The Dire Importance of Disassociating Culture and Religion from Ethnicity

I am white, and my ethnicity is European. But that’s far too simplistic.

My father’s father was of Italian origin and Catholic, my father’s mother was of Hungarian origin and Jewish, my mother’s father was of English origin and Protestant, and my mother’s mother was of Lithuanian origin and Jewish.

Italians speak Italian in Southern Europe.

Hungarians speak Hungarian in Eastern Europe.

Brits speak English in Western Europe.

Lithuanians speak Lithuanian in Northern Europe.

The point is that my race (or ethnicity or heritage or national origin) is not me. My beliefs and my culture are me. The fact that I believe in free speech as an absolute and that I treat my elders with respect are completely independent of my genetics and ancestral history. Though I may be influenced by my heritage, I can and have rejected and accepted wisdom and practices passed down from it. However, I cannot liberate myself from my DNA or family tree.

I tell you that to tell you this.

The Canadian Parliament recently passed Motion 103. This measure, while not an enforceable law, aims to encourage the government to seek ways to cull Islamophobia and racism in Canada. Islamaphobia is the only form of discrimination specifically mentioned.

Precisely what this motion will accomplish is hard to say. Since it is more of a statement than a law, there may be no direct effects. It appears to be a stepping stone towards more legally backed measures, but that is just a hunch at this point.

The problem with Motion 103 is that it couples Islamophobia and racism while defining neither.

Merriam-Webster defines Islamophobia as irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam. Unfortunately, this complicates things even further.

By associating fear and avoidance of a set of beliefs with discrimination against a person who holds said set of beliefs, the term Islamophobia is rendered meaningless and susceptible to broad and dangerous interpretations. According to the prior definition, these are the six ways Islamophobia can be understood with a brief analysis for each:

  1. Irrational fear of Islam
  • This seems to suggest that there are both rational and irrational reasons one can fear Islam. Perhaps one who observes the prevalence of terrorism in nations that are heavily influenced by Islam and fears Islam as a result is not Islamophobic because he has a good reason to be fearful. One who fears Islam because he associates it with great white shark attacks might be irrational in his fear. The problem, particularly when the term Islamophobia is used by legislators, is that it does not provide a description of what qualifies as irrational. Who gets to decide this?
  1. Aversion to Islam
  • Aversion can simply mean a strong dislike, but is generally used to mean a strong dislike that results in avoidance. Is it wrong to dislike or to avoid a religion? If so, why aren’t there measures aimed at finding ways to persuade Christians and Atheists to like and embrace each other’s beliefs? There should be no such measures because we all have the right to dislike and avoid any religions we’d like.
  1. Discrimination against Islam
  • If discrimination against Islam means laws that protect religious liberty excluding protections for Islam, it would reference a legitimate human rights violation. If it refers to private individuals choosing to entertain various religions while intentionally approaching Islam with caution, there is no violation. No one is obligated to approach different religions the same way.
  1. Irrational fear of people who practice Islam
  • Again, the term irrational is problematic. Who gets to determine this? And does this mean that there are rational fears one can have about people who practice Islam? If someone has Islamic beliefs, but clearly shows no potential to do anyone harm, it seems like fearing them would be irrational. Does this mean that if someone has White Supremacist beliefs, but clearly shows no potential to do anyone harm, that fearing them would be irrational? Should measures to protect peaceful White Supremacists from the fear of others be entertained by the Canadian parliament?
  1. Aversion to people who practice Islam
  • In similar regards, does avoiding or disliking members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Satanists, or Communists constitute problematic behavior? If not, there Is blatant inconsistency in calling the avoidance of those who practice Islam problematic.
  1. Discrimination against people who practice Islam
  • This seems to be the true violation of human rights that so-called Islamaphobia could lead to. If laws that treat individuals differently strictly because of the thoughts in their minds and feelings in their hearts are put in place, we would have a major problem. This suggests that Motion 103 should refer to discrimination against people who practice Islam instead of Islamophobia.

The other facet of Motion 103 that needs to be addressed is the association of race with religion. As established previously, Islamophobia may be thought of as fear of Islam or a fear of Muslims. Neither has anything to do with race.

First off, Islam is practiced by members of every race and ethnicity. Somalia, Indonesia, Iraq, and Kosovo are all Muslim majority nations. But Somalians are Black, Indonesians are Asian, Iraqis are Arabs, and Kosovars are White. In the same way that my ancestors’ cultures and beliefs are independent of mine, regardless of our shared ethnicity, Islam is completely independent of race. This is further evidenced by the fact that anyone can convert to Islam or from Islam to another religion at any time. No one can change their DNA.

The other problem is that while discrimination against Muslims is wrong, it is not racist. As I’ve just explained, Islam is not a race and, therefore, has nothing to do with racism. Two things can be wrong without being the same thing.

What the Canadian parliament has just opened the door to should strike fear in the hearts of all people who desire freedom. It is a step in the direction of Orwellian thought criminalization, and goes to show that freedom of conscious and expression in Western societies constantly hangs in the balance.

It is now the duty of all free people to become more and more open in their criticisms of Islam and other ideas that authorities try to protect. Whether mild or harsh, your tongue must become unafraid to utter your grievances. The world must know that residents of free societies are steadfast in their retention of absolute free speech.

The Dire Importance of Disassociating Culture and Religion from Ethnicity

Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar Revisited, Two Decades of Sensitivity Training Later

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about when America was, as Donald Trump would say, great, and why it isn’t as great anymore. Perhaps I’m just gorging on South Park’smember berries,” but I do feel as though I’ve honed in on a few legitimate reasons we should strive to return to the good old days to some degree, namely when it comes to art and humor.

I watched 1997’s Liar Liar starring Jim Carrey with my 10th graders on the last day of class a few weeks ago. I’ve seen the comedy many times, but it hit me in a very different way this most recent viewing. Several lines and situations would likely not be shown or tolerated in a film today, 20 years later.

Racial Jokes in a Pre-PC World

While there may be more, I noticed three instances of racial and cultural (or what could be perceived as racial and cultural) humor and stereotyping in Liar, Liar that would have been prone to outrage today. Two occur in the same scene. Carrey’s character, a slimeball of a lawyer named Fletcher Reede, is rendered unable to lie for 24 hours due to his son’s birthday wish for him to go one day without being able to speak anything other than the truth. The morning after an embarrassing sexual encounter with Miranda, Reede’s boss at his law firm, she accosts him in the hallway and asks what he thinks of Mr. Allen, one of the firm’s partners. Reede proceeds to describe Allen with a hilarious and relentless parade of insults. With knowledge of his inability to lie, Miranda leads Reede into a committee meeting, headed by Mr. Allen himself, and prompts Reede to tell Mr. Allen how he feels about him. Reede is forced to repeat his belligerent diatribe, but is saved when Mr. Allen mistakes the invective for a humorous roast and begins laughing hysterically. Allen asks Reede to roast the other company members, and two instances of touchy comedy (by today’s standards) occur.

First, Reede mocks one attendee’s toupee, eventually snatching it and sticking it to the wall. With the toupee resembling a Native American dream-catcher, Reede repeatedly pats his open palm over his open mouth shouting “owawawawa” in crude mimicry of a Native American rain dance.

When I was a kid, this kind of thing would have gone unnoticed. We were not close to being as hyper-sensitive as we are today, and having fun with a little stereotype was not the kind of thing that could get anyone in trouble. I imagine that had something like this taken place in a film today, SJW groups or individuals might demand an apology on behalf of Indigenous Peoples or boycott Jim Carrey movies.

As Reede continues down the line, he goes into rapid-fire mode pointing at and calling a row of committee members loser, idiot, wimp, degenerate, and slut. What I ashamedly notice via my hyper-sensitized mind is that the man called degenerate happens to be the only Black person at the table. Considering the unfortunate trope of young Black men being involved with gangs, drugs, and crime, I imagine that the joke could have brought about hashtag slack-tivism or other negative responses in contemporary times. Why does it have to be the black guy who is called a degenerate? one might say.

The last racial trope I noticed was Reede’s client’s nanny who happened to be Hispanic. Though perhaps not as likely to be noted as the prior two, this instance of stereotyping may have been sneered at today as well.

Feminist Blasphemy

One of the central storylines in Liar Liar would not go over well with today’s Third Wave Feminists. Reede’s inability to lie sabotages his plans to win a court case as the prosecutor in a marital dispute. His client Samantha Cole is portrayed as a stereotypical, gold-digging wife of a millionaire who violates her prenuptial agreement by committing adultery (seven times). Cole seeks half of her husband’s estate as well as shared custody of their two children. She, with Reede’s help, is happy to lie about her infidelity and seems prepared to do anything to get away with a large payday, even larger than the generous settlement Mr. Cole initially offers her.

Cole’s character in and of itself is enough to ruffle the feathers of Feminists who seek to portray women as strong, moral, independent victims rather than conniving materialistic temptresses. She grows more sinister when, even after Reede manages to prove her prenuptial agreement void, she refuses to settle unless she gets full custody of her children for the sole purpose of receiving additional alimony payments. This is despite the fact that even she admits to Mr. Cole being “a good father” early on in the film.

In addition, Cole gropes Reede’s rear end after he convinces her to lie in court in order to increase her potential payday, treats her children abusively and as if they are her property, lies about her age and weight, and threatens, “I want my money. I’m not going to wind up a 31-year old divorcee on welfare,” when she and Reede begin to lose hope that they can win the case. To me, all of this strengthens the character named Samantha Cole and provides moral guidance as so many unfavorable qualities are present within one loathsome antagonist. However, I am not so sure that today’s Feminists would agree. Facing the reality that women to some extent of Samantha Cole’s caliber indeed exist might be too great a wrench in the gears of their agenda to stand for.

In one scene, Reede visits his son’s school with a birthday cake to try to convince his son to reverse the birthday wish from the night before. He explains to his son that it is sometimes necessary for adults to lie using the example of telling his ex-wife that she looked beautiful even when she was near the end of her pregnancy and looking like, in Reede’s words, a cow. His son responds by saying that his teacher tells his class that real beauty comes from the inside. Reede explains that this is just something that ugly people say. Since Reede is, due to his curse, being completely honest, would Feminists be able to handle this espousal of the truth?

Reede jokes about the appearances of several other characters in the film, including his overweight coworker. When alone in an elevator with an attractive and voluptuous new tenant in his building, Reede, via his curse, explains that everyone has been treating her so nicely because her “boobs are huge.” Body negativity? Reducing women to their physical features?

I hope from the bottom of my soul that I am wrong here, and that the average person doesn’t perceive these things. A wave of relief would hit me at full speed if I could be assured that we can all still take a joke. But with the greatest of American literature facing bans, harmless jokes resulting in job losses, and governments seeking to pass laws that limit speech and archaically prosecuting blasphemy, history does not appear to be on humor or free speech’s side.

Keep speaking and joking anyway.

Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar Revisited, Two Decades of Sensitivity Training Later

Fake News: A Beautiful Specimen Dissected

Someone told me there is an increase in hate crimes because of Trump. I said that’s not true, they are mostly hoaxes. The person said no, they aren’t. I did a Google search and found an article in The Independent titled “Hate Crimes Rise by more than Half in New York City Due to Surge in Anti-Semitism.” I opened the article. I read it. Here’s what happened:

The headline would have you think synagogues are being bombed and Hasidics are being assaulted in the streets. But if you actually read the article (which few people do), you’ll find a much different story.

First off, what kinds of “hate crimes” are we talking about here? Here are the first semi-specific examples:

“Crimes listed included swastikas appearing on subways and a bomb threat at the Manhattan Anti-Defamation League.”

People shouldn’t draw swastikas on subways, nor should they call in bomb threats. But did anyone get killed? Hurt? Did anyone break a nail? Are we sure these incidents were perpetrated by anti-Semites and not hoaxers?

Next, we get some statistics:

“A total of 56 hate crimes were reported in the city as of 12 February this year…”

56 hate crimes were “reported”? What does that have to do with hate crimes committed? The headline says “hate crimes” while the article discusses “hate crimes reported”. These are not the same. If I report that twenty hot chicks ask for my phone number every day, it does not mean it actually happens.

The article then relates what’s going on in New York to what’s going on across the nation:

“The surge in hate crimes follows a national trend, in which police say they are fielding increasing reports and concerns.”

Reports and concerns? Oh, my! People don’t go to jail over reports and concerns. They go to jail over violations of the law proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Waiting for President Trump’s name to be thrown into this? Here’s beloved mayor Bill de Blasio:

“‘You can’t have a candidate for president single out groups of Americans, negatively, and not have some ramifications for that,’ Mr de Blasio said, ‘it’s obviously connected to the election.’”

“You can’t,” he says… because he knows these things. He’s the mayor! Listen to how sure he is! It’s “obvious,” he says. Powerful stuff. Compelling and rich.

Here’s where it gets really fun:

“Police officials confirmed that hate crimes do rise and fall in relation to high profile, national and international events…”

Oh, so this normally happens? It’s not just when candidates “single out groups of Americans?” This might have been useful near the top of the article. Why, oh, why would it be buried in the thirteenth paragraph? I wonder…

For a cherry on top, here’s the second to last paragraph:

“Overall, crime figures continued to decline during the first month of 2017. NYPD Chief of Detective Robert Boyce said the hike in hate crimes had since ‘levelled off.'”

So, it’s all over? There is no more increase in (reported) hate crimes? The reaction to Trump’s election was like any other “high profile” event? There is nothing to see here?

That’s weird, especially considering the headline that uses the word “surged” to describe a jump from 31 to 56 incidents in a city of 8.5 million.

Fake News: A Beautiful Specimen Dissected

Elementary Persuasion: Why No Evidence is Needed to Keep the Trump-Russia Story Alive

The Trump-Russia connection can never be disproved despite a lack of evidence. Here’s why:

1. Governments, especially the federal government of the United States of America, use propaganda and other tactics to influence elections and other Democratic activity all over the world. A well-known and recent example of this is former president Barack Obama threatening to put the UK at the “back of queue” on trade deals if they voted to leave the EU. This is far from the only instance of nations attempting to influence election outcomes abroad.

2. During her 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton vowed to establish a no-fly zone over Syria and to form an international coalition to take out Syrian president Bashar al Assad. Russia had already aligned itself with Assad in the Syrian Civil War, and had been using its military to resolve the conflict (a feat they seem to have all but accomplished at this point). A no-fly zone would have essentially been the US telling Russia that if they do not follow the US’s orders on engagement in Syria, the US would take military action against them. And regardless of Russia’s activity, the US planned to take down their ally Assad.

3. Then-candidate Donald Trump had expressed interest in the US befriending Russia during his 2016 campaign, and also said he opposed regime change in Syria. He openly proclaimed that if Russia wanted to handle the situation in Syria, we should happily allow them to do so. Trump has spent 30 years criticizing American foreign policy, and has, for now, expressed opposition to US interventionism and instead focus on our own national security (“America First”). He believes other nations should be picking up more of the slack instead of depending on the US all the time.

4. The Democrats and other parties with an invested interest in President Donald Trump’s demise do not simply claim that they are outraged over Russia allegedly hacking the DNC or other establishments within the United States. Their real beef is that Russia allegedly hacked the DNC and released information to Wikileaks (such as the John Podesta emails) with the intent of helping Trump defeat Clinton in the election. The grievance is less about US national security, and more about Russia’s opposition to Hillary Clinton and favoring of Donald Trump.

CONCLUSION: The opposition to Trump will never have to present evidence that Russia actually hacked the DNC and leaked what they uncovered, but will still be able to persuade people that there is a sinister connection between the two. Since it is commonplace for nations to attempt to influence elections to their own advantage, and since Russia would be reasonably acting in its own self-interest by desiring Trump to defeat Clinton, Trump and his team cannot deny the fact that Russia favored Trump over Clinton. The opposition to Trump only has to hint at the obvious to prove that Russia favored Trump.

Nothing could be easier than proving that a nation favored your opponent when you openly vowed to kill their friend and threatened them with war. No evidence will ever be needed to keep this story alive.

Elementary Persuasion: Why No Evidence is Needed to Keep the Trump-Russia Story Alive