Monday, August 2, 2010

The Price Of Freedom, Continued

Image credit: National Park Service

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” - Lewis Carroll

As Josh Marshall writes, it's painful to be reminded of these things, but Peter Beinart reminds us that the jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wasn't always about making sure Muslims didn't build their churches where decent folk might be somehow troubled:

The ADL calls itself “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency.” Coming from an explicitly Jewish organization, that’s an audacious claim. But it’s an inspiring one, too. The ADL was born in 1913, after a Georgia jury falsely convicted a Jewish factory owner named Leo Frank of murdering a Christian employee. The men who defamed, and later lynched, Frank were anti-Semites. But they were not only anti-Semites. Three months after Frank’s murder, some of his tormenters met on Georgia’s Stone Mountain to refound the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that would now dedicate itself not merely to terrorizing African-Americans, but to terrorizing Catholics and Jews as well.

Against this backdrop, the founders of the ADL made their organization a kind of mirror image of the Klan. If the Klan saw anti-Semitism as one component of the struggle to maintain white, Protestant supremacy, the ADL would make its opposition to anti-Semitism one component of the struggle against white, Protestant supremacy. If bigotry was indivisible, anti-bigotry would be indivisible too. “The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people,” declared the ADL’s charter. “Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.”

Hateful Ground Zero Hypocrisy

As Beinart goes on to point out, the ADL just forgot the principles of reason and tolerance it was founded on. Eventually, it became the organization that decided it was OK to keep a muslim place of worship out of an area because of a dreadful crime that some fanatical adherents to that religion committed there.

They aren't the only organization to do that lately. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) did much the same thing when it rushed to judge Shirley Sherrod a racist, despite the fact that it produced the original video that Andrew Breitbart's site published in doctored form. It forgot that rushing to judgment without knowing the facts is what bigots do.

This is the problem with living in a free society. People are often free to do things you find annoying. They're free to advertise their religions loudly and often, which certainly bothers me. They're free to say stupid things, and thoughtless things, even on the air. As long as I have the right to say, in turn, that these people are stupid, and to explain why, I'll live with that. It's the price I pay for being able to speak my mind.

It's a price we all pay for being free.

When I coined the phrase molestus hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning, it should have been obvious that what I was referring to isn't reasoning at all. It's just letting your prejudices rule your thinking. There is a purpose to reason, and there is merit in learning the facts and reflecting on their meaning before reaching a judgment. In the era of 24 hour news cycles, we need to remember this, both as producers and consumers of news.

That's another price we all pay for being free.

But most of all, we need to remember who we are, who we want to be, and what the really scary people do. I wonder sometimes if most of us even know what that means anymore.


Expat said...

Mondoweiss had this post about the ADL. Either the posting is an accurate assessment of ADL activities or it is disinformation designed to discredit. The post has a consistency to it that is hard to generate without there being substance or basis to the remarks. It leaves one outstanding question, given that the Israeli lobby is best noted by their economy with veracity pertaining to unhappy stories about itself, cui bono?

Cujo359 said...

Unfortunately, there is little indication in that article where that information comes from. If it were on Wikipedia, it would have been flagged as needing editing.

So, while it's an interesting narrative, I don't have much reason to believe it. Perhaps the author was citing things that are intuitively obvious to the casual observer, but I'm apparently not even a casual observer here.

Expat said...

Agree, when facts or specifics are scarce, caution is always called for, and I have no specific recall of those events taking place but they were hidden from public view by those accounts. However taken with known behaviours of mossad, IDF, AIPAC, sin bet et al and their deceptive histories, some credence about the story pertains (disclaimer, news sources are NOT US MSM for 15+ years and an entirely "foreign" perspective now). In looking at narrative of unknown provenance (author unfamiliar), I look for consistency with known facts, the internal integrity of the narrative as well as using a deep reserve of skepticism when no corroborating stories are to be heard (the cloak of impeccability is shredded to bits). When the object of such a narrative has hidden means and agendas, the burden shifts from beyond doubt to reasonable conjecture. Today's ADL is not your grandfather's ADL by any stretch.