Why Moderate Voices Need Not Speak

It seems yesterday’s episode of TVO’s The Agenda is garnering quite a lot of attention out there in web land. Mine was only one of hundreds of blog posts on the subject. A few follow-ups:

  1. This guy well summarizes the problem with Mark Steyn.
  2. After re-viewing the show this morning, I feel I passed judgment on Steve Paikin a bit too quickly. The poor fellow was trying to manage a chaotic situation. That he had three Muslim students to contend with, as opposed to only one Mark Steyn, probably compelled him to intervene more during the formers’ presentations, hence my possible misperception of bias on Paikin’s part. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
  3. However, I’m quite put off by the spam comment apparently left by TVO’s production staff in Paikin’s name. I think it’s spam because I’ve found the identical text in the comment sections of a few other blogs I’ve read today. For shame, TVO. And now I feel like a fool for having responded in good faith.

I also want to say a little something about this ongoing demand among “conservative” circles for “moderate” Muslims to more vocally disavow the extreme positions of the fundamentalists in their community. I can see why someone might request such a public disavowment. But frankly I find its need rather distasteful.

It’s anathema to the principles of a liberal society to demand that a community justify its existence by continuously being required to explain why it should not be judged by the stereotypes put forth by a minority. Do we call for the Jewish community to issue public proclamations insisting that they really don’t control the world banking system? Do we call for the Irish community to disavow its relationship with the IRA? Do we call for the Black community to publish regular ads explaining that they’re not drug dealers and gangsta thugs? Do we call for the Italian community to insist that they’re not involved in organized crime? So why must everyday Muslims be required to publicly distance themselves from the antics and rantings of a vocal few? Why must they be required to explain to their neighbours that they’re not terrorists?

Anytime we require a community as a whole to answer for the media-fueled misperceptions of its nature, by virtue of the actions of its more newsworthy lunatic fringe or by virtue of myths and stereotypes, we denude that community’s dignity and reinforce a power dynamic that positions that community in an inferior role relative to the so-called “mainstream”. It’s the heart of racism, and will surely pay negative dividends somewhere down the line.

So whose responsibility is it to reset the scales to offer a more realistic and balanced perception of a given community? It’s the responsibility of each of us to be educated and to have rational thought processes that recognize that the plural of anecdote is not data. In the modern world, it’s also the responsibility of mass media to recognize its awesome power to shape reality by cherry-picking instances of cultural depiction. Just count the number of editorial cartoons you’ve seen of Muslims as goat-herders and suicide bombers, and compare it to the number of images you’ve seen of Muslims as scholars, tradespeople, poets, musicians, doctors and journalists. The former image is more common in media, but any reasonable person should recognize that the latter image is the overwhelming truth.

Thus it’s the moral (though not legal) responsibility of MacLean’s magazine, Mark Steyn and the Western Standard to recognize the damage they do by harping on the words of extremists while simultaneously wondering aloud why so-called moderate voices aren’t disavowing the lunatic fringe.

Well, let me turn the tables a bit. Why aren’t all those who voted Conservative in the last election publicly disavowing the racist screeds of RightGirl, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and David Duke? Shall we assume by the silence of supposed “moderate voices of the Right” that these extreme voices speak for them all? No? Then stop expecting the rest of the world to conform to a different set of expectations.

That is all.

In Other News…

My current obsession is the life and times of King Henry VIII of England. I’ve become a huge fan of The Tudors and just started watching that wonderful 1971 BBC production of The Six Wives of Henry VIII. As an interesting aside, I find it odd how the actresses who played Anne Bolyen in both of those productions, 37 years apart, so resemble each other.

First, here’s an image of the historic Anne Boleyn:

Now here’s the late Dame Dorothy Tutin from the 1971 show:

And here’s the bodacious Natalie Dormer from the current show:

Eerie, no?