Jerry Seinfeld, ISIS and fuzzy disclaimers
So I was having coffee with a dear friend the other day and I started telling her about a book I’m reading, “The Rape of Nanking,” by Iris Chang, about the horrific crime against humanity perpetuated by the Japanese Imperial Army against the Chinese in 1937. After invading the Chinese capital of Nanking, the Japanese raped, tortured and killed up to 300,000 noncombatants. I’d also just finished “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand, the true story of Olympic athlete Larry Zamperini’s torture in a Japanese POW camp. I remarked that it was odd how the atrocities of Nazi Germany are always at the fore in any discussion of World War II, but other than Pearl Harbor, Japan’s war crimes are hardly ever mentioned. Those crimes include starving POWs, waterboarding them, beating them and working prisoners to death. They conducted horrific medical experiments on prisoners and had a kill order in place so that all POWs would be killed if the Americans got close to liberating them.
To this my friend replied, “The U.S. has committed a lot of horrible acts, too.”
What? What the hell has gotten into our thinking? I loathe this. I loath the knee-jerk false balance that many, especially progressive, people reach for when hearing any horrible act a non-American commits. Does the fact that the U.S. has done some horrible things negate what the Japanese did or give them a free pass? Does Abu Ghraib bar us from discussing war crimes other countries have committed? What does one have to do with the other?
My friend isn’t the only one who does this as a knee-jerk response. But I notice the people who do it never argue the opposite way. If I had told her that I was reading a book on how terrible slavery was in the American South, she wouldn’t have said, “Japan has done horrible things too.” No way. And it’s mostly progressives who are quick to criticize the U.S. but reluctant to criticize anyone else. I don’t know if it’s political correctness run amok or what.
This reaction raises my hackles just as much as when any discussion of an act of terror by Islamic terrorists must always include some kind of disclaimer about the religion of Islam or some comparison to atrocities by other groups. President Obama spurred a conservative backlash when he went before the National Prayer Breakfast this past Thursday to remind attendees to not get on their high horse about the awful violence by Islamic terrorists because Christians had committed terrible violence during the Crusades, the Inquisitions and slavery. Now, there’s no question he’s right that the Roman Catholic Church has a history of horrific bloodshed in the name of Christ. There’s no question that slavery was justified using the Bible, specifically Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear; and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.(NIV)”
That’s all true, but so what? Because zealots have done horrible things in the name of Christ, we’re supposed to have some empathy for the ones committing horrible acts in the name of Allah? Do Islamic zealots owe Christian zealots one?
ISIS puts a man in a cage, surrounds him by multiple camera and sound guys and sets him on fire. Watching that horror, seeing that Jordanian pilot jog and flap his arms and scream I kept thinking, “Just die. Please, just die.” It took a lot longer than I thought it would for that poor man’s spirit to leave that monstrous situation. After watching that vile image, why is anyone talking to me about the Crusades? Really? Is that supposed to mitigate my horror and outrage?
Since journalism standards have crumbled and with the rise of Internet blogs, there seems to be an ignorance of what balance is in a news story. If ISIS burns a man to death, balance isn’t giving your audience a primer on the Crusades or showing how peacefully Islam is practiced in America. No, balance would be telling that pilot’s story and, if possible, finding out the motives of the perpetrators.
When the Michael Brown/Ferguson story and the Eric Garner killing story blew up in the news, people flocked to social media to offer stories of good deeds by police officers. While the stories were nice and heartwarming, they provided zero balance to those police brutality stories. A police officer that buys a woman groceries in Detroit says nothing about police choking Eric Garner to death in New York City. But people think this is “balance.”
If your daughter went away to college and was date-raped, the fact that most college men don’t date-rape women would probably not provide much “balance” or comfort to you.
We have horrible groups of Islamofascist terrorists enslaving kids, torturing, crucifying and killing people, and raping women and children. I’d like for people to stop talking down to me, thinking they have to remind me that not every single Muslim is like ISIS or Boko Haram. Let’s pretend I know how to use Google and understand what other religious zealots have done throughout history.
This whole thing reminds me of the 57th episode of the NBC series “Seinfeld” called “The Outing,” where Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza are mistaken as a gay couple. Every time they denied being gay, they always added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” after their denials so they wouldn’t be perceived as homophobic. That’s what I think we’re doing every time an Islamoterrorist commits some atrocity. We have to keep saying that they’re not true Muslims, that Islam is peaceful and that these people are aberrations for fear someone may get the idea that we deem all Muslims the same.
The truth is the Islamophobics dismiss the disclaimer and the non-Islamophobics don’t need it.
The fastest and easiest way to show Americans that Islamofascist terrorists are extremist groups isn’t with speeches from American politicians or disclaimers. No, the easiest way is what we’ve seen this week. We’ve seen Jordan aggressively go after them. The more we see Muslim countries attacking the Islamofascist cancers within their borders the more Americans will understand that these are splinter groups, hated by the majority of Muslims.
Like I said, the ones that don’t get it aren’t going to and the ones that do are tired of hearing it.