Thursday, July 28, 2011

the big lie

I was going to put this on the depository and link to it on the sidebar, but since I only have 2 posts so far this month, I'm placing it here.

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If a Christian, inspired by the Bible, commits an act of terrorism, Christians (more generally, the West) are quick to say that the person could not have been a Christian because Christianity is clearly against such things (Bill O'Reilly: "Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith.") Yet when an identical act is committed by a Muslim the perpetrator is not a traitor to their religion but simply a loyal follower who's fulfilling its most extreme teachings, hence the ubiquity of the term "Islamic extremist" compared to "Christian extremist" or "Jewish extremist." This ubiquity is not based on the prevalence of the attacks in relation to their religious inspiration, it's based on the way in which the attacks are covered and portrayed by the government and the media. According to the FBI (see below), between 1980 and 2005, 7% of all terrorist attacks on the United States were carried out by Jewish extremists, while only 6% were carried out by Islamic extremists. This is a damning fact, and it proves just how much media coverage and government policy forms people's perception of reality. It should come as no surprise to us now that, after years of government and media distortion for political ends, Islamophobia is growing, and people who immerse themselves in the misinformation and false-realities created by sites like have been inspired to gun people down.

Let me briefly return to the idea that "Christian terrorist" is a self-contradictory term... Mark Twain once recalled how his preacher used to read pro-slavery passages from the Bible whenever the topic came up, thus ending any debate (as the Word of God -- if you believe it as such -- is wont to do). It's not a stretch to say that what went on in America during, before, and after Twain's life -- especially in the South -- is an example of a brand of mass terrorism that was specifically supported by, and largely perpetrated by, Christians who believed they were carrying out God's plan. These days, the Bible is not only evoked to justify anti-gay legislation and discrimination, it's also used to pit Christianity ("good") against Islam ("bad"), in a way that brings to memory the Crusades (a tradition evoked by Breivik in his manifesto).

Glenn Greenwald:"[I]t was widely assumed, based on basically nothing, that Muslims had been responsible for this attack [in Norway] and that a radical Muslim group likely perpetrated it, it was widely declared to be a "terrorist" attack. That was the word that was continuously used. And yet, when it became apparent that Muslims were not involved and that, in reality, it was a right-wing nationalist with extremely anti-Muslim, strident anti-Muslim bigotry as part of his worldview, the word "terrorism" almost completely disappeared from establishment media discourse. Instead, he began to be referred to as a "madman" or an "extremist" [or a "lone wolf"]. And it really underscores, for me, the fact that this word "terrorism," that plays such a central role in our political discourse and our law, really has no objective meaning. It’s come to mean nothing more than Muslims who engage in violence, especially when they’re Muslims whom the West dislikes."

The following numbers highlight -- in an objectively damning way -- the utter stupidity and hypocrisy of many people's perception of Muslims, terrorism, and the War on Terror.

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From Europol, the European Union's criminal intelligence agency:

european union, statistics, islam, foiled

european union, statistics, islam, foiled

Glenn Greenwald: "...[M]ore to the point, I think, is this idea that Islamic terrorism is some kind of a unique problem in Europe. There are reports issued each year by the E.U. that count the number of terrorist attacks, both successfully executed and attempted but failed. And each year, for the past five years, the number of attacks perpetrated, in general, exceeds several hundred, 200 or 300, sometimes 400. The number that are perpetrated or attempted by, quote-unquote, "Islamists," as the report calls it, people driven by Islamic ideology, religion or political grievances, is minute, something like one out of 294 in 2009, zero out of several hundred in 2007. This is the statistic that the E.U. documents every year. There are terrorist attacks in Europe. Sometimes left-wing groups perpetrate them. Sometimes right-wing groups perpetrate them. Sometimes people with domestic grievances, that don’t really fit into the left-right spectrum, attempt them or perpetrate them. But the idea that Islamic terrorism is some sort of unique threat is completely belied by the E.U.'s own statistic. This idea of equating Muslims with terrorism is an incredibly propagandistic and deceitful term. The idea is to suggest that, as several of your guests were saying, that Islam is some sort of existential threat to Western civilization, to Europe and the like, and it's propagated with this myth that terrorism is an Islamic problem. And that’s why the idea that the establishment media in the United States and in political circles equates terrorism, as a matter of definition, with violence by Muslims is so problematic, because it promotes this lie that terrorism is a function of Islamic ideology."

european union terrorism

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Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005, According to FBI Database [via]
[click HERE to view the FBI document]
FBI, united states terrorist attacks statistics, chart, graph, by religion, group, muslim, islamic
Note: The highest number of terrorist incidents in the U.S. by region (90) took place in Puerto Rico.

Glenn Greenwald on the media's coverage of Anders Behring Breivik and the Oslo attacks: "Well, that was completely predictable. I mean, on Friday, when the attack actually took place, there was quite substantial and intense interest in what had taken place. Everybody was talking about it. There were complaints that—on Friday, that CNN wasn’t running continuous coverage. But in general, there was a lot of media interest, because at the time people thought, based on what the New York Times and other media outlets had said, based on nothing, that this was the work of an Islamic—a radical Islamic group. And at the time, I wrote, when I wrote about the unfolding story, that if it turns out to be something other than an Islamic group that was responsible, especially if it turns out to be a right-wing nationalist who’s anti-Muslim in his views, that interest in this story was going to evaporate to virtual non-existence.

And what’s really amazing is, you know, every time there’s an act of violence undertaken by someone who’s Muslim, the commentary across the spectrum links his Muslim religion or political beliefs to the violence and tries to draw meaning from it, broader meaning. And yet, the minute that it turned out that the perpetrator wasn’t Muslim, but instead was this right-wing figure, the exact opposite view arose, which is, "Oh, his views and associations aren’t relevant. It’s not fair to attribute or to blame people who share his views or who inspired him with these acts." And it got depicted as being this sort of individual crazy person with no broader political meaning, and media interest disappeared. It’s exactly the opposite of how it’s treated when violence is undertaken by someone who’s Muslim."

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From Wikipedia: "Breivik's far-right militant ideology is described in an online manifesto 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, posted by Breivik on the day of the attacks under the anglicised pseudonym Andrew Berwick. His ultranationalist manifesto lays out his xenophobic worldview, which includes support for varying degrees of cultural conservatism, right-wing populism, anti-Islamization, "far-right Zionism", and Serbian paramilitarism. It further argues for the violent annihilation of Islam, "cultural Marxism", and multiculturalism, to preserve a Christian Europe. [...] His manifesto calls for a revolution to be led by Knights Templar. During interrogation, Breivik claimed membership in an "international Christian military order" that "fights" against "Islamic suppression". This order allegedly is called the "Knights Templar" and, according to his manifesto, has between fifteen and eighty "ordinated knights" besides an unknown number of "civilian members". Breivik has claimed that the group has several "cells" in Western countries, including two more in Norway."


Tyler said...

Many people have bought into the idea that the Koran is inherently more violent than the Bible, though I suspect most of the people who take this view have not read either book from start to finish. If they had they would know what the Bible says about anyone who collects sticks on the Sabbath: "[T]he Lord said to Moses, 'The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.' So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses." (The Bible overflows with such things.) Lesson 1: people do heinous things when they believe God is speaking to them. Lesson 2: if a man bludgeons a hiker to death with a stone because he saw him picking up sticks on the wrong day, he is a Christian murderer. If there's a contradiction in the term then there's a contradiction in the term "Islamic terrorist." It's FUNDAMENTALISM -- of any stripe -- that breeds terrorism, not any particular religion. Let's face it, both the Bible and the Koran are filled with lots of rubbish!

I imagine all of this is painfully obvious to those who don't have a dog in the fight.

Tyler said...

"Let's face it, both the Bible and the Koran are filled with lots of rubbish!"

I made it sound as though I think both books are rubbish from start to finish. Just so my opinion is clear, I only meant that each book has its share of rubbish, and not that either book is utterly without value.

Andrew said...

Great research here. It brings to mind a certain cultural debate that I've been somewhere in the middle of: between radical non-violent thinkers (many of whom I suspect are Christians) and what has been dubbed the 'New Atheists". Recently Chris Hedges wrote a column that sharply criticizes New Atheists as little different from Far-Right Christian radio hosts: Sam Harris, Hitchens, and the like (for spreading Islamaphobia). This link includes a link to Harris' response, which makes a couple valid points, but something about his tone struck me as...well I'll let you decide:

Sean said...

The war on terror shall henceforth be known as the crypto-crusade.

Tyler said...

Thanks for the link.

I think Hedges makes a mistake when he says "I worry more about the Anders Breiviks than the Mohammed Attas." There is no reason not to fear them both equally, or to fear neither of them. It seems pointless to separate one violent fundamentalist from another. Aside from this, Hedges makes some good points, and I enjoyed the article. Thanks again.

As for Harris, I thought his response was a bit funny and I have no problem with the tone. What's even funnier is that, based on Harris' own excerpt, I don't feel as though the content of what he said was misrepresented by Hedges. However, having not known anything about Harris before reading Hedges' article, I do feel as though the article gives a general impression of Harris that seems a bit off. But who's right or wrong here isn't overly interesting to me. Even if, as Harris argues, Hedges character is suspect, it has little to no bearing on the quality of his arguments. Harris was solely concerned with himself (and Hedges, personally) in his rebuttal, so he skated completely around everything that was interesting in what Hedges said (even if he (Hedges) was mostly paraphrasing Derrick Jensen).