They’re so smart cause we’re so stupid: Alterman on Peretz and the Stupefication of Liberals

The title of the post is the working title for the book I’ve subtitled: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century and am working on now.

The title came to me while reading about the Fort Hood Affair, and the following remark actually nailed it for me. Shades of Larry Derfner on my racism for saying the Palestinians staged al Durah: political correctness induced stupidity.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a long time. Here’s just a brief take on a remarkable essay by Eric Alterman, who clearly considers himself a spokesman for liberal thinking on why he thinks Marty Peretz is a racist.

Peretz regularly employs TNR’s website to publish what are inarguably racist rants directed toward Arabs and other adherents of Islam. A recitation of just his greatest hits on this score might fill this entire magazine, but here’s a representative example:

    I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) ‘atrocities.’ They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn’t comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do.”

What I like here is the juxtaposition of “inarguably racist” and an example of a perfectly legitimate and, I’d say, fairly obvious observation about Arab/Muslim indignation. The idea that we should take Arab/Muslim indignation at face value is one of the most foolish notions imaginable. It’s essentially saying, “we cannot, must not challenge hypocrisy.”

Several cases in point:
1) Abu Graibh: Arabs — Hamas and the PA in particular — engage in far more grotesque and vicious forms of torture. Who are they to denounce us?
2) The Danish Cartoons: The Arab and Muslim world are filled with far more vicious images of the West; why would we allow them to cow us with their indignation?
3) The Pope’s comments on Islam as a violent religion: their response? to riot; our response? denounce the pope for provocation. They should be the laughing stock.
4) Operation Cast Lead: read Understanding the Goldstone Report.
5-3000): fill in the blanks.

Alterman concludes the essay:

In the meantime, perhaps anyone who considers him- or herself to be a genuine friend of Marty Peretz or his magazine might suggest that he consider a long, restful vacation. It would be good for The New Republic, good for American liberalism and, believe me, good for the Jews.

So much for the embrace of a healthy atmosphere of contesting ideas. No. The opposition “smears” (not Alterman, who refers to the “neo-con dominated world of Jewish institutional politics”), and I [Alterman] know that Israel must “find[] a common ground for peace with the Palestinians… [and] withdraw from the West Bank,” therefore anyone who disagrees with me should shut up for the sake of peace. Anyone who doesn’t shut up, and continues to harp on such unpleasant aspects of the problem as the motivations and behavior of those nice people with whom we are to find “common ground,” is “hurting the Jews and Israel.”

And we thought it was mostly the Palestinians who engaged in mirroring.

Ron Radosh has an interesting meditation on this piece including some material on what would appear to be a more nuanced attitude by Alterman on these issues, which apparently don’t have much staying power in his short term memory.

20 Responses to They’re so smart cause we’re so stupid: Alterman on Peretz and the Stupefication of Liberals

  1. KateJ says:

    Racism is the favorite cudgel of the Left to stifle debate — with the added bonus of providing self-satisfactory feelings of their own superiority and “enlightenment.” It never ceases to amaze me how it shows up in the most non-racial of debates from across the political spectrum. What I find most ironic is that these tactics cheapen REAL cases where racism plays a role, and distorts any debate where race is a complicating factor…I know my argument is a broad and simplistic one, but sometimes I need to state the obvious!

  2. Eliyahu says:

    Alterman charges “racism” whereas Peretz did not refer to the Arabs as a distinct race. Rather he was indicting their culture [I use the word culture in the anthropological sense], which is based on the Islamic religion. Indeed, Jews historically did not claim to be of a different race from the Arabs, and accepted the Semitic designation [though today some Jewish “leftists”, that is, anti-Zionists, play with claims that Jews are Really Khazars and Berbers and anything but descendants of the ancient Jews]. DNA studies over the last 35 years have actually demonstrated genetic affinity and proximity between Jews and Arabs. So what makes them, Arabs, so different from Jews is culture and religion, not biological race.

    The crude use of the term “racism” –as by Alterman and others– I find intellectually offensive, although ideologues and fanatics very often misuse these abstract notions and labels. Alterman could say that Peretz shows a religious prejudice against Islam or an ethnic prejudice against Arabs. But if Alterman did that, then you could more easily argue about the anthropological validity of assertions that Peretz makes about Arab-Muslim culture.

    Lastly, Alterman exemplifies not only a crude use of terms, unconducive to rational consideration of social phenomena, but an annoying smugness ["I am not a racist, but you are" - he seems to be saying].

  3. Solomonia says:

    NGO’s: Not Just Terror-Tools in the Middle East, They Screw Up South America, Too…

    There’s some very illuminating stuff in this WSJ piece by Mary Anastasia O’Grady: The FARC and the ‘Peace Community’. O’Grady learns a few things from talking to ex-guerrilla commander Daniel Sierra Martinez: In Colombia, a former guerrilla comman…

  4. E.G. says:

    KateJ,

    You said it for me too.
    Thanks.

  5. E.G. says:

    Eliyahu,

    play with claims that Jews are Really Khazars and Berbers and anything but descendants of the ancient Jews

    I’d say ancient Hebrews or Judea natives.

    And instead of “ideologues and fanatics” I’d say agit-prop agents.
    Otherwise – I fully agree with you.

  6. Eliyahu says:

    yes, Shlomo Sand is an agitprop agent. But if he really believes what he wrote, then he is a fanatic. I think that –since he is a Communist– Sand is trying to prove that Stalin’s dictum of 1915 was right that the Jews of his day were not a nation or people.

    Prof Hammer and Prof Bonne-Tamir are among those who worked on these DNA studies.

    you know, EG, that many of the Arabs could fairly easily pass for Jews, if it were not for their manner of dress, their accent in Hebrew and their gestures and facial expressions. Both Jews and Arabs present a broad range of skin colors, including both Ashkenazim, Sefardim and Mizrahim. Indeed, Arab terrorists have killed and wounded fellow Arabs on various occasions while mistaking them for Jews.

  7. Fat Man says:

    “Here’s just a brief take on a remarkable essay by Robert Alterman, who clearly considers himself a spokesman for liberal thinking on why he thinks Marty Peretz is a racist.”

    I think you meant Eric Alterman who is the author of the linked essay, and a notorious leftist hack. I don’t know of a Robert Alterman, although Robert Alter is a respected biblical scholar.

  8. E.G. says:

    RL:

    And we thought it was mostly the Palestinians who engaged in mirroring.

    I suspect this phenomenon demonstrates their learning and adaptation capacities. Because this type of “argumentation” results from training, the coaches being of the Alterman sort.

    The same goes for the inverted (perverted) analogy between Israelis and Nazis, accompanied by Shoah denial, minimization, and refusal to teach it.

  9. E.G. says:

    Eliyahu,

    The similarity is used when necessary. Like “we/I can’t be anti-Semitic because we’re Semitic too”.

  10. Paul Freeman says:

    “Feigning outrage”, maybe, but perhaps such a view is just our old friend, cognitive egocentrism.

    Muslims are silent in the face of Muslim on Muslim killings but react with fury when Muslims are killed by non-Muslims. This is because they judge the two acts by different criteria. The former may be justified or it may not be justified; it may be right or it may be wrong. But whatever the circumstances, the latter can never be justified and can never be right.

    It comes down in the end to the fact that Islam has no Golden Rule that applies in its dealings with infidels. This fundamental difference of moral outlook, translating into non-reciprocity and double-standards, plays out in every situation where Islamic and non-Islamic worlds meet. Core to the Middle East conflict, for example, is the Muslim view that non-Muslim lands once conquered by Muslims remain forever Muslim, whereas Muslim land conquered by non-Muslims continues to be Muslim.

    It’s an attitude that deafens conscience and, as taqiyya, trumps truth. Despite the OIC hosting 56 member countries all identifying as Muslim, in rejecting Israel’s right to exist as Jewish state Saeb Erekat could claim without irony, “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.”

    There is no way to co-exist with a moral order that rejects the basic principle of common humanity.

  11. Cynic says:

    Alterman quotes Peretz:
    I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) ‘atrocities.’ They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures.

    of course that is a correct observation because it is part of their cultural baggage to create a scandal in their dealings to gain the upper hand, along with taquiya of course.
    Just as KateJ said:
    Racism is the favorite cudgel of the Left to stifle debate — with the added bonus of providing self-satisfactory feelings of their own superiority and “enlightenment.”
    so here we have the application of the infidel’s psychological maneuvre in the Muslim culture, [though I would not include feelings of enlightenment :-)].

    Watching the application of the race card in American politics relatively recently one could tell how shocked they were; shocked I tell you.

  12. E.G. says:

    Cynic,

    Glad to concur.
    Have a bit of a belated reply for you on the “How not to analyze the Fort Hood Massacre” thread.

  13. Margie says:

    Of course one can understand Alterman, he doesn’t want the truth to be unpalatable. It is painful to admit that our fondest dreams for humanity are self-delusion. Eliyahu’s startlingly enlightening comment that Arabs could easily pass for Jews but for their cultural baggage (“if it were not for their manner of dress, their accent in Hebrew and their gestures and facial expressions”) made me realise that it extends way beyond the way you look. Who we are is so much conditioned by the influences on us. What you are prepared to believe is in the same way conditioned or the product of learning. After writing the article Radosh discusses, Alterman rejected all he had learned and returned to his old comfortable clothes.

    It took me many years and shock after shock to believe that Palestinian leaders really don’t want peace but want Israel instead.

  14. Ray in Seattle says:

    Margie, Our strongest beliefs – the ones that are attached to our minds by our strongest emotions – are our “identity” beliefs. These are our internalized non-conscious beliefs about what kind of person we believe our self to be. Having that set of beliefs gives us an ability to survive and prosper in society by offering us a socially approved identity narrative that others can recognize. We will defend (sometimes to the death) any threat against those beliefs that form the core of our identity. We instinctively know that we’ll lose the protection of – and may be attacked by – our “tribe” if we do.

    Any new beliefs we are exposed to will always be interpreted to fit in with and support our identity beliefs – or our minds will reject them as heresy. That’s how our minds protect our sense of identity and our tribal membership.

    Many people have become ideological partisans in the AI conflict. In their minds, the immorality of Israel and the innocence of the Palestinians has been elevated to a part of their core identity. They can not interpret events in the ongoing conflict (like Op Cast Lead) rationally any more than they can change who they are as a person. Either they see events as proof of Israel’s immorality – or as propaganda. Unless they fall into some major life crisis that shakes their identity to the core – this condition is very unlikely to change.

  15. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    Despite our disagreement regarding the cognitive/emotional process of belief formation, I agree with your description of the part of belief consolidation and fact-selection. And the consecutive, observable, mindset.

    Unless they fall into some major life crisis that shakes their identity to the core – this condition is very unlikely to change.

    That’s a bit disturbing. Something (DK what) is missing: Itzhak Rabin didn’t go through a major life crisis before the Oslo agreements, nor did Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni…

    Nor did Benny Begin.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1132546.html

  16. Eliyahu says:

    Ray’s third and last paragraph is true and important.

  17. Eliyahu says:

    Paul F, makes a good point Arab spokesmen can claim without difficulty that Israel is illegitimate since it is a “Jewish state” which makes it religious since –under Islamic rule– the Jews were reduced to a subject religious group [although still sometimes called a people [= millet]. And a state based on religion is supposedly illegitimate by Western liberal standards.

    At the same time, Arab spokesmen [like Erikat] and their Western and Communist supporters fail to note that all Arab states but Lebanon define themselves as Islamic states and Pakistan is an Islamic state which had never existed in history. And the Pakistani Muslim people were almost entirely descended from Indians [Hindus, Buddhists etc] converted to Islam as a result of conquest. Pakistan wanted to separate from India since that is what most Indian Muslims wanted. They did not want to be part of a democratic state with a non-Muslim [Hindu] majority.

    As Paul F points out, membership in the OIC means identifying the state as a Muslim state. Adding to this blurring of the distinction between a religious group and a nation in the Islamic mind is the fact that they themselves speak of the Islamic umma [= nation].

  18. Eliyahu says:

    I found occasion to comment on Prof Eric Alterman inter alia when he was supporting candidate Obama back in the Spring of 2008.

    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2008/04/leftist-english-prof-publishes.html

    Prof Alterman demonstrates that a professor with a PhD can be as much of a journalistic hack as any other scribbler.

  19. [...] Eric Holder, and John Brennan, and the Department of Defense, and the list of useful infidels goes on and [...]

  20. [...] a masterstroke. And of course, they’re a master-stroke in the cognitive war, only because we’re stupid enough to believe them when they make their complaints. Your comments on the universal/particularism issue [...]

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