Thursday, January 27, 2005
By the way, it is touching to see Vlaams Belang rhapsodizing over Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This for a party whose leader used to sing to the following little tune:
Ne amadees, ne Marokkaan
Ne raller en ne nikkeriaan
Ne communist, ne vreemde tist
Die zwieren we allemaal in hun kist
Ne rode hond met ne grote mond
Die boren we in de grond!
(Free translation: the referents of a variety of racist slurs as well as communists are being killed).
Hmmm... Would their ways have really changed? Or are they just making an exception on the nikkeriaan part? My bets are on the latter.
For our German readers, here's an excellent article by Simon Kuper on the current political situation in the Netherlands.
UPDATE ON PREVIOUS POST: The rap group DHC has been sentenced to a 150-hour work order and two months conditional jail punishment because of their "Hirshi-Ali diss". I'll use the occasion to explain once again why I think this is a terrible decision. The point is, there is no difference between the freedom of DHC to write rap lyrics in which Hirshi Ali gets killed in various ways, the freedom of fundamentalist maniacs to fantasize about gays being tortured in the afterlife, the freedom of Rob Black to produce movies like Cocktails and Forced Entry, or the dramaturgist Gurpreet Bhatti's freedom to write and stage plays without having to buckle under mob vigilante pressure. That does not mean I have to like the way that freedom is exercised - in case of Bhatti's play, I have not seen it; neither have I seen video nasties from Extreme Productions; the lyrics of DHC's rap song I find, as I mentioned, quite disgusting and I'm not a sensitive person; and while I believe the people behind GodHatesFags.com are hideous, revolting psychoes probably too terrified of their own sexuality, I do not believe any of them ought to appear before the courts for that - one can't get worked up over Britain's proposed law against religious hatred but support the sentencing of the The Hague hiphop kids. It's not an issue of taste.
I would tend to argue for near-total free speech (barring only the odd fire-in-a-crowded-theatre case) because I think it's an intrinsic human rights - but socialists should support it also because any infringement on it - no matter how hideous the target - will strengthen the bourgeois state. If socialists allow the courts to go after the Brotherhood of Aryan Troglodytes (BAT) or the Association of Beady-Eyed Christian Gay-Bashers (ABECGB), then the state will be much stronger once it decides to go after the workers' movement.
Here's, courtesy of B&W again, a well-written but at the very least incomplete article by Christopher Hitchens on the Dutch mess. Hitchens, commenting on the letter that was pinned to Theo van Gogh's body with a knife, argues that:
The open letter is full of lurid and gloating accounts, lifted from the Qur’an, of the tortures that await apostates like Ayaan Hirsi Ali in hell. It refers to her throughout as “Miss Hirshi Ali,” a mistake that has baffled some observers but which I think is obviously intended to make her sound more Jewish.
It's not important, but it's wrong. Searching Dutch pages, "Hirsi Ali" turns out 57,600 hits, "Hirshi Ali" 1,260 hits - many of them unrelated to the letter in question - and even "Hirschi Ali" turns up 290 hits. The reason for the spelling "Hirshi Ali" is ignorance - including my ignorance, since I must have used both "Hirshi" and "Hirschi" Ali quite often. The idea that the spelling is used to make Hirsi Ali "more Jewish" is a bit ridiculous, to be honest (though Hitchens is right that the letter is otherwise quite anti-Semitic) - I don't want to sound particularly pedantic, but I think it is rather well known in the Netherlands that she is, in fact, of Somalian origin.
Hitchens ends the article with the following:
Any thinking person can see that we will soon be facing jihad on the streets of Germany and France and England as well. A secret army has also been formed within our borders in the United States, though its triumphant first operation did not alert as many Europeans as it might have.
The Dutch are friendly and tolerant, but they do not like having this mistaken for weakness. A strong and hard reaction of decided outrage has set in. At first, the authorities misunderstood this. They sandblasted a mural that had been painted near the scene of the crime, which featured only the words “Thou shalt not kill.” (The imam of a local mosque had of course complained that such a display was “racist incitement.”) But people are now rightly fed up with having their own pluralism used against them, and the protest at this capitulation was almost as strong. I myself think it was the wrong mural to begin with. You cannot fight Islamic terror with Christianity, whether of the insipid or the crusader kind. The original commandment actually says “Thou shalt do no murder,” thus making it almost the only one of the ten that makes any sense. But we do not prepare for murder when we resolve to defend ourselves and when we take the side of people like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Bousakla in the Islamic civil war that seeks to poison our society and enslave theirs.
This seems to me to be a rather myopic view of what is going on - or, in other words, Hitchens is half right. One could add, though, that the "strong and hard outrage" in the Netherlands has materialized as a wave of firebomb attacks on Mosques, islamic schools and other targets - including some Christian schools, in the meteoric rise in opinion polls of radical rightist Geert Wilders, and a general extremely unpleasant political atmosphere. All of these are not part of a defence of secular, tolerant society - they are the other front on which it is being attacked.
A lot of the unpleasantness of the past decade or so - from the erosion of academic rigour to postmodernist pulp, the unfortunate resilience and in some cases undeserved respectability of superstitions like belief in Angels or astrology, and the generally pale, anemic safety-obsessed, health-obsessed, precaution-obsessed culture we're living in, to, indeed, the threat of islamic terrorism - can be seen as attacks on core Enlightenment values such as the autonomy of reason, or indications that the Enlightenment's job is not complete. But radical islam is not the only threat here - the other is, putting it bluntly, fascism - from a gradual erosion of civil liberties in the name of the all-important "War on Terror" - the defence of the Western Enlightenment, no less - to what intelligent right-wingers like Paul Craig Roberts and Llew Rockwell describe as respectively The Brownshirting of America and Red-State Fascism, and its European varieties that are doubtlessly waiting in the wings (see above).
Christopher Hitchens is one of the more fiery supporters of the invasion of Iraq and the War of Terror on the left (using the term loosely). Not surprising, since he also supported the bombing of Yugoslavia - only, back in 1995 or 1999, it was politically correct to do so on the (moderate) left, whereas right now, it is not. One cannot blame Hitchens for inconsistency, anyway. Hitchens also, like others on the more principled wing of the pro-war left and right, did not mince his words in denouncing the widespread use of torture by American forces in Iraq, without stooping to weasely excuses as "Yes, but at least Saddam was worse".
But can you really rely for a defence of Enlightenment values on a military machinery that has repealed the Geneva Accords, that has justified and encouraged the use of torture?