"Jones’s burning of the Koran was daft. But it did not directly cause 'the tragic, deadly violence' in Afghanistan, as one Pentagon spokesman claimed. To suggest that it did, to argue that Jones has “blood on his hands”, as the New York Daily News put it, is to overlook the fact that there is an important bridge between words and actions. That bridge is us, people, the audience, the public, who are possessed of free will and thought and who must make a decision about whether, and how, to act on the words we hear. The idea that words lead directly to action, that the image of a burning Koran in the US leads inevitably to violence in Afghanistan, is to cut out these middle men and present speech as an all-powerful force that dictates world events.
Such an outlook is dangerous for two reasons. First because there would be no limits to the curbing and policing of speech if we all bought into the mad notion that it can directly cause other people’s deaths."
Let it not be said that I am unfair to my political rivals. Just like the brother from the ACLU
who defended the KKK's right to privacy in Texas
, I may find you abhorrent and your words foul, but I will stand up for your Constitutionally protected right to say them."
I am hard on American conservatives. As measured by the foolishness of the Tea Party GOP they have certainly fallen from grace in the Age of Obama. While I was no great champion of his ideas--especially on the Civil Rights Movement
--I could at least respect the intellect of the William F. Buckleys of the world. Heck, I could even tolerate Bush the Elder. I am not a "liberal" or "progressive" as those labels are casually thrown about in our contemporary political discourse. Thus, why I scoff when I am labeled as such. Those titles come from an honorable lineage. And there is no shame in them. But, I am an unapologetic Black pragmatist. My ultimate commitment is to the truth, be it moral, philosophical, scientific, or political.
Because as of late I have been focused on beating up the New Right's lemmings, the buckdancing Herman Cains
, and the other mouth breathing troglodytes who comprise contemporary Conservatism as a political movement, I have neglected one of my other favorite intellectual curiosities--liberal racism
. It has been a long time since I have seen a classic example of liberal racism, one that is inspirational enough to motivate a response.
For the uninitiated, liberal racism is part of the same cosmology as (conservative) racism. However, while the latter thrives on an insincere language of colorblindness, often naked appeals to racial resentment, and is predicated on an unapologetic embrace of white privilege and maintaining a herrenvolk republic at any cost, the latter works differently. Liberal racism embraces the soft bigotry of low expectations, where one tolerates conditions for others they would not for themselves, is afraid of speaking the truth about the ghetto underclasses and their often pathological and self-destructive behavior(s), and is possessed of a sense of racial superiority born of noblesse oblige, as opposed to a relationship prefaced on an equal power relationship between agents.
Both are ugly. Both are pernicious. They are merely different sides of the same coin.
Traditional white supremacy and conservative racism are cognitive maps for ordering the world. Liberal racism does the same work for its practitioners. And neither are limited by the stopping power of water as they frame how individuals think about the nature of political life, both at home and abroad.
The Telegraph's critique
of how some on the Left responded to the riots in Afghanistan last week--a murderous rampage which supposedly occurred because of "Pastor" Terry Jones' decision to burn a Koran in his "church"--is a spot on vivisection of the perils of liberal racism. Just as we saw some of the worst examples of multicultural and pluralist excuse making in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon debacle
, a moment when folks gave in to threats of violence and were tolerant of political thugs
(who ironically benefit from free speech, but will not allow others to practice it), there are some who are engaging in an odd form of the White Man's Burden in which liberal racism mandates that we engage in excuse making and cultural relativism as we try to make sense of wanton violence.
In total, liberal racism demands that white folks and the West deal with the Other as "little brown brothers and sisters," as opposed to equal human beings with agency, reason, and who should be held culpable for their deeds.
By implication, I won't let a conservative pat me on my head as though I am a child. Nor will I let a liberal racist do so either.
And the second problem with the “blame Jones” brigade is that it lets rioting Afghans off the hook. It says they’re not really responsible for the bloodshed they unleashed; Jones is. There’s a great irony here, because many of the commentators who make this argument do so in order to express their apparently enlightened and cosmopolitan sympathy with beleaguered Muslims in Afghanistan, yet in the process they patronisingly depict Afghans as overgrown children, as attack dogs almost, who hear a command or see an offensive image and act on it, robot-like. Modern-day liberal pity for Muslims would seem to be a comfortable bedfellow of the old-world colonial outlook: in both instances Third World people are treated as hapless, helpless creatures who must have their eyes and ears shielded from dodgy ideas.
The consequences of taking this approach to the Koran controversy are potentially dire. Just as in the Muhammad cartoons controversy, Western liberal politicians and thinkers are giving Muslims a licence to feel offended, a licence to go crazy; they are effectively legitimising violent responses to offensive images by saying: “It’s understandable. This is what happens when we fail to respect their culture.”