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Thursday, September 21, 2006


My name is Al

Al-Guardian, Al-Reuters, Al-BBC. You see all of these names used across right-wing and pro-war discourse. And they are use derogatorily. In other words, suggesting that an organisation is a ‘bit Arab’, as the prefix Al- is used, is to be taken as an insult, as a means of undermining integrity.

Why do we accept this without comment? Indeed, why do we accept this without outrage? If a writer were to make the name of a political opponent sound stereotypically Jewish in order to insult, we would see that writer as a straightforward anti-Semite. If we heard a speaker rework the name of an organisation in order to make it appear to his listeners to be, say, African, or Oriental, in the expectation this would damage the credibility of that organisation, we would mark that speaker as a straightforward racist.

Why do we allow the same sort of rhetorical defamation to be visited upon Arabs? Why do we even entertain the opinions of writers and speakers who use such formulations? Is anti-Arab racism perfectly acceptable?


Occupation works much more smoothly if the people who you dominate can be thought of as inferior, as barbarians, as dispensable. So, while my name might be Al, can we ask how a man with the name Corporal Payne was allowed to run interrogations?

That is a poor joke. I am not really a fan of nominative determinism. I don’t follow the logic of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Unbreakable, when he says; “I should have known from the beginning what my purpose was. Do you know how I know David? Because of the kids. They called me Mr. Glass.”

What I do believe is that invasion and occupation was always going to result in murder, rape, and torture. Not because man like Corporal Payne are in any way special, but because they are not. Not because the British Army, or the US Marines are especially bad, but because they are armed forces that exist as part of social, economic and political structures that differ little from those that organised imperialism and domination in previous, and not distant, generations.

The laughable pro-war left thought that this invasion, this occupation, could be different, not because they have altered the structure of British society, but through disempowered goodwill and cheerleading, all while the men and institutions with real power are the heirs (where they are not identical) to those that conducted bloody murder and oppression across the globe.

You ask: Why do we allow the same sort of rhetorical defamation to be visited upon Arabs? Why do we even entertain the opinions of writers and speakers who use such formulations? Is anti-Arab racism perfectly acceptable?

To take your last question first, you and I both know that anti-Arab racism - or perhaps anti-Muslim bigotry - is indeed perfectly acceptable. The whole discourse of TWAT becomes meaningless without its articulation through such bigotry.

But I'm not sure that we do "entertain" the opinions of writers and speakers who employ such formulations - and the equally revolting "-stan" suffix. I know I'm probably not representative, but use of such formulations instantly renders that person's opinions invalid to me: it's evidence not merely of their bigotry, but of their belonging to an entire moral universe which I reject. Not that my squeamishness helps those at the sharp end of such demonisation one bit.
Okay, but the 'we' was the rhetorical 'we'. Not me, you and another 10% of the British population.

'We' - the British population in general - allow Melanie Phillips, for example, to write the sort of noxious bigotry that makes up her 'Londonistan' 'argument', when the same we would, rightly, drive a writer who harped on about 'Jew York' from the pages of anything resembling the respectable press.

Instead, Phillips recognised by a group of mainstream British politicians as an expert witness on combatting racism.
Ah. Got you. Now, I've got to choose my words carefully here so as to be quite clear - not for you, but for the benefit of the trolling classes.

First the truism. Media racism is endemic, and all the more insidious for its power to set the terms for debate even if it doesn't command much active support. Phillips, Littlejohn, Amis, etc etc etc are merely the highly visible manifestations of something which is so deep it is barely remarked upon.

Arabs/Muslims are being demonised under the rubric of TWAT in a way not unlike the demonisation of Jews in the 1930s, so to that extent the bigotry you decry is, far from being unacceptable, practically official policy.

Now, as to your point about Mad Mel being "recognised by a group of mainstream British politicians as an expert witness on combatting racism", I would make the following observations (all things I've been meaning to post about myself as it happens):

The committee to which you refer is intriguing. It is not an official Commons committee, but some sort of unofficial group who decided to mount an inquiry. Many of those who submitted evidence, as you suggest, are members of the pro-TWAT punditocracy. They are matched, in their enthusiasm for the War For Revenge, by the ultra-Blairite chair who has long been a cheerleader for our demolition of Iraq. The committee belched out its report this month, which duly garnered the expected column inches in the posh op-ed pages. Curiously, many of the bloggers who contributed to, or might be expected to comment upon, the report, had little or nothing to say about it in their little online diaries.

Now, call me an old conspiracy theorist but I am also an old PR man. To me, this looks not so much like an exercise in anti-racism but an unremarkable exercise in generating a talking point in the press which might well have a secondary effect of highlighting Antisemitism, but whose primary aim is to support the propaganda for TWAT, of which (to come full circle) the demonisation of the Muslim other is an integral part.

So it is Phillips' credentials as a bigot that qualify her to participate.

Sorry for the long reply!
Oh, I nearly forgot. The thing that does make me laugh about all of this is that the Melanie Phillipses of this world who get so agitated about Antisemitism are the very same people - to take your original point - who will slam any complaints about anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bigotry for "political correctness", "cult of victimhood", and increasingly, "dhimmitude".
So all you tolerant lefties want to censor Melanie Phillips. I don't particularly like her, partly because I'm anti-Zionist, so ya know what? I don't read her.

Racism is of couse, unknown among Arabs. Look at the Ganjaweed - anti-racist activists. Nor is there any sectarianism in Iraq.
Don't put words into people's mouths, friend. The issue is double standards and Government-sanctioned demonisation, not racism per se. And what exactly is your point about racism in Arab or any other society? How is that relevant?
I answered your pts but someone seems to have removed the post.

26.9.6 17:00
I am the only person able to remove comments on this blog. I did not remove your comment.
You've a good point about the "Al" stuff. Not only is it overtly racist, it's also spectacularly witless and unfunny. The same goes for the doctored BBC logo doing the rounds in the moronosphere (e.g here.
Andrew, both you and Larry make great points. Pollard's BBC image is a disgrace.

Do you think it would be worth writing to the Times, possibly its political editor, Danny Finkelstein, and asking him whether he is aware what his columnists do in their spare time? Or is John right, that they employ him because his views are so revolting?
There's also the contrast between the New Statesman's apology over their "Kosher Conspiracy" front page and the silence over the Spectator's sensationalist "Eurabian Nightmare" cover.
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