Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed Chip Berlet on Fresh Air on National Public Radio, on an episode entitled "Extremism, Conspiracy Theory and Murder".
Quoting the Fresh Air site: "Chip Berlet has studied extremism, conspiracy theories and hate groups for more than 25 years." Berlet focused on the recent murders of a guard at the Holocaust Museum, and of Dr. George Tiller (who provided abortions).
It was an interesting and reasonable interview. Berlet understands that the First Amendment protects free speech, even speech that is considered distasteful, or out of the mainstream. He understands that there is "extremist" speech on both the right and the left ends of the political spectrum. But around 13:45 minutes into the interview, he said:
And then you have, you have to admit, the right-wing pundits who are on the airwaves, day after day, night after night, picking out scapegoats, and saying "America is being destroyed by the liberal Democrats, or America is being destroyed by Muslims, is being destroyed by Arabs, is being destroyed by "illegal" quote-unquote Mexican immigrants. You know, gay marriage will be the end of America as we know it. Abortion is murder, then act like it.
And moments later, at 15:17, Berlet said:
"Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" said King Henry, of [Thomas] Becket, and a few days later his friends killed him. In church, just like Dr. Tiller. This is historically well-known, that if you have a society in which certain high-profile people are constantly pointing out a scapegoat, that the potential for someone attacking that scapegoat is increased greatly. This is basic social science. Now, there is no direct causal link, but there is created a milieu in which individuals who are predisposed already to not like the individual who is being scapegoated or the group being scapegoated, and it moves them to action through a process that's called apocalyptic aggression. "Apocalyptic" just means there is a struggle between good and evil, time is running out, it's going to happen soon, it'll change history, hidden truths will be revealed, act now, get them before they get us. That's apocalyptic aggression.
I don't believe that "Muslims are destroying America." I take note of actual incidents that make it clear that Islamic values are not the values by which I live my life, and are not the values with which I am familiar as an American. But they are not just unfamiliar, they are offensive. Saying that women must be covered on pain of being beaten is offensive to me. Saying that gays should be murdered is offensive to me. Saying that people who change their religion should be murdered is offensive to me. And so on. I do not want, for any reason, including "cultural sensitivity," our Western society to begin to accept those values. That is not racism, that is a basic moral choice. I choose freedom over slavery to Allah, I choose skeptical inquiry over dogmatic indoctrination, I choose tolerance over narrow-minded bigotry, and I do so with no hesitation or apology.
I don't believe, nor have I heard any of the editors of New English Review or other anti-jihad websites say, that the Illuminati control the direction of Western societal development. Likewise for the Freemasons. Or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don't believe that the World Trade Center was brought down by the U.S. government, either on its own or under the control of "the Jews". I don't believe that there are Black Helicopters that are ready to take over the U.S., I don't believe that the backs of road signs are marked with instructions for United Nations troops to drive tanks to take over the U.S. I don't believe that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim, or that he is controlled by a secret cabal. I don't believe that the U.S. government has stored a U.F.O. at Roswell, New Mexico, or that aliens from another planet are stored there on ice. I don't believe that reptile aliens live among us, incognito, waiting for the chance to take over our planet. I don't believe that J. Edgar Hoover, or Lyndon Johnson, or Fidel Castro, or the Mafia, killed John F. Kennedy.
Conspiracy theorists cannot point to factual evidence to prove that the Illuminati (or Freemasons, or "the Jews", or lizard people) control the world. (Of course this lack of evidence is taken as further proof, in their mind, that the conspirators control the media, but that is irrelevant). On the other hand, we (anti-jihadists) can point to Qur'anic quotes that prove that Islam calls for the murder of apostates, adulterers, gays, and those who commit "mischief" by resisting Islam. We can point to mainstream Islamic scholars who confirm the authenticity and the relevance of these Islamic beliefs. That's not a conspiracy theory, those are verifiable facts. I'm not talking about blowing up a black-and-white photo hundreds of times to see a vague shadow of a "gunman" on the grassy knoll among the leaves of a tree; I'm talking about reading, in black and white, the basic tenets of Islamic ideology.
The Nazis of the 1930's and 1940's could not point to actual events that proved that the Jews were destroying German society, because Jews were not destroying German society. On the other hand, we can point to hundreds or thousands of actual events that prove that Muslims are killing and maiming people, all around the world every day, and they are quoting from their religious texts to justify their violence. We can point to hundreds of examples of religiously inspired Islamic violence occurring repeatedly, consistently throughout history, for the past 1400 years, since the very inception of Islam. That's basic History 101.
As for scapegoating, I don't believe, nor have I heard any of the editors of New English Review or other anti-jihad websites say, that "the Muslims" are responsible for all the foibles and frailties of our society. I'm confident that we anti-jihadists will continue to disagree amongst ourselves about what the problems (and solutions) of our society are. We agree on one thing, that the values taught in the Qur'an and the ahadith have no place in our society.
And I don't believe, nor have I heard any of the editors of New English Review or other anti-jihad websites say, that the solution to jihad is to kill Muslims. The solution to jihad is for the kufirs to learn what traditional, mainstream Islamic beliefs are, and then to have an open and honest discussion about whether we want to accept those values as our own.
We keep hearing about the scapegoating going on of Muslims, and of the ever-impending-but-never-seen backlash against Muslims. In fact, there have been very, very few cases (I know of one case after 9/11 where a Sikh was attacked because his attacker mistakenly believed him to be a Muslim) of violence against Muslims in the U.S. by non-Muslims. After 9/11, I'd say the ratio stands at about 3,000 to 1. And going back in history, it only gets higher.
Lumping anti-jihadists in with those who believe that U.F.O.'s landed regularly on the lost continent of Atlantis, or that Bill Clinton was the head of a giant Arkansas drug-smuggling ring, is a cheap shot. It is an intellectually specious smear. It is wrong.