Thursday, June 22, 2006

I get lots of emails like this...

The world is full of people, it seems, who don’t want to be offended. Well that’s tough, isn’t it?

Got this email from someone called ‘Alex’ about a post I wrote weeks ago about Radio Maryja, the uber-Catholic radio station, infamous for its anti-Semite nationalism and other weirdosims. The email was entitled: Please remove the ‘The Polish Taliban’ post. The body of the email said:

‘Please remove the ‘Polish taliban’..best regards…’

I like the ‘please’ and the ‘best regards’…but the rest of the seven word email is ridiculous. I wrote back to him saying:

‘Why should I remove the Polish Taliban? If you do not like the opinion expressed in that post, then tough.

Do you honestly think that freedom of speech can be interrupted by people like you, who obviously do not like free speech?

I think it is about time you grew up. Life is full of opinions you don't like. Same with me. I don't like your opinion. ‘

I mean… can you honestly imagine writing to a web site asking them to remove something that you find offensive? I would be doing nothing else 24/7!

Have we become that vulnerable that words hurt us so badly?

25 comments:

Falka said...

I just had a quick look at the Polish Taliban post (haven't seen it before, been reading your blog since the begining of June) and I don't see anything offensive there.
I read it twice and there's still nothing...

Some people are weird.

beatroot said...

...Indeed. Welcome falka. I couldn;t see what was offensive about that one, either. Maybe he is just a nutter...

Michael Farris said...

Please remove "I get lots of emails like this...". And... while I'm here... A change of your current offensive color scheme to lime green and magenta would be appreciated. Changing your name to Tangerine would also be a wonderful gesture of goodwill to those of us who find tubers offensive. Best regards.

beatroot said...

Another blatant example of rootism, if ever there was one, Mike.

But, as the government is now claiming on another matter, a moral dislike of root veg is not the same as being rootophobic!

sonia said...

I envy you,

Nobody ever asked me to remove any posts...

I must be too tame...

Redwine said...

He is very polite, I am deeply moved... Yes, they sincerely think so. Not the first mail I see.

Sonia, odd: Not even your stolen Mehmet asked you to remove your ARmenian post. Hmm...

beatroot said...

I had better explain to readers that Mehmet is a very nice Turkish chap who turned up on this blog commenting on ...religion or something...and has subsequently been stolen and monopolized by Sonia Belle, a nudist married lesbian (with daughters) blogger from the pacific island of Tonga. I cannot imagine why he would prefer Sonia to a root vegetable from Warsaw, but that’s life.

Redwine said...

Never mind, Beatroot: we understand Mehmet. We know why. On the other hand if we could had nudist journalists from Warsaw, even the 'Mehmet' would change his mind, who knows.

beatroot said...

Yeah...it's 'dress down Friday' today, so I'm leaving my clothes behind when I go to work.

~JS said...

so, if i want to refer to some elements in the equality camp as the queer taliban, that's good with you?

do you think there is a different standard for public figures, especially publicly *elected* officials?

should we throw away defamation laws (i.e. libel and slander)?

unfortunately, some people substitute intelligent debate with cleverly crafted insults...this has brought the level of public dialogue very low indeed...and, i am ashamed to admit, many, many bloggers are expediting the decline...

Romerican said...

You know what? This post offends my frail sensibilities! How dare you lash out at your readership and slap the hand that clicks you. Or do you really think that you have any rights in this relationship at all? The very notion that others' opinions should rank lower in priority than your own is complete maddness. Clearly only a Polish Taliban member like the beatroot would go so far as to promote the unholy concept of free speech. Don't you realize you ought to listen more to your betters? They only tell you what to do because it's good for you.

You fool.

And now, I must unequivocally demand you immediately and permanently remove this post and it's discussion thread from your blog because it does not meet approval from at least one (albeit more long winded) reader.

Romerican said...

I take I'm the only one obtuse enough to point out bluntly that Sonia's cover-story doesn't work for me in any way. Not even as humor.

beatroot said...

I don't think you are being obtuse...but which bit about Sonia's story don't you like? That she lives in Tonga?

But you are right, I find the beatroot very offensive and I am going to censor myself and then beat myself into pulp when I get home.

j.s. 'Queer Taliban' is actually a very interesting thing to say...expecially if you are aware that Kandaha, which is the base of the Taliban is known for its homosexuality. So are the Taliban, who, as the BBC's John Simpson has written brilliantly about many times, can often be seen smoking copious amounts of hash wearing eye liner and gold sandals and 'laughing like queens'.

So, yeah, Queer Taliban...

~JS said...

ok, queer taliban, polish taliban, christian taliban...etc...but doesn't it simply add another unnecessary layer to decode instead of shedding light?

there is an implicit moral judgement made by the person coining such a label which the readership might not share (fair enough), or understand, further confusing the argument rather than clarifying...

such insults have become the currency of public debate...we all should be offended by such widespread mental sloth...

what's wrong with decency and enlightened sensibilities regarding debate...? sometimes being offensive signals a violations of these things too...

beatroot said...

I would have thought the meaning of 'Polish Taliban' was pretty obvious when applied to the uber-catholic radio maryja.

Any intelligent person can read and understand that post, by following all the links I especially and carefully always put in to the posts so that everyone can understand what is going...

Michael Farris said...

~js, have you ever _listened_ to Radio Maryja and/or TV Trwam? Do you ever read Nasz Dziennik? Beatroot's not being any less civil than they are.

beatroot said...

...And anyway, I just don't share this view that being offensive is a bad thing. We have the right to be offensive...it's called free speech. If people don't like what I say on this blog, or they don't like the crap that oozes from the mouth of the Radio Maryja shock jocks, then turn off the bloody radio or don't come to the beatroot....

~JS said...

i don't necessarily think being offensive is bad (did you really read my posts?)...i just believe that two wrongs don't make a right, why should radio maria serve as my (or your) measure for how to engage people? why lower yourself?

this tit-for-tat behavior simply turns bloggers into a brainless lynch mob...as we can observe when somone takes issue with them...

so, polish taliban is obvious to you and others who already hold a particular view of 'the enemy'...but to some the taliban are freedom fighters or a resistance movement, so your labels aren't beyond interpretive necessity...do you understand what i mean when i say the beatroot taliban?

beatroot said...

J.S. this sounds to me like some revolting post modernist relativism.

I’m sorry but there is a right and wrong and there are cultures that are more progressive than others. If there isn’t, then even the very idea of social progress is impossible.

Now that really is offensive!

~JS said...

initially, i do relish these exchanges, if only for the opportunity to pick the brains of informed bloggers...

what you say is ironic on several levels, the first of which is to reduce postmodernity to a single meaning (a characteristic move of modernity - to reduce complexity, often at the expense of those ideas/people on the margins)...

i would think you a wee less dismissive of 'po-mo' especially given its significant attack on monolithic, binary, western categories of gender and identity...

secondly, you speak of progress, i am unsure as to the moral authority of europe's own to make such claims, and with such chutzpah, given the nihilistic bloodbath we call europe's 20th century...one thing po-mo offers us is humility in the face of our own moralistic proclamations to the world...

lastly, i don't subscribe to a feyerabendian 'anything goes' relativism at all...i simply approach the issue of right/wrong in a more nuanced manner -- and like i always say, nuance in a post-9/11 world has become useless...we are polarized today...which is an ideal condition for starting cults, fanatical movements, and wars...

good night, and good luck

beatroot said...

I do relish these exchanges...

Me, too. That's one of the main reasons why I do this.

Progress, i am unsure as to the moral authority of Europe’s own to make such claims, and with such chutzpah, given the nihilistic bloodbath we call Europe’s 20th century...

I am aware of this po mo thing about the 'Enlightenment led to the holocaust' type bullshit, but really...It's actually part of the Romantic reaction against the Enlightenment – as was the NAZIS – and as is the green movement, conservatism and much of liberalism these days.

Call me old fashioned, but I think Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia today are less progressive than Poland today. Victorian England was a less progressive place than England today (we don’t send children down the mines anymore) and Poland today is a more socially advanced place than it was fifty years ago.

If I did not believe that a nation, society could progress then I would have no interest in politics at all.

What would be the point?

Michael Farris said...

"I’m sorry but there is a right and wrong and there are cultures that are more progressive than others. If there isn’t, then even the very idea of social progress is impossible."

As a linguistic and cultural relativist by training and inclination I think you need to define what you mean by "culture" here. At the moment, I'm very close to the definition of Geert Hofstede (paraphrasing: unconscious, group-based, mental programming that mediates between human nature (what all people have in common) and personality (what makes each individual different).

In this tradition, things like Radio Maryja, or the SB aren't part of culture but something else that I haven't seen given a catchy name (please let me know if it has). For my purposes here, I'll call it ideology. It differs from culture by being openly diffused (from one or more actors to other actors in a culture) rather than inculcated (learned unconsciously through participation) and conscious rather than unconscious. Also, it tends to have openly stated objectives, which cultures as cultures never do.

So (condensing and simplying horrendously) cultures as cultures (as I define them) are generally of equal worth. Ideologies are not.

Similarly, some ideologies fit some cultures better than others and some cultures are better able to moderate the harmful effects of bad ideologies more than others. After WWII, in different ways, Poland and Hungary were better able to moderate the bad effects of communism than were East Germany, Romania or Czechoslovakia.

A good fit between ideology and culture (a concept I'm not going to define here) will make a given socio-cultural group seem more progressive and a poor (or too close) fit will make it seem less progressive.

That is, Polish culture is fairly hierarchical, encourages group bonds, moderately materially ambitious and distrustful of innovation. Nothing wrong with any of that by itself.
It does indicate that the most useful kinds of ideologies for Poland will moderate the potential abuses of hierarchies, encourage ambition and approach change gradually.

Radio Maryja and PiS, on the other hand, reinforce hierarchies with no counterbalancing tendencies, discourage ambition (by encouraging envy) and exacerbate suspicion toward social change. Bad, bad fit.

I hope this makes _some_ sense.

beatroot said...

Lots to chew over there.

As a linear development sociologist by training ;-/ I see human society and culture progressing, from hunter gatherers, simple agricultural, industrial, post industrial societies etc.

Industrial societies are superior in so many ways to cultures that have only got as far as picking berries off trees and dieing at the age of 29.

It is very much a characteristic of human culture to progress, develop, get more complex…and that is why we have come so far in such a short time, while animals, which have no culture at all, live much the same way as they did millions of years ago.

You are right to point out the difference between ideology and culture, though there as many definitions of culture as there are of ideology.

I tend to use the word ideology in a positive sense in that it is a conscious political part of unconscious cultural influences…though many use it in a negative sense (as in ‘false consciousness’, etc) which I think is closer to the way you are using it, maybe.

But I repeat the point made earlier…Afghan culture (if it is possible to call Afghan culture a unified culture at all, which it probably isn’t) might be equally valid as ‘western culture’ but it is not as developed and, in many ways, inferior. In fact I would say that about all cultures yet to be touched by the beauty of Enlightenment thought – i.e. the progress from theological based knowledge to scientific, rationality over revelations etc etc etc

A post modernist progressive is an oxymoron.

Michael Farris said...

"I tend to use the word ideology in a positive sense in that it is a conscious political part of unconscious cultural influences…"

Conscious, check,
political, check,
positive? can be either good or bad.

Afghan culture (again to the extent that it's one thing) is one thing, Islam is an ideology (which can and has been used for good and bad purposes).
I just think it's a really, really bad ideology for Afghanis as it doesn't address what I understand as the real weakness of Afghan culture (high level of external and internal xenophobia) and rather reinforces them. It also doesn't do much for the low level of social trust either.

beatroot said...

I have a problem with putting Islam and religion in general in with ideology.

Islam is a product of pre-Enlightenment culture…It hasn’t been mediated by the influence, as Christianity and Judaism has, by those values.

Religious effects are felt even by non religious people...surly a sign of ‘culture’ in the definition that you are using, Mike.

Islamic culture, when Europe was still in its Dark Ages, was much more advanced in many ways than what we now call the West…but then the Enlightenment came and its since been left behind.

And then we have the influence of colonialism. Afghan and Iraqi 'cultures’ are British colonialist constructions, further weakened by the recent invasions and occupations.

You mentioned what we could call an ‘articulation’ (to use an Althussian term) between culture and ideology, and that’s probably the way forward for this sort of debate.