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Deconstructing D'Souza - Part I

by delicatemonster Tue Mar 6th, 2007 at 09:22:00 PM EST

Part I-in which we discredit D'Souza's main premise...

You know it's bad when the only rationale you can come up with for attacking a liberal world view is that it's inconsistent with a jihadist's world view. What's worse is when you can't even get the facts straight about those Islamic folks you wrongly believe are on your side.

But let's begin at the beginning....

For those unfamilar with his latest work, D'Souza has suggested that many modern social problems are results of a decline in belief in a universal moral order. In his recent book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, he wrote that

The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11 ... the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.

From a National Review interview with Dinesh D'Souza opined that the cultural left was effectively the driving force behind Muslims violence towards Westerners in the particular instance of 9/11 and in general. He quotes (one almost adds 'approvingly') the ramblings of Osama bin Laden as evidence of this assertion:


Here's Dinesh D'Souza....

In his Letter to America, issued shortly after 9/11, he [Osama bin Laden] said that America is the fount of global atheism and it is imposing its morally depraved values on the world. So Muslims must rise up in defensive jihad against America because their religion and their values are under attack.

Unfortunately for Dinesh D'Souza's credibility, this statement is wrong. Osama bin Laden never said that our morally depraved values were the cause of the 9/11 attacks. In fact he was quite specific about those reasons, and they can be easily googled.

The specific question as to why he attacked the United States is addressed in his open letter to the U.S.:

While seeking Allah's help, we form our reply based on two questions directed at the Americans:

(Q1) Why are we fighting and opposing you?
(Q2)What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?

As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:

(1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.

Here are his bill of particulars for the 9/11 attack:

(a) You attacked us in Palestine:
(b) You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon.
(c) Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries, which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis;
(d) You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of you international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.
(e) Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures.
(f) You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down.
(g) You have supported the Jews in their idea that Jerusalem is their eternal capital, and agreed to move your embassy there. With your help and under your protection, the Israelis are planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque. Under the protection of your weapons, Sharon entered the Al-Aqsa mosque, to pollute it as a preparation to capture and destroy it.

All of these constitute the reason and the justifications for the 9/11 attack in Osama bin Laden's view. It is only in answer to his second question, "what would he bring the US to" that Osama bin Laden mentions our culture. This is not the casus belli at all; and as such, Dinesh D'Souza's premise, that America's "morally depraved values, " are the cause of the 9/11 attacks is stupid dawdle.

But this is exactly the kind of soft focus dawdle that the right specializes in. His contention -- not so different from Jerry Falwell's lunacy -- is that the left's very openness and value system is the underlying reason for the 9/11 attacks, the rising Global 'clash of civilizations' and therefore the so-called Global War on Terror.  In fact, this forms the  premise of his latest book and it is completely unfounded by a series of easily googled polls, as we shall see. As a corrective to his utterly incorrect world view, by the way, D'Souza argues, a war should be waged on 'liberals' and liberal values as well.

Well, now, as my grandma used to say, let's talk about this.

First, let's be clear. Cultural disparity and differences between patriarchal Islamic cultures and a modern West did not lead to 9/11. Supporting the suppression of the Palestinians,  starving Iraqis, fielding US soldiers in Saudi Arabia, and draining the oil wealth from the regions were all included in Osama bin Laden's bill of particulars for the attack. And, in fact, if D'Souza understood Islam he'd realize that those are the only defensible reasons for attacking another community, whether that community happens to be an infidel community or not. And, furthermore, almost every Islamic cleric or scholar of any reputation has denounced the 9/11 attacks even on these grounds. So to conflate the writings of one violent, isolated and deluded individual with the thinking of an all encompassing 'they' (presumably all of Islam) is nothing short of non-sensical. Of course, that's what we've come to expect from D'Souza, and the right in general. Start with a prejudiced worldview and work your argument backwards from there. In this instance the prejudicial worldview is atavistic in the extreme; and furthermore, without any statistical support, something most social scientists feel at least a little awkward without.  

D'Souza bravely argues that the majority of the Islamic world does not want globalization. But this isn't borne out by the evidence of a variety of easily googled polls.

Some examples:

BBC International Poll

Majorities of people surveyed in 27 countries believe that common ground can be found between Islam and the West, rejecting the idea of a clash of civilizations, according to a poll published Monday.

The British Broadcasting Corp. World Service poll of more than 28,000 people found 52 percent believe tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims are caused by political power and interests, compared with 29 percent who say religion and culture are root causes.

Pew Trusts

Few opinion leaders, even in Muslim countries, see popular support for the al Qaeda position and most report at least a moderate degree of public backing for the U.S. More generally, two-thirds of opinion leaders outside the U.S. say ordinary people in their countries have a favorable view of the U.S. The notable exception is the Middle East/conflict area, where roughly half say ordinary people have a negative impression of the U.S
Along with resentment of U.S. power, the other leading reason that people around the world dislike the United States, according to foreign opinion leaders, is the perception that U.S. policies contribute to the growing gap between rich and poor nations. While acknowledged by some American opinion leaders as well, influentials in most other regions see this as a bigger problem.

Similarly, while American opinion leaders think the U.S. is liked for its good works around the world, fewer than one-in-four leaders in all other regions agree. What U.S. influentials underestimate is the importance of the nation's role as a technological and scientific leader in bolstering America's image overseas. Two-thirds of foreign opinion leaders rate this as a major reason why people like the U.S.

The perception of the United States as the land of opportunity is what most opinion leaders ­ both in the United States and overseas ­ see as America's strong suit. American democratic ideals also are thought to be appealing by majorities of leaders in most parts of the world, with Muslim countries not far behind.

While U.S. support for Israel is not seen as a major factor in why ordinary people dislike the United States, except in Muslim states, a 73% majority of opinion leaders around the world believe the U.S. has been too supportive of Israel. Just 35% of American elites concur. And there is broad consensus among influentials that if the U.S. pressured Israel to create a Palestinian state, terrorism would be reduced ­ 67% of American leaders subscribe to that view, as do 74% of those overseas.

There is little indication that criticisms of the United States by anti-globalization activists hold much sway with people around the world. The growing power of U.S. multinational corporations is not seen as a leading factor in why the U.S. is disliked, except in Western Europe. The spread of American culture through movies, TV and music is at most a minor reason for animosity toward the U.S., according to foreign influentials. Looking forward, few see the sale of American products and the popularity of American entertainment being hurt by the war on terrorism.

When asked directly whether globalization has been a cause of terrorism, pluralities of opinion leaders viewed it as a minor factor at best. Nor is globalization likely to become a casualty of the war. The consensus is that the pace of globalization has barely slowed ­ and even this is seen as a temporary phenomenon by most opinion leaders, in the United States and abroad. This despite the fact that strong majorities see migration, travel and tourism being hurt by the war.

These findings are based on 275 interviews with influential people in politics, media, business, culture and government conducted by the Pew Research Center, Princeton Survey Research Associates and the International Herald Tribune, Nov. 12 to Dec. 13. Almost all interviewing was conducted after the fall of Kabul as the Taliban was in full retreat. Of the 275 interviews, 40 were conducted in the U.S. and approximately 10 were conducted in each of the countries listed.

World Public Opinion Poll

This is a poll of the Iranian public conducted mid-January of 2007. Considering the bellicose nature of the United States at that late date, Iran's openness to 'being part of the world' and globalization, in general, stands in stark contrast to D'Souza's delusions. Especially as it is an official 'Islamic state'; so its populations' views should tend to either confirm or disprove D'Souza. The result is slap down of D'Souza's knee jerk and entirely unfounded opinion-to the point where I would presume the old wingnutter would begin to become embarrassed:

86% think Iran should take an active part in the world.
Only 9% opt for isolation.

With regard to worldwide treaties, they seem to be more commendable than the US with 60% favoring continued participation in the NFT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)and 71% favor keeping the Middle East a non-Nuclear zone. 68% favor the elimination of nuclear weapons altogether. 54% view IAEA's UN influence as positive, with fully 70% agreeing that the UN needs to take a more forceful and influential role in the world (you think you'd get those kind of 'globalization positive stats in the US?). 68% have a highly unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden and additional 6% have an unfavorable view which means that 3/4s of the population of our erstwhile 'terrorists' enemy in Iran actually view Osama bin Laden exactly as we do. Hard to work up a 'clash' of civilization when all those clashing folks actually agree with you.

Finally with regard to the US and the West, despite our saber rattling of late, fully 58% think that we can find common ground and a most Iranians also think that it's as important to strengthen ties with Muslim countries as well as the West; and most again have a positive view of Europe, also agreeing, notably that Europe should strive to have more influence than the United States. Presumably, if D'Souza's assertion were even close to correct, Europe, with its much more licentious pornography laws and openness regarding sexuality in general, should be less of an influence, not more. But, you see, that only holds true if you discount United States foreign policy and attribute all reaction on the ground in Islamic countries to such 'cultural' data as secular belief systems, alcohol availability, divorce rates and porn magazines. In a word, nothing in all the polls I've  reviewed come even close to bearing D' Souza out. He appears to be spewing ideological nonsense that has no correlation to the facts on the ground. In fact, he's suggesting a scenario that is pretty much completely decoupled from reality; it's only significant supporters are his fellow travelers on the far right; that small coterie of neocons and overzealous pundits who have done so much to help create havoc in the Middle East, murder countless hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, and, ultimately, in the most unpatriotic cut of all, destroy America's image in the world.

Next week-Part II, in which we discredit D'Souza's logic.
(cross posted at DailyKos)

As many of us point out regularly, our safest future lies in cooperation as (distinctly) opposed to competition. This not only applies to new types of business organizations, new political structures (ie real democracy) and new types of social activist groups (driven by www), but also to diplomacy.

International diplomacy is just a bigger version of what we do every day - negotiate as fairly as possible the differences between different cultures. Or, in our everyday case, it is the negotiation between different 'personalities'.

But it is the same problem. And the first part of a solution is always to try to understand the other person's point of view - if you want to find a workable compromise. That is what cooperation is: finding workable compromises - ways to move forward.

In the area of this diary, that means trying to understand the basic beliefs, perceptions, history and traditions of Islam. It means also looking at our non-Islamic world through the eyes, not only of Islam (or any other major or minor belief set), but also the living conditions and aspirations of people who are not able to live like us.

We use diplomacy to avoid conflict, not to impose our beliefs on others.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 02:42:48 AM EST
As good an opportunity as any to ask :

When France's diplomacy was kind of lonely, trying to prevent the US from invading Irak, with Villepin flying around the world trying to get support, how was the public opinion in the other European countries ? In Germany, I believe I have an idea, but elsewhere ?

Why didn't France get more support when trying to stop the bully by diplomatic means ?

by balbuz on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 04:36:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy, Spain and the UK had governments fully on board with Bush' folly, which explains the size of the popular demonstrations against the war [much larger than the ones in France and Germany].

France had all the support it needed to stop the bully. The fact is that the attempt to cajole the UNSC into lending legitimacy to the adventure failed, and the failure was acknowledged at the Acores summit in early March 2003. What France (or Russia, or China) did not have was the intention of getting physically [or financially] in the way of the bully if the bully insisted in undertaking an illegal action. And that proves the US is a superpower.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 04:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Como se dice, los bandidos ? Aux poubelles de l'histoire !

by balbuz on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 08:31:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aznar didn't seek re-election, but his party was ejected from power and some of his policies reversed. Berlusconi was also ejected, but he was not at the meeting. The only reason Aznar was there [despite his delusions of grandeur] was that Spain happened to chair the UNSC for the first half of 2003. That meeting was the last time the Anglo-American press paid attention to him.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 08:50:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland officially suppported UN policy 100%, including the continuation of inspections under Hans Blix etc. Many in goverment spoke out against Bush.

In the media it was less clear cut editorially. But as I recall, rigid sampled polling and the kind of newspaper 'What do you think?' type of loose polling, all had regular majorities against invasion.

Finland is very much a serious EU team player, though sometimes taking minority positions against France, Germany, Britain. Finland is not a member of NATO, though it has observer status. Finland has limited its military role abroad to UN peacekeeping and is a frequent and early contributor to UN efforts in this regard.

Finland, for historical, pragmatic and commercial reasons, sees itself as an important moderator between Russia, the EU, the UN and to a much lesser extent the US. Add into this mix, that Finland is a so-called Welfare State in the classic Nordic model, while still being very active with the emergent Baltic states, even though they are taking a different line. Finland sees Estonians as genetic brothers and sisters, tied by an almost common language. Latvia and Lithuania are also developing strong relations with Finland - taking up again the old trading ideas of the Hanseatic League.

The Baltic Sea is the unifying factor.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 05:28:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What credibility does D'Souza have?

His thesis is plainly barking mad - standard issue hate-speech yapping propaganda from the lunatic Right, but surely obvious nonsense among people who aren't clinically deranged.

I expect it will get some traction in the US, but the rest of the world will be too busy pointing and laughing to need to spend time deconstructing it.

Random House, meanwhile, will be laughing all the way to the bank. I doubt even they take it seriously.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 11:05:29 AM EST
None at all to anyone with a functioning brain.

But that's not the point.  Saying there is a right-wing propaganda machine here in the states is not hyperbole.  It is a statement of fact.  Approximately 30% of the US population lives in that world-view, to some degree or other, and they think D'Souza is a Great Mind -- Look!  He wrote a book, is on Fox News, and everything!

D'Souza gains his creditability from the venues and media channels through which he is presented to the public.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 12:23:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. Just calling him barking mad doesn't effectively knock down his points. What seems prima facie nuts to those of us who eat and breath this stuff every day, gets credibility by default because

1)he is an academic who publishes a book and is on Fox news...and

2)no one on the left bothers to note that the very premise for the 'clash of cultures' argument is factual nonsense--not just a poor opinion (which many including K. Pollit, E. Alterman, dKos readers, etc...have done in abundance)--but factually inaccurate, as in, opposed to statistically verifiable reality --and, as a consequence, all the nasty stuff that's derived from it can get a kind of intellectual 'free pass' as well--at least for those 30% who are already nodding their heads...

So I think D'Souzas little rant offers an excellent opportunity to do a top to bottom critique of the right's world view. Starting from a factually insane premise and working our way outward. FYI, where I intend to wind up is Axelrod's gaming experiments and a strong argument for the evolution of cooperation as a moral and cultural end point.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 03:50:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This new book of D'Souza's was quite sad, to me, as someone who thought his What's So Great About America made a lot of good points.  He's done an complete 180-degree turn between the two, going from, in many ways, defending America on the basis of the cultural Left to bashing America because of it.

Does bin Laden find our culture offensive?  I'm sure he does, but al-Qaeda did not blow up the WTC and the Pentagon simply because Britney Spears dresses like a hooker.  No serious person could possibly believe that removing her from television would put an end to the conflict.

As always, my opinion is the same: Get off the oil, and put an end to our being involved in all of this horseshit throughout the world.  Give bin Laden what he wants, and let's see how great he thinks it when the Middle East is left as the worthless fucking pile of dirt it truly is.  Then nobody will have any right to bitch.

I'm dead serious.  I'm so tired of this.  I'm really sick and tired of being involved with issues abroad that are none of our business.  Why did everybody feel the need to look to us when Israel and Lebanon had their little fight last year?  Why is it our job to decide when the Palestinians get their state?  Why are we the ones who are supposed to fix the situation in Darfur?  Why do we still have troops at the DMZ?

Enough is enough.  This World's PoliceTM bullshit is the cause of terrorism.  Shut it all down.  The rest of the world can sort it out.  If Mexico and Canada step out of line, we'll deal with it.  Beyond those two, it's out of our juridiction.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 12:39:16 PM EST
let's see how great he thinks it when the Middle East is left as the worthless fucking pile of dirt it truly is
Not sure what you mean.

I'm really sick and tired of being involved with issues abroad that are none of our business.
It may be none of Drew's business, but it certainly is big oil business. So don't expect any withdrawal within the next ... 50 years ?

by balbuz on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 12:58:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure what you mean.

Just what I said.

It may be none of Drew's business, but it certainly is big oil business. So don't expect any withdrawal within the next ... 50 years ?

At the earliest, in all likelihood, unfortunately.  Just a bit of an "If I Ran the World" rant.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 7th, 2007 at 01:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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