The Porter Zone

Philosophical musings and more

Qu’ran burning, ‘Death to America’ and all that

Warning: displays left-wing bias!

I’ve always been perturbed by the way that it seems that the immediate reaction of people in the Muslim world to anyone in the West being a bit silly is to charge out in huge mobs, and burn flags of / shout ‘death to’ the country the silly people are from. That is to say, they don’t seem to be able to distinguish the vast mass of decent (say) Americans from extremist loons who burn Qu’rans.

And then I thought, wait a bit: that’s exactly like the people who complain about the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ – they can’t distinguish between Islam and Islamist extremists (who arguably are not true Muslims anyway). And these people are from a stratum of society we don’t often see much in the UK (or the US, where most reportage we see tends to stick to DC, New York, LA and SF) i.e. rednecks. These are the core supporters of the BNP in the UK and the Tea Party in the US. And though redneck culture has been well-known within the US for years, over here, before the rise of Palin, mainstream knowledge of it was pretty much limited to ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, which is itself an idealisation created by the West-coast elite. But in reality, this is core US culture: the majority of the US is not the country of Michael Moore and Richard Pryor, it’s the country of Rush Limbaugh and Larry the Cable Guy (if you don’t know who he is, which I’m willing to bet you won’t, rather proving my point, here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_the_Cable_Guy, but believe me, you’ll be happier retaining your ignorance; he makes the Duke Brothers look like the Marx Brothers).

So the reason we see more of this unreasonable behaviour in the Muslim world than the west? Or at least, why is more of this kind of behaviour reported in the Muslim world than the west? People who are ill-educated and can’t think except in slogans are everywhere, but the inequalities of societies in the Muslim world are such as to mean that they will be more visible. That’s not to say there won’t be a thinking class who deplore these ridiculous antics, but they’re so few in numbers that the international media don’t find them, while mobs of ill-educated people who will believe whatever a demagogue tells them (not because they’re stupid, or inherently wicked, but simply because they haven’t been given the intellectual tools required to question and dissect statements made by those in ‘authority’) are easy to find and make better stories than moderates holding a press-conference at which they say there is no clash of cultures. And in the US (and to a lesser extent in the UK with the BNP) the recent rise of political redneckerry has finally made it visible to the world, and the media just love to cover it (and to prove it, look how much more publicity the Qu’ran burning Pastor Jones has got than any of the hordes of Christian figures who condemned him). And that gives it greater power and legitimacy, just as the appearance that ‘the people’ are behind them gives Al Qaeda legitimacy.

So if you want to blame anyone for the apparent disparity between a reasonable, tolerant West and a mindless, intolerant Islamic world, blame lazy reporters. But I think, with the rise of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and their ilk, that disparity is going to disappear really rather soon.

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2 responses to “Qu’ran burning, ‘Death to America’ and all that

  1. Amro Gebreel 11/09/2010 at 17:52
  2. garryturk 16/09/2010 at 20:18

    I agree with the points re the role of the media in this controversy; how on earth did a crazy who runs a church of 50 people (it was 100 when he joined) get this sort of publicity? I could try and balance your stated left-wing bias by suggesting it was an attempt to portray all Conservative Christians (of which I’m neither) as loons but I won’t go there.What I find fascinating though is the contrast with how this story ran in the press compared to how the story re the Islamic center near Ground Zero was handled. To caricature it, those on the left saw no issue with the centre and felt those offended should chil out while those on the right saw it as an inflammatory move calculated to maximise the insult felt.For the Qu’ran burning the positions were reversed; those who supported crazy pastor guy tended to be on the right, citing free speech, remembrance of 9/11 and a need for Islam to chill out. Those shouting most loudly against the plan focused on the inherint intolerance of an act intended to maximise the insult felt.Of course the comparison is imperfect and was skewed by the media circus the whole thing became at which point any name-brand politician started shouting condemnation but I do think there’s an interesting contrast to be drawn. (As there is with the Danish cartoons of a few years ago where again an act that could be described as intended to be maximally offensive did absolutely not see the West’s media and political class howl against it).Or in other words the media misses the real story yet again. Which I think was a core part of your post.

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