By Goodwin Ginger,
Watching Irshad Manji on CBC last night was, as ever, a disheartening experience. So bereft of intellect, so disingenuous in her reaction to all of Islam, so ultimately meaningless. These are serious times and we need to take a stand against the simpletons. That Irshad performs Bill O’Reilly trapped inside a Diasporic body is only a marker of the times. No doubt she spends her late nights on MSM with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
However, it must be said that the Native Informants are not the only ones trading in simple formulations, false dichotomies and genetic fallacies for the furtherance of their personal ambitions. Indeed in the reaction to September 11th and the flames of discontent rolling across the Muslim world we have been told time and again by our leaders that the only topics for public debate are crime and punishment. All conversations that seek an explanation for the discontent of Muslims and the rise of “militant” Islam we are told are mere apologia for terrorism. This was of course precisely the move made by Rex the Mad Man Murphy on the soapbox he is regularly given by the CBC (1).
Indeed it is a sign of the times that Canada’s national public broadcaster whose mandate it is to deepen citizens' capacity to think (what we used to mean by public education) chose to double stack Irshad and Rex. The only voice of reason on the CBC last night was Haroon Siddiqui who was first directly drowned out by the O’Reilly Factor hysteria of Irshad and then banished from all consciousness by Murphy’s editorial bombast. These are serious times and unfortunately it seems the weightiness of the times is breaking even the calmer heads at CBC.
But these are not the only signs that we have slipped into a period of proffering simple syllogisms, equivocations and false binaries as a substitute for considered thought and rational discourse. Progressive intellectuals and activists in reaction to the incredibly belligerent tone of the times have themselves been inadvertently drawn into the swamp of ignorance.
Take for example CUPE’s resolution 50 that equivocates Israeli state with the Apartheid state. While I applaud CUPE and its activists for bringing and passing a motion with regard to the belligerent attitude and policies of the Israeli state, the equivocation with Apartheid undermines CUPE’s attempt to draw attention to those policies. In the mainstream press all that has happened is that the debate (to the extent that one has occurred) has been over the equivocation of Israeli state policy to Apartheid. No two complex historical cases are the same. As such it will always be the case that one can demonstrate as many differences as similarities. The strategy from the hawks has been simply to discredit the equivocation by focussing on the differences between the two cases. Now CUPE is caught trying to make the case that they are indeed similar enough to warrant the resolution. The problem is that once reasonable doubt as to the validity of the comparison can be raised CUPE looks malicious for having drafted the resolution.
The left needs to develop a better language for thinking about and articulating its position with regards to Israel. Progressives would do well to dwell on the fact that the simple binary of Israelis = Bad, Palestine = Good has the same rhetorical structure as the argument made by Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover such a strategy runs the risk of being discredited as playing into anti-Jewish attitudes (I purposefully use the term Jewish here because Palestinians and Jews are Semitic people with a Semitic languages).
CUPE could have adopted any number of resolutions that would have conveyed symbolic solidarity with Palestinians and at the same time help focus attention on a substantive issue. They could have even gone as far as to demand that the West and Israel immediately recognize the democratic rights of Palestinians to elect their leaders. And further demand that funding be provided to those leaders. This would have been controversial but then it would have served to focus attention on the plight of the Palestinian peoples in the occupied territories (I use occupied here because that is the status under international law). And it should be said that the plight of the Palestinian peoples in the occupied territories is so severe and dire that no sensationalizing or sensational equivocations needs to be made. The facts are so overwhelming, so well documented that they can simply be pointed out and a rational conversation can be forced. And where such a conversation cannot be forced no amount of rhetorical grandstanding is going to matter.
The job of progressives in such times is to meticulously document and raise the uncomfortable truth time and again. We need to remind ourselves that the facts are with us and history is on our side. All the hawks have is empty slogans, debased equivocations and plenty of loudspeakers. We will not rise above the din by trading in ignorances.
1. Rex Writes: "Further, if the courts prove these charges are true, attempts to rationalize such violence by pointing to our involvement in Afghanistan, so-called marginalization or anything of a familiar litany of sociological evasions as grounds for one set of Canadians to bomb another set of Canadians are as repugnant as they are empty."
Since when did explanation become equivalent to excusing?