Friday, January 16, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Threats Against American Journalists

Vox decided to publish some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that enraged Muslims. The result:
Writers at Vox have indeed been bombarded with threats for our Charlie Hebdo coverage. But not one of those threats has come from a Muslim or in response to publishing anti-Islam cartoons. They have rather all come from non-Muslims furious at our articles criticizing Islamophobia.

Though we do enjoy a readership among Muslims inside and outside of the United States, some of whom have not hesitated to express displeasure or worse at our coverage of stories such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, none has seen the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as worth sending an angry email or even an annoyed tweet, much less a threat of violence.

Our coverage of Islamophobia has brought a very different response. Articles decrying anti-Muslim bigotry and attacks on mosques have been met with dozens of threats on email and social media.

The most common states a desire that jihadist militants will murder the offending writer: a recent email hoped that Muslims will "behead you one day" so that "we will never have to read your trash again." Some directly threaten violence themselves, or imply it with statements such as "May you rot in hell." . . .

Ironically, these threats are typically couched in arguments that Muslims are inherently irrational and violent. 
People at Vox do not take these threats very seriously, so they are not going to be silenced by them. But still.

I find it marvelous that angry, violent people cannot look in the mirror and see that their anger and violence are the same as those of the people they rage against. They insist that their anger is justified, while others' anger at them is unjust and deserving of punishment. This position is impervious to factual arguments -- viz., maybe some Muslims are angry with the US because more than 100,000 Iraqis have died since we invaded. People who rage against Muslims feel that things like our invasion of  Iraq were justified and well-intentioned, and therefore it is simply wrong to be angry about the results of US policy. Whereas, they say, 9-11 was an intentional, unprovoked attack and therefore any amount of violence is justifiable in retaliation.

Sometimes I marvel that our species has managed to survive so long, given our penchant for bloody revenge.


G. Verloren said...

"Sometimes I marvel that our species has managed to survive so long, given our penchant for bloody revenge."

I think the regulating force historically has been exhaustion. Even the angriest, most violent individuals must eventually run out of steam (or get themselves killed first).

People simply can't fight forever. At some point, they simply lose the ability to care any more. The struggle stops being worthwhile, the costs become too great, the need to lick one's wounds becomes to pressing, and a ceasefire must always eventually come about.

At that point, fighting may break out again after a brief rest, or peace may be established out of an unwillingness to continue. A peace may be equitable and fair, or it may be brutal and one-sided. With the latter, such inequity might breed fresh anger and violence leading to further violence down the line (the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of the Third Reich), or it might break the spirit of the defeated and leave them with a lasting distaste for conflict and violence (the Treaty of San Francisco and the end of Imperial Japan).

Yett ultimately, anger and violence have a hard time overwhelming the human instinct for survival. Fighting often breeds more fighting eventually, but even then, historically we've very seldom resorted to completely annihilating each other.

G. Verloren said...

Of course, the near exception to this was the Cold War and our insane experimentation with Nuclear Brinksmanship - when exhaustion doesn't have time to set in before the world is destroyed, the system kind of falls apart.