Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jon Stewart, defender of free speech 

Jon Stewart has a thing or two to say about the threats against Comedy Central for depicting the Prophet Mohammad, or not, in South Park. Stewart is the rare liberal who does not apologize for Muslims out of some undifferentiated notion that the "victims" of colonialism get a perpetual free pass. Anyway, watch the whole thing.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
South Park Death Threats
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MORE: An excellent point.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Sun Apr 25, 08:30:00 AM:


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 25, 08:44:00 AM:

I would have a small celebration if the Revolution Muslims, or anyone else for that matter, should find a way to kill Jon Stewart. If they nailed Colbert too I would throw an all-out bash.

Western Colonialism of Muslim lands was the best thing that ever happened to Muslims. From a historical perspective it was a blip on the radar screen and it led directly to political independence for Muslim peoples for the first time in 5000 years.

Watch and enjoy 5000 years of history of the ME.

By Blogger TOF, at Sun Apr 25, 09:32:00 AM:

The Muslims, specifically Arab Muslims, were colonists themselves. Islam reaches as far as the Philippines because of Arab seafarers. Magellan found Islam already present when he passed through what is now Indonesia. The hunting ground of Arab slave traders was the coasts of east Africa.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Apr 25, 10:09:00 AM:

I like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, even though I disagree with them around 80% of the time. Comedy Central should hire Ann Coulter to do a similar show from the right.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Apr 25, 11:32:00 AM:

The TROUBLE with modern American culture is just that ...it TOLERATES EVERYTHING.

...and in so doing, loses it's definition.  

By Anonymous From the Cornfield, at Sun Apr 25, 03:10:00 PM:

@TH: Well, I was thinking about this (Mohammed, of whom I draw a stick figure daily for my office dart board ... I make a star of David my bull's eye.)

I must say that many devout people would be quite upset, or more, if someone did something to desecrate their religion. Now, I completely agree, concede, what have you, that very few, if no one I know, would go so far as to attempt to blow up a building in retaliation (but see some anti-abortion zealots) or issue a Fatwah (but see some anti-abortion zealots). So I can't really say that the reaction (as opposed to the expression of the reaction) is completely without basis.

And I might even go a step farther, which is to say that, if South Park were to portray, say, the Virgin Mary as a whore; or Mary Magdalen as a prostitute for Christ, that it would engender the type of backlash that might well, and perhaps even approopriately, squash an episode or part of an episode.

This is not to say that individuals, or even South Park, should not be able to make such depictions, or that there should be a violent response. But South Park is a commercial, public venture, and public response is appropriate to take into account when presenting to the public - freedom and licentiousness are not the same.

Against which is not to say that any type of violent reaction (including threats) are appropriate. It's just that I'd say I'm a bit more sympathetic to the Muslim perspective than I might have been had I not stopped to ponder it for a few minutes.

@JPMcT: I think that the Founders understood that to a degree; but their ultimate decision, borne of experience, is that when the choice is really between tolerance and intolerance, society's tend to function much better as tolerant than they do as intolerant. Those weekly burnings at the stake of the heretics are just a bit too gruesome for all but those in the S&M crowd (probably the subculture that flocked to the priesthood back in the day, as opposed to gay pedophiles of today).

(PS: See how much that last comment is jarring when it refers to our very own culture....and institutions of religion that are a part of our cultural fabric...?)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 25, 04:53:00 PM:

@TH: I think religion has a bit more complexity to it than other types of opinions, in varying degrees: 1) it is generally inculcated from birth and almost always a function of who one's parents are; 2) it is, in almost all religions, cultural and communitarian, which reinforces (1) and can make it quite difficult to separate oneself from the community of believers.....; 3) most people are not as self-reflective or self-analytical as those in your American educational cohort and so the degree to which it is a choice in the mind of the believer will likely, for the large mass of humanity, not be as great as you suppose; and 4) for most, and perhaps most importantly, religion has the unique feature that it places a claim of obedience on you - a claim of authority - which of conflicts directly with your understanding of it as a choice.

Otherwise, I agree.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Sun Apr 25, 05:40:00 PM:

Interesting thoughts, TH and commentary, Anon 4:53 regarding religion as a choice/opinion but with different layers of complexity than say, the choice of baseball affiliation. Oh wait, in my family, that was religion, and not necessarily seen as a choice.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Apr 26, 01:51:00 AM:

@ Cornfield: You obviously don't watch SouthPark, or at least you have not seen the first Muhammad episode. I believe you can watch it online. Make sure you catch the ending.

I've ripped on you a bit about the lack of content in your blog. Your comment was thought provoking and interesting writing--definitely worth reading. Thanks.

>> Finally, I am one who believes the establishment clause was meant to give effect to freedom of religion by preventing the establishment of a religious monopoly.

I have read pretty extensively about the religious beliefs of the founding fathers. Most current writing focuses on the beliefs primarily of Jefferson, and to a lesser extent Madison, Washington and Adams. If you limit your study to these four you can rationally conclude that the Founding Fathers were relatively indifferent about religion, or that they were deists, cool to any particular belief.

However, when you broaden your sample size to something statistically significant and that conclusion cannot rationally be reached. You won't read about the broader sample in the drivel that passes for history in modern scholarship--anything that challenges the secular narrative is verboten.

In response to your comment, I would suggest that your assertion is true only to the extent it applied to the federal government. My recollection is that 8 or 9 of the 13 colonies had established religions when the Constitution was enacted in 1787, and the established religions were maintained after the Constitution was ratified.

A better historical reading of the freedom of religion clause of the first amendment is that it was little more than a political compromise necessary to secure ratification of the Bill of Rights by the states that had established religions. In other words, the first amendment guaranteed that the Federal Government would not interfere with the status of the already established religions in the various states. It was a knotty federalism issue and little more.

As such, your assertion that the establishment clause was meant to give effect to freedom of religion by preventing the establishment of a religious monopoly is not particularly historically accurate. Religious monopoly at the state level continued unabated long after the Bill of Rights was ratified. Secularists choke on these facts.

I had to completely retool my thinking about the first amendment after reading 10-20 books on the topic. (I was previously in the camp of the conventional, modern, secular view). The notion that the Founding Fathers had stupendous insight is not particularly true. At their core most of the Founding Fathers were pragmatic politicians who made whatever political compromises were necessary to secure the overarching goal of establishing a nation out of the 13 separate states. The establishment clause was one of those compromises.

>> Christians, as a sheer matter of logic, have to believe that Mohammad was delusional, a liar, or a fictional construct.

Not necessarily. Muhammad is almost certainly a real historical figure. His existence is verified in multiple different historical sources. The Koran is almost certainly a fictional document written well after his death. It is undisputed that Muhammad was illiterate and could neither read nor write, and the first Koran doesn't appear in written form for about a hundred years after his death. It's a transparent fiction.  

By Blogger Brian, at Mon Apr 26, 02:45:00 AM:

Bill Ayers prevented from speaking at Univ. of Wyoming:


"The university's statement said that the director of the Social Justice Research Center, Franciso Rios, made the decision to cancel Ayers and "apologized to the university community for any harm that may have come to it and cited personal and professional reasons, including safety concerns, for the cancellation." Rios did not immediately return a message seeking comment."

Should I demand that conservatives denounce this? Point to a conservative who has and call him a "rare" conservative?

Personally, I'd rather let people write about the things they want to write about.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon Apr 26, 02:50:00 AM:

anon 1:51 - your comments are good ones, especially noting that the established religions survived in the states for quite a while after ratification of the Constitution. However there are a couple points I would look at a little differently:

1) "... when you broaden your sample size to something statistically significant ..." uh, Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison were a little more than statistical blips. Their views carry a great deal more weight than those of lesser figures.

2) It wasn't just the establishment clause in the First Amendment. Article 6 reads, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

The phrase "Oath or Affirmation" implies that they were going beyond mere arbitration of the various state religions and considered the possibility that someone who believed in no religion would obtain an "Office or public Trust under the United States". The whole import of this clause is to disengage religion from the operation of the federal government. Of course the First Amendment did not apply to the states until the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War.  

By Blogger Neil Sinhababu, at Mon Apr 26, 04:14:00 AM:

If you're a conservative trying to figure out what views are mainstream among liberals, I'd recommend just watching Jon Stewart and assuming mainstream liberals think what he thinks.

It'll do a lot better for you than thinking that liberals think what right-wing media sources tell you liberals think.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Apr 26, 08:04:00 AM:

@ Gary:

Thanks. In response to your points:
1. I'm not sure that I agree with the statement that the views of these four should be given more weight than others, but that's another conversation. Washington was present but uninvolved at the constitutional convention. Jefferson was in France. Adams was not particularly involved in drafting the constitution. The Federalist papers were written by Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, so Madison's views might be informative.

2. Like the first amendment, the Oath or Affirmation clause was a pragmatic political compromise on a federalism issue. States with established religions did not want the federal government to require an affirmation to a different religion in order to hold office. And yes, states without religious clauses did not want one in the Federal constitution.

Again, my point was that the religious clauses of the U.S. constitution were issues of federalism. They were not put into place out of a high-minded intent to give effect to freedom of religion by preventing the establishment of a religious monopoly. The modern narrative about church/state separation, largely based on the post-hoc writings of Jefferson who was in France during the convention, is mythology not history.

Our Founding Fathers were men of their times. Established religions, like slavery, were accepted practices of the times, albeit at the state level.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Tue Apr 27, 10:06:00 AM:

Perhaps the Founders hoped or foresaw that in a more enlightened future state religions, like slavery, would no longer exist. Even Founders who were themselves slaveholders recognized the evil of slavery. And while state establishments of course were nowhere near as bad as slavery, they vanished peacefully after a few decades without requiring a bloody civil war for their abolishment.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Tue Apr 27, 10:09:00 AM:

One last comment - Wahsington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison were not only important Founding Fathers. They were the first four Presidents.  

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