The slurs of Colby Cosh
I wonder, for example, whether the UCC would have raced so quickly to weigh in if the editors and publishers of the Standard and the JFP had been UCC members in good standing? That seems improbable, doesn't it? In view of the United Church's admitted history of anti-Semitism, I'd like to ask James Sinclair and Bruce Gregersen on behalf of all Canadians whether it's a coincidence that they feel so progressive and so comfortable in judging people with names like Richard Bronstein, Ezra Levant, and Kevin Libin guilty of presumptive "racial hatred" where no evidence exists. Surely the question whether the UCC regards public Jew-bashing as marvelous sport for an idle Friday afternoon is at least as fair as the UCC's own letter is.
The UCC is the bastard grandchild of the faith of my fathers.
The other day the United Church of Canada stated the obvious: publication of the anti-Muslim cartoons in Europe, and now in Canada by Ezra Levant of the Western Standard and the Jewish Free Press, "has little to do with freedom of expression and much to do with incitement to racial and religious hatred....The answer to your question of 'why publish such cartoons' we believe is simply racial hatred."
It would appear that National Post superstar Colby Cosh has taken the brave plunge to become another one of Ezra Levant's defenders, albeit by a side route: the United Church of Canada is, in his hands, a useful foil. Levant's low style is reproduced faithfully here, as the sincerest form of flattery, perhaps.
Let's have a look at the more spectacular claims in the quotations above, and judge Cosh's credibility on the basis of his own words.
To begin with, the conscientious act of contrition by the United Church in 2003, confessing historical complicity with the Christian church as a whole in anti-Semitism, is now being used by Cosh in a grossly sinuous manner to denigrate the United Church of Canada and to accuse it implicitly of continuing anti-semitism. I would dispose of that by urging readers to follow the link that he so helpfully provides. Joe McCarthy would be proud of Cosh's disingenuous juxtaposition. It's in a grand tradition.
Cosh, however, doesn't stop there. According to him, criticizing Levant and the JFP editors is--wait for it--"Jew-bashing." Certainly he attempts to make his claims ironically, stating that they are the moral equivalent of imputing race-hatred to the cartoon-publishers. But this comes off as rather lame and suspect. Anyone who reads the Western Standard can just feel Levant's visceral hatred for the Muslim Other. He delights in vicious and unfounded attacks, one of which I have blogged about here. The man is clearly an extremist, and frankly not worth defending--unless his defenders have their own axes to grind.
Levant, and the publisher of the Jewish Free Press, don't get a pass from justified criticism because they happen to be Jewish. To suggest such a thing, even to score a cheap debating point, is devious, not to mention stupid. (No one has attempted, at least to date, to slander critics of the Jyllands-Posten's editors as "anti-Danish," for example.) Cosh's broadside is in fact merely the latest instance of the neo-MacCarthyite smear tactic of deploying words like "anti-Semitism" to attempt to discredit and silence critics of Israel, supporters of the Palestinian cause, or even those who merely deplore gratuitous insults spewed at ordinary workaday Muslims.
Sorry, Cosh, it won't wash. You're trying to have your cake and eat it too. You're arguing motive here, admit it. And your slagging of the United Church in the second comment reproduced above simply reveals the penchant of conservatives to use insult when rational argument is unavailable. "Bastard child?" Ah, your mother wears army boots. Nyah.
Today's Globe and Mail jumps on the fashionable denunciation bandwagon today, claiming that there couldn't possibly be a racial motive behind the gleeful and repetitive publication of the blasphemous anti-Muslim cartoons, heavens no, that the Jyllands-Posten had no idea that it would create the reaction it did, and that other papers were only re-publishing them for news interest or to defend freedom of speech. Pull the other one, fellas. The only real question before us is whether the publication and endless re-publication of the cartoons were exemplars of religious hatred or racial hatred, or both.
I would argue, in fact, that it's most likely the last. "The Muslim," as already noted, has been created in the Western popular imagination as the Other, whether a racial Other or a religious Other: the two are in any case conflated. The popular notion of a Muslim combines a taken-for-granted extremist religious fervor with clearly racialist imagery of swarthy Arabs with unmistakeable facial features in caricature, much like the anti-Semitic cartoons that played a role in the rise of Nazism. (Check out "Muslim" on Google images to get a sense of what I mean--fast-forward to the more run-of-the-mill editorial cartoons).
The sketches that caused offence were originally directed against a minority group--in Denmark, in France, you name it--which, like other minorities, is not in much of a position to fight back. They don't have newspapers. They don't have wads of cash to take out advertisements. They are expected, essentially, to suck it up--just another insult that the majority have the "right" to deploy, but by all means call it "free speech" or something equally noble to dress it up and make it respectable. Denmark contains a traditionally homogenous population--the Romans didn't even succeed in invading it--and immigration has not been welcomed by everyone. It is ruled today by a fairly right-wing government, and immigration has been on the political front burner for some time. Ditto France. That, and nothing else, is the context for the establishment media's publication of the scurrilous cartoons.
The Globe and Mail's disingenuousness on this issue is fairly plain. However, it abstains at least from hysterical shrieking about anti-semitism; the editorial must have gone at least into second draft. I expect I must, in view of Cosh's own scurrility, commend the editors for their admirable restraint.