Arabs, tribes, Iraq and Islam

Arabs, tribes, Iraq and Islam

Posted by tmatt

Shia1Day after day the drumbeat of sectarian violence continues.

Iraq is dividing along sectarian lines. True or false? The alleged nation of Iraq faces a civil war that, in the end, will take place along lines that are religious, even if that fact makes journalists — and American political leaders — uncomfortable. Who knows the doctrinal and cultural differences between Shiites and Sunnis? Does this information matter?

The recent Newsweek cover story “Iraq’s Young Blood” about the next generation of fighters in Iraq was a perfect example of poignant, brilliant journalism that still avoided the crucial questions about the role of religion in the region’s past, present and future. What are young Sunnis taught about the beliefs of the Shiites? What are young Shiites taught about the Islamic beliefs of the Sunnis?

However, that same issue also included a short Christopher Dickey essay — “There’s No Stopping Iraq’s Bloody Cycle: Iraq’s vendettas could haunt the West for years” — that made some crucial points. Here is the opening:

Blood feuds flourish where family ties are strong and the rule of law is weak. Add the righteousness of competing faiths along with fierce memories of ancient wrongs and you have the makings of savage, seemingly endless conflicts from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, the lake regions of Africa to the arid Holy Land. And Iraq — well, Iraq is in a class by itself: a breeder reactor where explosive hatreds were both incited and contained by Saddam Hussein’s brutality, only to become an uncontrolled chain reaction after the U.S.-led invasion liberated both the country and its vendettas. Arab culture cannot be solely blamed for the furies that have been unleashed in Iraq since 2003. But it guarantees they will not be soon, or easily, tamed.

The tradition of “an eye for an eye” is so ancient and dangerously ingrained among the desert Arabs that 1,400 years ago the Qur’an called on good Muslims to forgo vengeance in order to expiate their sins. But the old codes of honor remained, and in the most troubled parts of Iraq today, increasingly, they prevail. When governments cannot or will not protect the people, then families, clans, tribes, gangs and militias will. (Indeed, among the Shiites of Karbala, gang rule has a history as old and complex as the mafia in Sicily.)

The key in this essay is the way Dickey uses the phrase “Arab culture” in place of references to Islam. In other words, the fighting is tribal, not essentially religious.

That is an interesting statement. Is it true? Is the Sunni vs. Shiite conflict so old that the Arab tribes are now divided along lines of blood as well as doctrine? While we are at it, are the Shiites of Iraq divided from the Shiites of Iran by tribe as well as language and nationalism? What happens to the “Arab” factor if the conflict broadens across the region and, thus, involves Kurds, Turks, Egyptians and others? Would a conflict between Iran and Saudia Arabia be, essentially, tribal? National?

Where do tribal customs end and religious beliefs begin? And the ultimate question: Is the rule of law possible under these conditions?

The end of Dickey’s essay is especially sobering. The Bush White House seemed to think that secular government was the answer. Did the people of Iraq agree? The bottom line: Do Muslims want to join the Western world?

In the 1960s, soldiers and dictators of the Arab world had imagined they were integrating their societies into the West, leaving behind the rule of clans, the dogmas of faith. Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party grew out of that trend. But the 12-year embargo of Iraq after his disastrous 1990 invasion of Kuwait eroded the facade of modernity. People reverted to dependence on tribes and mafias for their economic survival.

Enough vendettas have since been launched in Iraq to keep its communities at each other’s throats for years. And America’s role in spawning them guarantees that memories of the conflict will long outlast our presence on the ground. Iraq’s Arab neighbors already fear that many among their vast populations of young people — humiliated by the stagnation of monarchy, dictatorship, occupation and defeat — will seek dignity through violence just as young Iraqis are doing. They will call it jihad, of course, even if the spirit that moves them is more akin to Crips and Bloods than to the Qur’an.

Once again, we face a basic question: How can journalists (and our politicians) discuss Islam without exploring the beliefs, customs and tribes that are at the hearts of the divisions within Islam?

U.S. Warns Iran to Back Down

U.S. Warns Iran to Back Down


Jan 23, 7:37 PM (ET)

By JIM KRANE

(AP) R. Nicholas Burns, US Under Secretary, Political Affairs talks to journalists at the Gulf Research…
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now steaming toward the Middle East is Washington’s way of warning Iran to back down in its attempts to dominate the region, a top U.S. diplomat said here Tuesday.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, ruled out direct negotiations with Iran and said a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran was “not possible” until Iran halts uranium enrichment.

“The Middle East isn’t a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn’t a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That’s why we’ve seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region,” Burns said in an address to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, an influential think-tank.

“Iran is going to have to understand that the United States will protect its interests if Iran seeks to confront us,” Burns continued.

Iran is in a standoff with the West over its defiance of U.N. demands to halt uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Iran says its atomic program is aimed solely at generating energy, but the United States and some of its allies suspect it is geared toward making weapons. The U.N. imposed limited sanctions on Iran last month.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States Tuesday of stirring up conflict between rival Muslim sects to maintain U.S. influence in the Middle East.

“The U.S. intends to cause insecurity and dispute and weaken independent governments in the region to continue with its dominance over the Middle East and achieve its arrogant goals,” Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

“The U.S. and Zionist regime have a conspiracy to stir up conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in order to plunder the wealth of the regional nations,” the president said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA.

Ahmadinejad said last week that Iran is “ready for anything” in its confrontation with the United States.

Iran conducted missile tests on Monday, the first of five days of military maneuvers southeast of Tehran. The Islamic republic also barred 38 inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency, prompting fears that it was seeking to restrict access to its facilities.

“This is obviously not a sign of goodwill, nor a sign of willingness to cooperate with the international community,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told reporters Tuesday.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, said Tuesday that the decision had been misintepreted and that there had been no change in Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA.

“The issue is not the way the media has reflected it,” Larijani was reported as saying by IRNA.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the U.S. buildup in the Gulf was intended to impress on Iran that the four-year war in Iraq has not made America vulnerable.

The American aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and several accompanying ships are heading toward the Gulf to join an aircraft carrier group already in the region, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Stennis is expected to arrive in late February.

The Stennis’s arrival in the Middle East will mark the first time since the U.S.-led Iraq invasion in 2003 that the United States has had two carrier battle groups in the region.

The U.S. Navy said Tuesday that the minesweeper USS Gladiator arrived in the Persian Gulf, one of six such ships – four American, two British – now plying the Gulf for anti-ship mines. U.S. officials have long said Iran was likely to block busy Gulf shipping lanes in a conflict.

Some among the audience of Dubai-based diplomats and analysts complained that American wars in the Middle East were already threatening the region’s stability and asked Burns to sort out Iraq and the Israel-Palestinian conflict before turning attention to Iran.

“What we are not interested in is another war in the region,” Mohammed al-Naqbi, who heads the Gulf Negotiations Center, told Burns. “Iraq is your problem, not the problem of the Arabs. You destroyed a country that had institutions. You handed that country to Iran. Now you are crying to Europe and the Arabs to help you out of this mess.”

France and the Iranian Revolution

France and the Iranian Revolution

Now that the Islamic Republic of Iran is in the news with its suspected nuclear weapons program, it could be good to pause and reflect for a moment on who contributed to the Islamic Republic being established in the late 1970s, probably the one event next to the influx of oil money to Saudi Arabia – and possibly the establishment of the Eurabian networks which all happened in the 70s – that was chiefly responsible for the global resurgence of Jihad. The inaction and general incompetence displayed by former US President Jimmy Carter, today an apologist for the Islamic Jihad against Israel, certainly contributed, but we mustn’t forget former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

The irony is that while the Ayatollah Khomeini could establish an Islamic state directed from the suburbs of Paris, the French 30 years later have hundreds of Islamic mini-states on French soil. Khomeini and his cronies used this window of opportunity at a critical stage of the uprising against the Shah to consolidate their power and establish their lead over the direction of which the Revolution was heading.

As Ambassador Freddy Eytan says:

President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing had invited the Shah of Iran as his first official foreign guest, in view of France’s interest in Iranian oil. In 1978, Giscard and his Interior Minister Michel Poniatowski foresaw the collapse of the Shah’s government, which would damage France’s commercial interests.The proposal was then raised to bring the Ayatollah Khomeini to Algeria. Before, he had been chased from one place to the other. The DST, the French secret service, opposed his entry but Giscard overruled them and granted Khomeini political asylum in France. He stayed in Neauphle le Chateau near Paris. From there, he distributed cassettes to Iran inciting against democracy, peace in the Middle East, the Jews and Israelis. He also called for jihad, a violent holy war. The PLO distributed Khomeini’s cassettes to Iran. When the American embassy in Teheran was attacked in November 1979, PLO members were among the perpetrators. Yasser Arafat was the first official guest in Teheran. He received a popular welcome as a great hero for supporting the Islamic revolution.

Today, we know that Khomeini’s concepts of the Islamic Republic have led to a major expansion of militant Islam. Both Hizbollah and Al Qaeda have their origins in the revolutionary ideas developed in Khomeini’s Iran. The violent speeches in the Iranian mosques and international Islamist terror would not have developed without Khomeini’s stay in France and the publicity he received there. Without Giscard’s hospitality, Khomeini would not have been able to take power in Iran and develop an infrastructure for international propaganda and terrorism.

David Frum writes in his recent review of David Pryce-Jones’s book Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews:

Pryce-Jones demonstrates that French foreign policy has repeatedly arrived at nearly equally perverse results in the Middle East. When Saddam Hussein banished Ayatollah Khomeini from Iraq in 1978, France welcomed the turbaned zealot. In France, the ayatollah discovered limitless freedom to agitate: As he himself later said, “We could publicize our views extensively, much more than we expected.” Pryce-Jones quotes a study by Amir Taheri that the ayatollah gave 132 radio, television, and print interviews over the four months of his stay in France. He received almost 100,000 visitors, who donated over 20 million British pounds to his cause. In February 1979, the ayatollah returned to Iran in a chartered Air France jet; an Air France pilot held his elbow as he descended the steps to the tarmac.

Nit Boms wrote:

In 1978, as protests against Shah Pahlavi swept across Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini was living in a cozy house in the Parisian suburb of Neauphle-le-Chateau, engineering an Islamic revolution that would soon shake the world. Under the watchful eye of the French government, Khomeini met regularly with journalists and actively campaigned for the shah’s overthrow. In fact, when Pahlavi finally fled his country in 1979, Khomeini was provided with a chartered Air France flight to Tehran, where he presided over one of the world’s most repressive regimes until his death in 1989.

Former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is still around. He has not been called to account. Today he is the chief architect behind the awful EU Constitution.

The coming amnesty disaster

As you may know, Anti-CAIR uses material from leading personalities to illustrate the threat of radical Islam. To this end, we’ve used the material of Dr. Daniel Pipes on many occasions.

Dear Reader,

As you may know, Anti-CAIR uses material from leading personalities to illustrate the threat of radical Islam.  To this end, we’ve used the material of Dr. Daniel Pipes on many occasions. 

Dr. Pipes recently participated in a debate in London, Great Britain, at the invitation of London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone. 

I invite you to read the following commentary about how Dr. Pipes & Co. did in the debate:

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/724
http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/973
http://adloyada.typepad.com/adloyada/2007/01/daniel_pipes_su.html#more
http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=debate12007.htm
http://pryce-jones.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NzU3MWUxYWI1Y2RkZGQ3YzcxYzA2ZmJjMjYzODI0MmQ=
http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2007/01/22/a_very_civilised_clash.php
http://uppompeii.blogspot.com/2007/01/clash-of-civilizations-full-post_21.html
http://sharonchadha.blogspot.com/2007/01/clash-of-civilizations.html

Then, ask yourself why you can’t read this in any of the mainstream press either in the U.K. or North America, despite the attendance of around 150 members of the media (by Dr. Pipe’s count).

Although this conference did not mention the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), it well illustrates the battle we face in North America to maintain our freedoms in the face of the radical Islamist threat posed by Islamic terrorist groups and those groups that support them.

London has already fallen to Islamist rule, the only thing yet to be settled is when does the Union Jack come down and the green flag of Islam go up? 

We North Americans (I trust our Canadian brothers and sisters are still largely with us) need to more fully grasp the implications of this debate and read, very carefully, what the twin evils of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” have wrought to our British cousins.

The plague of radical Islam did not take Great Britain by force; it was not only allowed in, it was encouraged by indifference, false perceptions, and the unwillingness of England’s leaders to lead.

Two diametrically opposed cultural systems cannot peacefully co-exist in the same country, at the same time.  It has never worked before in human history and there is no reason to believe it ever will.

Let us remain ever vigilant that it does not happen here.

Respectfully,

Andrew Whitehead
Director, Anti-Council on American-Islamic Relations (ACAIR)
www.anti-cair-net.org
California, USA

Islamic Prejudice, Islamic Denial

Islamic Prejudice, Islamic Denial
By Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 23, 2007

For last week’s “Dispatches” program on Britain’s Channel Four, a reporter with a hidden camera entered Birmingham’s Green Lane mosque (which has won praise from Britain’s Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed) and other leading mosques in Britain. He found they preached Islamic supremacism, hatred of Jews and Christians, and the subjugation of women. The mosques, of course, are in heavy damage-control mode. A press release at the Green Lane mosque website complains that “it is extremely disappointing but not at all surprising that ‘Dispatches’ has chosen to portray Muslims in the worst possible light. ‘Dispatches’ has opted for sensationalism over substance with total disregard for peaceful community relations.” And not only that: “This so-called ‘undercover’ investigation merely panders to age-old anti-Muslim prejudices by employing the time-honoured tradition of cherry picking statements and presenting them in the most inflammatory manner.” The statement doesn’t address the obvious fact that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to cherry-pick statements anywhere near as hateful and inflammatory as those recorded in the Green Lane mosque from proceedings in any Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist house of worship. Among the statements recorded in the Green Lane mosque were these about women: 

  • “Allah has created the woman – even if she gets a Ph.D. – deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient. She may be suffering from hormones that will make her emotional. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the one witness of the man.”
  • “By the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her.”
  • “Men are in charge of women. Wherever he goes she should follow him, and she shouldn’t be allowed leave the house without his permission.”

How inflammatory! How extremist! And how inveterately Qur’anic!  The Muslim holy book declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man: “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” (Qur’an 2:282). It also says that men are in charge of women, and that disobedient women should be beaten: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (4:34). The same is true of other statements made in the mosque, including these about Britain and the Islamic state: 

  • “You have to live like a state within a state until you take over.”
  • “We want the laws of Islam to be practiced, we want to do away with the man-made laws.”
  • “Muslims shouldn’t be satisfied with living in other than the total Islamic state.”
  • “I encourage all of you to be from amongst them, to begin to cultivate ourselves for the time that is fast approaching where the tables are going to turn and the Muslims are going to be in the position of being uppermost in strength, and when that happens, people won’t get killed – unjustly.”
  • “Allah has decreed this thing, that I am going to be dominant. The dominance of course is a political dominance.”

Such statements have been vividly expressed in the writings of twentieth century jihad theorists such as the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb and the Pakistani Syed Abul Ala Maududi. Said Qutb:

 

It is not the function of Islam to compromise with the concepts of Jahiliyya [the society of unbelievers] which are current in the world or to co-exist in the same land together with a jahili system….Islam cannot accept any mixing with Jahiliyyah. Either Islam will remain, or Jahiliyyah; no half-half situation is possible. Command belongs to Allah, or otherwise to Jahiliyyah; Allah’s Shari’a [law] will prevail, or else people’s desires…The foremost duty of Islam is to depose Jahiliyyah from the leadership of man….

 

Maududi likewise wrote that non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth, nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If they do, “the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”

 But Qutb and Maududi did not originate these ideas. They are an extrapolation of Qur’anic passages such as 9:29, which assumes that Muslims will wield state power over Jews and Christians, exacting from them a poll tax (jizya) and making sure that they pay it “with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” There is no concept in the Qur’an, Islamic tradition, or Islamic law of non-Muslims living as equals with Muslims in an Islamic state: Muslims must be in a superior position. The Muslim prophet Muhammad emphasized this when he told his followers:
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294) Of course, there are many ways to understand all these passages and others like them. But the fact that the views expressed by the Muslims in the Channel Four documentary can be found in the Islamic scriptures without much effort suggests that the problem is far larger than a few mosques that were thought to be “moderate” but turn out to be “extremist.” It is a problem that is deeply rooted within traditional Islam, and must be treated as such. Muslims in Britain who sincerely reject the idea that Islam must be dominant and that Islamic law must be instituted in Britain, and that women and non-Muslims must be subjugated, and who accept the idea that non-Muslims and Muslims should live together as equals on an indefinite basis, should not condemn the “Dispatches” documentary. Instead, they should welcome it as a opportunity not only to expel “extremists” from their ranks, and to formulate a comprehensive rejection and refutation of their literalist understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah. But so far they are not doing that. Instead, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee of the United Kingdom, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and the UK Islamic Mission have all denounced the program as “Islamophobic.” None have taken even a single step to combat the spread of the understanding of Islam depicted in the show, or to mitigate the elements of Islam that incite to violence and inculcate Islamic supremacism.And that itself is very, very telling.

Arabs practise slavery

Arabs practise slavery

Christian Solidarity International (CSI)

(AWEIL, Southern Sudan) Last week, 102 Black African slaves were liberated from Baggara Arab masters and returned to their homeland in Southern Sudan in an action supported by Christian Solidarity International (CSI).

Most of the liberated slaves – mainly boys and young men – had been captured by Sudanese government-sponsored Arab militias during two decades of civil war, pitting the Arab-Muslim dominated Government of Sudan against the predominantly Black African Sudan People’s Liberation Front (SPLA).

Interviews reveal a strong pattern of physical and psychological abuse. The overwhelming majority of the liberated slaves had been subjected to beatings, racial and religious insults, forced labor and denial of the freedom to practice any religion other than Islam. Most of the girls and women had been subjected to sexual abuse. Among the slaves were:

    16-year-old Agor Deng: Agor was repeatedly raped by her master, Adam Abakir and his associates. Adam Abakir and his wife excised her finger nails with a knife after she failed to obey an order to grind grain. They also forced her, using death threats, to pray like a Muslim.30-year-old Garang Akot Wiir: Garang’s right arm and leg were partially paralyzed after having been beaten and tied up tightly for 24 hours as punishment for attempting to escape. He was renamed Abdelrazik Ezzadin by his master.

    45-year-old Achol Loc Wiel: Achol was shot in her leg during a slave raid. She also lost her husband and three children during the slave raid and forced march to Northern Sudan. Achol was gang raped by her master’s friends. She was also forced to abandon the practice of her Christian faith and pray like a Muslim.

The liberation and documentation of the 102 slaves was the result of cooperation between Arab-Dinka Peace Committees, the civil authorities in Aweil State, local churches and CSI.

The Sudanese Episcopalian priest, Rev. Tito Athian – a longstanding local CSI partner – expressed joy at the liberation and repatriation of the slaves, stating: “Thank you for helping bring back our people from slavery. Now they are free to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and choose their own religion.”

After witnessing several CSI slave liberation actions, including last week’s, anti-trafficking consultant and author of The Jubilee Prophecy, Aaron Cohen, said: “I have seen first hand, in 23 countries, the positive changes good programs can have in the lives of enslaved people. CSI has created in Sudan a sustainable and effective program which has liberated thousands of slaves, inspired anti-trafficking legislation, and brought hope to people in bondage. CSI’s pioneering work in Sudan is an excellent example to all abolitionists.”

——-
CSI has been in the forefront of the campaign to eradicate slavery in Sudan since 1995, and is commemorating this year the 30th anniversary of its foundation and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade.

Opinion Masquerading as Reason

Opinion Masquerading as Reason

Nobody is an expert in all areas of knowledge.  Yet, from foreign policy to economics, we give undue weight to opinion polls.

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This problem was addressed in Can Voters Make the Decision to Pull Out of Iraq?.

No matter what politicians and the media make of them, opinion polls, for example, evidencing very low approvals for President Bush and his Iraq policies are not of themselves a rational basis for pulling out of Iraq.  One highly important reason is that the public hears mostly one side of the argument.  Politicians, media, and pressure groups urging a troop pull-out have never addressed the follow-on costs to national security, our economy, and our future diplomatic relations with the rest of the world.

As the issue has been presented, it is the equivalent of asking the public if they would like to live a life of ease at the beach, without informing them of the cost to do so.

Thomas Sowell’s recent column gives an example of the irrationality, in an economic issue, of equating opinion with reason.

In addition to the fact that most opinion poll respondents don’t have an understanding of the subject of the poll, several factors inherent in polling account for the disconnect between public opinion and reality.

First, before the pollsters ask their questions, the media will already have created a prevailing opinion by publishing one-sided, slanted information to support their views.  For example, many historians believe that there would have been no Spanish-American War in 1898 without the Hearst newspapers’ hammering the public with calls for vengeance for the presumed sabotage that blew up the USS Maine in Havana harbor.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, understood this very well.  He is reported to have said, If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

According to the Wikipedia, The phrase Big Lie refers to a propaganda technique which entered mass consciousness with Adolf Hitler’s 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf. In that book Hitler wrote that people came to believe that Germany lost World War I in the field due to a propaganda technique used by Jews who were influential in the German press. This technique, he believed, consisted of telling a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe anyone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”. The first documented use of the phrase “big lie” is in the corresponding passage: “in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility.

Second, when statisticians massage the raw data of opinion polls we tend to accept the results as true, because presumably they have been derived “scientifically.”

In the emotions of the moment we forget, however, that too often those poll results are the product of a circular process that, by design or chance, merely supports the opinions of those who commission the polls. 

Start with the poll questions.  What is asked, what is not asked, and the way questions are worded hugely influence the poll results.

The pollsters might ask, “Would you like to have free medical insurance?” or they could more honestly ask, “Would you like to have Federal medical insurance with no premiums, but with the possibility that its costs will bankrupt the Medicare-Medicaid systems?”

In many polls, respondents are not given enough questions to bring out degrees of opinion about different aspects of an issue.  Too often the polls tend toward a single viewpoint, with a question such as “Would you use Brand X?” without follow-up questions to elicit responses about why the respondent might not use Brand X, or what other brand he might prefer, and why.  The nature of polls requires either yes or no answers or choices from a limited number of options.

Third, poll results are influenced by the number of people polled, the polling techniques, the geographic locations of those polled, and the timing of the poll. 

In a nation of more than 300 million people, most polls are based on a sampling of a few hundred people; few polls sample more than a couple of thousand people.  Statistical techniques can assess the probable degree of accuracy, but the familiar caveat, “plus or minus X percent,” compounds the inaccuracies introduced by the types and biases of the poll questions.

A particularly egregious example of statistical nonsense was last year’s front page news everywhere that American military operations in Iraq had resulted in 654,965 Iraqi deaths.  The Tim Blair website explained:

The actual number of Iraqi deaths recorded in Lancet’s latest study is just 547. Extrapolating from that figure, the study’s authors estimate:
… that as of July, 2006, there have been 654,965 excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war.
Let’s put Lancet’s number in perspective:

* It is larger than the total number of Americans killed during combat in every major conflict, from the Revolutionary War to the first Gulf War.

* It is more than double the combined number of civilians killed in the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

* It is a larger number than were killed in Germany during five years (and 955,044 tons) of WWII bombing.

Timing is a critical factor.  A poll immediately after 9/11 is more likely to elicit a bellicose public response than one a year later. 

Location is another.  People in large cities and in the Blue States have different views from those elsewhere.

Fourth, when opinion polls inform the public that the majority of respondents express opinion X, people who know nothing about the issue, and may never have thought about it, tend to adopt the announced poll result as their opinion.  The effect is the blind leading the blind.

Finally, to influence public opinion, news media sometimes present editorial biases as “news” and deliberately distort statistics, as we saw in New York Times at it Again.

In that case, the Times headlined a feature article 51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse. The Times reached that dishonest conclusion by including in the database of women more than 10 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19, 97% of whom not surprisingly identified themselves in Census data as “never married.”

Another example: 

Powerline’s March 29, 2006, posting tells us, Here is how the Washington Times reported the judges’ testimony, in a story headlined “FISA Judges Say Bush Within Law”: A panel of former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges yesterday told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that President Bush did not act illegally when he created by executive order a wiretapping program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA)….

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times appears to have attended a different hearing. The Times’ story is headlined Judges on Secretive Panel Speak Out on Spy Program. Lichtblau reports:

Five former judges on the nation’s most secretive court, including one who resigned in apparent protest over President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping, urged Congress on Tuesday to give the court a formal role in overseeing the surveillance program.

Mr. Lichtblau’s story is an editorial masquerading as “news” to conform public opinion to the strident denunciations of the NSA surveillance programs by the Times’s editorial staff.

One more example:

Michell Malkin, in a December 28, 2005, column, wrote, On July 6, Army reserve officer Phillip Carter authored a freelance op-ed for the Times calling on President Bush to promote military recruitment efforts. The next day, the paper was forced to admit that one of its editors had inserted misleading language into the piece against Carter’s wishes. The “correction”: “The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, ‘Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday,’ nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a ‘surprise tour of Iraq.’ That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.”

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The Barker and the Shill: The Fraud of the Fairness Doctrine

The Barker and the Shill: The Fraud of the Fairness Doctrine

By Selwyn Duke

If you’re old enough to remember the days when freak shows were in carnivals and not daytime television, you may know about the barker and the shill.  These were carnival employees who both worked to entice customers into entering the mysterious realm of the sideshow, only, their methods were very different.  The barker – the correct terminology is the “talker” – was a P.T. Barnum-like character, a bold salesman who sang the praises of the exhibits.  Although he was given to the hyperbole of marketing, he made no bones about his agenda: He wanted your business.

The shill was a very different animal.  His job was to stand amidst the crowd and pose as one of their number; he would then feign awe as he claimed to have seen the show and that it was truly a jaw-dropping experience.  He was trading on his illusion of impartiality, knowing it lent him a capacity to convince that eluded the talker with his obvious agenda.
This occurs to me when I ponder the attempt to resurrect the “Fairness Doctrine” by politicians such as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and avowedly socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.  For those of you not acquainted with this proposal, it harks back to a federal regulation in place from 1949 to 1987.  Ostensibly it was designed to ensure “fairness” in broadcasting, mandating that if radio and TV stations air controversial viewpoints, they must provide equal time for the “other” side.
Now, as many have pointed out, this effort is motivated by a desire to stifle conservative commentary.  After all, it isn’t lost on the radical left that the dumping of this doctrine in 1987 directly coincided with the rise of conservative talk radio.  Freed from the threat of hefty government fines, stations were finally able to formulate programs based on market forces and not government regulation.  Thus did Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and many others give voice to the usually silent majority.
Of course, many may wonder why I’d take issue with fairness.  Shouldn’t we give the “other side” its day in court, one may ask? 
The problem is that this regulation would be applied to talk radio but not arenas dominated by liberal thought, a perfect example of which is the ever-present mainstream media (which presents the “other side”).  This is because talk show hosts trade in red meat commentary, whereas the mainstream press is more subtle in its opinion-making. 
Fine then, say the critics, that’s as it should be.  We don’t have to worry about “responsible journalists”; it’s those acid-tongued firebrands who pollute discourse with their pyro-polemics who bedevil us.  And on the surface this sounds convincing, which is why I tell you of the talker and the shill.
The dirty little secret behind the Fairness Doctrine is that it punishes the honest.  Think about it: Radio hosts are the talkers; they wear their banners openly as they proclaim who and what they are.  Sure, they may be brash and hyperbolic, loud and oft-sardonic, but there is no pretense, little guile, and you know what they want you to believe.  You know what they’re sellin’ and if you’re buyin’.
The mainstream media, however, is a shill.  Oh, not shills working with talk radio, of course, as their talkers are entities such as MoveOn.org and Media Matters, but they are shills nonetheless.  They masquerade as impartial purveyors of information, almost-automatons who, like Joe Friday, are just interested in the facts, ma’am.  They flutter their eyes and read their Teleprompters, and we are to believe God graced them with a singular ability to render facts uncolored by personal perspective.
In reality, though, the Shill Media are about as impartial as an Imam in a comparative religion class.  Let’s not forget that they used to call Republican reductions in the rate of spending growth “budget cuts,” have a habit of referring to pro-lifers as “anti-abortion groups” (they don’t call pro-choice groups “pro-abortion”) and to terrorists as insurgents or even “freedom fighters,” and only seem to perceive hate crime when the victim’s group has victim status.  And while I can’t comprehensively document news bias here, suffice it to say the Shill Media are at least as ideologically monolithic as talk radio.  Why, in 1992, 89 percent of Washington journalists voted for Bill Clinton; in 1996 the figure was 92 percent.  Even outside the Beltway liberal bias reigns, with scribes so situated favoring Democrats by about a three to one margin.
But the point here isn’t the nature or pervasiveness of the bias, but its insidiousness.  The Shill Media are infinitely more dangerous because of their illusion of impartiality.  There’s a reason why we trust what Consumer Reports says about Buick a lot more than what Buick says about Buick.  And if we discovered that Buick’s marketing arm was masquerading as a consumer advocacy magazine, we’d want the subterfuge revealed.  Remember, brainwashing is only effective if you’re not aware it’s occurring.
This is why the Fairness Doctrine is an insult to the intelligence of anyone possessing more than a modicum of that quality.  Its message is, hey, hide your bias well, be a slick propagandist and you’ll proceed unmolested.  But dare not tell the truth or be so bold as to bare your soul.  Like an ostentatious literary critic, we appreciate subtlety and abhor straightness.  Lying lips trump truthful tongues, don’t you know? 
Thus, far better than a fairness doctrine would be a “Truth in Media Doctrine.”  And here’s its mandate: When a correspondent is shown on the nightly news, there must be a caption to the effect of, “Dan Rather, Clinton-Gore-Kerry voter” or “Katie Couric, lifelong Democrat.” 
Hey, why not?  Let’s strip the masks off the shills.  Otherwise, it’s a bit like letting Mullah Omar sing the praises of Islam while dressed as a Catholic priest.  And shouldn’t these “responsible journalists” be at least as honest as those troglodytes in talk radio?
I wax satirical but, in reality, ensuring truthfulness is far easier than securing fairness.  In fact, how could the latter possibly be achieved?  After all, media bias lies not just in how news is reported but also in what they choose to report on in the first place.  Why do they decide to focus on sex-discrimination in the construction industry instead of transgressions by abortionists?  Why Abu Ghraib instead of the oil-for-food scandal?  Why that which helps or harms one cause but not another?
The fact is that the media choose the social battlefields and decide which way salvos will be fired.  Human judgement is in play when they decide whether to broadcast or bury, how often a story will run, what terminology will describe it and what imagery will attend it.
Then, the idea that fairness is ensured by disseminating the “other side” presupposes that there are only two sides, but an issue isn’t a coin.  There are often a multitude of sides, therefore, a dictate to present both sides simply means government input in the process of discrimination.  After all, two sides will be chosen from among many.  What about the libertarians, Greens, Vermont Progressives, Constitutionalists, Christian Freedom Party members and communists?  Oh, silly me, I forgot.  The communists are giving us the Fairness Doctrine.
Of course, some will say the other side is simply a refutation of the talkers’ controversial positions.  But here I note that much of talk radio commentary is in fact a refutation of Shill Media positions.  Thus, insofar as this goes, talk radio doesn’t need to be balanced by the other side.
It is the other side.
So, affirmative-action and quotas in commentary?  Please.  Should I think Big Brother capable of factoring millions of different elements into a media formula and developing a paradigm for fairness?  Sure, let’s have the Post Office run the press.
Of course, the dirty little secret is that the Fairness Doctrine is about everything but.  Its proponents are political shills, bristling at the fact that their talk radio test balloon, Airhead America, only succeeded in talking its way into Chapter 11.  Their spirit is the same one that gives us speech codes in colleges and corporations, the effort to stifle grassroots lobbying and hate speech laws.  Perhaps it’s that those who can teach, do, and those who can’t, legislate.    
You know, there’s an image conjured up by this scheme, that of a sullen, pouty little child complaining, “That’s not fair!” and stamping his foot with arms akimbo.  But as John F. Kennedy observed, “Life’s not fair.” 

                                                                                                                                   

No, it certainly isn’t.  Some people are born with intelligence, others aren’t.  Some people possess logic, reason, sound ideas, philosophical depth and powers of persuasion, others don’t. 
I guess the less gifted’s recourse to this ploy is a tacit admission that they bring no ammunition to the battlefield of debate.  And now it seems they fancy big government a substitute for big ideas.                                       
Selwyn Duke is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Contact Selwyn Duke