Thursday, November 19, 2015

Islamophobia and the titans of virtue in the media

It's now almost a week removed from the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13th and the media is still ripe with coverage of the same, with details of follow-up investigations, with statements from political leaders across the globe, and with pieces discussing what the response will be, might be, and/or should be from France and other nations. But there are also many opinion pieces—and talking heads—concerned not so much with the attacks or what to do about, then with worrying about how the attacks are creating a "rising tide of Islamophobia."

My language choice is no accident here. Do a Google search for the specific phrase in quotes, "rising ride of Islamophobia," and see what you get. There are thousands of hits, dating back  to 2002. Take off the quotes and the number goes up almost tenfold. Various events across the last decade and a half have always been greeted by these kinds of proclamations. And by and large, the proclamations aren't coming from Muslims; they're coming from the self-appointed custodians of Justice who populate the media these days.

If there really had been all of these rising tides of Islamophobia in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, we'd be underwater by now. The fact of the matter is, such a thing has never actually materialized in the past and it's unlikely to materialize now. This isn't to say there were no incidents directed at Muslims in the past, after various terror-events or the like, that there wasn't a noticeable increase in some anti-Islam expressions or the like. There most certainly was. And there most certainly will be again. And that's because people will often act without thinking, will lash out at convenient targets when they are upset and angry. What else is new? It's going to happen here, and then it's going to subside. Like it always does.

Babu form Seinfeld, Source:
But there is a cottage industry in the media built around "tsk-tsking" everyone else. It's practitioners are less worried about Muslims per se than they are about presenting themselves as superior, more thoughtful people as compared to the majority of the hoi polloi out there. And unfortunately, there's a large audience for the screeds these sorts of people produce, made up of the same sorts of people, by and large, ones whose self-image is predicated on having someone to be better than, morally and ethically.

Discussions on the Syrian refugee issue have already summoned comparisons to Nazi Germany from this same crowd, along with the typical finger-wagging mockery of anyone who is on the wrong side of the issue (the current wrong side being the idea that's okay to limit, in any way, the influx of Syrian refugees). Slightly more sensible—at least on this issue—voices in the midst of these titans of justice at least recognize that such mockery and such extreme comparisons probably aren't a real good idea, politically speaking. From the usually imbecilic Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:
Mocking it is the worst thing we could do. It validates all the worst stereotypes about liberals that we put political correctness ahead of national security. It doesn't matter if that's right or wrong. Ordinary people see the refugees as a common sense thing to be concerned about. We shouldn't respond by essentially calling them idiots. That way lies electoral disaster.
Note however that Drum is not in any way allowing that there is any actual validity to the concerns over the refugees. It's just something "ordinary people" are concerned with, people who lack his and his cohorts' intelligence and moral certainty. Because after all, Drum and company are not "ordinary people," they're special. From the same piece:
Mocking Republicans over this—as liberals spent much of yesterday doing on my Twitter stream—seems absurdly out of touch to a lot of people. Not just wingnut tea partiers, either, but plenty of ordinary centrists too.
Note the implication: mocking Republicans over other things is okay, as long such mocking plays well with the "ordinary people," as long there's a good way to spin the mockery, to essentially get away with it.

And at its root, this is exactly the modus operandi for the crowd in the media looking to tsk-tsk everyone else. It's a contrived exercise that begins with an issue where a supposed moral high ground can be easily summited, one that even ordinary people can clearly see and—once properly instructed—will mount as well, or at least won't voice any disagreement (even when afflicted with some amount of uncertainty).

The claims about an increase in Islamophobia fit neatly into this same paradigm. After all, what right-thinking person could possibly object to someone pointing out this potential situation? What right-thinking person wouldn't be concerned? The reality is unimportant. Whether or not there is a rising tide of Islamophobia is inconsequential (there wasn't in the past and there is no evidence that there is now). All that matters, again, is being above others, is being able to criticize and mock freely, based on an assumed certainty of one's moral superiority. And that's what we're going to get, by and large, from the know-it-alls in the media going forward. Yippee.