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Response to Glenn Greenwald’s Take on Douthat

John on April 27, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Ross Douthat wrote a column about Comedy Central’s censorship of South Park, writing in part:

[I]t’s a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all. . . .Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.  Except where Islam is concerned.

The bolded text was added by Glenn Greenwald who proceeds to throw a tantrum, purportedly about these two points. He writes:

I abhor the threats of violence coming from fanatical Muslims…But the very idea that such conduct is remotely unique to Muslims is delusional, the by-product of Douthat’s ongoing use of his New York Times column for his anti-Muslim crusade and sectarian religious promotion.

The various forms of religious-based, intimidation-driven censorship and taboo ideas in the U.S. — what Douthat claims are non-existent except when it involves Muslims — are too numerous to chronicle.

Greenwald then offers a list of links which supposedly prove his point. I think the only way to do this justice is to break it up and insert my own comments:

As Balloon-Juice’s DougJ notes, everyone from Phil Donahue and Ashliegh Banfield to Bill Maher and Sinead O’Connor can tell you about that first-hand.

Donahue, Banfield and Maher were all supposedly fired (by MSNBC, MSNBC and ABC respectively) for anti-war comments. First of all, the links mostly suggest that MSNBC was pushing an agenda (shock!) and that ABC was embarrassed by Maher. It’s not clear how this represents “religious-based, intimidation-driven censorship.” At best you have an argument for news corporations looking out for the bottom line.Was being anti-war a “taboo idea?” Well, maybe…for about 3 months. Then it became the most popular idea on the left for about 7 years.

As for Sinead O’Connor, while it’s true people stopped paying to see her and buying her records, she has put out about 10 more albums since the 1992 incident. According to Wikipedia, the original version of the episode (the one where she tears up the photo of Pope John Paul II) is on the Saturday Night Live box set. I’ll give Glenn partial credit on this one.

As can the cable television news reporters who were banned by their corporate executives from running stories that reflected negatively on Bush and the war.

The story doesn’t say they were banned. It says they were discouraged from being anti-war by their own producers. There’s no indication that fear of reprisal was a concern (beyond viewers tuning out). It also rehashes most of the points made with the previous links. So, again, how is this “religious-based, intimidation-driven censorship?”

If we’re really going to include war politics in a list of taboo ideas, how about we make a list of the pro-Iraq war movies produced by Hollywood in the last 7 years vs. the anti-Iraq war movies. Then tell me which side of the debate is censored.

When he was Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani was fixated on using the power of his office to censor art that offended his Catholic sensibilities.

The link goes to a story by FAIR which says Giuliani’s statements on Sunday shows need balance. FAIR’s approach also needs balance. They fail to note the key issue, i.e. funding for the Brooklyn Museum was coming from New York City. Does the Brooklyn Museum have a right to taxpayer funds, the loss of which constitutes censorship? That’s a stretch.

The Bush administration banned mainstream Muslim scholars even from entering the U.S. to teach.

Yes, Tariq Ramadan was so mainstream that he was fired by a Dutch university in 2009 over his support for the Iranian regime. He was part of a TV show on state-run TV and continued his participation even after the Iranian elections and the beatings and murders in the streets of Tehran. That’s mainstream? Really?!

The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats for daring to criticize the Leader, forcing them to apologize out of fear for their lives.

They came out as anti-war campaigners. They were criticized (sometimes too harshly, no doubt) and their records didn’t sell. They were not cut from the label. Their tour continued. They were lionized by the left and the press as martyrs. And I’m not clear how this reaction was “religious-based” or where the censorship took place. Do people have to buy Dixie Chicks albums to avoid being censors? Put this another way…if Comedy Central had run the South Park episode in its entirety and Muslims had reacted angrily and tuned the show out, would that be censorship? No. It would be the normal response to being insulted.

Campaigns to deny tenure to academicians, or appointments to politicial officials, who deviate from Israel orthodoxy are common and effective.

That’s a clever use of the word orthodoxy, but don’t be fooled. This is about politics not religion. It’s also not clear how a campaign to discredit one’s political opponents represents censorship.  Are persons with extreme or unusual views entitled to tenured faculty positions such that withholding those positions constitutes censorship? Put it this way, was it censorship that a prominent intelligent design advocate was refused tenure? Could we extend this to politics and suggest that it was censorship that caused John McCain to lose the Presidency in 2008? This is absurd, obviously. Politics ain’t beanbag. Those who talk foolishly sometimes don’t get their dream job.

Responding to religious outrage, a Congressional investigation was formally launched and huge fines issued all because Janet Jackson’s breast was displayed for a couple of seconds on television.

Outrage over nudity in a half-time show watched by lots of kids wasn’t limited to religious parents. The huge fines were levied because the show violated FCC guidelines. Now I suppose you could argue that all TV guidelines about sex and violence constitute self-censorship of a sort. That’s really a stretch though isn’t it? When your argument boils down to wearing clothes on TV shows watched by kids is censorship, you’ve really entered into a whole ‘nother debate. I would just note that there’s plenty of porn available a few channels over for those adults so inclined.

Greenwald then offers another “endless” list of religious violence. I’ll just note that of the 16 items in his endless list, only two happened in this country. He’s clearly reaching for something that just isn’t that easy to find. So he throws up a bunch of loose association links and hopes people won’t bother to look at them. If you do bother, you quickly find that most of them have nothing to do with the point Ross Douthat was making about self-censorship and the media’s double standard when it comes to Islam. The few examples that arguably do fit (Sinead O’Connor, the cancellation of a play in Texas) are few and far between.

Greenwald should have realized this was a losing argument when he saw John Stewart’s take on this. If even reliable lefty Stewart appreciates that there is a media double-standard for Islam, it’s because there really is a media double standard for Islam.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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