Thursday, 1 October 2009
How To Change Things At Yale

Young Matthew Ellison, a senior at Yale, ends his vaporings with this: 

"My criticism of Westergaard and the perpetrators of violence and my praise of the Yale administration and students can be encapsulated in two simple rules and an explanatory note: 1) Don’t hurt or kill innocent people. 2) If you think that something you do might result in innocent people getting hurt or dying, don’t do it, even if you have a right to do it. Explanatory note: Follow rule 1 even if someone else breaks rule 2, and the fact that people shouldn’t be breaking rule 1 doesn’t mean it’s okay to break rule 2. Yale gets it. Too many others don’t."

This is the "Fighting Words" doctrine that, in the past, was used to justify suppression of free speech (see Terminiello).But as Kurt Westergaard notes, there was no deliberate attempt, out of the blue, to rile up anybody, just an experiment, to see if in the advanced Western state of Denmark, Danes attempting to exercise, in their own country, their own right of free speech, would be allowed to do so, or would be subject to threats, intimidation, economic boycotts, cuts in diplomatic relations, and actual attacks on Danish people abraod -- all of which occurred, and occurred quite a few months after the cartoons appeared in Jyllands-Posten, when local Muslims decided to make an issue of it, and to teach the Danes who was boss and what the rules of the game were, now that Muslims had been (foolishly) allowed to live in large numbers in the Western world, including Denmark.

What is most remarkable, however, about Matthew Ellison's last paragraph is this assertion:

"2) If you think that something you do might result in innocent people getting hurt or dying, don’t do it, even if you have a right to do it."

He is turning things on their head. There is always the chance, given the fanaticism of so many Musliims, and given what Islam inculcates -- would Matthew Ellison care to find out,  and then care to tell, his Yale audience what Islam does inculcateabout Muhammad, the Model of Conduct (uswa hasana) and the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil), and then to list some of the things about Muhammad -- the Banu Qurayza, Asma bint Marwan, the Khaybar Oasis, Abu Akaf, and of course little Aisha -- that make a Western eyebrow rise, and certainly would begin to worry people if, indeed, Muhammad is regarded by a bilion people as the Perfect Man, to be emulated through time and across space.

And perhaps Matthew Ellison can go further. Perhaps he can explain how this view of Muhammad, and the fanaticism with which Muslms attempt to suppress all criticism of him, and will continue to do so, through all manner of means, including death threats and the carrying out of those threats, as Theo van Gogh learned in his last moments. Does Matthew Ellison think anything at all, any right at all, is worth defending, if anywhere at all, an "innocent" life might be lost? His way is madness. His way would have prevented the Allies from fighting World War II, a war in which the Allies no doubt killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, in a war to stop Hitler and Japanese militarism which, had they succeeded, would have transformed much of the world into a slave state, or rather two slave empires, with untellable consequences for all who did not belong to either of the two Master Races.

Matthew Ellison is a fool, but he's also about 20 years old. If he remains a fool in five years, or in ten, it will be more worrisome. He still has time to recover his wits. But what of the older people at Yale, who are forty and fifty and sixty, and who, in and out of the Adminstration, nod their heads gravely, and view with quiet satisfaction the nauseating nonsense of young Matthew Eliison? For them there is no hope of moral redemption or mental clarity. They must be pushed out. The alumni can do it, simply by withholding all donations until such people are pushed out, with or without mea culpas. And it is the same everywhere,for the beating heart of the modern university, such as it is, is the Development Office. No more arguments, nothing but denial of money. That is all that wil work. Do it, alumni.. Deny.

Only thus.

Posted on 10/01/2009 2:22 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
1 Oct 2009
Send an emailMatthew Ellison

This is Matthew Ellison, the 20-year-old fool.  I came across your post, and I appreciate the criticism.  I will concede one point.  Rule 2 is a bit too general (although I don't think it would have necessarily prevented the Allies from fighting in WWII, as one could argue that the Germans and Japanese were already killing many innocent people and we were fighting to minimize innocent lives lost).  But you are right in that there may be times when we value something so much that we are willing to risk the lives of ourselves and others to fight for it.  My main point is that you shouldn't do something that risks the loss of innocent life unless you have a really, really good reason to do so.  As I argue earlier in the column, publishing an inflammatory cartoon that didn't make any new arguments, while within the rights of its author, was not a good enough reason to risk the lives of innocent people.

1 Oct 2009
Send an emailMary Jackson

So, Mr Ellison, you object to the publication of cartoons, but do not object to a religion that makes people kill over cartoons? You write as if the "loss of innocent life" were an automatic consequence of offensive cartoons, and as if murder is a natural and appropriate response. Yet Christians, Jews and atheists do not respond in this way.

Publishing satirical, even offensive cartoons is what happens in the free West. Those who murder in response are 100% responsible for their actions. The blood is on their hands and theirs alone. Why should free men and women alter their behaviour in order to pander to a primitive and violent religion?

Perhaps you don't know very much about Islam. When I was twenty I knew nothing of it. But one thing you do know is that its adherents kill over cartoons. Ever wondered why? Since you have taken the trouble to visit this site, you are very welcome to read some of the articles and find out. Please do so - you may be surprised.

1 Oct 2009
Hugh Fitzgerald

Let me vary the hypothetical, as they like to say in law schools. Abortion doctors are bound to provoke a certain nuimber of fanatics who will try to attack those doctors and their clinics. That means that the existence of abortion clinics inevitably will lead to a loss of "innocent life."?For that matter, almost any large-scale construction project -- say, Boston's Big Dig -- almost certainly will entail the loss of "innocent life." The loss of "innocent life" is all around us. So what we do is figure out when that loss is worth it. I think it perverse, given how hard it was, over many centuries, to achieve the kind of mental freedom we now possess, and the rights that allow Western man to exercise, to express, that mental freedom.?

You, apparently, do not. Perhaps it is mere loyalty to Yale, a desire to rally round the besieged administrators whom many -- see in particular the fillip delivered to YUP by the talented translator of the classics, Sarah Ruden,who in furious indignation has decided not to be published any more by Yale (see here: -- and a particularly piquant aspect of her public dismay is that Sarah Ruden is not some easily-dismissed enthusiast of the glenn-becks of this world, but someone who spent ten years teaching in a black township in South Africa. Top that, Levin and Lorimer and all the others angling at Yale or elsewhere for the Arab dollars.

Here's a line of inquiry I'd like someone -- perhaps Matthew Elliison will take it up himself -- and that is the Stimson Fellows at Yale. Who was it who a few years ago gave such a fellowship to Raymond Close, the man who retired early from the C.I.A. (he was Station Chief in Jiddah, or was it Riyadh?) to go into business with two Saudis, and later ended up deep in the BCCI scandal. His louche life did not prevent him from being selected as a Stimson Fellow -- I think those who are choosing the Fellows deserve a close look, to see exactly what is going on. Why don't you, Matthew Ellison, do some investigative reporting on the influence of Arabs and Arab, especially Saudi and Emirati money, that given, that working behind the scenes, that dangled in front of Yale administrators as a future possibility if they only play their cards right (as in the case of Jytte Klausen's book) and lay the whole thing out for the world to see, in the Yale Daily News.

Meanwhile, why don't you pull up a chair and set a spell. Something of interest may appear, not necessarily about that boring subject Islam. And the Musical Interludes are very good.

1 Oct 2009
Send an emailMatthew Ellison

Mary and Hugh,

I am very critical of those Muslims who committed violent acts in response to the cartoons.  Read the entire column (your posts didn't include the parts where I criticized them quite harshly).  And I recognize that there is a very violent strain of Islam that poses a real threat to the West and wants very badly to end our way of life.  But in publishing a cartoon that tars all Muslims as terrorists, we needlessly offend the vast majority of Muslims who are not terrorists (thus making the claim that all Muslims are terrorists a potential self-fulfilling prophecy) and spur the ones who are already extremists to commit violent acts that result in the deaths of innocent people.  And for what?  To make an argument that has already been made in a less inflammatory form?  I don't think it's worth it.

1 Oct 2009
Send an emailMatthew Ellison

Additionally, just in response to some of Hugh's points:

As I conceded, I formulated that rule rather clumsily, and I generally agree with your formulation.  I think where we differ is in whether publishing the cartoons was worth the loss of human life.  For the reasons indicated above, I don't think it was.

I took Levin, Lorimer, and Donatich at their word.  If you are correct in that the motive was to "angle for Arab dollars" (which I really don't think it was), then what they did would obviously be condemnable.

I am unaware of the case of Raymond Close.  If in fact what you say is true and that there is no other side of the story that paints him in a better light, I agree with you that he should not have been honored by Yale.

My column did not praise every decision Yale has ever made.  It praised a specific decision made by the administration and a specific decision made by the Muslim Students Association.

1 Oct 2009

Matthew wrote: "As I argue earlier in the column, publishing an inflammatory cartoon that didn't make any new arguments, while within the rights of its author, was not a good enough reason to risk the lives of innocent people."


Matthew, you are claiming that the cartoon is "inflammatory," as though inflammatory were an objective property of the cartoon. You are neglecting that interpretation of the cartoon is partly in the eye (or mind) of the beholder, and partly due to the intention and design of the cartoonist, which was not to cause violence or death but to provoke thought and provide social commentary. You are neglecting that provoking thought and providing social commentary are forms of expression that for the offended parties in question constitute grounds for killing.


Also, I suspect that you are hiding an unexamined double-standard. According to your proposed "rules," you (Matthew) can criticize the cartoonists because they will not likely threaten you or kill you for what you are saying. But your rules do not permit you to criticize Islam or Muhammad in public, because that could result in deaths, including your own or anyone associated with the publication of such criticisms. So the main outcome of following your rules would be that you don't criticize the ideology of whoever threatens to kill innocent people. The world's murderous dictators would love you, maybe even hire you as chief propagandist!


Another consideration: What if, in the long run, failing to criticize Islam and Muhammad, and failing to support those who do, actually results in a larger number of deaths than would be the case if there was a steady, normal stream of criticism of Islam and Muhammad? One could argue that, for example, the West's widespread failure to criticize Islam and Muhammad and failure to support Salman Rushdie in 1989 gave the hard-line Muslims a feeling of validation and impunity. What if criticising Islam and Muhammad had become a relatively normal, common, unremarkable activity by 2005--as unremarkable as criticizing any other religion, political party, etc.? Probably there would have been a lot less violence, mayhem, and murder, if any, in response to those unremarkable cartoons.

1 Oct 2009
Hugh Fitzgerald

As to the louche Raymond Close, you could start by reading about him here:?, and if you put the name "Raymond Close" and "Hugh"?into the Search Box at JihadWatch or, even better, in the Google Search Box, more will come up. Why don't you find out who decided Raymond Close, given his scandalous connections with the Saudis (such as the intelligence chief Adham), and his deep involvement with BCCI, and his subsequent career as a shill for the Saudis in his lectures and Op/Ed articles and his work as an "international business consultant"?with a speciality, bien entendu, in the "Middle East," deserved to be made a Stimson Fellow. Poke around, see who else, over the last decade or two, with similar connections or sympathies, or even perhaps being an honorary member of MESA Nostra as an apologist, was like Raymond Close awarded a Stimson Fellowship. It might be instructive. And after you have googled "MESA Nostra" and have digested the contents of my essay on that group, why not read, as well, about the "MESA Nostra Contest." Indeed, why not enter the contest, even at this late date? Go ahead, I'll make sure the judges wait up to receive your entry -- send it to me via NER -- and that they judge it fairly.

What was the decision that you found commendable in the Muslim Student Association??And why is it that you think a cartoon of Muhammad, drawn and published mainly as an exercise of free speech that otherwise would remain, if not exercised and subject to threat, merely theoretical, must surely mean that "all Muslims"--"in publishing a cartoon that tars all Muslims as terrorists" -- are being depicted as terrorists? What kind of bizarre conclusion is that??Or are you merely accepting, and blandly passing on, what Muslims well-versed in the art of being outraged tell you the cartoon must surely mean?





2 Oct 2009
Send an emailFred



What about apostates of Islam who declare their apostasy publicly? Aren't they, in your scheme of things, knowingly "inflaming" Muslims to commit violent actions against innocent people? Should they remain silent, pretending to remain as Muslims instead of expressing their true (but "inflammatory") views? Is it worth it, by your scheme, for them to risk their lives, and the lives of those close to them (and the lives of the law enforcement and security personel needed to protect them), by simply announcing publicly that they have rejected Islam?


Mainstream Islamic jurisprudence calls for the death penalty for apostates who declare their apostasy publicly, or who advocate that others should also apostatize from Islam. Several Islamic countries today have the death penalty for apostasy, there is no penalty in Islamic law for killing an apostate, and significant percentages of Muslims believe that apostates ought to be put to death (for example, 78% of Pakistani Muslims, and 31% of British Muslims, say apostates should be put to death). Apostates in the West live in fear; they receive death threats, and some are killed. As one authoritative Muslim Canadian website suggests, there is a sense of "rage" in the Muslim community when one abandons the flock.


So, knowing all of this, wouldn't it be more responsible, by your scheme, for the apostate to remain silent, so as to avoid unnecessary endangerment of human life?

2 Oct 2009
Send an emailMary Jackson

And why stop at apostasy? What about women who want to walk around uncovered? What about music, dance, wine, dogs and poetry? What about Israel? What about Spain, once Muslim territory and no longer? What about...well, this comment box is too small, but have a look at Hugh's piece Almost One Hundred Things that Fuel Muslim Extermism.

Any one of these things - and the list is not exhaustive but the tip of an iceberg - angers the Muslims and, if insisted on by the Unbeliever, can cause and has caused, innocent lives to be lost.

Are we to give them all up?

3 Oct 2009
Send an emaila.c.


Every poster above had to have proven to you that your position is untenable, logically and practically.

I only want to add two things:

1. Every act of criticism/satire/rejection/public--and even private--humiliation is bound to be met with some hostility. Every single one. It's human nature. When denied tenure in the future on account of poor scholarship and writing, you may wish the members of your committee dead, but I doubt you'll act on it.

Only deranged people and cultures go postal because of perceived or real offences.

2. Western civilization, for all its ills, has afforded you a place at a great table (Yale) precisely? because of, among other things, freedom of expression, especially freedom of political satire/criticism. You write from a coveted position of power that you have inherited from others' struggles?before you.

In Communist China or the Soviet Union Westergaard et comp. would have been dead before even publishing the cartoons. Millions died in the Glavnoye Upravleniye Lagere (Gulag) for much less than a fully articulated criticism of Stalin. Often it was just a private conversation, a whisper, a passing comment venting about, say, about rationing to an informant's?eager ear, who?hoped ?to get double ratios of sugar and oil and tea out of it.

Nothing in what you wrote is sane and defensible. Hit the history books, baby boy.


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