Friday, May 21, 2010

What Happened to Civil Discourse?

My opponent in the Public Square debate, the ethicist Jack Marshall, has declined to answer any of the questions posed to him in my first rebuttal. Perhaps I was mistaken in my assumption that our discussion would have the structure of a formal debate.

Mr. Marshall, has, however, responded to my previous post with “And the Winner Is…”, and I will address the issues he raises in his new polemic.

This may be my last post in the series — the discussion closes at noon later today. I’ll add the permalink to the Public Square version when it becomes available. Update: permalink here.

What Happened to Civil Discourse?

“Everyone Annoy Muslims Day” is almost over, and what has been accomplished?

Well, Pakistan has shut down much of the internet, including Facebook and YouTube, costing those two American corporations thousands of dollars.

This is an argument from utility, and depends for its implied moral force on financial losses suffered by private corporations.

Mohammed: North Frieze, Supreme CourtIs it unethical to engage in legally and morally acceptable public behavior if it causes a corporation to experience a reduction in profitability?

Am I ethically required to surrender my First Amendment rights to make sure that Facebook and YouTube are able to maintain the level of dividends they pay out to shareholders?

Wasn’t this to be about the ethics of drawing pictures of Mohammad? We seem to have veered off into utilitarian arguments here. Okay, let’s follow the path you’ve chosen to Facebook and YouTube costs.

Social network sites thrive on controversy. Anything that increases traffic increases page impressions and boosts ad rates. Thus, it is more likely that the EDMD event was a profitable venture for both companies.

Traffic is up, that is, except in Pakistan. The government’s decision to block its citizens from access to the those two portals is simply part and parcel of shari’ah law. Fortunately, we don’t live under those strictures, so the two named social networks are very busy. So is Twitter.

There is good reason to doubt the facts as you present them.

The 100,000 or so members of the Facebook pages devoted to the event have been able to chuckle at the clever drawings by other members. Molly Norris, who learned the hard way that in the era of the World Wide Web, sophomoric humor can be dangerous because the sophomores will take it seriously and viral, is huddling somewhere, wondering if she is the logical identifiable target of whatever fury the event generates among jihadists.

This is an attempt to place blame for Ms. Norris’ possible execution on the heads of those who chose this experiment. The supporters of EDMD have once again provided Muslims with an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to live in modern culture. To assign the protesters responsibility for any threats against Ms. Norris is an example of displacement: the responsibility for their behavior lies with the jihadists, not with the cartoonists. To transfer that blame is itself “sophomoric”.

It is also dangerous in the extreme, indirectly encouraging the jihadists to act while excusing their behavior before the fact.

When she’s assassinated, I’m sure the “Deal with it!” crowd will all crow, “See? We weren’t intimidated! The First Amedment [sic] lives!”

One more example of mind-reading and loaded language. There is no way to know what the cartoonists will say or how they will react to the death of yet another innocent.

Sarcasm is the refuge of those who have no further points to make. The use of words like “crow” would ban you from our blog, which demands civil discourse from our commenters.
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Jihadists are intimidating; that’s how they take control. But some principles are worth standing up for.

Of course, the vast majority of Muslims who revere their Prophet won’t see any of the drawings;…

This is arguably untrue, based on the Danish cartoons. A far higher proportion of Muslims in the Middle East saw the Danish cartoons than did American TV viewers and newspaper readers.

… those who do will simply conclude that Americans are crude and unfeeling scum,…

They concluded that a long time ago. The egregious violation of America’s diplomatic space in Tehran and the kidnapping of American citizens wasn’t done because they respect us. Islam has repeatedly made its mission clear: we will submit to it or we will die. We take Islam seriously.

And did you notice that Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is not confined to the United States? Have you seen the images or watched the videos made by Europeans, Canadians, and Australians?

The Counterjihad movement is broadly international.

… and a small percentage—the same percentage that threatened the “South Park” creators, will see who they can intimidate next. And they will be intimidated, “Everybody Disrespect Islam Day” notwithstanding.

Mind-reading again, this time of Muslims.

Oh—I forgot the most important thing. A lot of people who would never have the guts to stand their ground in a real showdown over Free Speech get to believe that they have done something heroic, though the message of their speech is little more than a playground taunt to that strange kid you don’t understand.

This debate didn’t take long to turn ugly, did it? We know people who actually put their lives on the line so folks like you can make ad hominem attacks with impunity.

Does referring to those with whom you disagree as cowards serve the goal of meaningful dialogue?

Is it even ethical?

These aren’t “strange kids”. They are mujahideen, and they kill non-Muslims. They also kill fellow Muslims quite frequently. They use their children for weapons. They put bombs in their wives’ burqas and send them out to die.

The ethicist Dr. Gary Hull has researched this issue in far more depth than you appear to have done, at least based on your arguments.

In an appeal to authority, I cite Dr. Hull’s thorough research and his conclusion that free speech is at risk when Islam is involved.

On the page “Murder, Mayhem and Self-Censorship”, Dr. Hull cites incidents from 1955 to the present day in which individuals, institutions, and businesses were injured, killed, intimidated, or shut down by the terrorists simply because of images or words.

An example: in 1988, Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses. For the next five years, people who translated the book (in countries ranging from Japan to Norway) were attacked and either killed or severely injured. Bookstores were threatened with destruction if they carried the book. In Turkey, 37 Muslims were slaughtered in an attempt to kill one of the translators.

Ridicule is a time-honored tradition in Western culture. Muslims who have assimilated here understand that. So do Christians who see their own icons mocked all the time. Radical Islam doesn’t do irony, but if it is to survive, it will have to learn.

Who won? Nobody, of course. If ever Shakespeare’s words—”sound and fury; signifying nothing”—applied, this is it.

This is a matter of judgment, but that’s fine with me. Everybody’s entitled to his opinion.

And lost? Civility. Fairness. Consideration.

Let’s tackle these three terms seriatim:


I define “civility” to mean “polite public behavior which avoids violence, insults, and the unwarranted giving of offense.”

Leaving aside the offense felt by Muslims — the giving of which I have argued elsewhere is more than warranted — who else engages in uncivil behavior in this discourse? What is civil about describing your debating opponent and those who agree with him as a “mob”?

Who is being civil (or ethical, for that matter) when he describes the speech of someone with whom he disagrees as “little more than a playground taunt”?

What civility is fostered by calling the behavior of your ideological opponents “self-important grandstanding”?

Whose civility is in question when the spontaneous and peaceful heartfelt protests of thousands of concerned citizens are dismissed as “manufacturing a fake demonstration”?

How civil is it to call your opponent a coward?

Who’s civil now?


To tackle fairness, let’s consider a single incident of staggering unfairness which just happened to land on my desk this morning during Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. It concerns a Swedish citizen who is being prosecuted for publicly reporting, in carefully correct detail, the events surrounding the consummation of the marriage of Mohammed to his child bride Aisha when the former was fifty-three and the latter was nine years old.

For this “incitement against an ethnic group” — that is, for telling the exact truth about what is recorded in Islamic scripture and believed by more than a billion observant Muslims — the accused may have to pay a large fine and spend time in jail. For quoting the hadith.

A non-Muslim quoting accepted Islamic scripture offends Muslims, and is therefore a criminal in Sweden.

Tell me, what’s fair about that?

This is not an isolated incident. Our blog and all the other Counterjihad blogs have archives crammed with stories like this, abominations of justice which occur virtually every day.

This is why we draw Mohammed: to protest the grotesque unfairness that is being forcibly imposed upon us by our treacherous governments across the length and breadth of the Western world.

Don’t talk to me about “fairness”.


I assume by “consideration” that you mean “consideration for the feelings of Muslims”.

My response consists of two words: “reciprocity” and “hypocrisy”.

Where is the reciprocity? There is no consideration whatsoever in the Muslim world for the feelings of Christians, Jews, or Hindus. Just take a look in the pages of any Arabic-language newspaper in the Middle East, and see how Jews are depicted in the editorial cartoons, every single day. When Palestinian terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in 2002, they stole everything of value and ripped up the Bibles to use the pages as toilet paper.

And their feelings are hurt by a few cartoons?

Considering that for the last thirty years or so progressives have watched without complaint — and even applauded — “transgressive” art that immerses crucifixes in urine or smears statues of the Virgin with dung, this is rank hypocrisy. Plays and movies that depict Jesus as a transvestite or a homosexual or even a vampire are not only tolerated, they receive favorable reviews in mainstream periodicals.

And now, out of consideration for the feelings of Muslims, we are being asked to refrain from drawing Mohammed as a Roundabout Dog?

This sort of inconsistency gives new meaning to the word “hypocrisy”.


Jedilson Bonfim said...

Considering that for the last thirty years or so progressives have watched without complaint — and even applauded — “transgressive” art that immerses crucifixes in urine or smears statues of the Virgin with dung, this is rank hypocrisy.

Absolutely... And, speaking of hypocrisy and double standards, and lack of fairness, let's not forget how mahoundians are free to call for the slaughter of infidels in the UK, while though later cleared of the charges filed against them, two Christian hotel owners in the UK were arrested and tried for "hurting the precious mahoundian feelings" of a mobile tent, by referring to her child-molesting prophet as a warlord (and wasn't that dirtbag one? Who the hell would be insulted if someone accurately referred to Margaret Thatcher as a "former British PM", or to Salvador Dali as a "surrealist painter", or to Ludwig van Beethoven as a "classical-music composer"?) And how there has been no limit to how the British "justice" system has been twisted and turned in order to make room for crimes committed by mahoundians, from shoe-throwing at whatever and whomever they want to letting them get away with domestic violence through the creation of barbaric sharia courts?

Jack Marshall doesn't admit it, but he clearly seems to favor the adaptation of Western legal systems, customs and notions of human rights to those outlined by the Cairo Declaration of "human rights"; just so that mahoundians might get the feeling that they could consider stopping threats against us as a possible reward for our submission, dhimmitude and giving them the impression that, through our capitulation, we're doing our bit to help the "prophecies" they believe in come true.

But, as the foolish ignoramus that he is, he fails to see that not even if the whole world were under the kind of "mahoundian peace" raging through present-day Somalia (yep, that is peace in mahoundian epistemology, since that place is nearly 100% mahoundian), the thirst for blood and destruction that mahoundianism instill in its votaries would never be satisfied.

May Everybody Draw Mahound Day become a yearly celebration of free speech, and an opportunity to give mahoundianism the mockery and criticism it and its adherents have done so much to deserve, and taken so little of, for the last 1400 years.

Zenster said...

Bravo, J.B.! [golf clap]

Here's my own reply as posted over at Public Square:

"Everyone Annoy Muslims Day” is almost over, and what has been accomplished?

Rather a lot has been accomplished. One particular “professional ethicist” named Jack Marshall has revealed himself as a dishonest participant in what was supposed to be a fact-based discussion of why or why not Islam should be shown any respect regarding depictions of Mohammad.

Presented by Baron Bodissey with a solidly argued point-by-point refutation of his original response he, instead, elects to ignore any personal responsibility for voluntarily opting into this debate even while violating numerous well-accepted tenets of forensic exchange.

This same Mr. Marshall then goes on to post these new observations as if they are entirely disconnected from all previous dialogue pertaining to Everyone Draw Mohammad Day. Despite proclaiming himself as a “professional ethicist”, Mr. Marshall indulges in numerous factual errors even as he adopts a condescending and, at times, sarcastic tone entirely inappropriate to honest and productive discourse. He resorts to thoroughly discredited argumentative techniques and repeatedly draws demonstrably incorrect conclusions that continue to deny or exonerate the belligerent nature of Islamic doctrine and Muslims in general even though all available evidence indicates that the exact opposite is true.

The expertise in supposed ethics that Mr. Marshall ostensibly lays claim to appears as if it is far more at home in the realm of America’s financial investment sector than at any venue dedicated to pursuit of the truth.

Avraham said...

I am Jewish and I live in Israel. I want to mention that I value not insulting people very much. I have always tried not to insult or hurt Muslims in any way. I used to spend all my time at "navi samuel" that means in the synagogue build in the basement of a mosque which is was considered to be the shrine of the prophet Samuel. I had a fried there by the name of Mohamed who is the son of the sheik. He had learnt law in some Egyptian collage but lived in Israel. I used to engage him and a few other Muslims in conversations about the political situation in Israel. (that was right after the first intifada had started)at the time I used to support the idea that Muslims should be loyal to the koran thinking as many Jews still do that it is a book that advocates what is called the seven noahide laws. Even then I noticed some problems with Islam. There was something strangely murderous about it. But I was considered off limits in those days. Even then on many occasions I was attacked by Muslims not in that area. i once was at the pool of the "Shiloach" in Jerusalem which is down about fifty yards down a set of stairs the Arabs then started throwing rocks down the stairs at me. These were large rocks coming at about 100 miles per hour. I realized then that if even one rock would hit me God forbid that would be the end. I said the shortest prayer to god. I said "I have no army, I have no weapon, but I have You." And I started walking up the stairs. The stones stopped coming for some reason. When I got up to ground level the Arabs in the yard saw I was there and said "here he is" and started throwing rocks again at point blank range. And then the strangest thing happened I have still not figured out until this day. Not a single stone hit me. Now you have to understand there are Arabs that throws can throw a stone at fifty yard s away at their sheep and not miss. But here was walking with about 10 feet of them calmly walking up the hill.
When I got up some ways up the hill I looked on my sides and saw the stones flying around me. As I got further up there was a small army base and I heard one soldier saying to the other hey they are throwing stones!! I said to myself "Oh so they finally noticed. Great!! Just in time"~!

In Hoc Signo Vinces† said...

In hoc signo vinces

This is just disrespectful and bad manners towards the Baron.

By accepting the challenge and then declining to proceed shows a contempt for the First Amendment and trivialization of free speech which was the very charge that this person attempted put against the Baron.

The only time that it maybe acceptable to decline to respond is if you do not have the academic tools to continue to give justice to your position, then this should be stated and you concede without damaging the contentions you hold.

Anonymous said...

"And then the strangest thing happened I have still not figured out until this day. Not a single stone hit me."

Once, a couple years ago, I was walking along a path near a brook. I saw a coiled snake out of the corner of my eye and jumped away just as it struck at my foot. It coiled back up again and looked at me. I looked at it - it was a copperhead, not too uncommon. It was a gravel path, so I picked up some stones and started throwing them at it. I had never really practiced throwing stones at a target before. I was maybe three meters away, I threw stones at it for ten minutes, I think I hit it glancingly exactly once. Eventually it got tired or annoyed or something and uncoiled and slithered off into the grass.

Moral of the story? It doesn't take divine intervention to be really really bad at throwing stones. It's a LOT harder than you think.

Assigning divine providence to utterly ordinary things that you simply have not experienced before is a huge exercise in foolishness.

Anonymous said...

And yeah, that Jack Marshall guy ... this is why I don't bother even pretending to engage in debate with "the other side" anymore.

Anonymous said...


Divine providence or, as I like to call it, the hand of God, happens all of the time - all around us.

Even where you REFUSE to acknowledge God, God is still there - waiting patiently for YOU to return to God.

God can indeed shield a person from stones if God desires to do so....