politicsIf you're not against abortion, the terrorists win

The right has finally stooped to pull out the terrorist card to trump pro-choice advocates. Karen Hughes, a confidant of President Bush, said over the weekend: "I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life. President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life." (source Salon.com)

It's official. If you're not pro-life, you're with the terrorists. As unfathomable as such a position is, it perfectly encapsulates the intolerance of the far-right, and at the least the intolerance of those Republicans currently running the government. Never mind that these so-called pro-lifers are far less concerned with the life of death row inmates who might be wrongfully convicted. Never mind that their commitment to the "dignity and worth of every life" does not extend to the dignity and worth of poor citizens or those in desperate need of tax relief or government assistance to survive. If you're not against a woman's right to choose, you're with Osama.


politicsIraqi nuclear sites unguarded!?!?

OK, so it's no surprise the Iraqi war sowed chaos and hampered the efforts of international organizations, particularly arms control organizations. Now the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has sent a letter to both the U.S. and U.N. Security Countil informing them that "Iraq's nuclear facilities remain unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country."

More specifically, the U.S. refusal to share information with the IAEA or allow them back into country to continue monitoring and inspections of Iraqi nuclear sites has led to "increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials." What types of materials, you ask? "In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor."

What do we say to this? Perhaps those enterprising reporters in the White House press corps might find the time to inquire if the President believes these developments don't mean the war in Iraq has actually made us less safe?


ReligionThe answer to hate speech is...

I've been moved to comment on the ongoing efforts to counter JewWatch, an anti-Semitic site which found itself at the top of the Google listings for the search term "Jew," largely to highlight a larger issue. On the one hand, there is the approach of Steven Weinstock, who Steven Weiss at Protocols charitably refers to as a "jackass." He's leading the charge to have the offensive site removed from Google's listings entirely, creating an online petition to accomplish his goal. Predictably, his only success has been generating media coverage for himself. JewWatch remains near the top (if not at the top, depending) of Google's listing.

However, parallel efforts to confront the JewWatch listing have been far more successful by taking an altogether different approach. Daniel Sieradski (aka Mobius) of Jewschool fame, has spearheaded "Jooglebomb," the use of mass blogging to put a legitimate encyclopedia reference to the Jewish people ahead of JewWatch on the Google listing.

The difference is stark. Weinstock has put forth a position that says the best response to hate speech is to silence it, to remove the offensive speech from the public sphere. If Weiss' description of the man is any guide, he's likely looking for an alternative goal of getting his own 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Sieradski has put forth a contrary ideological position, that the best approach to hate speech is essentially more speech. It's an old argument, but it's a valuable one to revisit here, because it applies to the Jewish community's ongoing approach to anti-Semitism and Islamic terrorism.

Weinstock's approach is one of closure. It is to delegitimize the opposing viewpoint and crusade (a word I use purposefully) for its elimination even from public sight. When it comes to anti-Semitic hate speech, delegitimization is not a stretch. Anti-Semitism is illegitimate, but it is the height of arrogance to say that only the truly vile would dare to believe it. It is to blind ourselves, and proclaim ourselves superior, to ignore the ignorance of anti-Semitism's spread. The ostensible arrogance and love of the spotlight Weiss alludes to in the case of Weinstock then makes some sense.

Sieradski's approach, on the other hand, is one of engagement. It is to recognize the need to confront hate speech, rather than silence it. It is to recognize that eliminating public expression of a thing is not to eliminate that thing, but rather to make it harder to detect and deter. It also requires a certain willingness to explain why something is illegitimate, to never succumb to the argument that to grant a debate is to grant legitimacy. It should be no surprise that Sieradski's approach has prevailed. He's made no effort to silence JewWatch, only to counter it with legitimate facts and make more accessible opposing information to the anti-Semitism of JewWatch.

In the larger context, the approach of engagement is failing less and less among the Jewish community. In the face of anti-Semitism we fall back on useless explanations and refuse to address people who embrace anti-Semitic rhetoric, refuse to ask them why they feel this way, and then refuse to directly debate them in a manner designed to show them the error of their ways. Instead, we close them out, ridicule and demonize them. Since much of the rising anti-Semitism of recent years has been linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is all too easy to let this politicized closure prevail and to use it to browbeat those critics of Israel (for example) who are not anti-Semitic with that label.

In short, only by recognizing the need to rely on real argument, to give legitimacy to the voice of all even those who express illegitimate and hateful arguments, can we begin to beat back the darkness with the light. Blinding ourselves, and attempting to silence others, only breeds greater darkness.