Blogs > Cliopatria > Scattershooting while wondering what happened to speaking softly. . . .

Mar 8, 2005 11:38 pm


Scattershooting while wondering what happened to speaking softly. . . .



A few days ago, Caleb McDaniel linked to some posts concerning the controversy over the race of Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins. This article by Holly Jackson, the doctoral student who figured out that Kelley-Hawkins was white, provides an excellent summary of her research. It also includes the photograph that led to her misidentification. (Thanks to the HNN editor for posting the link to this)

Back in late February, Derek Catsam posted this sharply written attack on people who temporize about inexcusable acts of terrorism. The act was the bombing of a Tel Aviv night club. Derek’s title, “You Are With Us or You Are Against Us.”

I mention this because, while agreeing with him at one level, there was something in me that wanted to say “yes, but.” Yes, but I don’t want this atrocity to suddenly make it ok to fire missiles into suburbs. Yes, but I don’t want this to silence the few voices (and outside academia in the US, there are few voices) who remember that the Arabs in the occupied territories have their stories, too. Stories of pain, humiliation, degradation, and death.

Yes, but . . . .

Yes, but Derek was right. Tearing joy and bodies apart in an obscene act of martyrdom deserves no celebration, no encouragement. Silencing that truth does nothing to make the pain and anger that generates such attacks more understandable. It does nothing at all that is good.

Yet why did I not know that in an instant?

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Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Jesus! Ralph is being incredibly thick-headed this evening, wouldn't you say?


Van L. Hayhow - 3/11/2005

Some of the problem, I think is pure arrogance. Second, I think we live in a time when many people want to put the emphasis on how we are different as opposed to how we are the same. Thus the stance some take that only a member of a group can write that group's story. Finally we live in an age when many people simply refuse to entertain the possibility that the people that hold the opposite viewpoint can be sincere and even idealistic in their beliefs. This has been the biggest disappointment for me in HNN. Mr. Petit I think exhibits perfectly the first and third points above.


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/11/2005

Ideas do change slowly, and almost never in the heat of debate. You are quite right, Jon. I think what was bothering me was less the disagreements themselves than the "ex cathedra" tone that so many people take on.

I don't set myself up as immune from this. I have done it, and I'm sure I was at my worst when I was least conscious of it, when what I said seemed to me like educated common sense that anyone should get, if they'd only open their friggin' ears up.

("If anyone has ears to hear, let him." As I said, ex cathedra).

What bothers me these days is how contagious that ex cathedra tone is. In a non-log context recently, I've watched it create divisions between people who ought to see how much they have in common. Instead some of them have gotten to the point that all they can hear from their perceived opponents are negatives, even when that's not what is being said at all.

So I look at the stuff above. There are some really good arguments there, about the specifics of the Middle East, about the nature of morality in public discourse, about what law does--or at least should--reign. These thoughts are gifts, even when I think them wrong. But they are wrapped in such anger! How can anyone find the gifts under such wrapping?


Jonathan Dresner - 3/10/2005

Yes, I have second thoughts every time I look at the list of commenters.

Seriously, though, there are two really good reasons (well, really good explanations, anyway) for the relative hardness of views in these discussions. First, it's hard, emotionally and intellectually, to admit to uncertainty or qualification when under attack, particularly when under attack by someone whose may be right about one thing but whose overall view is well beyond what you're willing to admit has reason and who you believe will use a concession on one point as grounds for broader attacks.

Second, minds change slowly. We hold facts in narratives, and narratives are shaped by values, and even when there are cold, hard facts involved (and how often does that happen, eh?) if it is necessary to reorganize the narratives and values then it's going to be a slow process. Some people are better at it than others, but on really important issues it really isn't going to happen, usually, in the course of a single comment thread.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/10/2005

Exactly, Oscar. It is long past the point at which one has only to read the list of names on "Recent Comments". You don't need to bother checking to see what they said. Most of those names were absent from the discussions yesterday. Today, we seem to have returned to the same tedium.


chris l pettit - 3/10/2005

can you see that it has no relevance? Why do you defend yourself by falling back on the whole "I defend the two state solution" stance? Whoop dee doo and good for you? What you don't do is call all atrocities by the same name, which is why we get uncomfortable when you excoriate one side rightly but remain silent on, or worse yet, try to justify the atrocities of the other side. Your little piece of propaganda on Ariel Sharon was a perfect example. You try to shine a positive light on a man who, like De Klerk and Nixon, deserves to be in the dock at the Hague awaiting trial on violations of humanitarian law. How interesting that the PM of Albania would step down to honor the fact that he was indicted by the ICTY, yet SHaron and other war criminals, and their supporters, firmly refuse to be impartially tried by a court of law (I know, vast anti-Jewish conspiracy, aliens are coming to get us, and bigfoot exists...).

The fact that you support a two state solution is meaningless if you do not call a spade a spade and call all atrocities by their true names. This is why you will never be able to really further any sort of lasting peace in the middle east, or be able to present any sort of credible history or argument on the issue beyond your own little ideology.

CP


Robert KC Johnson - 3/10/2005

I would say that both are worthy of mockery. Although I generally approve of Sharon's policies, for having done what was necessary to protect his people, I also don't confuse him with being a champion of human rights.


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/10/2005

Has no one here ever been wrong?

Has no one here ever had a second thought?


chris l pettit - 3/10/2005

another article he will be glad to decry and call the Guardian an anti-Semitic newspaper...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1434279,00.html

real sincere governance...these people are war criminals and violators of international law and should be prosecuted as such...and their supporters should be held responsible as well...

CP


Ralph E. Luker - 3/10/2005

So long as partisans of each side continue to miss the moral clarity that the killing must stop, there will be no urgency to stopping the killing. The point ways against both sides and, until we are clear about that, KC, we'll just continue arguing and the killing will go on. I won't engage in mocking the Ariel Sharon Human Rights Awards if you'll cease mocking the Rachael Corrie Award.


Robert KC Johnson - 3/10/2005

I disagree with the phrasing--Corrie's "killing." The initial claims of her fellow activists that she was deliberately run over by an IDF bulldozer whose operator saw her were debunked. We can debate the merits of the IDF's tactics in Gaza, which I think were sometimes counterproductive, just as we can debate the merits of those willing to serve as a "human shield" protecting the Palestinians. But I've seen no credible evidence that she was deliberately killed, and lots of credible evidence to suggest otherwise--in contrast to the victims of terrorist attacks inside Israel since 2000, where the evidence of deliberate killing is clear-cut.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/10/2005

Greg --
But no matter how much you say it, the fact remains that Israel took that land as a result of a war declared against it by the nation states that held that land. That things changes in the interregnum does little to change the facts on the ground. And again, here is a little test of your intellectual integrity: When have I ever denied that there ought to be a Palestinian state? Hint: The word starts with "N" and ends with "-ever.' I support a two state solution. I'll type it slowly in case you are not following: I support a two state solution. Slower still: I support a two-state solution. Are we clear on this? So either show me where I have denied that there ought to be a two-state solution or explain to me exactly against whom you are arguing. And also explain how that effects the facts on the ground, which seems more important. It is great for you to sit there and cite Tony Judt (whom i respect, but Tony Judt is a historian of Europe, and thus his is another informed opinion here, not gospel). It is quite another thing to figure out how this is to be done. So you've proven your irrepoachable moral supriority versus people who are not actuially disagreeing with you on the basic desire for a Palestinian state. Any dingbat can see that. But how should it happen? Moral superiority aside, that seems like the most salient question. It is one that I would imagine we disagree on in terms of our vision, but your self-righteous preening isn't getting us any closer.
dc


Greg James Robinson - 3/10/2005

The question is about Israel,s occupation of the Palestinians' land, and I think it is senseless to include Jordan and Egypt at this point. As Tony Judt has wisely said, it may or not be possible to make a case in 1967 that the Palestinians were not a nation. Nobody can make such a case now. Whatever history says about George W. Bush's reputation--and I suspect it will be a lot--it says soemthing that even this supportive friend of Israel's position recognized the necessity of a Palestinian state.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/9/2005

Chris --
Jordan and Egypt are 100% relevant to the discussion about the 1967 war, and the 1967 war is why israel is in the territories in the first place. Since you do not get that, the rest of your rant is superfluous, as most of your rants usually are.
dc


chris l pettit - 3/9/2005

of DC's ideology...

"Furthermore, please point out to me when the territories became occupied Palestinian lands. They seem to have become so after the 1967 war. This is rather odd -- Jordan and Egypt (inter alia) wage war on Israel. They lose. Their lands are taken -- the Gaza Strip was part of Egypt in 1967, the West Bank part of Jordan."

Guess what? We are not talking about Jordanians or Egyptians...we are talking about PALESTINIANS...and a state that was to be put into force as far back as 1948. That Egypt or Jordan protested is highly irrelevant to the discussion, at least in terms of international law. DC clearly manipulates or ignores the right of peoples to self determination and the fact that the rejection of Palestinian refugees and refusal to assimilate them into the various Arab populations only strengthens the position of the Palestinians and their right to a separate state. This manipulation is common of biased ideological scholars...especially of history. the manipulation of historical facts without examining legal issues, etc. is, in my opinion, one of the most disgraceful things that a historian can do in terms of his discipline. on this issue, and this issue only, DC engages in this. While I recognise him as a brilliant historian on many other issues and find him to be a bright scholar, on this issue, he simply has no credibility and ends up being an ideological hack, even if it is reluctantly. the failure to recognise this fact harkens back to exactly what Mr. Robinson speaks of...hypocrisy.

Israel has a right to a state, so does palestine...they have a right to live together in a single state if that could be accomplished. Atrocities on both sides must be denounced and acknowledged as violations of international law. The fact that neither side (or both sides) have reasonable claims to the land is what enables biased historians to manipulate facts, find their own starting points in history, and fit them to their ideological positions. For instance...why don;t we go back to the huge influx of Jews into Palestine after the purge of Ferdinand and Isabella during the Inquisition...the only people to accept them as equals and live peacefully with them? the Palestinians (or whatever you would like to term the Islamic groups in the area at the time). We must deal with this in the context of colonialism and the type of nasty imperialism that is being practiced by the US right now and was practiced by the British and others in creating a situation in Israel that allowed for atrocities and ethnic by settlers against Palestinians and vice versa. We must recognise that the settlers came mostly from Europe as a result of WWII and the bigotry of not only germany but also the Allied powers. This is not done...and needs to be accomplished before any meaningful dialogue can take place. Statements such as those made by DC that are hypocritical and biased only serve to cause the debate to sink further into the depths...they are not constructive and end up being biased and bigoted. maybe one day DC will figure this out...but breaking an ideological psychological hold is extremely difficult when one is blinded by the delusions that one is somehow in the right even in the face of their hypocrises.

CP


chris l pettit - 3/9/2005

that you are some sort of judge on what is and is not poorly written...is this some sort of personal thing for you DC?

You defend the "separation fence" and denigrate the decisions of the ICJ...you claim that the UN is somehow "biased" against Israel...you claim that Israel is somehow justified in its illegal occupation of Palestine and its illegal settlements that violate the legal boundary set at the Green line...you back the economic and social oppression of the Palestinians, for example the subjection to "roadblocks" to "suppress terrorism", the same excuse used by the Apartheid government in South Africa and only the tip of the similarities between the Israeli and Apartheid governments...you back the collective punishment inflicted by israel in violation of humantiarian and human rights law on palestinian individuals...you try to justify the targeting of militants and assassination of Palestinian leaders, another violation of international law...shall I go on?

What makes us uncomfortable is not that you are wrong...as you are right. you most certainly are not the bigot that Sandor, Mr. Morgan, and KC are in their ridiculous positions considering Rachel Corrie and the fact that she was somehow manipulated by the terrorists. that is not why she was there...she was there to protest atrocities by Israel, Palestinian terrorists, and to work for peace and human rights. That she was manipulated and her death was manipulated by both the Israelis and terrorists is disgraceful for both those parties...and those who support them such as yourself and the others. The fact that you are not bigoted does not take away from the fact that you, through your position, support atrocities, violations of international law, and sometimes bigoted individuals and policies. Put up or shut up? Lets hear you actually condemn all atrocities for a change instead of taking an ideological stance that has no foundation in anything except your opinions...

If you cannot understand what I am referring to, why don't you ask me to clarify. i see you don't want to post our email exchange...and for good reason...it makes you look foolish and exposes your ideological flaws. I am confident my writings can be understood by most individuals, even if there are certain scholars who might think that their own arrogant airy writings might be superior. I am sure you can rise above that petty little silliness...

CP


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/9/2005

Greg --
Please cite hypocrisy on my part on the Israel-Palestine issue. I want a two state solution in which civilians are always off limits and in which the legitimacy of the Israeli state is not in doubt. If there are attacks against civilians, the state is going to respond. But UI want to know what particular hypocrisy you see in the stances I ahve taken, especvially acknowledging that this is not exactly the easiest global crisis to deal with -- it has, after all, been raging for the whole of Israel's existence, an existence the very fact of which has been denied by most of the parties involved.
Furthermore, please point out to me when the territories became occupied Palestinian lands. They seem to have become so after the 1967 war. This is rather odd -- Jordan and Egypt (inter alia) wage war on Israel. They lose. Their lands are taken -- the Gaza Strip was part of Egypt in 1967, the West Bank part of Jordan. Then suddenly the Israelis become occupiers of Palestinian lands? Wghen did this happen? Clearly after the war against Israel, but at what point did Israel commit these alleged sins? This has always vexed me -- the anti-Israel crowd does not acknowledge the simple fact on the ground that when Israel faught a war (in the face of Nasser's decleration that the Jews would be driven into the sea, just two decades after the clouds of incinerated Jews were starting to clear over Auschwitz) those lands were parts of nation states that at the time and for a considerable period afterward wanted to see Israel destroyed. Bizarre.

dc


Ralph E. Luker - 3/9/2005

A simple condemnation of the killing of Rachael Corrie would be a sign of moral clarity.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/9/2005

Ralph --
I have not and will not be weighing in on the Corrie situation.
Jonathan --
I agree.
Chris --
When have I ever been a cheerleader for Israeli atrocities? Please give one example. One. Otherwise please do not come on with yet another of your poorly written screeds that does bnot address the issue on the table and that instead allows you to rehash the same arguments that you bring up in just about every post. Put up or shut up -- when have I ever been a cheerleader for Israeli atrocities? Give an example (and be prepared to defend "cheerleader" and "atrocities" in that example) or admit that you are a liar.


dc


Greg James Robinson - 3/9/2005

The kind of hypocrisy that enables people to morally condemn the Palestinians but not the Israelis for atrocities is the same kind that we see enshrined in mainstram media coverage of the Middle East, in which "the peace" is broken by Palestinian attacks and in which Israelis "are killed" but Paelstinians "die."


Ralph E. Luker - 3/9/2005

A simple condemnation of the killing of Rachael Corrie, without the obligatory partisan qualifiers, would do the trick for moral clarity, KC. There's a fairly powerful inclination on both sides of these discussions to ignore the suffering experienced by the other side on the ground.


Robert KC Johnson - 3/9/2005

It is, of course, tragic that Corrie died. But there seems to me a considerable difference between the deaths of innocent civilians (in both Israel and the PA) and the death of someone who went to Gaza to work with the International Solidarity Movement, a group dedicated, in its own words, to "armed struggle" against Israel.


chris l pettit - 3/9/2005

once again he will excoriate me, but our reasoning for saying "yes, but" stems from the fact that he is acheerleader for Israeli atrocities and does not condemn all atrocities equally, instead choosing to only condemn those that violate his twisted ideological version of morality. This means that his postings, while correct, have no credibility since, when the rest of us are feeling the same way about Israeli/US/other atrocities, he is trying to find ways to justify them. What we hit upon is the fact that we must find a way to treat all these occurrences equally, ie through international law regarding human rights and humanitarian law. DC is more than happy to disregard international law and rulings, falling back on a paranoia and conspiracy theories to defend Israel when it suits his ideology, only to pick them up again and hold them upright when they help his assertions. This is the ultimate in hobbesian thinking and is why he looses much of his steam.

i agree with the condemnation of the bombers, the Sudanese government, the Zimbabwean government, etc...I only ask that instead of being hypocrites we apply these standards equally instead of trying to legitimize the atrocities of those we support while denigrating those that we do not support. I am against Israel and its atrocites, just as I am against Palestinian terrorists and their atrocities...i am not, nor never will be "with" any of those groups. The fact that DC associates himself with one is what dissolves his credibility and leaves everything he posts of a humanitarian nature lacking in substance and unable to be taken seriously. the same is true of Bush and his statements, Blair and his, and most political leaders who are nothing more than contradictory entities.

The moral/legal debate is as old as law itself. Muller's article is a fascinating one and I would recommend it as well. There has been so much written on the subject that one can make a career studying it, and indeed, many have. In the end, all law comes from morals, all law descended from customs that have nothing to do with nation-states, and the state ideology that is outlined in Hobbes social contract is just as likely to end in a short brutish life than the anarchy that he made up with no real evidence to worry us into making some sort of social contract. If the anarchy really did exist, there would be no evidence of cooperation, interdependence, and customary law, of which there is extensive evidence of.

At any rate...the discomfort in our bellies in reading the vitriol that is spewed by DC comes from knowing that he is right, but at the same time knowing that he, in principle, is subject to as much hypocrisy as those who support the side that he denigrates. how can you support one who will only attack those atrocities that he does not agree with while justifying those he does...even when he is right? The answer is that you do as I do...admit that he is right...and call him on his moral and legal vacuousness. DC was arguing an ideological standpoint with no moral, legal, or ethical backing. Just because the rest of us can see in our own perceptions where the moral, ethical and legal backing is generated does not mean it exists in DCs argument outside of our own perception of it. In fact, as soon as he turns around and supports some other atrocity, he loses all credibility and support from anywhere except ideological (meaning originally biased) grounds.

CP


Jonathan Dresner - 3/9/2005

Mr. Catsam,

There is no point in our discussing this further. I do not say this to be disrespectful, but merely to point out that we have discussed similar matters before, and careful reading of both our posts will reveal that our differences are relatively minor on matters of fact and judgement, but that it would be nearly impossible for us to carry on a fruitful discussion beyond the points already addressed.

I would, however, respectfully suggest that you, and Mr. Chamberlain, might find Eric Muller's discussion of moral/legal culpability in varying historical and cultural contexts worth a second look.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/9/2005

With moral clarity abounding here, could we have a little less scorn, coupled with condemnations of both the two young people outside the nightclub _and_ the killing of Rachel Corrie?


Robert KC Johnson - 3/9/2005

We can hope that since Abbas came to power the policy of the PA looking the other way at suicide-murders might stop. But the Wye negotiations seem to me the critical difference between the Israel/PA conflict and other historical examples--such as, say, South Africa. Arafat had the opportunity to engage in a diplomatic solution that likely would have yielded a compromise, but an acceptable settlement. He chose, instead, to proclaim a second Intifada and allow/authorize (depending on your viewpoint of his power) a policy of targeting Israeli civilians, with no clear statement on how this policy was going to accomplish for him anything that he couldn't have received at the bargaining table. It's that decision that, to me, makes the issue more of a morally clear-cut one.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/9/2005

Jonathan --
You are not beholden to my dictates. But if you say that there is some way to justify, to add that "but," to what happened to those kids in Tel Aviv two Fridays ago you are worthy of my scorn. My post was decidedly narrow on that front. And I am willing to say that I am right when I say that those who would equivocate about a bombing at a nightclub are beyond contempt. I am more than happy to take you on on those terms. I left some question open as to what OTHER attacks or historical examples might qualify as worthy of that scorn, but I am quite certain that there is no serious question as to what specific event my post addressed. I'll gladly engage you on the question of, say, MK and the ANC. I shan't soon accept an argument that those kids deserved it that night. Your own mind and conscience can tell you what it will.
dc


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/9/2005

Actually, I'm sympathetic to Ralph's confusion. It is an odd combination, even for one of my scattershoots. The one on Derek's column had been running around in my mind for several days, and it just decided to spill out when I saw the article on Kelley-Hawkins and was inspired to make a post. I nearly split the two apart at the last minute but decided against it.


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/9/2005

It's too bad you can't learn from the example of others.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/9/2005

We've all noticed.


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/9/2005

I think it was Freud, in his Civilization and Its Disconttents, that said that all civilization rests on the repression of antisocial instincts. Some things are better left unsaid (a rule I often enough violate myself).


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/9/2005

I think the lack of connection is related to the word 'scattershooting' appearing in his title. Just a guess.


Jonathan Dresner - 3/8/2005

Mr. Catsam's own call for unequivocal condemnation is tempered by recognition in his own post that there are situations in which people of reasonably good will and intelligence have disagreed about the definition of acceptable and unacceptable violence.

There needs to be space to discuss these things rationally, to analyze and understand what is happening. Otherwise we have no basis for responding or preventing but vengeance and violence.

Individual crimes deserve investigation, judgement and punishment of individuals. Is that a "but" in his view? I don't know. Why should I have to accept his dictates on the matter when I have my own mind and conscience to work with? Why should I allow myself to be stuck reacting to the atrocities of criminals when I could be considering solutions to problems?

Patterns are worthy of study and analysis. Problems which are not themselves criminal (poverty, for example) may relate to crimes and other pathologies in ways which mere retribution cannot address.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/8/2005

Oscar, Perhaps you can clarify this for me: what is the connection between your first paragraph and the remainder of your post?


Robert KC Johnson - 3/8/2005

Dan Okrent, the Times' public editor, had an interesting piece on this very issue in Sunday's Times, regarding the paper's squeamishness to use "terrorist" to describe targeted attacks on civilians:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/06/weekinreview/06bott.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fThe%20Public%20Editor&oref=login

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