Another Story Having Nothing To Do With Islam

We’re all for peace and love and understanding and all that jazz, but even so, there was something awfully grating about President Barack Obama’s visit to a mosque on Wednesday.
Pretty much everything about it was grating, for that matter. There was the dreary familiarity of the whole presidential-mosque-visit thing, which has been a regular ritual ever since George W. Bush first felt the obligation to pay his respects in the aftermath of the deadly Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that the perpetrators swore-to-Allah had something to the do with Islam, along with the usual rote incantations about how Islam had nothing to do with it. This was all the more grating after so many years when the dreaded anti-Islam backlash has yet to materialize, and when Jews remain the most likely targets of hate crimes and yet the only times the president ever shows up at a synagogue is to insist that despite all appearances he’s a steadfast friend of Israel, but even that wasn’t the worst of it.
There was also the choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore for the visit, which had been under federal investigation after one of its worshippers was arrested for a terrorist plot, and with ties to both the unabashedly Islamic supremacist Muslim Brotherhood and a Virginia mosque that once featured the sermons of radical jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama’s affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood has been well-known ever since he invited its leaders to the front row for his famous Cairo address about peace and love and understanding, and was confirmed by his efforts to usher them into power in Egypt, and high-level appointees with Muslim Brotherhood ties, and his indulgence of the offshoot Hamas terror gang that is devoted to the destruction of his friends in Israel, but it does seem strange given that the American citizen al-Awlaki was killed by an Obama-ordered drone strike. In any case, it’s an odd venue to give yet another lecture about how self-proclaimed Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.
There was also some blather about how mean old right-wing Hollywood has been whipping up anti-Islamic hatred with its depictions of murderous Muslims, even though almost all of the action-adventure flicks have light-skinned and blue-eyed villains, except for such such fact-based flops as “13 Hours,” with its unnecessary depiction of that better-unmentioned Benghazi fiasco that was all the result of an anti-Islam video on “YouTube,” and how television sit-coms should all feature a lovable Muslim-next-door character. We note that the homosexual-next-door character has been a staple of sit-coms for a decade or so now, and eagerly await the first homosexual-Muslim-next-door character on the small screen, as we expect politically-correct “intersectionality” should cause a few heads to explode. We’d settle for any sort of a pop cultural depiction of a Christian-next-door who isn’t bitterly clinging to his guns and religion, but we aren’t holding our breath for a presidential visit to a low church on any Sunday mornings soon.
Most grating of all, though, was when Obama took the opportunity to liken himself to President Thomas Jefferson. It wasn’t Jefferson’s ruthless and successful war against the Islamic pirates who had been seizing American vessels and the Tripolitan potentate who justified it by citing the Koran that Obama had in mind, which would have been obviously immodest, but rather that “Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim, so I was not the first.” He’s apparently referring to Jefferson’s writings on religious liberty, wherein he stressed how radical he was about it that he would even tolerate what was then called Mohammadism, and how some of his foes were indeed not willing to go far, but he didn’t mention that Jefferson never spoke of the Muslim call to prayer as the “most beautiful sound” or invited the Muslim Brotherhood to the front row of his speeches and certainly never regarded small-town American Christian folk as bitter-clingers to God and guns or urged them to get off their high horses and repent for the Crusades.
The president needn’t worry that we’re going to rush out and commit any hate crimes against any group unfairly underrepresented on America’s bigoted sit-coms or Hollywood’s xenophobic yet international-market-oriented action-adventures, and we certainly won’t be ordering any drone strikes, but he should be advised that we’re not the only ones tiring of this nonsense. The president barely rates a mention these days in the news, which is preoccupied with all the alarming tough talk by his would-be Republican successors and the the Democratic race where the self-described socialist and the former Secretary of State with the Muslim Brotherhood-tied confidant who would both rather talk about income inequality and student debt and anything else, so it takes something this grating to get back in the headlines.

— Bud Norman

There’s No Ducking It

We had hoped to spend the day heaping more ridicule on that “pajama boy” advertisement for Obamacare, which is the health care reform law’s latest and most hilarious embarrassment, but there was no avoiding all the ruckus about that “Duck Dynasty” guy’s opinions regarding homosexuality. Commenting on these ruckuses is becoming a tiresome duty, as they seem to occur with a boring regularity, but such is the lot of pundits in our contemporary popular culture.
So far as we can gather from the voluminous news coverage, “Duck Dynasty” is a “reality show” broadcast by the “Arts & Entertainment” cable television company that chronicles the daily lives of a family of hirsute rural Louisiana entrepreneurs who have earned a sizeable fortune in the duck-hunting equipment business, and apparently one of the family members granted an interview to the GQ fashion magazine that included some disapproving and crudely-worded remarks about homosexuality. That a hirsute rural Louisianan who has made a sizeable fortune in the duck-hunting equipment business should hold such views and state them in such blunt terms hardly seems newsworthy, but all the people who make their livings being offended by this sort of this thing complained loudly enough to get the fellow suspended from the program, numerous other people were offended by the cable company’s censorship of its employee. “Duck Dynasty” has a reported 14 million viewers, which would have gotten a program mid-season cancellation back in the day days of three channels but is now enough to make the debate to dominate two days of news.
We have no opinion regarding “Duck Dynasty,” as we cancelled our cable subscription years ago and have never seen an episode, but it is so often written and talked about that we are aware of its reputation for offering a positive depiction of a rural, working-class culture with traditional values. This strikes us as something that deserves a place among the gazillion or so shows on the cable menu, if only in the cause of cultural diversity, but it is by now predictable that the self-appointed defenders of tolerance would once again insist that any such deviation from the modern orthodoxy must suffer economic punishment. Every so often some beauty queen, football player, or chicken sandwich mogul will dissent from the current enthusiasm for homosexuality, and they are routinely subjected to the same sort of public shaming that was once reserved for adulterers and unwed mothers. It’s a peculiar feature of the contemporary culture, and one on which we feel required to hold an opinion.
Homosexuals should not be bullied or forced to endure second-class citizenship, but neither should anyone who has moral objections to homosexuality. Both should be free to to live their lives according to their own convictions, to whatever extent it does infringe on the rights of others, and both should be tolerated if not celebrated by the broader society. None of the remarks attributed to the “Duck Dynasty” guy advocate violence or legal discrimination against homosexuals, just his own personal objection to the practice, so in this case it seems to be those demanding his suspension who are engaged in bullying.

— Bud Norman

The Intolerably Tolerant

Tolerance is perhaps the most esteemed of all the modern virtues, to extent that any deviation from this sacred principle simply will not be tolerated. Examples of this seemingly self-contradictory state of affairs abound, but two recent new stories in particular seem to prove the point.
One is the controversy resulting from comments made about homosexuality by the singer Michelle Shocked at a recent concert in San Francisco. We’re ordinarily loathe to comment on celebrity matters, but a friend tells us that he went to his Facebook page Thursday expecting to find much exulting about the Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ upset victory in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship basketball tournament and instead found nothing but talk about Shocked, and the flap does seem to illustrate a larger truth. Besides, we’ve long enjoyed much of Shocked’s music, and have a particular affinity for her song “Anchorage,” a bittersweet tale of lost friendship that always leaves us slightly teary-eyed, and we also find the whole imbroglio slightly amusing.
For those unfamiliar with Shocked’s oeuvre, who probably constitute a large majority of the reading public, she sings and accompanies herself on guitar in an “alternative” folk-rock style that is wildly popular with a certain sort of progressive hipster. Like most performers of the genre, she has long been associated with the sorts of causes favored by her audience and is generally assumed by her fans to be correct on all things political. Her most popular album had a cover photograph of her being hauled off in a headlock by police during some rally or another, her androgynous good looks and impeccable hipness have led to speculation that she is a lesbian, and although most of her music is personal rather than political she always been the most bien of pensants. One can well imagine an audience’s surprise, then, when Shocked took to a stage in San Francisco, of all places, and began an extended monologue against same-sex marriage.
Accounts of the concert differ, but all seem to agree that Shocked expressed concern that priests would be forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, seemed quite disapproving of homosexuality in any instance, and quoted Bible verses on the matter in both English and Spanish. Some reports even had her saying “God hates fags,” a phrase notoriously associated with the widely reviled anti-homosexual activist Fred Phelps, although most accounts agree that she only used the expression in predicting how her remarks would be reported. In any case, Shocked’s opinions sent much of the audience scurrying for the exits and the resulting publicity has led to the cancellation of shows at the Telluride Blues Festival and other venues. Shocked has since attempted some public relations damage control with a carefully worded apology, including a very clear denial of the notion that she believes God hates homosexuals, but she hasn’t yet recanted her opposition to same-sex marriage, and judging by the comments at our friend’s Facebook page and elsewhere nothing less than a full confession and conversion will suffice for most of her fans.
Although we can’t fully agree with Shocked’s remarks, mainly because we don’t know for sure what they were, we would have loved to have been at the concert. In addition to the opportunity to hear “Anchorage” live, the audience reaction would have been worth even the inflated ticket prices being charged these days. Anyone who has attended an “alternative” folk-rock concert knows that self-righteous political preachiness is an obligatory part of the performance, as the “artists” “bravely” “speak truth to power” with “controversial” opinions that they know everyone will agree with. It’s always the dreariest part of the show for right-wingers such as ourselves, and we remain hopeful that entertainers will once again demonstrate a respect for their entire audiences by sticking to whatever talent it is that drew an audience to their show, but it would have been great fun to see the look on the faces of the left-wingers who at last had to endure the same annoyance of having paid money to hear an opposing opinion.
Shocked should not be shocked, though, by the reaction. She’s been a member in good standing of the progressive community long enough to that it will not tolerate any dissent on this topic. A live-and-let-live attitude toward homosexuals will not suffice, as everyone must have the same up-to-date approving attitudes or be subjected to the most severe social stigma. Such uniformity of thought is imposed in the name of diversity, another of the most esteemed virtues of the modern age, and any number of publicly shamed dissenters can attest that it is imposed harshly.
We found it intriguing to read that Shocked’s views on same-sex marriage are informed by her Christian faith, which she reportedly acquired in the pews of a Los Angeles Church of God in Christ. That denominational detail seems most believable, given that the “COGIC” — as its adherents informally call it — stresses a deeply emotional and raucously exuberant form of worship that might appeal to someone of Shocked’s artistic temperament, and it also offers the best music in Christendom. The church’s predominately African-American membership holds reliably liberal views on most political matters but hews to a decidedly more conservative line on theology and sexuality, and one wonders if that might not create a dilemma for some of Shock’s newly outraged critics.
Race always complicates things, of course, and seems to evoke an especially intolerant streak in the progressives. A recent example comes courtesy of the Philadelphia Magazine, which has prompted by a controversy of its own by daring to publish a cover story about “Being White in Philly.” The article’s authors interviewed small sampling of white Philadelphians about their experiences of living in a majority back city, and came up with anecdotes that will surely be familiar to any white people who have ever discussed racial matters with other white people. Except for one older resident of a once-white neighborhood who spoke fondly of some neighbors while referring to others by a vulgar racial slur, all of the interviewees seemed relatively enlightened sorts embarrassed to confess their annoyance at the restrictive rules of racial discourse in America. Even such mild fare provoked howls of outrage from many citizens of the City of Brotherly Love, however, with a packed room of offended readers shouting all manner of accusations at the reporters during a hastily-arranged public forum.
Not satisfied with such public shaming, the city’s aptly-named Mayor Nutter then denounced the article and demanded that the city’s Human Rights Commission formally rube its publisher. One might think that freedom of the press is one of the human rights that a municipal commission would be most eager to protect, especially in a city such as Philadelphia, but the mayor helpfully explained that “the First Amendment, like other constitutional rights, is not an unfettered right.” An enduring cliché of the contemporary civil rights establishment is the call for a “frank dialogue” on race relations, but it seems that too much candor might exceed the constitutional limits.
This intolerance for intolerance severely restricts conversation about race, sex, and any number of other important topics, and that is a shame. We have no patience for gay-bashing or racism, but neither do we believe that this moment’s consensus of enlightened opinion represents an ultimate truth that cannot be questioned. Those who do not want to buy Philadelphia Magazine’s latest issue or attend Michelle Shocked’s next show should be quite free to act according to their own consciences, but they should spare us self-righteous claims that their efforts at censorship are done in the name of tolerance.

— Bud Norman

Free Speech and the Mob

The scene was reminiscent of those paranoid dystopian futurist movies that were so popular back in the Nixon era. A small army of brown-shirted government agents launch a midnight raid on an obscure filmmaker whose work has been deemed “reprehensible and disgusting” by the administration, hauling him off for questioning under the flimsiest of legal pretexts.

This actually happened on Saturday in Cerritos, California, where a man involved in the making of the suddenly infamous “Innocence of Muslims” film — which has been widely blamed for the murderous riots sweeping the Middle East — was taken from his home by sheriff’s officers at the behest of the federal government. The stated reason was a possible violation of the man’s probation on a charge of bank fraud, the terms of which reportedly forbid him to post anything on the internet, but in reality the man was being offered as a scapegoat to appease the mobs.


The White House continues to insist on the absurd fiction that the ongoing raucous protests outside American embassies throughout the world, which resulted in the death of an ambassador and four others in Libya, are solely the result of a spontaneous outrage over an amateurish and previously little-seen film. Never mind that the Libyan government has confirmed that the attack in their country was long planned by al Qaida as a retaliation for American strikes against their terror network, or the plentiful evidence that the attacks were coordinated, or that the chances of such a spontaneous uprising occurring on Sept. 11 are only one in 365 and that the chances of several such events happening several places on that significant date increase exponentially, we are assured that the Muslim world has no quarrel with an America led by Barack Obama.

If the only reason for the violence and threats is an amateurish film that had previously languished in well-deserved obscurity, then the administration apparently believes that it can make the problem go away simply by appeasing the mobs’ thirst for retribution against a man who had dared to criticize their religion. Mankind’s long history with mobs suggests they are not so easily placated, however, and even a cursory glance at the past 1,400 years or so will reveal that Islamist mobs especially difficult to satisfy. The usual result of appeasement efforts is an ever-expanding list of demands that cannot be met without submission to the mobs’ medieval religious views. Even if the mob’s could mollified by abandoning the First Amendment, it is not nearly worth the price.

The administration’s brazen attempt at censorship is all the more galling because it is cloaked in language about religious tolerance and respect for the religious sensibilities of others. The same administration that forces the Catholic Church to hand out contraceptives, that sat silently as mayors from its own party told a Baptist business owner that he was not allowed to work in his city without keeping his religion’s views about same-sex marriage to himself, and which happily and silently accepts the donations and propaganda support of an entertainment industry that routinely ridicules mainstream Christianity, now presumes to lecture this extraordinarily tolerant country about respect for religion.

It will be interesting to see if the people who made the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster celebrating Obama’s heroic killing of Osama bin Laden, a movie likely to enflame the religious resentments of many Muslims, will receive the same heavy-handed treatment from the administration. Once the censorship starts it is hard to stop, but we suspect that some allowances will be made for friendly media.

— Bud Norman