Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Some of my best friends are Jews"

Atrios in 2005. Start here.
Connerly's France
Just to add on a bit to what Juan Cole wrote to reiterate a couple of things. France's approach to multiculturalism and race is essentially that of Ward Connerly you simply make it officially not exist. A couple years back Connerly pushed for a ballot measure in California which would've made it illegal for the state government, in most cases, to make any racial classifications by race. While I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the notion that such classification systems are problematic for various reasons, the alternative is simply having no information at all about race.
The defenders of Charlie qua Charlie by and large are proud moderns. They defend free speech, and satire, and "Liberty and Laughter" as the headline for Simon Schama's piece in the FT puts it, without noting the obvious, that Europeans don't have what we would call freedom of speech. The US is an exception, as Eric Posner, (see above), Leiter and others like to remind us. But even then we're stuck responding to absurd arguments. I've gone over this enough.
And I've repeated this paragraph too, but it's appropriate.
It says something about the decline of this country that a specialist in Middle East Studies writing about Kuwait gives a better defense of free speech than a professor of American constitutional law does writing about The U.S. 
Under hate speech laws only the powerful judge who has freedom and who doesn't.

"Under French law, the magazine could run cartoons mocking Islam, but it could not run cartoons mocking the Holocaust."
Charlie Hebdo: A Testimony From Paris
Charlie Hebdo were immensely popular among the French: not as stars of the media, nor as towering intellectuals, but as good pals living next door, the kind of friends you were always happy to come across at the café downstairs for a good laugh, for an unbridled exchange of jokes on the latest events in French and world politics: the bigger the better, good or bad taste did not matter.
"François Nicoullaud's diplomatic career (1964 to 2005) brought him to New York, Chile, Berlin, Bombay, and finally to Budapest and Tehran as French ambassador."

I never would have guessed.

France is officially color-blind: since the revolution under the principle of jus soli, the right of soil; there's no recognition of a French ethnicity. Germany began to weaken jus sanguinis, the right of blood, only in 2000.  Racism in France is ubiquitous but it's shaded by power: the arrogance of proud rationalists in the face of superstition and "backwardness". I grew up in a black neighborhood and knew the constant small humiliations my friends felt. But add to those the friendly smiles that say, here it's not about race, while doubling down on the moral superiority that everywhere comes too easily with education. I asked a friend, a daughter of immigrants to France, and she said Charlie Hebdo attacked everyone, but promoted racism and anti-semitism "under the cover of humor".

The same twisted logic applies to European defenses of free speech. To defend free speech for everyone, including fascists, allows you to counsel prudence: the right to speak allows the option not to. But those who've argued for tact -against publishing the Muhammad cartoons- are accused now of illiberalism and appeasement by people who take their own liberalism for granted, and who stand for its opposite: the rationalized perquisites of power. The logic of Jyllands-Posten and Charlie Hebdo is not only that the powerful are powerful and the weak are weak, but that the powerful should feel free to add insult to injury. That they never understood this is a mark of their "inability",  as Arendt said of Eichmann, "ever to look at anything from the other fellow's point of view.”

I've gone over this dozens of times: the illiberalism of technocrats. The liberalism of process is not the liberalism of reason. Tossing out evidence from a warrantless search, as "fruit of the poisonous tree", is based on a presumption of human self-interest inseparable from a pessimist's understanding of human behavior. That's the understanding seen in the history of legal doctrine. In the context of liberal philosophy, focused on high moral principle, and in modern economics, self-interest has been transformed from a given into a good: from is to ought. And it's technocratic liberals, philosophical idealists and optimists, proud children of the Enlightenment (and optimists always see themselves in a good light) who are defending not only the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish, but what it publishes. Technocratic liberals are unable to separate one from the other, to separate justice from intent. Proof of this is in the existence of speech regulations that they will not acknowledge as they march.
SE: Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development.
Bertram: If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right.
There's a reason Liberalism won out over Republicanism.
Liberalism is amenable to fans of science since it can claim reasonably or not to be without priors. Republicanism is a virtue ethic and priors are explicit: burdens precede freedoms, making hypocrisy more difficult to hide, from yourself at least. 
Liberal objectivity: "If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours." The opposite of virtue.
That last is one version of the collapsing of individuals into tokens, of equality into identity, human beings into drones.  The more common example is much simpler.

If I say "Eh, I'm a Jew." it means one thing, or a range of things, one of which could be humor and irony. If someone else says "Eh, you're a Jew" the range of meanings change. The logic of Charlie Hebdo is the logic of the white man who thinks he can call a black man a nigger because "blacks call each other nigger all the time". That France is the home of Enlightenment universalism is the reason they could get away with it as long as they have.

On top of all this there's the absurdity and narcissism of marchers defending western freedoms in a country now trying to be that largest arms dealer to Saudi Arabia. Banning the Burka in France while helping to ensure it's imposition elsewhere is par for the course in the history of European empire.

On Storify:These 'staunch defenders' of the free press are attending today's solidarity rally in Paris
The last:

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