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The Intolerance of Jonah Goldberg
by N. L. Wilbur
2010-09-07 07:32:32
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Americans never seem to get their fill of craziness. Think Sarah Palin, viral Internet videos of drunken squirrels, websites for toenail clipping collections, toilet seat art, non-political “Restoring America” rallies, 80-dollar skin cream – you shout “espresso enema ” in Central Park, people either give a quick wink and a little nod or go home and Google it.

Ranking probably in the top 100 in this obsessive but patriotic pastime is Jonah Goldberg, a nationally syndicated columnist whose right-wing logic has more than kept pace with the Republican Party’s recent devolution into radical irrationality.

In his Aug. 24 column, Goldberg calls out the Obama Administration for its “reflexive response” of fretting about an anti-Muslim climate in America that, according to the intellectual powerhouse that is Jonah Goldberg, doesn’t actually exist.

Like any good journalist, Goldberg backs up his assertion with facts. He cites FBI data from 2001 showing that hate crimes against Muslims increased a whopping 1,600 percent after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the next breath he calls this “a math mirage, ” stating that, “In 2002 and pretty much every year since, anti-Jewish incidents have outstripped anti-Muslim incidents by at least 6 to 1.” What’s so crazy about this? Nothing. He’s right.

According to the FBI, anti-Jewish hate crimes in 2001 totaled 1,117 compared to the anti-Muslim total of 546. In 2008, anti-Jewish versus anti-Muslim hate crime offenses totaled 1,055 and 123, respectively. It’s in the next sentence that Goldberg’s logic turns to mush. Upon referencing these statistics, Goldberg asks, “Why aren’t we talking about the anti-Jewish climate in America?”

A bit more research doesn’t necessarily provide an answer, but it does contextualize Goldberg’s failed attempt to contextualize the anti-Muslim data. Yes, more Jews are victims of hate crime than Muslims, but neither could hold a flame to the anti-black statistics (3,413 offenses in 2008), or even against ethnic minorities in general (1,148). According to the data, Jews don’t even rank above homosexuals (1,142). Based on the numbers he cites, the question really ought to be, “Why aren’t we talking about black, ethnic, homosexual and Jewish phobias?” Or for that matter, why aren’t we talking about Nazi-phobia, KKK-phobia and Hannah Montana-phobia? – whose haters number in the billions.

Sure, Jewish jokes are as common as lawyer jokes, but does that in any way compare with the stereotypes of blacks, Hispanics, gays and Muslims? Put another way, is being stereotyped in a way that mocks your wealth the same as being stereotyped for being a deadbeat father, an illegal day laborer, a sodomite or a terrorist?

As it turns out, there’s a legitimate reason why we’re not talking about an anti-Jewish climate in America, and it’s the same reason Obama isn’t talking about a climate of intolerance toward blacks, Hispanics and gays. Goldberg, in a demonstration of his elitism, does what any private-school-educated upper class intellectual is expected to do. He answers his own question: “Because there isn’t one.”

It is so profound I almost lost consciousness. Once again, Goldberg is correct. His power of observation is so keen he makes a dunce of the French-American food critic’s world-changing revelation that French fries go good with ketchup.

If you just skimmed through the remainder of the column, Captain Obvious doesn’t seem to be saying much at all. His main point, that Americans in general have general intolerances that generally ought to be acknowledged, leaves you wondering why anyone would waste the time, ink, and paper just to say something so banal as “Some people are somewhat intolerant of some stuff.”

He says America is one of the most tolerant countries in the world. He says America consistently fights for the freedoms (and lives) of Muslims around the world. He says a bunch of other patriotic fluff that makes you feel very proud to be an American and, by proxy, very proud to be an American reading an American-Jew’s column on American triumphs for peace. This paragraph is his buffer between points. Point No. 1 was: Jews are discriminated against more than Muslims, but there is no anti-Jewish “climate” in America. So what’s point No. 2?

According to Goldberg: “(T)here isn’t an anti-Muslim climate either.”

The term “double-take” is so overused it’s become clichéd, but I did one that was so acrobatic my eyes actually somersaulted out of my sockets and ripped through the newspaper page. For a moment I wondered if my local paper had accidentally placed a radical Tea Bagger’s rant in the slot designated for Goldberg, but then I remembered that it’s precisely this sort of craziness Americans love – particularly the patriotic right-wingers of the Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin/Rush Limbaugh/Mike Savage persuasion.

Here’s why Goldberg is a first-rate idiot. It doesn’t take but a five-second Google search to come up with a dozen or more anti-Muslim incidents since the “Ground Zero mosque” debate hit center stage about 90 days ago. First and foremost, there is the case of the New York City taxi driver, Ahmed Sharif, who had his throat cut for admitting he was Muslim. But there are others.

In  Fresno, Calif.: two signs were left at the Madera Islamic Center reading “Wake Up America, the Enemy Is Here” and “No temple for the god of terrorism at Ground Zero.”

In Sacramento: a toy pig was left at the Council on American-Islamic Relations center that said “No mosque in NYC” and “MO HAM MED the pig.”

In Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Authorities are investigating an arson fire that destroyed construction materials for a planned Islamic center.

In Gainesville , Fla.: an evangelical pastor continues to apply for permits that would allow him to commemorate 9/11 by hosting an “International Burn A Qur’an Day,” claiming that Islam’s holy book is full of lies, even though he admitted he’d never read its Satanic verses.

In Astoria, N.Y.: a drunken man stumbled into a mosque, screamed “Terrorists!” at the worshippers and proceeded to urinate on the prayer rugs.

Somehow none of these “isolated events,” according to Goldberg, are grounds for acknowledging a growing “anti-Muslim climate” in America. But are they really isolated events? Have they occurred out of the blue? Are they “remote”? How likely is it that people would put up a sign at an Islamic center stating “No temple for the god of terrorism at Ground Zero” if it weren’t for the round-the-clock media coverage of the “Ground Zero mosque”; if it weren’t for the commentators accusing Muslim Americans of coming to this country in order to have “terror babies” who will grow up to destroy the Republic; if it weren’t for the pundits who continue to describe the Imam in charge of the proposed mosque as a “shady character” whose project is funded by “terror dollars”?

Goldberg, not surprisingly, fails to address any of this. The intellectual powerhouse would rather keep things simple, and simple, even if it is idiotically counter-intuitive, means following the same mantra that GOP has followed since Nov. 2, 2008: blame Obama.

Goldberg’s real point is that the only intolerance in America right now is the president’s. “When it comes to mainstream Americans, veterans, Obamacare opponents or (shudder) Tea Partiers, there’s no generalization too broad or too insulting for the left,” he writes.

If he didn’t prove the non-existence of the anti-Muslim climate in America by showing that Jews are discriminated more than Muslims, he definitely proved it by attacking “Obama and Co.” for not “fretting” about the intolerance shown toward Tea Party Patriots and Obamacare opponents. Shallow GOP rhetoric has that power when it’s published by seemingly credible news agencies. And never mind that Tea Party Patriots and Obamacare opponents aren’t getting their throats cut for their beliefs. That’s apparently beside the point.

I wonder if Goldberg would deny the actual existence of an anti-Jewish climate in America if the tables were turned – if plans were announced to build a synagogue in New York City described daily by a prominent TV news network as a “Terror Temple” planned as a training facility for radical Jews to destroy Christianity in the U.S.; if “Fair and Balanced” news shows told the public that Jews were coming to America to breed “terror babies”; if Palin posted a Tweet “refudiating” the terrorist synagogue; if Glenn Beck hosted a rally aimed at “Restoring Honor” in America by making shrouded criticisms about the Jewish takeover of the government and said on his show that “the (Rabbi) behind the (Terror Temple) makes no bones about his goal to … bring (Halakhah law) to America”; if some radical Neo-Nazi-in-training were to slit the throat of a Rabbi in a taxi cab so as to publicize the destruction of Christian hegemony in America.

That, of course, is a hypothetical situation meant to make a point. This, however, is a point meant to contextualize what Goldberg claims is only an over-fretted hypothetical reality: the 1,600 percent spike in hate crimes committed against Muslims in 2001 was a direct result of American intolerance of Muslims after 9/11. Today we are experiencing the same type of anti-Muslim sentiments we witnessed then. The difference is, whereas in 2001 we saw a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes following the slaughter of 3,000 innocent Americans at the hands of a dozen extremist Muslims; today we’re seeing a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes after a news agency incited the masses over the plans of a well-respected American Muslim to revitalize a Burlington Coat Factory building and turn it into a community center, gym, art gallery and 9/11 memorial.

Let me say that again: In 2001, innocent Muslim Americans were attacked because Muslim extremists murdered thousands of innocent Americans; today innocent Muslim Americans are being targeted because certain extremist news agencies are inciting certain extremists Americans who don’t agree with certain New York City neighborhood improvement plans.

To ignore the media’s influence over the American public is one thing. To call Obama a hypocrite for caring less about Tea Partiers than he does about the attempted murder of a Muslim cab driver in New York City is another thing entirely. And yet we should know this. In his previous column, Goldberg described Obama’s statement about the Ground Zero controversy as “his most embarrassing blunder yet.” Obama’s words: “…Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.” And in his latest column, Goldberg describes Fox News commentator Glenn Beck’s “Restoring America” rally as a “religious, ecumenical and diverse” gathering.

Somehow toenail clipping collections don’t seem so crazy after all.

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Emanuel Paparella2010-09-07 09:42:17
All true, and "crazy" enough, but has Professor Wilbur considered how much of this sort of craziness, let's say, about building a Christian Church, can be observed in Saudi Arabia? Ought we not examine the other side of the coin too, especially if one happens to live in orderly and prim and proper countries such as Canada, to get a better perspective on the whole truth of the matter?

Pepper2010-09-07 15:10:37
Papa ,comparing America to Saudi Arabia says to me that you watched Fox and heard the talking point of the day and now repeat it because it somehow makes everything the GOP say logical -- even if there is no comparison or logic to th e point

Emanuel Paparella2010-09-07 17:17:43
Mr. Pepper, unfortunately the simple point I tried to make is lost on you. Too bad.

Prof. Wilbur2010-09-08 00:10:35
Imam Paparella, I'm afraid I'm a little lost on your point as well. "...How much of this sort of craziness...can be observed in Saudi Arabia?" That's the question, but what's the implied answer? That Saudi Arabia is crazier or as crazy as the U.S.? It seems Pepper sees through that argument. ;)

Emanuel Paparella2010-09-08 05:26:41
I find it intriguing that Mr. Pepper calls me Papa, and you Mr. Wilbur call me Imam while using your academic title for yourself. Are you both so unsure of your reasoning to have to descend to ad hominem arguments? The point, implied or overt, is actually rather simple and it can be seen quite easily by taking off one's ideological lenses. The point is that Saudi Arabia has no craziness because it simply does not allow free speech or even the free exercise and choice of religion on the part of their citizens choose. The craziness in America is there because not everybody accepts unquestionably the mind-set of the likes of Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck. If everybody did, we would not be America but Saudi Arabia with no creaziness. In other words, there is another side to the coin of intolerance but unfortunately neither Mr. Pepper nor Mr. Wilbur are able or willing to discern it and entertain its implications. And that is too bad indeed.

Prof. Wilbur2010-09-08 06:39:56
The academic title I "use for myself" was a gift, Papa Imam, from you. Point one. Point two: you're comparing the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, which was a point Mr. Pepper pointed out because you made said point in an attempt to make the point that we are different than Saudi Arabia because we have Glenn Beck, because we allow Glenn Beck's logic to fill the airwaves, and because and are therefore better off than Saudi Arabia for having tolerance of said perspectives. If that is the purpose of your comment, of your directive – to look at the other side of the coin, our other option (Saudi Arabia) – then I think I could live without it. I appreciate the feedback, but I already accept that argument. We are indeed better off. The argument I can't accept is the one that takes this premise that "It may be crazy, but at least it's not as bad as Saudi Arabia" and using it to ignore what's crazy and popular instead of analyzing what's crazy and popular (IN THE FREE WORLD, not SAUDI ARABIA) and critiquing it. That, Paparella, was the point of my column. It's the difference between allowing stupidity to influence us versus analyzing that stupidity and critiquing it (as opposed to, say, leaving it alone and comparing what we have to what Saudis have).
Is that an accurate synopses of your point, or am I still lacking the intellectual ability to discern your enlightened analysis?

Lastly, please don't misuse the term ad hominem. Nothing said thus far fits that definition except the attempt at humor by giving you a title that is equally as flattering (and unwarranted) as "professor." (Remember, Imam is a title that still commands the respect it deserves, even in America.)

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