Archive for Alex Pareene

Explaining the Egyptian Revolution to Americans

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by loonwatch

A joke on us Americans. Seriously this is quite creative and funny:

Also while we are on the topic of Egypt, here is an excellent rebuttal from Alex Pareene on the thoroughly repugnant Richard Cohen who thinks Egyptians can’t handle Democracy:

Richard Cohen: Egyptian democracy will be “a nightmare”


Nothing saddens Richard Cohen more than the sight of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians peacefully protesting. The longtime Washington Post columnist is sad because those childish Arab Muslims might end up with a democracy, but they don’t know how democracy works. Here is how democracy works: We like it unless “the people” want something that complicates our current foreign policy objectives.

Cohen is just broken up about this. “Egypt, once stable if tenuously so, has been pitched into chaos.” “The dream of a democratic Egypt,” he says, “is sure to produce a nightmare.” It is sure to. Such a nightmare it will be. Just not anywhere near as pleasant as these last 30 years of “stability” have been, for everyone.

Cohen is totally an expert on Egypt and Muslims, because he is a longtime opinion columnist for the Washington Post, and not at all a blinkered idiot. Egypt “lacks the civic and political institutions that are necessary for democracy,” he tells us. And you can’t argue with that. I mean, do Egyptian newspapers even run syndicated Richard Cohen opinion columns? Do they have “Dancing With the Stars,” to teach them how voting works?

My take on all this is relentlessly gloomy. I care about Israel. I care about Egypt, too, but its survival is hardly at stake. I care about democratic values, but they are worse than useless in societies that have no tradition of tolerance or respect for minority rights. What we want for Egypt is what we have ourselves. This, though, is an identity crisis. We are not them.

No. We are not them, at all. Because they are Muslims. We all know Americans could handle democracy because we were super good at respecting the rights of minority groups. But the Egyptians are sometimes resentful of or even violent against minority groups, so no democracy allowed for them. (While some Coptic Christians worry that a more Islamic Egyptian government would be less friendly to Copts, demonstrators are stressing an inclusive, nationalist message, and there’s evidence that Christians are themselves involved in the protests. The right-wing CBN has even filed a report on the growing “bond” between Christians and “their Muslim neighbors” in Egypt.)

Cohen is concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood — which “runs the Gaza Strip” under the name “Hamas,” he tells us — will take control of Egypt and attack Israel, at which point “the mob currently in the streets will roar its approval.” That “mob” certainly does seem pretty bloodthirsty. They clearly want all-out war with the region’s sole nuclear power. Pretty sure that’s what these demonstrations are about. “I’m actually pretty cool with Mubarak but I really wish we were waging war against Israel right now” — An Egyptian protester.

Cohen seems to understand that the Brotherhood, while involved in the demonstrations, did not organize them, and he has been told that the majority of the demonstrators have no ties to the group, but he thinks that might just be because they are sneaky. “It has been underground for generations — jailed, tortured, infiltrated, but still, somehow, flourishing. Its moment may be approaching.” Scary!

And why should we all be super-scared of them? “The Islamists of the Brotherhood do not despise America for what it does but for what it is.” Thanks, Richard Cohen, for explaining who these Islamists are, and what they despise about us. It’s not our lengthy history of propping up the dictator who brutally repressed them — they hate us for our freedom. (You may compare Richard Cohen’s history of the Muslim Brotherhood to that an an actual expert on the subject, if you wish.)

This column is so full of winning lines, I have to stop myself from quoting the entire thing. There is literally an “I like democracy, but” part: “Majority rule is a worthwhile idea. But so, too, are respect for minorities, freedom of religion, the equality of women and adherence to treaties, such as the one with Israel, the only democracy in the region.”

I’m sorry, I can edit that one to more clearly express Cohen’s actual point: “Majority rule is a worthwhile idea. But so, too … [is] respect for… Israel….”

These are the last lines:

America needs to be on the right side of human rights. But it also needs to be on the right side of history. This time, the two may not be the same.

The “right side of history” might not be the “right side of human rights.” Got it? Sometimes you have to be on the “wrong side” of “human rights,” and history will totally understand.

Poor Egypt. Maybe you will be grown-up enough in the eyes of Richard Cohen to handle a democracy someday, but right now, it’s just not in the cards.


Lone nuts and convenient definitions of “terrorism”

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by loonwatch

An insight into the convenient definitions of “terrorism” and the bold double standards it highlights.

Lone nuts and convenient definitions of “terrorism”

by Alex Pareene (

“Columbine” author Dave Cullen wrote yesterday that most media figures compulsively — and incorrectly – assign all killers to one of two binaries: Crazy or political. Right-wing commentators do the same thing, for the most part, though they tend to say killers are either crazy or terrorists. And while they’ll usually freely admit that Tim McVeigh counted as a terrorist, for the most part they reserve that term for Muslims who kill.

There is, for example, Charles Krauthammer’s classic column on Nidal Hasan,who killed 13 people at Fort Hood. Krauthammer is a former practicing psychologist — he’s also a former practicing liberal — and he used his considerable skill to argue that because he did not think Hasan was crazy, to call him crazy was dastardly political correctness. The correct diagnosis, according to Krauthammer, was that Hasan was a Muslim. He was driven to kill by Extremist Islamic rhetoric. He had, after all, e-mailed Anwar al-Awlaki, who sympathizes with al-Qaeda. He had even said frankly nutty things to his colleagues about nonbelievers having hot oil poured down their throats.

It’s not just that Krauthammer made a point of highlighting the influence of radical Islamism on Hasan’s crime — Krauthammer mocked those who thought there might be a psychological component to a formerly well-adjusted American suddenly falling under the sway of extremist rhetoric and shooting dozens of people.

Jared Loughner, though? He’s just nuts. Seriously, classic nutcase, end of story. It’s frankly irresponsible to speculate as to whether or not he had a political motivation when he attempted to assassinate a member of Congress.

Jonah Goldberg yesterday attempted to directly answer the question of why it’s “Islamic terrorism” when a Muslim does it and lone nuttery when a white American does it:

The difference is that most of the relevant Muslim mass-murderers in recent years have in fact either taken orders or meaningful encouragement from actual Jihadist organizations and individuals. The Times Square bomber did. The Fort Hood shooter did. The DC sniper didn’t, but he seems more of an exception than the rule.

First of all, “meaninful encouragement” is a wonderfully vague phrase that allows Goldberg to call people who never had any meaningful contact with terrorist groups “terrorists,” but even with that helpful bit of vague nonsense he is unable to justify the inclusion of one of his examples of terrorism, and is forced to consider it an “exception” to the rule he is in the process of inventing.

Did Hasan receive “meaningful encouragement” from al-Awlaki? Sure. But we have no idea whom Loughner may or may not have received “meaningful encouragement” from. We don’t have his e-mails. We don’t have his private conversations.

Goldberg goes on:

The “obvious” distinction is that there are a number of Islamist groups who are calling for violent attacks on America (which is why we are legally at war with them). Those that align with their cause are simply murderous traitors and terrorists. The Fort Hood shooter, we quickly learned, was in contact with Anwar al Awlaki. Loughner, we’ve quickly learned, was not in contact with Sarah Palin, had a grievance with Giffords that predates Palin’s prominence and the rise of the tea parties, and that he was simply out of his gourd.

It was nice of him to put “obvious” in scare quotes himself, thus saving me the trouble. But the fact is that there are plenty of extremist groups that are wholly American-grown and non-Islamic. (And if it’s only “terrorism” when we’re “legally at war” with the specific group who “meaningfully encouraged” the act, then very few things are terrorism anymore.)

But this paragraph, if you strip away the bit that’s clearly Goldberg thinking out loud, actually does explain the world-view succintly: It’s because thosekillers are Islamic. Yeah, Loughner wasn’t inspired by Sarah Palin’s Tweets. But Goldberg doesn’t say what he was inspired by. He was just “out of his gourd.” QED.

I don’t have a detailed psychological evaluation of either man, but based on the facts as we know them, it seems reasonable to argue that Nidal Hasan is a disturbed loner influenced to kill by extremist rhetoric that appeals to crazy people, and Jared Loughner is a disturbed loner possibly influenced to kill by extremist rhetoric that appeals to crazy people. The fact that Hasan was an increasingly devout Muslim meant that radical Islamic rhetoric appealed to him. The fact that Loughner was an increasingly disturbed young white American man meant that Ayn Rand and possibly David-Wynn: Miller and whatever else he got his hands on appealed to him. And any dangerous extremist supplements his bizarre beliefs with bad misreadings of non-extreme texts — the Koran, in Hasan’s case, and the various dystopian works of fiction on Loughner’s reading list.

The decision to murder innocent people is seldom one made by well men. If we’re going to argue that there’s something fundamental about Islam itselfthat causes it, when Muslims do it, it’s bald bigotry not to make the same argument when a non-Muslim commits a similarly incomprehensible crime.

If we define terrorism as violence committed by non-state actors aimed at achieving political goals, a case could be reasonably made for either, both, or neither or these men as terrorists. But when you start from the position that the Muslim is the “Terrorist” and the white guy is the “lone nut,” you’re have to work backwards to come up with a much more convoluted definition.