Last month, Auster commented on the government and media reactions to the killings in Afghanistan that followed Terry Jones’ burning of the Koran in “Why a Florida pastor has blood on his hands for mass murders committed by Afghan savages on the other side of the world.” Among such reactions was that of craven Senator Lindsey Graham, who stated the following on Face the Nation:
I wish we could find some way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During WWII, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. . . . Any time we can push back here in America against actions like this that put our troops at risk, we ought to do it.
Graham baffles the mind, and he is a Republican from South Carolina, for goodness’ sake. One woman has properly castigated the spineless nematode; watch citizen Ann Barnhardt’s video response (rated PG):
Having relished that red blooded American answer to Graham’s nonsense, let us return to Auster, who offers an explanation of why people would blame a Florida preacher for the savagery of Afghans on the other side of the world:
As I have often written, the liberal order articulates the world through a “script” in which there are three characters: the white liberal, who embodies the non-discriminatory virtue of the liberal regime; the white non-liberal, who discriminates against nonwhites and who must be crushed by the white liberal; and the nonwhite/non-Westerner, who either is discriminated against by the white non-liberal or is non-discriminatorily included by the white liberal. In the script, furthermore, only the white liberal and the white non-liberal are moral actors, with the first representing good and the second representing evil. The nonwhite/non-Westerner is not a moral actor, but is simply the passive recipient of the white liberal’s goodness or of the white non-liberal’s bigotry. The reason that the nonwhite/non-Westerner cannot be a moral actor is that his very function in the script is to be the recipient of either good non-discrimination or evil discrimination. If he were a moral actor, then his own actions would have to be judged; specifically, his bad actions would have to be judged. But to judge his bad actions would be to discriminate against him. And since the central purpose of liberalism is to eliminate all discriminatory treatment of nonwhites/non-Westerners, moral judgement of nonwhites/non-Westerners must also be eliminated. Therefore nonwhites/non-Westerners cannot be seen as responsible moral actors.
The liberal script explains why Jones, who burned a piece of paper with ink on it that he owned, has “blood on his hands,” but the Muslim Afghan mob that invaded a UN compound and murdered 12 UN employees do not have blood on their hands. The Muslims are not moral actors. The Muslims are simply the victims of Terry Jones’s discriminatory act against them. Jones, the white non-liberal, is a moral agent who is responsible for his evil actions. The Muslims are not moral agents and are not responsible for their actions.
Auster regularly repeats his theory of the Left’s denying moral agency to certain groups of people, and I think that he is correct. For the theory explains the infantile manner in which the West’s ruling class treats the Other. However, I think that his theory is only a form of a larger pattern wherein Leftists reject or ignore the possibility of moral or immoral behavior by those whom their noblesse obliges, regardless of the ethnicity involved. We routinely see vice excused while blame gets shifted to “the system” or to “the unjust power structure.” All the while, Leftists employ the language of morality to make their case. In doing so, they are either quite confused, devilishly inconsistent, or simply belittling to the lesser whom they, as civilized, educated people, cannot expect to act as moral agents. If the third is true, then Leftists do not reject morality as such, and so they do not argue foolishly or dishonestly when they make moral claims for their position. It simply means that they reserve the moral realm for themselves and for their interlocutors, while the mass of humanity under discussion is treated simply as pegs in a machine without agency or freedom. They discuss men the way they would discuss animals rescued from a dog fighting ring—as mere passive beasts corrupted by malignant forces.
Speaking of dogs, one of Auster’s readers links to another insightful analysis by David Greenfield, “Muslims and Moral Handicaps.”
When a man teases a dog on the other side of a chain link fence—we blame the man for provoking the dog, not the dog for being provoked. Animals have less of everything that makes for accountability. And so don’t hold them accountable. Instead we divide them into categories of dangerous and harmless, and treat them accordingly.
Our response to Muslim violence in Afghanistan, supposedly touched off by a Koran burning in Florida, uses that same canine logic. The Muslims are dangerous and violent, so whoever provokes them is held accountable for what they do. Don’t tease a doberman on the other side of a chain link fence and don’t tease Muslims on the other side of the border or the world. That’s the takeaway from our elected and unelected officials.
But the Muslim rioters are not dogs, they are human beings whose moral responsibility is being denied by treating their violence as a reflexive act. Their violence is not unconscious or instinctual—it emerges out of a decision making process. There is nothing inevitable about what happened in Afghanistan. If Muslims had some sort of hair trigger, then why was the violent rioting confined to a very specific part of the world. For the same reason that the reaction to the Mohammed cartoons took so long. And why was it directed at the UN and not the US. The Koran burning was not the cause of Muslim violence—but a rationalization for existing violence that would have occurred anyway for reasons having nothing to do with Terry Jones. And by treating Muslims like the ‘Morally Handicapped’ who have no choice but to kill when something offends them, we are not doing any favors for them or us.
It is far more insulting to treat Muslims as if they have no ability to control themselves and have no responsibility for their actions—than it is to burn their Koran. That is an assessment that even many Muslims would agree with.
To blame Jones for their actions, we must either treat murder as a reasonable response to the burning of a book, or grant that Jones has a higher level of moral responsibility than the rioters do. There are few non-Muslims who could defend the notion that burning the Koran is a provocation that justifies bloodshed. And virtually no liberal would openly concede that he believes Muslims are morally handicapped—but then why does he treat them that way?
This is perhaps why there is such a double standard on the Left for the Israelis; maybe it is not simply due to multicultural relativism wherein Westerners refuse to judge non-Westerners for failing Western standards. Leftists sympathize with Palestinian Arabs even when they behave atrociously, but they indulge their righteous anger when the Israelis act the least bit aggressive in defending themselves. What might be unspoken is that Leftists see the Israelis as truly human, and thus worthy of moral reprimand, while they find the Palestinians perpetually innocent regardless of their actions because they are seen as less than human. One may rationally take offense when a man spits at him; no sensible person waxes indignant when a camel does so.