By John Hayward
19 Jun 2014
In response to “How 'Ugly' Remarks Become Insightful When Applied to Conservatives” (Read this article below)
Great catch on these guys hammering a supposedly beyond-the-pale conservative remark into a tedious lefty talking point. I'm still trying to figure out what was so outrageous about what Brigitte Gabriel or her co-panellists said.
Can I be blunt here? Part of the reason Dana Milbank and his little cadre of half-hearted defenders lost their minds and declared Gabriel beyond the pale is that she isn't pale. She's from Lebanon, speaks with an accent, will never be mistaken for Ben Stein calling the roll at Ferris Bueller's class, and is very passionate on this subject. The way she talks is making these supposedly multi-cultural liberals carry on as if she jumped down the audience member's throat, and they're not wild about the thought of non-pale women aligning themselves with conservatives.
They're also wigging out because Gabriel dared to use the Nazis in an analogy, something only liberals are allowed to do, because it's a (completely ridiculous) core element of the left-wing catechism that the National Socialists were the ultimate expression of right-wing evil.
Leave all the incendiary analogies out of it, and focus on what Gabriel said about the political irrelevance of the moderate majority - she was quite insistent that the majority of Muslims are relatively moderate, and even gave percentages, thereby agreeing with the major point her more-than-meets-the-eye questioner crashed the panel to make - versus the vicious and determined minority pulling off the headline terrorist outrages and brutal aggression. What's objectively incorrect about that assessment? You'd hear the same thing in a speech from Barack Obama, or just about any other Western politician. Extremists “hijacking” the Religion of Peace are one of the oldest talking points in the War on Terror.
What's supposedly offensive about this is that Gabriel went on to ask why the moderate majority isn't "speaking out" against the terrorist types. I guess we're not supposed to notice that it doesn't happen very often, or tends to happen with qualifications and reservations, rather than the loud and unequivocal denunciation we might hope for. Islam isn't centralized like the Catholic Church; there are many different factions we would hope to see uniting in condemnation of savagery. It's not as if none of them speak up... but it's also not as if most of them speak up, and the loudest moderate voices tend to rise from communities within Western nations.
We're still in an uneasy place where the Islamic world hasn't united to firmly denounce the excesses of Sharia law or such outrages as the impending execution of Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan for the sham offense of "apostasy." It's impossible to dispute that in a number of places, the moderates are every bit as irrelevant as Brigitte Gabriel described them. That's not at all unique to the Islamic world, because most of the grim nations of history have consisted of a violent minority compelling obedience from a large number of people who just want to live their lives and raise their children. Actually, there's no social model in which those average moderate folks truly are relevant except for representative democracy. Otherwise, they've got to stop being peaceable before their rulers take them seriously.
The Western world needs the confidence to assert those republican values, call tyranny and barbarism by their right names, and demand better from anyone who wants to join the roll call of civilized nations. But we're curled up in a hapless little ball of white liberal guilt, worried that a bold statement of our values would be offensive to those who most need to hear it. What illusion would satisfy Dana Milbank? Pretending that Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia didn't happen, and since moderates are running the Islamic world, most of what we read in the news isn't really happening either?
How 'Ugly' Remarks Become Insightful When Applied to Conservatives
By John Sexton
19 Jun 2014
After Dana Milbank embarrassed himself earlier this week by dishonestly misrepresenting what transpired at an event held at the Heritage foundation, the New Republic's Brian Beutler rushed to Milbank's defence. Though Beutler wasn't at the event, he argued that the video didn't do justice to the "verbal abuse heaped on a woman" who asked a question at the event.
Beutler went on to say that the conservative panellists let, "their collective Id get the better of them." In particular he singled out an extended analogy one panelist, Brigitte Gabriel, made between Islamic extremists and other extremists including the Nazis. Beutler said of this comparison, "the diatribe itself was ugly and its reception unflattering to Heritage."
That was two days ago. Today, Beutler has a new piece in which he drastically reconsiders his view of "the diatribe." It's titled "Conservatives Claim that Extremist Muslims Render Moderates 'Irrelevant.' How Ironic." The entire point of the new piece is to revise and extend Brigitte Gabriel's "diatribe" to what Beutler calls the "reactionary rump" of the Republican Party.
The great irony in all this is that you can apply a boiled-down, generous version of Gabriel's analysis (that a factional minority can drive a reactionary agenda) to modern conservatism, and it brilliantly captures the dilemma facing the movement she's a part of today. But of course if I or anyone commenting on American politics were to render that analysis by concluding that "non-racist, non-reactionary conservatives are irrelevant," the ensuing outrage on the right would make the response to Milbank's article seem mild by comparison.
So he's not going to "render that analysis" because it would prompt outrage. But then, a paragraph later, he goes right ahead and renders it. Some conservative politicians have said offensive things and have not been sufficiently called out for it. This is, by way of analogy, similar to the kind of bloody mayhem Islamic jihadists commit while a majority of Muslims fail to condemn them.
There's a bit of a categorical error comparing, for instance, what ISIS is doing in Iraq this month and, say, statements by North Carolina GOP Senate Candidate Thom Tillis. One is actually shooting people to death in trenches and the other is saying something offensive, likely unintentionally. But Beutler is rolling. He concludes, "[Brigitte] Gabriel's dismissal of irrelevant, moderate majorities may have just been a remarkable feat of projection." In other words, the "ugly" diatribe which Beutler two days earlier described as a product of the panellists "collective Id" and "unflattering" to the organization that hosted it is dead on once transformed into an attack on the GOP.
If your point is that some people say disreputable things and get applause (or don't get called out) for it, you probably shouldn't seek plaudits for paraphrasing them to attack your opponents. If on the other hand there is a valid point to be made, even at the risk of offending some people who may disagree, then the same latitude should be extended to panellists at a think tank. What you can't legitimately do is try to have it both ways at once.