Sunday, February 08, 2009

Flattening the Waves in Canada

Intellectual fads sweep across nations and civilizations frequently. Some windy and heated blows leave behind a deposit of stupidity that get into the mental furniture of the population at large. It gets into everything eventually, down into the very cracks of culture at the lowest level. What was discussed in seminar rooms 30 years ago sometimes makes its way into discussion in the homeless drop-in centre committee rooms to be discussed by the lumpen-intelligentsia as the latest idea, the most important. Everyone seems to be imbued with the thinest layer of this nonsense and it floats as they walk and talk, clouding the air we breathe. Few even notice the pollution. Mention it on the airwaves though, and then, rather than clearing the air of stupidities, one might find the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council involved and irate. Who the Hell are they? And why does a nation like Canada have such a gang? I have no idea. Does anyone have any idea why a nation needs such creations?

Ottawa radio host chastized for making "abusive and discriminatory," but true, statements about Islam and Muslims

Free Speech Death Watch Update: "Ottawa radio station chastised for comments on Muslims," by Chris Cobb for the Ottawa Citizen,

February 6 (thanks to the indomitable and magnificent Kathy Shaidle, who asks, "Dear me: how all this 'words can rape, maim and leave you for dead in a ditch!!' alchemy operates is an awful big mystery to poor stupid rightwinger me... "):

OTTAWA — A veteran open-line radio host in Ottawa [Lowell Green] contravened Canadian broadcasting standards when he made "abusive and discriminatory" remarks against Muslims, the national broadcast watchdog ruled Friday.

According to the ,Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, Lowell Green launched an "uninformed and unfair" attack when he told his CFRA audience in early December that the majority of Muslims are fanatics, and extremist behaviour is symptomatic of the religion, not just a radical minority.

Robert Spencer gives chapter and verse above. Read it while you can.


truepeers said...

And why does a nation like Canada have such a gang? I have no idea. Does anyone have any idea why a nation needs such creations?

-is that rhetorical or are you so sure in your no-holds freedom faith, you couldn't bother to find out?

The CBSC is a creation of the privately-owned broadcasters who probably figure that if they don't regulate themselves, someone else, i.e. government, will. Or maybe they figure, quite wisely, that is in the interests of private businesses that rely on public good will for listeners and advertisers that they create some form of mediation to let the people they piss off let off steam.

The puritan, of whatever book, believes there is only one kind of truth. But in reality there are two, both equally worthy. This is because no concept of the truth about our shared humanity is complete without a corresponding understanding of what the truth is for (this is unlike the situation with the sciences we apply to nature). What is the anthropological purpose of "the truth"?

Well, I won't try to make the case again, but the purpose of "the truth" is to keep the peace. Thus, when someone's need to speak the truth about our humanity clashes, at least in the short term, with the purpose of "the truth", a paradox arises that cannot be simply dismissed but has to be mediated in some way.

Whatever you or Spencer thinks is the truth about Islam, "the truth" for a Muslim is what helps keeps his community together; it must be true because the alternative (disorder) is too scary to contemplate, and probably for some very good reasons.

Now if they are trapped in an order that still requires what are for us variously insidious forms of violent sacrifice in order to serve "the truth", i.e. to keep order, it is incumbent on us to explain this trap in some at least modestly sympathetic ways. If we have no respect for their "the truth", we are dehumanizing them, and they know it on some level.

Thus, I am not surprised that a broadcaster who, they claim, had contempt for those listeners who tried to argue their understanding of "the truth", had his knuckles wrapped by private businessmen who have their own interest in keeping "the truth".

Those of us who will equally defend both kinds of truth - the pragmatic "the truth"; and the hard core monotheistic truth about "the truth" - find it a little tiring to read endless charges about what the Muslims believe by people who think the Koran exhausts the question of what the Muslims in Canada, or wherever, really believe in their daily conversations and lives.

And if you do believe, like Spencer, that Islam is too dangerous, that there is no way to distinguish the moderates from the hard-core Jihadis, and that immigration needs to be stopped, I think you will find more of an audience if you can sympathetically describe the plight of Islam and Muslims than if you appear to be caught up in a "gotcha" game whose purpose (in the eyes of your average liberal, tolerist) is not obviously to keep the peace but to stir up trouble.

Dag said...

As soon as the ideology of Islam strips itself of violent exhortations against the non-Islamic world, and as soon as the "moderate" Muslim actually appears somewhere and has some credibility in the Muslim community, then maybe there will be something to discuss with them. Till then, ill the Islamic community is mired in hatred of all non-Muslims, as certainly as an anti-Semite is an anti-Semite and not a philo-Semite, then why cringe? Why cry when a radio host asks questions? Why worry about a violent minority bent on destruction? Why ask what we can do for them? Who cares? Let Islam crawl on its belly and beg for mercy. Why plead that the people are too stupid to understand they can turn the dial without guidance from the state? Why hate the average person and despise his ability to understand how to survive without the indulgence of the elite? Why love government and hate the people? Where's the advantage in loving oppression and hating responsible people?

truepeers said...

Actually, my comment has nothing to do with loving government or the state and it is all about the question of what responsible people do, i.e. responsible business people governing themselves. Like it or not, the fact is that Muslims have been allowed to immigrate to this country. Now you have to negotiate their existence here, and the limits that must be upheld, or give up pretending you are a responsible person.

maccusgermanis said...

It is understandable that a nominal muslim would prefer to refrain from resolving their moderate behavior to the clearly violent model posed by the murderous pedophille, but we do them a disservice to take that convenient conceit -for that is your second kind of truth- upon ourselves. Real muslims capable of making sense of written word do presently prevent allowing unquestioned conceit to endlessly be held as private truth. They call the nominal to actual adherance. We should feel free to call the nominal to actual apostacy. Even without thugish interference by guildmen.

truepeers said...

Well, I've just read the CBSC decision. While the first person to respond to the complaint defended Lowell Green, the panel came out against him. In doing so, they employ a kind of sarcastic PC policing that I find quite offensive. My sympathies are with Green. I find it offensive because the effect of this thought policing is to limit our understanding of reality - as it exists not in some ideal world but on the ground today - even when they claim they are only interested in a full and free discussion of the nature of Islam. Yes, after reading the transcript of the show, I think they can make an argument that Green didn't do all he could have to throw light on the question of Islam and violence, but then I don't think the people who wrote this decision could do any better, quite frankly. I think they would do a worse job.

What I objected do in Dag's/Spencer's framing of the problem is not dissimilar. There is in my view too much of a desire in the blogs to jump to the position of being offended, not simply to defend lines we all need to defend, but to suggest that is the end of it, what more is there to discuss. But as I try to argue, that can't be the end of it. The only serious defense of the lines of individual freedom on which our modernity is founded has to take seriously the question of what Muslims here in Canada really think and will do when pressured, by events, to negotiate what they believe, with real consequences involved. "Negotiation" to many sounds like some weakness. But it is the only way we can come to know reality and we cannot build a society with some common understanding of reality. Muslims may often not be skilled at negotiating their existence among us, they may often frustrate our sense of honest conversation, but we have to come to terms with the fact our elected governments have invited them here; and so we have a responsibility to keep trying to make clear what it means to live and negotiate with free individuals. So Muslims must be granted some respect as individuals. We can't have them here and not do business with them, not employ them, not let them on the air. And we can't send them packing unless and until we are all clear on some fundamental incompatibility. And while many Muslims are, for various reasons, incapable of denouncing the evil done in the name of Islam, it is not clear to me that most Canadian Muslims actually would prefer to live under Sharia and not Canadian law. I think there is a not unsizeable number who want to live and work in the modern world but for various reasons - some which reflect very poorly on Islam as a whole - can't yet articulate this well.

I actually believe in certain kinds of government regulation. I would like to see mosques licensed and inspected, with an end to making a proper negotiation with Islam in Canada. I have no tolerance for the stories I hear of hate preaching. But the point is, the conversation has to be open if we are to avoid violence.

I have no problem in theory with the broadcasters regulating themselves with an eye to criticizing members who close off conversations with a heavy hand. I have no problem with a panel promoting further discussion and rapping those who should be. This is not the government telling people what they can or cannot say; responsible businesses, especially one with such a public presence as broadcasting, have to regulate their conduct in some way. I just think they haven't done a very good job in this case.

truepeers said...


yes, we do have some responsibility to call them to apostasy, or better yet to a superior understanding of God and human truth if that is what we hold. At the same time, we are not going to win over everyone at once, and even if we do, that will only set up a new kind of conflict among the true believers - there will always be competing truths for various pragmatic reasons. So, we remain always with the problem that no monotheism can exhaust the pragmatic reality of many gods, the reality that peace or social order will best be kept by not always demanding apostasy, or conversion, but setting terms for relatively peaceful co-existence premised on the fundamental rights and responsibilities of individuals in a free society. In other words, it is keeping open the conversation, the negotiation for a greater shared freedom, that really matters, it seems to me. We just don't yet know on what kinds of terms our respect for individual freedom can allow for some kind of "Islam" in Canada. We need, in good faith, to find out.

Nora said...

Hmm, and at the same time... in Canada happens this... too.