Changing Colors

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

— George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism” (1945)

This week’s featured post is “In times of hysteria“, which gives six suggestions for restoring national sanity.

This week everybody was talking about refugees

I’ve already said just about everything I wanted to say in “In times of hysteria“. But here are some odds and ends that didn’t fit.

An NRA-backed Texas legislator argues that Syrian refugees shouldn’t be allowed to come to Texas because what if one “purchases a weapon and executes an attack“? Oh now you see the problem with making it so easy to buy guns. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we already have homegrown Americans shooting up movie theaters and executing people in churches. The FBI just arrested three white supremacist Virginians for plotting a terrorist campaign against black churches and Jewish synagogues. Maybe we shouldn’t let any more white people come to America. That seems to be the real terrorist threat in this country.

Some idiot vandalized Isis Books and Gifts in Denver, which for 35 years has carried the name of an ancient goddess, and has nothing to do with a certain would-be caliphate. Possible reprisals worry me, because I live a couple blocks from the CIA (Corriveau Insurance Agency).

In the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas, armed protesters gathered outside a mosque to “Stop the Islamization of America”.

Incidents like this are why the idea that we need guns to protect ourselves from tyranny has everything exactly backwards. How tyranny typically happens is that civilians from a politically powerful group use force against less powerful groups in ways that the government couldn’t. That’s how the death squads worked all over Latin America, and what the Brownshirts did while Hitler was rising.

In American history, well-armed KKK members didn’t oppose tyranny in the Jim Crow South, they established it. Knowing that sympathetic sheriffs and other local officials wouldn’t stand up to them, they were free to terrorize any blacks who tried to claim their constitutional rights.

Same thing here on a smaller scale: The tiny Muslim community in Irving has exactly zero chance of taking the city over by force, or of conspiring with a liberal government to force Islamic tyranny on the Christian majority. But if government looks the other way, well-armed Christians could terrorize and tyrannize the Muslim minority, together with anybody else who sympathizes with them. That’s the real threat, and a well-armed populace just makes it worse.

but I wish more people were talking about Margaret Thatcher

I keep thinking about Thatcher when conservatives try to make President Obama say “radical Islam”.

The biggest terrorist threat Thatcher faced came from the Irish Republican Army, and she responded to it harshly. So, should she have declared war on radical Catholicism? The answer is obviously no, and if you think it through you’ll see that the same logic applies to radical Islam today.

If Thatcher had made radical Catholicism the enemy, she would have legitimized Irish Catholics supporting the IRA. Rather than portraying the IRA as violent outliers in the Catholic community, she would have been validating their claim to be the true defenders of the faith. What’s more, she would have been taking the radical Catholic label away from people who might use it in a non-violent way, like Mother Theresa.

and you might also be interested in

I thought the funniest line of the week was a response to Anonymous declaring war on ISIS:

The prophecy is coming true … They are going to be screwed by 72 virgins.

But it turns out that Anonymous might actually have an important role to play, as they disrupt the online infrastructure that ISIS depends on to spread its propaganda and lure recruits. CBS News quotes David Gewirtz, who they describe as a cyberwarfare expert (whatever that means):

Cyberattacks can have a tremendous impact. Of course, they can’t be used to arrest people or take terrorists off the field, but they can certainly be used to compromise structural components of terrorist operations. More to the point, they can go after both the money that terrorists have and their funding sources. Damaging the money flow can certainly have an impact on the terrorists’ operations.

There are also more subtle effects. If you’re a Muslim teen in Dearborn, and you go to an ISIS web site and find it offline or hacked, maybe that changes your impression of how strong and professional these guys are. Following their instructions to go to Syria or carry out some attack in the US starts to seem more speculative.

Interesting political reaction to the Paris attacks (or at least that’s how I’m reading it): Carson’s support is moving to Trump and Cruz. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, the two front-runners were virtually tied on November 13. (Trump 24.8%, Carson 24.4%.) But their graph lines suddenly take off in opposite directions. Yesterday, Trump was at 27.5% and Carson at 19.8%. Cruz also has seen an uptick, from 9.6% to 11.3%. Summing up the support of all three, you don’t see much movement: 58.8% on November 13 and 58.6% yesterday.

The New Yorker has a fascinating article about Megan Phelps-Roper, a grand-daughter of Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. For years, WBC used Megan the way a lot of groups use their young people, to give them a presence on social media. But a funny thing happened: As she tried to humanize the image of her cult to others, she began to see the humanity in them as well. Eventually she had to leave the church.

The article is a marvelous illustration of how people convert from cults: It wasn’t just that she learned new ideas (because Satan is is clever, and can make any kind of wickedness sound good), nor that she started to like the people she was interacting with (because nice people can be deluded). It took a combination of the two: thoughtful discussion with people she couldn’t see as evil, plus the dysfunctional internal politics of WBC.

So Politico thinks it needs to make an “unconventional hire” to bring in a more conservative viewpoint. When is any “centrist” media outlet going to do some similar affirmative action on the left? Why can’t there be voices in mainstream media that are unabashedly socialist?

Derrick Lemos puts words around something a lot of us have been thinking:

I’ve been really angry and depressed for the last few months. I’ve finally pieced together why.

I’m afraid.

I’m not afraid of teenagers building clocks. I’m not afraid of women having economic empowerment or sexual freedom. I’m not afraid of weddings with two grooms/brides, trans folks using bathrooms, Latinos making a living or Black people wearing hoodies and playing music.

I’m afraid of an angry white dude with a gun who’s been told repeatedly that HIS country is dying and HE needs to take it back.

and let’s close with something upbeat

Because I think we need a lift about now. Every era and subculture has its own style, but there’s something universal about dancing, as you see in this mash-up of “Uptown Funk” with classic movie dance numbers.

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  • mfennvt  On November 23, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    That video is outstanding! Thanks for posting it.

  • coastcontact  On November 23, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    You have neglected to review America’s history on immigration and refugees. With the exception of boat people from Cambodia and Vietnam the United States has NOT been a willing nation. Forget the words on the Statues of Liberty. Tht was more of a dream than reality.

    The reality is immigrants have been welcomed in the United States when there has been a labor need. The outstanding situations were building the railroads that brought thousands of Chinese in the 1800s, the flourishing factories of the early 20th century, and today the need for farm workers, gardeners, hotel workers, and restaurant workers-the jobs Americans don’t want to do.

    There is no current need for more people in the United States. There is little evidence of sympathy. Read this article in the Washington Post on American opinion about permitting the migration of Jews in the late 1930s. The article shows a Gallup poll that indicated 61% of Americans at that time opposed allowing 10,000 Jewish refugee children into the United States.

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