Friday, July 29, 2005

[politics] How does it feel to be a Thought Criminal?

Courtesy of, the latest idiocy suggested by Tom Friedman: an official blacklist of ideas, compiled by the US government, to be published quarterly. This report would identify 3 groups: "hatemongers, excuse makers and truth tellers". Hatemongers: people who incite hatred and violence against others; excuse makers: those who would seek to excuse the words of the first group and/or the actions of the people inspired by the first group; truth tellers: Islamic writers who take their fellow Moslems to task for supporting groups 1 and 2. See, here's where this bullshit falls apart. First off, Friedman wants the first group to include anyone who incites hatred: radical imams, far-Right nationalist Jews, whoever. Okay... but in the second group, Friedman would include anyone who offers forth any kind of analysis of the first group:
We also need to spotlight the "excuse makers," the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous. "It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism," Mr. Rubin said, "and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them."
Who maintains that wall? Who defines it? Does this include scholars seeking to understand the motivation of terrorists? Or are their actions so clear-cut in Freidman's mind that no such study is needed? His words suggest the latter, as the next paragraph itself reads:
There is no political justification for 9/11, 7/7 or 7/21. As the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen put it: "These terrorists are what they do." And what they do is murder.
You see, there is a political justification for such acts. I'm not saying that I support that justification, but there it is. It exists. When we inflict collateral damage upon civilian populations in pursuit of our own foreign policy, we are often labeled as 'murderers' by outside observers. Does this mean that we are to be subjected to the same standard Friedman puts forth? Of course not. How do we know this? Friedman's definition of the third category, the 'truth tellers':
Finally, we also need to shine a bright light on the "truth tellers." Every week some courageous Arab or Muslim intellectual, cleric or columnist publishes an essay in his or her media calling on fellow Muslims to deal with the cancer in their midst(protected static: emphasis mine). The truth tellers' words also need to be disseminated globally.
So, while the first and second categories are apparently open to anyone, the third group can only consist of Muslims and/or Arabs. And not just any old Muslims or Arabs: only Muslims who criticise... who? Muslim fundamentalist extremists? Corrupt Arab states? Sure. How about those who call into question US, European or Israeli policies? Are they to be classified as possible 'truth tellers'? No, they are 'excuse makers', remember? So, remember this: if you've ever thought that our actions abroad have contributed in any way to the actions our enemies take against us, you belong to that middle group in Freidman's eyes. You are an 'excuse maker', and, in his words, 'one notch less despicable' than suicide bombers. Got that? You've committed a Thought Crime. And the punchline: this list should be maintained in a 'nondiscriminatory way' by our government. An enemies list, compiled as part of government policy, based not on actions, but words. Thoughts. Ideas. Political opponents. Dissidents. In a list maintained by the government. Is this sounding familiar to anyone at all? Anyone? Read the critique published by FAIR that the title of this piece links to - it lays it out much more chillingly than I can manage (and exposes more of Freidman's double standard to boot - for instance, his advocacy in favor of NATO committing war crimes as a matter of policy during the Serbian wars). And Mr. Freidman, read your own piece for the ironies contained within: Words do matter. So does suppressing them.


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