This short statement sums up many people’s views on “constitutionalism” and “limited government” in a nutshell. It goes like this. If the government tries to do something ‘limited government guy’ disapproves of – regulating light bulbs or soda consumption – he will scream “limited government” and point at the Constitution. But when the federal government does something ‘limited government guy’ deems necessary, he makes excuses for it, and supports it, whether authorized by the Constitution or not.
The federal government lacks the constitutional authority to do any of these things. But ‘limited government guy’ wants the feds to enforce airline security because he finds it “a good idea.” Here’s the thing: a lot of people think telling ‘limited government guy’ how many ounces of soda he can drink is a good idea. A lot of people think telling ‘limited government guy’ what kind of light bulb he can screw into his fixture is a good idea.
So, why exactly should the federal government implement the things ‘limited government guy’ likes (airport security) and not those others things he dislikes? He really doesn’t have any basis to object, other than his conception of “good ideas.” He’s already tacitly admitted the federal government can do pretty much anything. Now it only comes down to whether it should.
Of course, this is all pretty much moot in 2015 because Americans don’t really give a crap about what the Constitution says or means any more – unless it relates to abortion, porn, gay marriage or keeping somebody from slapping the 10 Commandments up in a public space.
By the way, I bet ‘limited government guy’ thinks it’s a great idea for the feds to meddle in some of those things too.
I’ve encountered quite a bit of these “constitutionalists” and “limited government guys” recently. For example, there are actually “limited government” people in my social media feeds who think anything related to Islam should be banned (burkas, mosques, “Sharia Law” in private family matters, the very practice of Islam itself etc.). “Islam isn’t a religion, it’s an ideology (or cult, or philosophy, or…). Even if I were to concede that point (which I don’t), banning Islam or any other expression of conscience which does not violate the rights of others would still be a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. A true “limited government” person supports the rights of people with whom s/he disagrees.
Mike Maharrey is definitely onto something here. Most people aren’t really in favor of liberty for “others” but only for themselves.
On Wednesday morning at about 11:30am local time, militants stating they were from Al-Qaeda in Yemen attacked the Paris offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing twelve and injuring eleven:
Two gunmen in balaclavas and bullet-proof vests, armed with a pump-action shotgun and an automatic rifle, stormed into the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo at about 11.30am as about 15 journalists had gathered for the weekly editorial conference. They called for the editor by name and then murdered him before spraying the room with gunfire, killing nine more and wounding others. Laurent Léger, a Charlie Hebdo writer, managed to sound the alarm, calling a friend and telling him: “Call the police. It’s carnage, a bloodbath. Everyone is dead.”
As they made their getaway, the gunmen shot dead two policemen, including one who they shot in the head at close range as he lay injured on the pavement.
Charlie Hebdo has courted controversy regarding depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the past, starting in 2006 when they responded to the Jyllands-Posten controversy with images of the Prophet Muhammad of their own. Their offices were firebombed in 2011 in response to a cover changing the name of the paper to “Charia” (for Sharia) Hebdo with a “guest editorial” by the Prophet.
There is some question as to how Islam regards depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. The Qu’ran does not ban depictions of the Prophet. However, some variations of the hadeth – a collection of Muhammad’s teachings that I could best compare to Proverbs – outlaw the practice.
Reaction has been swift, with French President François Hollande denoting Thursday as a day of mourning. The United Nations and United States were also quick to condemn. Muslims not affiliated with the Islamic State were quick to denounce the killings. Jon Stewart took some time on The Daily Show to talk about it. While some outlets are censoring the covers that Charlie Hebdo has put out, others have reacted with spiteful malice towards this attitude. Of course, the usual suspects in America have ratcheted up the Islamophobia.1
It should also be noted that French Muslims have dealt with considerable discrimination despite their heavy presence in France’s population when compared to the rest of Europe; in 2010, a French government panel recommended banning the Hijab in public buildings. The response by some on the French right has been openly hostile to Islam, and many Muslims are bracing for retaliation.
It is my personal belief – one that I will concede risks politicizing this topic at a sensitive time – that one thing bears mentioning: I don’t know of too many children who have the ability to write who put down “I want to kill people when I grow up!” on paper. That’s because just about any form of extremism is born from desperation. The Islamic State isn’t an uprising of well-to-do people; it, along with Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, is an uprising of people who feel that they have nothing else to live for, being taken advantage of by people who are teaching a perverted form of Islam to those that don’t have the means to know any better. When you live every day in abject poverty, in fear of drone strikes, a bunch of virgins start to sound enticing.
Times like this bear a link to what Afghanistan used to look like. Miniskirts, uncovered heads, a useful economy… it’s hard to place those images with what has replaced them in my lifetime. But a populist revolt overthrew the King in 1973, and starting in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded as part of their larger proxy war against the United States, leading to a civil war that lasted ten years and only ended thanks to American intervention. The country never recovered.
I bring up Afghanistan in this context because that’s basically been the entirety of the Arab middle east: a pawn for the two big superpowers to play with, damn the consequences. Those countries’ destruction opened the way for many extremist groups to come about; The Islamic State is little more than a Pokemon evolution of all of the movements before it. Those groups, for many in this area, are the only way to get out of their sorry way of life. Those groups teach the bastardized form of Islam that educated Muslims denounce on a daily basis. Every time a drone strikes a wedding party in one of these countries, we make those groups a little stronger.
Free speech and free thought are the antithesis of what extremist Muslims – or really, extremists of any religion – want or believe in. If we want to create less extremists, we must allow the way of life in these countries to improve. Until that point, what happened to Charlie Hebdo, the girls kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram, the beheading of the Western journalists and aid workers, and other cases of extreme terrorism will continue, the head-shaking will continue, the hatred will continue, and the cycle will get stronger and stronger, not unlike the circling of water around a toilet drain.
UPDATE @11:46AM ON 1/8: Charlie Hebdo’s Patrick Pelloux has defiantly announced that, instead of printing the standard run of 60,000 magazines, their next issue will print 1m copies.
Charlie Hebdo will publish next Wednesday to defiantly show that “stupidity will not win,” columnist Patrick Pelloux told Agence France-Presse, adding that the remaining staff will soon meet.
“It’s very hard. We are all suffering, with grief, with fear, but we will do it anyway because stupidity will not win,” he said.
1 – I will not link to or mention any of these people or their hashtag. I refuse to give them oxygen.
Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.
Building off of Stephen’s post on Jon Stewart revisiting his past transgressions, I thought it would be worth exploring how my own previous writing and those of others across the political spectrum provided an opening for the pure ugliness of Newt Gingrich, Pam Geller, Michelle Bachmann and the like in the wake of the “Ground Zero Mosque.”
The controversy over Cordoba House has the misfortune of coming only months after a militant Islamist website posted that Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, risked ending up “like Theo Van Gogh” after airing a very, very tame cartoon about the depiction of Mohammed which skewered the absurdity of the controversy more than anything to do with Islam itself.
Like the Danish cartoon controversy, the South Park controversy really irked people from across the political spectrum. Dan Savage, the uber-liberal gay rights activist from my hometown of Seattle, promoted “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” As much as I loved the concept when it first popped up, I have to admit that I’m rather ashamed of it now. Dan Savage may feel the same way, as the post is no longer available on The Stranger website where it was originally posted.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who I respect greatly and whose life story gives her every justification to hold her home religion in contempt, does exactly that. As much as I do respect her, her column on the South Park controversy retrospectively seems like an urging of precisely the reactionary fear mongering we’ve seen against Cordoba House:
Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.
The same goes for this speech on Real Time by Bill Maher, which I cheered greatly when it aired but that I am now much more unsure of:
Muslims are a full 1% of the American population. Their beliefs range from secular traditionalism (observing Ramadan but infrequently attending mosque just as many Christians observe Easter and Christmas) to donning the nijab and living according to a rigid Koranic doctrine. In the last decade, we’ve seen a great level of intellectual output from Americans with Muslim backgrounds – Khaled Hosseini, Irshad Manji, the aforementioned Ali – and unless we really want to completely alienate our Muslim fellow travellers, it would be best for all of us, including me, to rethink how we approach these issues.
In moderating his approach, Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs seems to be on the right path. A critic of jihadism during the Bush years, he broke from the right when he began to see people he respected joining up with Nazis and unapologetic racists. Having seen both sides, LGF is now a great staple in the building up of the pluralism necessary for a society in which we can all cohabitate. Let’s move away from the hate of the Pamela Gellers and into something more constructive.
I can almost guarantee that the overwhelming swap of Liberty Papers readers were sympathetic to the creators of South Park in the recent controversy. In fact, I’m sure some of you are planning on participating in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.
Given that, I have to request reader thoughts on the French ban of the burqa (a Muslim face-covering for women). My first intuition is a firm “no” against the ban, simply based on my strong emotional attachment to the tenets of freedom of religion as expressed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Christopher Hitchens makes the case over at Slate that the ban isn’t a ban at all, but actually a sort of state-mandated liberation of women from the tyranny of Islamic theology:
The French legislators who seek to repudiate the wearing of the veil or the burqa—whether the garment covers “only” the face or the entire female body—are often described as seeking to impose a “ban.” To the contrary, they are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face. The proposed law is in the best traditions of the French republic, which declares all citizens equal before the law and—no less important—equal in the face of one another.
After reading the article, I’m not sure what to think. Hitchens makes a strong case, but he is a master manipulator of words and verbal gymnastics are on full display in “In Your Face.” What do you think?