Monday, September 27, 2010

Two political ads

First, the "Mourning in America" ad, which refers to the well-remembered "Morning in America" spot of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Having heard something about it, I expected the new ad to be far more powerful.

It shirks facts, and it ends with a disappointing plea for our government to "care about us." Isn't that the problem?

The next ad, from benhoweblog, is many times better. It revisits history, naming the two men whom we have been trained to revere but whom we now know, thanks in my opinion largely to Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, to have been primarily responsible for sending the United States off its Constitutional rails in order to satisfy an elite ideology: Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. The ad also captures the fundamental point of the last two years' politics: economic misery is one problem, but the larger problem is just our elites' generations-long hostility to the Constitution. The insertion of the clip showing Barack Obama trumpeting "fundamental change!" to a screaming crowd captures, not an image of the simple days when he was a teenybopper idol, but an image of chilling and calculated evil.

Wise, too, of the makers of this ad to finish with many pictures of protesting crowds, for this reflects the other main point of the last two years' politics: popular movement, popular understanding of, and anger at, what is going on. Here are not actors portraying the sad unemployed, but the actual rallies and speeches the media would not report. Big red Xs over the portraits of Republican candidates who lost because they weren't conservative enough also capture history as it is unfolding.

Bravo, benhoweblog. Memo to the group Citizens for the Republic: a bit less timidity next time, please. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Molly hides -- Robert, Hugh, Daniel, and Jonah do not

This is one of those stories of creeping sharia that one had hoped would always have a dateline of the UK or Sweden. Not that that's good, but those places are far away, and so when stories carry datelines like that, one can put aside, for a few moments, the fact of having to face what our ancestors knew.

Our ancestors collectively knew a lot about Islam. Evidence of their experience crops up in the oddest places, in books and documents of earlier times, in our own Marines' hymn of all things. They knew and remembered (and defeated) Muslim armies gathered outside the walls of Vienna. They knew Muslim slave raiders snatching men, women, and children off the coasts of Europe, as far north as Ireland, even in what seems to our astonished eyes the proto-modern world, the mid-17th century, by which time surely people were beginning to be rational. They knew, in Samuel Johnson's casual 18th-century phrase, all about "the Turkic contempt for women." They knew what our own ambassadors, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were told by the Muslim representative of the Barbary states (today's Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya) in London who explained why Muslims enslaved American sailors in the Mediterranean: "that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise." This last is from Adams' and Jefferson's report to the Continental Congress in 1786, and is quoted in Joshua London's Victory in Tripoli. Hence, incidentally, the young United States' fight against the Barbary pirates, and the reference to the "shores of Tripoli" in that hymn.

Our ancestors knew, in short, what we have had the luxury of forgetting for a while and would rather not be confronted with again, that Islam has a core of aggressive, triumphalist malice at its heart which brooks no compromise, but can only be admitted and defeated through the vigorous defense of Western freedom and frankly through battlefield victory where the battlefields are.

Our having to face this is a kind of double shock. Most Americans are believing people. It's a shock to imagine a religion could exist which has malice at its heart, and which is therefore so contrary to what a good God could will; and, childish as it may seem to say so, it's a shock to follow through and contemplate a loving and good God who could allow untold millions of people over centuries to be enslaved to this malice, in their national life, in their homes, in their bodies, in their minds. This is the way a large part of the world is. And its people are commanded by their holy books to export this, through intimidation and violence, to other lands. I am not speaking of the day-to-day aspects of the religion, of any religion, being malicious. What guides kind, decent conduct or enables man to offer praise, thanksgiving, and supplication to God is good. I am speaking of the core of this one religion, to which its purists may always revert:

Islamic sources make clear that engaging in violence against non-Muslims is a central and indispensable principle to Islam. Islam is less a personal faith than a political ideology that exists in a fundamental and permanent state of war with non-Islamic civilizations, cultures, and individuals. The Islamic holy texts outline a social, governmental, and economic system for all mankind. Those cultures and individuals who do not submit to Islamic governance exist in an ipso facto state of rebellion with Allah and must be forcibly brought into submission. The misbegotten term "Islamo-fascism" is wholly redundant: Islam itself is a kind of fascism that achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state. ("Islam 101," Part 3, Conclusion, by Gregory Davis, a web page of Jihad Watch.)

So Molly Norris has gone into hiding, as obediently as if her own state had commanded her to -- which apparently, via the advice of the FBI, it has. May we peasants be permitted to know the identities of the American agents who suggested an American citizen do this? -- who admitted to an American citizen living on her own soil that she cannot be protected from the potential punishments meted out for blasphemy by a foreign and anciently violent religious and political civilization?

And why Molly? I want to know why creeping sharia picks off the small fry, while big important fish swim and thrive. Molly is -- or was -- a cartoonist living and drawing in Seattle, who made a simple and funny cartoon last spring as a free-speech response to the South Park episode that apparently did not depict Mohammed in a bear suit, but was censored by Comedy Central as if it did anyway. She drew all sorts of ordinary objects, cups of tea and pasta packages and things, each cheerily saying "I am the real likeness of Mohammed." She framed it as if it were a hortatory poster from a non-existent group, "Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH)." Molly very insouciantly hit the nail on the head, at first, when she reasoned that if enough people draw "Mohammed," Muslim jihadists won't be able to kill them all, and death threats like those offered to the creators of South Park -- by two individual ciphers with a laptop, it turned out -- will become "unrealistic."

Fair enough Then her idea went viral. (She enjoyed an audience to begin with, which goes far toward explaining why her cartoon of April 20, 2010 got noticed at all. She worked, or used to, for the "alternative" paper Seattle Weekly.) Major newspapers and well-known bloggers reported on her. Somebody else quickly launched a Facebook page called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," setting aside this past May 20 as the day for a free-speech and divinity-lampooning extravaganza. The page racked up guests and "Likes," and drawings poured in.

When devout Muslims who know their duty saw it, they, or some few of them, set up protest pages. Molly freaked about not wanting to offend anyone, and essentially about the catastrophic loss of her privacy, which is understandable. She also freaked about having her throat cut, most understandable since we can anticipate Muslims doing so, just as we can now anticipate them blowing themselves up in pizza parlors, beheading journalists, and flying planes into office buildings. Facebook freaked and shut down the "Everybody Draw" page. One man, an American-born imam named Anwar al-Awlaki who used to run a Virginia mosque but is himself now in hiding in Yemen, announced that Molly "should be taken as a prime target of assassination." It will help to remember that, in Islam, Mohammed is the perfect man and the model for all behavior. In small matters, this is why the devoutest men may dye their beards red and marry little girls. In large matters:

The Prophet particularly seems to have disliked the many poets who ridiculed his new religion and his claim to prophethood -- a theme evident today in the violent reactions of Muslims to any perceived mockery of Islam. In taking action against his opponents, "the ideal man" set precedents for all time as to how Muslims should deal with detractors of their religion. ("Islam 101," Jihad Watch, by Gregory Davis, section 1, c., i., The Battle of Badr.)

Five months only after publishing her art, and two months after this holy man in Yemen passed his sentence on her, "Molly," her ex-employer sadly acknowledged, "is no more." Dead? No. Buried alive. She has changed her name, moved, and gone into hiding. I daresay we cannot imagine the nightmare she is now living in, for all she knows, self-created and for the rest of her life.

Still I'm confused as to why Molly should hide. Gregory Davis, who wrote the excellent "Islam 101" summary for JihadWatch which I quote above, to my knowledge is not in hiding. Neither are any of the all-star roster of Western or adoptive-Western scholars and journalists who write and educate us today about things our ancestors knew: Robert Spencer. Hugh Fitzgerald. Daniel Pipes. Andrew McCarthy. Andrew Bostom. Bruce Bawer (who lives in Europe). Mark Steyn. Pamela Geller. Melanie Phillips. Brigitte Gabriel. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Wafa Sultan. Jonah Goldberg, who wrote as superb and simple a piece on Muslim violence as it is possible to find, just a few days ago ("A convenient excuse," National Review Online, September 17, 2010). A few heavyweights, like Europe's Ba'at Yeor and America's Ibn Warraq, do publish under pseudonyms, but even that nod to danger seems rare. We are blessed with some brave people out there -- though it's still shocking to live (again) in the world where we have to say that.  

So then why would Molly hide, when far more serious and, to jihadists, surely more offensive and targetable people do not? My guess is that it's not so much that Muslim jihadists go after the small fry, or the women. My guess is that it happens to be a jackpot if any one of them operating independently can cow, at a great distance, someone -- anyone -- who was a private citizen but achieved prominence by offending Islam in a free Western country. When people like Molly "go ghost" and "essentially wipe away their identity," it helps create a mental climate in which ordinary citizens hear of this and think that jihadist power anywhere is actually stronger, more startlingly pervasive, and yet more hidden, somehow therefore more routine, than it is.

Not that Muslim jihadist power and aggression in our world isn't already appalling enough. Daniel Pipes writes that although he's "elated" at the public's waking up to the classical triumphalist Muslim insult of the Ground Zero mosque, he had hoped that the public might have woken up a long time ago to jihadist penetration of our security services. (This is why I want to know who in the FBI advised Molly to disappear.) And, just incidentally, have you heard about the Christians arrested for distributing Christian literature outside a Muslim festival in Dearborn, and about the $10,000 reward offered by Detective Sherief Fadly for information on whoever burned a Koran in East Lansing, Michigan? Memo to the Dearborn police and to Detective Fadly: distributing Christian themed pamphlets and burning a copy of the Koran are not against American law, though of course both activities violate sharia.

It happens that the writers above, particularly Andrew McCarthy and Daniel Pipes, pursue a theme among many in their articles which may be apropos to Molly. The theme is that our victory in the war between Islam and the world -- and yes, Islam itself divides the world into the House of Islam (where all is correctly Muslim) and the House of War (polluted by sinners not yet converted, subjugated, or dead) -- depends very much on Westerners being confident and joyous in their inheritance, and aware of and determined to hold to its manifest strengths.

For many educated Westerners, this is emotionally dangerous. It means having to judge other civilizations, judge Islam, and find it very wanting. We don't like doing this, especially the younger of us who have been well trained in Western guilt and a kind of pretty-pretty-princess moral relativism for decades. Creeping sharia succeeds quickest, these men say, where just we well-meaning, gently reared, abashed Westerners have already absorbed instruction in our collective crimes, hypocrisies, vulgarities, and shortcomings, and therefore are ripe for the typical how-dare-you-judge-anyone-else scolding -- from a people whose civilization is far worse and who regard criticism of its religious core as blasphemy. Needless to say, freedom is not their friend, nor do they like its being ours.

Molly, I fear, good soul of the courageous "alternative" paper, is one of those guilt-ridden, sensitive types with no confidence or joy in her civilization. At first she showed an absolutely correct, simple gut understanding of her society's basic virtues, but then inadvertently tested them against an intractable alien claim otherwise. Never having dreamed there could be other worldviews -- though I daresay she could have spouted the correct things about "diversity" at a moment's notice -- she certainly could not react to absolute judgment with a gut level be-damned-to-you judgment of her own. It almost seems that, in her own conscience, she agreed she had to go.

What a mewling little tragedy that she should be the first American to go into hiding out of obedience to sharia. I know it's very easy to say someone else isn't brave enough in a situation that we ourselves are not living through. But did she, this comparative small fry, really get worse or more actionable threats or angrier pronouncements than those heard by Robert Spencer just for a start? His publishers restate them as negative selling point blurbs on the jackets of his books -- "Allah should pull his spine out and beat him with it every day for all eternity," and other official clerical gems. Robert, Daniel, Hugh, and all the others have been working to recapture and publicize our ancestors' knowledge of Islam for years, and are far better known than Molly. Yet in a matter of weeks, she dissociated herself from one drawing, and in a matter of months submitted to sharia in her own land, ostensibly forever. And her liberal, tolerant, speak-truth-to-power friends and colleagues did nothing in her defense. Mark Steyn puts it bluntly: "no one should lose his name, his home, his life, his liberty because ideological thugs are too insecure to take a joke. But Molly Norris is merely the latest squishy liberal to learn that, when the chips are down, your fellow lefties won't be there for you" ("Mollifying Muslims and Muslifying Mollies," Steyn Online, 20 September 2010).

Foolishly or not, I hold out hope for a nice, saccharine American ending to this saga. In three months -- not more, don't forget our collective attention span is not what it should be -- I want to see Molly on the cover of People, pensively and serenely photographed, telling her story of survival and bravery and uplift. Or maybe it would go better in Vogue. They can fit her in amid the fawning interviews with Eric Holder and Timothy Geithner, and perhaps dress her in couture, too. If they dare.

Image from Wikipedia article, "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"

Monday, September 13, 2010

At long last, blue

At long last, a sky blue morning glory, after years of the purple kind.

Mr. Wasp says "hello."

This bug probably eats things it shouldn't, but it is very pretty.