Extremism versus Moderates - Should America fear Islam? One of the most amazing town halls I've ever seen in my life


#1

I was reminded of this in another thread, dug in, found the video and started watching.

I’m realizing just how historic and amazing this town hall is (and the fact I never got to see if from the very beginning). Christiane Amanpour is the fantastic host of this ABC News televised town hall.

I wanted to share this with the Boing Boing community as I think it’s simply incredible viewing.

HIGHLIGHT: The extremists (rightwing extremist Christians and extremist Muslims) were basically caught admiring each other’s extremism on the show and the crowd began laughing at them and their complete and utter lack of self-awareness.

Here’s the video (it’s in 4 parts including the intro and well worth the time):

This following link will go straight to debate video (3 parts) skipping intro (I don’t recommend skipping though):

This following link will start with the intro video called “Setting up the debate” (which I think is very good too) and introduces some vital backgrounds of the guests before the debate (all 4 parts):

Intro - Setting up the debate. - 6 min
Part 1: Should Americans fear Islam? - 17 min
Part 2: Conflating Al Qaeda with Islam. - 15 min
Part 3: What will prevail? - 5 min


Congressman asks if women could swallow cameras for gynecological exams before abortion
#2

Not much for video, outside of fiction, but watched enough to get the sort of audience. Not news to me, however, they are very similar animals. Both are very “conservative”, and appeal to base motives which are endemic to human kind especially in large urban societies. If you cut and slice away their specific religious beliefs they have much in common with any other conservative elements of large human societies, including Indian and Chinese societies. In modern times, this sort has even appeared as a ruling element in what was an espoused as an liberal system, the Soviet system. (The remnants of that conservative element have, in recent days, displayed their conservative, authoritarian roots of late in the new Russia.)

A hallmark of these groups is pretense to nobility and virtue, as well as justifying their institutional crimes under these virtues. (I had to stop as soon as the “pastor” explained “Islam has a history of crimes and is a warlike system at its’ heart”, considering that he might as well have been speaking of Western Civilization.)

They are their societies bulwark for their rich and powerful, and they operate as a fundamental backbone for the covering of the crimes of their State.

This is true even though this “class” is usually removed from the leading blocs of power, and often at odds with them. A great example of this is how the conservatives of Sunnism in Saudi Arabia have a relationship with the often very secular rulers of Saudi Arabia who rarely share their views, but are forced to support them because they have so much sway over the general public.

In the West, they have been stalwart defenders of every manner of vice and especially institutionalized vice over the centuries. Their job, it seems, is to cover up and justify on “moral” (often involving religion) grounds actions foreign and domestic which in retrospect clearly were without merit.

For instance, debtor’s prisons, corrupt local and national politicians, corrupt policing and judicial systems, barbarity against poor and minorities and women, supporting of foreign wars and invasions which clearly were monetarily influenced or power influence under auspices of more noble causes, and etc, etc, etc.

They attract some of the rich and powerful, but mostly their ranks are made of the lower tier people, one might call them “thralls” to the corrupt system… on the institutional end, corrupt police and teachers, down to the everyday working people with families who preferred to support the system and believe in its’ goodness rather then admit the true face of it and so the less then meaningless nature of their own lives and their children’s “to be” lives.

Unlike, say, pure criminals who have no pretense to any manner of moral code, they do hold and espouse moral codes, ones which appeal to these thralls and their companions meaning for them “law” and “societal order”. So, such issues as being gay haters or being against women’s rights threatened the status quo, and so threatened their parishioners (or temple goers or mosque worshippers, or, etc, etc).


#3

Yeah, I guess I do kind of somewhat respect that many of these lower tier extremists at least actually believe their own bullshit via their near-constant state of cognitive dissonance. But, as you implied, they do make useful idiots for a power structure above them that only panders to their extremists beliefs in order to control them. Then again, plenty of extremist people in power also pander to more moderate beliefs to control the more moderate population as well, I suppose.


#4

Yes, there is very often the liberal or moderate element also involved in these crimes. Surely, no small part of this can be put to the simple fact of their historical predicament: what people later might condemn, those who partook in them at the time plausibly had little to no understanding that there was any sort of better way, or that what they took as justified would be seen by later generations as deplorable and morally bankrupt.

In today’s environment, I often run across this, for instance, I just finished an article at the Atlantic on how both Republicans and Democrats helped create the mess of “mass incarceration” the US now faces… article: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/02/can-bipartisanship-end-mass-incarceration/386012/ … but this is common fare: Democrats did, for instance, back the Bush W Iraq war, for instance, and often back some of the harshest foreign policy and domestic policy agendas. Democrats, some even known as real liberals have backed many of the intelligence excesses… and you can see this frequently with even some of the old “liberals” – heck just finished explaining to my son how Jefferson was a very strong proponent of human individual liberities and rights, yet ironically owned slaves.

To a certain degree, I think people are confined by their times, and what may have been “liberal” (probably here meaning ‘they have some manner of heart’) a hundred years ago, today may often seem as despicably cold hearted and mindless. Not unrelated to such things as how urine was a favorite medical liquid, or how lobotomies were concerned cutting edge and humane.


#5

[quote=“gurglegurglebangbang, post:4, topic:52603”]
Democrats did, for instance, back the Bush W Iraq war, for instance
[/quote]I was with you until that part.

That’s a bit of a corporate media myth that’s been propagated very widely over the years.

The media rarely reports this, but…

While the Republican vote was practically unanimous, the majority of the Democrats voted against the Iraq War Resolution and most progressive and moderate Americans still wanted more time for UN inspectors to find actual evidence of WMDs before our invasion according to polls at the time.

There was also massive, national and international progressive marches against the war but it was barely reported on by the corporate media (for obvious reasons) at the time, nor is it today by corporate media.

[quote=“gurglegurglebangbang, post:4, topic:52603”]
Democrats, some even known as real liberals have backed many of the intelligence excesses…
[/quote]I wouldn’t agree they are real liberals. I consider them conservative Democrats, DINOs or bluedog Democrats at best and lackeys of the corporatist right at worst. However, I agree there’s increasingly been too many Democrats that lean towards the right on too many issues (including Obama, obviously).

While recognizing their tragic similarities, I think we should also be careful not to conflate the two parties, much less true progressives with true conservatives via false equivalence. Otherwise, we end up with tragedies such as our last midterms that had a 70 year low of voter turnout and is sending some progressive causes in flux or backwards today as a result.


#6

I, for one, am very grateful you did share it :exclamation:


#7

No offense intended. I am not a believer in the political process. Regardless, I was not attempting to paint them as representative of liberal beliefs, but merely as examples of how ‘much things change, they stay the same’. People believe what they want to believe based on their preferences. Optimism is preferable to truth. Everybody wants to go home and believe they made a positive difference and that there is hope.

There may be hope, but maybe not down that road.

Hrrmm. Reminds me of one of my favorite songs of the time period: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkXQBSSM0ts Bad Religion. :smile: “The Empire Strikes First”.

It can be hard to tell who is who. Politicians can say one thing, then they get elected and may do something else. There are many hidden influences beyond their power.

:smile:

I might as well as be someone in Taiwan or Japan, unfortunately, so such things are not much of a consideration, but I respect your viewpoint. My trust is more in powers that have the power to do something. And that is about strategic, long term viewpoints, very much ‘an ends to a means’, which, unfortunately, is absolutely a morally bankrupt process unless one controls the means - strictly - from beginning to end.

The American political process then seems to me like a situation where people aim for an end, but very often do not have the capacity to control the means. So they achieve objectives they were not looking for. If one steps back from it, it appears as if there is little to no control whatsoever.

Really, it almost seems like gambling where the table is rigged.

My impression is that both parties - anyone - thinks one thing about actions they take… in so many critical decisions… but something else results. “Out of the Middle East”, for instance, and here they are, right back in it.

But, there are just so many “for instances”, and tiny strides of progress can give, perhaps, the illusion of progress. We can celebrate at buildings built, finally, after much hard work… but such little staples can blind us to the fact that larger buildings were just torn down. As always.

That, coupled with ever increasing luxuries, many which are very intangible, can add to the illusion that “things are getting better”. It can be very difficult to be overly concerned about the hardships in some far flung country, for instance, when one’s time and attention is divided between that, so many other issues, and, well, all of the vast technical luxuries one has to soak in.

Such things have a calming influence on the mind, almost. A population is much less likely to be at unrest, if they have many other very interesting diversions. On that front, the media, especially influx of fictional media, is a major power. ‘Whoever controls the media, controls the mind’ (J.M., oddly enough).

Even Obama talks about soaking down entire seasons of shows like Breaking Bad or House of Cards. Cinematic fiction is a profound communicator. Metaphor is a primary method of unconscious to unconscious communication. (eg, Milton H Erickson, etc, etc)

Hard not to make a long post on this, so apologies. Maybe “tl;dr”, as people say. But did not want to say “I do not believe in the political process” and leave that open to morbid interpretation. I work with people and organizations, and there are many behind the scenes avenues for influence, is all. Probably not the best idea, however, to try and make anyone a skeptic of the political process.

Back on topic, more directly: the other point was difficult to explain, but I do view both liberals and conservatives as having natural roles in society. Good and bad people, I do not view as exclusive to their political views. Heart, I believe is what people most lack, so, I do lean towards favoring liberal efforts, in intentions. But, conservative elements, more heartless elements, the Jaded - one could call them - I do not view as being possible of being “won” against by political processes without a major revolution at the scale of who people are.

This is why they are always there, regardless of the society. People have to fundamentally change for any true progress. Such statements I expect to receive high cynicism, but merely offer as “food for thought” from a passing wanderer. :smile:


#8

[quote=“gurglegurglebangbang, post:7, topic:52603”]
Everybody wants to go home and believe they made a positive difference and that there is hope.
[/quote]Not me, sometimes I like to do bad shit with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I occasionally shit on hope just to show it who’s in control.

It can be hard to tell who is who. Politicians can say one thing, then they get elected and may do something else. There are many hidden influences beyond their power.

I think the power behind both the Democrats (at least most of the heavy-hitters like Clintons) and the Republicans is the richest of the rich. Or, at least that how it appears to be when I observe their political behaviors such as continuously fostering a climate for more profitable terrorism/fear/war/etc.

The American political process then seems to me like a situation where people aim for an end, but very often do not have the capacity to control the means. So they achieve objectives they were not looking for. If one steps back from it, it appears as if there is little to no control whatsoever.

I can certainly see how it would appear that way for a lot of the public who, unfortunately, aren’t involved in the process. However, I’ve witnessed far too much positive change that’s been made via plenty of people that have sacrificed their time (and even their lives) to slowly push progressive agendas forward despite all the odds (and pressure from powerful, opposing forces) to completely deny their impact.

I’ve also seen overly optimistic people spin their wheels for a spell with flawed strategies while unrealistically expecting short-term victories in long-term battles. They usually tuck-tail when the going gets tough.

Really, it almost seems like gambling where the table is rigged.

It’s most definitely rigged. That’s why only long-term strategies work for the most part. Attempting to attack the American power structure head-on is fruitless and foolhardy. It’s like paddling out in Waimea Bay to surf and not knowing about or how to navigate the deep water channels to get out there.

That, coupled with ever increasing luxuries, many which are very intangible, can add to the illusion that “things are getting better”

In my opinion, we’ve got a long way to go, but I do think as people increasingly share information with each other (on an increasingly unprecedented level in human history) that illusion is beginning to wear thin. The power to conceal the truth is both emboldened by technology and also increasingly subverted by its utilization by the masses.

Such things have a calming influence on the mind, almost. A population is much less likely to be at unrest, if they have many other very interesting diversions.

Agreed. If it wasn’t for this being the so-called golden age of television, I do think there’d be far more unrest in the United States. However, at the same time, people are increasingly become aware that there’s massive wealth disparity and it’s a threat to the middle class and their children’s future.

I see a breaking point on the horizon…


#9

Thank you for the very amusing, well ‘thought out’ and presented post. :smile:

I am actually not sure why I led with indicating that cinema might be a charm to act as an ‘opiate to the masses’, I suppose largely for conversational effect. I actually was intending to say that I think cinema probably has a positive influence for change; albeit at a largely unconscious level.

(Metaphor communicates powerfully, and has the hallmark of being able to communicate large scale matters in a way which bypasses conscious defenses. Much as Jim Morrison was the progenitor of that quote, ‘who controls the media controls the mind’, I actually tend to see popular shows as communicating positive, if alternative messages… and like his “shaman” ideal, I tend to view the writers as themselves largely being unconscious as opposed to conscious manipulators. Where conscious manipulation typically comes off like the sour propaganda it is. Somehow, perhaps, I trust such forces much more then conscious ones.)

I am very much aware of the desire for grouping and gathering around good causes, and support it, though my own work (as such observations might show) tend to more be looking for a black swan apocalypse sort of situation.

While that might seem much more of a gambling sort, and it usually means one often works in the darker regions, outside of public view… I have a lot of reason for confidence in it. Not however the sort that might be expressed. No reason to try and sell nor persuade, and not looking for any help.

I think of it in terms like insurance. A company might do many things to try and avoid risk, but there will always be some back room numbers crunchers who remember to pay the premium.

(My perspective, however, is that, to continue that metaphor, it is more like someone who substantially ups a premium shortly before they know an event will happen which will cause a payout.)


#10

Curious, btw, on your nick, is that any relation to cDc?


#11

en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cowicide

No.


#12

Ah, too bad. That would have been an odd coincidence.

[This may come off a bit like the old guy’s rambling request for a roommate in ‘Tusk’. And maybe it should.]

Good example of what I was talking about, with outside projects, not directly related to the political process. Though, also good example of your arguments on longer reaching strategies.

An example (albeit poor and not really ‘what I do’): I got involved in one of those projects. It appealed to my dislike of totalitarianism and admiration of ‘working with the media’, and popular sentiment. A free internet type of project that was specifically aimed at raising awareness of the problem of censorship in China’s internet. One guaranteed to appeal to reporters, who tend to be very sensitive of censorship issues as it can so deeply effect them in their jobs.

A pretty good system, and it did work quite well in terms, at least, of creating momentum towards certain directions, in the press.

In terms of working with currents, I had an interesting spinoff from all that: I ended up working at a computer security firm which was tied up in the whole, early China-US cyberwar debacle. I also began cultivating international security friendships, including a number in China. I was aware I could be targeted by Chinese intelligence, as you know, that can happen when you appear on the BBC talking them down.

I was not, however, aware that my own background actually looked entirely shady. I knew my adopted dad worked for the DoJ before I was born, but I was not aware that his firm since then had been founded by two FBI counterintelligence guys coming from the Second World War. I was also not aware even of the fact that I had a guy who looked like me - and I have distinctive looks - who had my name and worked under the CIA in a certain country in SE Asia where the US was not supposed to be working from. Which was online. All of this information was publicly available, online.

Which… China did their homework, homework I had never bothered to do. And, coincidentally, as anyone in comp sec will tend to work anywhere, I ended up in the bowels of a major … infrastructure company… which was a key target of theirs… and had known strong dealings with the NSA.

So, long story short: from their perspective the US had some kind of massive, totally off the books spy system which involved deep cover operatives working at the very least onshore. Was it FBI, was it NSA, was it CIA? It was involved in major politics, as one of these companies involved was very much a DC company involved in major politics. Worse, it turned out, again by coincidence, my job at this new company turned out to be not so far from a counterintelligence operation they were involved in. They were inside the company. So that totally rock and roll initial project? Reeked now to them of being government sponsored. And my rock and roll comp sec company? Same thing.

But figure something here: I continued, of course, talking with my contacts, even while having to deal with uncomfortable situations like actually having foreign spy tails. They took me as if I really were a government agent, and in the right context, I then could really paint all sorts of pictures for them, even going so far as to speak for the government as if I really were a federal agent.

But, of course, there were negatives to all of this, and they eventually came to realize this was all nonsense, and a series of dumb coincidences. Still, it enlightened me to the fact that there really are many unusual things going on ‘out there’ which are completely unseen from the general public’s view, but could have long reaching consequences. Unfortunately, many of these consequences could be random, and really in no one’s favor.

Momentum, inertia… can do that.

Throw a big enough object into the ocean with sufficient force, and all sorts of waves can be made. But, is it a bunch of tsunamis anyone is really ever looking for?


#13

In some ways I don’t think the moderate Muslims really answered the question. Should you fear all people who identify as Muslims? Obviously not, there’s far too much variation to say anything definite about individual members. On the other hand, if you’re going to make Islam into this amorphous entity that you can’t criticise, you can’t say anything at all about Muslims - good or bad. The question seems to be interpreted in different ways - should you mistrust your Muslim neighbour? Obviously not. Would there be any reason to be concerned if the Muslim population doubled? For that you have to look at what beliefs are held by Muslims and what arguments are actually convincing for them. Should Americans fear Evangelicals? Probably not in the sense of irrational aversion to them, but the literalist beliefs that some of them have are concerning, especially when they have a political influence or when they otherwise try to affect others. The number of Evangelicals who would attack abortion centres or their workers is a tiny minority of the whole, but it’s still concerning and it’s legitimate to ask probing questions to others about the amount of support these people have, and whether there is rhetoric within certain groups that would promote this response.The number of Irish Catholics who committed terrorism a couple of decades or more ago was also very small proportionally speaking, but the use of Catholic rhetoric to support it was concerning.


#14

[quote=“jsroberts, post:13, topic:52603”]
In some ways I don’t think the moderate Muslims really answered the question. Should you fear all people who identify as Muslims? Obviously not, there’s far too much variation to say anything definite about individual members. On the other hand, if you’re going to make Islam into this amorphous entity that you can’t criticise, you can’t say anything at all about Muslims - good or bad
[/quote]Er, what?

The fear-mongering right wing extremists on the show repeatedly used language to describe Islam as one amorphous entity, not the moderates.

The moderates repeatedly said throughout the show that Islam isn’t an amorphous entity and has tremendous diversity of opinion throughout the world. Some of the right wingers would then briefly pander to that view in response, but then immediately return back to their bigoted rhetoric.

Also, the moderates on the show and the show itself focused repeatedly on criticisms of extremists muslims.

If anything, the corporate media finds it difficult to call out right wing terror within the USA.

There’s been quite a bit of terrorism on American soil from Christian rightwing extremists, but the corporate media often glosses it over.

‘Terror Returns’–but When Did It Go Away?

http://fair.org/blog/2013/04/16/terror-returns-but-when-did-it-go-away/

More terror, less coverage:

http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/more-terror-less-coverage/

Can white people be terrorists?

WMD found—in Texas, so media yawn

http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/homegrown-terrorists/

Domestic Terror Story Gets Media Cold Shoulder–Guess Why


#15

Maybe we’re using a different definition of amorphous? I meant it in the sense that the conservatives were claiming that Muslims are governed by a strict definition of the Qur’an. If you point to a passage in the Qur’an, your interpretation or that of an extremist is what any Muslim must believe. In contrast, Azar Nafisi claimed that “there are as many interpretations of Islam as there are Muslims”. Rezar Aslan claimed that Islam is “unquestionably the most eclectic religion in the history of the world”. That’s pretty amorphous.

I don’t agree with Franklin Graham or the other conservatives on the panel, and I think ‘fear’ is a bad term to use here. Still, I think there are elements in the religion that are not positive - much as I do with Christianity. A few hundred years ago, I would be very concerned about the attractiveness to Christians of arguments about the church’s position in society and its power. Growing up in Ireland, there was a lot of reason to be concerned about the power and secrecy of the church. Now that some of these secrets are coming out, this wasn’t unwarranted. There were valid criticisms of elements in Islam that were were brushed aside. Franklin Graham was worried about the many Christians who are attacked in Muslim majority countries, and the fact that a number of harmful practices are written into the Qur’an and followed by Muslims in these countries. “We don’t compare America and Saudi Arabia” or “many Muslims are peaceful” isn’t an answer to this.

As for the incidences of right wing terror, of course it should be taken more seriously. This is one area where America is different from Europe, as we have had a number of long term terrorist organisations that are explicitly labelled as such. But when you consider all of the far right wing people out there, most are actually peaceful and don’t commit acts of terror. A number are soldiers and police officers, working to protect the country. They’re often very different from each other, and don’t necessarily have the same religion or social background. You could even say that there are as many interpretations of right wing extremism as there are right wing extremists. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about many of the elements of their ideologies. (I’m not calling Muslims extremists, just pointing out that the logic doesn’t work and could be used to defend them).


#16

I like to comment with this one phrase: “Horseshoe Theory”.


#17

The Horseshoe Theory works for authoritarians, but former libertarian-capitalists tend to go through the centre if they change their economic views and decide that some form of socialism is in their best interests.

My belief about horseshoe theory is that people in power will do whatever they need to stay in power, even if it needs an ideological shift.


#18

I think often it’s something like “it takes one to know one” or rather, those who accuse people the most vehemently of extremism are often speaking from personal experience (and are often projecting rather than making accurate criticism, so they aren’t able/willing to understand non-literal interpretations). You seem to get Fox viewers talking a lot about liberal bias in the media, fundamentalists talking about society forcing its beliefs on their children and Evangelicals accusing Muslims of trying to take over the world. I don’t think fundamentalist Muslims and Christians are on the opposite side of any spectrum, they just think very similarly about different texts. I remember talking to Muslims a few times when I was an Evangelical; it was like looking in a distorted mirror (not that they were a distortion of my beliefs - just that we were superficially different, but so alike).


#19

What ISIS really wants

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.


#20

I was speaking to @MarjaE and she compared the process of fundamentalist theology to quote mining-- find verses that literally support your position, but ignore what the “text as a whole” means.