The Innocence of White People

Picture: Gustave Doré (PD)

Michael Muhammed Knight writes at Vice:

So I’ve just received an email from a reader, asking whether I might have something to say about The Innocence of Muslims. “Is tolerance for satire really a concept that is not compatible with Islam?” he asks. “Is there something about all this indignation that ‘we,’ the West, don’t understand?”

When asked to explain Muslim rage, I have an answer, but I already know the response to my answer. A defender of “Western civilization” will tell me, “Yeah, but we aren’t violent. They’re the ones who kill people over religion.” If numbers matter, however, the mythology of “America” kills many, many more people today than any myth of “Islam.” To sustain a pseudo-secular military cult, we have produced a nation of cheerleaders for blood and murder. We speak of the cult’s heroic work as “sacrifice” and say that it’s all for a divine cause of “freedom.”

That’s what we send out there, at them. This is not simply a world in which one side has a sense of humor and the other does not, or one side is “modern” and “enlightened” while the other side needs to catch up. The modern, enlightened side is burning people alive. Innocence is simply the playground bully calling your mother a slut after already breaking your jaw, and then wondering why you can’t take a joke.

I am not trying to excuse violence. As an artist, I support everyone’s right to make shitty, cheap-looking art, and I do not believe that bloodshed is ever an acceptable way of responding to art. But in the big picture, this isn’t really about violent religion vs. nonviolent art; it’s violence vs. violence.

Last week, the day on which my column runs happened to fall on September 11. My column was not about September 11; I offered no recollections of the day, no meditation on where we’ve gone as a nation since then, no diagnosis, no hope for a better future, and no apology on behalf of “moderate” Muslims. Instead, I wrote about drugs. It seems that every year, the anniversary produces a number of Muslim bloggers and commentators publicly performing our love of peace, assuring everyone that we, too, shared in the suffering of that day. I am thankful for them and respect their efforts, because this is work that needs to be done.  But I did not try.

The reason for my silence on 9/11 is that I am not only Muslim. I am also American. I am also white. I am male and heterosexual. However, I am not asked, as an American, to reflect on the yearly anniversary of our atomic bombs falling upon Japan, or our countless military interventions throughout the world. There is no date on the calendar for me, as a white person, to demonstrate that I have properly reflected on slavery and the generations of inequality and naked white sadism between the slave era and our own unjust present; we could potentially have such a day, but often turn it into shallow self-congratulation. As a white person, I am not asked to consider the wanton murders of young black men by white cops or white civilians, or the white terrorism of shootings in gurudwaras, as directly relevant to my identity. Nor do I have a designated anniversary for reflection, as a straight man, on the horrifying statistics of rape or the ways in which heterosexism makes this country unsafe for so many.

Read more here.

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  • emperorreagan

    It’s uncomfortable to deconstruct the myths and stories that underpin your culture. We love freedom, independence, and just want to help with nation building! Wait, that’s not true?!?

    Deconstructing and simplifying another culture, though, is easy! Muslims are crazies who blow stuff up and kill innocent white people! Wait, that’s not true? Fuck it, we’ll just keep twisting things to sustain that narrative!

    I do particularly like the author’s description of the US as a pseudo-secular military cult.

  • emperorreagan

    It’s uncomfortable to deconstruct the myths and stories that underpin your culture. We love freedom, independence, and just want to help with nation building! Wait, that’s not true?!?

    Deconstructing and simplifying another culture, though, is easy! Muslims are crazies who blow stuff up and kill innocent white people! Wait, that’s not true? Fuck it, we’ll just keep twisting things to sustain that narrative!

    I do particularly like the author’s description of the US as a pseudo-secular military cult.

  • http://twitter.com/pythonomicon pythonomicon

    it has nothing to do with myth (religions) and everything to do with politics. always has.

  • http://twitter.com/pythonomicon pythonomicon

    it has nothing to do with myth (religions) and everything to do with politics. always has.

    • emperorreagan

      It has everything to do with myths.

      Myths aren’t just religions.  

      You have to build mythology and narratives to unify, to motivate, to moralize and rationalize action.  So you tell a story about how soldiers are heroes and they’re off fighting for our freedom, spreading the American way, building nations, protecting us from WMDs, or whatever.  You tell a story about how the other guy is bad.  They treat their people poorly.  They’re out to get us and they oppose our way of life.  They’re ignorant.

      The real end game might be that the profit margin on bananas is too low so you’re going to send the military in to teach the uppity natives a lesson.  You don’t win wars if you express that motivation though.  

      But even that is built on another set of stories we tell ourselves about how an economy works.

      • Hadrian999

        it is never popular really examine history in our superficial culture, we like good vs. bad, complexity is uncomfortable. We like to say america was built on rugged pioneers and enterprise, which it was but it was also built on slavery, genocide, and war profiteering. We like to say america is a liberating force, which is true in some instances but america is also the force that engaged in the banana wars and built an pacific empire before ww2 and took part in the era of unequal treaties in china and engaged in a war of expansion with mexico. We never want to really examine our own culture accurately, it comes as no shock that we examine the culture of others so superficially.

        • emperorreagan

          I agree, it’s not a shock.  Introspection is tough and uncomfortable, whether it’s with one’s own ego or with the broader culture.

          I guess part of what I find disconcerting these days is the propensity to deconstruct religion, but that seems to be the limit.  I know a number of people who are fairly aggressive in their deconstruction of religion, but if you step over that line to start deconstructing other beliefs about privilege, wealth, nationalism, etc. then you hit a brick wall. 

          • Monkey See Monkey Do

            I think people have a propensity to look for a single cause for something, if they have a clear enemy than they feel less confused about the world.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do

            I think people have a propensity to look for a single cause for something, if they have a clear enemy than they feel less confused about the world.

        • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

          I must say, in the past few years I’ve seen an in increase the complexity of the moral issues addressed in “pop” culture.

          By my own observations, it seems that twenty or thirty years ago there was very little nuance in the “Good -vs- Evil” themes in popular television and movies and even most books.

          The moral questions presented were childishly straightforward.

          These days, that’s not the case.

          While I’m obviously not a fan of the trope where a cop “breaks the rules” to bust the bad guy, I do appreciate storylines where the protagonist has obvious/serious imperfections or even starts the arc as a villain. These seem to be increasingly popular, if not with the consuming public, with the people who produce mass media.

          Of course, the best narratives are still those rare gems where the protagonist really is the villain and knows it.

          • Hadrian999

            so tell me, have you ever watched “Profit”

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            No. I haven’t seen it.

            Though now that you’ve brought it to my attention I’ll see about “downloading it from Netflix”.

            At first I thought you were referring to “The Profit” which was a movie I recall being filmed around town back in 2000 or so. 

          • Hadrian999

            if you like protagonists that are villains you will love it, adrian pasdar is amazing as a charming corporate sociopath

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            I do like protagonists who are villains, but I prefer my villains to have the full human emotional range.

            In my opinion, sociopaths and psychopaths lack the moral culpability necessary for even a single act of true evil, let alone villainy.

            I will watch the show on your recommendation though. 

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            I do like protagonists who are villains, but I prefer my villains to have the full human emotional range.

            In my opinion, sociopaths and psychopaths lack the moral culpability necessary for even a single act of true evil, let alone villainy.

            I will watch the show on your recommendation though. 

          • Calypso_1

            Do you like Ian McShane?

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            His role in Deadwood is one which I enjoyed greatly.
            I was also saddened that “Kings” didn’t seem to make the cut. I rather enjoyed that first season, though I can see why it probably wasn’t going to appeal to the masses.

            As has been mentioned before, the Graphic Novel version of “Wanted” is a treasure of “villain as protagonist” storytelling.

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            His role in Deadwood is one which I enjoyed greatly.
            I was also saddened that “Kings” didn’t seem to make the cut. I rather enjoyed that first season, though I can see why it probably wasn’t going to appeal to the masses.

            As has been mentioned before, the Graphic Novel version of “Wanted” is a treasure of “villain as protagonist” storytelling.

          • Calypso_1

            If my Grandfather had been a villian he would have been Al Swearengen.  So if I  find the need for more nefarious counsel from beyond the pale its an evocation I try to muster.   

            I 2nd your opinion on Kings.

          • Hadrian999

            you would probably like his assistant, the character serves as kind of a stand in for the audience as a normal person being taken along for a ride by the amoral lead

          • Hadrian999

            you would probably like his assistant, the character serves as kind of a stand in for the audience as a normal person being taken along for a ride by the amoral lead

          • Hadrian999

            if you like protagonists that are villains you will love it, adrian pasdar is amazing as a charming corporate sociopath

          • Hadrian999

            i was meaning more about self image, and cultural identity than fiction

  • kowalityjesus

    I wonder if I can exempt myself from the maelstrom of murder worldwide because I have supported an anti-war candidate for 5 years: Ron Paul.  I find it so remarkable that websites like this don’t outwardly support him given his tacit alignment in so many respects.  It’s so fucking dumb.  Fuck, it is so so fucking dumb.

    • 7up

       People here are easily distracted by petty social issues

    • 7up

       People here are easily distracted by petty social issues

    • SteveHarringtonIII

      If you don’t know why people don’t like Ron Paul by now, I fear you’ll never get it, 

      • kowalityjesus

        care to clue me in?  I am really quite curious…

        • Jin The Ninja

          http://disinfo.com/2012/01/lets-be-clear-ron-paul-fucking-sucks-here-are-20-reasons-why/

          http://disinfo.com/2011/12/everything-ron-paul-thinks-is-unconstitutional/

          http://disinfo.com/2012/06/ron-paul-admits-he-draws-benefits-from-the-social-security-system-hes-working-to-destroy/

          i had quite a bit of choice, but those and the ensuing discussions were the top three. it’s all laid out quite plainly if you actually were sincere about your curiosity. and in reading the above, you can answer your own question!

        • Jin The Ninja

          http://disinfo.com/2012/01/lets-be-clear-ron-paul-fucking-sucks-here-are-20-reasons-why/

          http://disinfo.com/2011/12/everything-ron-paul-thinks-is-unconstitutional/

          http://disinfo.com/2012/06/ron-paul-admits-he-draws-benefits-from-the-social-security-system-hes-working-to-destroy/

          i had quite a bit of choice, but those and the ensuing discussions were the top three. it’s all laid out quite plainly if you actually were sincere about your curiosity. and in reading the above, you can answer your own question!

          • kowalityjesus

            I will say that his position on federal safety standards, minimum wage, and occupational health and safety are pretty backwards.  Income tax is TECHNICALLY unconstitutional, but yes it should stay too, doesn’t matter though because he can’t raise the tax rate under the constitution as a “strict constructionist.”

            The claims of him being racist have a tinge of truth to them, especially given a minority of his supporters, but no one can pin any of the statements to his pen.  Everybody in the movement is totally above race, I should know I was there.  Not only Whites but plenty of Hispanics and Blacks support Paul, the informed ones anyway.  Also, I don’t think anyone would say that he is anti-homosexual given his libertarian outlook, certainly much less than for example Reagan.

            Most of all, one simply cannot weigh the topics of DIRE IMPORTANCE that Ron Paul talks about against the VAPID HUBRIS of general political discussion today. He is the only guy who actually calls out our shitty, murderous, debt-exploding pro-Israel war policy in the Middle East, and wants to call back all the troops wasting money from the obscure corners of the world where we make enemies.  He wants to cut the dip-shit subsidies on corn farmers, subsidies on oil companies, subsidies on Brazilian cotton farmers (look it up, too unbelievable to make up).  He wants to flush out all the incredible, heinous bureaucratic waste in govt departments and the pentagon/CIA.  He would restore our individual liberties, protect freedom and anonymity on the net, reduce our taxes, pay down the debt, levy charges against war criminals who have recently held high office, ignore lobbyists for corporations (he has little corporate sponsorship), avoid enslaving Americans in an obligatory socialist health-care system, and end the Federal Reserve and its psychotically-retarded mission to debase the value of the US dollar.

            If you have counter-arguments against those statements that are remotely as poignant, I would be impressed and start to reconsider my support for the man.  Until then, your nit-picking is just more and more indicative of your status as a hater.  I hope you have fun choosing your president between charcoal-tweedle-dee and chalky-tweedle-dum.  

            At least I made it obvious that corporate-satanic-GOP is blocking real choice in the matter of presidential candidates by being part of a group supporting a man who got a giant hand shoved in our collective face. (are you aware of the shenanigans that Reps pulled to shut Paul up? http://lewrockwell.com/orig13/glenn-j1.1.1.html )  You could have the decency to say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” but you would rather perish in your own cynical sect.

          • Jin The Ninja

            i have several points of strong contention that i would raise if this discussion happened one year ago; however it’s not, and it feels grossly redundant. also because you can read said points on 2 of the 3 links i provided that i myself stated. but i will say this: if rp had run as a libertarian, i wouldn’t have given him my outright support, but he would not be so contentious a former candidate.

          • Calypso_1

            bit if a Johnny-come-lately ain’t he?

    • Monkey See Monkey Do

      Supporting Ayn Rand’s lovechild requires a certain level of ignorance or complicity in the psy-op. For the most part that hasn’t worked at disinfo.

      • kowalityjesus

        Interesting perspective, I don’t really think I am in either category too heavily, maybe just enough of both, tho.  I would rather actually pretend like the movement will matter than cynically prattle on about how it’s doomed.

        • Jin The Ninja

           so you’d rather live in a fictional narrative with unicorns, fairies and st paul, keeper of the market gates, than to live in the reality of global politics?

          • kowalityjesus

            Actually, I would like to support the most qualified and intelligent candidate, even if he doesn’t have corporate sponsors, and even if he will be shot down by the establishment at every turn, instead of hate on other people like a person who wants for enlightenment.

          • Jin The Ninja

            oh yes, ron paul the anti establishment free market liber… oh republican….the republicans are such an underrepresented party. a third party at best. their views so marginalised. i can see where you’re coming from, supporting such a radical candidate. there are NO corporations in love with the market…cough…cough…. paul, he’s such a man of the proletariat…oh wait he’s man of koch and co…they are a family owned business, right? right??

            if you edit something in about ‘enlightenment’ that’s fine, but it really had nothing to do with the discussion nor what was previously there.

          • kowalityjesus

            it’s a waste to be hater, and you demonstrate your ignorance by what you said.

          • Jin The Ninja

            tell me exactly what was untrue or hateful. i didn’t know context means hate.

          • Jin The Ninja

            tell me exactly what was untrue or hateful. i didn’t know context means hate.

  • Dd23

    Oh this is by that self loathing white guy who became a 5%er (!!!) isn’t it?

  • Dd23

    Oh this is by that self loathing white guy who became a 5%er (!!!) isn’t it?

  • Ted Heistman

    A lot of white people never J-walk. I think it explains a lot of the institutional violence. 

  • Ted Heistman

    A lot of white people never J-walk. I think it explains a lot of the institutional violence. 

  • Sjorrnert

    I’m going to not read this website any longer although I have followed it for years.  Everything you put up is increasingly anti white in the name of who knows?  I’m not white or black or yellow but human but, like you pressumably, realise that anything we come to think is probably the result of someone else no matter how free we might think that we are.  So good luck with you but thats that.

  • kowalityjesus

    … hmm I thought is was because I talk too much.

  • I_abide

    So basically I should feel bad by proxy because I was born into the current large empire of the world and I’m the predominant skin color of that group?  

    All countries governments work the same they all lie to the population for their own interests. I don’t feel good about the government’s actions nor do I believe the garbage they try to use as justification.  The problem is doing anything about it.  The machine is getting to a size that it will take a monkey wrench the size of Ohio to trip it up.

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