Belmont Club

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

Bobby Ghosh of Time asks if America has a problem with Muslims. Is it fair to ask if Time Magazine has a problem with Filipinos? But before we get to that, here’s what Time says about America and Muslims. “You don’t have to be prejudiced against Islam to believe, as many Americans do, that the area around Ground Zero is a sacred place. But sadly,”  — and there is the fatal ‘but’  — ” in an election season, such sentiments have been stoked into a political issue.” And that issue turns out to be not the Ground Zero mosque or 9/11, but America’s problem with Islam.

Ghosh goes on to assert and then assume as fact that an American version of Islamophobia exists, one that is based on an unreasoning fear of Islam. Thus, if anything good has come of the Mosque controversy it’s that its brought this ugly facet of America out into the open.

The controversy has also brought new scrutiny to other examples of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim protests, raising much larger questions: Does America have a problem with Islam? Have the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — and other attempts since — permanently excluded Muslims from full assimilation into American life?

Although the American strain of Islamophobia lacks some of the traditional elements of religious persecution … a new TIME–Abt SRBI poll found that 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers.

Now in the nature of things some of the poll’s respondents may have Filipinos. How would they regard Time’s invitation to examine the rotteness in their breasts. For one thing there’s a lot of rotteness to examine, but not a lot of it in their breasts.  Wikipedia says there are nearly 2 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, about 7% of the population in the Kingdom. So Filipinos as a group have a lot of experience with how nonbelievers are treated under Islam. Let’s begin by noting that religious freedom is virtually nonexistent in Saudi Arabia.

The Government does not provide legal recognition or protection for freedom of religion, and it is severely restricted in practice. … Moreover, the preaching and public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited … Under Saudi law conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death … Saudi Arabia prohibits public non-Muslim religious activities. Non-Muslim worshipers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture for engaging in overt religious activity that attracts official attention.

So when Bobby Ghosh of Time magisterially proclaims that the only reason why Americans feel uneasy about a Ground Zero Mosque believed by some to be heavily funded by Saudi Arabia is because they are Islamophobic,  that’s bound to go over like a lead balloon in certain circles. Does Time realize how that sounds to people who have relatives like Norma Caldera?

Norma Caldera worked in Saudi Arabia for seven months as a domestic worker and was never allowed to leave her employer’s house during that time. She was mocked on a daily basis for her faith by her employers. When they found out that she’s a catholic they unilaterally cut her pay from $1,000 to $700 per month. On Ramadan Caldera was forced to fast with the family, while continuing to do her work. On top of that, she was not given a room or a bed and forced to sleep on the kitchen floor or in a tent in the backyard.

You’re a bigot Caldera. Ha ha ha. You’re bigot. Go back to sleeping in that effin’ tent, like an effin’ dog.

Maybe Howard Dean has some inkling of how badly this is going over because the former chairman of the DNC broke ranks with liberals and argued that the Cordoba mosque should be built elsewhere even though “the Muslims planning the Cordoba House in New York City are well-meaning; unlike others in Iran and Afghanistan where they’re ‘really back in the 12th century’ and ‘stoning people to death.'” Howard Dean understands that voters are incensed and he’s throwing them a bone, taking care to explain that in this case he’s only supporting the good guys — not the ones from Iran or Afghanistan — but just from Saudi Arabia.

Of course Dean has just committed one of the cardinal sins denounced by Time: he’s politicized the Mosque issue by backing down not for any reason of apparent principle or logic, but simply because he knows it is costing his party in the polls.  He’ll say anything to save his candidates. He has to. The Atlantic Wire says “Liberals Fume at Howard Dean for Opposing Cordoba”. What’s the difference between a party which uses the mosque issue to gain votes and another party which retreats on the mosque issue to save votes? The answer is November, 2010.

As the Internet expands to reach audiences in the Long Tail, stock memes the MSM used to pitch to urban, white readers will begin to fail, and fail dismally in niche media markets. A microtargeting campaign which reached out to Filipinos might generate votes on this issue simply because it taps into a common tribal memory. In that part of the Long Tail there are family stories of aunts or cousins chained to sinks, workers forced to live in shipping containers or stories about underground priests who slip into the Kingdom disguised as workers.

The standard narrative is failing is because it is based on a market model which assumes that the reader has no access to information which may denigrate or contradict the conventional wisdom peddled by the magazine. That may have been true of Time once, but it is no longer true, except for people who work in dentist’s offices. What the information revolution has done is enable readers to do a “ground truth” check on the memetic maps they are handed. Codespeak doesn’t work like it used to. That’s why the Cordoba mosque project is losing ground and why people like Howard Dean are backpedaling.

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