers and fascists burn books because they love political theatre and symbolic warfare: symbolic assualt on some ideas and veneration of others. They also often believe in thought-policing such that “dangerous” ideas need to be suppressed by force and taboo rather than argued against in an open culture. For authoritarians, everything in life must confirm the political/social dogma lest it become possible to undermine the authority. This is obviously the case for the murderers and demagogues in Afghanistan.

    I can easily believe it is also true of Jones and co., certainly the symbolic warfare part is. But I’ve seen nothing to prove that he does it as a proxy for actual violence. It’s quite possible he sees himself as a good Christian who would never sink to the level of the savages, and that this is effectively true even though his view is skewed by bigotry.

    On the ethics of the situation, Jones is a victim too. Of course not to the same degree as the murdered, but essentially, his free speech rights are being threatened by way of hostage-taking. Of course, these hostage-takers didn’t issue explicit warnings or demands, and only acted more than a week after his stunt, and were largely goaded by other concerns. And the idea that, “government/military experts” warned him is kind of a red herring. The US military always announces that any deviation from their script will cost lives, whether it is revealing Guantanamo abuses or letting gays in the military or Wikileaks. I wouldn’t trust such a proclamation on its face and I have no idea if Jones did.

    The most you can say is that Jones chose to ignore the potential hostage-takers and was thereby reckless regarding the potential hostages. Okay, he’s a loose cannon who acted stupidly with tragic consequences. Why are we focusing on him and not on the terrorists who are actually the root of the problem? If Jones had just dissappeared would Karzai and the imams have been unable to find or manufacture some new outrage, some shiny spark to touch off the fuel of their actual problems? How do we get rid of the religious fanaticism that caused these murders?
    I don’t have a simple answer to that last one, but I think part of it is by holding up a consistent alternative. One where we defend the rights of even people we find odious, and allow criticism of ideas even when it is as clumsy as book burning. The fanatics will always shreik about something while they last.

  117. #117 Laurent Weppe
    April 5, 2011

    But I don’t see the “I want to kill you for reading that book” message, I really don’t.

    Now, who do you want to set the rule for everyone else? As Gary Connolly noted at #98, should we “allow crazy violent people to set the standards of our discourse

    Pretending that Jones is a paragon of free speech is allowing crazy violent people to set the standards of our discourse. Pretending that you don’t see the murderous intent of Jones and his ilk is allowing crazy violent people to set the standards of our discourse. Letting people like Jones off the hook is a lose-lose situation: either violence erupt and they start saying “See, I’m right to want to kill them”, or it doesn’t, at which point they think “since those wimps aren’t fighting back, we can go farther and be more direct in our calls for murder”.

    And in case it’s escaped your notice, there are radicals who in the name of Islam, would kill over cartoons

    The opinion of religious integrist is utterly irrelevant. The fact that Jones knew that his act would cause violence and that he would most likely not be the target demonstrate his cowardice and cynical willingness to play with other people life, but that is another problem.

    The main problem here is that book burning is the not the expression of an opinion, but of a criminal intent. You can consider that expressing criminal intent should remain legal (don’t thread the slippery slope and all that), but it is utterly dishonest to claim that Jones was “just voicing an opinion”.

  118. #118 Gary Connolly
    April 6, 2011

    TB,

    Well done on the response! Clap, clap, clap.

    Meh,

    Discourse? With radical Islam… best of luck with that.
    I really wish people would get over the notion that books are somehow sacred (I am not referring to holy texts here). Someone burns some paper and ink and everyone gets in a flap about it.

    No. Koran burning is not criticism, it’s trolling and preventing discourse
    Trolling? You use the internet way too much me thinks :)
    Burning a Koran is sending the message “I don’t respect this book” to the crazies who insist that everyone, muslims and non-muslims alike must respect their hateful little screed dictated by a violent peadophile. The sooner they learn that not everyone will bow to their bullying the better. What of the dire content of the book. The pogroms against Jews it regularly inspires? So worried about the sensibilites of a bunch of homosexual hanging, Jew hating, women oppressing fucktards. Suit yourself.

  119. #119 Ender
    April 6, 2011

    “The fanatics will always shreik about something while they last”

    This and several other posts have expressed such defeatist messages. Is this really how you see the world? Do you believe that nothing we do has an impact? That regardless of our actions those who hate us will continue to hate us, and those who love us will continue to love?

    I’m sorry, that’s just not how the world works. Actions have real life consequences, and they are rarely the ones you want

    You know what stops bullies and despots? Violence, or the threat of violence. Who will it come from? The moderates. The locals. The Muslisms.

    And what encourages and aids – increases the power and support – of the religious bullies and despots? Of our enemies? Of the mini-Bin Ladens? The radicals? This kind of juvenile provocative shit.

    And sure, we can sit here and say. “Look at it rationally”, “It’s just a cartoon. It’s just a book”, “Don’t these savages get riled up over their little superstitions, lets put the boot in some more until they get the point that we are infinitely more powerful than them” – because none of us live where they live. None of us have been invaded, seen friends and families killed by Western troops, seen Mosques and hospitals bombed by ‘accident’. None of us believe that we are on the brink of an existential threat to our entire religion, culture and way of life. So to us “it’s just a bit of paper”

    How many of those people as they threw their fists and murdered those UN workers were thinking “This is for that English translation of the Koran!”, and how many were letting out a multitude of fears and built up anger over many real and imaginary grievances against the imperialist exploitative Western forces in their country?

    It is never right to murder someone for spitting in your face. Regardless of how they spit.
    But nor is it true to say “He killed a man for spitting in his face, it’s the belief that he shouldn’t have his face spat in that caused this” especially when the Killer in question was like Casey Haynes, merely responding finally to a barrage of violence and humiliation that has been heaped upon him.

    We armed Gaddaffi. We supported Mubarak. We still enable the Saudi regime’s abuses. We have invaded. We have killed in our national interests. Many of our Radical Christians and Atheists want to see the Muslim threat ‘wiped out’ or Sam Harris style ‘preemptively nuked’. And we think that they are rioting only because of a book burning?

    Bullshit.

    To reiterate: “You know what stops bullies and despots? Violence, or the threat of violence. Who will it come from? The moderates. The locals. The Muslisms.”

    And what do the moderates need to resist their extremist cousins? Belief. Hope. The ability to argue “Yours is not the only way. Yours is not the best way. Yours is not Allah’s way”. Every single ‘symbolic’ act of humiliation and vituperation that comes from the west makes it harder for the moderates. Every time you hand a radical a juicy bit of propaganda with which to say “Look the West hates us, they desecrate our honour, they will kill us too” YOU are doing Bin Laden’s work for him. You are undermining the moderates, perhaps even radicalising them. (Along with all the economic and political depradations we inflict on them. Really these are the key, the insults can be seen at the flash powder that sets off the TNT of deep-rooted anger, and the hot-burning coals that maintain the flames of rage through the years.)

  120. #120 Barry
    April 6, 2011

    Anthony: “There is no possibility that he was unaware of the likely consequences if he carried through with it this time. He knew what he was doing would almost certainly lead to people dying.

    I’m really finding it an eye opener how people are reacting to it, especially people who never lose an opportunity to blame “Xians” for everything, even when they are opposed to what they get blamed for.”

    Are you replying to my post? There is nothing I said that is remotely related to your comments. Please explain.

  121. #121 julian
    April 6, 2011

    @Ender

    Wait so burning a bookpushes away moderates but murdering UNworkers and burning down schools doesn’t? You sure you know who our allies are?

  122. #122 Laurent Weppe
    April 6, 2011

    @ Julian:

    There is something called the Game Theory, that teaches us that it is in the interest of Jones and more largely of anti-muslim racists to see violence erupting in the Muslim world as they can then use said violence as a validation of their racism (We told you, they want to kill us!), and it is in the interest of muslim extremists that Jones & co behavior becomes part of the maintream discourse (today they burn our books, tomorrow they will burn us!).

    It is also in the interest of both sets of extremists to build of false dilemna, to represent the world as divded between two camps which are either represented by or including each set of extremists.

    Sending a mob against UN workers and burning Qurans are part of the same self-perpetuating mechanism, and attacking Jones, demanding that he his publicly denounced as the con-man with murderous fetiches that he is (I’m not talking about legal actions, just about public outcry) is necessary to stop and break the mechanism.

    Now, a lot of commenters (Eight, Gary Connolly, etc…) are claiming that Josh and the people in agreement with him are somehow submissive toward muslim integrists.
    That is a lie.
    What we are doing is refusing, because we are neither stupid enough, nor frightened enough, to let the false dichotomy slide without calling out those who use it. We know that extremists from both sides are feeding each others, and that therefore, one cannot reject submission toward muslim extremists without rejecting submission toward their western twins.

    ***

    Speaking of Connolly and lies, little Gary defended Wilder in an earlier by claiming that this failure of a politician who became the leader of a de facto neo-nazi coalition because he felt his career in a moderate party was not moving forward enough is some sort of hero because:

    Muslims, within the netherlands, have established Sharia courts and they mutilate the genitals of little girls

    There are…
    Zero sharia courts in the Netherlands.
    None, Zilch, Nada, the whole meme is as grounded in reality as the claim that Obama is born in Kenya: its a zombie claim that still lives because racists douchebags keep lying about it while doing their best to look like they really believe it.
    There also are…
    50 girls who suffer from genital mutilation each year. Let’s act like if we were certain that all the victims were from a muslim background: there are over 900.000 Muslims in the Netherland. That means that at most 0,01% of women from muslim backgrounds suffer from genital mutilation.
    Its like saying that Ivy League university professors love to have sex with their children, because, hey, shit happens:
    http://articles.cnn.com/2010-12-10/justice/new.york.columbia.professor_1_political-science-incest-sexual-relationship?_s=PM:CRIME

  123. #123 TB
    April 6, 2011

    Nice Gary. I noticed in your description of people we’re “concerned” about you didn’t include people – Muslims and non-Muslims – who are over there working for real change, in a very serious and unstable political climate.
    Someone earlier mentioned the Overton Window – a favorite but poorly understood idea of some new atheists. I think the commentor was worried that we might somehow be “allowing” radical religious elements to drag it toward their own brand of extremism.
    The thing is, no one actually controls where other people get to drag an Overton Window. And whether we like it or not, sometimes that window includes the real threat of violence against innocent people.
    Dealing with that realistically in such a way as to minimize the potential for harm to those innocents is not the same thing as giving in to those radicals, let alone approving of their actions. And talking tough in the safety of your own home here about what should and shouldn’t be allowed in a volatile, war-torn country thousands of miles away isn’t dealing with it realistically.
    I really thought we were done with the empty cowboy posturing – guess not.

  124. #124 julian
    April 6, 2011

    So now we have to actively be engaged in a firefight to comment on the situation in the middle east.

  125. #125 Anthony McCarthy
    April 6, 2011

    Barry, I was answering your question at 108

    Please explain why we knew “…that was the likely result…”?

    What I said at 111 was a direct answer to that question, citing what happened when Jones threatened to burn the Koran back last summer, including a shooting associated with it. You might not have liked the answer, but it was, beyond doubt, exactly on point.

  126. #126 thomas.paul
    April 6, 2011

    Just wondering… if Muslims threaten to start more killing unless all Americans convert to Islam, would it be wrong not to convert? Is it a good idea to do whatever murderers tell us to do in order to prevent murders?

    How about this… we announce that September 11th will be Burn a Koran Day unless the Muslims who are protecting Osama bun Laden turns him over to us? Will they be so protective of their stupid book that they will hand over a murderous bastard to us?

  127. #127 Gary Connolly
    April 6, 2011

    TB,

    Wow, you just can’t stop flogging that dead horse can you?
    Do you just not believe that I genuine feel about this issue as I have said I do? Cowboy posturing? WFT?

    As you may have gathered I don’t like the religion of Islam much. I am not afraid to say so. You maybe, but that is your issue not mine. I can only conclude you are as you can’t seem to get over the idea that I am just “posturing” because I am not personally in immediate danger. A cheap criticism at the best of times. One which incidentally could be levelled against anyone who opposes any violent movement who happens not to be on the front lines.

    Regardless of where I am and what my situation is, I feel about this how I feel about this. You don’t like my opinion on the matter, I get that.

    You think I am some kind of internet coward talking shit from a position of safety and I think you are a spineless, capitulator who is trying to placate a bunch of lunatics by accepting their threats as valid reason to alter the form of our society.

    The overton window incidentally, is about politial discourse and office holding. If prestident Obama or someone seeking political office had burned the Koran it would apply. It has nothing to say about the actions of already accepted extemists like Jones who have nothing to do with political discourse. He was making a stupid, and incidentally deeply ironic, religious point for attention.

    As Franklin put it
    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Where do you draw the line? How much are you willing to censor your society to protect possible victims from violent thugs?

  128. #128 TB
    April 6, 2011

    Except, Gary, we’re not giving anything up. No one’s talking about taking any of our rights away.

    And I get that for some reason you can’t look at this issue with anything approaching reason and rationality.

    As for the personal attack and general baiting, pfft. You’re not very good at this.

  129. #129 TB
    April 6, 2011

    Thomas.paul: “Just wondering… if Muslims threaten to start more killing unless all Americans convert to Islam, would it be wrong not to convert? Is it a good idea to do whatever murderers tell us to do in order to prevent murders?”

    Have you ever thought about hostage situations? I mean really thought about how to deal with one, what kind of training you might need to have to carry out negotiations. How difficult it is when innocent people are threatened while at the same time adhering to a policy that you’re not going to help the hostage takers break the law in this way.

    That’s an example of a grownup scenario. The one you propose lacks seriousness.

  130. #130 Glendon Mellow
    April 6, 2011

    Laurent #117:
    “Pretending that you don’t see the murderous intent of Jones and his ilk is allowing crazy violent people to set the standards of our discourse.”

    Don’t you see, Laurent? Jones didn’t murder anyone. He didn’t drive out and find a Muslim somewhere in Florida and murder them. But a group of radicals in Afghanistan did commit murder. You’re arguing intent vociferously and glossing over what actually happened.

    I’ve said elsewhere in this thread that I don’t like Jones and what he did, so I’m not holding him up as a paragon of anything. It’s a matter of scale. If I may be so gauche as to quote my own first comment on this thread, “boil it all down and you have a man burning a book to intimidate, incite violence, and belittle a minority under siege and on the other side you have an enraged mob killing and beheading people to much the same effect”.

    Book-burning ≠ murder.

  131. #131 julian
    April 7, 2011

    @tb

    Except this isn’t some gunman holdinga roomfull of people hostage until his demands are met. What we are dealing with are mobs that will go out of there way to stalk and kill anyone that their xenophobia dictates must be evil.

  132. #132 Anthony McCarthy
    April 7, 2011

    As you may have gathered I don’t like the religion of Islam much. I am not afraid to say so. GC

    Which more than a billion Muslims find quite unimpressive.

    I’ll pose the question again, what if the haters of Islam here burn a Koran every week, setting of even more widespread violence killing many thousands of people in ongoing violence, which very easily could extend to Europe and North America? Is there no level of pointless incitement that would be too much for the Bible Thumper-New Atheist coalition to desist in their childish act of “liberty”? If the violent response endangered western interests in the oil industry, I guarantee you that the sham-free speechers on the Roberts Court would find a way to quash the greatly irresponsible desecration.

    I think the new atheist part of this conversation is directly attributable to Sam Harris and his anti-Islamic bigotry that would get him put into the same basket as the worst of the more genteel anti-Semitic figures if a few words were changed. Reading the comments here has been quite an eye opener.

    Someone above asked about a campaign of violence insisting that everyone convert to Islam. That would be quite a different matter than violence protesting book burning, which I suppose has some motivation to prevent the book being burned. There is a large difference between the two things, burning a book to incite America’s sensationalist media to give the burner the publicity which was his true motive and violence insisting that tens of millions of people perform a sham conversion to something.

    If Jones was destroying a symbol of another religion, say of the Lakota religion, or a Torah, and there was violence in response, would the response be the same. I am guessing it wouldn’t. If a group of Jews discovered a skinhead painting swastikas on gravestones in a Jewish cemetery and the, very understandably, enraged captors beat him up, would you have a similar response? I doubt it.

  133. #133 julian
    April 7, 2011

    Yes, Mr. McCarthy, it is fairly obvious billions of muslims worldwide don’t care what we think or they might start believing the earth isn’t the center of the universe.

    Regarding you skinhead anology.

    That’s a very different situation. For starters the swastika is a symbol of oppression tied directly to the mass slaughter of the people being targeted by your hypothetical skinheads. Burning the Koran (whichitself may be viewed as a symbol of oppression) in contrast is a political statement againsta group which has (in essense) done the same thing right back. You’ll also notice the skinheads in your scenario are the only targets of this violence and that it was they who were making a direct insult to the vigilantes. It wasn’t as if they painted a swastika over a burning star of david, were attacked several days later and then for no particular reason a school was burned down.

    And getting beaten up is several orders of magnitude less extreme then killing.

  134. #134 Laurent Weppe
    April 7, 2011

    If Jones was destroying a symbol of another religion, say of the Lakota religion, or a Torah, and there was violence in response, would the response be the same. I am guessing it wouldn’t

    The real reason a lot of commenters are treating book burning as not a big deal is that as they are not part of the readership, they are not directly targeted and therefore don’t feel threatened by Jones.

    Had Jones been burning, say, the Origin of Species, the same people would be clenching their fist, quoting Heinrich Heine, and certainly not pretending that they’re not seeing the murderous intent, as in this case, their own ass would be directly on the line.

    ***

    Jones didn’t murder anyone. He didn’t drive out and find a Muslim somewhere in Florida and murder them

    And there is a reason for this: Jones is high enough on the social food-chain to hope that his racist views will gain enough political clout to either exact violence either through the legal chanels or granting impunity to people engaging in violence. In his case, not killing is a tactical choice, not the evidence of some moral superiority.

  135. #135 julian
    April 7, 2011

    @Laurent

    Yeah and guess what? If I took my M4 and starting shooting up churches in response a less hysterical me would hope you’d sooner condemn my barbaric act than go off ad nauseum about how that pastor should be held responsible for something I did.

  136. #136 Anthony McCarthy
    April 7, 2011

    Julian, so the answer is that your ethical analysis is dependent on who is the target of the incitement and who it is who takes violent action in answer the the incitement.

    I’m always so interested in how these things happen. Now, why don’t you go join scott in telling off the guys in Afghanistan, and it is guys, and see how much your condemnation does to alter the chances of a violent reaction to an intentional provocation.

    This carries the weight of centuries of antagonism from the west, and it doesn’t much matter whether or not it’s religious or secular. The only people who might possibly have some real suggestions to change things are people who live in those societies and know them. They’re so much more likely to know the first thing about it, and the second and more. That’s where real solutions might be found instead of in the typical middle-brow shoot from the lip junk that the new atheists and their new friends in the “christian” right find it so easy to throw around.

  137. #137 Laurent Weppe
    April 7, 2011

    @ Julian

    Responsability does not works like the stock market: if a man like Jones carries a “share of responsability” for what happened, that does not make the mob or the clerics who created the mob share of responsability smaller: responsability and guilt are not some sort of finite ressources that has to be divided between the parties involved.

    Had the mob acted without the provocation from Jones, it would not be less guilty of the murder of the UN workers. Had the mob acted after Jones went to a kindergarten and killed 35 toddlers from muslim families, the mob would not have been less guilty. Jones responsability is his own, and not some sort of etheral fluid that I could magically transfer from the mob to hiim.

  138. #138 Laurent Weppe
    April 7, 2011

    Had the mob acted without the provocation from Jones, it would not be less guilty of the murder of the UN workers

    More guilty, I meant to write “Had the mob acted without the provocation from Jones, it would not be More guilty of the murder of the UN workers (that it already is)”

  139. #139 julian
    April 7, 2011

    @ McCarthy

    Yes, my moral anakysis depends on who was offened, how they were offended, by who and how. I think if we’re going to start adding meaning to otherwise meaningless acts, background is important. I figure that’s something we all agree on.

    But hey, I like your suggestion about listening to the people directly involved. What was that school teacher who’s all girl school was burned down asked the ny times?

  140. #140 Anthony McCarthy
    April 7, 2011

    Julian I’d really rather hear about what women in Afghanistan who would have to live with the results of it think might help to make the situation better. The idea that North American buffalo butts gassing on about it from the comfort of their computer chair would know more than they would strikes me as improbable.

  141. #141 TB
    April 7, 2011

    @ julian

    I’m not the one pushing the hostage analogy – that’s Thomas.paul

  142. #142 TB
    April 7, 2011

    BTW, Julian, I just did a quick look at all your posts in this thread – pretty easy because they’re short and offer no real solutions, just contrary positions and sarcasm.
    So based on that evidence, I’m going to conclude you have nothing concrete to offer and ignore you.

  143. #143 julian
    April 7, 2011

    Really? Because I’ve looked over all your comments and not found a single solution either.

    I’m posting from my phone so it’s going to be short, sorry.

  144. #144 julian
    April 7, 2011

    Ah! Another politician’s trick, Mr. McCarthy. Sorry but you’ll have to sell me on the people who suffered in the attack and will have to live in the situation buying your ‘this is about defending the Koran’ stuff. And even then you’d still have to convince me people should be held accountable for the outrageous responses of others.

  145. #145 Anthony McCarthy
    April 7, 2011

    I’m discerning in the use of “politician’s trick” another of those endlessly cited terms that new atheists use when they’ve got nothing.

    I don’t have to sell you anything, Julian, all I have to do is point out lies, logical disconnects, stereotyping, bigotry and cowardice. It has been a long, long time since I thought I might come across a new atheist who was interested in honesty or reality.

  146. #146 TB
    April 7, 2011
  147. #147 Barry
    April 8, 2011

    Anthony, you seem to have a penchant for blanket statements, but this one takes the biscuit. In the first part of post 145 you paint “new atheists” all one color – “145 – I’m discerning in the use of “politician’s trick” another of those endlessly cited terms that new atheists use when they’ve got nothing.”

    You then continue by criticizing “new atheists” of –

    “I don’t have to sell you anything, Julian, all I have to do is point out lies, logical disconnects, stereotyping, bigotry and cowardice. It has been a long, long time since I thought I might come across a new atheist who was interested in honesty or reality”.

    But isn’t your first comment a rather poor stereotype?

    You do understand what “double standard” means, don’t you?

  148. #148 Barry
    April 8, 2011

    Andrew,citing the warnings Jones was given prior to the burning does not answer the question of why we knew this outcome would be likely. I didn’t think my question was that subtle but let me ask it a different way. Why are we able to predict with such accuracy that violent behavior would be the result of a book burning like this.

  149. #149 Barry
    April 8, 2011

    Sorry Anthony, I missed this from post 57 above. The one where you said ” because of his history of anti-Muslim bigotry” with respect to Sam Harris.

    Could you please quote one example of Harris showing “anti-Muslim bigotry”? You say he has a history of it so I think this should be an easy task.

  150. #150 Anthony McCarthy
    April 8, 2011

    Oh, I’d point to the worse one I know of, that it might be acceptable to explode nuclear weapons on Islamic cities killing millions of people in a “preemptive” strike. Or the idea that Muslims, in general, are responsible for the attackers on 9-11, even those, apparently, who not only didn’t approve of it but entirely disapproved. Iran was the first country to officially extend condolences, after all and many Muslim clerics condemned the murders of innocent people and the suicide of the murderers.

    I’d normally be surprised that anyone who has read much of Harris would demand instances of his anti-Muslim diatribes. Only, I’m familiar with the MO of the NAs who don’t argue within the normal procedures of honest discussion.

    I did ask, once, why a big thinker like Harris didn’t consider the alternative of demanding that, say, Iran, not turn over all of their scientists capable of making nuclear weapons so we could kill them instead of killing millions of people who are entirely innocent “in a single day”, only to have many of the sciency admirers of Harris express horror at such an idea. I say that killing a few hundred scientists with the direct ability to produce nuclear or other weapons that could threaten us is far more rational than the idea of murdering millions. That is, unless you think that scientist-weaponeers are each worth many thousands of innocuous people who pose no harm to us. If the alternative was bombing their capital cities I’m sure you wouldn’t have to do that more than once.

    I’ve yet to hear a reason why that idea is less rational the alternative which the fans of Harris aren’t that bothered by. Maybe there could be a treaty to liquidate all scientists with those abilities as a preventative measure.

    What do you think of that?

  151. #151 julian
    April 8, 2011

    Actually politician’s trick is a phrase I picked up from my history teacher, a liberal Jew, back in high school. Don’t think I’ve seen any gnus but me use it.

    Oh! I’m a coward again. Gee golly, Mr. McCarthy, you must have super-duper esp or something. I thought only we gnus had that ability.

  152. #152 julian
    April 8, 2011

    @tb

    Vague goals with no plan or thought behind them are not solutions. They’re sound bites.

  153. #153 Anthony McCarthy
    April 8, 2011

    Barry, I am also familiar with the new atheist game of 20,000 questions. If you begin to read Harris, you won’t have long to wait before you find stuff that more than fits the category. As with Coyne, read is stuff.

    I am also aware of the games of accusations of “cherry picking” that would inevitably result even if I gave you a list of 20,000 quotes with citations.

  154. #154 Anthony McCarthy
    April 8, 2011

    There was once a time when “straw man” and “irony” meant something too, julian.

  155. #155 julian
    April 8, 2011

    Didn’t Stangroom try that, Mr. McCarthy? Will you finally deliver where he failed?

  156. #156 Anthony McCarthy
    April 8, 2011

    Julian, I’m not bothering with you anymore, you can’t stay on topic and I’m not a very interesting subject.

  157. #157 julian
    April 8, 2011

    Yes, since you refuse to make good on any of your accusations, let’s get back to the topic at hand and stuff.

    Last we left off we were looking into how the victims were responding to the riots and violence. You were pushing the idea they blamed Jones for this and are joining in your in calling for future acts of this. Nature to be baned. Or something to that affect.

  158. #158 Barry
    April 8, 2011

    Anthony “What do you think of that?”

    Well, I think it is barely intelligible bullshit, but I’m patient and will try to pick apart what you say.

    Your first paragraph doesn’t constitute evidence of your alleged description of Harris’s “anti-Muslim bigotry”. I didn’t see a single quote or page reference, just read a diatribe of baseless accusations. But keep trying. Remember, it is evidence of Harris’s “anti-Muslim bigotry” we are looking for…not a recollection of ideas you don’t seem to like.

    Your second paragraph – “I’d normally be surprised that anyone who has read much of Harris would demand instances of his anti-Muslim diatribes.” I’ve read Harris thoroughly. He has strong concerns about the Muslim religion and how it is used as a basis for violence that threatens society…but I’ve never read a bigoted comment. That’s why I would like you to point one out. Stating that you regard him as bigoted, and providing evidence to support that, are two very different things. You ought not to make such bold accusations lightly.

    Your remaining paragraphs were off topic.

  159. #159 Barry
    April 8, 2011

    Anthony: “Barry, I am also familiar with the new atheist game of 20,000 questions. If you begin to read Harris, you won’t have long to wait before you find stuff that more than fits the category. As with Coyne, read is stuff.

    I am also aware of the games of accusations of “cherry picking” that would inevitably result even if I gave you a list of 20,000 quotes with citations.”

    But I’m not asking you 20,000 questions. I’m asking you to substantiate a damaging generalization – the kind of generalization you critize in NA’s.

  160. #160 Laurent Weppe
    April 8, 2011

    @ Barry:

    I’m asking you to substantiate a damaging generalization – the kind of generalization you critize in NA’s

    No: you asked McCarthy, and I quote

    Could you please quote one example of Harris showing “anti-Muslim bigotry”?

    McCarthy said, twice on this thread, that Harris went on musing about a “preventing nuclear strike” against the Muslim world, killings tens of millions of people, that would be necessary to safegard western civilization.

    I might add that Harris, being not the bravest guy around, tried to disguise his genocidal fantasies with a lot of lexical flourish and arabesques, a kind of behavior that I personally find extremely annoying, as it gives me the feeling that the guy with a boner for murder on a giant scale thinks that increasing the word count is going to fool me.

    By the way, it was not a single event: Harris as gone on record saying that forcefully preventing the building of the so-called “ground zero mosque” was illegal but should be done anyway, while reusing several lies invented by the far-right. He also publicly claimed that violence was not caused by muslim extremists but by the mainstream ones and has demanded that Muslims practice ethnic profiling against themselves and also has, like too many westerners, pretended that bein Muslim made one more likely to commit a terrorist act, despite ample evidences that this is not the case.

    So yes, Sam Harris is an anti-Muslim biggot, and also a unrepenting little liar using his lies as justifications for his biggotry. And there are tons of evidences of it clearly visible in his very own writtings.

    Now the real question is “Is Sam Harris a racist because of his atheism”.
    Well, some might think that, but my personal opinion is that Sam Harris is merely a racist pretending to be an unapologetic atheist and courageous free thinker because unapologetic atheism is viewed favorably among his social circle while faked bravado is a usefull little trick to make one appear larger that he really is.

  161. #161 julian
    April 9, 2011

    Again with the ‘false bravado’. I’m sorry but seeing as you guys think Hirsi Ali falls into that same category I don’t really understand what criteria you’ve been using to categorize them. Is it just a general term for people in the West who share what you’ve described as anti-Muslim views?

  162. #162 julian
    April 9, 2011

    Could I get a few links to where Harris made these comments? Don’t know very much about the man (seriously. Aside from Randi I don’t know much about the Horsemen) and want to see it from his own mouth. The supporting illegal action sounds very out there.

  163. #163 Laurent Weppe
    April 9, 2011

    Could I get a few links to where Harris made these comments?

    You’ve got a computer, you’ve got Google, You’ve got wikipedia, and it took me less than four minutes to find those statements: do your fucking legwork.

  164. #164 Anthony McCarthy
    April 9, 2011

    Hirsi Ali

    I didn’t think many people in the Islamic world would be especially impressed with her association with a man who wants to nuke them. Somehow, I think the feminists in those cities might not see any advantage for women’s rights in that.

    I’d rather hear from Islamic feminists.

  165. #165 julian
    April 9, 2011

    Actually I haven’t got a computer. I have a cell phone and google tends to spit search results the way bing does on this. But sure, I’m not doing anything. Thanks for the help.

    I take it that by Islamis Feminists you mean to exclude any atheists who’ve grown up in that part of the world. I wonderwhy you’d want to do that, Mr. McCarthy. Are they all cruel bigots who refuse to see the awesomeness of religion?

  166. #166 Anthony McCarthy
    April 10, 2011

    I’d have to hear an atheist define themselves as “Islamic” which wouldn’t give me much confidence in their ability to think. No more than it does someone who asks that kind of question.

    As someone has already suggested, do a web search try “Islamic feminism” .

  167. #167 julian
    April 10, 2011

    So in your effort to ‘aid’ places like Afghanistan you want to exclude anyone from the conversation who grew up in the region but doesn’t share the majority’s acceptance of the Koran as the word of God? Why?

  168. #168 Anthony McCarthy
    April 10, 2011

    Find me an atheist who claims their atheism is “Islamic”. I mean a real one, not some anonymous blog sockpuppet. My first question will be how are you both an atheist and someone who believes in the first of the five pillars of Islam.

  169. #169 julian
    April 10, 2011

    Ok, clearly not getting my point across, why do you wantto exclude those who grew up in regions like Afghanistan but abandoned their faith in Koran or grew up without it?

    Side note, found a piece on alternet on Sam Harris. While it seemed more concerned with his ideas on mysticism (be damned if alternet criticizes anyone for that) it mentioned his belief that torture is effective. (It isn’t. Don’t know who told him it is.) The piece framed it as part of Islamophobia in the west but I don’t think I’m sold on that. Harris seemed more concerned in the few quotes provided with warfare in general, not Muslims inparticular. They were just the most handy example.

  170. #170 TB
    April 10, 2011

    Oh, that’s original – relabeling my content to suit your criticism! Simplest answer: I disagree with your misrepresentation, and you still haven’t offered anything constructive.

    But at least your trolling is consistent!

  171. #171 julian
    April 10, 2011

    @TB

    Um… what? I don’t think I follow.

  172. #172 TB
    April 10, 2011

    And Julian, the cell phone excuse is really lame. Tons of people have them and are able to write quite a bit with their smart phones.

    I do – I don’t use my work computer for anything except work. I track my personal stuff using my smart phone and if I want to compose a longer post with research on my breaks, I do it with my smart phone.

    Honestly, if you want to show us that you’re not just a contrarian troll, please make more of an effort.

  173. #173 julian
    April 10, 2011

    I guess ‘contrarian troll’ is a step up from bigot.

  174. #174 TB
    April 10, 2011

    Implying that I called one? Niiice.

    So, since you haven’t responded directly, we can assume you’re fine with innocent people dying so that extremists can practice religious intolorance?

  175. #175 julian
    April 10, 2011

    No implication was meant. If i’d said coward I could see where you’d be coming from but as is you’re seeing accusations where there aren’t.

    And I’m afraid you’ve lost me again.

  176. #176 Anthony McCarthy
    April 10, 2011

    you’ve lost me again. Julian

    Finally, something positive.

  177. #177 julian
    April 10, 2011

    So you aren’t going to answer my question.

    Ah well.

  178. #178 Barry
    April 10, 2011

    Laurent. Thanks for stepping in to help out our floundering friend. Unfortunately, not one quote offered…just a lot of genralized comment. What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you substantiate what you claim. It really is quite pathetic.

  179. #179 Barry
    April 10, 2011

    Anthony. You clearly read my posts. You’ve posted a number of times since I posted my comments. But no reply. Very strange. They were simple questions. making generalized accusations and supporting them with evidence, are two very different things.

  180. #180 Anthony McCarthy
    April 11, 2011

    Floundering? As opposed to Julian who seems to think that there are “Islamic atheists”?

    Barry, I answered the question about why Sam Harris is an obvious anti-Islamic bigot of the most extreme variety possible. Just as I supported the view that Coyne is an irrational bigot of a related variety.

    As I said, I’m familiar with the new atheist tactic of denying questions have been answered and examples given, as I’m aware of their tactic of claiming that giving supporting quotations is “cherry picking” or raising up “straw men” or “moving the goalposts”.

    You and Julian are right in line with the typical practices of new atheists that anyone who has interacted with them will be know very well.

  181. #181 julian
    April 11, 2011

    ‘Islamic Atheists?’ Why not, supposedlywe have atheist jews and christians.

    And thanks for the sidestep. Atleast now I know you saw it. Another political trick. If you can’t answer a question ignore, buryit, pretend you have and carry on the conversation. Make allusions to having responded and your opponent’s unwillingness to recognize it. When people tune in if their inclined to agree with you they’ll accept your version of reality. Brilliant!

  182. #182 TB
    April 11, 2011

    Oh for…

    Barry: “Thanks for stepping in to help out our floundering friend. Unfortunately, not one quote offered…just a lot of genralized comment. What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you substantiate what you claim. It really is quite pathetic.”

    Here:

    “The erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory—and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice.”

    And

    “If you can raise the requisite $100 million, you might also build a shrine to Satan on this spot, complete with the names of all the non-believing victims of 9/11 destined to suffer for eternity in Hell. ”

    And in fairness (I know, why derail things by being fair?), here

    “There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course—and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-13/ground-zero-mosque/full/#

    So Barry, are you on a cell phone like Julian and unable to figure out google or bing too?

    Now you can argue whether “bigot” is the correct term to describe Harris. Here, I’ll google it for you since you seem to be unable to do so:

    “one who stubbornly or intolerantly adheres to his or her own opinions and prejudices”

    I can see a case being made either way, Personally, I would use intolerant and ignorant – despite his denials, he paints with too broad a brush and cherry-picks to support his position.

  183. #183 Anthony McCarthy
    April 11, 2011

    Waiting for accusations that TB is “cherry picking” errecting “straw men” “moving goalposts” ……

    Julian, you are just proving the intellectual vacuity of the new atheism. I should add “time wasting” to the list of the new atheism being a “shallow, bigoted intellectual fad”. That would be “intellectual” in a very general way, by the way.

    If I had time I would document the hypocrisy of the new atheism, for example, the denial that it exists by people who are documented as previously having used the term, themselves. AS has been pointed out in Harris trying to walk back his floridly genocidal fantasy, which is as solidly documented as any statement could possibly be, there is nothing which they won’t lie about. As Chris Hedges, a pointed critic of religion as well as the new atheism has pointed out, it is the exact match for the worst of religious fundamentalism.

  184. #184 Barry
    April 11, 2011

    Anthony: “Barry, I answered the question about why Sam Harris is an obvious anti-Islamic bigot of the most extreme variety possible. Just as I supported the view that Coyne is an irrational bigot of a related variety.”

    Exactly where did you do this Anthony? Pushing you to declare your sources isn’t a “tactic of denying questions have been answered”, it is asking you to substantiate wild and meaningless generalizations that you claim are true.

  185. #185 Barry
    April 11, 2011

    TB /Anthony So, please explain the bigotry. None of these comments remotely passes your dictionary definition.

  186. #186 Anthony McCarthy
    April 11, 2011

    Oh, I’m certain that Harris intended his call to nuke a number of cities in Islamic countries, his blanket imposition of responsibility for 9-11 and all of his other habitual stigmatization of more than a billion Muslims in only the most broadminded of ways.

    Do all words lose their meaning when new atheists want to translate them into new atheist speak?

  187. #187 TB
    April 11, 2011

    Barry, I already said I don’t agree with the bigot label. But I also said a case can be made either way.

    Instead of demanding things, it’d be interesting if you put forth evidence for why it shouldn’t apply. Because this is one of those topics that have been chewed over countless times before, and merely challenging someone to come up with “proof” isn’t novel, it’s rework.

    Been there, done that. Counter their claims. Seriously, show where they’re being tolerant. Provide links that shows how fair they are.

  188. #188 Barry
    April 11, 2011

    Anthony, “Do all words lose their meaning?” Which words would those be Anthony? You didn’t quote any.

  189. #189 Barry
    April 11, 2011

    TB, I really don’t know where to begin. I’m not the one making sweeping and derogatory accusations. If these issues have been “chewed over ” as you put it, then it ought not be that difficult to substantiate. Anthony is indistinguishable from Creationists, he throws around the truths that he sees, provides zero evidence to back them up and then fakes indignation when he is caught out.

  190. #190 Anthony McCarthy
    April 11, 2011

    Ok, Barry, here’s a first installment.

    Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed. Sam Harris, The End of Faith

    If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own.

    Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime — as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day — but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. The End of Faith

    Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God, but they want us to keep using the word “God” as though we knew what we were talking about. And they do not want anything too critical said about people who really believe in the God of their fathers, because tolerance, perhaps above all else, is sacred. To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world—to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish—is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance. The End of Faith

    The End of Faith is one of those books that deserves to replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in the land. Richard Dawkins: Coming out Against Religious Mania

    It’s hard to pick out what to point to that is representative. And, as has been pointed out, Harris has tried to walk back his incredible call for an unprecedented mass slaughter of people living in Islamic countries. I think that he meant what he said the first time. It wasn’t in a blog comment, after all, but, presumably, in an edited book.

    Now watch the charges of cherry picking begin.

  191. #191 Anthony McCarthy
    April 11, 2011

    The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. Sam Harris: The End of Faith

    The very ideal of religious tolerance – born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God – is one of the principles forces driving us towards the abyss. Sam Harris: The End of Faith

    Religious moderation is a product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance. The End of Faith

    We are at war with Islam. It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so. The End of Faith

    Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thorough-going cult of death. The End of Faith

  192. #192 julian
    April 11, 2011

    We’ll… if nothing else it’s good to know what kind of evidence passes the scrutiny of Rosenau and his crowd. Jesus, no wonder you all think I’m nothing but a raging intolerant bigot; anything that even remotely sounds like knocking religion down a peg = intolerance in your eyes.

    “Religious moderation…” if you honestly find that offensive there’s no middle ground between us.

    @ TB you are a paragon of intellect and high mindedness.

    Have fun agreeing with yourself.

  193. #193 Barry
    April 11, 2011

    Anthony, if you are going to accuse someone, like Harris, of bigotry, then you really have to demonstrate their bigotry. It’s no good picking extracts from Harris’s writing that you disagree with and then shouting “bigot, bigot”. None of the passages you reference is remotely bigoted. They are reasoned positions. Some are tentative, as exemplified by the use of language such as “…may be…”

    I don’t need to use a poor argument of “cherry picking” to undermine your non-argument (although you clearly fear the accusation because you have referenced it twice already) I only need to point out that you can’t separate an argument you don’t like from your view that such arguments are definitionally bigoted. It’s a problem of cognition that I can’t help you overcome.Thankfully your lack of awareness of this protects you from the accute embarassment you inflict on yourself by repeating these baseless allegations.

  194. #194 Ender
    April 12, 2011

    The accusation of bigotry has been more than substantiated, but of course you are not going to accept it because you are not capable of being persuaded on this issue.

    Rather, the only possible gain from posting these arguments is that neutral, or less die-hard Sam Harris supporters will see his words and be able to make a less biased judgement about him.

    I mean, how can you possibly deny that…

    “The very ideal of religious tolerance… …is one of the principles forces driving us towards the abyss”

    “We are at war with Islam”

    “There is no such thing as Islamophobia”

    …would not look at all out of place on the StormFront website?
    – he even makes the very same argument about Islamophobia that bigots would make about homophobia “It doesn’t exist” – would he make the same claim about anti-semitism?

    The man is cloaking his anti-Muslim bigotry in his anti-religion rhetoric, but his words speak for themselves. Why deny that Muslims are ever hated, unless you are trying to push that hate and don’t want to be called out for it yourself? Why protect Islamophobes from criticism by denying their existence unless you are one?

  195. #195 Anthony McCarthy
    April 12, 2011

    This reminds me of an argument I had on another Scienceblog last fall. I’d said, uncontroversially, I believed at first, that Richard Dawkins was the foremost popularizer of evolutionary psychology. It was a huge surprise to me to find out how many of his Brite new atheist fans and admirers wasn’t aware of his one and only claim to science fame over the course of many, many blog comments, in which I presented documentation of one of the more commonly known facts of Dawkins’ career, only to have it continually denied by the great protectors of his reputation. A significant number of his own new atheist admirers on a Scienceblog literally didn’t know the first thing about him and his career on the fringes of science.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/10/richard_dawkins_sues_josh_timonen.php

    Since, after the dispute had started, a comment from Dawkins himeself (@82) complaining about what someone else said was posted, I was able to ask his fans why Dawkins didn’t object to the observation and why he hadn’t complained about the contents of a festschrift put together by his admirers published on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of The Selfish Gene. I decided to string it out as an experiment to see how long it would be before better informed new atheists jumped in to tell the truth, only to find out that they wouldn’t

    That was the argument that pretty well taught me that the denial that documentation to support a point they wanted to deny was being presented, even on a point as widely known as Dawkins relationship with evo-psy, was part of their basic MO. This argument is just more confirmation of the point.

    There was a side issue about the death of poor old Maddy O’Hair — one new atheist claimed she was murdered because she was an atheist, while, in fact she was murdered by an atheist, one of her employees at American Atheists — just shows how acceptable a fictionalized history in the face of well established fact is to this great movement for sciency truth and reality.

  196. #196 Anthony McCarthy
    April 12, 2011

    Ah, forgot to change the number of that verb. What can I say, it’s obvious I’m no editor.

  197. #197 Barry
    April 13, 2011

    Anthony: “I mean, how can you possibly deny that…

    “The very ideal of religious tolerance… …is one of the principles forces driving us towards the abyss”

    “We are at war with Islam”

    “There is no such thing as Islamophobia”

    …would not look at all out of place on the StormFront website?”

    Anthony, I said in another post that there is no difference between the way you use innaccurate sweeping generalizations and in how Creationists use them. Taking selected quotes from Harris and applying an equivalence to “StormFront” is duplicitous and egregious and you should apologize. Let me put it another way. If what you claim is true then Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for. There are no depths too low for you to sink as you squirm to justify your prejudice and bias. You fully illustrate the very things you claim (on zero evidence) new atheists practice.

  198. #198 Barry
    April 13, 2011

    Anthony: “I mean, how can you possibly deny that…

    “The very ideal of religious tolerance… …is one of the principles forces driving us towards the abyss”

    “We are at war with Islam”

    “There is no such thing as Islamophobia”

    …would not look at all out of place on the StormFront website?”

    Anthony, I said in another post that there is no difference between the way you use innaccurate sweeping generalizations and in how Creationists use them. Taking selected quotes from Harris and applying an equivalence to “StormFront” is duplicitous and egregious and you should apologize. Let me put it another way. If what you claim is true then Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for. There are no depths too low for you to sink as you squirm to justify your prejudice and bias. You fully illustrate the very things you claim (on zero evidence) new atheists practice.

  199. #199 Anthony McCarthy
    April 13, 2011

    Oh, I don’t know Barry, maybe because I’m not a bigot and I don’t stereotype more than a billion people based on a small subset of them. Actually, I think there’s a far better case to be made for science and technology and commerce and media consolidation driving us towards the abyss. I could make a case for materialism driving us towards the abyss.

    As to why Harris doesn’t join up with other, organized bigots, ask him. I’d be more interested in why people like Coyne and Lawrence Krauss (who I once respected) join up with the likes of Harris.

  200. #200 altın çilek
    April 13, 2011

    As to why Harris doesn’t join up with other, organized bigots, ask him. I’d be more interested in why people like Coyne and Lawrence Krauss (who I once respected) join up with the likes of Harris.

  201. #201 Ender
    April 13, 2011

    Actually Barry, I posted the bit you quoted there.

    “Taking selected quotes from Harris and applying an equivalence to “StormFront” is duplicitous and egregious and you should apologize.”

    I don’t think you’re deliberately misinterpreting what I said, I think it’s annoyed you and that’s led you to an incorrect interpretation.

    I said that those quotes ‘would not look at all out of place’ on the Stormfront website. That’s an undeniable fact*, they post that sort of thing all the time.
    The point of the comparison was that those stated examples are bigoted statements, and are the kinds of bigoted things that known bigots at that website say. Nothing more.

    *We are at war with Islam for example

    “Let me put it another way. If what you claim is true then Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for.”

    No, let me put it another way. I said:

    [His quotes] would not look at all out of place on the StormFront website

    You are saying:

    Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for

    You see how those are two different statements?
    My contention is that his statements are bigoted. Similar to statements made at known racist hangout Stormfront. I’m not suggesting he posted them there himself or that he condones any of their other bigoted beliefs. Just those ones.
    You can either contend that those kinds of statements wouldn’t be found there or that when the Stormfront members say them it’s one of the rare times they’re not being racist they’re being reasonable.

    “There are no depths too low for you to sink as you squirm to justify your prejudice and bias. You fully illustrate the very things you claim (on zero evidence) new atheists practice.”

    These two comments were aimed at Anthony, not me, but I’ll respond:

    1) I have no prejudice or bias against Sam Harris, I disagree philosophically with what I have heard of his ideas on morality and obviously disagree with him about religion, but I have nothing against him personally. I will however call prejudiced, generalising, or bigoted statements what they are when I see them.

    2) I think I do illustrate something New Atheists do here, but it’s not a bad quality, it’s a good one. New Atheists aren’t afraid to point out factual statements about issues that might upset people, when it’s true it’s true and that’s what’s important. It’s annoying that I’m pointing out that Sam Harris has made some pretty bigoted sounding statements, but it’s true. And it might sound like I’m saying he’s a bigot, but I’m not, I’ve quoted the offending statements, and I’m going no further than that.

    Now there’s nothing that can’t be changed by context, so you could certainly contend that there is some justification in the surrounding text, but if there isn’t I stand by my assessment of those words.

  202. #202 Ender
    April 13, 2011

    Sorry, that’s confusing – in the second last paragraph I say:

    “And it might sound like I’m saying he’s a bigot, but I’m not, I’ve quoted the offending statements, and I’m going no further than that.”

    Which could be better put:

    “And it might sound like I’m saying he’s as much of a bigot as the guys at Stormfront who say the same things, but I’m not, I’ve quoted the offending statements, and I’m not saying he endorses any bigoted notions outside his own words.”

  203. #203 Barry
    April 13, 2011

    Ender, please don’t worry about responding on behalf of Anthony, I don’t see the difference so it is hardly relevant.

    What was the prupose of comparing Harris’s statements to the StromFront website? Please tell me that. It’s the only relevant issue. The rest of your post adds nothing until you answer this point.

  204. #204 Barry
    April 13, 2011

    Anthony, “I think there’s a far better case to be made for science and technology and commerce and media consolidation driving us towards the abyss. I could make a case for materialism driving us towards the abyss.”

    I agree. In your own mind I think you could make a case for anything. I just don’t know what to make of your comment – is it supposed to impress?

  205. #205 Barry
    April 13, 2011

    “You are saying:

    Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    Endor, that is a flat out lie and distortion. Please withdraw.

  206. #206 Ender
    April 13, 2011

    “What was the prupose of comparing Harris’s statements to the StromFront website?”

    While previously it was understandable that you might misreading me it now seems that you are not reading my posts at all.

    I said that those quotes ‘would not look at all out of place’ on the Stormfront website. That’s an undeniable fact*, they post that sort of thing all the time.
    The point of the comparison was that those stated examples are bigoted statements, and are the kinds of bigoted things that known bigots at that website say.

    That’s from my previous post. You see how that answers your question already?

    Barry says: “You are saying:
    Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    No. You are the only person saying that.
    I’m saying that the statements quoted above are the kind of thing you hear on the Stormfront website. Which is a demonstrable fact as I’m sure you’ll accept. So I stand by what I said.

  207. #207 Anthony McCarthy
    April 14, 2011

    Barry, if you can’t understand Ender’s distinctions, after being in discussion with you several days, I’m not surprised.

    It always turns out this way, no amount of clarification ever clarifies the distortions new atheists make in other peoples’ positions. Even when they are able to see the point, they choose not to. They hope that their opponents will concede points and when that doesn’t happen that they will simply stop talking to them. It allows them to believe they’ve won.

  208. #208 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Ender “I said that those quotes ‘would not look at all out of place’ on the Stormfront website.”

    “The point of the comparison was that those stated examples are bigoted statements, and are the kinds of bigoted things that known bigots at that website say.”

    Is Harris making these statements for the same reasons that StormFront might make these statements?

  209. #209 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Anthony, “It always turns out this way, no amount of clarification ever clarifies the distortions new atheists make in other peoples’ positions. Even when they are able to see the point, they choose not to. They hope that their opponents will concede points and when that doesn’t happen that they will simply stop talking to them. It allows them to believe they’ve won.”

    If you are going to accuse me of “distortion” then you had better back it up with a direct quote.

  210. #210 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    “If you are going to accuse me of “distortion” then you had better back it up with a direct quote.”

    Allow me:

    Ender: “those quotes would not look at all out of place on the Stormfront website”

    Barry: “You are saying:
    Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    Ender: “No I said that those quotes ‘would not look at all out of place’ on the Stormfront website. That’s an undeniable fact*, they post that sort of thing all the time.
    The point of the comparison was that those stated examples are bigoted statements, and are the kinds of bigoted things that known bigots at that website say. Nothing more.

    Barry: “You are saying:
    “Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”
    Endor, that is a flat out lie and distortion. Please withdraw”

    Ender: “No. You are the only person saying that.
    I’m saying that the statements quoted above are the kind of thing you hear on the Stormfront website.”

  211. #211 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    “Is Harris making these statements for the same reasons that StormFront might make these statements?”

    Stormfront is not a person and does not make statements. The people on Stormfront are varied and different, so there isn’t one simple answer to that.

    Certainly Sam Harris is not the same sort of bigot as you would usually find on Stormfront – he’s atheist for one, and I believe (though it’s not like I’ve been there more than once or twice) that they are mostly fairly right wing conservative Christians.

    Does he share similar opinions about Islam with many of these bigots? Undeniably, yes. Does he hold these opinions for exactly the same reasons? Probably not.

    But is any of this relevant? No, you are simply stuck on the mention of Stormfront because it has annoyed you, and now it annoys you more because it’s clear people on Stormfront do say the kinds of things Sam Harris says, so you are plumbing the depths of this question searching for some way in which I’m wrong. But I’m not.

    The statements are bigoted. Similar to statements are to be found on Stormfront. Sam Harris is not your typical member of Stormfront even though he makes bigoted comments that could be found on Stormfront.

    Now are you going to continue making a meal of this, demanding further and further clarifications like Anthony predicts you will or are you going to face up to the facts bolded above, or at least dispute them rather than something I’ve explained to you in simple English several times?

  212. #212 Anthony McCarthy
    April 14, 2011

    What Ender said.

  213. #213 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Ender, using an example of your own inability to follow an argument does not constitute distortion on my part. Forgive me for thinking that I was responding to your twin for a moment.

  214. #214 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Ender, “Stormfront is not a person and does not make statements. The people on Stormfront are varied and different, so there isn’t one simple answer to that.” Yet you know “they” are bigots, so they aren’t that varied and different…unless that “bigot” comment was another one of your sweeping generalizations you say you don’t make.

    And now we see the punchline in all its beauty – “Does he share similar opinions about Islam with many of these bigots? Undeniably, yes. Does he hold these opinions for exactly the same reasons? Probably not.” Wow. Let me remind you of what a bigot is – http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/bigot “one who stubbornly or intolerantly adheres to his or her own opinions and prejudices ” There is doubt whether Harris expresses opinions that are found on Stormfront in the first place. Sorry, but I thought you were a regular reader the way you made another sweeping comment on no evidence. It now turns out that “…it’s not like I’ve been there more than once or twice.” So now you are making accusations about Harris “share(ing) similar opinions about Islam with many of these bigots” without actually knowing whether this is actually the case. You don’t even know whether there are very similar or identical comments on Stormfront – but you assume there are. You might be right, but the fact that you don’t actually know doesn’t hold you back. But, you do acknowledge that Harris might express opinions that you assume are similar for very different reasons. Let me offer you a suggestion. I can only imagine what kind of website Stormfront is because I’ve never visited it and likely never will. But do you think the contributors on the website hold anti-Muslim opinions because they’ve reasoned through the inadequacy of their theology, or because they don’t like black people?

    You can’t just handwave this very different reasoning from the simplistic conclusions you draw and assume “bigot, bigot.”

  215. #215 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Hey, Ender, your twin just spoke…

    Anthony, post 212 “What Ender said.”

    You two should be on stage. I’ve seen greater genetic variation between clones.

  216. #216 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Ender (or Anthony) it really doesn’t matter. Just wondered whether you thought that this was also illustrative of Harris’s bigotry?

    “There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course—and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-13/ground-zero-mosque/3/#

    Would this comment qualify him for comparison with Stormfront?

  217. #217 Anthony McCarthy
    April 14, 2011

    Barry, I produced the quotes, I suggest you change any references to Muslims or Islam with references to atheists and see how you like it.

    You’re not going to be able to save the reputation of Sam Harris from his words or that of Richard Dawkins for endorsing his bigotry filled screed, The End of Faith. Not with people who aren’t already in your cult.

  218. #218 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Anthony, you certainly did provide those quotes, but they don’t support what you are saying. Just because you don’t agree with Harris and have decided to call him a bigot doesn’t make him one.

    For example, you erroneously quoted Harris as saying “There is no such thing as Islamophobia” (and then launched into a peurile comparison with homophobia as though the word ending “phobia” created some kind of parity). What you OMITTED from the quote was the very next section which clearly established that Harris WAS NOT A FRICKIN BIGOT. We cause this lying in my book – a deliberate attempt to deceive..a deliberately false interpretation…saying one thing when it is obvious that the opposite is true. I couldn’t care less what you think about substituting “Muslim” for “atheist”…what on earth is the point of that? What does that prove? Why stop at atheist? let’s substitute “Pansy” or “daffodill” or “redheads”.

    If you want to have an intelligent exchange then at least make an effort. This is like swatting flies.

  219. #219 Anthony McCarthy
    April 14, 2011

    Barry, I’m gay. I have been involved in gay rights issues since the lat 1960s, I don’t need you to lecture me on that.

    Sam Harris is a bigot, a pretty extreme one. That someone who agrees with him wouldn’t see that isn’t remarkable.

  220. #220 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    Let me put this very simply for you Barry:

    Do you think “those quotes would not look at all out of place on the Stormfront website” is the same sentence as “Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    No? Bravo.

    Do you think after asking me explicitly whether that’s what I meant and reading me explicitly deny it then tell you what I actually meant that you had a leg to stand on when you insisted that I meant that completely different sentence?

    No? Are you seeing a pattern developing here.

    I hate to have to spell this out to you in words of one syllable but when you take someone’s argument and insist that they mean something different to what they actually said you are distorting their argument

    So you see how, when you take my words, fail to understand them, and insist that I mean something different, you are ‘distorting’ my argument.

    It really couldn’t be any more obvious than that.

    You attempt some sort of insane Hail Mary pass and claim against all evidence:

    “using an example of your own inability to follow an argument does not constitute distortion on my part”

    If you think that I failed to follow the argument somewhere, by all means, fire away. A quote or two would do nicely.
    Of course that’s impossible as my quotes show you absolutely literally claiming I said one thing when my words above show I said another thing entirely. You couldn’t possibly evidence your claim so I’ll be interested to see what reason you give for choosing not to.

    I predict a flameout or you pretending I didn’t just say any of that.

    See the quotes below if you need to be reminded of what you’re claiming didn’t happen.

  221. #221 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Anthony, “Barry, I’m gay. I have been involved in gay rights issues since the lat 1960s, I don’t need you to lecture me on that.” Who cares whether you are gay? What’s that got to do with it? But I was referencing your twin in post 194 regarding homophobia, so I do apologize for the misattribution. But then again, you are twins and say pretty much the same things. However, nowhere am I “lecturing” you regarding gay rights. But then again, you think that Harris is a bigot, so maybe I am lecturing you on gay rights – please tell me which post I lectured you in?

    Anthony, Anthony, “Sam Harris is a bigot, a pretty extreme one.” I’ve already humiliated you for lying about what Harris actually said in his quote on “Islamophobia” – the one where you missed out the bit that showed he wasn’t a bigot. Now, these goalposts haven’t moved one inch since I first asked you to substantiate the allegation, and you still haven’t done it. You blatently lie and have no shame. Anyone reading these comments can see that you have lied and distorted Harris’s words to suit your own prejudice. So, stop pissing about and come up with your evidence. If Harris is such an “extreme bigot”, this evidence must be all over the place – hiding in full view?

  222. #222 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    Actual argument:
    Ender: “those quotes would not look at all out of place on the Stormfront website”

    Distorted version:
    Barry: “You are saying:
    Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    Correction, actual argument:
    Ender: “No I said that those quotes ‘would not look at all out of place’ on the Stormfront website. That’s an undeniable fact*, they post that sort of thing all the time.
    The point of the comparison was that those stated examples are bigoted statements, and are the kinds of bigoted things that known bigots at that website say. Nothing more.

    You repeat your distorted version:
    Barry: “You are saying:
    “Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”
    Endor, that is a flat out lie and distortion. Please withdraw”

    Final correction:
    Ender: “No. You are the only person saying that.
    I’m saying that the statements quoted above are the kind of thing you hear on the Stormfront website.”

  223. #223 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Ender, you deliberately cut my quote from the original…

    Post 198 I said, “If what you claim is true then Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for.”

    Do you see those words at the beginning? “If what you say is true….”

    You then twisted that into this…

    Post 201 “You are saying: Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    So you change the meaning.

    You deliberately distorted what I said. You can dream of a flameout…it’s the first defence of someone who lies.

    Withdraw.

  224. #224 Barry
    April 14, 2011

    Ender, while you contort yourself into more justification of you distortions, deal with 214.

  225. #225 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    It’s a pity, because your comment at 216 Barry was great, and I’d like to respond.
    That’s a real argument. Evidence. Quoting.

    If you can find it in yourself to admit you distorted my argument even if not deliberately – or illustrate with deadly accuracy just why it wasn’t a distortion – then we can get to 216 and continue having a sensible discussion.

  226. #226 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    Let me put this very simply for you Barry:

    Do you think “those quotes would not look at all out of place on the Stormfront website” is the same sentence as “If what you claim is true then Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    No? Bravo.

    Do you think after asking me explicitly whether that’s what I meant and reading me explicitly deny it then tell you what I actually meant that you had a leg to stand on when you insisted that I meant that completely different sentence?

    No? Are you seeing a pattern developing here.

    I hate to have to spell this out to you in words of one syllable but when you take someone’s argument and insist that they mean something different to what they actually said you are distorting their argument

    So you see how, when you take my words, fail to understand them, and insist that I mean something different, you are ‘distorting’ my argument.

    It really couldn’t be any more obvious than that.

    You attempt some sort of insane Hail Mary pass and claim against all evidence:

    “using an example of your own inability to follow an argument does not constitute distortion on my part”

    If you think that I failed to follow the argument somewhere, by all means, fire away. A quote or two would do nicely.
    Of course that’s impossible as my quotes show you absolutely literally claiming I said one thing when my words above show I said another thing entirely. You couldn’t possibly evidence your claim so I’ll be interested to see what reason you give for choosing not to.

    I predict a flameout or you pretending I didn’t just say any of that.

    See the quotes below if you need to be reminded of what you’re claiming didn’t happen.

  227. #227 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    Actual argument:
    Ender: “those quotes would not look at all out of place on the Stormfront website”

    Distorted Wrong version:
    Barry: “If what you claim is true then Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”

    Correction, actual argument:
    Ender: “No I said that those quotes ‘would not look at all out of place’ on the Stormfront website. That’s an undeniable fact*, they post that sort of thing all the time.
    The point of the comparison was that those stated examples are bigoted statements, and are the kinds of bigoted things that known bigots at that website say. Nothing more.

    Your distorted version:
    Barry: “You are saying:
    “Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”
    Endor, that is a flat out lie and distortion. Please withdraw”

    Final correction:
    Ender: “No. You are the only person saying that.
    I’m saying that the statements quoted above are the kind of thing you hear on the Stormfront website.”

    – now it’s true that your Post at 198 could be more accurately described as “wrong” rather than “a distortion” because you are saying that your claim necessarily follows from my factual statement. It of course doesn’t.
    But you move from being wrong to distorting in post 205. So I was a little inaccurate, but your distortion remains.

    Question: Do you stand by: “You are saying:
    “Harris should be a fully signed up member of what StromFront stands for”
    Endor, that is a flat out lie and distortion. Please withdraw”
    ” even after it’s been explained why you’re wrong in a condescendingly simple manner?

  228. #228 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    Anthony:
    “Sam Harris is a bigot, a pretty extreme one. That someone who agrees with him wouldn’t see that isn’t remarkable.”

    Barry’s response at 221 is unbelievably silly of course, but though I haven’t read that much of what Sam Harris has said I’m not sure I would agree that he’s a pretty extreme bigot. Certainly he’s said some bigoted things, and holds some bigoted beliefs, but I would reserve extreme for people like the WBC and S.C.U.M, I haven’t seen anything he’s said that’s anything more than garden variety bigotry, lightly veiled.

    The denial of the existence of Islamophobia does ring nastily of denials of the existence of Homophobia though. I’ll be interested in looking at that quote in full, if Barry can get his act together. Otherwise I’ll have to wait until this becomes too unutterably tedious and just look at it anyway.

  229. #229 Ender
    April 14, 2011

    I started on 214, but I then responded to your absurd denial that you’d distorted my argument first.

    I’m not really that interested in it any more, it’s not a great post. 216 is far better. But I suppose I can look at it if you think it’s good. If you can manage to either admit your distortion or riposte with an incisive and unarguable explanation that proves it was no distortion. After 216 of course.

  230. #230 Anthony McCarthy
    April 15, 2011

    Barry, if you think anything you’ve said here humiliated me, you are mistaken. If you think anyone who is objective wouldn’t see the vicarious blame of more than a billion people for 9-11, many of whom vocally and strongly disapproved of it, many of whom are as targeted by the likes of bin Ladin et al as Americans, as bigotry, you are deluded. Harris and Peter King are two peas in the same pod.

    Ender, see what I mean. Barry will never accept your distinctions between what I am responsible for saying and what you are responsible for saying because it’s too much like thinking outside the confines of his ideology.

    If he thinks that I’m going to worry about what he and other new atheists think of me, they are wrong.

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