Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Oslo Massacre and the Irrationally Subjective Application of "Symbolic" Evil Acts in Order to Draw Unwarranted and Unjust Conclusions


 I wrote the following in a personal letter today; thought I'd share it with you (with a few little additions, as I read it over):

What frosts me about things like this is the fundamental irrationality of taking one act as if it supposedly "proves" something about huge groups of people. Obviously it doesn't at all. Such a mentality exhibits the classic sweeping, stereotypical hallmark of prejudicial or bigoted thought. We live in an age of subjectivism and opposition to solid logical, coherent thought. So now Christians are to be characterized as mass murderers because of Oslo fanatic Anders Behring Breivik (just like Hitler was supposedly a good Catholic and Stalin, Eastern Orthodox)? The guy is a neo-Nazi fascist!

Likewise,  there were attempts to characterize Christians or particularly politically conservative ones, as terrorists, after Timothy McVeigh and that lunatic in Arizona (Jared Loughner). It doesn't work. None of these evil murderers remotely fit into the objective profile of the groups that are lambasted as a result of them. Even if they did, it would prove exactly nothing, as to whole groups, anyway. It simply doesn't follow. Sheer evil of such a profound level is sui generis ("one of a kind") anyway. It makes little sense to try to place a heartless, soul-dead monster like that within any larger human group of more or less "normal" people (fallen though we all are).

So many people, despite these rather obvious considerations, base opinions on famous and notorious "public" acts that become highly "symbolic" to them. Hence, when Rev. Martin Luther King was murdered in 1968 (I visited the spot where it happened, in 2009, along with several other notable King sites: his house, church, the place of his last speech), it was taken as proof that America remained fundamentally racist at its core; even institutionally or "systemically" so. It proved no such thing; all it "proved" was the fact that one racist who hated Dr. King managed to kill him. There are always some racists around. The dispute is how many they are and whether it is the norm and consensus in any given society.

But the entire civil rights movement came to a halt for several years; even the great soul music out of Memphis died a quick death, as a result. Steve Cropper, the white guitarist at Stax studios in Memphis, who had played on and written and produced so many of those songs, has noted how he was treated with hostility in the studio after King's murder, as if he had anything to do with it. One readily understands the overwhelming grief and despair, as a result of a great leader having been cut down (America had gone through JFK, after all), but there has to be some limit to applying the natural negative emotional reaction to those who were disconnected in every immediate sense except for the mere coincidence of a skin color.

Then when Obama was elected, America supposedly "proved" it wasn't racist anymore. I think his election did positively indicate less racism in our country, but racists and racism  had long since been rightly marginalized and demonized, according to any serious polling data for the previous 30 years at least. Yet the symbolic phenomenon of Obama's election supposedly "proved" a sudden sea change. Now that many are opposing his policies (not his skin color!), unfortunately we're back to the obligatory "groupthink" charges of racism again. To make a strong protest against any of his policies is to be a racist. I guess, then, the country still suffers from the annoying tendency of the race card being played at every opportunity, no matter how irrelevant it is. I am sick to death of it.

If we are truly colorblind, we criticize people of color precisely because race is no longer an issue, and they are treated the same: both in a positive sense and a negative sense of criticism of their governing policy or whatever else is the topic at hand. We (i.e., us white folks) don't -- or shouldn't -- treat African-Americans with kid gloves out of a perverse application of "corporate white guilt" when it is irrelevant. That is what is patronizing and condescending: as if they wouldn't be able to take criticism because of being so inferior and ill-equipped.

President Obama is a politician, period; thus open to critique like any other politician. If proof that white America has gotten past skin color was needed, it was amply provided in 2008: so much so that Jesse Jackson openly cried in Chicago on election night. It meant something very significant. But formerly widely racist white America hadn't changed overnight. It was a long process.

I've been an avid student of race relations as a native Detroiter and sociology major, for over 40 years: since the Detroit Riots of 1967.

The problem is this sort of thoroughly subjective thinking, which is detached from serious analytical, properly reflective thought. I posted on my Facebook page a link to a great article about the Norway massacre by Chuck Colson. He is rational, and shows that rejection of Christianity is no answer, and will exacerbate the problem, not resolve it. But people are sheep . . .All we can do is try to keep important societal conversations on a rational plane, influenced by our own Christian viewpoints. And it is not rational to make conclusions about groups of many millions of people, based on the evil acts of one psychopath.

Related Reading

The Character Assassination of Robert Spencer (David Horowitz)

Norway Attacks: 'Breivik Acted Alone' (BBC News Europe)

Spencer vs. Alan Colmes on Norway Smears (video clip)

15 comments:

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was in no way a Christian. McVeigh was, in fact, a deeply disturbed person with an active criminal lifestyle who by both his deeds and his own words denied Jesus Christ, claiming that science was his religion.

Nor can it be demonstrated that McVeigh was acting in the name of Christ or Christianity when he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing and wounding hundreds.

Yet, the lie continues, even from people who should know better, that McVeigh was a Christian. He was in no way a Christian, but it serves the agenda of those who would excuse and encourage jihadism and long to impose sharia against this country and all over the world. If they are not actively working to destroy our country, they are useful idiots all. (see: Mainstream Media).

Jon said...

What I find ridiculous is Spencer's claim that there's nothing he's said that justifies violence. Whenever terrorism is visited upon dark skinned people, like Palestinians, Spencer is cheering. Or suppose some white people attempt to bring supplies, like concrete or lumber, to Palestinians to break an illegal embargo. When that happened the IDF killed several, including a US citizen that was shot execution style in the head. Spencer loves it.

The guy is an apologist for terror. He cheers on Israel's massacres in Lebanon. We're talking about terrorism that makes 9-11 look small. I know that sounds weird because nobody in the media talks about it. Because it's terrorism against Muslims. But it is true.

US terrorism he also loves. If you're really concerned about terrorism the first thing you should do is try and stop the terrorism that your own government is doing. That's the terrorism you can control. You know what the largest terrorism incident involving commercial aircraft in our hemisphere prior to 9-11 was? Of course you don't. You have no idea. Know why? Because the victims were enemies of the state. When the victims are enemies of the state you've never heard of it.

I'll give you a couple of hints, but you can look it up for the rest. Killed 73 people. The planners and implementers lived comfortably in Miami. One enjoyed a Presidential pardon. But it's not even worth talking about. When the victims belong to a certain class their deaths are irrelevant.

You may have heard of the Achille Lauro. You may have heard of Leon Klinghoffer. Killed by Palestinian terrorists in 1985. What you've never heard of is another terrorist incident that happened in 1985 that killed 80 people, mostly women and girls, in Beirut. That one is uninteresting because the victims were members of a certain class and the perpetrators were in the CIA.

The only reason Norway is even discussed is because the victims were not members of the "evil" class and the perpetrator was not the CIA or US government or Israeli government. So it can be called evil. The far greater terrorism by the US and it's clients is mostly ignored, but when not ignored it's cheered by Spencer and his ilk. The only way he can pretend he doesn't cheer on terrorism is when he keeps to his very narrow definition of terrorism, the definition shared by most in the media. Terrorism is when they do it to us. When we do it to them it's freedom fighting.

Dave Armstrong said...

Is Breivik a Christian, Jon?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I do not accept Jon's premise that America, its government and its allies hate dark-skinned people and therefore justify attacks on them. That is a convenient way of shutting down the conversation when real dialogue is not desired (which is in almost every case, in my own experience).

Jon and his "ilk" would just as soon run guns as "aid" to these people who have sworn to exterminate the Jewish state. Naturally, the embargo must continue since Israel is surrounded on all sides by people who hate them and want all Jews dead. Supplies indeed. Merely a cover for bombs, guns and death squads--something in which Palestinians and their supporters excel.

There is no possibility of a two-state solution since the Palestinian authorities have only wanted one state (their own) and the wholesale elimination and slaughter of Jews as a result.

I have already seen that further conversation on this matter is fruitless.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

And no, Breivik is not a Christian in any sense in which real Christians would accept. If he were, he would be denounced as a traitor to his faith--something which you will rarely find among the adherents of Islam.

Dave Armstrong said...

I'm not a Christian, myself, according to all your anti-Catholic cronies, Pilgrim, so I don't think Breivik makes the cut, either. At least I pretend and put up a good imitation of Christianity. :-)

Pilgrimsarbour said...

My cronies? Oh all right. I get it now. Sorry you feel that way.

Dave Armstrong said...

Associates? Friends? You certainly associate with them. Maybe "cronies" is too strong a word (I retract that, if you don't like it, but see the definition below). If you consider them not to be friends or even acquaintances of yours, just say the word. You post on their sites all the time, no?

I know you aren't anti-Catholic like these guys; that has been well-established and gratefully acknowledged, and is not the issue.

But it is a fact that you talk to the leading anti-Catholics fairly often, and agree with them theologically, insofar as they are Reformed Protestants, and they think I am not a Christian. Those are undeniable facts.

All "crony" means, according to Dictionary.com is "[close] friend, companion, chum, pal, buddy."

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/crony

Why, then, is this so disturbing to you?

Dave Armstrong said...

Presumably, you did see the smiley icon in my comment, too. That's important. It shows that it was a good-natured barb (as friends do), not an intended put-down or personal swipe.

Dave Armstrong said...

I also am extremely grateful that you had the guts to actually defend me on Doe's site: something virtually no other Reformed Christian has ever done. Doe et al wouldn't listen to you at all if they didn't believe you were true-blue Reformed, as you certainly are.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

No, I don't post on their sites all the time. My comments are not generally appreciated so I've kind of given up.

Sorry I misread you. Cranky. Bad mood today.

Jon said...

Breivik is not a Christian in the sense that I ever understood the term. What he is is a person motivated by websites like those run by Spencer, Geller, and Horowitz that actively encourages terrorism. It's hard to see that it's terrorism because it's against enemies of the state, but if you look past the spin it is.

Why shouldn't the Palestinians have guns, Pilgrim? They are being slaughtered. We send Israel Apache helicopters and F-16's and then say "How dare Palestinians want guns!!"

Yeah, people on Israel's borders hate Israel. For good reason. Suppose our neighbor to the north thought we were dangerous. So they put up a wall. But that wall extended miles into the United States. Then they built settlements behind those walls. Then they built roads connecting those settlements and any Americans found driving on those roads was prosecuted. And we had to pass through check points to get around in our own country because of the walls, settlements, and Canadian only roads. Suppose you want to get a loved one to the hospital, but you must wait in the ambulance at a check point. Yeah, we'd be mad. What do you expect? You might get fighting mad if your mother dies in the ambulance waiting for Canadian guards to let you through.

Despite that Israel's neighbors all vote for peace every year at the UN. Last roll call I heard from 2009 was 164 to 7. 164 nations say yes, peace at the 1967 borders. All the Arab states say yes. The Muslim non-Arabs, like in Iran and Pakistan, vote in favor. Opposed is the US, Israel, and a few lackeys they can get to go along, mostly south sea islands. And we're told it is the Palestinians that want only one state.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

So you admit that these flotillas of "supplies" are running guns. Well, I didn't expect that. Good for you...I guess. But it kind of wrecks your argument against the Israeli blockade. No, the blockade stands, since it is by your own admission a matter of Israel's very survival.

Palestinians are (not in my view) considered to be the offscouring of the earth. If the Arabs would merely embrace them into their own countries, we wouldn't have this problem. But they are hated as much by Arabs as they are by anyone else. I submit that Israelis don't hate anybody but find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to defend themselves from attacks, missile and otherwise on a daily basis from the enemies which surround them.

Sadly, everything with you is completely one-sided. Palestinians are angels of light that would never do anything hateful like bomb the hell out of school children on buses, slaughter innocent people at malls, hijack planes, kidnap, torture, maim Israeli citizens and those who want to get along with Jews. They target civilians, as is also the Muslim culture and way of death.

As far as borders are concerned, the disputed territories never belonged to any state. That is their nature, they are disputed. And it's a sorry mess, but the Arabs shouldn't have tried to destroy Israel in the previous wars, for which they deservedly got their butts kicked. And they will continue to get their butts kicked, as long as they can't find the self-control it takes to act like mature adults and get along with people that think and believe differently than they do.

Name me anything at all that the Palestinian (leadership, that is) has actually created in this world. Something of beauty, something of light. Something worth the admiration of the world. No, Palestinians (leadership) create nothing, and they have nothing to show for their existence. No, destruction and death are their gods, and the more Jews they can take with them, the better, as they see it. They certainly, by all accounts, are in agreement with the enemies of the civilised world when they say "We love death more than you love life." THIS is the legacy of radical, militant Islam. I can only regret that the Palestinian people, individually, can't garner the resources and strength to throw off their oppressive, corrupt leadership in favour of peace and life, instead of having to wallow in the grips of the death that their so-called leaders have brought them. The motto of these leaders is "I have come that you might have death, and that in abundance." And in that, they have completely fulfilled their promise to the Palestinian people.

Dave Armstrong said...

Fair enough, Pilgrim. I wasn't aware of that. I wasn't meaning to be provocative, myself, so I'll be glad to drop the whole thing. Have a great day, my friend!

Jon said...

Where did I admit the flotillas were running guns? What happened was Israel boarded them, killed a few, and put a lock down on video and reporting, only permitting the release of what the IDF allowed. So I wouldn't pretend to know exactly what happened since Israel saw to it that nobody could send evidence to the outside world. But I wouldn't trust Israel. The one that fears letting the outside world know is probably the one that doesn't want the truth told.

Doesn't matter if the territories never belonged to a particular state. What matters is that for generations Arabs lived on those regions. Israel in 1948 just drove them from their homes, creating something like 700,000 refugees. It doesn't matter that Jordan doesn't want to receive these refugees. What matters is that they owned their homes and had been living there for generations as the indigenous people and Israel drove them out violently. That's wrong even if Jordan won't receive them.

Sure, the Palestinians react violently. Nobody is denying that. Far less so than Israel. Israel has killed far more than Palestinians ever will. But that's what people do when they are expelled from their homes and food is blocked to them. Also when they are hemmed in within their own borders.

If Israel wanted it to stop it would be pretty easy. Accept the international consensus for a two state settlement, agreed upon by the whole world. But they just prefer expansion to peace.

They haven't produced much you say. But that's what happens when you won't let them eat, won't let them have basic stuff. Did you know Israel blocked chocolate, fruit juice, pasta, and shoes in Gaza. That's on their official list of blocked items. You can talk about guns all day, but what's really happening is they are blocking pasta and plastic toys. Why? Are they afraid of being attacked with pasta? You try producing great things when you lack food or your means of making a living is taken from you. Not that I grant Palestinians haven't produced. Their orchards were ancient and producing unique food. But those are bulldozed by Israel to make room for more settlements. How are they supposed to produce when Israel bombs their cement factories? Israel crushes their chicken coups. Israel bombs their flour mills. Their food is taken, their jobs are taken, their homes are bulldozed and you criticize them for failing to produce. You ought to be impressed that they even survive. It's more than you would do in similar circumstances.