Sunday, June 03, 2007

On "Blaming America", explaining 9-11, and Coulter defends Falwell

Thanks to Colorado Media Matters for putting this out there.

Ann Coulter recently appeared on the local Denver radio Jon Caldara show. You can listern here: (Google it if you must, I even forgot where the link was)

There Coulter defended what Jerry Falwell said about 9-11. That is, God lifted his "curtain of protection over America" because of feminists, pagans, the ACLU, and gay activists etc.. Coulter says it was "utterly Defensible....just straight Christian doctrine..." etc.. You can read more of her defense of Falwell here.

With respect to my more liberal Christian friends (yes, I think I may have some), this doesn't say much for Christian doctrine. Sounds more like the Old Testament fare to me.

Now lets consider the implications of Coulter and Falwell's nonsense. American feminists, gay activists, and their allies seek to expand the freedoms and rights we enjoy here in America. Pagans exercise their right to practice whatever kooky religious belief they might have, (although no more kooky than your typical evangelical Christian belief from the rationalist perspective). The ACLU defends our most precious constitutional rights. This is bad, it it these American's fault for allegedly angering God, who then saw fit to let Islamic terrorist have an easy hit. Hmmm? Maybe God does communicate with G.W. Bush? And maybe he told him to just ignore those intelligence memos warning that an Al Qaeda attack within U.S. borders was imminent a month prior to 9-11-2001?

Now consider the fact that Ann Coulter is an honored guest on just about any right wing commentator's TV or radio show that you can think of (Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Mike Gallagher etc., etc.,). and many of them had lots of good things to say about Falwell to. Yet whenever the opportunity arises, these same commentators continually rail against people who "blame America for the attacks of 9-11" or any other criticism of U.S. foreign policy. How about a little consistency here? Why not rail against Falwell and by association Coulter for these thought crimes of "blaming America"?

I thought the conservatives claimed that the terrorists "hate us for our freedoms". Well how about a defense of these freedoms that organizations like the ACLU defend? Apparently, according to some (many?) contemporary conservative pundits, membership (i.e. citzenship) in the nation called America is not based on birth or naturalization. Instead it is based on conformity to a narrow set of beliefs and behaviours that Christian conservatives approve of.

Also worthy of unpacking is this issue "of blaming America". The obvious questions raised are who exactly blames "America", and who is "America" anyway. Now some segments of the so-called "Left" of which I would identify would make something like the following argument:

The U.S. goverment led by and in collaboration with corporate elites has for many years supported authoritarian regimes in the Middle East (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and yes Saddam's Iraq). The U.S. has uncritically supported Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The U.S. goverment put bases and military personell in Saudi Arabia. These historical events and many others angered Islamic fanatics, fueling their Jihadist ideology, which led them to attack "soft-targets" in America.

I myself would also concede that just maybe the freedoms that pagans, homosexuals, women, and atheistic humanists like myself enjoy in America, probably put a little fuel on the Islamic jihadist fire. But, as far as I am concerned that is just tough shit for them. But lets face it, if this is what really motivated the terrorists, they would have been better off attacking the Netherlands or Sweden.

However, U.S. foriegn policy is a different issue. Your average American doesn't decide U.S. foriegn policy. (And lets also make one thing clear, explanation does not equal justification anyway.)

So what does it mean to say that people "blame America"? Really nothing. According to the illogic of conservatives like Coulter and Hannity, Falwell blamed America for the attacks of 9-11. But not even that is true. Pagans, feminists, gays, the ACLU, and secular humanists are a segment of America, just as conservative white male Christians and skinny blond right-wing shrills are only a segment of America. And the U.S. government is not even "America". No unitary agent called "America" actually exists. To explain this would require another blog post, so I will revisit this issue again and leave my dear reader with an appropriate quote by Noam Chomsky:

"In every society, there will emerge a caste of propagandists who labor to disguise the obvious, to conceal the actual workings of power, and to spin a web of mythical goals and purposes, utterly benign, that allegedly guide national policy. Typical of these propaganda systems is that 'the nation' is an agent in international affairs, not special groups within it, and that 'the nation' is guided by certain ideals and principles, all of them noble."


Tommy said...

Hi Sheldon,

The blame American liberals argument was put forward in a book recently by Dinesh D'Souza (or Dinesh D'Douchebag as I call him). I can't remember the title off the top of my head.

I don't believe that the 9/11 hijackers were angry at America because of gay marriage, atheists, and the ACLU. Where the argument probably does have some relevance is that these things might be equated with democracy by people in the Islamic world. Give the people too much democracy and you get Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

It is not so much a matter of the freedoms we have here that is at issue for Muslims, but what we export abroad. I read a book by John Miller called "The Cell," and in one section he writes about Mohammed Atta. Atta, who in one of the great ironies of history got a degree in urban planning, loved Arabic architecture. People would recall how angry he would become when going into cities and towns throughout the Middle East and seeing Starbucks, McDonalds or other western consumer oriented places destroying the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

And as for making Muslims angry at us, I think someone like Ann Coulter referring to Muslims as rag heads and calling for invading their countries and converting them to Christianity is going to fan those flames much more than legalizing gay marriage in Massachusetts.

Sheldon said...

Thanks for your comment. Very interesting about Atta. Clearly it is not the American peoples' freedom as practiced in the U.S. that inspires the Jihadists. Instead it is the behaviour of both U.S. government and commercial institions in the Middle East.

Bruce said...

Hi Sheldon

Just discovered your blog (link surfing from others). I like your style and would like to see if you're interested in participating in my new atheist/skeptical podcast.

Ideally as a panelist, alternately just providing a recording in your voice of some of your posts I'd select. They'd be used with attribution, of course.

Didn't see an email contact option, so I'm putting it here. More details by email. You can reach me at myxlpyx [at]

I'd prefer that you deleted this comment.


Bruce B
Ontario, Canada

Anonymous said...

Only nations having a certain amount of wealth can afford a voting system which in truth an appalling misrepresentation of democracy. The Majority of western nations based on a two as (three) political party system,it be as one worthless party of criminals be put out of govt such then being replaced by identical twin another worthless party of criminals being put in power.Worse example recent times an USA political party lost general election yet by appalling fraud corruption in Govt declared winners of such election,whom then declared crusade against Islamic world ....we see the result today a bankrupt USA in moral as fianancial terms... billions of dollars paying cost of an ongoing rampage of futile destruction.. loss in american lifes staggering as the walking wounded, personal grief for american famlies beyond dares not consider the death destruction brought upon Islamic people, beyond ability to justify the crimes as horror of it ignored by the western media.... It be we having lived through a period of appallingly injustice, lack of compassion as tolerance... Respect of international law as domestic have been long abandoned, Military Might, replacing, democratic by no means Islamic nation's free of blame,yet there no doubt the conduct of western nations being main cause, bringing humanity to present state in moral as its spiritual decline. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The Atheologist said...

Great post and regarding this:

‘I thought the conservatives claimed that the terrorists "hate us for our freedoms". Well how about a defense of these freedoms that organizations like the ACLU defend?’

I never understood how Conservative leaders or authorities are able to speak out of both sides of their mouths without many, (any), of their sheepish followers catching on.

D said...

Sheldon my man. Coulter doesn't believe what shes saying. She make $$$$ out of saying outrageous things. Then she laughs all the way to the bank.

Why be her publicist?

larryniven said...

"...the freedoms that pagans, homosexuals, women, and atheistic humanists like myself enjoy in America, probably put a little fuel on the Islamic jihadist fire. But, as far as I am concerned that is just tough shit for them."

That pretty much sums it up, on my view. You can't really argue that they hate the freedoms that liberals want and then insist that we'll defeat them by celebrating our freedom to, say, buy a car at 0% APR. When conservatives exercise their rights, they're being patriots, but when we do it, we're baiting terrorists? Give me a break.

About the God/Punisher hybrid, though, I'm not so sure that it's atypical of Christians. Certainly it's common enough to have a place in print, radio, and other media, as you've seen, and appears to be in full force on the intertubes (although not without its detractors). As usual with Christianity, there are real problems no matter which way you go on this one, but choosing Angry God over Forgiving God seems to be an obvious and fatal mistake, both philosophically and pragmatically.