Stereotypes, reasonable assumptions, and liberalism

By the way, if there is anyone thinking, based on the fact that the beheading suspect is apparently not a Muslim, that I was premature in guessing that he is one, think about what that says about your attitudes and assumptions and the world view to which you are deferring.

There is one group in the world for whom beheadings are central to their religion and culture. In every country where Islamic law is in effect, Muslims behead criminals. Wherever jihadists are in operation, they behead their enemies, they behead innocent people they capture, they threaten to behead anyone who insults Islam (with an “insult” to Islam defined as being a non-Muslim). Beheadings are as intrinsic to Islam, and as instinctive to hard-line Muslims, as the five times a day prayer.

So, when a man in a country with a large Muslim immigrant population coldly and systematically murders a total stranger on a bus and immediately cuts his head off and brandishes the severed head to horrified bystanders, it is a reasonable, tentative assumption that the killer is a Muslim. There should be no embarrassment about making that assumption. It is only in liberal society, which prohibits “stereotypes”—i.e., true things that you’re not supposed to say—that there is nervousness about reaching reasonable inferences about whether certain behaviors likely come from certain groups. In a non-liberal Western society, a society that was rational and believed in itself, a person would not feel embarrassed or discredited if he guessed that the Canadian killer was a Muslim and the guess turned out to be incorrect. But in a liberal Western society, a society that is irrational and doesn’t believe in itself, people are afraid to say, “It was probably a Muslim,” and then be proved wrong. We need to understand that such fear is not a normal reaction; it is a liberal reaction.

It was the same following the Oklahoma City bombing. The bombing fit the pattern of Muslim terrorist bombings. It was logical for the media to guess, on a provisional basis pending further evidence, that the bombing was by Muslim terrorists. But when the bomber turned out to be an American, Muslim lobbying groups had a field day crying “discrimination,” and the media and public became more cautious than ever about “indulging in stereotypes.” This was a mistake. A healthy society would not have yielded to such intimidation. It would have said to the Muslims:

“The fact that in this case the act was not by Muslim terrorists does not change the reality that terrorist acts exactly like this have frequently been carried out by Muslims, and that we had every reason to suppose that this act was by Muslims, too. As soon as contrary evidence came in, we dropped our prior assumption. So we owe you no apologies, and it’s remarkable that you demand them of us. You are members of a religion whose most devout followers are carrying out terrorist acts all over the world, a religion that commands its adherents to wage war against all non-Muslims until they are subjugated to your power, or converted to Islam, or dead. Your complaints are therefore without merit. Indeed, given how hostile and dangerous your religion is to all non-Muslims, you are extraordinarily fortunate that we allow you to live in this country at all.”

That’s the way a non-liberal society would have reacted.

- end of initial entry -

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Re your post on stereotypes and liberalism, it’s even worse than your post suggests. Consider how many Muslims around the world still believe—will always believe—that Jews perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. Whatever Muslims may say about the prejudicial thinking Americans and Westerners in general, if exculpatory evidence arises, they do not persist in blaming minorities for crimes that they obviously did not commit. Muslims, on the other hand, no matter where they live and no matter how “moderate” or “modern” they claim to be, still refuse to accept even basic and obvious truths that reflect poorly on Islam. If a stereotype proves false in one instance, at least Westerners—let’s be frank, at least people from Christian societies—will readily admit it. You can’t even say that much for your average Muslim, who will cling to his predjudices in virtually any instance, no matter how ourageous and stupid it makes him look.

LA replies:

Great point. It should be added to my proposed reply to the Muslims.

Mike Berman writes:

If this individual had stopped at just beheading his victim I might have suspected that he was a Muslim. Muslims are not prone, as far I know, to then go on to butcher their victims. The killer and victim did not know or speak with each other. That means that that perpetrator had no way of predetermining with any certainty that his intended victim was or was not a Muslim.

LA replies:

What about the Muslim who slaughtered Theo van Gogh? According to the news reports he virtually gutted him then left him with a huge knife sticking into his chest.

As far as attacking a total stranger, my initial thought was that this was a new jihad tactic, to sow the fear in society that anyone can face the ultimate Muslim punishment of beheading, just riding in public transport.

As for your last point, I think a Muslim seeing an Anglo-looking young man in Western Canada could safely assume he was not a Muslim.

Paul K. writes:

NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” program yesterday was titled “Implicit Attitude Tests Reveal Buried Bias,” and discussed how even the most high-minded person, such as a typical public radio listener, can harbor subconscious racial stereotypes that conflict with their conscious values and beliefs. To find out if they hold such views, they can take an on-line test and learn if they make such associations as “old—frail,” “woman—weak,” and “black—danger.” Apparently, making such associations is one of the greatest moral failings a person could have. Fortunately, according to the guests on the show, people can reprogram themselves with sufficient effort.

The first caller spoke of an experience 30 years ago that caused her to redirect her life. She was walking a city street at night and became nervous when she realized a black man was walking behind her, but somewhat relieved when she noticed a white man on the other side of the street. After a few minutes the black man passed her, and shortly thereafter she was accosted by the white man. So traumatized was she by the realization of her prejudice that, she said, she has consciously worked to expunge herself of racism every day of her life since then, and now works at a bi-lingual newspaper and supports social-justice causes.

Another caller lives on the outskirts of Detroit, and was appalled to discover that she felt enraged by the majority of blacks who continue to support the city’s egregiously corrupt mayor, Kwame Fitzpatrick. She blames her Polish mother who instilled anti-black feelings in her as a child.

One caller, a sane man I suspect, called to ask if the experts could help him distinguish between unreasonable prejudice and fear based on facts, such as blacks’ high crime rates. Brian Nosek, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and developer of the Implicit Association Test, suggested he consider that those crime statistics themselves might be biased.

To reprogram ourselves, Siri Carpenter, author of “Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain” published in the “Scientific American,” suggested that people start by focusing on one stereotype at a time. She told of a waiter who frequently reminded himself that he must not assume that black customers will tip poorly. That’s quite a specific stereotype, isn’t it? Where would a waiter get such a crazy idea?

I would say that getting one’s news from NPR would probably be the best way of reprogramming oneself, as they never cover crimes committed by blacks or problems caused by immigrants. In the NPR world, all evil resides within the souls of whites.

LA replies:

The NPR program as you’ve summarized it captures the very essence of modern liberalism put into practical form. Modern liberalism denies that any significant group or sex differences, or stereotypes, exist. To believe that they exist, and to act on that belief, is discrimination, which is the same thing that led the Nazis to dehumanize and exterminate six million Jews. Therefore the eradication of discrimination is a moral imperative. The discovery and removal of stereotypes is the practical means by which the moral, liberal person is constructed. It follows that exposing our secret or unconscious stereotypes is a key activity in the various diversity programs in schools and other institutions. In my four-part article on multiculturalism at FrontPage (I don’t remember which part), there is a description of a sensitivity workshop for the staff of a private school in New England that is worth taking a look at.

E. writes from Florida:

Are we sure the guy was not a Muslim? We’ll know more in a few more days. I’m sure the Canadian authorities are VERY reluctant to release info on the guy’s background. This is all very embarrassing to Canada. Are the Canadian media carrying the story? I know it’s getting amazingly little press in the U.S. Strange, given that it’s the most bizarre story of the year. Ride the intercity bus—get beheaded while sleeping.

Mike Berman writes:

My first thought about that killer was that he was a sexual pervert and I won’t be surprised if that is what he is found to be. When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred everyone I knew was accusing Muslims, but I knew it occurred exactly a year after the Waco carnage and predicted that the perpetrator would turn out to be an angry white male.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 01, 2008 12:35 PM | Send

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