Friday, February 23, 2007

Bigotophobia

Some readers of JackeHammer might have recognized that I am keenly interested in free speech issues. One threat to free speech that concerns me is the issue of political correctness, which has a way of chilling and squashing the openness of debate in our country and beyond.

A recent experience I had in the private debate group of which I was a member, more than focused my attention on the scourge of political correctness and the toll it is taking on our inherent right of free speech. I came across this entertainment news item when reading a story from a blog I frequent. To set up further comments, the reader will need to be aware of this so-called "racist" scandal. This is promising to be one of my meandering posts which hopefully will end in a conclusion that makes sense.

According to CBS News accounts:


"The British reality show "Big Brother" caused a huge uproar when one of the housemates was voted off the show after being accused of racism...."


CBS News reported that Jade Goody, one of a cast of celebrity participants of the show, was accused of issuing discriminatory language at another participant, Shilpa Shetty, of Indian origin in Celeb Apologizes For "Big Brother" Racism.

CBS News further reports:


"Even though Goody is contrite, many British celebrity watchers say Goody's celebrity is over."


What were the "racist" remarks which have allegedly maligned her career? According to most news reports, the worst of the rants directed at Shetty can be found at Guardian Unlimited, which quoted Jade Goody as saying:


"You need elocution lessons. You need a day in the slums. Go to those people who look up to you and be real. You f*ing fake."

What is starkly missing from this rant, or any other quote I have read from Goody, is any mention of Shetty's nationality, skin color, gender, etc. One must be very careful of whom one insults these days, not that insulting people is something to which any of us should aspire. If one issues a rude screed against another who happens to fall into a minority category, the main qualifyer of racism seems to be the color of your own skin, and has little to do with the actual insult, which oftentimes has nothing to do with race.

BBC on the Internet offers the Big Brother controversy in quotes and Smallscreen, on January 19, quotes Shilpa Shetty, the receiver of Goody's rant as stating:


"'I think it's a sequence of events that created that misunderstanding and made me believe for maybe a fraction of a second that I thought she was being racist but I don't think so today, in hindsight, that she was being racist' "

Even with Shetty making the confession that she was wrong to, "for maybe a fraction of a second," think the insult was racist, Wikipedia tells us here that:


"Goody has been living in fear following her comments on Celebrity Big Brother, and alleged that her Harlow home windows were smashed [56], but Essex police reported to the media that only one window was cracked[57]. Goody was dropped from Act Against Bullying (the anti-bullying charity which she supported). Goody and her mother have been contacted by police investigating their alleged racism during Celebrity Big Brother.[58]. On 30 January The Sun reported that Goody had collapsed at home on Sunday 28 January, and had entered The Priory clinic.[59]"

Okay, that brings me to why this is relevant to me, how it examples the stifling of free speech and expression and why I can relate it to personal experience. No, I didn't have my windows cracked, haven't lost my career (?!) and didn't collapse at home, nor have I been required to enter a clinic. ;)

My personal experience with the charge of racism and bigotry began with the report that at 7:00 pm a Teen gunman killed 5 in (a) Utah mall. According to The Seattle Times:


"A trench coat-clad teenager who opened fire on shoppers at a mall had one thing in mind: "to kill a large number of people...."

"...Burbank identified the gunman, who was shot to death by police, as Soloman Tolovich, 18, who lived in Salt Lake City with his mother...."

"...It appears to be very random," Burbank said. "There was no sense to why he was doing what he was doing...."

"...Had (an) off-duty Ogden police officer, who had a gun but no extra equipment or additional ammunition, not gone after the gunman, the teenager likely would have continued shooting people on his way through the mall, Burbank said...."

What was strangely omitted from The Seattle Times report was the fact that the young shooter was a Muslim (and in fairness, it may have been an unknown detail at the time). In fact, that fact was not mentioned by most of the initial coverage in the media, who seemed to focus more on the fact that it was a teen in a trench coat, inspiring immediate thoughts of a disgruntled young man, comparable to a Columbine-style school shooter. We later learned his name was Sulejmen Talovic and that he had immigrated here with his family from Bosnia. He had come to the Trolley Shopping Center armed with a .38 caliber pistol and a backpack full of ammunition which, at his age was unlawful for him to purchase. MSNBC.com also reported he had a shotgun, in their January 14 online article. While MSNBC.com reported him as a Bosnian immigrant they still did not report that he was a Muslim. CNN.com carried a Reuters story on the 14th in which a cousin of Talovic identified him as:


"...a survivor of the siege that ended in the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Bosnia's 1992-95 war..."


The Reuter's story continued:


"...When the Bosnian Serbs overran the town in 1995, taking away and massacring some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Talovic and his mother were evacuated by the United Nations and later reunited with his father, Redzo Talovic said.

"They were a good, quiet family, and I remember that he was a nice kid when he was 4 or 5, maybe a little bit playful," he said, standing in front of the burned-out shell of the Talovic family home in the village of Talovici, eastern Bosnia.

"No one could have supposed that he was going to do such a thing," Redzo Talovic said. "Who knows what made him do that?" He could not say what marks Talovic's childhood memories of wartime Bosnia had left on him...." (emphasis mine)

Who knows, indeed?

I had first heard the rumor that Sulejmen Talovic was a Muslim from Michael Savage, while listening to his radio show. This was eventually confirmed in the press but primarily among the more conservative or traditional leaning press and media, you know, the ones accused of being biased and ideologically driven because they choose to report from a different viewpoint and emphasize different aspects of a story than some of the mainstream media emphasize? But that's an issue for another day.

In light of the fact that the Utah shooter was a Muslim some of the members, including myself, of that private group I had been a member of for going on three years, questioned the young man's background. We wondered IF religious zeal or extremism could have possibly played a part in the murder of five and injury of four in that shopping mall in Salt Lake City. For an ensuing four days, those of us who merely considered his religious affiliation as an interesting and perhaps pertinent factual aspect of the debate were put under a microscope and studied like rat's in a laboratory by several of the more liberal members as they made every effort to label us as bigoted Islamophobes. The debate never was a debate from beginning to end and there was never any discussion, only accusation and charges of racism, bigotry and Islamophobia.

Here's one of my final exchanges in that group:

My friend:


"Had this kid not been a Muslim, there wouldn't be hundreds of emails about it, not because we are racists or bigots, but because MUSLIMS are the ones instructed to carry out jihad in the name of their religion. No other religion does this."


The chief interrogator's reply:


"Yet more proof of Islamophobia from someone who recently denied being an Islamophobe."


(Insert another liberal member's approval here)

My response:


"Okay, XXX AND XXX, tell us about the other religions which are instructed in their holy books to carry out jihad in the name of their God. You want to call (my friend) an Islamophobe because she points out what I believe to be a fact. Prove her wrong. Provide evidence of other religions who TODAY, in our MODERN times, are committing murder and promoting murder on a broad scale and claiming these murders as righteous acts based on their widely agreed upon interpretations of their holy books and religious training and instruction."


The chief interrogator's response:


"Okay, (Jacke) is FINALLY on public record as viewing Islam - and not just the more radical sects of Islam - as a bad religion which orders its followers to do bad things to people. It's about damn time you stepped up and admitted that."


And my reply:

"STILL NO ANSWER. Surprise, surprise."


I would also, due to the reader's ignorance of all remarks made leading up to this charge by the Chief Interrogator, point out that I and my friend had repeatedly stated that not all Muslims are terrorists, that not all Muslims are wishing to perpetrate "jihad" on people who do not adhere to their religious beliefs.

It never ceases to amaze me how the liberal mind works. It isn't about discussion with them. It isn't about reasoning, considering facts (all of them) and trying to arrive at conclusions, it is more about ignoring certain facts, refusing to reply to direct questions and painting one's ideological opponent as not worthy of attention due to __________ (fill in the blank). If a liberal can call one a name, label one in some derogatory fashion and belittle them then one doesn't HAVE to answer their infernal questions. Right? The conclusion I have been forced to arrive at after nearly three years of watching them slither away from questions and in accusatory fashion avoid real thoughtful debate, is that they are simply a waste of time. At least the group of them which I was involved with are and are unwilling to stand still for a moment, plant a foot and defend their own views.

All this brings us down this convoluted path to the blog I frequent titled Political Correctness Watch, it is written or compiled by a gentleman from the United Kingdom, John Ray. At his blog I found a link to this from sp!ked, now THIS is where I was leading you by filling in the background of the Celebrity Big Brother show in Britain. This is the reason I led you through my recent personal experience of being labeled a bigoted Islamophobe for daring to even consider or question if the Utah shooter's religious ideology or zeal played any part in the killing of 5, injuring of 4 in that Salt Lake City, Utah mall. From sp!ked, Are we all racists and victims now?:


"...The obsession with racialising everything today has nothing to do with promoting freedom and democracy. It is a desperate attempt to impose a phoney new national morality – one that is more likely to breed further divisions. It is about reducing us all to the status of victims and bullies in need of discipline and re-education. As such, it provides a fashionable justification for the authorities to police the behaviour of individuals, enforcing an ostensibly anti-racist etiquette at the expense of free speech and open debate...."

"...So why do we hear so much about racism today? Because the elite has sought to adopt the politics of anti-racism as a new moral code through which it can dominate society and show its superiority over the bigoted herd. The powerless, like Jade Goody, are blamed for racism, while the powerful like Phillips or the police or the media are cast in the role of saviours. In this sense, far from marking an advance towards liberation and equality, state anti-racism today seeks to play the same role as state racism did in the past...."

"...the new anti-racist etiquette can only breed further confusion about what we are allowed to say or think, and paralyse any attempt to have an honest debate about the true state of affairs.

Look one last time at Jade Goody telling heat magazine in tears that she doesn’t know what to say anymore, or even what food to eat, in case people ‘think it’s wrong’; or Jo O’Meara crying to the press that ‘none of it makes sense. I don’t know how this has all happened.’ They are strange little celebrity snapshots of what could happen to public debate about far more serious issues, from immigration to integration and terrorism, if the conformist thought police are allowed to use the all-purpose stick of anti-racism to beat everybody into line...."

Another item of interest in the Goody/Shetty episode. It wasn't Shetty, per se, who, in the end, realized that Goody's insult had nothing to do with racism or bigotry, which caused the biggest fallout to Goody. It was, as CBS reports:

"...Goody became embroiled in a fight with Indian actress Shilpa Shetty when she unleashed a diatribe on Shetty that many said had racist overtones. Goody was evicted by a massive audience vote. Newspapers vilified her and politicians were forced to renounce the show. But Goody expressed contrition and is trying to redeem herself in the eyes of the public...." (emphasis mine)


It was, as The Guardian Unlimited reported:

"Complaints over Channel 4 show hit record 22,000" (again, emphasis mine)

22,000 people agreed that a personal, non-racist insult was a racist one. At least 22,000 people have jumped on the bandwagon to "paralyse any attempt to have an honest debate about the true state of affairs," by falsely buying into the new moral code of anti-racism of which sp!ked has warned "could happen to public debate about far more serious issues, from immigration to integration and terrorism, if the conformist thought police are allowed to use the all-purpose stick of anti-racism to beat everybody into line...."

One could say that I allowed the Chief Interrogator of that private group "to use the all-purpose stick of anti-racism to beat (me) into line," because I, after four days of intense defense and every effort to point out that considering the facts, ALL of them, in the case of the Utah Mall Shooter was not racist but realistic and reality based, I gave up and left the group. It's coming true and there is evidence that it is coming true all around us, we are being beaten with the "all-purpose stick of anti-racism." If one has no occasion to confront others then one may not realize its existence. It exists. It is real. It is a threat to freedom of speech and expression, it is a threat to open debate about key, serious issues of our modern times, issues "from immigration to integration and terrorism." Who do we blame?

Who knows, indeed?

Regarding the Utah shooter? Scripps Howard News Service reported:

"...On Wednesday _ two days after Talovic shot and killed five people and injured four others at the Trolley Square mall _ there were no good answers as to why he would do it...."

"..."The shooting rampage came as a "very big surprise for me," Omerovic said. "It just happened. We're shocked." Also a mystery to Talovic's relatives is how he got a shotgun and handgun.

"Nobody knows," Omerovic said. "We don't know who (gave) him the guns.""

"...Sulejman Talovic's Muslim faith prompted questions about a possible political motivation for his killing spree, but the FBI in Salt Lake City said it has no evidence that politics played a role.

FBI spokesman Patrick Kiernan said the bureau is trying to help police determine why Sulejman Talovic killed five people, and agents have looked into whether religion or terrorism were factors.

"We're working closely with the Salt Lake P.D. and we're obviously aware that (terrorism) is a potential issue out there," Kiernan said. "We've not seen anything that this is terrorism or an act against the government...."" (emphasis mine)


Someone needs to warn FBI spokesman Patrick Kiernan that merely considering whether Talovic's Muslim faith played a role in the shooting is cause for charges of racism, bigotry and Islamophobia. He must not have gotten the memo.

2 comments:

Darin said...

This is an interesting topic and somewhere there has to be a compromise. Perhaps, better adjectives would help us to not avoid the topic and report facts in a compassionate matter. This issue has arisen in the wake of crimes committed by people of ethnic backgrounds. Perhaps when describing people by their skin color or religion we can state say..."a man of chocolate complexion" or "religion of middle eastern descent". Does this constitute too great a compromise?

Branson Missouri

Jacke M. said...

"Perhaps when describing people by their skin color or religion we can state say..."a man of chocolate complexion" or "religion of middle eastern descent". Does this constitute too great a compromise?"

Are you serious, Darin? :o

Is it incompassionate to identify a Muslim as a Muslim? To claim that it is seems to suggest there is something wrong with being a Muslim in the first place? To stop identifying people simply by who they are, what nationality, what color, etc., does that not suggest that there is some reason they would be insulted to be identified as who they are? Why would they or should they be?

For instance...if we carry that thought through, the press identified Shilpa Shetty as being from India, is doing simply THAT being a racist? This is what political correctness does, Darin:

Quoted from Sp!ked:

"Look one last time at Jade Goody telling heat magazine in tears that she doesn’t know what to say anymore, or even what food to eat, in case people ‘think it’s wrong’; or Jo O’Meara crying to the press that ‘none of it makes sense. I don’t know how this has all happened.’ They are strange little celebrity snapshots of what could happen to public debate about far more serious issues...."

We cannot pussy foot around with the facts, the press cannot pussy foot around with the facts and telling the facts is simply NOT being racist.

If people are ashamed of who they are, what color they are, what religion they are, what country they hail from, they have a problem and it didn't originate with a press report.