Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kooks and clubbing

Are you familiar with David Horowitz's Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week? Of course you are: you're an informed global citizen and you keep up on this kind of thing. Oh, how I love you, hypothetical erudite and well-informed reader of my blog. You make it all worthwhile.

There was a speaker for said event at UCLA last Thursday, to which I went. My friend B planned to attend it in hopes it would be "a contentious scream fest": intrigued, I showed up. I don't honestly know who the speaker was, and I can't say as I care. He was from Florida, and apparently spends his life researching Islamic charities on the Internet and trying to find links to terrorist organizations. Most of his speech was about said charities, and was frankly kind of boring. I wouldn't be surprised if everything he said was factually accurate, although it was really kind of hard to tell how significant it was: they were interesting anecdotes, I guess, but hardly proof of any sort of systemic failure of law enforcement. And frequently (surprise, surprise) misleading.

He had an anecdote about a speaker hosted by UCLA's Muslim Student Association, for example, who wrote an opinion piece a while back that called Osama bin Laden a freedom fighter and philanthropist. Which is nasty, of course, but it turns out that the paper was written in 1999. Mind you, you would have to be naive to think that OBL was a good person even back then, but he hadn't reached nearly the level of universal social condemnation and blame that he's achieved now. A fair number of people (again, naively) felt that he wasn't involved in a lot of the activities he was accused of. So to blithely misrepresent a pre-9/11 opinion as current and use that as a brush with which to tar the entire Muslim Student Association strikes me as somewhat disingenuous.

In any event, I was expecting to disagree with this guy, but I was (foolishly, I suppose) expecting to at least listen to a rational speaker, just one that I disagreed with. And at first, despite his boring presentation and questionable associations, I got more or less what I expected. And then it turned out that he was bat-shit insane. He told us how he would have conducted the war on terror:

1) Don't try terrorists in civilian courts, because civilians have forgotten 9/11 and are unlikely to convict terrorists (apparently this is a failing of the civilians, rather than a sign of weakness in the case against accused terrorists). When questioned on this point, he went on to say that if he were president, he would mandate military trials by executive order and "ignore" congress.

2) Go to war in Iraq, but as soon as we kicked out Saddam, tell the world we'd found the WMDs and leave. One of the questioners thanked him for his ideas and said that it was heartening to hear that we had reporters who recommended "blowing up the imaginary WMDs to win the war."

Somebody asked him why he thought that civilian courts wouldn't work against Al'Qaida, since the UK had used civilian methods fairly effectively against the IRA, whose conflict involved similar religious arguments. You could almost hear the gears screaming in the man's head as he tried to avoid saying that it was because Islam makes people violent and irrational, but the sentiment came through in his response anyway. It was horrifying.

As horrifying, I suppose, was the number of people who agreed with him. I would guess that half the audience was there for the same reasons as me: attending for the gruesome spectacle. The other half, though, seemed to genuinely agree with him and clapped along merrily.

In other, less depressing news, I went out bowling Friday night. Bowling alleys are dinghy, dirty places where people wear trucker caps, listen to country music and drink Budweiser from novelty, bowling-pin shaped bottles. Unless you are in Hollywood, in which case there is a man out front with a clipboard and earpiece enforcing the dress code (no "MC colors", construction boots, or white shirts), 7-dollar mixed drinks, and a live DJ.

6 comments:

  1. I am not hypothetical :)

    I'm bothered by the term Islamo-fascism, not really because of what it says about Islam, but because it strikes me as intellectually lazy. Someone really ought to call out Horowitz, Hitchens, et. al on breaking Godwin's Law. It's a term that's designed to cheaply titillate and evoke an emotional reaction, and it does so as clumsily as an internet troll who compares his opponent to Hitler.

    But, I'm also bothered by what Horowitz has to say about the so-called "American left." Being a member of said loose conferacy, I of course take offense, but I'm also amazed by the shortsightedness of people who think that any attempt to understand the origins or reasoning of Islamic radicalism is attempting something like sympathy.

    It boggles me not only because it's cheap and partisan, but also because it seems strategically ineffective. Do I think the world would be better off without Islamic radicals? Hell yes. But to effectively fight (and I mean "fight" them politically and socially, not just militarily) these guys, understanding the history, policies, political, economic and diplomatic situations that shaped these guys is going to be necessary. And, because the U.S. is the 900 pound gorilla of world affairs, any inquiry into global policies, politics, economics, and diplomacy is going to entail a certain amount of self-reflection, self-examination, and self-critique on the part of American policy makers. This isn't unamerican, it's just what's necessary.

    But, I'm of course preaching to the choir here, as you and all your hypothetical blog readers are probably going to agree with me.

    I went bowling yesterday, and it rocked. It was for my school's Halloween party, and I had an absolute blast rolling with people dressed up as witches, cats, and luchadore. I don't know if anyone had any MC colors, though, as I have no idea what the hell those are.

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  2. I need to go bowling again. It's been a long while. Although up here in New England, they have crazy candlepin bowling. The balls are smaller with no holes, and you have 3 throws instead of the usual 2. It's crazy!

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  3. I am really just not sure what to say about this Floridian. It seems like a good reason to stay a couple thousand miles away from there.

    Also, bowling rocks.

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  4. I've learned a number of things this week about life, work and myself. One of them is this:

    long words I thought would be impossible to teach to 3 year olds were a piece of cake once we started singing them. Why could it be that the same information seems completely incomprehensible in it's simple "aquarium" form but is suddenly easily internalized with a melody and a beat (i.e. in a more complicated format)

    I don't understand this smoke and mirrors, but I see it work. Not just with preschoolers but also with your "peers" attending anti-other people rallies. Amazing.

    Also, if you've never read this blog: Burning in Baghdad
    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

    you should. It's incendiary in the other direction.

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  5. Who knew bowling could serve to be a cultural barometer like that? Not me, that's for galdarn sure.

    As for the kooky Floridian, I'm not sure what else to say about him. I guess it makes me feel better about picking my side. Just so long as I willfully ignore the kooks that agree with me...

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  6. Muslims Against Sharia congratulate David Horowitz FREEDOM CENTER and Mike Adams, Tammy Bruce, Phyllis Chesler, Ann Coulter, Nonie Darwish, Greg Davis, Stephen Gale, David Horowitz, Joe Kaufman, Michael Ledeen, Michael Medved, Alan Nathan, Cyrus Nowrasteh, Daphne Patai, Daniel Pipes, Dennis Prager, Luana Saghieh, Rick Santorum, Jonathan Schanzer, Christina Sommers, Robert Spencer, Brian Sussman, Ed Turzanski, Ibn Warraq and other speakers on the success of the Islamofascism Awareness Week.

    Islamofascism (or Islamism) is the main threat facing modern civilization and ignorance about this threat is astounding. We hope that this event becomes regular and reaches every campus.

    A great many Westerners do not see the clear distinction between Islam and Islamism (Islamofascism). They need to understand that the difference between Islam and Islamism (Islamofascism) is the same as the difference between Christianity and Christian Identity Movement (White Supremacy Movement).

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