We spoke here the other day of "the upswelling of racial, ethnic and religious hatred against Muslims and Arabs we will now see in many quarters" following the Ft. Hood shootings. Arthur Silber points us to some of the poisonous first fruits of this sinister harvest, written by a "respectable" journalist in a "respectable" publication: former Wall Street Journal maven, Tunku Varadarajan, now an executive editor at Forbes.
Varadarajan's putrid tract works the by-now familiar trope of our thoroughly modern hatemongers: it pretends to decry the "dangerous" potential for racist violence and pogroms even as it encourages and exacerbates the fears, lies and hatred that engender such eruptions. Here, for example, Varadarajan wrings his hands in a great show of pondering thorny questions:
How to address the threat posed by the fact that, of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in our midst, there are a few (perhaps many more than a few) who are so radicalized that they would kill their fellow Americans? Must we continue to be neutral in handling all people from different groups even though we know that there are differential risks posed by people of one group?
Obviously, these are not real questions. They are weasel-worded assertions: Varadarajan already damn well believes we should not "continue to be neutral" in "handling" Muslims. But because there is a deep strain of cowardice in all racism -- the quaking fear of the Other, whose differences disturb the racist's own shakily-held sense of identity -- Varadarajan is too scared to say this outright, and so he puts it in the form of question.
As for addressing the "fact" of the horde of murderous Muslims "in our midst," and other "questions" that Varadarajan raises in his attempt to spread division and strife, Silber nails this "nauseating, unforgivable and potentially lethal racism" to the wall:
...there is the usual pretense of "even-handedness" and fairness, and the standard attempt to convince the reader that the author is merely being "objective." The writer seeks to assure us that he is proceeding with great care and with all due deliberation. But the fundamental dishonesty involved escapes the mask at a few points, as it almost always inevitably does. Note these sentences in particular: "How to address the threat posed by the fact that, of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in our midst, there are a few (perhaps many more than a few) who are so radicalized that they would kill their fellow Americans?" Just how many more than "a few"? That sounds as if it might be a lot of Muslims. Are you scared yet? Are you even terrified? That's the purpose of this kind of formulation. If you're looking for a target to assuage your feelings of victimization and your terror, the writer has very thoughtfully provided one.
And consider this: "America differentiates itself on integration from Western European countries, which are far more cringing and guilt-driven in their approach. But can the American swagger persist if many Americans come genuinely to view Muslims as Fifth Columnists?" The sleight-of-hand here is deeply repellent, and I consider it close to impossible that it is not fully intentional. The author is arguing: "Now, I'm not saying Americans would be right to come to that conclusion. Of course, I don't think that Muslims are Fifth Columnists. But can't you see how many Americans might think that, and understandably so? After all, perhaps many more than a few Muslims will kill us, just like Hasan did!" And be very sure you appreciate the unstated, but necessarily implied, conclusion: "We'd better do something before it's too late!"
Varadarajan's article is already being quoted favorably around the blogosphere, again by "respectable" names, people who appear on TV, in the New York Times, and in other venues where the "serious" gather to chew the blood-flecked cud of empire. Reading and listening to their febrile utterances, one gets the distinct impression that, deep down, there is something in them that very strongly wants to see "the rabble" launch anti-Muslim pogroms. They seem to crave it as some kind of catharsis, even as they fear that such an explosion of raw hatred might spin too far out of control and threaten their infinitely cozy life of creature comforts. And so they push forward, then pull back a little; they dance right up to the edge, careful to use their little weasel-worded "questions" to avoid any blame should, god forbid, anyone out there ever act on their clear implications.
But you can see it in their eyes, you can feel it in their prose: they want it. Just as so many "respectable" people wanted to see a mass slaughter of Muslims in Iraq, even though most of the Establishment knew that the stated reasons for the war were bullshit.
They even admitted as much, as Silber showed in an earlier essay, one of his most powerful pieces: "The United States as Cho Seung-Hui: How the State Sanctifies Murder." I urge you to read the whole piece for a much deeper and broader elucidation of many of the forces, inner and outer, that not only drive the vomiting-forth of sneaky hate pieces like Varadarajan's, but also the murderous arc of American foreign policy as well.
But on the subject of our Establishment's desire for cathartic violence, even against innocent people, Silber provides copious examples, including this one:
To return for a moment to the determinative role played by feelings of vulnerability, victimization and humiliation and by the desire to reassert one's own power by means of violence, even if it is violence directed against people who have absolutely nothing to do with the actual source of one's grievance, I offer what is probably a familiar additional piece of confirming evidence. Here is Thomas Friedman, writing in June 2003:
The "real reason" for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn't enough because a terrorism bubble had built up over there — a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured. This terrorism bubble said that plowing airplanes into the World Trade Center was O.K., having Muslim preachers say it was O.K. was O.K., having state-run newspapers call people who did such things "martyrs" was O.K. and allowing Muslim charities to raise money for such "martyrs" was O.K. Not only was all this seen as O.K., there was a feeling among radical Muslims that suicide bombing would level the balance of power between the Arab world and the West, because we had gone soft and their activists were ready to die.
The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, house to house, and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble. Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world.
Consider the genuinely monstrous sentiment behind these statements: a cold-blooded willingness -- no, eagerness -- to countenance the deaths of thousands of innocent people. We "could have" hit Syria or Saudi Arabia for 9/11, slaughtered multitudes of innocent people; but, as it happens, we hit Iraq instead. One or the other; who cares? Or as Strelnikov, the fierce revolutionary in Doctor Zhivago, says when he is upbraided for carrying out a reprisal on the wrong village: "What does it matter? A village betrays us, a village is burned. The point is made." (For more on the Establishment mindset of mass murder, see The Genocidal Fury of Thomas Friedman.)
Now it seems it is no longer enough for these rear-echelon he-men to see Muslims killed and repressed abroad. Especially now that the United States has been humiliated by not one but two "rag-tag" insurgencies in the Arab-Muslim lands it decided to "hit." Now it seems we must turn our attention to "the enemy within." Now we must find ways to "handle" American Muslims, we must no longer be "neutral" in addressing the "threat" they pose to us all.
After all, says Varadarajan, Muslims are "the most difficult 'incomers' in the ongoing integration challenge" which America has always faced -- since the days when European Christians "ethnically cleansed" the continent of its original inhabitants. Muslims are particularly difficult to assimilate, you see, because "their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes." Yes, this is the kind of howling historical ignorance that passes as "respectable" comment in reputable journals. (For an overview of at least one other religion with a record of bellicose conquest, contempt for infidels and extremist piety, Silber provides a couple of primers here and here.)
Naive ass that I am, I have to admit that I did not expect the upswelling of poison to hit the mainstream so quickly after the Ft. Hood shooting. I thought we would see a period of frothing on the fringes before these racist tropes were openly accepted by "respectable" figures -- much as with the Bush torture program. In that case, our elites first denied that torture was taking place (even as their fringe acolytes were cheering it on and calling for more); then grudgingly admitted that it did take place, but only as a much-regretted last resort in a handful of cases; until finally we reached the present situation, where think-tankers, columnists, lawmakers and ex-vice presidents openly champion the use of torture as a positive boon.
That process took years; but we are almost there already with the "enemy within" trope, mere days after the shooting. Anything and everything that emerges about the shooter will now be grist to this vile mill, with its products distributed immediately by our most serious media venues.
As the man said: It is not nor it cannot come to good.