…Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others…

August 18, 2010 | By | 143 Replies More
I got into a stupid flame was the other day on Facebook with a friend (and her commenters)

She [A] posted the following to her wall:

If you think that putting up a mosque 600 ft. from ground zero and have
the opening of the mosque on the anniversary of 9/11/11, is immoral,
inhuman and a complete lack of respect for the memories of all that
perished on that day and their survivors & that politicians are
doing a grave injustice to the fallen heroes, their families and the

The first commenter followed with

[B] its digusting its even a thought in someones head…..

I saw this and saw yet another vile, right-wing sponsored attack on civil liberties. I am not religious, and abhor religion. I think it perpetuates an evil upon the world that does incalculable damage to current and future generations. However, I do support the rule of law, and the Cordoba House people have the right to build there.

So I posted, what I thought was a reasonable and factual statement to counter the right-wing memetics that have been strewn across the TV & Blogosphere in recent days:

[me] Sorry to have to say this, but the mosque (prayer room) already exists at the site. The proposed building is to be a Community Center (like a YMCA, but Muslim not Christian).
There is nothing disgusting in allowing people the right to self determination. Conflating the acts of terrorists with the wider community of people who share the faith professed by those terrorists is simply wrong!
Do you berate every Catholic because of the acts of the IRA, or because some priests are guilty of paedophilia? Every protestant because of the acts of the UDF, Timothy McVeigh, or Abortion clinic bombers?
The Constitution of the US is a wonderful thing, and it enshrines rights for EVERY American - not just the ones YOU agree with!
The US is the embodiment of the values and ethics espoused by the Enlightenment, and by philosophers like Voltaire:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" (Evelyn Beatrice Hall, paraphrasing Voltaire in her biography of him)

I thought this was fine – given the 700 character limits on facebook comments – but then the flaming began. I’ll just post the thread without edit and let it stand on it’s own. All I will say is that if this is the response of reasonable people, then this country is in worse shape than I thought.

[C] I have to disagree with Tony in that the basic idea of a memorial means different things to different cultures. In the Christian culture, putting a building or memorial near the site of the fallen is a way to honor the dead. In Islam, it is a way of honoring heroes and their actions. Big difference! While I don’t think it should be built there, I don’t think there is a legal way to prevent it. I would feel better if it were even just a few blocks away.

[B] Thank you (C)! Exactly!

[me] (C), I have to disagree. The community center is not, except in the minds of right-wing pundits a 'tribute' to anyone. This is NOT a memorial! It's a community center, and unless one has an agenda against people who happen to be Muslim, it is disingenuous (at least) to suggest otherwise. Care to cite the primary source of this being a 'Muslim Memorial'? Everything I've read to date states it's a community center. Not a memorial. Not a tribute to fallen heroes ( although such would be perfectly valid - many American Muslims worked and died at the Twin Towers on 9/11). It's a YMCAYMMA!
You may *disagree* with the appropriateness of their decision. But you can't *demand* that they not build their center.

And when you say “I think it should be further away”… how far away is acceptable? 5 blocks? 10 blocks? How about in Jersey City? Or perhaps in Madison, WI? As soon as you start to draw arbitrary lines on ‘appropriate’ that have no foundation in law, you start on the path of societal control that even Stalin could only dream. Our ideas of appropriate all differ. Our constitution allows us the ability to ‘meet in the middle’ recognizing that while we may disagree, we agree on the fundamental – that I may not impose my narrow perspective upon you, not vice versa.

I find it strange that the same people who shout about ‘activist judges’ and ‘the coming of Sharia law in the US’ are the same ones demanding the kind of control over the body politic that they so denigrate in others and that they see around every corner the scary ‘other – ‘ so much so they are more than willing to excise our freedoms for the imposition of more constraints and controls (but that’s OK, ‘cos it’s Christian, right?)

Lastly – I am happy that you recognize the legal right of the Cordoba House to build their community center. I’m less happy that you continue to conflate, and use denigratory terms to reference that ‘other’. They are Americans. Please accord them the same respect and rights that you would anyone else .

[D] I think we, as Americans, should do the right thing…..get even! I say we build a pork BBQ place on one side, and a strip club on the other. 

Image by Erich Vieth (using Creative Commons WTC image and mosque image by Achilles (Dreamstime.com) with permission)

[A] OK Tony..stop it with the right wing bullshit. You are ASSuming this opposition is being fueled by those on the right. For most citizens, it’s not about right, left, or in the middle. It’s about the surviving family members. Where were you on 9-11? Switzerland, Canada, Spain? We were watching in horror the events of 9-11. (M) was traveling that day. I didn’t know if he was on a plane or on the ground. I remember the silence afterward. No planes in the sky. I thought the world was ending. I’m not an idiot. I know these were acts of extremism. Where’s the line? The only “agenda” I have currently is to decide whether or not I should drop your ass as a friend on facebook.

[A] EXACTLY what I was thinking, (D)! Bravo!

[me] (A) - I'm sorry you feel that way. On 9-11 I was in a building opposite the US mint in downtown Philly - watching the events unfold with two of my team members who lived minutes from the towers, - and realizing that we all had colleagues and friends at a client site in Tower one. My focus in the immediate aftermath was making certain that I could get everyone in my team to safety as all federal buildings and their vicinities were being interdicted. I lost a colleague from my office, and others from offices across the country in the attack. I have friends who were directly impacted, and many who still live in the vicinity. Despite being thus affected I can recognize appropriate versus inappropriate, and still stand by my earlier statement, and will even expand upon it: I disapprove of ALL religion, and think it exacts untold evil upon the world, but while this particular group act legally I will defend their right to do so - just as I would defend the rights of any others acting within the law. Whether you agree or not with the appropriateness of the Cordoba Group's decision to build their community center, there are NO valid objections available in law.

[me] (D) - there already is a strip club less than half a block away - and at least three BBQ (and fast food) joints within a few hundred feet.

OK – I admit this was an asinine response. 🙁 But then it’s followed by this…

[E] Where did this guy come from? I’m appauled at the justification. And for the record ….. there also is “no valid objections in the law” to the other 98% of americans having an issue w/ it and speaking that freely.

(A) – I’m w/ you on this one

I am dismayed, but unsurprised. There is no nuanced response. I find the knee-jerk reactions to be no different to those that fueled Catholic/Protestant ‘troubles’ in Ireland and the West of Scotland when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. They are no different to the commentary made about ‘uppity’ blacks or white ‘apologists’ prior to integration. They are no different to the comments made about Japanese Americans interned following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

They are no different to the commentary of any bigot.

I wholly disagree with the stance of those behind Cordoba House, just as I am against those who build mega-churches, or fight to close down abortion clinics, or deny basic rights to LBGT couples. However, I will defend the expression of those viewpoints against similar bigotry.

UPDATE: One of Scalzi’s guest bloggers apparently feels the same way. Great post on this same issue at Whatever

UPDATE 2: Daryll Lang posted a Photo Essay and a blog post on this issue. Both deserve to be seen.

UPDATE 3: Some final posts over the past 24 hours…

[C] The issue has absolutely nothing to do with religious tolerance and everything to do with compassion, kindness and sensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims who were murdered there. Period.

[me](C): Does that compassion extend to the many Muslim Americans families who lost loved ones? I know of one such family, personally (mentioned in passing above).
All I see is an 'astroturf issue "think of the families", which appears from a dispassionate perspective to be more about "Oh Noes, Teh Muslim" than it is about "values" or "compassion". I have not seen ANY outcry from anyone other than the right-wing blogosphere and pundits, such as Gingrich, Beck, Limbaugh, and their ilk. This is a manufactured issue, that has become a stain on American Democracy. Are the constitutional rights of Americans so small a thing that being a "Muslim American" makes you somehow less deserving of those rights? The outcry against this is manufactured and directed by nothing less than bigotry. I don;t mean to imply that people who are uncomfortable with the decision are bigots. Simply that the issue has been manufactured and amplified by bigots.

[A] ok. we can agree to disagree. Tony—lucky thing I’m so crazy about your wife and kids—ok, and you too—MOST of the time. I can’t believe you called me a flippin bigot! NO RESPONSE NEEDED 😉 My page, I get the last word.

You’ll notice that reading comprehension is not a strong suit here – since I specifically stated that those people who felt uncomfortable are not necessarily bigots – but the people instigating the outrage most certainly are.

I declined to comment further.

UPDATE 4: The NYT has an article that reports how the rampant and vocal opposition to the moslem center (mosque)

is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam


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Category: Bigotry, Civil Rights, Current Events, populism, Propaganda, Religion

About the Author ()

I'm a technophile with an enduring interest in almost anything real or imagined. I suffer fools badly, and love trashy science fiction, plot-free action movies, playing guitar, and baking (especially scones. You haven't lived 'til you've eaten my scones. I've recently undertaken bread, and am now in danger of gaining in a matter of weeks the 60 pounds I've lost in the past 2 years). My wife & I are Scottish, living north of Atlanta, GA, with two children, one dog, and a growing collection of gadgets. I work for a living.

Comments (143)

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  1. Karl says:

    There are ways of dealing with demonstrators that become both verbally and physically violent.

    If other members of the demonstration do not know where to draw the line between freedom of speech and physical intimadation and violence, then I would not approve of such an approach. It is asking for a potential riot and physical harm to others or damage to public or personal property.

    I do realize there are many proclaimed self-justified people that use force and intimidation to make their point to the rest of society. It is possible that a loose canon who just happened to be a member of the new Black Panthers got a bit too aggressive, but that is not how anyone from the black panthers stated the matter. His actions were illegal according to law, if you don't get that you are really unaware of individual responsibility to keep away from the entrances to voting places.

    If you want to stand next to them and get the same treatment that's up to you. You can say you were peaceful and the other guy was not, but if you let the other guy become violent or express him or herself in intimidating ways and stand with them you have in essence expressed your agreement with their violent and intimidating actions.

    People who don't call their friends out for violence and physical intimidation are not the type of friends I want to have. I would not want to be a part of such an organization as well, be it a militia, a bunch of college hazers, or a neighborhood gang.

    I think militias can be bordering on treason because they will not call each other out for where their beliefs and prejudices will end up taking them.

    The founding fathers knew that they were participating in treason from the vantage point of England.

    Convince me of the violence of any lobbist and I'll agree that they should all be drawn and quartered.

    If more money flows in any particular election in one direction or the other, this is still peaceful organizing no matter how distasteful or unpopular you may believe it to be.

    Our country goes through cycles that keep the extremes at bay from taking too much control of the government, If you don't want that to take place you might like to consider a different country that will actually be all that you want it to be.

    • Tony Coyle says:

      Karl: Still no citation for your claim that Black Panthers [who] were using intimidation at voting places.

      Citation please. No more anecdotes or unsubstantiated claims.

      If you want to stand next to them … You can say you were peaceful … but if you let the other guy become violent or express him or herself in intimidating ways and stand with them you have in essence expressed your agreement with their violent and intimidating actions.

      Sorry – but what? Simply being in the same place as a violent person, regardless of personal perspectives, makes one complicit in their violence? Not speaking out against a violent member of your group makes you complicit in their violence?

      So, Karl. that makes you a violent clinic-bombing, doctor-murdering, gay-beating, misogynistic white supremacist. The people responsible for these violent acts are all associated with your 'brand' of christianity, and all are associated with the same groups that you support.

      Do you think you are painting with too large a brush, or are you happy with your statements?

      I think militias can be bordering on treason because they will not call each other out for where their beliefs and prejudices will end up taking them.

      Way to quibble. So no straight-up unequivocal condemnation for Militias? These are unequivocally violent groups with only one aim – the support and promotion of their goals through violent means. Why, otherwise, would they be so concerned about having so many assault weapons? Their 'buddha-nature' is not exactly unsullied, is it?

      Our country goes through cycles that keep the extremes at bay from taking too much control of the government, If you don’t want that to take place you might like to consider a different country that will actually be all that you want it to be.

      Maybe you missed the point of all this. It is not cyclic if one particular group controls the agenda, and has the means to maintain and retain that control. That's where we are with fairly recent legislation and deregulation. From deregulation of banks, deregulation of monetary controls, deregulation of international corporate finance rules (allowing organizations to 'make their profits' overseas, for example), to the Citizen's United ruling – corporations, and the wealthy individuals who control them, now have more opportunity to control our legislative process, and to do so with much less accountability or scrutiny.

      I don't know about you, but I prefer my legislative process out in the open, where I can see it. I prefer my legislative and lobbyist funding to be out in the open, where I can see it. Our current environment is not at all the rose-tinted land of the free that you seem to think it is.

      The corporations and the super-rich are buying legislation to suit themselves. Are you ok with that?

  2. Karl says:


    How many citations would you like? And what would be your news agency of preference?



    The case was won and then dismissed.


    Perhaps you need to be looking for what solidarity means when people are involved in public protest.

    I was not standing next to any of the people you seem to want to link me too.

    I would not and do not condone comments that make it seem just fine to murder another human being or to even cause them physical harm to make a point over an issue of concern.

    Read what I've written, and stop trying to put all of us theists into the same mold.

    Having the same ideas and values during a protest should not make other more fundamental ideas and beliefs secondary to the situation.

    • Tony Coyle says:


      thanks for the citation (if not the snark). I had remembered the 'dismissal' and not the background. The fact that it was dismissed (and if dismissed, the case was never really 'won' was it) means this is now in the realm of hearsay. You say X, I say Y. We can agree that 'something' happened, but can't actually make anything other than partisan points based on our perspective since the case was dismissed. You cannot make the claim 'they were', and I cannot make the claim "They weren't".

      Regarding 'solidarity' – you are the one painting bystanders as complicit. I merely extended your own analogy to areas where you have indeed voiced opinion in the past, in support of 'Christian' viewpoints and agendas. That you find it disturbing to be considered equivalent to such people is good to hear – but should suggest to you that your approach to paint 'associates' as complicit in crimes is troubling at best, and dangerously authoritarian at worst.

      You should also read what is written. Hypotheticals are a bitch, aren't they?

  3. Tony,

    To Karl's credit, I don't think he meant "bystanders"—I think he meant active participants in a group wherein one faction becomes violent. Just having sympathy for some of the aims of a given group doesn't make you part of it. (We might all have affiliations by that reasoning for which we'd have to do some pretzel-twisting of logic to explain.)

    Group splintering like that happens all the time.

    Also, to be fair, in some hot-button areas, christians who oppose more militant factions seldom get much of a hearing in the media, just like moderate Muslims get short shrift when condemning terrorism. (Which is beginning to change, btw, but for years the notion of "Moderate Muslim" was absent from much public debate by virtue of the thunderous silence from the media.)

    The Black Panthers are an interesting case. They struck a very militant pose in the day and talked stridently about black nationalism. They advocated a separate plebiscite for blacks. With their black leather jackets and berets, they looked like an armed militia. No doubt some of them took the rhetoric more seriously than others, but it is hard to tell because during that period the FBI made a habit of planting agents provocateur among any group they tagged as anti-American. Many of these agents did in fact engage in illegal activity that could then be attributed to the larger group. It's hard to tell.

    But the Panthers had a wide-reaching civic arm that did much good in many communities—food distribution, free medical care, summer schools, voter registration and education. They were Making A Difference.

    The fact is the FBI systematically framed, arrested, or killed almost all the Panther leadership over the course of a few years. They destroyed the organization. This is not surmise, scholars have obtained enough material through the Freedom of Information Act to know exactly what was happening.

    • Tony Coyle says:


      I was maybe a bit of an ass in my approach. c'est la vie!

      I don't disagree with your comments. Groups splinter all the time (even supposedly cohesive ones like Christians… how many sects are there?). I also recognize that moderates of any stripe are often left voiceless – especially in the mass media (maybe we need more moderate protest blogs … "Down with this sort of thing!")

      I know that Karl didn't really mean 'bystanders' – but I wanted him to be explicitly clear where he thinks that line should be drawn…

      In short:
      1) Holding views does not make one's behavior illegal.
      2) Acting on those views, through violence or intimidation is (or should be) illegal.
      3) Condoning (or not actively condemning) the actors (2), implies consent of the action.

      Is (3) illegal, ever? Karl seemed to imply that it was.

  4. Karl says:

    This is not a matter of interpretation of what win means.

    The case was won because the new Black Panthers did not want to defend the actions of one of their members that was out of line with their basic policies and procedures.

    The case was won by default but any civil action/judgment was dismissed. A criminal complaint was won and an injunction against Samir Shabbaz has resulted in his being banished from Philadelphia polling stations until 2012.

    This is from Fox News.


    The Obama administration won a default judgment in federal court in April 2009 when the Black Panthers didn't appear in court to fight the charges. But the administration moved to dismiss the charges in May 2009. Justice attorneys said a criminal complaint against Samir Shabazz, which resulted in the injunction, proceeded successfully.

    The injunction states that Samir Shabazz cannot appear at a polling station in Philadelphia until after 2012.

    Malik Shabazz said that it was "right" for the Justice Department to drop the charges against the organization and the party's leadership.

    He also said Samir Shabazz was suspended for his actions before he was reinstated as a Black Panther member.

    When asked whether Samir Shabazz is a racist, Malik Shabazz said, "I can't speak for him on that. I would say the New Black Panther Party is not a hate group or a racist organization."


    The other part of your comments deals with who is or is not to be linked to the responsibility for the actions of their fellow associates.

    If the Black Panthers had stood along side to defend a member who was clearly guilty and caught on camera they would have been clearly linking their approval to the illegal activity.

    They censured their own member as should be the case.

    There were consequences to this verbal barrage and physical intimidation so close to a polling station.

    That was not a matter of who sees this as a win for their side of interpretation, nor is it a matter that the black panthers were guilty by association with a wayward member.

    Individuals can only hide behind the coat tails of an organization that looks the other way to excuse the misdeeds of its individual associates.

    • Tony Coyle says:


      You cannot have it both ways…

      Your claim was Black Panthers [who] were using intimidation at voting places.

      You did not qualify that to say that a Black Panther member was tried for intimidation at a voting place in Philadelphia. That is a factual statement. you claim implies that Black Panthers – the organization – were using intimidation at voting places – plural. An unclear and false statement.

      That you now wish to walk that back to If the Black Panthers had stood along side to defend a member who was clearly guilty and caught on camera they would have been clearly linking their approval to the illegal activity.They censured their own member as should be the case.

      So the scenario is: a person, who happened to be a member of an organization, conducts himself poorly. He is tried for his actions. His actions are also censured by the organization of which he is a member.

      So how is the wider organization at fault, here. Why are all members of that organization then painted with the same broad brush?

      To bring this back to the rationale for this dialog in the first place…

      I don't blame all Christians for the actions of a few kooks.
      I do blame moderate Christians for failing to call out that errant behavior. For failing to censure those errant members of their organization.
      I also blame moderate Christians for allowing almost every debate to be polarized by the extremists into good and evil, when we all know there are many shades of gray.

      Where is the censure, Karl?

  5. Karl says:


    Despite what you may think, I was not trying to appear to be a weasel.

    One of your original questions was . . .

    "So you would strip citizenship from members of black panthers (and similar organizations) whose protests are founded on a desire for civic equality (but are willing to use violent means to that end)?"

    The answer I thought I was responding to was referring to specific individual members of the new Black Panthers, not multiple collective associated members who were sympathetic to the same cause. I wasn't even claiming that the leaders were directly to blame for any of the violence. You were the one who stated that you were referring to some that were "willing to use violent means to an end."

    I thought I made it clear that you can not associate guilt of other members unless they provide the old at-a-boy smack on the butt to encourage them and others to keep doing the same. If an associate's illegal behavior spreads throughout the ranks of an organization, the leader had better have clear evidence of attempts to de-escalate the criminal activity, or they really are complicit in the behavior of the group members. In these cases, the leader should also be held accountable to some degree or another. If an associate's illegal behavior becomes your behavior you can not claim innocence because of peer/friendship pressure.

    If you unknowingly happen to get duped into driving the car for a bank robbery, you had better turn states evidence or you will be prosecuted and possibly convicted due to guilt by association.

    With this same line of thinking, it should be clear that one's silence can also be used against you if you are a leader that tries to cover up or excuse illegal behavior out a sense of solidarity with the cause.

    You can not blame an specific follower of a religion for the crimes of others who claim to follow the same religion. However, you can read from their scriptures just what one should expect to happen when push comes to shove.

    Christians who actively condone illegal criminal activity are in my mind flat out guilty of the very same crimes. Those who would not speak out against cruel violent behavior to any human being reveal their sense of superiority to others.

    Those who speak out against such illegal criminal activity can not be held to be guilty for any specific crimes committed by others.

    Those who make it a habit of trying to ride the fence of support for the cause but who also tolerate the illegal criminal activity of others should hopefully not be the leaders of your organization or political party either.

    This unfortunately is the case in all too many organizations with human leaders, from corporations, to political parties. You learn to tolerate the quirks/criminal activity of the people you associate with but can't tolerate the same criminal activity/quirks in people that aren't part of the same causes that you believe in or believe you are a part of.

    There is essentially no ability of any one sect of Christianity to effectively censure anyone that is not a member of a local church. All the errant individual needs to do is to go across the street often kitty corner to find a church that will gladly receive them and their offerings in exchange for the ability to be apart of this other local church.

    If you want to know where censure is in the Christian Community, do not look at the Democrats, Republicans, Public Broadcasting, Mainstream Media or Talk Radio. Look instead to the independents in America. They will usually get it straight by censuring those who refuse to do the right thing.

    They are the truly moderates that will usually not allow anyone's money to take them on a long journey in the wrong direction.

    • Tony Coyle says:

      Thanks Karl.

      I'm glad we could get to the same place. Guilt by association is a bad thing – but it's also bad to accept guilt by silence. We all have a responsibility to be active members of our communities – and that means not remaining silent when censure is required – regardless of other factors.

      I agree with your comment that in all too many organizations with human leaders, from corporations, to political parties. You learn to tolerate the quirks/criminal activity of the people you associate with but can’t tolerate the same criminal activity/quirks in people that aren’t part of the same causes that you believe in or believe you are a part of

      My worldview and mindset, being (I hope) based upon rational and factual assessment – helps me to ensure I don't stay blinded by my biases. I try very hard to ensure that I continue to review and revisit my opinions and prejudices – to try my best to adjust them based upon current knowledge, not outdated partial or incorrect knowledge and hearsay. I know that's not the only way to live. I just hope that others approach reality with the same openness and attempted lack of bias.

      Regarding your final comment: I'm hoping the moderates don't fail to act with sanity this November. We could be in a mess of trouble if they don't.

  6. rosa says:

    frankly I think the whole thing is meant to piss people off, they could of just made it into a park. it is deliberate antagonizim.

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