I’m surprised it has taken me so long to see the egregious nature with which some main stream media outlets currently operate. I think my first inklings came when I started to listen heavily to Sam Harris’ waking up podcast. He often expressed opinions on Islam that I knew to be controversial, but nonetheless I believed them to be worthy of discussion and not intimated from a position of hatred or bigotry. In Comparison to some commentators on the topic he is quite grounded and yet this has not stopped him being smeared with the charge of racism, islamophobia and bigotry.
In steps Trump, his entire campaign for office and his subsequent first few months as President of the United States. It has been a constant barrage of negativity, not just from the more unhinged and radical elements of society, but from prominent media outlets. If there is anyone who purports to have a critical mind reading this and disagrees that the media have savaged Trump, sometimes legitimately, but often over petty, inconsequential things please comment and let me hear what you have to say. I feel as though it has been a deluge from the moment he was sworn in of anything that they can possibly get their hands on to try and undermine his presidency, however miniscule. One of the examples that comes to mind is the inauguration pictures of his crowd being smaller than Obama’s comparatively.
And I wouldn’t even identify as a Trump supporter. I’m not even American. There are some things I think he will do that will benefit the US and some things that I disagree with. His curbs to banking regulations for instance. But I cannot help but feel frustrated by what I see as patently dishonest reporting. I want reporting to be balanced and of quality standard, not half hearted, shallow and clearly spun articles that promote a particular narrative. I want journalists to have integrity and to put partisan feelings aside to give the public a view that isn’t a myopic snapshot of any given issue.
I do not and will never advocate the curbing of press freedoms. That is a slippery slope that leads to tyranny and I hope Trump does not attempt to limit liberty. What I do advocate is that we, the people, speak out and use our speech freedoms to highlight the injustices and deficiencies of the press. Take the Pewdiepie saga, anyone who takes the time to look into that story will likely come to the conclusion that context was entirely ignored. It is concerning that a reputable news organisation, like the Wall Street Journal, would sink to the depths of construing the words a person uses, in such a way as to paint them as racist. it is nothing short of character assassination in my opinion. Sargon of Akkad’s video on this was particularly thorough.
Up next was Milo Yiannopolous, a controversial figure, seemingly on the doorstep of superstardom after bagging a book deal from Simon & Schuster and then making an appearance on Bill Maher’s show. Conveniently video footage surfaces, that has been on the internet for quite some time, of him appearing to be at the very least flippant with, if not dismissive of his own sexual abuse experiences. Subsequently, Milo loses his job with Breitbart, his book deal and his next public appearance as a speaker, despite his statement, that sought to clarify his previous comments.
Whatever your opinion on Milo’s comments, it strikes as convenient to me that as he is on the brink of an even wider audience, footage of comments, that passed seemingly without reproach at the time, surfaces and serves to sink his successes. It makes me wonder if those behind it truly care about the topic of child sexual abuse, or whether they sat on it for the opportune moment with which to use it for political gain. This is something I think is the medias’ duty to analyse, but yet again, I feel like the full picture has not been portrayed and we’ve been served up a twisted snapshot of the truth.
Is it any wonder that trust in the press has sank to new depths?
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‘The multi-culturalists are, as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. said, “very often ethnocentric separatists who see little in the Western heritage other than Western crimes. Their mood is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions of non-Western cultures.’ – pg 305 The clash of Civilizations, Samuel P. Huntington.
Those that see the West only through the eyes of negativity and guilt invariably seek to undermine the values that they associate with its imperialist past. Free speech, individualism, democracy and human rights. Ideas that have uniquely found footing in Western civilization as products of its rich, deep history, are tainted in the eyes of those determined only to see the atrocities of Western civilization, as its representation and legacy, and apply them like a blanket over its entire mass.
The answer either knowingly, or subconsciously is to flood the region with people from a diverse range of cultures, to atone for the sins of the region. The problem with that, as so deftly expressed by Schlesinger, is that incoming cultures are then held up on an immutable pedestal of virtuousness. Western culture is openly denigrated in what should be acknowledged as the antithesis of diversity, rather than real diversity where every culture is appreciated for its positives and attacked for its negatives equally.
The danger posed by those that adhere to this vein of thought is that over time, Western values will be eroded until what made the West a unique place on Earth surrounded by other unique regions, will be lost, or altered so much that it cannot be reclaimed. The positive products of the region, intellectual, architectural and artistic will be cast in with the darkness and thrown into the garbage heap, because of a myopic, nihilistic outlook, that seeks to indiscriminately and ignorantly paint the West solely with the brush of guilt and tear it down as a failure. As opposed to acknowledging the positives that can be drawn from society and moving forward with them into a new age.
If the West is to preserve its unique identity as the balance of power shifts away from the region in the years to come, its peoples need to regain confidence in the ideals and values that make the region what it is and stop seeing it solely through the prism of imperialism. Jocko Willink once said in his podcast. “You need to understand the darkness to appreciate the light.” The former imperialist powers should take a long, hard look at the fruits of their greed, learn from it and then combine that learning with all of the positive things that spawned from the Western lands. That is progressive and that is the way forward.
‘Liberals imagine that jihadists and islamists are acting as anyone else would given a similar history of unhappy encounters with the West. And they totally discount the role that religious beliefs play in inspiring a group like the Islamic State – to the point where it would be impossible for a jihadist to prove he was doing anything for religious reasons. Apparently it’s not enough for an educated person with economic opportunities to devote himself to the most extreme and austere version of Islam, to articulate his religious reasons for doing so ad nauseam, and even to go as far as to confess his certainty about martyrdom on video before blowing himself up in a crowd. Such demonstrations of religious fanaticism are somehow considered rhetorically insufficient to prove that he really believed what he said he believed.’ – Sam Harris page 47-48
I think that one paragraph sums up my frustrations with the debate on Islamic terrorism. Imagine if you went back in time to see the Knights Templar not give an inch in battle, driven by their religiously inspired, fervent belief in martyrdom. The conclusion you draw from this is that this was at root a frustration garnered from hundreds of years of eastern foreign policy in the form of Jihad and the knights’ reaction has nothing to do with religion. Surely you’d have to be at least dishonest in that scenario to discount the role of religious conviction? And yet as Harris demonstrates, this has almost become a mainstream political opinion amongst so called liberals. Harris continues –
‘The belief that a life of eternal pleasure awaits martyrs after death explains why certain people can honestly chant “we love death more than the infidels love life.” They truly believe in martyrdom – as evidenced by the fact that they regularly sacrifice their lives, or watch their children do so, without a qualm. As we have been having this conversation there was an especially horrific attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, where members of the Taliban murdered 145 people, 132 of them children. Here’s an except from an online conversation with a Taliban supporter in the aftermath of the massacre – Human life only has value among you worldly materialist thinkers. Death is not the end of life. It is the beginning of existence in a world much more beautiful than this. Paradise is for those pure of hearts. All children have pure hearts. They have not sinned yet… They have not been corrupted by their kafir parents. We did not end their lives. We gave them new ones in paradise, where they will be loved more than you can imagine. They will be rewarded for their martyrdom.”
I think that speaks for itself. You would have to make the claim that the Taliban supporter is lying, in order to undermine the idea that extreme religious conviction plays some part in the terror debate and I personally think the weight of evidence rests against you if you do.
But anyway that’s not even the debate that people should be having, the debate should be how do you deal with the tide of Islamist and jihadi groups around the globe? Maajid Nawaz argues that Islamism, the political belief of fundamentalism and the spreading of Islamic law and customs across all nations, must be defeated at grass roots levels within the Muslim community. They estimate that Islamist groups make up between 15 and 25% of the world’s 1.6 billion strong Muslim population. He sees The Obama administrations refusal to name Islamism as being at the root of groups like IS as a failure. He believes that naming the problem instead of avoiding it, gives Muslims a choice to either ‘reclaim our religion and its narrative, or allow thugs and demagogues to speak in its name and impose it on others. Calling it extremism is too relative and vague and sidesteps the responsibility to counter its scriptural justification.’ He means scriptural justification here in the sense that one may interpret many things from the Qu’ran and ahadith and one of those readings is the skewed beliefs of Islamic State. He also mentions however that another essential thing that needs to happen is for there to be an acknowledgement that there are many different interpretations possible, each to the person who reads the scripture. Essentially if the Muslim community can get to the stage where the interpretations are personal to the person and there is no right answer, this is the first step on the way to pluralism and secularism.
I’ve done rather a hatchet job here of what is a short, at 128 pages, yet valuable conversation in which the intricacies and problems of the debate are analysed in such greater depth. Despite its small length, it is definitely a worthy addition to the field and a good discussion between two respectful men, one a liberal Muslim, the other a liberal atheist. The more this is talked about and the less it is approached with apprehension and shame the better for our society.
The land of the free, the land of the West. Famed for being the home of democracy and tolerance. A place where people of opposing views can discuss ideas openly without fear. No matter how repugnant those views might be to the masses, it’s ok because that’s what free speech is designed for, to protect minority voices from the tyranny of the majority. What happens if a neo-nazi wants to walk around preaching hate? He can do and what society will do in response is debate him and take his ideas down with logic and facts. We do this because we have confidence in our ideas, our values and our ability to articulate them.
Except we’re in 2017, where white supremacist Richard Spencer was punched by someone for the crime of holding repugnant views… and many people celebrated it. What does it say about our society when that is the reaction? It tells me that our society doesn’t trust its population to be able to think critically about the ideas on display and reject them. it tells me the education system hasn’t produced enough people who understand and respect our regions’morals and values. It tells me the person who punched him has no self confidence in his own ideas and his ability to project them and it tells me that society in general is moving further away from liberty and into the arms of authoritarianism.
But because it’s a left wing variant of authoritarianism as opposed to a right wing one, that’s ok right? No it is not, because any move towards authoritarianism leads to a uniformity of ideas and in turn societal regression. To expand the mind you must take on a plethora of ideas and be able to understand them, weigh them up and reject/accept them. What we are saying by banning certain forms of speech, as stated previously in this piece, is that society doesn’t trust people to hear views that are potentially dangerous and reject them. This surely then lends credence to these ideas. Essentially you’re admitting that the states answer to these ideas isn’t strong enough to defeat it in open discourse. By banning or pushing certain forms of speech underground, you give them power in a way that runs contrary to your aims.
Further to this, the times in recent history when the extreme variant of left wing politics got a foothold in Russia, China and Cambodia we saw death tolls and a disregard for human life that should shock anyone with a moral compass. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were just as bad, if not worse, than Hitler for sheer numbers of deaths caused and yet strangely the far left is almost romanticised in the West in 2017. We should be doing everything we can if we truly hold up the ideals of diversity, the rights of the individual and freedom, to ensure that neither left or right wing variants of authoritarianism take hold within our society and lead it back down the path to oppression. The centre ground needs to find itself, its identity and its confidence and find the arguments and solutions that will defeat the SJWs and the alt-right in open discourse. Until then, we’ll continue along a polarised political path of increasing extremes.
We need to put faith in free speech as the core value of our culture, because it is a natural bulwark against a regressive society and a beacon of true progression.