Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Progressive dirty pool

A cautionary word, first of all, to my readers: I am here departing from a position that I have argued for strongly on a number of occasions--namely, that progressive bloggers should go easy on each other in their blog-posts. Unique circumstances, which I shall describe, lead me to make an exception. I am, needless to say, posting this as Dr.Dawg, not as a ProgBlogMod.

Terry Glavin, a member of Progressive Bloggers, runs a blog called Chronicles & Dissent. (No link, sorry. Go look it up.
) He writes columns here and there, and he recently reviewed a new book by Nick Cohen in The Tyee. Cohen is worth reading, although exasperating on occasion: I once had a few words to say about him here. He raises uncomfortable questions that the Left needs to wrestle with, even if he does so in a style that resembles fingernails on a blackboard.

Glavin, however, is no gadfly on a lazy horse, more of a horsefly looking for blood. His weapon isn't puckish critique, but slander. You can get the measure of Terry pretty quickly, in fact, by reading a column of his that appeared a little while ago in the Georgia Straight. (My comments are in italics, in square brackets.)

Things started at a July 18 demonstration in Montreal, when a small group of young Lebanese showed up with a sign that read “Peace for Lebanon and Israel”. They were shouted at and shoved around and driven off. Their sign was torn up. The event then proceeded, with people carrying placards that bore the flag of the fascist organization Hezbollah and pictures of Hezbollah's rabidly anti-Semitic leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

[COMMENT: 1)A more balanced view of the give-and-take between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators may be found here:
Note that one of the counter-demonstrators adds a comment in the Comments section. There was no organized attempt to shove around or drive off counter-demonstrators. The peace demo was not monolithic: note the references to the “triumph of Islam” demonstrator, whom at least one peace demonstrator figured was a plant (Comments section). 2) One should be careful of applying Western concepts like “fascist” too loosely. It obfuscates, rather than clarifies. And one should also be wary of calling any Arab leader “anti-Semitic” without proof (see below).]

Before the month was out, you could fairly mark July 2006 as one of the most squalid months in the history of the “left” in Canada.

[COMMENT: Empty, insulting language.]

On July 22, at a Toronto rally sponsored by the Canadian Peace Alliance, there were Hezbollah flags, strapping young men in Hezbollah T-shirts, Nasrallah's fat, stupid face in placard-sized photographs, and pictures of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier and lyncher of homosexuals.

[COMMENT: 1) “fat, stupid face” – pointless namecalling. Does Glavin actually have anything of substance to say? 2) Without holding a brief for Ahmadinejad, and his latest antics, did pictures of him represent the CPA, or only the people who carried them? As noted, the demonstration was hardly monolithic.]

To be clear about the depths of this squalor: Hezbollah glorifies death and war to the point of making pornography out of it,

[COMMENT: “Pornography?” Examples? Or is this simply a “snarl-word” used for rhetorical effect?]

calls Jews the descendants of “apes and pigs”

[COMMENT: A reference to a 1998 speech by Nesrallah where he is alleged to have said this has some currency in anti-Hezbollah circles, but quotes like this prove elusive to track down. They seem to erupt exclusively in pro-Israel publications and websites; one has to ask why such things would not be proudly reported in certain Muslim ones. I am not stating that Nasrallah has never uttered such words, or harbours such sentiments; only that they appear to be reported only by his enemies. (Incidentally, Sura 5:60 of the Qur’an, whence all this “apes and pigs” talk keeps arising, does not refer to “the Jews.”)]

, and happily disseminates such fascist classics as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

[COMMENT: Nasrallah “happily disseminates” this rot (which certainly has some currency in some Muslim countries)? Do we have proof here, or simply more allegation?]

Nasrallah himself is helpfully unambiguous about his hatred of Jews: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say 'the Israeli.'?”

[COMMENT: This oft-quoted statement has a somewhat mysterious origin. Its “primary” source may be found here: Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal (2001), Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion, Pluto Press, p.170. But it appears from her footnote that she got the quote second-hand, from a Hezbollah ally, Mohammed Fnaysh. This is pretty shaky stuff, but it doesn’t stop pro-Israel groups from using it. CAMERA sources the quote to an article in the New Yorker: The article quotes Saad-Ghorayeb, quoting Nasrallah, a quote that had been, as indicated, quoted from somebody else. None of this, as noted, is to argue that Nasrallah might not indeed have all of the opinions and attitudes attributed to him. I just would have wanted stronger proof before joining in the demonizing.]

To be clearer: while the Canadian Peace Alliance has been busy with its “Don't Attack Iran” campaign, Ahmadinejad's regime, which is explicit about wanting Israel obliterated, has been busy funding and arming Hezbollah and trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal for itself.

[COMMENT: 1)“wants Israel obliterated.” This, too, has received wide circulation, although Ahmadinejad clarified this a little by stating recently that he expected Israel to go the way of the USSR. [] Whether we approve of this sentiment or not, it’s a far cry from calling for nuclear obliteration, which is the usual interpretation given in the Western media. 2)“trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal for itself.” This is a common charge, but where is the proof?]

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, on the same day that trade unionists and “peace” activists

[COMMENT: Note the shudder-quotes. Another cheap rhetorical trick.]

were marching under Hezbollah banners in Toronto,

[COMMENT: “Under” them? They didn’t have their own banners? This would be a first for the labour movement.]

about 300 people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for a rally cosponsored by Vancouver's StopWar Coalition. The rally's main speaker was Rafeh Hulays, who has openly declared in a letter to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers””the event that set off all the bloodletting in Lebanon””was “legal, moral, and necessary”.

[COMMENT: Is this all Glavin has got? A speaker at a rally once said something somewhere else, something that could not remotely be deemed anti-Semitic? In fact, the kidnapping of the soldiers occurred after a kidnapping the day before by the IDF, in Gaza, of two Palestinians thought to be members of Hamas, Osama Muamar and his brother Mustafa Muamar. Source:]

Shortly after his July 22 address to the Vancouver peace rally, Hulays was again writing to Haaretz, admitting that he didn't believe in peace anyway. “I no longer do,” he wrote. “There are many monsters that need to be dealt with. Israel happens to be the biggest, ugliest, and most dangerous.”

[COMMENT: By this time, Israeli forces had bottled up the entire population of Gaza, with the threat of massive civilian deaths looming (, and had killed more than 300 Lebanese civilians []. One can understand Hulays’ emotional state at that point. But in any case, this has little to do with the CPA rally.]

A week later, the StopWar Coalition held another demonstration on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, this one to protest “Canadian complicity in Israeli war crimes”. This time the featured speaker was Hanna Kawas, who openly campaigned against Ottawa's 2003 decision to ban three notorious Palestinian terrorist groups. The StopWar Coalition joined him in that effort.

[COMMENT: Here is the full story (both sides):]

Odd thing for an antiwar group to do, you might say, since war is the reason these terrorist groups exist.

[COMMENT: Unpacking the assumptions in that sentence may be a waste of time. Suffice it to say that many so-called “terrorist” groups exist to defend against the terror imposed by states, e.g., the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, termed “apartheid” by Nobel Laureates Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter.]

But this isn't about peace at all. “Peace” is just code for opposing Israel. This is about war.

[COMMENT: No, “peace” is code for “peace.” Which will never be achieved so long as Israel continues to occupy Palestine.]

Actually, two wars.
One is the just struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, for their own state, and for peaceful coexistence with Israel.

[COMMENT: Ah. A ray of light?]

The other is an Islamist war against modernity, against liberalism, and, as always, against the Jews. In that larger war, the Palestinian cause is a cover, the Palestinian poor are fodder, and there is no shortage of useful idiots to make light work of it all.

[COMMENT: Back to bluster, assertion and insult. Glavin has no real arguments, it appears.]

Take the famous British demagogue George Galloway, for instance. While Nasrallah's face was being paraded around downtown Toronto on July 22, Galloway, at a similar rally in London, fairly screamed these words: “I am here to glorify the leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.”

[COMMENT: Was that pompous idiot at the CPA rally? I must have missed something.]

Then there are Galloway's friends in the Socialist Workers Party, whose Canadian affiliates provide the key staff positions for the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, and the War Resisters Support Group. And on it goes.

[COMMENT: Well, don’t stop now. First we got second or third-hand quotes attributed to Nasrallah. Now we get “key staff positions” in the peace movement, staffed by “affiliates” of the Socialist Workers Party, some of whom are apparently “friends” of Galloway (who is not a member of the SWP, in case anyone needs reminding). That’s a rather tenuous set of linkages.]

Still, StopWar is perfectly entitled to argue that pro-war, fascist Jew-killers should be allowed to raise money, propagandize, and otherwise operate freely in Canada. Argue away, you might say to StopWar. Just not in my name.

[COMMENT: Emotive language like this is always a good substitute for thought and facts when you have neither of the latter. Has StopWar ever argued any such thing? Or is “pro-war, fascist Jew-killers” just code for “anyone Glavin doesn’t happen to like?”]

But that won't quite do if you're a member of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, or the Hospital Employees Union, or the Vancouver Green party, or the New Democratic Party, or the United Church of Canada. If you belong to any one of about 160 organizations that StopWar lists as endorsing members, or if you simply happen to live in Vancouver or Burnaby, then StopWar is speaking in your name.

[COMMENT: In its own words, too, not in Glavin-speak. But Glavin doesn’t actually quote StopWar; he’s too busy slandering it.]

And don't you dare try to speak for yourself about these things. You will be told you don't know what you're talking about, or that you've “bought into” something called the neoconservative agenda, or, worse still, that you're a Zionist.

[COMMENT: By “speaking for yourself,” could Glavin mean supporting Israel to the point of calling its murderous Lebanon adventure a “measured response?” Do supporters of the Palestinian people never speak for themselves? These empty assertions raise far more questions than they answer. Who will be told such things; and by whom; and on the basis of what?]

So, in July 2006, while Israel was fighting for her very life,

[COMMENT: At this point Glavin is simply hallucinating. Anyone checking out the Lebanese civilian casualty count, the infrastructural damage, the sealing off of Gaza, must wonder what planet Glavin inhabits. Israel massively attacked Lebanon and Gaza, and caused enormous carnage, suffering and destruction--not the other way around.]

and Lebanon and Palestine were being ground to bits,

[COMMENT: By a country “fighting for its life,” I presume.]

and Iraq was descending deeper into a hell of throat-slitting and suicide bombing, Canada's “antiwar” left had openly opted for war.

[COMMENT: Not proven by a single part of this florid polemic.]

And the words on the placards left no doubt about which side it was on: “We Are All Hezbollah”.

[COMMENT: Ah. Was this on all the placards? Or is this a not-so-subtle attempt to suggest that the anti-war movement is "all Hezbollah?"]

So, to sum up: the Left is morally corrupt, hypocritical, and anti-Semitic. Got that?

Now, a sloppy, dishonest, yellow-sheet "journalist" would usually be easy to ignore--there are, after all, so very many of them. But not only is this one going that extra yard by posing as a "progressive"-- he also practises a form of moral cowardice that is exemplary, in its way. Over at his place, he referred to a commenter at The Tyee, recently banned by the Tyee's timorous and inconsistent editor, David Beers, as a "Jew-basher." Knowing Terry's proclivities, I asked for proof. Big mistake.

A short, rancorous exchange commenced, which spilled over into the comments section of another one of his posts, on Monbiot and the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. I quoted this short passage:

The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history. Two of them, journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, say it's possible. But another journalist, Thomas Friedman (not part of the group), is skeptical.

I was attempting to make the point that one can offer observations like this without being a conspiracy theorist, or "anti-Semitic." (The quotation is from an article in Ha'aretz.) Indeed, I clarified this in my next post, noting Terry's propensity to paint the peace movement and the Left with overly-broad brush-strokes. But you won't find that post: he deleted it. And he went on to say

I certainly can't help you, and I'm not going to engage in a debate with you. You're the internet equivalent of serial crank-telephone caller, or an anonymous graffito artist. Hanging up on some nutcase on the telephone is not a denial of free speech, and graffiti is not debate. It's vandalism, so if you come back here and try to post anything short of an abject apology, I'll delete you. You are perfectly free to go and cry about it and tell more lies about me from the safety of your anonymous nickname somewhere else.

His concern about my "anonymous nickname" (no, he doesn't write very well either) would be more convincing if he weren't surrounded by panting acolytes with names like "ndude" and "Blazing Cat Fur" and "Bookmistress," whose "anonymous nicknames" don't seem to cause him any bother, but no matter. I don't do abject apologies on demand for the likes of him--that sort of thing smacks too much of the glory days of Stalin for my taste. I refused, therefore, and indicated my continuing problems with his mischaracterization of the Left, but that further post was deleted as well. Then his echo-chamber buddies jumped to, with their own crude slander, but no responses on my part were permitted. Osip Mandelstam, writing of the aforementioned Redeemer of the Masses, referred to such people:

And around him the rabble of narrow-necked chiefs--
He plays with the services of half-men

Who warble, or miaow, or moan.
He alone pushes and prods.

Let's be clear: this is Terry's combox, and he can do what he wants with it. If you can't be Czar of your own blog, after all, we've come to a sorry pass indeed. But you are still open to criticism if you use it as a platform for vilification (e.g., some egregiously inaccurate and silly comments about my former union), while refusing the right of rebuttal to the target. It's...a character thing.

Herewith, then, another contribution to our on-going debate about what it means to be "progressive." It has meant, in the recent past, lock-step support for the good citizens of Hérouxville and defence of the Chinese head-tax. Now it apparently means slandering the peace movement and offering up your blogspace to anti-union character assassins with a guarantee that they will froth unopposed. Perhaps a better question, then, for those still interested, is: what isn't "progressive"?

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