Symmetrical Idiocy



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Ditto. At this point, there’s just too much to take in. My initial enthusiasm has been replaced by hesitancy.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      You certainly weren’t so “hesitant” yesterday to give credit to Obama—in spite of the pretzel syntax—for the revolutionary situation in Iran:

      When a country is directly involved with the affairs of another country – when, for instance, there is the feeling that America might very well invade said country for instance, or assist in the invasion of said country, the citizenry might (just might) vote for hawks who promise to do a better job keeping us out. We certainly use that national security line all the time in our voting. Doesn’t that play a role in who many Americans vote for – wasn’t that part of why Bush beat Kerry in 2004, because of the perceived threats elsewhere? Why wouldn’t other nations do likewise when they perceive a certain American administration to be more of a threat than another?


      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Roque Nuevo says:

        Oh is that giving Obama credit for all of that? I thought I was saying that certainly the political landscape of one nation in regards to another may in fact influence voting patterns. But you didn’t mean to change the subject entirely did you?Report

  2. Avatar Freddie says:

    I’ve read a lot of posts like this, lately. I don’t know, maybe you’re right. My gut instinct is that there isn’t much difference between saying “don’t use these protesters for your own political arguments” and saying “learn no lessons and make no statements”; worse, as little as turning twitters green or posting pictures may do for the protesters, criticizing people for doing so does even less.Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Freddie says:

      Freddie –

      I have no problem with showing solidarity with the protesters – as I said above, my heart goes out to them. But I do think we should be wary of cherry-picking quotes and pictures as part of some broader political program.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Freddie says:

      My gut instinct is that there isn’t much difference between saying “don’t use these protesters for your own political arguments” and saying “learn no lessons and make no statements”

      It’s pretty hard to take that equivalency seriously. There is plainly political opportunism, and then there are plainly people like you who in good faith see the significance of these events and struggle with the rest of us to understand them. I don’t see how it helps to inflate Chris’ point into criticism of the latter category, when it was really just counseling epistemological skepticism and political moderation.Report

  3. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    I see a somewhat deliberate attempt to ignore the influence of Shi’ia Islam on the greens. The Shi’ia are tough and practiced at civil disobedience, having survived the Umayydd Caliphate after the martyrdom of Imam Ali. Neda is becoming a martyr symbol to rally around. Religious non-violent protest was MLK’s theme, and the the theme of the revolutionaries that overthrew the tyrant Shah. Indeed, the citizens are using the same techniques like non-violent marching and chanting Allahu Akbar.Report

  4. Avatar Dan Summers says:

    Well hell, Will. If you feel confused and overwhelmed, what hope do the rest of us have?Report

  5. Avatar mike farmer says:

    I wish I could blame being confused and overwhelmed on the Iran coverage, but, alas, I can’t.


    Confused and OverwhelmedReport

  6. Avatar EngineerScotty says:

    The other day, one of the news organizations here in the States trotted out the exiled Crown Prince of Iran, who is now living in the US after his father’s overthrow, for his comments–he, predictably, issued a statement of solidarity with the protesters, as if they have the slightest intention of bringing HIM back to rule.
    Something which, I’m certain, has been (or will be soon) broadcast far and wide by the current regime. While the US (or at least the US government) remains unpopular with most Iranians, the biggest reason is probably our casting our lots with the Shah some fifty years ago.Report

  7. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    hai Scotty.
    Do you actually the rightside fundies want the Green Wave to fail?
    Or are they honestly clueless about how disastrous their advice would be if Obama followed it?Report

    • Avatar EngineerScotty in reply to matoko_chan says:

      Probably some of both. I think there’s more than a few who want to go to war with Iran, and find the presence of Ahmadinejad in the president’s chair helpful to that cause. In the case of most critics of Obama–I think it’s just cheap political points that the “democrats are wimps” crowd is trying to score.
      An interesting question–if McCain were President now, what would be be doing were this going on? (Assuming it were–many have argued that the election of Obama in the US has weakened the stance of hardliners in Iran; making this week’s events possible).Report

  8. Avatar mike farmer says:

    The Shah always reminded be of a casino operator who was really a front for the mafia — like Moe Green (I think that’s the name) in Godfather I or II.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Oh, we live in the future now, don’t we?

    Once upon a time, we wouldn’t have heard anything about what happened until it was over and done (and there would have been a straightforward narrative and everything).

    I suspect, had we this technology previously, we would have seen how messy and incomplete the previous narratives were… and been able to hold them up with the narratives that didn’t quite make it.

    For me, this is why Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press is oh-so-very essential to any and all societies. Let people give their take without worrying about whether the government will have censored it. The truth will out.

    Though, in the short term, it is exceptionally frustrating, yes.Report

  10. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Well it’s fine to support the greens and admit to being confused or overwhelmed I think. It’s fine to formulate opinions and make statements and then change your mind later. That’s the nature of this medium – blogging – and we should embrace it.Report

  11. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    I just watched the presser.
    Obama said justice at least 5x and didn’t say “democracy” a single time.
    Even if E.D. and Will are confuzzled, our president isn’t.
    That guy is laser-guided.
    The douchey press core got served.
    I dig the new gangstah Obama.

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to matoko_chan says:

      I’m not so sure you are getting the point here, matoko. The President is acting with caution and restraint. That’s what people do when they don’t fully understand the situation or cannot divine the future. In other words, that’s just how one ought to act if they were say – confused or overwhelmed or uncertain….Report

      • Avatar EngineerScotty in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        But Obama knows that certain words–“democracy” being one–are viewed as cudgels abroad, not as political ideals to be cherished. This is doubtless due to an entire century (if not more) of “democracy”, and the spread thereof, being used as an excuse for US imperialsm–and especially offensive to Iranians, who still remember how the US interfered in Iran’s democracy back in 1953.
        There’s a very good reason Obama avoids the D word. While it may play well in Peoria, it doesn’t play well at all in Persia.Report

        • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to EngineerScotty says:

          Yup, O is actually speaking to two very different audiences at the same time.
          Incredible skill.
          I don’t get the reluctance of bloggers to give to Shi’ia Islam in the Green Wave. Note Obama used MLK’s justice quote. The Green Wave and MLK’s civil rights movement are highly isomorphic…both religious non-violent protest movements. Only the Green Wave is all about Shi’ia Islam, while MLK used Christianity.Report

          • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to matoko_chan says:

            give credit to Shi’ia Islam.Report

            • Avatar EngineerScotty in reply to matoko_chan says:

              Most bloggers, I suspect, don’t understand the differences between the various Islamic traditions, and how it may affect political thought. Before your conversion to Sufism, how much did you know about Islam? (And–I gotta ask–how do your experiences as an adult convert differ from someone who was raised in the faith and culture?)
              Some grievances held by believers in a faith–such as Shia anger toward Sunni concerning the murder of Ali in the seventh century–frequently seem petty, strange, or even bigoted to non-believers, or believers in an altogether different faith. OTOH, its only within the past century that Christendom has stopped seeking to avenge the crucifixion of Jesus by persecuting Jews (or perhaps, more accurately, using the doctrine of deicide as justification for pogroms)–so I guess we’ve another 600 years or so before the death of the Imam is forgiven. 🙂Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to EngineerScotty says:

                Before my conversion I pretty much swallowed the neocon propaganda that Muhammed is the Great Satan and the cartoon version of jihaadi/fundie islam that frothers like Malkin and Robert Spencer rant about. Like a lot of people my age I became curious about Islam after 9/11. I took an arabic class in school (I love all languages) and I think that cracked my head open enough for memetic penetration.
                I tend to have a grateful cohort of muslim peers that welcome me as a sister. I’m not sure how my experiences are different…it would totally depend on what part of islamic culture you were raised in. I was raised Catholic, and kicked out of Catholic school for unauthorized extra curricular reading, so actually I find Sufism far more open to science, technology, and philosophy than either catholicism or evangelical protestantism.Report

              • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to matoko_chan says:

                MC, The Jewish carpenter, not the desert warrior. You convert through love and truth, not the sword. But, you know that!Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                Issa (Jesus) was dearly beloved of my primary shayyk, Ibn Arabi.
                In Sufism your shayyks can be both among the dead and the living.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to matoko_chan says:

                and….I am a desert warrior…I am one with the spirit of the na’qaat, the female combat poets, the first meme warriors.Report

              • Avatar EngineerScotty in reply to matoko_chan says:

                Catholicism, like Islam, both have a proud tradition of intellectual achievement–which you know already. Both, to varying degrees (and I over-generalize, of course), have seen various fundamentalist movements arise within their ranks, which see such things as a threat to dogma. I suspect that “decentralized” religions, like various strains of Evangelism in the US, or much of Islam, are a bit more susceptible to this, as various sects and doctrines compete with each other for followers, often on the basis of some doctrinal purity, and attacking modernism (whether science, other forms of learning, or popular culture) is a cheap and easy way to appear to be pure. As The The once famously put it, people have forgotten the message and are worshipping the creeds.Report

              • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to EngineerScotty says:

                This phenomenom is well understood by cognitive anthropologists. It is called fundamentalism.Report

              • Avatar EngineerScotty in reply to matoko_chan says:

                Yup. Mullah Omar = Pat Robertson. Osama = Timothy McVeigh. Ahmadinejad = Dubya = Netanyahoo (misspelling intentional). And Jesus wept.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to matoko_chan says:

      Fawn much?Report

  12. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    Sonny’s point was the first person stuff coming out lacks context; I think that’s right. But Will you seem to be going a step further (unless I’m misreading you) and saying there’s no context for information coming out of Iran.

    I would disagree with that statement (if that’s what you meant).

    We know about the history of the Shah, the use of protests, the religious symbolism of martyrdom (Matoko’s point) in Shia Islam. People who have been following it knew of the mass failure of the Revolutionary Ethos–now seen in the streets. We knew there was a group that saw that revolutionary fire dying out and wants to take power to somehow hold the Revolution up (guys in the Revolutionary Guards, Ahmadinejad being their mouthpiece). We knew about conservatives and reformers making alliance to thwart the revolutionary-Ahmadinejad crew, with Rafsanjani in particular seeking to take Ahmadinejad down. The nuclear program, having roots back in the Shah, as a source of national pride and now combined with the Iraq/Afghanistan wars (and Axis of Evil label) as a means to deter bombardment.

    That’s a helluva lot context, seems to me. And within all that what is playing out, while you couldn’t have predicted it, makes sense. It’s not atypical for that country’s history.Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

      Chris –

      I’m wary of using these incredible first-hand accounts to score cheap political points, particularly when it’s done by pundits who have literally know knowledge of the broader context you’re referring to.Report

      • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Will says:

        that’s true.

        I wonder if it’s possible to use (use probably isn’t the right word) the first hand accounts for other reason that scoring cheap political points? I think it is.

        Maybe a better question is whether they can be *used* for political debate that is not cheap score pointing?Report

        • Avatar Will in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

          Chris –

          However sympathetic they may be, I don’t really understand the utility of trumpeting individual demonstrators’ memorable quotes. Do they really tell us anything about the tenor of the debate within Iran?Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will says:

            The problem is whether the entire situation has become more about politics here than solidarity or rational analysis (gee, ya think? What a surprise!) At that point, the treatment of individual tweets can’t redeem the situation. We’ve failed to approach this the right way as a political culture — my view is that that possibility was denied us very early on by people with an unrelenting ideological agenda, but obviously others might have a different view. I have to say as i saw this happening, by blood began to boil because I saw that my natural human reaction to what I was seeing was going to come into conflict with what I view is a non-ideological commitment to looking at the larger implications in a calm, rational way. It only makes it worse that as something of a relativist, I can’t prove that mine isn’t the ideological viewpoint.Report

  13. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Some grievances held by believers in a faith–such as Shia anger toward Sunni concerning the murder of Ali in the seventh century–frequently seem petty, strange, or even bigoted to non-believers, or believers in an altogether different faith.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s sick of Muslim anger.

    How can one respect a religion founded on such nonsense as having its holy book dictated to an illiterate merchant by an angel?

    Islam’s connection to “unpleasant” daily headlines becomes clear once non-Muslims allow their thoughts to develop logically and sequentially. Stripped of its hagiographic veneer, the history of Islam is the history of a warlord and his followers who conquered, subjugated, and plundered much of the old world, insisting that God told them to do it. For Muslims, it is only logical to rationalize this 1,400-year jihad as a means to an end — the establishment of Islamic law, from a Muslim perspective, the embodiment of all good. Non-Muslims do not have this luxury and must interpret the origins and essence of Islam a bit more cynically.—Raymond Ibrahim


    • Avatar EngineerScotty in reply to Roque Nuevo says:

      You seem to be agreeing with a point I didn’t intend to make. Unless you are arguing for an atheist or agnostic point of view, I’d be careful with that particular axe, Eugene. The founding myths of virtually all faiths can be attacked as unfalsifiable at best, ridiculous at worst. Various prophets over the millenia from Moses to Joseph Smith have claimed (and been claimed by followers) to have received divine instruction, often inscribed in a hunk of rock that subsequently vanished–the founding myth of Islam is hardly unique in this regard.
      I think matoko_chan’s point is that an understanding of the motivations and such of the Iranian protesters, requires an understanding of their culture–an understanding that most Americans, including myself, do not possess (or possess only superficially).
      Obama, at least, seems to understand that appeals to democracy, a concept revered in the US, would be viewed as highly offensive if made to Iranians.
      Your citation of Raymond Ibrahim is hardly unique to Islam. Most empires and would-be empires, have employed some sort of ideological superiority to justify their predation, whether it be religion, political theories ranging from democracy to Marxism, claims of racial supremacy, or whatever else have you. Empires will rise, squash other societies like bugs, and eventually fall–all the while proclaiming to do good. The ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Mongols, the Spanish, the British, the Soviets, and yes–the Americans to some extent–empires are mostly empires. (The Nazis are a special case. The Ottomans, on the other hand, are not).Report