President Erect
Echo Chamber

Ow, My Vanity

Ophelia Benson recently aired some thoughts on the sly redefinition of “defamation” – a term now being used by those whose vanity is such they presume to take umbrage at things that are unflattering but true. I’ve touched on this subject before and noted how the language of religious supremacism is routinely couched in the rhetoric of personal injury. As when the preposterous Islamophile Yvonne Ridley declared: “My faith is my nationality and when you attack it you are being racist.”

Yvonne_Ridley3Presumably, Ms Ridley would have us believe that it is simply wrong to dislike Islam, or any part thereof. There are, apparently, no good reasons for doing so. But this opportunist victimhood is hardly flattering or deserving of sympathy. The spread of pretentious grievance does harm to liberal culture. Those who can claim to belong to some Designated Victim Group can use political leverage to silence their critics by depicting them as oppressors who, in the interests of “fairness,” must be silenced by the state. As when the pious souls at Cambridge Mosque conjured “hate speech” and “incitement to religious and ethnic hatred” from an innocuous student cartoon, with the result that those responsible found themselves interrogated by Cambridgeshire police. But what is unfair – really unfair - is the demand for unearned deference and unilateral exemption from the testing of ideas. Those who regard hurt feelings, or claims thereof, as denoting virtue by default may see a weaker party facing unfair attack and rush to their defence. In practice, they may simply be excusing the party with the weaker argument. Political deference to such demands leads to dishonesty and unrealism on a sociological scale. In the interests of “fairness,” so conceived, judgment must be blunted. As I said in one of my very first posts,

Religious “freedom” is now presumed to entail sparing believers any hint that others do not share their beliefs, and indeed may find them ludicrous. There is, apparently, no corresponding obligation for believers to embrace ideas that are not clearly risible, monstrous or disgusting.

R Joseph Hoffmann adds some thoughts of his own and ponders the conceit that religion – and one in particular – now has “human rights” too.:

According to Pakistan’s ambassador, Zamir Akram, “Defamation of religions is the cause that leads to incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence toward their followers.” That is stuff and nonsense of course. It is like saying that impugning General Motors workmanship is the cause of a car wreck. If religions, by a stretch, are products of culture, then the fact that they are sometimes “defamed” (read: criticised) might just have something to do with quality control and less to do with the insidious intentions of their detractors. To resituate the causes of religious violence and hatred from its source to the “defamers” is a standard tactic redolent of the Victim’s Handbook available at your local Discourse and Broomsticks Bookstore.

Related: Jeff Goldstein ponders advice to mind one’s language in certain company.

Comments

James S

From the Hoffmann article:

"In the long run the [UNHRC] resolution will be promoted as it was passed by those who support the victimist view that the trouble with religion is people who don't like religion… Scandalously, the UN has now leant respectability to the idea that moral outrage is only the "right" of those whose religious feelings have been hurt."

TDK

Identity politics was always full of absurd contradictions and perhaps it has to be taken to its logical conclusion in order to break the theory.

Kenan Malik seems relevant

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5992989.ece

David

TDK,

“…in the wake of the council’s multicultural policy… a community that had worn its faith lightly now became defined almost entirely by that faith.”

Thereby granting status and leverage to whichever members of that “community” shouted their piety loudest. The more pervasive identity politics is, the more we see extremists rising to prominence. The MCB and its various secretaries general being obvious examples.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/06/image_problem.html

James S

"Designated Victim Group can use political leverage to silence their critics by depicting them as oppressors who, in the interests of "fairness," must be silenced by the state."

Cue the UNHRC, speech codes and "dialogue facilitators"... And it looks like some people's feelings are worth more than others.

William

Of course, it's not hard to find idiocy in any statement by Ridley, but this one is good: “My faith is my nationality and when you attack it you are being racist.”

Except if I attack a nationality or a nation, I'm not being racist. Because race is not the same as nation.

David

“And it looks like some people’s feelings are worth more than others.”

Exactly. The assumption seems to be that some of us are so easily bruised by reality and inconvenient questions, they must be spared contact with them. And anyone who thinks otherwise, or who inadvertently challenges that assumption, is up to no good. See the following scenario, which I suggested during the “dialogue facilitators” saga:

Student A believes that Muhammad was an exemplary figure and living proof of Allah’s most merciful intentions. He hears a stranger, Student B, sitting at a nearby table talking to a friend and explaining why Muhammad is a reprehensible figure, citing his behaviour as related in various Islamic texts. The language is fairly blunt but each claim is supported with evidence. Among the words used are “pirate,” “murderer,” narcissist” and “paedophile.” Student A takes exception to this and complains to a “facilitator” with mutterings of “Islamophobia” and “hate speech.”

Now whose argument is more likely to be subject to scrutiny? Which perspective is most likely to be deemed “biased” or “disrespectful” - the blunt but logical critique or the pretentious fantasy? Does the person complaining of injured feelings have an advantage here? Will both perspectives be flattened into one egalitarian plane of “fairness,” in which both are somehow correct and deserving of respect? Or will Student A’s injured feelings be granted inordinate weight and then be used as a pretext to dismiss as “hate speech” any reminder of his philosophical inadequacy?

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/11/temerity-revisited-.html

And if so, on what basis are Student A’s feelings deemed more important and deserving of indulgence?

Anna

"And if so, on what basis are Student A's feelings deemed more important and deserving of indulgence?"

The "facilitators" think he's more likely to get violent? :)

David

“The ‘facilitators’ think he’s more likely to get violent? :)”

Well, maybe. That, or make a fuss and milk the situation. If a person can’t bear dissent or defend his own position with evidence and sound argument, he may resort to stamping his feet and affecting tearful indignation: “Oh, how could you be so mean? You’re making me look ignorant and foolish. That’s hate speech! I demand compensation!”

It reminds me of Tariq Ramadan, who insists, with typical arrogance, that he and others like him must dictate the *terms* on which any “dialogue” about Islam will (eventually) take place. Given the deferential terms he has in mind, that pretty much rules out anything remotely frank and realistic. In the debate linked below, which Ramadan couldn’t control, it was he who lost his cool.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/10/dialogue.html

carbon based lifeform

The Cambridge mosque episode was a fucking outrage. The student who edited the magazine was "asked to leave Cambridge temporarily for safety reasons".

http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/160/1/

Anna

Repeat after me, "Religion of Peace."

Spiny Norman

Religion of Groveling Submission?

Oops! A little unvarnished truth slipped out. Sorry. I'll not allow that to happen again, lest the Yvonne Rudleys of the world get the vapors.

Carry on.

Spiny Norman

On a more serious note, my mother's church welcomed as a guest speaker a couple of weeks back (who's name I can't remember at the moment) a man who is promoting "peaceful interfaith dialogue" between Christians and Muslims. Among his assertions was that the "vast majority" of Muslims hold Christians as "infidels", but as co-religionists and "friends in God". One of the Muslim sources he apparently sited for this idea was none other than the esteemed Tariq Ramadan. (At least that's the name my mother recalled).

Spiny Norman

*not as infidels* rather...

Horace Dunn

David

Somewhat off topic but clearly related, have you seen this:

http://bellagerens.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/freedom-of-speech/

"It was already a crime to incite violence, regardless of whether the speaker participated in the violence himself; now it is a crime to incite an emotion, regardless of whether the speaker holds it himself. These laws make the speaker, regardless of intent or participation, responsible for the feelings and actions of others."

David

Horace,

Thanks for that.

“Free speech is a loophole in the minds of our ministers. Rather than being a right which the government must not infringe, it is a loose end to be sewn up. We are only free to speak that which is not prohibited at the whim of each successive Parliament. We are made criminals not only by what others do, but by what others might do.”

Indeed. As so often, the presumption boggles the mind.

rxc

“And it looks like some people’s feelings are worth more than others.”

So, by this logic, we must protect the feelings of the most sensitive, those who bruise most easily, whose beliefs are the most fragile and tenuous, and lacking in self-supporting substance.

I would call this the infantilization of society.

jones

I have little doubt that this is just so the wrong forum to place this but in my own twisted mind I could stretch to making a link.That and the mailonline simply didnt even acknowledge my contribution, if even to just shoot it dahn in flames.Not sure what I'm saying, hope you can work it out!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1165346/Teen-army-cadets-uniform-targeted-vicious-thugs-blamed-deaths.html

and my comment to the story


There are ever darker forces now at work within British society which on current trends seem to have only one of very few conclusions.

We also seem to be in the position of not being able to even debate these forces without running the very high risk of falling foul of some thought-crime or other with the now standard systemic reflex of putting more weight on the pressure cooker should it be felt that the 'masses' are getting above themselves. A rash of some of the most repressive laws in recent history (with the technology to back them up) has transformed the culture which I no longer recognise as the Britain I spent most of my life in until recent years.

Disaster awaits and there will be a case to answer by many who put us in this position.

Do any of the political parties subscribe to meaningful measures to bring our country back from the brink.?

I am a former serviceman of 8 years and a cadet prior.

Ta for the rant.

Anna

David, the debate with Tariq Ramadan is great, especially when he gets all pissy near the end. He's a nasty piece of work.

David

“He’s a nasty piece of work.”

Yes, I think he is. See the link below for a few of the reasons why.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/03/squinting_at_ex.html

It must be quite difficult for him to maintain his rhetorical sleight-of-hand, in which he elides or contradicts his own statements to Muslim-only audiences. It requires a certain kind of mind to sustain such dishonesty and doublethink. And it’s telling that he, the grand sophist, is the one who gets all uppity and irate.

John D

"And it looks like some people's feelings are worth more than others."

Just found this speech code at FIRE:

"Any form of activity, whether covert or overt, that creates a significantly uncomfortable, threatening, or harassing environment… will be handled judicially and may be grounds for immediate disciplinary action… and criminal prosecution. The conduct does not have to be intended to harass. The conduct is evaluated from the complainant's perspective."

http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/10386.html

You're guilty if the complainant says so. Social justice!

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