Sean's Blog

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Opinion And Current Events

Friday, November 26, 2004

I could have sworn I posted something on the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, but damned if I can find it.

Anyway, Bridget Johnson has an article in The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal about the silence coming from Hollywood about the murder of one of their own for speaking his mind:
One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out of a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims. The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.

In a recent conversation with a struggling liberal screenwriter, I brought up the Clancy film as an example of Hollywood shying away from what really affects filmgoers--namely, the al Qaeda threat vs. the neo-Nazi threat. He vehemently defended the script switch. "It's an easy target," he said of Arab terrorism, repeating this like a parrot, then adding, "It's a cheap shot." How many American moviegoers would think that scripting Arab terrorists as the enemy in a fiction film is a "cheap shot"? In fact, it's realism; it's what touches lives world-wide. It's this disconnect with filmgoers that has left the Hollywood box office bleeding by the side of the road.
I think that's bullshit. I don't think for one minute that the reason Hollywood is silent about the murder of van Gogh is because of political correctness.

Hollywood is scared. They know they can't piss off the Islamofacists or they'll be murdered as well. Hollywood knows they can harshly criticize Republicans and be reasonably safe. They can viciously attack and demean Christians and Christianity and know that they're probably safe from a beheading. But as Islam has shown, if you criticize them or their religion or anything they do, you very well may get shot and then stabbed just like Theo van Gogh.

Our society is open and a highly motivated religious extremist could get to any Hollywood star that dared to question or criticize Islam. It's easy to attack Christianity because Christians aren't fanatical and won't strap a bomb to themselves and blow your ass up and don't think that the average superficial Hollywood celebrity doesn't know that. They want to get their names in the papers and score points with the leftwing crowd, but they know where the line is.

When Hollywood wants to attack organized religion they attack Christianity and the reason is largely because Christians aren't murderous wackos who will slaughter thousands of people in the name of God.

Don't think for a minute that many Hollywood celebrities aren't fully aware of the ramifications of criticizing Islam. Madonna received death threats. She didn't receive them because of what she said about Islam. That wouldn't have brought about threats. That would have brought about murder. No, Madonna received death threats for less than that and the people who made the threats provided details that let Madonna know that she and her children could be gotten to. That most certainly sent a message throughout the entertainment world. And that message was, "You don't criticize Islam. Ever."

The Economist does a very good of explaining to the world what is happening in the American media:
For most of the post-war era the American media were dominated by a comfortable liberal consensus. The New York Times was the undisputed king of the print news, while the network anchors lorded it over TV news. That consensus is now under siege. The attacks are partly coming from the cable networks—particularly from conservative Fox News. (Charles Krauthammer once quipped that Rupert Murdoch had spotted a niche market—half the country. Sure enough, Fox is now America's top-rated cable news network.) But old media also face a newer and more unpredictable source of competition—the blogosphere. Bloggers have discovered that all you need to set yourself up as a pundit is a website and an attitude.

All through the recent election campaign, the new media outsmarted the old media when it came to setting the news agenda. Republican strategists admit that the Swift Boat veterans' attacks on John Kerry, largely ignored by the old media, would never have got anywhere without the online Drudge Report. Drudge was also instrumental in turning the “60 Minutes” story into an embarrassment for the Democrats, not Mr Bush. Local bloggers also had an effect; in South Dakota, for instance, they repeatedly highlighted Tom Daschle's partisan record in Washington, DC, something that the Democratic Senate majority leader's friends in the local print media had never laboured to expose.
A must read.

Ukraine's Crisis:
Faced with extraordinary demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens demanding democracy, Ukraine's corrupt and thuggish government wavered this week, hinting that it might be willing to negotiate about the outcome of the presidential election that took place Sunday. Yet yesterday its official electoral commission ratified the fraudulent result that brought those crowds into the streets of the capital: It declared that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had won despite abundant evidence to the contrary. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell rightly responded that the United States "cannot accept this result as legitimate" and "stands with the people of Ukraine and their effort to ensure their democratic choice." In the coming days the United States and its European allies must follow up on those words by demanding that the Ukrainian authorities -- and their backers in Moscow -- listen to, rather than repress, the majority that now seeks to prevent their country from becoming an authoritarian state
Apparently the dispute is not about the pull between Moscow and Washington D.C. The people of Ukraine want democracy. This isn't some struggle of ideologies other than a demand that the election be fair and respected. Whatever the outcome.

I think that's reasonable. Let the Ukrainian people have who they elect and the rest will take care of itself. Instead what is happening is that Russia and the candidate they back have tried to steal the election and everyone saw them do it. Demonstrations soon followed.

We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

My very first example of anti-semitism at an American university comes from Columbia:
Columbia's firebrands

In the world of Hamid Dabashi, supporters of Israel are "warmongers" and "Gestapo apparatchiks."

The Jewish homeland is "nothing more than a military base for the rising predatory empire of the United States."


Nicholas De Genova, who teaches anthropology and Latino studies. The Chronicle of Higher Education calls him "the most hated professor in America."
At an anti-war teach-in last year, he said he wished for a "million Mogadishus," referring to the slaughter of U.S. troops in Somalia in 1993.

"U.S. patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy," he added.

De Genova has also said, "The heritage of the victims of the Holocaust belongs to the Palestinian people. ... Israel has no claim to the heritage of the Holocaust."

De Genova didn't return calls.


Bruce Robbins, a professor of English and comparative literature.
In a speech backing divestment, he said, "The Israeli government has no right to the sufferings of the Holocaust."

Elaborating, Robbins told The News he believes Israel has a right to exist, but he thinks the country has "betrayed the memory of the Holocaust."


Joseph Massad, who is a tenure-track professor of Arab politics. Students and faculty interviewed by The News consistently claimed that the Jordanian-born Palestinian is the most controversial, and vitriolic, professor on campus.
"How many Palestinians have you killed?" he allegedly asked one student, Tomy Schoenfeld, an Israeli military veteran, and then refused to answer his questions.

To Massad, CNN star Wolf Blitzer is "Ze'ev Blitzer," which is the byline Blitzer used in the 1980s, when he wrote for Hebrew papers but hasn't used since.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can be likened to Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, he once declared.

"The Jews are not a nation," he said in one speech. "The Jewish state is a racist state that does not have a right to exist."

Massad didn't return several calls. On his Web site, he says he's a victim of a "witch hunt" by "pro-Israel groups" and their "propaganda machine."


George Saliba, a professor of Arabic and Islamic science. His classroom rants against the West are legendary, students have claimed.
One student says his "Islam & Western Science" class could be called "Why the West is Evil." Another writes that his "Intro to Islamic Civilization" often serves as a forum to "rail against evil America."

A recent graduate, Lindsay Shrier, said Saliba told her, "You have no claim to the land of Israel ... no voice in this debate. You have green eyes, you're not a true Semite. I have brown eyes, I'm a true Semite."

Saliba did not return calls.


Rashid Khalidi, who is the Edward Said professor of Arab studies. He's the academic heir to the late Said, a professor who famously threw a stone from Lebanon at an Israeli guard booth.
Columbia initially refused to say how the chair was funded. But The United Arab Emirates, which denies the Holocaust on state TV channels, is reported to have provided $200,000.

When Palestinians in a Ramallah police station lynched two Israeli reservists in 2000 - throwing one body out a window and proudly displaying bloodstained hands - the professor attacked the media, not the killers.

He complained about "inflammatory headlines" in a Chicago Sun-Times story and called the paper's then-owner, Conrad Black, who also owned the Jerusalem Post, "the most extreme Zionist in public life."

Reached at Columbia, Khalidi declined to comment on specifics.

"As somebody who has a body of work, written six books and won many awards, the only fair thing to do is look at the entire body of work, not take quotes out of context," he said.


Lila Abu-Lughod, a professor of anthropology, romanticizes Birzeit University in the West Bank as a "liberal arts college dedicated to teaching and research in the same spirit as U.S. colleges."
But it is well-established that Birzeit also is the campus where Hamas openly recruits suicide bombers, stone-throwers and gunmen.

As in her published works, Abu-Lughod gave a carefully nuanced response when reached Friday by The News:

"The CIA has historically recruited at Columbia, but that's not the mission of Columbia. The mission of Birzeit is to educate students, and they're working under very difficult circumstances to do that."

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I enjoyed my holiday very much.

I'm off work and I'm going to do that leaf-raking thing this afternoon. There's no chance I'm doing any shopping today. But for now I want to enjoy my coffee and do some reading. Ah, it's moments like this that I really treasure.

I have to start collecting stories from reputable sources that highlight examples of anti-semitism in higher education. Yesterday a Soapbox leftist expressed disbelief that there was any anti-semitism at our major universities and he said I couldn't show him any proof. Well, in the timeless, brilliant, and apt words of Bugs Bunny: He don't know me very well do he?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Jason Whitlock in The Kansas City Star:
The league's image has been in decline since Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Jordan ruled.

Allen Iverson, Latrell Sprewell, Kobe Bryant, Dream Team failures, an embrace of all the negative aspects of the hip-hop culture and a horrid style of play have conspired to make the NBA easy to ignore. By decimating the Pacers and publicly acknowledging that there has been a lowering of expectations in terms of player (and fan) behavior, Stern made it clear he's not in denial about the NBA's troubles.

I am, however, concerned that the league's players will remain in denial. Surrounded by groupies and yes-men, fortified by multimillion-dollar contracts and endorsement deals, it will be easy for NBA players to misinterpret Stern's warning.

In this column, I am calling on my peers in the media to level with NBA players (and all professional athletes) and tell them what's really going on.

American sports fans, particularly those who consistently shell out the hundreds of dollars it takes to attend a professional game, are fed up with black professional basketball players in particular and black professional athletes to a lesser degree.

Yeah, let's cut through all the garbage and get to the real issue. The people paying the bills don't like the product, don't like the attitude, don't like the showboating and don't like the flamboyance. The NBA, which relies heavily on African-American players, is at the forefront of fan backlash. Stern realizes this, and that's why, spurred on by the Detroit brawl, he is reacting decisively.

John Derbyshire has a piece in National Review about the coming tidal wave of scientific breakthroughs.

Derbyshire doesn't get specific about any one breakthrough, but I believe him. I've seen this coming since I first heard Newt Gingrich talk about how medical costs will inevitably fall once people learn to care for themselves properly. Gingrich wasn't talking about eating right and exercising (although that will always be important), he was talking about the day when people will know how to treat themselves simply because science will have evolved to that point.

I predict that babies born today will regularly live to be one hundred and 120 years of age won't be that rare. Not only that, I believe that a 120 year old lifetime will be much more active and enjoyable than anything we can imagine right now.

Science is indeed on the verge of wonderful discoveries and achievements the likes of which we have never seen.

Once again The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal features another one of Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News From Iraq" pieces and once again it's very long because of all the good news. And this is news from just the past two weeks.

I have lost count of how many of these things Chrenkoff has written but by now it must be at least 14 or 15.

I finally got to see that brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons. The video was all over TV yesterday. It really was very ugly.

I was amazed at the severity of the suspensions. Honestly I didn't expect them to be quite so severe and I have to wonder if they'll stand up to appeal. The most severe suspension went to Ron Artest. He was suspended for the rest of the season. That is, 72 games.

Just four games into the season, a couple of weeks ago, Artest went to his team officials and asked them for a month off so he could promote his new rap album. Looks like he'll get all the time he needs now.