Monday, April 22, 2013

Salon: where intellects go to die

I previously discussed David Sirota's much talked about piece at Salon last week, wherein he "hoped" that the Boston bombers would turn out to be white Americans. There have been some "gotchas" in this regard--directed at Sirota--since the bombers turned out to be Chechens, not the Jim-Bobs Sirota was clearly pining for (along with a good chunk of the mainstream media, from MSNBC to NPR).

But never fear, Salon executive editor Joan Walsh has jumped to Sirota's defense with a new piece entitled "Are the Tsarnaev brothers white?" In it, she questions the idea that the brothers are not white, pointing to the U.S. Census department's standards in this regard to make the case that they probable would be classified as white. Walsh then wonders about the need to deny the brother's "whiteness":
Our confusion about whether the Tsarnaevs are “white,” and the right wing’s determination to say they aren’t, just underscores the eternally silly project of racial categorization anyway. Race is a social construct, mainly used to establish invidious hierarchies and scapegoats. Despite the persistence of racism and white advantage, these lines are beginning to blur in our increasingly mixed, multiracial society – but right-wingers are going to police these lines as long as they can.
This is a fascinating--to me--total lack of intellectual rigor on the part of Walsh, continuing as it does the false dichotomy set up by Sirota. Let's revisit his position. He offers two--and only two--possibilities, with regard to the potential identity of the bombers. The first (my boldface):
If recent history is any guide, if the bomber ends up being a white anti-government extremist, white privilege will likely mean the attack is portrayed as just an isolated incident — one that has no bearing on any larger policy debates.
And the second (my boldface):
It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world.
Let's be crystal clear here. Sirota's entire argument hinges on this dichotomy: the bomber is either a WHITE anti-government extremist or a MUSLIM/FOREIGNER. It's an incredibly stupid argument. To call it poorly constructed would be giving it far too much credit. Look at all of the potential groups excluded by Sirota: black Americans, Asian Americans, native Americans, white Muslim Americans (yes, these do exist), non-Muslim Germans, non-Muslim Brits, Chinese, Japanese, and on and on and on.

But Walsh seems totally unaware of Sirota's false dichotomy; she proceeds from the same place and even concludes--in the end--that Sirota was "absolultely right." She argues that the Right is determined to categorize the brothers as non-white, but that is exactly how they must be categorized according to Sirota, according to the argument she is defending.

Walsh is absolutely right about race being a social construct, but Sirota is the one misusing it for political ends. Surely both Sirota and Walsh must know that neither "Muslim" nor "foreigner" is a race, right? Apparently not.

The stupidity in Walsh's piece doesn't end here, however. She also attempts to fashion a new narrative, wherein the actions of the Tsarnaev brothers are more akin to those of "alienated" American males:
It also must be noted, while we’re on the subject of profiling, that this is a problem of American males roughly between the ages of 18 and 26: Harris and Klebold were 18; Virginia Tech mass-murderer Seung-Hui Cho was 23; more recently, the Aurora, Colo., theater shooter, James Holmes, is 25; Clackamas, Ore., mall shooter Jason Tyler Roberts is 22; Newtown’s Adam Lanza was 20. We may well learn that radical Islam drew the alienated 26-year-old Tamarlan Tsarnaev toward violence – right now we have no evidence that 19-year-old Dzhokhar had any connection to Islamic militants — but we should also acknowledge his alienation is a common trait among American men his age.
This is just silly. First, because the brothers are not "American males," they're foreign-born males whose apparent "alienation" partly stems from that specific factor. They have nothing in common with the Columbine killers, much less with Adam Lanza or the other people Walsh lists. And amazingly, Walsh fails to note the real differentiating factor here: all the other men in her list were shooters, not bombers.

Walsh--like so much of the Left right now--is desperate to make this story into something other than what it clearly seems to be: a couple of radical Muslims who committed acts of terror against the Great Satan of the world, the United States of America.

Are these brothers white or non-white? No one cares, aside from people like Walsh who are looking for a political angle. They are terrorists, radical Muslim terrorists. Were they acting at the behest of some larger terrorist organization? Right now, that doesn't appear to be the case. But this doesn't change their motivations in the least, it doesn't change how they should be categorized.

There was an old e-mail going around some time ago with multiple choice questions about various acts of terror. The right answer for every question on it was the same: male Muslim extremist between the ages of 17 and 40. This is the group the Tsarnaev brothers belong in.

Cheers, all.

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