Saturday, August 28, 2010

the sentimentality argument against the Ground-Zero mosque

The people who are calling opponents of the Ground-Zero mosque "bigots" have a point.

No, seriously. And literally. I'm not joking here, or setting you up for some sort of ironic twist. I'm serious.


Look, I'm opposed to the Ground-Zero mosque. In fact, I'm one of those extreme reactionaries who thinks that despite the First Amendment, the government ought to prevent the mosque from being built, but I have a sound non-bigoted reason for thinking so (which I'll get to later) while most of the opposition that I've heard from fellow mosque-opponents, does sound like borderline bigotry to me.

Also, I'm not pulling a Charles Johnson here and looking for approval from leftists by calling my fellow conservatives bigots. I have no interest whatsoever in getting approval from leftists. What I do have an interest in is getting conservatives to make honest arguments about what is wrong with the Ground-Zero mosque rather than using the politically-motivated argument from sentimentality. The argument from sentimentality smacks of bigotry and it sets a poor precedent.

The argument from sentimentality goes like something like this: "Muslims blew up the World Trade Center and killed thousands of innocent Americans. The families of the victims, and indeed, many Americans are justifiably sensitive about these events, even now, ten years later. Therefore, Muslims should respect that sensitivity and build the Mosque elsewhere."

Look what is happening here: just because some Muslims killed Americans, we don't want other Muslims building a mosque there? They should respect the sensitivity of bigots who blame all Muslims for the actions of a few? That really is a weak argument, and essentially calls for sensitivity towards prejudice.

A better reason, the justified reason, to oppose the mosque is not sensitivity or a desire to keep Muslims away from an area where they killed thousand of people; the justified reason is strategic.

To start, let's make the politically risky move of observing openly that the United States is in a war against Muslims. Oh no he didn't! Did I actually say that after worrying about prejudice against Muslims? Yes, I did. I don't say that we are at war against all Muslims, but we are at war, and the people we are at war with are Muslims, and the fact that they are Muslims is an essential characteristic of the enemy because they justify the war on religious grounds. There are some Muslims that we are not at war with. A (distressingly small) number of Muslims are even on our side in the war, but that does not effect that fact that our enemy is Muslim and views other Muslims as their allies in the war. It doesn't matter if American Muslims are their allies, it matters that the enemy views them as allies.

My statement that we are at war with Muslims is not bigotry; it is simply a statement of fact. It does not mean that I hate all Muslims (I don't hate any Muslims, actually), or that I want to kill all Muslims (I only want to kill the ones who are a threat), or that I think all Muslims are too icky to build mosques near a site where their co-religionists murdered 3,000 innocent Americans.

My reason for opposing the Ground-Zero mosque is purely strategic. I oppose the mosque because enemy Muslims* will view the building of the mosque as a great victory. It will give them an impression that they are winning --and for good reason as it will give further evidence that America is too afraid or too decadent to defend itself. This in turn will encourage those who are already active enemies to work harder to kill Americans and/or prevent the active enemies from becoming discouraged and give up on their attempts to kill Americans. Further it will help active enemies to recruit more enemy Muslims* who are currently only passive enemies and turn them into active enemies who are actively trying to kill Americans.

Since this reason for opposing the Ground-Zero mosque is a matter of war, it overrides the otherwise very important issue of religious freedom in this very trivial special case. We are not preventing Muslims from following their conscience; we are not preventing them from worshiping; we are not taking away their other First-Amendment rights; all we are doing is stopping them from building a monument to their greatest victory on our soil while the war still rages.

One thing you can count on is that whenever the United States comes up with a strategy that is effective at eliminating enemy Muslims*, the American left will worry openly and endlessly that it will be a "recruiting tool for terrorists", but when the Muslims put together their own recruitment plans, the Left suddenly has no concern whatsoever about it. Funny, that. It's almost like they are on the other side.

* the adjective "enemy" is intended to specify a subset of Muslims, not to describe all Muslims

UPDATE: from the comments, it seems that I failed to make myself clear. The argument from sensitivity begins with the presumption that the mosque is being built in good faith, and that no one intends for the mosque to be a monument to the Muslim victory of 9/11. If that premise were correct, and if the enemy Muslims gained no benefit from the mosque, then the opposition to the mosque would be prejudiced because there would be no reason left to oppose it other than distaste for Muslims.

Foxfier and Marcel not accept that premise, so they are not making the sensitivity argument. In fact, I don't think any conservatives accept those premises. Instead they use the argument from sensitivity in an attempt to persuade those who do accept the premises. This is a losing strategy since the the same fools who accept those ridiculous premises are also the ones who are constantly looking for signs of bigotry among the right.

the endless struggle against spam

I was in an unusually curmudgeonly mood today (OK, may not so unusually). The Sony Reader bookstore is concerned that I haven't been spending enough money there, so they sent me spam even though I specifically set my account to not receive any promotional email. I went to the trouble of tracking down a way to email Sony (like many modern companies, they make this difficult because they don't want to actually have to deal with their customers) and sent the following email:
I recently received a spam email from Sony with the following false statement: "You are receiving this email because you have subscribed to receive promotional information from Reader Store."

No, I did not subscribe to receive spam from Reader Store. Some asshole in marketing decided that they _really_ needed to send out emails to people who haven't been buying books, so they decided to just pretend that they had permission to do so.

You may consider this as my notice that I do not do business with spammers, so even thought I've been planning to buy some more of John C. Wright's books from the Reader Store, I'm going to buy a book reader from a competitor instead.
The note about buying a new book is true. I've been planning to read "The Golden Age" books, but now I'm not going to be reading them on my Sony.

Anyone want a used ebook reader?

Monday, August 23, 2010

black, white, and checkers

Foxfier suggests an interesting analogy of moral confusion for optical confusion.

I'm not sure how well the analogy holds up, but it is certainly thought-provoking.

UPDATE: oops. Fixed the link.