Sunday, April 19, 2015

Maybe not *all* roads lead to Rome...

...but you could think of it as a theorem in Traveling Salesman math, the Douthat Conjecture, that you can find an 800-word route to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops from any subject, however remote.
Shorter Ross Douthat, "Checking Charlie Hebdo's Privilege", New York Times, April 18 2015:
If Garry Trudeau really thinks satirists ought to punch up at the powerful and not down at the downtrodden, how come liberals are always making fun of millions of aborted fetuses?
Image by Kate Tiedrich via AwkwardZombie.
After cautiously waiting around for a few days, the Monsignor, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has decided to venture into the discussion of the Doonesbury creator's remarks on his receipt of the George Polk Career Award, backing up Pious David Frum in shouting down the old-fashioned liberal idea that it's wrong to make fun of those who are weaker than you.

In the first place, says Douthat, it's hard to know who's weaker and who isn't:
The terrorist’s veto on portrayals of Islam is itself a very real form of power, and as long as journalists who challenge it end up dead, the idea that they are “up” and their targets are “down” reflects a denial of life-and-death reality. Or, to take a related example, the hundreds of white women recently raped by Pakistani gangs in England’s industrial north were theoretically higher on a ladder of privilege than their assailants. But the gangs’ actual power over their victims was only enhanced by that notional ladder, because multicultural pieties were part of what induced the authorities to look the other way.
There's something to that idea of challenging the "terrorist's veto on portrayals of Islam" (presumably he means on portrayals of Muhammad), which was what the Charlie cartoonists meant to do. Unfortunately (this was Cohn-Bendit's point, and mine, and I think it is Garry Trudeau's as well), terrorists weren't the only people upset by it; thousands of poor immigrants struggling in the banlieues with no terroristic thoughts were also upset, and even pretty frightened at what must have seemed like completely motiveless venom directed at them. It is because of them, not terrorists, that it might have been better not to publish the drawings.

The awful story of the sex abuse in Rotherham ("recently raped" seems like an odd way to describe something that went on over a protracted period from 1997 to 2013, and "by Pakistani gangs" should read "by Pakistani pimps and a multiracial clientèle") is not clarified by appealing to the idea of a "ladder of privilege" of the abusers and their victims. The reason the authorities failed to stop the abuse is that they refused to believe it was happening. They had no respect for the raped girls, who the police called "undesirables":
broken girls to begin with, most of them, often coming from homes with mental illness, drug abuse and other problems, frequently taken into care by the social services.  These were the kind of girls who traditionally are not allowed to have a childhood.  These were the kind of girls who act out, who believe the grooming for sex to be love, the love they so desperately seek for.  These were the kind of girls the police sometimes regarded as adults, fully able to consent to sex with strangers.  And these were often the kind of girls that social workers despair over:  Difficult cases, refusing help, refusing to name their torturers for fear of further violence to them or their families or because the tainted "love" they received was taken as real love and affection or because they had been beaten and dulled into slave-like submission. (Echidne)
It's Douthat who assumes that because the girls were white they must have had higher status than their dark-skinned tormentors, because that is to him the natural order. If it had been the American South, it would have been true, too, but not in England, where class hatred is older and more durable than race hatred. Did the Rotherham council also hesitate to identify the perpetrators as Asians out of fear of being seen as bigoted? Apparently yes, but that worry counted only because they believed the girls—and their social workers—were exaggerating, or not worth worrying about; it wasn't because they had any particular esteem for the Pakistani pimps but because they had no esteem for anybody involved. They took the option that gave them the least stress.

Christianity is both a historically privileged faith (from the perspective of the West) and arguably the planet’s most persecuted religion (from the perspective of Africa or Asia). The gay rights movement has gained extraordinary influence (especially at the elite level) in the United States, yet gay people are still treated brutally around the world. Such contrasts aren’t new, but thanks to speed of travel and communication they increasingly coexist, overlap and collide: One need only get on a plane to pass from being in a privileged to a persecuted class.
All Douthat's preoccupations are pretty much on view, including his use of the word "arguably". And fears, apparently, of a secret gay cabal pulling all the strings.

The argument on religion involves the crudest possible numbers, number of countries where harassment takes place, without regard to how much of it there is or even the relative size of the different countries. Christians are persecuted in the most countries (151 from 2006 to 2012) because they're in the most countries (estimated 2.18 billion in 2011); Muslims second most (135) because they're second (1.6 billion). But Jews were persecuted in 95 countries, though they make up less than 1% of the world population (around 6.5 million in 2014), suggesting that they must be hundreds of times more persecuted on a proportional basis than the two big ones. And you know very well that they are!

And Yazidis, Parsis, Baha'is, heterodox Bao Cai practitioners in Vietnam harassed by the government-approved normal Bao Cai, and so on, worse off than the Jews.

When you divide the numbers into specific type of religious harassment (governmental vs. social) the Muslims and Christians are more evenly matched.

In any event, what is this all meant to be about? Yes, the apparatus of power is complex and multidimensional and the relations may change from place to place. What does it have to do with the targeting of snark and satire?
On the other hand, if you take the red pill I occasionally offer to readers of this column, you’ll see today’s progressivism as a force that has consistently liberated adults at the expense of children’s basic rights and that depends on a great deal of hidden violence — millions upon millions of abortions, above all — to sustain its particular vision of equality.
Oh, that. My mistake, expecting a relationship between the beginning and the end of the column. It's less an essay than a shamanic ritual consisting of incantations on the Monsignor's obsessive fears, enabling him to transcend Doonesbury and Paris, as he turns into Lawrence Fishburne offering all us young Keanu Reeveses the red pill that will enable us to see things as they really are, outside the illusions of the Matrix, an unholy conspiracy of gays, South Asians, Christian-haters, cartoonist-haters, and gynecologists lulling us into a permanent coma of—um—what? Never mind! Beware! Beware!

No comments:

Post a Comment