Monday, October 31, 2005

100th post: hasty reflections on bloglife

Your site is interesting though. Utterly incomprehensible, and a schizophrenic mishmash of racism, pathological hatred of just about everything and half-digested opinions from a contradictory range of ideologies and sources. You call yourself progressive yet hate communism and almost everything left-wing, as well as anything right-wing. You call me racist yet piss on the grave of Rosa Parks.

At nearly 100, I seem to have attracted fans.*

I have come to love the mad terra incognita of the blogosphere. You can get anything you want, and plenty you don't. It's the Mirkwood of media, the Emerald City of bizarre worldviews, the El Dorado of freakish unedited opining. How fitting that I write this on Halloween, the eve of Samhain. The little ghouls and ghostlings at the door are evenly matched, I'd say, by many who haunt the eerie pseudo-space of bloggerdom. Believe me. I've met a whack of 'em. They like me, too. They rise from the La Brea tarpits and seek me out.

Somehow, though, this occasion calls for more than a ritual flick of contempt for the empathetically challenged denizens of the Right. I shall try, this once, for a wider, more inclusive view. Indeed, all sides of the political multi-spectrum flicker and coruscate here. The blogosphere is a universe of elementary particles, bloginos, right and left and top and bottom quarks, mesons, morons, bosons, you name it. They leave fascinating trails in our mental cloud chambers.

But there are no neutrons there.

The blogosphere is, let's face it, a Fight Club for geeks. Every activist has its equal and opposite reactivist, but no blood is drawn. This is where I work out when I'm bored with writing for a living, or studying anthropology. Actually, I guess this is a very good place to study anthropology, come to think of it. And a place for intelligent debate, although you have to go looking for it. Here are foemen (and women) worthy of anyone's steel, and then...there are...others.

This is, however, no mistake, a quantum leap from Usenet, that seething mass of undifferentiated squeaking and howling, although the latter seeps into the comments section of most blogs from time to time. There is a discipline here, if its contours are a little blurry. Those who put up sites have passed through a filter, even if it's torn in places. And those who comment probably know that the site-owners can do what we want with their offerings, and indeed (in a virtual sense) with them. Drunk with power, we are, and with words--those of us who actually write, of course, rather than post links and excerpts.

As I have said probably too many times, the blogosphere is rarely a source of hard news. It's at best a series of editorials, analyses, and odd juxtapositions that can, on rare occasions, reveal something fresh and new, even startling. But writing's the thing. There's good, bad, and downright ugly, and all of it's worth celebrating. And, best of all, we’re our own editors. Or is that "worst of all?"

I'll close on that note, with a little story. I've written my share of articles and op-ed pieces, but these days can barely crank out, no pun intended, the odd (Freud, go back to sleep!) letter to the editor. Recently I heard that the Dalai Lama was going to address a group of neuroscientists in the US on the subject of neuroplasticity, which, in this case, refers to the effects of meditation on the physical structure of the brain. Some people with dubious political motives (and let me note that I'm not sure where I stand on the Tibet question) circulated a petition, pooh-poohing the research on which his talk is to be based, but note the Han names in evidence. That irked me, and I wrote to the Ottawa Citizen, citing the article in a refereed journal, and suggesting that it was based upon sound science.

The editor called me, and spoke with me for nearly an hour. We went over the basic text of the letter, cleared up a misconception or two, whittled away at the text for a while...and he ran it. I wish he hadn't. The header contained the word "Medidation" [sic]. The title of the scientific article that I had cited was printed as though it was my own last sentence. The thing was an abomination after he got through with it. Tattered and torn to rat-shit. And it had my name on it.

I don't have to go through any of that nonsense here, although I do argue with myself a lot. And, by the way, I'm not all that anonymous. Even Dick Evans and the Anonalogue entity figured it out, so it doesn't take intelligence. I like my nom-de-plume, though, and I'm going to stick with it for now. We'll see where we are at post 200.

In the meantime, left-wing, right-wing, upwing or downwing, keep those posts coming. Trick or treat, shit or shinola, it's all rock and roll to me. Did I say I liked it here?


* This one is a self-loathing, mentally colonized Native person who has adopted the name of the villain in Crime and Punishment. Go fetch! Life is a scavenger hunt.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Torture? In Syria? Who knew?

[Tail-wag to Miss Vicky]

The shock on his visage was almost palpable. Pierre Pettigrew, faced with a report from independent investigator Stephen Toope that Canadian citizen Maher Arar, and three other Canadians, had actually been tortured--yes, tortured--in a Syrian jail, couldn't believe his eyes. Our ashen-faced Foreign Affairs Minister immediately called in the Syrian Ambassador for a chit-chat, and demanded that the Syrian government arrest and prosecute itself.

The Ambassador, Jamil Sakr, wasn't having any of that. "Hey, you first," he responded. "You were blaming the Americans all this time, but you kept giving us leads for more questioning, and now you're blaming us? I demand that your government resign."

"That's not going to happen," sneered Pettigrew. "We didn't do anything wrong. CSIS told us everything was on the up-and-up. So did the RCMP. So did our Ambassador."

"What a friend you have in CSIS," Sakr sneered back. "And that Pillarella guy couldn't find his ass with both hands. So we got a little rough. So what? Your RCMP offered us all kinds of help. You never talked to Michel Cabana?"

"Need to know," said Pettigrew sadly, burying his face in his hands. "Anyway, Bill Graham was Minister then, and he never said a word."

Tempers had cooled, and soon the two were shooting the breeze like old beer buddies.

"So you actually torture people?" Pettigrew asked, shaking his curls with amazement.

"Torture, schmorture," Sakr snorted. "Jail's not so bad back home. Inmates even get cable."

Pettigrew laughed in spite of himself. "But this could give you a black eye in the international community," he said.

Sakr groaned. This guy was so dumb you could torture him for a thousand and one nights and be lucky if he got his telephone number right. "We already seem to have a couple of shiners," he said. "The Americans think we're a terrorist threat, maybe even stored those WMDs at our place, but they keep sending us terror suspects anyway. Go figure."

Pettigrew rose to his feet to leave. "On your way so soon?" asked his new friend.

"Duty calls, I'm afraid," said Pettigrew. "We just found out that conditions are bad on Indian reserves, and there's a cabinet meeting. We're all in shock. It's just one damn thing after another."

"Good talking with you," Sakr said. "If you ever see him, give my regards to Jean Chrétien." He laughed. " 'Pepper on my plate.' That guy always cracked me up."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rosa Parks, entitlement queen

Moonbats are weeping crocodile tears over the death of Rosa Parks, a flagrant lawbreaker whose illegal action on December 1, 1955 sparked the communist-backed "civil rights movement" and the eventual Civil Rights Act, denounced by prominent, decent US citizens like Robert Bork and David Duke.

Parks was a classic case: her sense of entitlement (to a seat on a bus, when the law clearly dictated otherwise) was seized upon by organizations with an axe to grind: the NAACP, for example, for whom she worked, was only too happy to have her volunteer to break the law. They stood, and continue to stand, for the repulsive, leftist concept of “racial equality” (thank God The Bell Curve has put the boots to that communist-inspired nonsense), and it is obvious that confronting the enlightened separate but equal policies of the state of Alabama, amusingly called Jim Crow, called for unwitting pawns who were unaware of the NAACP’s true agenda--racial equality.

Here are the ugly facts about the communist-supported Rosa Parks:

Parks' personal history has been lost in the retelling. Prior to her arrest, Mrs. Parks had a firm and quiet strength to change things that were unjust. She served as secretary of the NAACP and later Adviser to the NAACP Youth Council, and tried to register to vote on several occasions when it was still nearly impossible to do so. She had run-ins with bus drivers and was evicted from buses. Parks recalls the humiliation: "I didn't want to pay my fare and then go around the back door, because many times, even if you did that, you might not get on the bus at all. They'd probably shut the door, drive off, and leave you standing there."

Anyone can see through this. It was obvious that Parks had decided to work for the NAACP just for the money, or maybe even as a communist infiltrator, and that their Kremlin paymasters enlisted her to be the poster girl for Negro Black “integration” that later, inevitably, led to affirmative action, the erosion of the US Constitution, and the widespread entitlement mentality that caused the levees to break in New Orleans.

I am pleased that even Canadian commentators like Richard Evans have seen through the propaganda and cut, in record time, to the truth: this uppity lady wasn’t uppity after all--she was put up to her defiance of the law by even more sinister* folks for whom uppitiness was their only credo and constant goal.

Like Tommy Douglas, Rosa Parks isn’t dead enough.


*It is reassuring to note that the educational standards at Ole Miss have been maintained even after the James Meredith debacle. Note the spelling of the URL.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ottawa's finest celebrate Eids

A family celebrating the close of Ramadan was joined by some Ottawa police officers Tuesday night, determined to party in their own way. By the time the cops finished their cavorting, a two-month-old infant, a one-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl had been pepper-sprayed, a grandmother had her leg broken in three places, and the four of them had been taken to hospital. Meanwhile, a nineteen-year old girl and her 23-year old sister were carted off to spend the night in jail.

A large family gathering of the Ozier family had been taking place at their Herongate home. At about 11:30 p.m., a loud altercation took place within the house, which the family says was a "tense debate" between a brother and sister, Iman Ozier and her brother Ali. Two cops on patrol got interested, and demanded entry into the house. When Malak Ozier, 19 (who had gone outside to get a break from the argument) refused to let them enter, she says she was grabbed, shoved to the ground, handcuffed, and put in their police cruiser.

That got the family's attention, and about twenty to twenty-five of them came outside to see what was going on. The cops called for back-up, 20 more cops showed up, and they laid on with a will, dousing the family with pepper-spray, smashing them with batons, and generally showing them who was boss.

Mercifully, the two-month-old infant was not charged with assault upon a police officer, the standard dodge (as we saw recently in Toronto) when cops run amok and need to cover their tracks. Four other family members were, however, and one was charged with an additional offence that should raise an eyebrow or two: "disarming a police officer."

The police claim that the family argument had become physical--the two officers on the scene claim that they'd looked through a window and seen punches thrown. But Malak Ozier asks: "How come the only bruises anyone has on their faces are from mace or batons and not from punches?" One of the other people charged, her sister Iman, did, however, attribute the marks on her face to being shoved into a brick wall. She spent the night in jail, shivering with cold and, she says, being taunted by police when she requested a blanket ("What do you think this is, the Holiday Inn?").

Another one of those charged, Ali, was chased into the house by police: he was taken to Montfort hospital with bruises on his feet, legs and face. The grandmother, who has since expressed the desire to return to Lebanon, fell down some stairs after being blinded with pepper-spray.

Police Superintendent Charles Bordeleau, whose job it is to put a happy face on such incidents, claimed that the family had set upon the police, but added that Police Services is "conducting a review" of the incident. The family, meanwhile, is seeking legal advice, and may go through the empty exercise of making a civilian complaint against police, which will be duly investigated by the police themselves.

Ottawa Police are basking in an unearned victory at the moment, with the arrest of a suspect in the Ardeth Wood murder (it was actually an alert North Bay detective who cracked the case), and the reflected glow may prevent an outbreak of public indignation. But such incidents are becoming disturbingly common in the nation's capital, and they highlight the crying need for an independent complaints system. In the meantime, the circumstances of this encounter are suspicious, to say the least. A clash of civilizations, perhaps?

UPDATE: (October 22) First, two corrections that cause me no little embarrassment: the month of Ramadan continues. The festival of Eid Al-Fitr is still some way off (November 4). The Ozier family (not "Ozeir" as misspelled in a couple of media reports) were in fact having a family reunion, and were breaking their daily fast with a celebratory meal. On top of that, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan is abbreviated to "Eid," not "Eids." It's bad enough getting this sort of thing wrong in the text of an article, but even worse in the header. My apologies to all and sundry.

The family has now filed a formal complaint, and is reported to be hiring a lawyer. I suspect they will do far better with the latter than with the former. I hope the media stay on this story, and clear up some initial confusion: for example,was the infant who was pepper-sprayed by the police two months old (Ottawa Sun) or four months old (Ottawa Citizen)?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The vise closes on Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet, the Right's most-loved sadistic dictator since Saddam Hussein fell out of favour, is going to have his day in court, it seems, whether he wants it or not. Chile's Supreme Court has just stripped the doddering old fascist of his legal immunity--so that he can face charges of tax evasion.

Well, it worked for Al Capone. They couldn't nail him for all the killings, including his well-known celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, so they got him on the tax thing and sent him up.

So far, Pinochet's defence lawyers have held off justice in several human rights cases by arguing that the Butcher of Santiago is too ill for a criminal trial. They're expected to pull the same ruse this time. But the complex tax-avoidance schemes in which Pinochet was involved, according to human rights lawyer Carmen Hertz, could only have been carried out by someone of completely sound mind.

Even conservative Chileans, who had long rationalized Pinochet's bloody reign as not corrupt, at least, are upset over revelations that Pinochet and his family hid millions of dollars in more than a hundred foreign bank accounts. His wife and youngest son actually did a little time for this, after a trial this past August. Some of the money, prosecutors charge, came from kickbacks from European weapons manufacturers.

Don't worry, though, Augusto-- if you're really as gaga as your mouthpieces claim, you won't even know you're in jail. And your good friend Maggie Thatcher might bring you flowers on visitors' day, no doubt accompanied by her not-so-strange bedfellow Jack Straw. Nice to have steadfast friends in all the Right places.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

MÁ-henny. Got it.

The polished-to-a-bright-shine Liberal candidate in Ottawa-Centre has encountered a little choppy water, it seems, in his quest to win a seat in Parliament. Lawyer Richard Mahoney--and you'd better get the pronunciation right, or some Liberal hack will accuse you of being anti-Irish--has been caught lobbying for a big corporate client, Canadian Satellite Radio, without registering with the Lobbyist Registration Branch of Industry Canada, as he was required to do by law.

His damage-control machine was quickly revved up to full throttle: he tried to register, he says, he really did, but administrative mix-ups got in the way. And, anyway, he wasn’t lobbying for CSR, but he thought he ought to register anyway "out of an abundance of caution" as he bumped elbows in September with other well-heeled Liberals, including CSR supporters, at a cosy little get-together at Paul Martin’s house. And he doesn’t remember even discussing satellite radio at the time, or indeed with any government official at any time. And he registered last week. And he terminated his registration with CSR this week. The man gives whole new life to that wonderful cliché, "galloping off in all directions."

CSR and Sirius Canada, both affiliated with US satellite broadcasters, had obtained licenses from CRTC, which had obligingly relaxed the Canadian content regulations for them. This decision was appealed to Cabinet by CHUM Ltd., Astral Media and others. Sometime after the cocktail party, the appeal to Cabinet was rejected. The sound of scratching fingers on itchy backs must have been enough to wake the dead.

One can just feel Mahoney's sweat beginning to bead. This comes at a most awkward time, as word of the contents of the Gomery report is filtering into the media, allegations have surfaced that David Dingwall was doing his share of unregistered lobbying too, and an election is looming. There is a taint that is continuing to spread like a stain across the Liberal party at the moment, and Martin insider Mahoney--a nice guy, from all accounts, although he doesn't have a lot to say--is facing strong opposition from a popular NDP candidate.

Ed Broadbent's hopeful successor, in fact, is a grassroots community activist and schoolteacher, Paul Dewar, the son of legendary former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar. He has built strong links to neighbourhood associations, students, working people and the many ethnic communities to be found in Ottawa-Centre. He is well-known and well-liked throughout the riding, and he has the common touch.

On the other hand one gets the distinct impression, watching Richard Mahoney in action, as I did at numerous all-candidates' meetings last election, that he is most at home in the back-rooms, strategizing and plotting. He's got a fair grasp of some of the issues, puts the requisite Liberal gloss on them, and knows when to duck (as he did, repeatedly, on the issue of electoral reform). My gut feeling is that ordinary people and their boring little problems are somewhat less important to sleek Liberal operators than their love of "the game."

That doesn't prevent such people being elected, of course. But Ottawa-Centre is full of voters who are smart, sophisticated and, as Ed Broadbent's thumping victory last time indicated, tired of Liberal shenanigans. Whether Mahoney's "administrative mix-up" story turns out to have substance or not, he's got a problem. Will his vigorous little dance get him into a safer part of the auditorium in time for E-Day? Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Notes on racism

The words "racist" and "racism" get chucked around a lot, but they're not without meaning, despite the Herculean efforts of those on the Right to shrug off/dismiss/mock/render inoperable their use. More recently, as an instance of the latter, they have taken to accusing their opponents on the Left, not to mention racialized minorities, as "racist." But this is part of what can only be seen as a virtual program of obfuscation.

What follows are some notes that I hope will provoke some debate. They arise out of frustration, and have two proximate causes: a letter from my perennial sparring partner Mark Collins to the Globe & Mail, posted as a comment here, and a couple of quick-and-dirty email exchanges between Steve Sailer and myself.

Racism is not an abstract category. Racism arose as an ideological infliction (with dire practical consequences) upon subject populations during the colonial Age of Exploration. It was a means of defining those populations of Others as inferior, but not in a simple way: colonization generated conflicting discourses of exploitation and protection, the (childlike) Noble Savage versus bodies built for toil, Nature versus Culture. But all such discourses rationalized the colonial enterprise. One cannot colonize equals.

Indeed, unequal power relations are inscribed in the practice of racism. They fix social relations as timeless, in two ways. First, the subject populations are themselves "out of time": time begins only with European contact. Naïve discourses about "culture" reveal the flawed notion of an unchanged cultural essence, from which colonized peoples are separated. Hence they lack something fundamental that the European colonizers possess. Secondly, the on-going deprived condition of the subject population is rationalized ahistorically: they are condemned to their status by virtue of God’s will, or innate flaws of character, or, more recently in history, their genes.

In other words, racism is inextricably linked to the colonial enterprise and its aftermath. One might object that there are stunning exceptions: the attempted genocide of the Jews and the Roma by the Third Reich, for example. But even a superficial look at the Nazi project indicates that it was fundamentally an expansionist and radically colonialist enterprise (for example, the Nazi plans for Eastern Europe involved wholesale changes of flora and fauna, and extravagant plans for constructing German settler communities supported by slave labour). The frightening thing to many--the aspect of Nazism that transformed it in many minds into a metaphysical evil rather than a historical phenomenenon--was that it was being done to light-skinned folks right there in Europe. They were the new inferiors, the Untermenschen, a view allegedly validated by "racial science." That was downright--unnatural.

Since To Kill a Mockingbird is in the news these days, here is an illustrative excerpt:

An inquiring soul in the middle of the room said, "Why don't they like the Jews, you reckon, Miss Gates?"

"I don't know, Henry. They contribute to every society they live in, and most of all, they are a deeply religious people. Hitler's trying to do away with religion, so maybe he doesn't like them for that reason."

Cecil spoke up. "Well I don't know for certain," he said, "they're supposed to change money or somethin', but that ain't no cause to persecute 'em. They're white, ain’t they?"

Reaction to racism by racialized minorities is not racism. This is where things get tricky, especially for liberal universalizers who like to wrench their categories out of time and history, and redefine them as moral injunctions, and for conservatives who want to explode the categories by deliberately misusing them (e.g., "political correctness," one of their more astoundingly successful appropriations/re-definitions, and, of course, "anti-Semitism," redefined as "opposition to Israeli foreign policy.")

When a white person calls a Black person a "nigger," the term is used to mark the inferiority of the latter: its use has an obvious social meaning. When a Black person calls a white person a "honky," that does not bear the same meaning at all: it's not racism, it's a defiant expression of opposition to racializing oppression, mimicking and reversing a discursive practice that originated with the oppressor. Its use hardly threatens to reverse the status quo of unequal power relations, although it does (in a minor way) destabilize it by ironically drawing attention to it.

The calls for African-centred learning, parallel justice systems for Blacks and Aboriginals and so on, are pounced upon by conservatives who mimic liberal language to condemn these as racist. The latter's agenda is, in fact, to make minorities disappear: to make them "like us" in every respect--just listen to conservatives on the subject of multiculturalism and this becomes fairly obvious. Liberals don't much like this sort of thing either: to them, it's the flipside of a bad history, a new segregation. What both fail to do is to factor power into their analyses. What is being demanded, within the current system of unequal power relations and the racializing of groups of people, is a counter-current, the development of loci of power in the education and legal systems. In other words, these demands are motivated by a recognition of the question of power.

Race is a social construct. Reams of junk science purport to show that "race" is an empirically valid category, and that some "races" are more intelligent than others. This line of thought originated with Conte Arthur de Gobineau in the mid-nineteenth century, reached its dismal apotheosis in the "racial science" of the Third Reich, and has degenerated since into the clownishness of our own Phillippe Rushton, running around measuring students skulls with string and the like, not to mention the Bell Curve nonsense. In the background--but not very far--are organizations like the neo-Nazi Pioneer Fund. This sort of thing should make even conservatives blink, but, in line with their notion that the status quo is always optimized, that is, that people rightly belong wherever they are in a stratified society, there is an obvious seductiveness about it.

As I have noted in previous articles, the Hurricane Katrina disaster allowed many conservatives to invoke obvious racial stereotyping, encoded in conservative notions of "character" and the like. Having "science" as an alleged ally once again uproots racism from history and time and makes "racial differences" immutable. Yet there is an odd contradiction at the heart of this. Conservatives who invoke "character" (through denunciations of the "entitlement mentality" and so on) suggest at least the possibility that the moral deficiencies of, say, the residents of New Orleans, can be overcome. The scientific racialists, however, argue to the contrary that nothing much can be done. Steve Sailer manages to wed the two seemingly opposed notions by arguing that the innate deficiencies of Blacks can be at least partially remedied by "stricter moral guidance." (Sailer has his fans in more mainstream conservative circles--Michelle Malkin, for example, and, quelle surprise, Kathy Shaidle.).

Where does the new racism lead? Sailer tells me (personal communication) that he's not a racist because he doesn't wish other races ill, but it's important to ask what the social consequences of racializing minorities and attributing a genetic destiny to them must be. Can anyone seriously argue that the future is bright for those who are racialized and branded by pseudo-science? We've seen how public policy from the Right follows: Nixon cut back the Head Start program, for example, after Arthur Jensen’s spurious racial science reared its ugly head in the early seventies. Why have affirmative action programs, after all, why spend money on the disadvantaged, why try to lift people out of poverty with intelligent social programs, if genetics makes it all a waste of time and resources?

There is something disingenuous, in fact, in the conservative mantra about individual efforts and values. I, for one, read a double message in such pronouncements: first, that bad (liberal) values are responsible for poverty and other social ills, not racism, heavens no; and second, that if some do better than others in society, that's simply the way of the world. We can't enforce equality of outcomes, conservatives cry, and if there is inequality there, it doesn't prove discrimination. Perhaps it's conscious choice. Perhaps it's--ability.

How far beneath the surface does racism lurk in the alleged "colour-blindness" advocated by the "moderate" Right, which is really based upon the pretense that power and unequal social relations have nothing to do with social stratification? I would argue that not all adherents of right-wing politics are consciously racist, but that an inevitable consequence of their politics, in broad terms, is the retention of a racist status quo. And we have seen that racism can indeed erupt into the writings of even relatively humane conservatives. In one way or another, then, I believe the argument can be made that racism remains a potent, malign, energizing force at the heart of present-day conservatism.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Locutions I hate

OK, this one's a gripe-session. I don't have time for much more due to pressures of business and exams. But I'm starting to wince every time I see any of these:

1) "Stuck on stupid." I can understand the Right using clichés. But inventing them and holding on to them for dear life? What are they trying to prove? That they all think alike? That they don't think at all?

It appears that this phrase originated with a certain Lt. General Russell Honore, who thereby deflected some tough questions from the media, or attempted to. This was his reasoned response, in fact, to an enquiry about where evacuees would be taken if Hurricane Rita caused a Katrina-like catastrophe. His little game delighted the Right: one in the eye for the "MSM." It has, after all, limitless possibilities: "Mr. President, where are the WMDs?" "Don't get stuck on stupid." It's more reader-friendly than "F*ck you, I'm in charge," I guess.

2) "über-" anything at all. Who came up with this pretentious nonsense anyway? Sticking a German prefix onto English words as an intensifier gives the user some kind of cachet, is that it? Über-bloggers, über-brands, now übersexuals. Good grief. Is this nostalgia for the good old days of Übermenschen and such? It would certainly be in keeping with the temper of the times (tail-wag here to Mark Collins for the reference).

3) This. Kind. Of. Stupid. Writing. What on earth do people think they're doing with this tiresome device? What is such a thing meant to convey? That long sentences are evil? More likely, that the speaker is more important than what's being said. It's pure Grade Ten drama queen, is what it is, and it Simply. Has. To. Stop. Right. Now.

4) "MSM." I know, I've been on about this before, but it doesn't seem to be having any effect. (Insert your smiley here.) The implicit assumption--that blogging is somehow more informative, true, honest, and politically reliable than what the corporate media puts out--is twaddle. It's simply more editorialized. Bloggers aren't reporters--we're columnists, at best, at least those of us who actually write articles instead of bolding a few words from someone else's writing and posting a link.

5) "Librano$." OK, OK, enough, already. We get it. Jeez! Note to Kate over at SDA: Don't be over-broad in your use of this by-now mouldy term. I've never voted Liberal in my life.

6) "Moonbats." Well, this will delight the rightist bloginos who dart through the blogosphere with velocity but no mass, but some of us grown-ups who like to have debates actually get a little tired of the name-calling. Sure, we all do it--on occasion. I've just done it here. But--news flash--we don't rely on such devices to win arguments. Reasoned rebuttals are cool, though. Just not as common as they ought to be.

All right, enough for now. But readers are invited to post their least favourite locutions here. I think we need to assemble a collection for an appendix to Blogging for Dummies.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pigs and piglets

In spite of myself, I've been thinking rather too much about the current jihad taking place on the right half of the blogosphere: the "free Piglet" nonsense. Cerberus has pretty well nailed it, and if he left anything out, Chris Selley has provided his own eloquent analysis of l'affaire porcelet. Consider this a long footnote.

Religious intolerance, like racism, lies deep at the core of right-wing politics, and this latest joyful outbreak, coming not so coincidentally at about the same time as the beginning of Ramadan, has unsurprisingly spread like wildfire. Fuelled in part by yet another florid column by Mark Steyn, it's now taken the shape of a full-fledged campaign, led by that well-known (in parts of the blogosphere at least) paragon of loving kindness, Kathy Shaidle.

Now, selectivity and distortion never hurt a campaign, and we've seen quite a bit of it here. Take, for example, that poor lady in Leicester, Nancy Bennett, hassled by the, er, police for having some porcelain pigs in a window of her home. Well, there was more here than initially met the eye. It turns out that the pigs, placed in a window facing a street frequented by large numbers of Muslims attending a local mosque, were accompanied by a hand-lettered passage from the Qur'an. The display was meant to be observed, and it was meant to be insulting, in a Fred Phelps kind of way.

But the crowning incident, of course, was the Piglet coffee-mug in an office, a whiny complaint, and cackhanded official action. That sort of rank stupidity simply catalyzes the Right, just as, on the opposite side of the coin, a crucifix in a jar of urine led to legal restrictions on the type of artistic endeavour that could be supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (which hadn’t even funded the piece). The latter, I would argue, is a far more serious affront to liberty, but that was a different fight, and the Right were on the wrong side of it.

Never mind. Appeals to tolerance, even from those with suspect motives, strike a resonant chord in me. Banning Piglet mugs is right up there with the Surrey School Board's banning of a student production of The Laramie Project. It smells of the same unreason as was shown by the creators of a calendar over at the CLC one year, which indicated by name every multicultural festival you could think of but called December 25 "Christian holiday" instead of "Christmas." In other words, it's at the fringes of what is in essence a project of inclusion, derisively called "political correctness" (more on that some other time). And the fringes are always rich with examples to discredit the core of any movement, ideology or world-view. There is no idea, no matter how good, that doesn't have nuttiness at the edges of it, waiting to be used as a fulcrum by those who detest the idea itself.

And so the decent impulse to be sensitive to cultural difference has inevitably produced examples of condescension (inherent in the very word "tolerance") and pure silliness, as we have seen; just as the struggle of women for equality has seen its share of the same, and the fight against racism, too. But the conclusions to be drawn from this surely must not be that we go on being culturally insensitive, sexist and racist.

Obviously I object to this latest example of disingenuous synecdoche from the Right. It's not Piglet that is at issue here; it's Islam itself. In a coffee-mug incident we are urged to see the true face of that religion and its followers, caricatured as a teeming mass of intolerant fanatics. Just look at Steyn's raving paranoia: from a handful of instances of official blunderment in Blighty, he sees nothing less than a "descent into dhimmitude." That has to rank as one of the most breathtakingly stupid statements of this new century. It's worthy, in fact, of a Guinness entry.

But it reveals much about the current campaign, being waged--let us not mince words here--by a crowd of hateful bigots. "Show us your pigs," is their battlecry, and I am tempted to observe that we are seeing quite a few of them.

But let me conclude on a slightly different note. Could the fuss about gentle Piglet reveal more than the common-or-garden intolerance presently being secreted by the usual suspects? Could Piglet himself be a site of projection of their fear of the Other, Muslims as Heffalumps? I'll let the reader decide:

By and by Piglet woke up. As soon as he woke he said to himself, "Oh!" Then he said bravely, "Yes," and then, still more bravely, "Quite so." But he didn't feel very brave, for the word which was really jiggeting about in his brain was "Heffalumps." What was a Heffalump like? Was it Fierce? Did it come when you whistled? And how did it come? Was it Fond of Pigs at all? If it was Fond of Pigs, did it make any difference what sort of Pig? Supposing it was Fierce with Pigs, would it make any difference if the Pig had a grandfather called TRESPASSERS WILLIAM? He didn't know the answer to any of these questions...and he was going to see his first Heffalump in about an hour from now!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Adoption follies update

Some time ago I posted an article about impending Ontario legislation that would, in its current form, permit adoptees to track down their birth parents—even if the latter do not wish contact.

There is now a petition on-line for those who want the legislation to include a "disclosure veto": that is, the right of either an adoptee or a birth parent to place a legally enforceable note on the record stating that they do not wish to be contacted. I would urge all those who believe that the promise of privacy given to adoptees and birth parents (usually mothers) should continue to be kept, to sign this petition:

UPDATE: (October 6) Readers may judge for themselves, simply by reading the comments here, whether I was right in my earlier article, at least on an anecdotal basis, with respect to the state of mind of those on the other side of this debate. But there is one matter that does require correction. I was remiss in suggesting, above, that a disclosure veto simply amounts to a request not to be contacted.

A contact veto, per se, is indeed available under the proposed Bill. A disclosure veto, however, allows birth parents or adoptees to keep details of their identity confidential, to prevent the possibility of contact. The difference is really one of added security, given that obsessive individuals might not be deterred by a contact veto. (A look at the dismal failure rate of temporary restraining orders should give one pause for thought in this connection.) Unwilling birth parents or adoptees should be spared the fear of unwanted contact, and nothing less than a disclosure veto will provide assurance in that respect.

The "MSM" suckers the Right

The right half of the blogosphere is in trouble now. News is that those reports out of New Orleans during the disasteryou know the ones, rapes of children, indiscriminate killings, the "brutish" populace, the omnipresent "savagery," Blacks, in short, reverting to typeare bogus. I posted one sober second thought here. Now the Right, by and large no longer able to withstand the obvious (although a handful are in denial), are spinning this thing backwards to a fair-thee-well.

The shrieks of betrayal are simply amazing to hear: for haven't these people been telling us for years that the "MSM" (God, how I loathe that smug little acronym), in the grip of "liberal elites," or "the lib-left," or whatnot, lie to us constantly, filter the news, write it their way, etc., etc., ad nauseam? But guess what? When the "MSM" start to throw big greasy chunks of racism in their direction, feeding what festers at the core of their politics, the Right gobbles it all up, regurgitates it, cluck-clucks about it, uses code-words like "entitlement," and, over and under all of their braying, we can hear, at a deafening pitch, the background noise: "We told you so."

The T.V. footage and photographs carried by the MSM has established in the mind of observers world-wide the fact that the relapse into savagery in New Orleans was an African-American phenomenon. --VDare

I'll say it again: If the city of Detroit or Chicago were flooded, there would be the type of looting, raping, violence and savagery we are currently witnessing in New Orleans. If the city of La Jolla or Burlington were flooded, there would not. --Logical Meme

It is solely blacks, not whites, who are engaged in the
savage behavior in New Orleans. Second, the fact remains that the non-criminal part of the black population is incapable of getting control of black savagery and incapable of running a civilized society. --View from the Right

I can't watch the footage any longer. I've seen one poor woman who just arrived at the Astrodome look into the camera and say, "God bless you all for helping us." Everyone else looks like a selfish savage with delusions of entitlement. --Relapsed Catholic

And when taking isn't enough (it never is), they devolve into predation and anarchy, abandon the weak, turn upon the innocent and each other - and all in a matter of days. --Small Dead Animals

[T]he criminal freaks in New Orleans… should be eaten by alligators. --Least Loved Bedtime Stories

[New Orleans] entrust[ed] its most vulnerable citizens to the gang-infested faecal hell of the Superdome.
...Welfare culture is bad not just because, as in Europe, it's bankrupting the state, but because it enfeebles the citizenry, it erodes self-reliance and resourcefulness. --Mark Steyn [Note: "shiftless, lazy Black" meme meets "jungle savage" meme]

But, my goodness, it all proved to be... "overblown." No rapes, no unfettered violence in the Superdome. And the bodies? Where are the bodies? All those raped children with their throats slit? You mean…there was no descent to the jungle norm? No utter abandonment of civilized principles of conduct? As people like myself were arguing all along, with examples?

So now the story simply has to change, and who better to write it than that arch-prig Mark Steyn? "Nobody," he now acknowledges, "got killed by a hooligan in the Superdome. The problem wasn't rape and murder, but the rather more prosaic lack of bathroom facilities." A re-writing, you will quickly note, of his earlier "gang-infested, faecal hell of the Superdome," emphasis now solely on the latter adjective.

Are we in for a bout of principled self-criticism? Not bloody likely. That sort of thing simply doesn't happen in right-wing circles. Too Maoist, perhaps. Instead, why not blame
you guessed itthe media? And not, I'll say, without reason: for the latter picked up every rumour, every little bit of hearsay, every wisp or phrase that validated their preconceived notions about race. Credulous? I’ll say. Incompetent? Ditto. But where's the "left-liberal cabal" theory of the "MSM" now? In fricken tatters, that's where.

Let's take a hard and sober look at the "MSM." Notice, first of all, that the phrase is plural. Secondly, that thousands of people toil in this domain. Thirdly, that news now flies in from all over at the speed of light, in unprecedented volume. Not much time for conspiracy, and far too many people to crowd a boardroom. Is there , however, a kind of group-think, a shared set of assumptions, a reflection of certain interests in evidence in the corporate media? Of course. But to argue that these interests are left-wing is simply fatuous, as the endless racial discourses from New Orleans reveal all too well.

What, then, if anything, has the Right learned from this? Apparently very little, as Steyn's self-serving piece, linked to a whack of right-wing blogs (tail-wag here to Celestial Junk), illustrates. Blame the media. For what? Why
for sucking us in and making us look like, well, racist fools. They were credulousbut so were we. And we're mad as hell about it. That's the real message here.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and virulent racism bubbles away on the Right as usual. Over at Angry's we are treated to an outraged series of comments about four Black youths in Florida who groped schoolgirls and were punished appropriately for it. He treats us to a lusty recrudescence of the "wild Black man attacks white women" meme. "Animals parading as humans," he shrieks, using this anecdote to promote the school voucher system (i.e., segregation). Meanwhile, an eerily similar incident took place right here in Ottawa at about the same time. The boys were sent off to group homes for their crimes. Not a peep out of Angry about this case, although it was right on his doorstep. No "animals" comments. No racial angle to exploit. He had to go all the way to Florida to find that.

Just as the Right and the media went hand-in-hand to New Orleans and found exactly what they were looking for.