February 17, 2006


The Silent Treatment (ROBERT WRIGHT, 2/17/06, NY Times)

Editors at mainstream American media outlets delete lots of words, sentences and images to avoid offending interest groups, especially ethnic and religious ones. It's hard to cite examples since, by definition, they don't appear. But use your imagination.

Hugh Hewitt, a conservative blogger and evangelical Christian, came up with an apt comparison to the Muhammad cartoon: "a cartoon of Christ's crown of thorns transformed into sticks of TNT after an abortion clinic bombing." As Mr. Hewitt noted, that cartoon would offend many American Christians. That's one reason you haven't seen its like in a mainstream American newspaper.

Or, apparently, in many mainstream Danish newspapers. The paper that published the Muhammad cartoon, it turns out, had earlier rejected cartoons of Christ because, as the Sunday editor explained in an e-mail to the cartoonist who submitted them, they would provoke an outcry. [...]

Besides, who said there's no American tradition of using violence to make a point? Remember the urban riots of the 1960's, starting with the Watts riot of 1965, in which 34 people were killed? The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, in his 1968 book "From Ghetto to Glory," compared the riots to a "brushback pitch" — a pitch thrown near a batter's head to keep him from crowding the plate, a way of conveying that the pitcher needs more space.

In the wake of the rioting, blacks got more space. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had been protesting broadcast of the "Amos 'n' Andy" show, with its cast of shiftless and conniving blacks, since the 1950's, but only in 1966 did CBS withdraw reruns from distribution. There's no way to establish a causal link, but there's little doubt that the riots of the 1960's heightened sensitivity to grievances about the portrayal of blacks in the media. (Translation: heightened self-censorship.)

Amid the cartoon protests, some conservative blogs have warned that addressing grievances expressed violently is a form of "appeasement," and will only bring more violence and weaken Western values. But "appeasement" didn't work that way in the 1960's. The Kerner Commission, set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 to study the riots, recommended increased attention to the problems of poverty, job and housing discrimination, and unequal education — attention that was forthcoming and that didn't exactly spawn decades of race riots.

The commission recognized the difference between what triggers an uproar (how police handle a traffic stop in Watts) and what fuels it (discrimination, poverty, etc.).

Pakistani riots about more than cartoons: Violent protests may have been influenced by poverty as much as religious fervor (David Montero, 2/17/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
Over the past week, Islam and religious fervor have been fingered as the source of the spreading violence. But to some analysts, the erratic nature of the demonstrations points to different root causes.

The flash conflagrations, they argue, highlight a profound discontent in Paki-stan over economic and social inequality that has deepened over the past five years, sparking alienation and resentment.

Folks generally have too much invested emotionally in the canard that they are totally different than we to think rationally about this tempest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2006 8:20 AM

I heard long ago that human beings migrate away from pain towards pleasure, so if something offends us, we shrug and move on. In the case of the media, we've been moving on in droves and they've become more shrill even though it avails them not.

Every single day our local liberal rag prints cartoons and articles that are very offensive, likewise the lefties around us are relentless in their propaganda war against our way of life. Yet, we survive and prosper and they get deeper and deeper into the psychosis of BDS.

We must be doing something right (pun intended).

Posted by: erp at February 17, 2006 9:29 AM

So the '60s riots were a great thing because they eventually died out? This was slightly amusing last week when you were quoting poor Stanley Fish, who has been playing word games for so many years he is gobsmacked to encounter someone who actually believes something. Wright's a much bigger fool, an utterly conventional racial-guilt-ridden white liberal (he's Mickey Kaus's personal guru, for cripe's sake.) These are the sort of people who brought you the '70s -- actually they're the children of those people. What you're basically telling me here is that you hate that era so much you think we should recreate it.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 12:10 PM


The riots were bad because they destroyed the black community, but Malcolm X was right that they should have resorted to violence from jump street. Nonviolence lets the oppressor off the moral hook.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 12:22 PM

No, violence does, and you know this.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 12:33 PM

Besides which, you aren't and never have been an oppressor, either of blacks or of Islam.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 12:38 PM

No, violence breeds mutual respect after the war is over. The nonviolent appeal to the oppressors decency allows him to feel self-righteous, even contemptuous.

Muslims are oppressed in their own nations, not here. That's why the violence is there and not here.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 12:42 PM

No, cowering before someone else's violence does not breed mutual respect. You're walking proof of that: having grown up getting your head stooshed against the fire hydrant by the brothers back in East Orange, you now pander with the best of them. But pandering is only a mark of contempt.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 12:46 PM

Brits respect Americans but have contempt for Indians and Pakistanis.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 12:59 PM

The riots of persons of African and mixed African descent were carefuly orchestrated and managed set-up jobs, allowed to create justification for expansion of government power and massive expropriation. It was sold as a gigantic internal Dane-geld.

It is disgusting, shameful-- almost embarassingly so--to hear that we should appease this set of culture-enemies because some politicians pretended to appease another gang in the past.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 17, 2006 1:06 PM


Which worked.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 1:17 PM

Really? How? We have a million African-Americans in jail, Orrin. The official, self-serving, pandering response to the riots was paralleled by semi-official vigilantism. You are so far gone on this one that even Rick Perlstein makes more sense than you.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 1:22 PM

that violence thing worked out pretty good for Detroit, didn't it.

Posted by: toe at February 17, 2006 1:50 PM

Or Watts, or South Central. It did work out for people like Wright, who got a world view and a nice career out of it.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 2:03 PM


As Lou points out the intent of the Democratic leadership was "expansion of government power and massive expropriation." It worked.

If you think it had aything to do with what's good for the average black man you're seriously deluded.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 2:14 PM

I'm not the one putting the quotes up, Orrin.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 2:26 PM

If I've misread you then my apologies.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 2:28 PM


Apology accepted.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 2:35 PM

Good. Now answer Lou's other question: why are we repeating such a disastrous performance? The main beneficiaries of the cartoon riots are the demagogues, just as the main beneficiaries of the '60s riots were the race hustlers. Surely we can do better this time.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 2:58 PM


Now you're talking about ought to's rather than was's, having conceded Wright's point.

Obviously we should alleviate the poverty and oppression that's driving the unrest rather than just transfer money this time. The Europeans haven't been much help in doing so, have they?

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 3:07 PM

No, I haven't conceded Wright's point. You just made mine. we should alleviate the poverty and oppression... never translates to anything besides just transfer money. And the beneficiaries are always the Wrights. So we are down this well-worn cowpath again.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 4:03 PM

Bingo! As he said, far from being anything peculiar to Islam they're just replaying our own history.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 4:12 PM

If it were just a matter of money, we'd give them the money. In fact, Europe right now is giving them plenty of folding green (and red, blue, yellow, orange, what-all).

They don't just want money, not even primarily money.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at February 17, 2006 4:26 PM

Now what?

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 4:46 PM

Now that you agreed that he was right?

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 4:50 PM

Now that I pointed out that the two of you think alike.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 17, 2006 4:57 PM

Yes, he and I agree with a very wise man who once said that the violence here is nothing new, indeed parallels that in Americam and we're just headed down a "well-worn cowpath again." The other guy, who denies the well worn path we can all three agree was wrong.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2006 5:12 PM