Saturday, April 16, 2005

Malevolent Hilarity

For some time now, traffic at Gates of Vienna has featured cascades of referrals from Google searches on some variant of "Bill Gates convert Islam." It has taken several weeks of diligence and research on the part of the Baron to track this oddity to its source. Was it an urban legend? A joke? A hoax? Who was behind it? Why was this site getting so many hits on the subject?

Finally, the original source reported in: one of the members of a Middle Eastern blog called "Secular Kuwait" had posted Bill Gates' supposed conversion to Islam as an April Fool's Day joke. From there it took off into the blogosphere, anxious (surprised? delighted? amused?) Muslims everywhere started googling for information. And, had the founder of Microsoft been Bill Smith, there would've been no problem here: These are not the Smiths of Vienna, they are the Gates. So just because of the conjunction of names, most of the hopeful surfers washed up on this beach. Thanks, Bill.

In discussing this phenomenon with a number of people, the most cogent explanation came in an email from the Daily Pundit, Bill Quick. Referring to the "malevolent hilarity" of the situation, he said:
    I still, after watching it for several years now, find the natural bent toward conspiracy and fantasy in the Arab world to be nearly incomprehensible. I presume it to be cultural in some sense, but I haven't been able to nail it down to my own satisfaction. In some ways it reminds me of the more feverish dreams of the American far left, which may be an indicator that it acts as a substitute for actual power, and/or a balm for that lack.
He's right. It's a substitute… in this case for the truth. Islam is a failed project, held up only by a burgeoning birth rate. When prosperity comes and the birth rate falls, Islam will be overtaken by religious beliefs that are better shaped to conform to the inherent human need to be free. Just as the American far left has been overtaken -- and slam-dunked -- by the reality of how America votes.

So the fantasy of Bill Gates the Muslim will remain just that: a fantasy. A feverish dream.


Baron Bodissey said...

Alex -- I'll let Dymphna put her own two cents in, but for right now, here's mine.

I'll give you that one -- conspiracy theories are certainly rife all over the political spectrum. But the left is relatively new at the game. Paranoia goes along with powerlessness. Until very recently, the left held all the major control levers in the media, academia, and government, so they consequently had no reason to formulate conspiracy theories.

Now that they feel their power slipping away, they know there must be a reason... It's those radio-controlled rightwing neocon androids, with the implants in their brains put there by Karl Rove! YOW!

I got my tinfoil hat on now. He won't get me.

LA said...

I'm pretty sure the right are conspiring to control the weather by f--ing up the environment, and to steal all the worlds money via "corporate welfare". Get your fair but dangerously unbalanced news from

Dymphna said...

You could be right, Alex. There are no doubt many "bizarre right-wing conspiracy theories" and they probably flow from the same psychological impotence experienced by the fringe on the left. We *are* talking fringes here, my boy, not centers.

Here's the money quote from the post -- Bill Quick's comment: an indicator that it (i.e., paranoia)acts as a substitute for actual power, and/or a balm for that lack.

The UN has outlived its usefulness as a deliberative body. It is obviously corrupt and has no real accountability in place. Remember Lord Acton's dictum about absolute power and corruption. Even its low-level employees loathe the place.

Is the media biased one way or the other? Who knows? In a market-driven business, which it is, we will find out eventually what people will continue to pay attention to. You can find plenty of (university) studies which claim there is indeed a bias against conservatives. They simply count the numbers of times negative things are said about/by/for one side or the other in television, radio, and newspapers, and then they give the totals. Without analysis. So far, it looks like Liberal Bias is batting well.

As for the Gay Recruitment Drive, I suggest you hang out with different "conservatives," ones less given to impotent paranoid scheming. And I suggest that anyone planning to move political opinion one way or another learn carefully from the political activism of the gays from the '80's. They are probably the most impressive group vis-a-vis organization of the troops of any I've seen. The "scheme" is not secret at all -- read Andrew Sullivan. He's quite forthcoming about it.

Whether or not there is a conscious decision to keep conservatives out of academia, they nonetheless are under-represented there. Why do you think that is?

One professor said recently that it's because conservatives are stupid. Do you think that? Many, many liberals agree with him. It makes it easier to dismiss conservative ideas and conservatives themselves. A risky business in the long run, one which hurts the holder of such beliefs more than it hurts those of us who find such pontifications amusing.

Culture of death? It depends on which end of human life we find it easier to dismiss. Liberals, in general, tend to be pro-choice and anti-death penalty. Conservatives reverse the emphasis. Who's right? Who knows? I prefer an internally coherent approach that says since we don't know for sure, why don't we severely limit both? At the same time, I can see that abortion or execution is sometimes the lesser of two evils. But they're not *not* evil...just less evil. There are gradations, as I'm sure you remember from your Gen.Phil. 101 course.

Ah, yes, the "bizarre stuff" the right wing militias dream up...perfectly and evenly matched by the Trustifarians who show up at the G-8 meetings for a few days of mayhem and glorious fantasies of global ecological disaster. Both groups exhibit evidence of unglued narcissism. They are as sadly ignorant of history as they are of political possibility. I'd love to put them all in a big room and let them have a go at one another.

Come by anytime.

Jude the Obscure said...

What if the birthrate doesn't fall and prosperity doesn't come?

Dymphna said...

Obscure Jude:

You have those terms reversed: first comes prosperity and then the birth rate falls...if the first term does not occur, then likely the second won't either.

Col. B. Bunny said...

England took off because its courts were rational and fair. Rational inquiry and analysis was possible in a country that did not believe it to be blasphemy to deduce physical principles from observation of the natural world.

None of these things is possible in Islamic countries. A new definition of blasphemy is as near as your next door neighbor, in which category would be any challenge to the idea that Allah doesn't control the flight of every moth or every blink of every eye.

University students in Pakistan think that Allah caused the tsunami(s) of that year. An Egyptian prof was tossed out the window by his students for suggesting that the Koran could be interpreted. We know the pathetic non-oil-based economic performance of Arab countries, not to mention their inability to encourage the development of Nobel Prize winners and holders of patents.

There will be no prosperity and there will be no end to rapid Arab population growth.

Alas. Sheikh abu-Malthus will rule for the foreseeable future.