Monday, July 02, 2007

Ugly Nativist Bigotry Watch

Not to pile on the poor guy, but I have to take exception to Andrew Sullivan's knee-jerk reaction to the pathetic show of terrorist "prowess" in Glasgow over the weekend.

The title of his post is a quote from a bystander describing what he saw as the police tried to wrestle one of the bombing suspects to the ground: "Every Time He Was Throwing A Punch He Was Saying Allah". I'll quote the entire post since it's only four sentences long.
That just about sums it up, doesn't it? And there's something oddly comforting about hearing these words from a Scot whose accent and common sense seem as alien to the Middle East's pathologies as can be imagined. What a cultural clash. But my money's on the Scot.
The first sentence is key to understanding one facet of Sullivan's general approach to terrorism: ridiculous oversimplification. (The fact that his other posture on the terror threat is deeply nuanced only makes this sort of consistent Neanderthal outburst all the more disturbing.) No, this doesn't about sum anything up. It tells but one small part of a much larger story. But Sullivan's not interested in a larger story right now, as we shall see.

The true, astonishing bigotry of this post comes in the second sentence. Sullivan's appeal to the speaker's accent, which he then illogically equates with "common sense", is alarmingly nativist. Contrasted as it is with the "pathologies" of a massive swath of foreigners, this description is clearly bigoted. How is this any different from what one might expect to hear from the BNP?

How can we trust Sullivan's take on the "cultural clash" when one culture is inferred from an accent, and the other from a bit of overheard dialogue? Are these the measly standards we live by today? Is this all we expect from our armchair pundits? If so, then no thanks.

How about a high road? What if we could be staunchly opposed to terrorism and Islamist theocracy without having to agree with Bernard Lewis, vote for Rudy Giuliani or gleefully and uncritically support some stupid cartoons that grew out of an attempt by a xenophobic European government to pander to its right-wing base? That might be nice.

Think about it: if we have really been reduced to this false dichotomy of black and white, then the irrationally-accented terrorists have already won.

P.S. Andrew, most of your colleagues in the hand-wringing class are convinced that these suspects are of Pakistani background. Just in case your facts are getting a little rusty, I'll remind you that Pakistan is definitively not in the Middle East. I suppose that just goes to show that ugly pathologies can crop up almost anywhere, like the Middle East, Central Asia—even Provincetown.
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