Saturday, July 23, 2005

Putting the Spotlight on Friedman

Putting the Spotlight on Friedman
By Mohamed A. Faraj
July22, 2005

In today’s New York Times article “Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide” (July 22, 2005), Thomas L Friedman simply continues on his long path of doing what he does best, i.e. acting as self-declared and passionate mouthpiece of the U.S. government. It is nothing new in the recent history of mainstream news reporting, with journalists and reporters competing with each other to score bonus points with the powers-that-be. It seems to be the great journalistic fad of our times that has journalists in bed with politicians and military authorities and academics all in one. In this arena, Friedman simply leads the way by leaps and bounds.

Take for example his recent article on the aftermath of the second wave of London bombings. His concern is that in addition to fighting the “war on terror” on the military, political, and economic playing fields, a thorough effort has to be made to deal with them on ideological grounds as well. The same line of thinking occupied the Cold War debate, where the argument was made that communism had to be discredited ideologically and the benefits of capitalism demonstrated intellectually in order to win over the hearts and minds of poor peoples throughout the Third World. Thus Friedman argues that a “war of ideas” must be vigilantly fought against the type of radical Islamist thought that promotes and feeds off hate and ignorance. His suggestion reads as follows: “We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.”[1]

As an example of this problem of hatemongering, Friedman uses the bookstore (called “Iqra Learning Center”) frequented by some of the London bombers. To be more specific, Friedman quotes the Wall Street Journal to reveal how this bookstore happened to be “the sole distributor of Islamgames, a U.S.-based company that makes video games. The video games feature apocalyptic battles between defenders of Islam and opponents. One game, Ummah Defense I, has the world 'finally united under the Banner of Islam' in 2114, until a revolt by disbelievers. The player's goal is to seek out and destroy the disbelievers.”[2] Now this is where most mainstream academics and journalists in the West get all tangled up and a bit hazy. This is precisely where they began to lose their consistency and fall into that shady world of hypocrisy and double standards. For unless Friedman himself is childless and therefore hasn’t ventured much into the world of video games, one cannot understand exactly how he overlooks the virulent video game culture in the West that promotes and incites hatred against Arabs and/or Muslims.

“For years, American combat video games have featured Arabs
as enemies, encouraging gamers to kill anonymous Middle Easterners with barely a
second thought. China is the enemy in a rash of recent games, prompting the
Chinese government to ban some of them. Even the United States military is
getting into the act, using games to recruit soldiers.”[3]

This, too, is nothing particularly new. Any twelve-year old with an X-Box or PS2 or computer with a competent video card and a fast processor must have been exposed to the likes of these games at some point or other. The shooting and killing of rag-headed Afghans or Iraqis (especially after the first Gulf War) in video games ideally should fall under the umbrella of “inciting violence against others”. According to David Leonard of Washington State University, who critically analyzes video games as part of “an important pedagogical project of U.S. war practices”; “Virtual war games elicit support for the War on Terror and United States imperialism, providing space where Americans are able to play through their anxiety, anger, and racialized hatred.”[4] By pointing this out, we do not contend that two wrongs make a right, nor is this a diversionary tactic used to deflect attention away from the very real and serious problems in the Muslim world. Yet it is worth noting that Friedman chooses to simply ignore the flip side of the coin, as all well-trained hypocrites are apt to do. Inciting hatred only bears value when it is “them” inciting hatred against “us”. Their video games and literature must thus be analyzed thoroughly, “exposed” and “spotlighted”, according to Friedman, so that they know that the world is listening to and watching them vigilantly. In doing so, we may conveniently ignore our own forms of inciting hatred and our own crimes. We have the magnifying glass directed towards those “others” and stubbornly refuse to use it against ourselves, presumably out of fear of what this would reveal, though this thought is rarely ever spoken.

Friedman is most probably the leading liberal U.S. mouthpiece writing in arguably the world’s most influential and far-reaching newspaper. It is therefore no exaggeration to state that his views and ideas are to be taken seriously, especially as he gives advice to the powers-that-be. Thus when someone like Thomas L. Friedman suggests that “excuse-makers” for terrorism “are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed”, it is safe to assume that such advice will seriously be taken into consideration. It is nothing less than advice to stifle and muffle dissent, to purge by exposition those who disagree with the views of Friedman and his official buddies. According to this logic, there is absolutely no correlation between worldwide grievances and terrorism. Actions that happen in one part of the world have no effect on what may happen some other place across the globe. There is no cause and effect relationship here, only the fluke and random acts committed by crazed fanatics. This type of deductive reasoning is quite convenient because it consciously refuses to engage the question of what conditions and circumstances breed criminality and/or terrorism.

Friedman maintains that terrorists do what they do because they are terrorists, clear and simple. He quotes Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen as saying that “These terrorists are what they do", then slyly adds “And what they do is murder”. As if it takes a genius to figure that one out. Terrorists by nature commit terrorist acts, which by definition include murder. In any case, the logic is quite reductive. This type of reasoning is akin to the type of grade-school clichés that claim that “You Are What You Eat”. It bears no substance or clearly thought-out argument. Why is a terrorist a terrorist? What makes people engage in terrorist acts? Is it simply ideological leanings? Are there absolutely no other legitimate motives that can be included within the equation of terrorism? These clichés simply reaffirm standard and conventional thinking because they are convenient, uncomplicated, and because everyone seems to regurgitate them ceaselessly so that in the end they become self-evident truths.

To argue that terrorists are criminals and mass-murderers who deserve to be brought to justice, but at the same time to argue that perhaps some of their motivations do come from legitimate grievances, is taboo and unacceptable. Friedman, like many of his colleagues, has trouble making the distinction between “justifying” terrorism and “explaining” it. The same diligence that social scientists apply to problems such as crime and poverty, for example, and the links and correlations between the two, would not apply when it comes to terrorism. Those who engage in terrorism do so because they are inherently evil and because it’s in their nature to do so, according to the likes of Friedman. No other rationale is acceptable or tolerated, and if it is considered at all it is lumped under some derogatory category such as “excuse-making” or “justifying terrorism”. Again, the great guru of the liberal mainstream media has thereby effectively marginalized and quarantined dissent by portraying those who try to explain the motivations or reasons of terrorism (so as to better deal with it) as not much better than the terrorists themselves. Presumably, by the standards set out by Thomas L. Friedman, the Mayor of London himself, among other respectable figures, would also fit nicely into this subhuman camp, being “just one notch less despicable than the terrorists” themselves.[5]


[1] Thomas L. Friedman, “Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide”, The New York Times Op-Ed, July 22, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/22/opinion/22friedman.html
[2] Ibid.
[3] Nick Lewis, “How the Seductive Power of Video Games is Being Harnessed to Push Deadly Agendas”, Calgary Herald, July 9, 2005. http://www.canada.com/technology/story.html?id=ffffc56d-636c-40b0-8f9d-5edc40967b03
[4] David Leonard, “Unsettling the Military Entertainment Complex: Video Games and a Pedagogy of peace”, Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, Volume 4, Issue 4 (November 2004). http://www.utpjournals.com/jour.ihtml?lp=simile/issue16/leonardfulltext.html
[5] Andrew Sparrow, “Western policies are to blame, says Livingstone”, The Daily Telegraph, June 20, 2005. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/07/20/nblame120.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/07/20/ixnewstop.html

23 comment(s):

  • Amazing Article!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/22/2005 10:26:00 PM  

  • This should be distributed everywhere!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/22/2005 10:31:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the compliments. I read the article around noon yesterday and began immediately in writing a response. And this while I have a mid-term exam the coming Monday and two papers due in the next week.

    By Blogger Hamoody, at 7/22/2005 11:59:00 PM  

  • No problem! You should seriously consider mailing this in to the Newyork times. Lets see if they will print it. Send it to as many newspapers in the states.

    You should seriously consider writing for a newspaper. You have the talent for it. We need more Muslim writers tackling the issues in an intelligent manner. And it is my estimation you are the right man for the job.


    Send it to MWU and get it published there atleast. Whatever your opinion of MWU, they serve a good function for Muslims in general. Give it a go and don't waste no time. The Muslim community needs people like you. My duas are with you. Peace,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 07:19:00 AM  

  • I emailed it to the op/ed section of the NYT's, and got a automated msg back saying that they received it and will rteview it. But I doubt anything will become of that. I also sent it to a few other places online, such as Znet, Media Monitors, and Counterpunch. Media Monitors emailed me back this morning asking for my contact info and what not, so perhaps they are interested. InshaAllah khair. We'll see what happens.

    By Blogger Hamoody, at 7/23/2005 08:49:00 AM  

  • Good Stuff!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 09:49:00 AM  

  • "problems such as crime and poverty, for example, and the links and correlations between the two, would not apply when it comes to terrorism."

    There are parts of Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asian which are in far worse economic shape than most countries in the Middle East. Yet most if not all Terrorist acts are not committed by sub-Saharan Africans, Latin Americans, Eastern Europeans or East Asians. Poverty is merely a symptom, the root-cause is what Friedman discusses in his article is an ideology which has been pushed by some in your community. An ideology of intolerance towards the west and its culture. The supposed lifestyle of westerners is viewed as extremely decadent and is viewed as a scourge and as ultimately perceived as polluting your culture and norms. This sort of intolerance breeds, hate towards the west.

    This is the ideology which Friedman discusses. Just as the communist brained washed their youth into thinking that the capitalist structure is set out to exploit the working class; so too are now Muslims are being brainwashed into thinking that all evil is inherent in western culture.

    This is the type of ideology which Friedman discusses about and must be combated. You need to re-read the article again, my Muslim friend.

    Or are you honestly telling me that the Madrassas are teaching that only great kindness is goodness can be found in the west?
    come-on...Get thy head out of Arse

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 11:10:00 AM  

  • P.S.

    The mayor of london is named Ken Livingstone, and is widely known as Socialist and even a communist, hence his given name of 'Red Ken'. Having said that, it is certainly a given that he should sympathize with anybody that has anti-western sentiments. So, don’t take anything he has to say as being of significance and of adding value to any particular discussion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 11:19:00 AM  

  • I was using poverty as one of the many different factors in the overall equation, and not the only one, as you seem to suggest. My argument was that just as sociologists and social scientists in general, when examining a problem such as crime, they tend to look at areas where the most crime happens and analyze possible causes of why this is the case. For example, when looking at the statistical data, they might notice that most urban crime seems to happen in the most impoversihed areas (ghettos, trailer parks, etc...) and not in the suburbs or the more well-off areas. This should automatically trigger one to ask why this is the case. Again I am not at all arguing that crime does not happen in wealthier areas (for that's clearly not true), but any student of the social sciences will tell you that there is a strong correlation that links crime to poverty. In other words, a poor person is more likely to rob a bank or mug an old lady than someone from the upper-middle class of society. That's a fact.

    The example I gave of poverty and crime was precisely that, i.e. an example. I was proving the point not so much that poverty causes terrorism (there is a clearer correlation between poverty and crime than there is between poverty an terrorism) but that when evaluating the "root-causes" of terrorism, there is much more to look at then merely "ideology". To state simply that their ideological inclinations cause these people to blow themselves up along with other people is, as I said, quite preposterous. Again I am not saying that ideology is irrelavent, I am only arguing that against Friedman's contentions, it is not the sole or even the primary motive in this phenemona. There are other key factors as well, such as political ones that are ignored or brushed under the rug by Friedman and co.

    It is quite ridiculous to suggest that terrorists pack themselves with explosives and the detonate themselves simply because they dont like the Western lifestyle. The argument holds very little water. One cannot assess this in any case unless we assume some extraordinary psychic power of reading the minds of every single terrorist out there.

    Let's also not forget that during the 80's and early 90's the greatest terrorist acts were happening not in the Middle East by Muslims but rather in Latin America by Christians. The IRA also uses religion to further inspire their followers and justify their actions and yet their actions are rarely if ever described as being "Christian".

    By Blogger Hamoody, at 7/23/2005 01:09:00 PM  

  • P.S. Regarding your comments about Livingstone, instead of focusing on his ideological inclinations (such as him being a socialist) would it not be more appropriate to critque what he had to say? Is it really likely that he, being the Mayor of the capital of one of the key allies of U.S. and a very strong middle power in world affairs, is anti-Western or is sympathetic with anti-Western views (when he himself is as down-to-earth Western as they come)? Even were he a socialist, are not socialism and communism predominantly Western traditions and trends?

    These comments of yours are exactly the type that Friedman expouses and which stifle any meaningful debate. I dont really care whether Livingstone is a globalist, post-modernist, Budhist, or whatever the hell "ist". What he says is meaningful and that is what I was looking at it.

    By Blogger Hamoody, at 7/23/2005 01:21:00 PM  

  • It is quite plausible that the terrorist did what they did because “they don’t like the Western lifestyle.” Why is this so hard to believe? People kill each other all the time for less reasons. Of course it is only part of the equation; hate towards the west is not only towards its lifestyle; it is towards its foreign policy, its infectious attitudes toward sex, drugs, music all which most Muslims decry as abhorrent and feel threatened as having a bad influence in their communities.

    Look, the reason why Friedman emphasizes “ideology” and those who push this negative agenda as the root cause; is simply due to the evidence left behind by those who committed such heinous acts. Most terrorist do not come from destitute homes and do not come from a long history of violence and crime. The terrorist who blew themselves up in Madrid, New York, and most recently in London did not come from backgrounds which someone would normally associate with having anyway a propensity to commit crime. Your line of reasoning suggest that even if these people did not commit to a life of “Jihad”, that they would have committed to a life and been prone to other crimes, such as armed robbery, murder, or rape. Given the evidence, (or their background if you will) these young men did what they did, not because of lack of personal opportunity, poverty, and or other social phenomena. They simply did what they did and will continue to do so because some in your community discuss, support, and incite division and hatred.

    If there are many Muslim such as yourself who continue to hold-on to, and thereby bury your heads in the sand to the hatred that’s being preached and supported, what hope will there be for your community to ever bring about true change?

    What these young men need to understand is that the only way to respond to what is perceived as a wrong foreign policy being pursued in the west, can only be changed through democratic changes. If Muslims see that the U.S. is pushing a policy that they do not like, they (the Muslim nations) need to change their political systems to reflect that. In other words if you do not like the U.S. don’t incite people in your communities and recruit young men to hijack planes and crash them into buildings. Instead, change your own personal government to a democratic one, and then you can voice your feelings in a democratic arena. This will lessen their likelihood of turning towards terrorism. Bush (we can argue on how his is going about it, but the end result is the best desired outcome) is seeking a rightful change in the Middle East, one of democracy which will yield a voice to those that have none, and feel that terrorism is their only voice.

    It is only through steps, such as pushing forward within your communities more dialog of tolerance and unequivocal rejection of violence will bring about true change. This is what Friedman and others are stressing. Again, I think you missed the point.

    P.S. I disregard the Major of London and his comments because he has been prone to spout left wing rhetoric. He is not a man who sees all sides to a subject matter, but rather gets caught-up on Marxist ideas and instantly blames capitalism and the profit motive as the root cause of all evil. You’d expect a man in his position to be somewhat more educated about certain matters, but then you realize what he really is; a beaurocrat with half a brain who has an agenda and delusions of grandeur.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 04:38:00 PM  

  • OOops Mayor of London.....not Major...silly me..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 04:42:00 PM  

  • Hey Anonymous, Hows it going buddy? Life treating you well? What do you do for a profession? If you don't mind me asking. I'm glad you came to a Muslim Blog, hopefully, you'll make some friends.

    Best Wishes,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 08:43:00 PM  

  • I’m an American and believe it or not, I’m also an economist. I stumbled upon this website and noticed mostly nonsense being posted on here, except for this last article. I must say that though the author has noble intentions, he/she fails to fully comprehend the importance of “ideology” as a root cause, and how powerful and deeply rooted this has taken a hold of some of these young Muslim men. Anyway, that’s my two cents, although I don’t think I’m alone on this. Some of the best social/political think tanks express these same sentiments.

    Have a good-one…

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/23/2005 10:46:00 PM  

  • Dude, open your mind and leave your "ideological" baggage where it came from. You approach this site with bigotry and expect to have an open discussion. How would you like it, if I came to your work and said I wanted to talk to you and begin with punching you in the nose and afterwords telling you that really I am concerned for you, followed by another punch in the stomach. Obviously it won't go over well, just like this conversation. Open your mind and try to understand the Muslims position, if you are truly genuine in your pursuits. Otherwise take your bigotry elsewhere, perhaps to a KKK meeting.


    ps Capitalism is a faulty ideology which only benifits big fat greedy white guys , in the name of democracy. What a joke!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/24/2005 12:32:00 PM  

  • Buddy, I can hardly equate a frank discussion with well throughout arguments as on a par with a punch in the nose.

    In my previous response to the author’s post I simply and rightly refute the claim he asserts that “ideology” is irrelevant in the decision making process that was undertaken by these people when they decided to do what they did. And claiming that these acts are merely as a consequence of poverty, family turmoil or some other social ills is not only delusional, but irresponsible. By brushing aside the responsibility of the leaders in your community to stamp-out the divisive rhetoric that’s being preached by some, you fail to ultimately truly improve East & West relations.

    In other words, clean your OWN houses, before you start telling others to clean theirs.

    As for the Marxist comment; I’d expect that from most people who post here anyway. But I will tell you this that the empirical evidence proves that capitalism is the greatest social / economic system that man has ever devised. Go ask China and the USSR they are starting to see the light. Eventually and hopefully someday, my children and I will witness the creation of a beautiful securities exchange located across the street from your Ka'aba. That would be wonderful!!!

    salam alekum,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/24/2005 01:14:00 PM  

  • "But I will tell you this that the empirical evidence proves that capitalism is the greatest social / economic system that man has ever devised."

    Pray tell me how?

    Capitalism is faulty simply because of this: Insatiatable Greed + Finite resources + increase of population = catastphoric consequences to humans and the enviroment they live in. Plain and simple.

    You are right that the Islamic ideology threatens capitalism but hey, can you fault us for caring for humans and our enviroment? Islamic ideology is the only hope for all the wrong that capitalism has caused this world. Unless you think it is fair to ruin the enviroment and enslave less developed countries. If so, Fuck Off, I don't really care what you have to say!. Its time to wake up and realize that insatiable pleasure is not forever and without consequence.


    ps "In other words, clean your OWN houses, before you start telling others to clean theirs."

    "salam alekum"


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/24/2005 10:00:00 PM  

  • Issue a fatwa!!!

    allahu akbar allahu akbar allahu akbar allahu akbar allahu akbar allahu akbar ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/25/2005 11:19:00 AM  

  • I love Beyounce but more imporatantly Jennifer Lopez and especially Nicole Kidman!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/25/2005 12:01:00 PM  

  • Oh isnt that lovely, another right wing troll on this site. Yawn.
    Nothing worth discussing with gutter trash who are supporters of terrorism. Right up there with Iraq's WMS, Yellow cake and all that other bullshit.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7/26/2005 12:56:00 AM  

  • DrMaxtor:

    You just go on and keep digging that hole in the sand, but make sure you have enough room for you and the rest of your commie fatwa buddies that insist there is no such thing as device rhetoric coming from Muslim communities. I’m sure some of your postings have many other postings here have contributed to this.

    Here’s what you would want the rest of the rational world to believe.

    “That these Muslim men committed what they, because Muslims all over the world are being oppressed by the west, Muslims are not allowed to vote for their government, the west insults us and tells us that equal rights for women must be granted, our economic systems is being exploited by the west for they control OPEC, (even though we have the oil, and they pay us for it), our people starve in the streets because the oil revenues we receive are squandered on useless projects which never generate jobs or economic growth, we then use our oil revenues to create more useful devices such as different types of weapons, but the west especially insults us by not letting us create our own nuclear depends even though it clearly states in the Koran that Allah would wish us to have a nuclear weapon located in every mosque…etc..etc” –DrBafoon

    waa waa waa...why me...why us...why are we so picked on. Yes, its all the west’s fault. Sure all of the problems you have our due to our fault, hell if you don’t like our foreign policy you have every right to come and hijack planes. It is we who turned and forced your people to blowing themselves up, because of our foreign policy, or way of living, or some other crap.

    DrMaxtor I suppose this is how the west can truly rid themselves of terrorists:

    When will we in the west ever learn, that the only right way to have a foreign policy is to see if we offend anyone. Our only true measure in the west should be if we are going about a foreign policy that everyone likes, and that is if nobody decides to blow themselves up and kill our innocent civilians along the way. Then this would be a policy that should be followed. You see each time we have a suicide attacker we must stop and think, “okay, what are we doing wrong, who have we offended; and then we must correct our foreign policy actions so that we don’t have people committing suicide.



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2005 09:14:00 AM  

  • NO ideology being preached, huh? (Please see one of the posting on here “Islam and Extremism in the UK”
    Gather your buddies around the PC DrMaxtor, this guy sounds about as rational as you do.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2005 12:54:00 PM  

  • I'll dig a hole alright my dear anonyymous, then I'll make sure to bury you in it. You are supporters of terrorism, pure and simple. Your type belongs in the gutter which spawned you.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8/18/2005 06:03:00 PM  

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