Muslims, Jews, “punks” and bigotry

Recently, Umar Lee attracted the attention of the notorious frothing bigots of Little Green Footballs and Jihad Watch with three postings ([1], [2], [3]), the first two comparing them to the lynch mobs who murdered African Americans in the early and mid 20th century, such as those in the notorious public hanging picture, which he dubbed a “1950s Little Green Footballs gathering”. I have no idea what motivated him to bring up the issue; I’ve glanced at LGF a few times since I first saw it in late 2003 or early 2004 and rarely glance at Jihad/Dhimmi Watch anymore either. Interesting that this takes place just as the controversy over blogging conduct hit, with Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly computer books fame) attempting to get everyone to sign up to a code of conduct (see previous entry). In today’s Guardian, Jonathan Freedland suggested that the “blogosphere risks putting off everyone but point-scoring males” and offered what he sees as a representative slice of online debate:

So you’re at a public meeting on, say, the war in Iraq and the main speaker has just sat down. Someone in the audience rises to declare the speaker is talking crap, but that’s typical of him because he knows nothing and it’s a scandal that he’s paid for the rubbish he turns out. A second man agrees that the speech was trash, but tells the first man he should crawl back under his stone because he never says anything worth listening to. A third man wonders why the speaker didn’t mention Israel, especially given his Zionist-sounding last name.

The first man is now shouting at the second man, insulting him for insulting him first. A woman gets up to make a point about the war in Iraq, but she is rapidly drowned out by a fourth and fifth man now debating Israel and the Palestinians. A sixth man compares the speaker to Hitler and proceeds to read out a 1,500-word article he read somewhere six years ago. If that has an oddly familiar ring, it may be because you’re spending a lot of time online, specifically in the new and still lawless world known as the blogosphere.

Umar makes the point, in his third posting, that anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Black bigotry are one and the same thing and tend to emanate from the same people:

I grew up with and around these type of people and I know them all too well. That is why these guys have the smell all over them. These cowards are afraid of blacks and Latinos. A few black families move into their neighborhoods and they flee. If they are so tough, then why don’t they stand their ground? Why don’t they say these things in public?

These LGF clowns have sent me several emails calling me a “nigger lover”, “rag-head” and “goat f*cker” from the safety of their homes, but they would never do it in person. They called blacks “sh*t skins” in the comments, but they would never go to Bed-sty and say that. They sit in their suburbs and talk trash about non-whites but would never even drive through their neighborhoods, much less say these things in public. They pretend to be good people in public, but they are rabid racists. I know their type. You can see it in their posts.

When I ventured into LGF three years ago, I noticed what was obvious: that the news stories were entirely skewed so that only bad stories about violent Muslims (except for a tiny number who issued sweeping denunications of Muslims) were included, that the misdeeds of individual Muslims, particularly when they appeared politically-motivated and even when the perpetrator was obviously mentally ill, were used as “evidence” against all Muslims, that any repressive measure against Muslims was cheered on and any concession, even by a commercial organisation for the purposes of pleasing customers, was attacked (the Alabama driving licence affair being a case in point, the location being very relevant), and that bigots were left to froth unrestrained, in language undistinguishable from racism and some of it actually racist. Jihad/Dhimmi Watch, and its own crowd, was little different. (The design for J/DW, incidentally, was done by LGF.) There was a quiz, published around 2003, called “Little Green Footballs or Late German Fascists?”, comparing comments left at LGF with the rhetoric of the Nazis - notably the references to vermin and subhumans and suggestions that people be sterilised.

Still, I have serious reservations about whether you can lump in the anti-Islamic bigotry of the western Right, and sections of its Left, with the murderous anti-Black racism of the past. Sure, some of the anonymous idiots who have responded to Umar’s three recent posts have used an N-word or two and some have sent emails with the same word. However, I’m not sure Johnson or Spencer are racists as such even if they tolerate it on their blogs; their agenda is about religion. They support, for example, anti-Islamic Christian politicians and activists in the Muslim world and its borderlands, not all of them white. There is also a danger in seeing yesterday’s bigotry in today’s: for example, Oriana Fallaci is best known now as the anti-Muslim bigot she became in old age, but in her youth she fought against fascism in Italy, which is where her “authority” came from. In the past, laws were passed in Europe (and elsewhere) explicitly discriminating against Jews (and other minorities) by means of the numerus clausus and dictating where they had to be in the evening; today’s discriminatory laws are aimed at groups’ normal behaviour, such as prohibiting their clothing or making it difficult for the itinerant to find places to stay, without actually mentioning them by name. One thing remains the same: much of mainland Europe in particular cannot accommodate a distinct minority with a different way of life, but history does not repeat itself. As I wrote on a previous occasion, if there is another holocaust, it will no doubt be perpetrated by people who would be horrified at the thought that they were perpetrating any such thing. In fact, they may even think themselves the heirs of those who defeated the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

I also do not think Umar is the best person to make the point about the link between this type of bigotry and racism - as if it had to be made and had not been obvious for years anyway. Umar in the past has not been above using stereotypes about what he called weak white men or boys who grew up in the 1960s, contrasting them with Black men who at least “didn’t cry and bawl and have the emotions of a ten-year old girl like many white men”, on one occasion attributing someone’s apostasy from Islam to such characteristics. This isn’t racism as such, but it’s a mixture of male chauvinism and the sort of class chauvinism that fuels the American right-wing backlash of which Spencer and the like are an example - it’s what we call over here “inverted snobbery”. Anyone who is not unashamedly “common” is derided as weak, effete and (if they are male) effeminate, and accused of thinking themselves superior. I had to deal with a lot of this at school, and it’s common in the media, particularly talk radio, nowadays, here in the UK as well as in America. For what it’s worth, I know plenty of men who grew up in the 1960s and are not all that demonstrative with their emotions, and when I think of women of the time, my impression is of very feminine hippies and flower girls, not bra burners.

Second, another site I used to try and read from time to time, and now hardly ever do, is the parallel universe that is Front Page Magazine, in which Robert Spencer’s articles regularly appear. The last time, I think, was last year when I read through Joe Kaufman’s attack on the entire Muslim blogging community. I hardly need to tell you what that universe is like: everyone is either a river-to-sea Zionist or an anti-semite; nearly all Muslim groups are just fronts for Hamas; global warming is a myth; the Left never did any good, the moderate Left are buddy-buddy with the Communists and they’re no better than Nazis. Umar’s blog has included a number of dispatches from another parallel universe: “Irish” America, in which the IRA are what they may have been several decades ago, namely a force for the liberation of Ireland from “British tyranny”, rather than the mass murderers they became by the time of the Enniskillen bombing, to name just one of their atrocities. One of his most recent postings involved a man named Gerry McGeough, currently in jail awaiting trial for attempted murder, who was tried for bombings of British army bases in Germany. He may not have been involved (he was acquitted), but the IRA still attacked bases which stood to defend France and Germany from (respectively) German and atheistic Soviet aggression. Since when was that a legitimate target for an organisation seeking to remove the British from Ireland? Given that France is mostly Catholic and Germany is largely so, the fact that his organisation did this should give the “devout Catholic” that McGeough supposedly is a bad conscience, to say the least. When the Front Page mob publish articles on the issues that mostly concern them, they never consider that “information” from MEMRI or the accusations of US prosecutors against Muslim defendants is anything but gospel; Umar Lee makes the same assumptions regarding the claims of IRA “veterans” and the propaganda of pro-IRA groups in the USA, never considering that the IRA men they champion are anything other than heroic defenders of freedom, rather than mass-murdering thugs. His mentality is not as far removed from theirs as he likes to think.

I do not think he has done the Muslims much of a favour with his action. He has basically thrown a brick into a big pot of bubbling excrement, and had some of it fly back into his face. What he may well have done is turn the clock back, for the Muslim bloggers, to 2004 when certain bloggers asked me not to link their sites in case a certain individual with a Jewish-sounding name found their blogs and started spewing his abusive dreck in their comment boxes. Umar’s blog has been invaded by LGF and Jihad Watch goons who massively swelled his comment count for his first post in the series. Of course, some of us can moderate now, and delete comments en masse which we couldn’t as unpaid Haloscan users, and I suggest that anyone not moderating at the moment starts now, at least for a while. As for his conclusion - “that white populism is at the root of their popularity and if you scratch under the surface of the Muslim-hater you will more often than not find someone who hates blacks, Latinos, and a good dose of anti-Semitism” - this is wrong as well. There is doubtless an element of white racism, but LGF and sites like it have long had a heavy Jewish element among their comment writers, which becomes obvious whenever the Palestine issue comes up (see this article: their racism is particularly directed against Arabs, and most particularly Palestinians). Given the Jewish contingent among the bigots who tell us their names, it’s a fair bet that many of the jafis hiding behind screen names like “Sharmuta” and “Son of a Monkey and a Pig” are as well. This is not to say that all Jews are Islamophobes or otherwise bigots, but it’s clear to me that LGF’s conveyor belt of hate carries as much Jewish bigotry as white racism, if not more.

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