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« Tyrants versus Liberators | Main | How Christianity Is Viewed »

September 26, 2007

Re: Myth of Dialogue

I don't know, Diane. I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I actually feel like the most powerful response to idiotic lies, such as the type told probably hourly by Ahmadinejad, is to give them a hearing in the marketplace of ideas and then shine the light of critical analysis upon them. Under such exposure, they rightly make all recoil or, preferably, laugh. (The only more painful response to one's ideas than disgust is, after all, honest laughter.) And those are precisely the reactions that Ahmadinejad's speech elicited.

Laughter:

"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at Columbia University last night in response to a question about the recent execution of two gay men there.

"In Iran we do not have this phenomenon," he continued. "I do not know who has told you we have it."

Loud laughs and boos broke from the audience of about 700 people, mostly students at the Ivy League school whose garb included "Stop Ahmadinejad's Evil" T-shirts. 

Disgust:

When Ahmadinejad, speaking in Farsi, actually tried to crack a joke, it drew no laughter, although maybe the nuance was lost in translation.

"Let me tell a joke here," Ahmadinejad said. "I think the politicians who are after atomic bombs, or testing them, making them, politically they are backward, retarded."

The crowd seemed uncertain how to react. Some applauded that pacifist sentiment, others seemed befuddled by the insensitive use of the word "retarded".

I mean, what more powerfully captures supreme idiocy and ignorance than to let it show itself? Let the fool show himself a fool for all to see.

I also find myself enjoying the verbal thrashing that President Bollinger, under pressure to be sure, delivered to the Iranian president before his speech. Wow, what a pummeling! That said, I also have to admit that I find the Corner's excerpting of William F. Buckley on a similar matter compelling:

Some of you may feel the obligation to externalize your knowledge that you know he is here to defend the indefensible. You may jeer him...; some of you may treat him with that terrible coldness that is the sign of the intellectual foreknowledge that you cannot, at your level of attainment, take seriously the man who speaks and works for a kingdom which it is the very purpose of your education to know to despise. Why then bring him here, if no purpose can be served and if it can only result that you will humiliate yourselves and him? Because you are willing to humiliate yourselves in order to humiliate him?

Fight him, fight the tyrants everywhere; but do not ask them to your quarters, merely to spit on them, and do not ask them to your quarters if you cannot spit on them. To do the one is to ambush a human being as one might a rabid dog; to do the other is to ambush oneself, to force oneself, in disregard of those who have died trying to make the point, to break faith with humanity.

So my thoughts on the matter are a bit in tension right now. Still, if I ultimately agree with your position (that Columbia shouldn't have invited Ahmadinejad), I think it is probably for a somewhat different reason. Namely that, as Buckley pointed out, we force ourselves to treat an invited guest badly in our pursuit of public justice.

And that's just bad manners.

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Comments

Diane Singer

Allen, Great quote from Buckley!

I made a similar point about Bollinger's rudeness under the Ahmadinejad posting. We may feel like he exposed himself as a jerk (he did, but that's hardly news to anyone who has been paying attention to what the guy has been saying for the past several years), but Bollinger's rudeness doesn't play well in Middle Eastern countries which value hospitality since shaming a guest is taboo. Ahmadinejad will reap big PR points among the Muslims for Bollinger's words.

I seriously doubt that Ahmadinejad cares about changing OUR minds: after all, we are the Great Satan he wants to see destroyed. But he cares a great deal about increasing his prestige in the Muslim world. Anything that makes us look like barbarians scores him points.

labrialumn

Mussolini made the trains run on time. Does that mean that trains running on time is an evil thing?

National Socialist Germany prosecuted theft, does that make theft a good thing?

A little logic, please?

Homosexuality is not a natural condition, but an unnatural choice. A perversion, and an abomination and blasphemy to God. (Romans 1).

The blogger's post almost sounds approving of homosexuality.

Allen

labrialumn,

?? The reason people laughed at A-jad about the "we don't have homosexuals ... I don't know who has told you [we do]", is that every nation or state throughout history has had homosexuals. So that this clear denial of obvious truth is just one more clear denial of obvious truth by A-jad (we don't support terrorists; there was no massive Jewish Holocaust; etc) and that frankly is funny. It's as if I, with great bluster and certainty, told an audience that the moon is made of cheese. They would rightly laugh at me.

The point is that the emperor has no clothes. That's funny. [Of course one could deride my amusement with that classic tale by saying I'm thereby approving indecent exposure, but ... I think you catch my drift.]

Brian

I echo Diane's comment: GREAT quotation by Buckely.

Anna

I agree with Allen. Since there can be no meaningful discussion, it's bad to be rude, but we can't really avoid being rude... why did we invite him?

Sy Hoekstra

I disagree, Diane. (man, I just won't go away, will I?) I don't see the problem with being harsh and direct with Ahmadenijad. I don't think that Prezbo was insulting by any western standard. He was direct, but never insulting. He said what he thought in very clear terms, but was not degrading, and then gave Ahmenijad an honest chance to give a rebuttle. Telling people what you think of them and giving them a more than fair chance to defend themselves is not rude. It just sounds like Jesus calling the shallow religious leaders of his day liars and hipocrits. And no, for the record, I do not equate Prezbo to Jesus. Also, Diane, after having called him a modern day Hitler and a megolomaniacal, murderous scoundral, why are you suddenly concerned with possibly being rude? I think the answer is that he is in fact all the things you called him. So Prezbo was just saying all the things you wouldn't have said for fear of being rude.

jason taylor

"Also, Diane, after having called him a modern day Hitler and a megolomaniacal, murderous scoundral, why are you suddenly concerned with possibly being rude? I think the answer is that he is in fact all the things you called him. So Prezbo was just saying all the things you wouldn't have said for fear of being rude."

The reason not to be rude is for the principle of the thing.
Suppose a man was about to be executed. Suppose further it was obvious that he deserved it and there were no mitigating circumstances. You still should not join the mob jeering at him-because it is degrading to do so.
Likewise the right thing to do when Ahamedenijad speaks is to stay home. Hearing him gives him recognition. Jeering at him is dehumanizing both him and yourself.
So stay home.

labrialumn

Allan,
How can you know, or maintain that every nation or people throughout history had people who so hated God, who so refused to give thanks to God and continued on down the path of corruption that God finally gave them over to homosexuality? (Romans 1)? I suppose that is possible, but how can you know that? When Nineveh repented in dust and ashes, was that all but a few? On the ark, which of the 8 were homosexual offenders?

I'm not so sure that Ahmedadinejad is insane as people like to paint him. I think he is very rational, considering his worldview, and we would do better to understand his worldview in order to better predict his actions, rather than to ridicule him. I suppose that is a prudential issue, on how to best deal with an enemy.

When the free West made fun of Hitler (look to the old Charlie Chaplain films), it left us mlitarily unprepared for his doing what he said he was going to do, what his book said he was going to do. I don't think that the West's way of laughing him off was prudent. I think we should take rattlesnakes seriously.

There is also the matter of audience that someone else brought up. The Muslim world would take that very unhelpfully. It would have been far better to show him hospitality while he was here, and then deconstruct what he said after he left. The Muslim world would then have been less likely to dismiss the points against him. Obviously not the majority, but a few might have listened. But if we show ourselves to be the immoral barbarians they say we are, we are just playing to the radical's agenda.

Brian

"How can you know, or maintain that every nation or people throughout history had people who so hated God, who so refused to give thanks to God and continued on down the path of corruption that God finally gave them over to homosexuality?"

Just in case anyone missed it. I'm about to eat lunch so I got to take that one on an empty stomach.

Sy Hoekstra

Well, to Jason and Labrialumn, I would just like to reiterate that the forum was a debate. Ahmadenijad knew ahead of time that Bolinger would ask tough questions. His acting offended was political acting. It seems to have fooled a lot of people. I would say in a debate setting, what Bolinger did wasn't rude. It was debating. He stated the clear case against the Iranian government very well.

hipotecas & prestamos

Osama in Iran?

The Islamic Republic of Iran represents a clear and present danger to America. We are facing new threats, new capabilities, with very old and familiar intentions.

This is a regime whose leaders open official meetings with shouts of “Death to America.” This is a regime that has a long track record of murdering Americans, in Beirut, in Saudi Arabia, and in Iraq. Now this regime has acquired nuclear weapons capability.

Simply put, al Qaeda would not exist today as an organized force without the active material support from Iran.

Carlos Menendez
http://www.creditomagazine.es

Sy Hoekstra

Hold on now. Iran giving support to Al Qaeda? The Iranian government is Shia. Al Qaeda is Suni. Why would Iran support Al Qaeda? We can't just lump all muslims into one big group that are all on the same side, aiming only to destroy America. They fight internally just as much as Christians historically have.

jason taylor

"Hold on now. Iran giving support to Al Qaeda? The Iranian government is Shia. Al Qaeda is Suni. Why would Iran support Al Qaeda? We can't just lump all muslims into one big group that are all on the same side, aiming only to destroy America. They fight internally just as much as Christians historically have."

That is a fallacy. You cannot assume people won't ally anymore then you can assume they will. That is simply making a monalith of subgroups among Moslems rather then Moslems as a whole. We sided with the Russians during the war and the Finns sided with the Germans, in both cases simply because the present enemy was on the other side. Alliance shifting is just as common in the Middle East.
Besides, if Iran hates Al Queda as much as you claim that is a good reason to support them, "They are all martyrs in the service of Islam. We mourn them so much."
The fact is it is very much in Iran's strategic interest to support Al Quaeda and so far has carried reliativly little cost.


Sy Hoekstra

Jason, I understand all that. And I don't know if Iran is supporting Al Qaeda or not. We know they're supporting terrorists in Iraq, but that doesn't mean they must be supporting Al Qaeda. I was under the impression that the divide between Sunis and Shias was strong enough for them never to alie with each other. I could be wrong, but I thought that each gbroup believes the other to not even be true Muslims. So there was no argumentative falacy on my part. There wasn't even an argument. I'm just pointing out something that sounds strange to me.

Jason Taylor

Jason, I understand all that. And I don't know if Iran is supporting Al Qaeda or not. We know they're supporting terrorists in Iraq, but that doesn't mean they must be supporting Al Qaeda. I was under the impression that the divide between Sunis and Shias was strong enough for them never to alie with each other. I could be wrong, but I thought that each gbroup believes the other to not even be true Muslims. So there was no argumentative falacy on my part. There wasn't even an argument. I'm just pointing out something that sounds strange to me.

Fair enough. Power Politics is very strange.


Pre-1939 Germany and Russia were in a state of cold war. And the world was eagerly anticipating when they would destroy each other. In 1939 they were allies. In 1941 they were full out enemies.

Finland was at war with Russia in 1939, neutral in 1940. And at war again in 1941. In 1944(I believe)Finland opted out but the cease-fire demanded that Germans be cleared from Finland. Which meant that Finland was at war with Germany in 1944.

The Yishuvim(pre-Israel)were at war with the Arabs in alliance with the British around 1937. During World War II they were obviously at war with Germany, while the immigration issue made them something close to being at war with Britain within Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean. This continued until the War of Independance(1947-48)where upon they were of course at war with the Arabs-and managed to get the UN votes of both US and USSR for Partition.
Oh yes and in 1941 they assisted the British in conquering Vichy French Syria-which made them allies of Jordan.

Have you got all that? Good no one else does either but it is interesting.
----------------------------------
As for Sunnis and Shia-well the Catholic French were allied to the Protestant Swedes against the Catholic Hapsburgs in the Thirty Years War(by the way I am not trying to beat you down-as you said you don't disaggree necessarily, you just find it strange. I am merely listing some interesting examples of the peculiarites of politics).
-------------------------
In any case Sunni and Shia is a slight oversimplification. Moslems are divided into myriads of different tribes and will often place tribal self-interest before religion. Think Scottish Clans-or Godfather. That is a point that always has to be reckoned with.

As for whether Iran would support Al Queda, one of the main reasons is simply to keep the war going on as long as possible. In that purpose I don't think they will be picky though I could be wrong. I do however think they will put the fact that we are the most dangerous political rival in the region above theological dissaggreement. Moreover the Iraqi insurgents have recently begun to change sides for such things as revenge, bandwagoning, etc. It may well come soon that their only choice is support Al Queda, confront us openly, or simply "fold". They can't face us openly and they don't want to fold if they can avoid it.

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