Wednesday, October 13, 2010

O'Donnell rips Palin for "Moron-mongering"

Well, yes, that would be Lawrence "No Relation" O'Donnell on MSNBC, on his new show The Last Word (10pm E/7pm P), remarking on Sarah Palin's interview on, in which the ex-gov showed off her knowledge of foreign policy and social issues. I've got a link to the original Palin interview and video link and transcript of the MSNBC clip, below the fold. The "share" link from came with this introduction:

Lawrence [O'Donnell] and Sarah Palin agree?

It's shocking, we know. The former governor of Alaska makes a strong statement on the separation of church and state, earns herself the Last Word re-write.
My own comments follow at the very end.

Lawrence O'Donnell: Sarah Palin talked to the conservative website Newsmax[.com], which posted the interview with the understated headline "Breaking: Sarah Palin Talks of Armageddon, Obama's Socialism, and Her Thoughts About 2012." Palin warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War III, and pointed out that Russia plays a critical role in making sure that doesn't happen.

We need to remind Russia that any assistance given to Ahmadinejad — given to Iran — we have to realize that at the end of the day, a nuclear weapon in that country's hands is not just Israel's problem or America's problem, it is the world's problem.

We do need to remind Russia about that. And the good news is, we do. I mean, the President does. And by "the President" I mean every President. Bush did it every chance he got, and Obama does, too. So Sarah Palin is right on this one. Not exactly original, but she is right. And when Palin's right, Newsmax is right to present it as "Breaking News"! She had more to say about war.

I hate war, war is hell, we don't want war, we don't strive for war....

Again, right on target. I agree with her, word for word. And if you don't, I'm sure the History Channel's got some war footage you can revel in right now. Finally, though, Sarah Palin says she is deeply religious herself — technically a Christian not affiliated with any organized religion (like Catholics, Lutherans, or Presbyterians) that might make serious demands on her attention — but she takes an unambiguous stand on the Separation of Church and State:

Americans will never stand for Sharia law being the law of the land. [... jump cut ...] Americans will never stand for this, because Americans are smart enough to know: Sharia law — it that were to be adopted, allowed to govern in our country — it will be the downfall of America. And too many Americans are onto this already and starting to rise up and send that message to our federal officials and say, "No, we will not put up with any hint of Sharia law being any sort of law of the land.

I am so on board with that! Luckily, so were the Founding Fathers; they've got us covered on this one, with a little thing they like to call the Constitution of the United States of America.

I guess I do have one little "Rewrite" note for Sarah Palin. Three little words: "Needless to say...."

That's what most of us say before we say something everyone already knows and agrees with. Of course, saying "Needless to say...." would make some of her statements seem a bit less scary to the very, very few people who can be scared by such innocuous language. And if she is trying to scare people that way, these statements don't qualify for the label "fear-mongering." You can't scare anyone who knows we already have a Constitution, with talk of Sharia law becoming the law of the land! That's not "fear-mongering." That's moron-mongering.

©2010 MSNBC and/or Lawrence O'Donnell. Fair use rationale: furthering political discourse. To my knowledge, no other written transcript of these remarks is publicly available.

LincMad's take on all this:

My apologies for putting the punchline up front as a spoiler, but I just couldn't bury that juicy a lead.

I had a recent experience on Facebook — one of those dreaded political arguments with someone you don't remember, but whose picture, sure enough, is in your high school yearbook — that touched on this scare issue of Sharia law. My classmate, whom I'll call Lenny, posted as a status update a link to a video. Lenny's headline was "Here is a real nice bed time story for you.............NOT !" but what really caught my eye was the link text alongside the thumbnail of the video: "The true Face of Islam•This is how they will subjugate us. Islam and Islamists are raping our civilization and will make us their slaves if we still are complaisantly stupid and do not fight back. Islam is an INVASION. It is a hostile take over...." [note: "civilization" with the US spelling, not the British spelling]

I did actually watch the video. It's a man named Shahid Malik, who was the Labour Party Member of Parliament from a district near Leeds in northern England from 2005 to 2010. In 2007, he became Britain's first Muslim Minister. His first portfolio was international development, which was the focus of much of his remarks at the eerily named "Global Peace & Unity" conference. He bragged about helping direct, over a 3-year period, £370 million to Bangladesh, £480M to Pakistan, £243M to Palestine, over £100M to Yemen, "not to mention Sudan and Somalia." If you add those up, it comes to, as the video subtitles helpfully point out "over a Billion Pounds ££££" — sounds like a lot, doesn't it? But let's put that in perspective: that's about 5.5% of the UK's total international aid budget. Besides being majority Muslim, the specific countries named have something else in common: strong historical ties to the UK as former colonies. But clearly I'm supposed to believe that giving development aid to some of the poorest parts of the world is something other than encouraging stability and reducing human misery, both for the obvious humanitarian reasons but also for the equally obvious reasons of providing less-fertile soil for the seeds of future terrorism.

Malik goes on to give a timeline of the progress so far in the total Muslim subjugation of Britain. In 1997, the first Muslim MP was elected. Over the next four years, their representation doubled, and over the succeeding four years, IT DOUBLED AGAIN. He hoped that in the then-upcoming election they would double yet again, crossing the crucial 1% threshhold — 8 out of 650 seats, "insh'allah." He gazes into his Muslim crystal ball to see the Muslim future of Muslim Britain's Muslimy Muslimness: "At this rate, the whole Parliament will be Muslim!" Well, yes, and sending $5 to the names on that e-mail list will get you rich beyond your wildest dreams.

So, in summary, aside from the obviously tongue-in-cheek remark about the whole Parliament, the video was political pablum of the blandest order. There was absolutely nothing in the video to lose sleep over, and it is as much proof of a Muslim plot to rape our civilization and enslave us as it is proof that Abraham Lincoln faked his own death so he could try out for American Idol.

Okay, so how do I respond? I decided to take the calm, reasoned approach of pointing out that the description of the video was a severe case of false advertising. I said:

The video is thoroughly innocuous, to the level of political pablum. Wow, the UK is going to send more than a billion pounds in development aid over a three-year period to some Muslim countries. That's a small fraction of their total foreign aid budget, and nothing compared to what they'll spend on the military, probably in several of those same areas. Stability is the bedrock of security, and development aid is the cornerstone of stability in developing countries.

As to the increasing numbers of Muslims in Parliament, the remark about the whole Parliament being Muslim is obviously tongue-in-cheek, with the main point being that Muslims are dramatically underrepresented: with 3% of the population, they have less than 1% of the seats. Is there some reason that you think they're NOT entitled to fair representation?

If you truly see that video as frightening, you're nothing short of addled by your own Islamophobia.

The dictionary defines "phobia" as "an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something." The video that you linked to, Lenny, contains nothing whatsoever to support any rational fear of or aversion to anything other than perhaps self-congratulatory political speechifying. Therefore, if you find that video frightening enough that you are fine with forwarding it under the heading of "Islam will rape our civilization and enslave us," then guess what: that is the very definition of Islamophobia. But still, another friend — I'll call him Carl — leapt to Lenny's defense from my vicious liberal bullying.

In calling [Lenny] an "islamophobe" you are merely attempting to dehumanize someone whose feelings you disagree with. The truth is that there has been a debate in Britain as to whether sharia law should be allowed to supersede british law in cases where muslims are involved. The French have outlawed muslim headdress. Europe has legitimate concerns when it comes to people from third world countries who are still culturally living in the middle ages. Left-of-center political pundants enjoy using the term islamophobia. But why is it that this religion (not this people...) seems to inspire such acts of violence worldwide? It is their own job to police their religion and they have not. You would hold them to a different standard than other religions. When christians speak of martyrs they speak of people who have been killed by others, when muslims speak of martyrs they speak of those who have died killing others. You should stay with the facts you first quoted instead of resorting to calling [Lenny] names for his well founded concerns...

So, in other words, "Carl," what you're saying is that I'm a bad guy for calling out Lenny for what is demonstrably the dictionary definition of Islamophobia, but when Lenny says without foundation or reason that Islam is out to "rape our civilization" and enslave us, that's just an expression of "his well-founded concerns."

I could point out that I didn't actually call Lenny an Islamophobe; I merely pointed out that he made an Islamophobic posting. In no way did I paint this as an inescapable part of Lenny's personality; indeed, if I viewed it that way, I wouldn't've bothered to reason with him. However, I think that's the least of the issues with Carl's critique of my response.

There has indeed been a debate over Sharia law in Britain, but only in two specific areas: permitting financial products that comply with Sharia and also secular law, and making some accommodation to Muslim beliefs in the area of family law. However, the Prime Minister's office said it quite well:

There are instances where the government has made changes in regulations, for example to include sharia-compliant mortgage products, but in general terms, sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor can the principle of sharia law be used in a civilian court. — statement from the office of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, circa 2008-02-08, via Reuters

The idea that Britain is somehow going to impose Sharia law on non-Muslims is beyond implausible; it reads like a bad Dr. Who episode about an alternate universe. On the other hand, yes, France did enact legislation restricting certain kinds of traditional Muslim head coverings for women. And I know that many Europeans — on the political left as well as on the right — are deeply concerned about the influx of Muslims who don't share their traditional European values on issues like gay marriage and topless beaches, not to mention honor killings and forced marriage and stoning adulteresses, and more broadly the societal roles of men and women and God and gods and atheists and heathens. But that is still a very long way from saying that 3% of the population in either Britain or the US is a reasonable, rational threat to stay awake worried about.

Ah, but then there's the issue of the double standard. Am I exempting Islam alone from responsibility for "inspiring acts of violence worldwide"? Well, let's see: do I hold all of Christianity responsible for the small number of nutcases who draw from it the inspiration to go bomb abortion clinics? No, I recognize that the people who take that view of Christianity are a tiny minority, in no way representative of the whole. Human history is full of acts of violence inspired by virtually every religion that has ever existed. A great many Muslims have spoken out against the violence and terror being carried out in the name of their religion — including, by the way, the people behind the Park 51 Cultural Center — but insane "us-and-them" rhetoric like yours, Carl, actively undermines their efforts to, as you put it, "police their own religion."

No, "Carl," it seems to me that you have the double standard, holding the entire Umma liable for the fringiest of its fringes but ignoring the acts of violence carried out in the name of so many other religions including your own. And by the way, I don't think I really qualify as a "pundant." I do, though, qualify as a neutral party in looking at Christian extremists — including people who would apply a particularly narrow interpretation of Christian doctrine as the law of the land — and Muslim extremists. I am neither a Muslim nor a Christian. I do not believe in either religion, but neither am I afraid of those who do.