Heard of Michael Coren? I hadn’t heard of him until the wonders of the net brought him to me not so long ago. Coren is a Brit, but thankfully (for us Brits, anyway) he emigrated to Canada in the 1980s. He’s a right-wing, Muslim-bashing commentator in the Canadian media.
Whether the YouTube video below is typical of his output, I’m not sure, but regardless, the man is clearly a Muslim-baiting moron who lies on behalf of the fascist English Defence League (EDL) in order to advance their race-hate agenda.
A little background: the EDL’s leader, Tommy Robinson, is a master of fascist propaganda who can turn almost any event into racial hatred of Pakistanis among his moronic followers. A week or so ago, Robinson announced that he had been ambushed and severely beaten by “a group of Pakistani youths” in a car. An account of the incident and a photo of his “injuries” was released via a far-right web site.
EDL supporters are well known for their gullibility, so the story spread online. From the start it seemed unlikely, if not plain nonsensical, and the EDL have a history of poorly fabricated tales. Quickly, the good moron-watchers at edlnews.co.uk debunked it.
The day after the attack, Coren posted a moronic piece of propaganda, riddled with both outright lies about the incident and smears against Muslims. You can see the YouTube video below.
To deal with the video point by point:
Note that Robinson has already been on Coren’s show twice. Have anti-fascists been invited to counter Tommy’s hateful rants?
Robinson was “the sort of person fighting Hitler in the second world war”? No, he was the sort of person that was imprisoned in the second world war for supporting fascism – very much a modern-day Oswald Mosley in fact.
Robinson is “not a fascist” according to Coren – most “non-fascists” don’t need to continually point this out. Perhaps Robinson shouldn’t create confusion by acting and talking like a fascist.
Coren says Robinson was travelling by train, rather than car (as claimed by Robinson himself). Come on Michael, if you’re going to lie in public, at least tell the officially approved lie.
Coren says Robinson was “beaten up by an Islamic gang”. There are no “Islamic gangs” in the UK, Michael. Even the moronic EDL version said it was a “group of Pakistani youths”.
Coren repeats, without question, claims by a known liar, with no witnesses, such as the “gang” yelling Allahu Akbar during the attack.
Coren fabricates “multiple fractures” – even the EDL didn’t claim this. When Tommy comes in for his interview on 2nd January, are you going to ask how his bones healed so fast, Michael?
Finally, as I mentioned above, the attack almost certainly never happened. Even Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in the UK didn’t take Tommy’s word for it, since he didn’t bother to report the incident to police.
Although lying about Muslims and whipping up race hate against minorities (like British Pakistanis) is fashionable these days, something this overt and dishonest is unusual from a “mainstream” media figure. Clearly Coren’s Jewish origins (he converted to Catholicism in his 20s) haven’t stopped him from consulting the Goebbels handbook on how to whip up the fear of minorities.
About a year ago, give or take a month or two, I promised I’d release a podcast. I’m sure that you got bored of waiting. But finally, here’s the first episode! My podcast will be called Moron-Free Radio, and in true geek fashion, I’ve numbered the first episode zero. It’s just a three-minute intro; the first full edition will be here in a few days. I’m currently submitting to iTunes, so (provided I get backing from the military-industrial complex) you should be able to subscribe to Moron-Free Radio on iTunes shortly. (Update: you can now subscribe on iTunes).
It’s time once again to look back at the highlights and lowlights of the past year. The widespread economic and social problems have meant that, for millions, 2011 has been a difficult, challenging time. But not for MoronWatch! 2011 has one of the most moronic years in modern history. And it’s time to give thanks to all the morons who helped make it happen.
So here’s my attempt to remember just a few of this year’s moronic events, and the morons behind them. I couldn’t possibly cover every piece of moronitude, and I’ve undoubtedly missed some key events and people – feel free to add your favourites below.
Those who entertained us by promising to deliver, before completely failing to do so.
Winner: Harold Camping, who predicted the second coming would take place on 21st May, followed by the end of the world on October 21st. He worked it out using numbers. Sadly (at least for morons awaiting Judgement Day), his calculations turned out to be wrong. Jesus failed to show in May, but Harry stuck to his guns and said the world would still end in October (it didn’t, FYI). Honourable mention: the people who believed him.
Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines), a right-wing British blogger who tried (with help from the moron press) to show, via an online petition, that the UK public were clamouring for a return of the death penalty. They weren’t.
Donald Trump, who reignited the birther controversy, demanding Barack Obama produce his long-form birth certificate. With beautiful timing, Obama duly did so, destroying Trump’s presidential campaign (though to be fair, Trump had already destroyed it himself by being Donald Trump).
Christopher Monckton, a man who has profited hugely from selling climate change denial to morons, despite having been repeatedly discredited, opened a Twitter account. After skirmishes with myself and other “fans”, he quickly closed it down again.
The far-right English Defence League (EDL) have continued to keep us entertained with their moronic (and badly-spelled) antics, both online and offline. This year, they discovered that posting online threats to attack the Occupy protesters in London would lead to them being arrested when they arrived in town for Remembrance Day.
Rick Perry, presidential hopeful, had a moronic plan to close entire government departments, but when asked during a TV debate, he couldn’t remember which ones. Oops!
Michele Bachmann, after showing early promise to be the flag-bearer for American moronism in next year’s presidential election, vanished without a trace (as did several of her moronic competitors).
Who has been doing their best to destabilise world society, and (whether deliberately or accidentally) drive us towards war?
Winner: The Tea Party caucus in Congress for refusing to raise the US debt ceiling until the 13th hour, resulting in a downgrade for the USA’s credit rating. While some “moderate” Republican morons used the debt ceiling increase as a negotiating tool to try to force cuts in spending, the Tea Party, led by MoronWatch favourite Michele Bachmann, were genuinely prepared to force a US debt default, taking the global economy to the brink of panic.
European leaders for repeatedly failing throughout the year to take the actions necessary to stabilise the EU economy. Special mention to Silvio Berlusconi, for clinging to power despite having mismanaged the Italian economy for years, so he wouldn’t face prosecution for – well, pretty much everything. Very special mention to Dave Camoron and his nationalistic, Eurosceptic Tory right, who tried (perhaps successfully) to single-handedly derail a deal that would stop the European economy from collapsing.
Ongoing: The US for its moronic “war on terror” which grinds on, killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, pushing those countries steadily towards social collapse and so putting power in the hands of the Taliban and other extremists, who are (in theory) supposed to be the enemy.
Binyamin Netanyahu, who has stopped even pretending to care about peace in the region, and endlessly accelerates Israeli aggression and land theft. Special mention: the moronic pro-Israel lobby in the US who continue to support Israel, regardless of what it does.
Ongoing: most world governments for their endless execution of the utterly failed War on Drugs, which swallows endless billions of dollars and millions of lives, and results in more people taking more dangerous drugs.
Terrorism is becoming ever-more fashionable, especially among those who claim to be fighting terrorism. Here is my selection of the year’s top terrorists.
Winner: President Assad of Syria, for the mass-slaughter of his own people in the streets of Syrian cities. Of course, like all good state terrorists, Assad says that his victims aren’t civilians at all, but are themselves terrorists working in behalf of Syria’s enemies. No doubt, Syria has its own population of morons who believe him.
Barack Obama, for drone strikes on Pakistan that kill civilians on a regular basis. Obama fans may point out that it’s actually the Pentagon or the CIA carrying out these attacks, but if we blamed Bush’s wars on Bush, let’s be consistent and lay the blame for post-2008 terrorism on Obama. It’s only fair. And by the way, it’s probably about time Obama returned his prematurely-awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
West Bank extremist settlers for their barely-reported campaign of “price tag” terrorism against Palestinian civilians. Their strategy is to endlessly provoke the Palestinian population by ripping up crops, sabotaging irrigation systems or damaging mosques, then shooting people who protest. If the protests get too big, they go running to Mummy (aka the Israeli Defence Force) who shoot or arrest and torture Palestinian civilians.
Mystery winner: somebody, probably Israel or the US, carried out a terrorist attack on an Iranian military base, and quite possibly other attacks we haven’t heard about. If Iranians protest or retaliate in any way, it just shows how unreasonable they are. Honourable mention: Western media and politicians who ignore these attacks and continue to beat the drums of war against Iran.
London’s Metropolitan Police, who executed Mark Duggan, a young black man, in North London, based merely on the suspicion that he might be carrying a gun. Immediately after the shooting, the police lied to journalists, saying an exchange of fire had taken place – it hadn’t. The shooting triggered an uprising in Tottenham which led to the UK summer riots. Notably, this is the second time a riot has begun in Tottenham after the police killed an unarmed person. Special mention to the poorly-named Independent Police Complaints Commission, who are never independent and always ignore complaints. As ever, they came down on the side of the police.
While it’s useful to understand motivations, some people are just plain evil.
Winner: “Pepper Spray Cop” – the policeman in Berkeley, California who was videoed casually spraying peaceful, seated protesters in the face with pepper spray. He was just one of many US police officers who took part in violent attacks on peaceful Occupy protesters this year, showing that free speech isn’t as much an American value as we might have hoped.
The US state of Georgia, who executed Troy Davis, despite strong evidence that his trial had been rigged.
Supporters of presidential candidate and libertarian, Ron Paul at a debate. Paul was asked about his “libertarian” approach to healthcare: what should happen to people with no health cover if they were to fall ill? He confirmed that they should be given the “freedom” to die. At which, the audience applauded heartily, yelling “Let him die!”.
Everyone loves a little hypocrisy. Well, MoronWatch does, anyway. Here are some of the highlights.
Winner: Joint prize to The UK, France and the US for attacking Libya, to “protect civilians”. Strangely, their newly-found morality hasn’t been applied in recent years where civilians in their thousands (or tens of thousands) have been persecuted, slaughtered, raped or driven from their homes in various countries including Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Bahrain. Did I mention Libya is a major oil producer?
The Republican Party, who desperately fight for tax cuts for the rich, while proving decidedly reluctant to extend a tax cut for working Americans. Not only is this morally suspect, it’s also economically moronic: tax cuts for people on low and average incomes feed back into economic growth far more effectively than extra money for the wealthy.
Western conservatives, who enjoy using the words freedom and democracy incessantly but who, when faced with Arabs demanding democracy, proved decidedly lukewarm about the idea.
Just Plain Moronic
Awarded for general acts or statements of stupidity.
Winner: The British Public, for rejecting a modest improvement (the Alternative Vote, or AV) to our democratic system that would help weaken the current Labour-Conservative duopoly on power, open the door for the creation of fresh new political parties, and revitalise our democracy (as had already happened when AV was adopted in Australia). The newspapers (which mostly support the Tories or Labour) had largely come out against AV, and since most of the public pay no attention to politics, they voted as the press barons told them to. Thus proving that referendums, though seemingly democratic, are not in practise.
UK Prime Minister Dave Camoron for publicly giving the advice that people should pay off their debts. Although this advice is sensible, unfortunately our current economic system isn’t. A widespread shift from spending to saving, at a time when the economy is already struggling, would make the situation worse. By the end of the day, Dave was forced to reverse his advice. People are supposed to keep spending, and paying down their debts, even as the majority of them become poorer. How will that work? It won’t.
All-round weird moron Donald Trump, for suggesting that the US should take Libya’s oil as “payment” for “liberating” Libya. It’s almost like the good old days of Empire. In fact, I think it is the good old days of Empire.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, for his wonderfully simple (in every sense of the word) 9-9-9 economic plan, under which corporation tax, income tax and sales tax would all be pegged at nine percent. The tax would result in the poor paying more, the top 10% doing pretty well, and the top 1% doing fantastically well. Cain proved incapable of explaining how it could possibly work, just as he proved incapable of explaining anything at all, from foreign policy to why a series of women would accuse him of sexual harassment.
The delightfully named, but not at all delightful, Eric Pickles, Tory government minister, for the most pointless spending exercise of the year. Councils across the UK have been encouraging recycling by providing households with recycling bins and reducing general waste collections from weekly to fortnightly. Although this is sensible and desirable, the British press and public did what they do best: moan about it. So Pickles threw £250m at restarting weekly bin collections, thus managing to waste huge amounts of cash and reverse years of progress towards recycling, all to win a few moron votes. Not only was the idea moronic, but most councils have rejected the cash anyway.
The British government and media, for creating a new moral panic about Sexualisation, an imaginary problem designed to scare parents that society had become too sexual, and was threatening their children – and hence laying the foundations for future legislative attacks on sexual freedom.
Anyone who says they can reliably predict anything complex is either deluded or a liar. Nevertheless, “pundits” are well paid by media outlets to do exactly that, and the start and end of the year is a particularly busy time for this type of quackery. These modern-day soothsayers will of course focus heavily on their successes and ignore their failings, thus “demonstrating” that they’re qualified for the job of telling us what the coming year will hold, or where we should invest our money.
OK, this was a pretty easy one. This was actually a prediction that morons would greet the cold weather with cries of “What happened to global warming?” I was right on that count too. And you watch, the moment a cold snap hits anywhere, especially in the US, they’ll say it again this year. I think this is what morons think of as humour.
Prediction 2: The Tea Party Will Become Increasingly Confused
Given how confused the average Teapartier already was this was a brave prediction. Did it come true? Well, the “grass-roots” phase of the Tea Party seems to have fizzled out. Though designed to look like a movement of the people, it was a well-funded campaign by far-right interests to win seats in Congress, and it succeeded. The initial phase involving marches of angry, misinformed morons has ended, and the morons have gone home, perhaps wondering how they were so easily fooled into marching for billionaires’ interests (but probably not).
The rise of Occupy, a genuinely spontaneous (and unlike the Tea Party, global) movement eclipsed the Tea Party from September onwards. Teapartiers were left to gloat on Twitter that police didn’t assault and arrest Tea Party marchers like they did Occupiers. Well yeah, that’s because the Tea Party was fighting for the right of the powerful to remain powerful – Occupy on the other hand was a genuine challenge to authority.
Was I right? Kind-of – I don’t really know how to measure this accurately. The Teapartiers were confused, are confused and will continue to be confused.
Prediction 3: Islamophobia to Rise in Europe/Israel, peak in UK/US
This is a big prediction, and hard to measure over such a short time-frame.The Islamophobes march onward. Breaking it down:
Mainland Europe: the drumbeat of fascism pounds ever louder, and Muslims are bearing the brunt. As the hate becomes established “fact” in the mind of morons, inevitably crazies take action – most noticeably in Norway in July, when Anders Breivik attacked and killed 77 people associated with the Labour Party. He was partly driven by hate for Muslims, and inspired by the English Defence League (EDL) and the Muslim-hating American Pamela Geller. For sure, things haven’t improved in Europe during 2011.
Israel: fascism is rising, and is taking an increased stranglehold over government. Israel, once a largely secular country, is increasingly religious, and the religious right is establishing itself in government and the military. Islamophobia isn’t at the heart of Israeli fascism, but it plays an increasing role. Israel continues to head rightwards into fascist territory.
UK: the main far-right party, the British National Party (BNP), seems to have undergone a partial collapse through the year. The EDL, a fascist street movement, also doesn’t seem to have made gains in support, though it recently announced an electoral pact with a tiny far-right group, the British Freedom Party. Overall, the far-right looks weaker than it did a year ago – whether that involves wishful thinking on my part though, I’m unsure.
US: I’ve detected less Islamophobic screaming on Twitter, as the right turns more to immigration as its primary cause. But recently, a non-controversial TV show called All American Muslim showed that Muslim-hate is not only strong among ordinary morons, but that corporations could be swung as well.
Score: 6/10… probably
Prediction 4: US Economy Will Gain Strength as UK Weakens
The US was pushing ahead with a government-funded stimulus; a fairly weak one, but a stimulus nonetheless. Meanwhile, the British government began heavy spending cuts in 2010. This provided the perfect comparison: stimulus or austerity? Which would win?
Stimulus won convincingly. The US economy is showing increasing (but still weak) growth and unemployment is starting to fall. Meanwhile, growth has completely stalled in the UK, and we may have already entered another recession. UK unemployment is rising fast. The bad news is that moronic Western governments are now all determined to use austerity before the economy is strong enough to take it, despite the lessons of the US/UK experiment (which proved yet again that Keynes was right).
As demand for oil rises globally, the price can only go up. As I predicted, the price rose strongly until April. At that point, new fears emerged over the US and European economies, and the price started to slide. It then rose again, and finished the year higher than it had begun. This prediction wasn’t difficult – energy prices are going to keep rising fast until huge investment is made in non-fossil fuels. And (as I pointed out), the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives won’t let that happen; neither will the oil-industry-loving Conservatives in the UK. We continue to wait for Germany and China to deliver mass, low-cost alternatives.
As for morons drawing the wrong conclusions: that was an even easier prediction. US morons blamed President Obama and demanded more domestic drilling (which is happening anyway). UK car-driving morons screamed that the government takes too much tax (missing the point that it’s only high taxes on fuel that have stopped us becoming even more addicted to oil than we already are).
Predictions 6 and 7: Jesus won’t return and the world won’t end
A fair number of morons believed the crazy predictions of preacher Harold Camping that Jesus would return on May 21st, and Judgement Day would come on Oct 21st. I bravely predicted this wouldn’t happen. And it didn’t. Yay!
So I think I did pretty well. OK, I didn’t mention the Arab uprisings, the ongoing meltdown of Europe, the Japanese quake and tsunami, the rise of Occupy, or the laughable mess of the Republican Party’s race to find an opponent for Obama (I should at least have predicted the last one).
What do you think will happen in 2012? I reserve the right to “borrow” the best predictions and make them my own.
In these moronic times, truth is often weirder than fiction. It’s been obvious for many years that the US war machine is desperate to find an excuse, any excuse, to attack Iran. In 2001, Bush included Iran in his “axis of evil” (aka places we plan to attack). Only the complete disaster that was the Iraq War prevented the US from having the capability for war with Iran. Now that troops are being drawn down from Iraq, the Pentagon is ready for war with Iran. Furthermore, the Pentagan needs war with Iran. Not using those troops and weapons would mean not spending the huge military budget, which could lead legislators to believe that it’s too big… and the Pentagon just loves its budget.
A few weeks ago, in the spirit of satire, I wrote a piece called Twenty Reasons To Attack Iran. This was to help out the poor people at the Pentagon, struggling to justify their planned war. Point three of the 20 read:
3. They were responsible for 9/11.
A joke, of course. The 9/11 attack was carried out by a dissident Saudi group, Al Qaida. It was then blamed on the Taliban (as an excuse for the Afghan war) and then insinuated that Saddam Hussein was involved (as an excuse for the Iraq War). Surely the same excuse wouldn’t really be used again?
Well yes, it turns out… Fox News (who else?) have reported that Iran “may have had a hand in 9/11” (see video below). Ludicrous? Of course. But never underestimate the stupidity of morons – least of all Fox News viewers. If the majority of Americans were capable of thinking for themselves, the Iraq war would never have been tolerated. Nor would the Patriot act, or Vietnam, for that matter. If the American moron wasn’t so moronic, the huge military budget would have been reallocated to spending on things that Americans actually need – education, healthcare, that kind of commie stuff. But the American moron is that moronic – watch out for morons repeating this nonsense.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll stop attempting satire – reality is more satirical than I could ever be.
As I write this, I’m spending a few days in Egypt – by my count, this is the eleventh Muslim-majority country I’ve visited (though that count includes a fast, accidental journey through the Palestinian West Bank, driving a car with yellow Israeli number plates, so perhaps ten is a more accurate number). A few minutes ago I took a seat in a café. At the next table was a veiled woman with two small boys; I smiled and nodded at her – she met my eyes and nodded back. Maybe she smiled back too.
Western misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Muslims and Muslim-majority countries don’t begin with the 9/11 attacks – the seeds of the fear have been there for centuries. I admit that when I took my first trip outside the “Christian world”, to Turkey, I expected to meet some unfriendliness at the least, and resolved to keep my Jewish identity a secret. I had already travelled in Europe and North America, but nowhere else. On my first day in Istanbul I asked a local how to get somewhere; he beckoned me to follow him, and I reluctantly did. We walked to a main street and boarded a bus. I looked around at the other passengers and listened to them talking their incomprehensible language, and wondered if I was heading into danger, or at least that my guide was going to try to fleece me for some cash. After a little while we got off the bus in a residential area. The man pointed up the street to show me my destination. Then he waved goodbye, turned and walked away. My first real encounter with a Turk, and he’d been more friendly and helpful than pretty much any Western stranger I’d ever met. Coincidence? It turned out not – Turks, I found, are generally more friendly and welcoming than any European population I’ve encountered (by which I include European diaspora cultures including North America and Australia).
My second venture into an Islamic culture worried me more. I’d been offered a few weeks’ work in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Growing up Jewish, having been taught to love Israel and having vague childhood memories of Arab-Israel hostilities, I had a negative view of Arabs. Nobody had overtly told me they were bad people, but somehow I’d developed that idea anyway. I was worried people might spot that I didn’t look particularly English, and enquire about my origins. At immigration, my passport was checked by a man in traditional Arab dress. I admit I was worried – but of course I had no problems. As my time in Abu Dhabi passed, I relaxed, and would stroll the city in the evenings, eating in local places. After a while, I confided in a work colleague (a Lebanese man) that I was Jewish. No alarms sounded; he didn’t look shocked; but shook his head sadly: “The Jews and the Palestinians are the smartest people in the Middle East”, he said. “If only they could work together, they would lead the region”. The people of UAE proved to be welcoming and friendly enough – though perhaps less approachable than Turks. Given that native-born UAE residents are fairly wealthy and form an upper class over a largely immigrant workforce, that’s not surprising though.
Later travels took me to several Muslim countries in North and West Africa. Each time I found people who were generally more welcoming of outsiders than Europeans; indeed, I started to realise that a natural hostility to outsiders seems to be a characteristic found more strongly in European cultures than elsewhere. Given our continent’s position as a remote north-western outpost of the Old World, that’s perhaps not surprising. Europe has been of little interest to outsiders for most of human existence, and Europeans aren’t used by nature to foreigners visiting us. We are still the fortress continent, and we (including our white American, Australasian and South African cousins) carry that old European fear of anybody different to ourselves. The only long-term visitors to Europe from outside are the Jews and the Gypsies – and neither group has fared well.
I have frustrating conversations on Twitter with ignorant morons, largely in the US, who have never visited a Muslim country – many who have never even met a Muslim person – and yet persist in a ludicrously narrow, stereotypical view of Muslims. There’s nothing that can be truly described as “Islamic culture”. Surface Arab conservatism hides the same vices that exist in the West. Morocco was a haven of tolerance for European homosexuals long before they were accepted anywhere in Europe. I’ve danced in a local Moroccan night club that doubled as a gay venue and a brothel; I’ve seen Gambian and Sierra Leonean women dance far more outrageously than would be considered “decent” in many American bars. Saudis drive to Bahrain to get drunk for the weekend just as Brits head out to Amsterdam to get stoned.
Is the Islamic world packed with uniformly wonderful people? Of course not – and it’s the diversity of cultures that gives the lie to the idea that there such thing as Islamic culture. (Muslim) North Africans I’ve met, who have worked in wealthy Saudi Arabia have described the (Muslim) Saudis to me as the most racist people they’ve ever encountered. The Muslim world contains communists and fascists, atheists and fundamentalists, just as the Western world does.
As for the growing myth that Muslims and Jews are natural enemies: this is spread by Christians, the true historic enemies of both Jews and Muslims. Muslim nations sheltered Jews in the 1930s and 1940s when Europe was no longer a safe place for them. Further back, the Islamic Moorish Empire in Spain protected the right of Jews to worship; when the Catholics retook Iberia, they forced Jews and Muslims to convert, under the threat of death. My own ancestry includes some Sephardic Jews who fled from Portugal to the Netherlands following the Christian victory over the Moors. Until the establishment of the state of Israel, every Muslim country in the Middle East and North Africa, plus Turkey, Persia/Iran, Pakistan, and others had thriving Jewish communities; most of these countries still have small Jewish communities, sadly diminished by the pull of Israel. Israel itself owes its existence to the Nazis; the vast majority of European Jews had no interest in joining the Zionist extremists until they were slaughtered en-masse by Christians.
As for alcohol? This is very much the European’s drug of choice, but I’ve drunk legally in every Muslim country I visited; in the UAE, only foreign passport-holders can drink legally, but in the other nine countries it was freely available, including locally-produced beers and wines. This is the case in the vast majority of Muslim countries. Cannabis and hash were also easily available in most of the countries, and generally more tolerated than in the majority of European countries or US states. Many Muslims drink, though more moderately than Westerners, and many tend to give up as they get older, seeing it as a drug for young people.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which recently polled around 40% of the vote here in Egypt, is conservative, and against much of what I believe in; yet most of its beliefs are markedly more tolerant and centrist than those on the Christian right of US politics. It’s sad but inevitable that democracy in Arab and North African countries has unleashed conservatism; the people of Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are in the majority, poor and rural. Rural people are naturally conservative. The only way towards liberalism in these places is to allow democracy, development and urbanisation to occur. The next, better educated and wealthier generation in turn will demand their sexual and personal freedoms from the religious right.
The religious right in America, despite being the most bigoted and loudest voice against Muslims, is the natural ally of the religious right in Arabia and North Africa. They believe in the same things: that sexual liberty needs to be reigned in, that drugs and alcohol should be tightly controlled, that abortion and homosexuality are wrong and that people shouldn’t be allowed the freedom to choose these things for themselves. The far-right in Europe is more secular, intelligent and cynical – they use the supposed “intolerance” of Muslims against them; yet this intolerance is a lie. For example, a recent poll in the UK showed British Muslims were marginally more accepting of homosexuality than British Christians were.
Sadly, even some liberals have fallen for this propaganda. Some have supported France’s bigoted ban on veils, accepting the lie that most women don’t choose the veil for themselves; they often accept the “Muslims are intolerant” line almost as easily as bigoted right-wing Christians do. They believe that Western troops in Afghanistan can somehow “improve” the lives of women (forgetting that the rise of the Taliban conservatives was caused by our own destabilising of liberal, secular regimes there).
Oh, and let’s get past the lie that Muslim-hate isn’t racist. Yes, as our bigoted moron friends will constantly point out, Islam isn’t a race. But Islamophobia has just become a proxy for race hate towards old targets: Pakistanis in the UK, Moroccans in the Netherlands, blacks and Arabs in the US, Turks in Germany.
We need to confront the lies and the liars head-on. The terrorism in the world comes overwhelmingly from ourselves in the West. We can strengthen liberal tolerance and freedom in Islamic countries by strengthening it in our own, and lending support to struggles for democracy, social equality and tolerance elsewhere. The rise of religious crazies in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will only be strengthened by the rise of fascist, Christian crazies in Europe and North America. Our job is to expose their moronic lies at home – our Muslim cousins can deal with their own problems.
As I prepared to submit this post, a little Egyptian boy came and offered me a bowl of sweets – I took one, saying Shukran. the boy’s mother and grandmother, both wearing hijabs, walked past and smiled at me. “It’s his Mum’s birthday”, explained the grandmother, gesturing at her daughter, flashing me a broad smile, before they hurried on after the child.
Open Letter to Robert A. Niblock, Chairman of Lowe’s, a chain of home improvement stores in the US.
Dear Mr Niblock,
First let me say I’ve never visited one of your stores; to be honest, as a British citizen and resident, I’d never heard of your company till this week. Being even more brutally honest, even if I lived in the US close to one of your stores, I’d probably not visit as home improvement isn’t one of my skill-sets. I’ve put up the odd shelf successfully. And then the odd one has fallen down. Overall, as the young of today might say: home improvement Fail.
You came to my attention because of the TV show All American Muslims. Of course, I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve seen it’s been favourably reviewed in the media, both American and international. The show, apparently, is a fly-on-the-wall documentary, looking at the daily lives of some American Lebanese families. It sounds fun, and fairly harmless. And undoubtedly a show like this is useful right now, what with small gangs of crazies like the Florida Family Association trying to stir up hate against ordinary Muslims, and everything.
It was inevitable that people like Pamela Geller, a hate-monger with strong links to European fascist groups (not to mention an inspiration to the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik), would jump on this bandwagon – after all, spreading hate and fear is how people like Pam make their living. And so of course, some crazies were going to call for a boycott of the show. And in this Internet age, it’s so easy to put a form online allowing any old moron to click a button and instantly send a protest email.
So, complaints were duly sent. Morons don’t want to see actual, real-life Muslims. They want to see TV programmes representing Muslims as terrorists with red, angry eyes slitting babies’ throats. Which would be a bit like presenting Tim McVeigh as your average all-round American. But that’s morons for you – can’t live live them, can’t live without them (at least I can’t – this blog would be really boring without their help).
I’m a British Jew, and these moronic calls for boycotts of anything Muslim remind me of the things my grandparents and their friends and relatives went through in the 1930s. We had relatives scattered across mainland Europe, and boycotts of anything Jewish became commonplace. And then it got worse (not sure if news of this reached America, but we European Jews had a small local difficulty they call the Holocaust). My Dad had a go at drawing up a family tree a few years ago (as boring old retired people tend to do) and identified over 100 of our relatives who had died in the Holocaust. So forgive me if I seem a little over-sensitive, but boycott of anything on racial grounds brings up negative thoughts.
But this is 2011 – really, would any business in this day and age carry out a Nazi-style racial boycott? So imagine my surprise when I saw your company, and your name, mentioned in the media as having withdrawn advertising from the All American Muslims TV show. Of course, business is business, and if you think a lot of your customers are Nazi-inspired, bigoted cretins who won’t come to you next time they want a garden furniture set (or whatever it is you sell), then you gotta do what you gotta do.
But here’s the thing: I’ve run a few small businesses, and I don’t get your PR strategy here. You’ve gone and got yourself loads of global, negative publicity. The name Lowe’s has overnight become synonymous with fascism. Now OK, perhaps you have your eye on the Nazi dollar. But is that dollar going to balance out all the bleeding-heart fascist-despising liberal dollars you’ve just lost yourselves? Personally, I doubt it. From what I know, rednecks don’t even buy garden furniture. They recycle broken old sofas in their yards (I’ve seen the Dukes of Hazzard), which is certainly environment-conscious, but not great business for the likes of Lowe’s.
Now here’s what I would have done: in the face of a boycott campaign by Nazi morons like Pamela Geller (who after all, only commands the adoration of a few thousand internationally-scattered illiterate fuckwits), I’d issue a press release, along the lines of: As an American business Lowe’s upholds American values of freedom and equality, and completely rejects calls for blah blah blah…. Then, sure you’ve lost some of your Nazi customers. But you get yourself free, nationwide (even international) publicity. You sell more crap to liberals. And you corner the Muslim market! (Quick, build yourself a store in Dearborn!)
Looks like you’ve missed that boat – hopefully someone smarter than you will grab it.
PS: if any Lowe’s shareholders are reading, I’d recommend you fire your moron Chairman.