Saturday, September 06, 2014

"This is the early evening edition of the news."

This is downright funny.

I'm no fan of C.J. Werleman, but he's opened a can of worms that wants to rise up in righteous bigoted wrath and whup his ass.

It started here (though I saw it on Salon), when he compared Bill Maher and other atheist luminaries, to the Crusades.  His point was that terrorism in the Middle East is motivated by a reaction to the, as he later puts it, 44 military bases in the region, and the carrier group in the Mediterranean.  It is not motivated, as many studies have shown, by religious fanaticism.  Indeed, while people still cling to visions of impoverished young men seeking paradise and virgins because they have nothing in this world, the likeliest terrorist recruit is a wealthy young man who wants to find something interesting to do with his time.  The myth of the "poor downtrodden terrorist recruit" is just that, a myth.  The likelier candidate is one who can at least afford the airplane ticket.

This, of course, set loose the howler monkeys, both at Salon and Alternet, apparently.  So Werleman responded, and that got posted to Salon this morning.  And again, the howler monkeys are loose.

Werleman makes a point I wish he'd followed up on, but maybe it's a generational thing and I'm just that much older than him.  He quotes a study on the nature of terrorism and says:

The notion that Islamic fundamentalism is bent on world domination is “pure fantasy,” he argues, warning that an attempt by the West to force Muslim societies to transform “is likely to dramatically increase the threat we face.”
The "Red Scare" of the '50's and '60's (and if you think that's an anachronism, listen to Paul Simon's "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night."  HUAC was still active enough to get a mention and mean something to the audience in 1966) was based on the idea of "Soviet Domination."  Maybe that's what inspired all the comic book writers to have villains who aspired to world domination (as well as James Bond's enemies), but it was the fear that made us learn to "duck 'n' cover" and to have a HUAC that was worried about Commies under the bed.  Now, instead of commies,we're supposed to be afraid of militant Muslims.

Which is more absurd than fearing the Commies, since at least no militant Muslims control nuclear ICBM's, or seem to have any territorial aims beyond removing the infidel from their holy ground.

But reason doesn't play well among on-line atheists; and I have to admit a certain amount of pleasure in watching the battle proceed.


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  2. Last month I finished Mack Holt’s history of the French wars of religion, which begins with a survey of how those wars have been interpreted. The first written accounts tended to be confessional in perspective and intent: they were plainly wars of the true church against the false. In the nineteenth century, under the influence of theories that all conflict is really class conflict, the more dominant explanation was that these wars were not about religion at all, but about the claims of a rising merchant class against the aristocracy and a backwards peasantry. Holt proposes his own take, that the wars of religion were indeed about religion, but not religion as doctrine, but religion as the molder of community meaning.

    I don’t know if I really know enough about either France or Syria to discern the true origin of their wars. But the more I learn about any conflict, the more I see how complex motivations are, and how their simplification serves to justify violence through framing the issues to make the enemy’s cause indefensible.

    I find the atrocities of ISIS as abhorrent as anyone. But even a superficial knowledge of the history of the Near East should suggest plenty of reasons for increasingly extreme efforts to rid the region of Western “advice.” Our superiority is apparently not universally appreciated.

  3. Rick--

    Thanks for the clarity. I am also quite convinced that "religious wars" use religion as "a molder of community meaning." Which may be the late 20th century (not sure the 21st has really made it's mark yet) sociological perspective; but I'm stickin' with it.

    And violence is as American as apple pie. I've seen pictures of bodies shredded by American bombs. I have hard time saying beheadings by blade (v. guillotine or axe) are more barbaric than bombing. I'm not sure it's an improvement that our videos of bombing (I remember them from the Gulf War) don't show the bodies destroyed.

    Which is not to say I think ISIS gets a pass for its violence. I just keep thinking, rather helplessly, of Auden: "I and the schoolchildren know/what everyone must learn/Those to whom violence is done/do violence in return."