Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Year In Pictures & Media Bias

One of my favorite features on is their 'Week in Pictures' segment. Every week they put together a slide show of some really beautiful work, some from the news, some just artistic. At the end of each slide show, you can vote on your favorite pictures. It's always an enjoyable way to spend 10 minutes or so.

Anyway, they now have the 50-odd readers choice pictures posted from the last years worth of pictures called, obviously, 'The Year in Pictures', which we can now also vote on, presumably for the readers choice picture of the year.

But there's a twist. In addition to the 'Readers Choice' pictures, voted on by the general public, there are also the 'Editors Choice' selections. Now, there is of course nothing wrong with that. But it is tremendously interesting to see what the people chose as their favorite images, and what the editors chose. Even the way they preface the selections is very telling. Under the 'Readers Choice' title, they write, "Your Favorities from The Week In Pictures". Under the 'Editors Choice' title they write "We Pick The Best Images Of The Year". Oh really? So only their trained eyes are qualified to pick the 'best' images (whatever that means), while the thousands of ordinary people who actually visit their site and took the time to vote on these same images somehow cannot recognize the 'Best'. Sheesh.

This may seem like nitpicking, and maybe it is, but it is also highly indicitave of the elitist attitude we find permeating our journalistic institutions. We the public simply cannot be trusted to decide things for ourselves... sure we can like whatever we want, but at the end of the day, it is of course best to defer the really important decisions to our educated betters in the chattering class.

And this is not even mentioning the stark contrast in content between the two categories (remember that both sets were chosen from the same pool of images). Sure there are a couple of overlaps (literally one or two) where the great unwashed masses chose correctly, but for the most part the difference between what we the people actually like, and what the editors think we should like are two very different things. For the most part, the people chose photos of beautiful landscapes, animals, families and other serene topics. The editiors, however, felt it necessary to emphasize war, conflict, and especially the American military under fire, in the worst possible light. Bloody Iraqi and Afghan civillians, scared young soldiers, the charred bodies of those brutally murdered Blackwater contractors, and of course Abu Ghraib made up a good chunk of what the editors consider to be the 'best pictures of the year', regardless of what the public thinks of them. No pictures of confident soldiers looking determined to carry out their mission. No proud Iraqi police, excited to finally try to take the reigns of security in their fragile country. Nothing like that.

Now of course the editors are entitled to their opinion, just as anyone else is. And they are more than welcome to use their website to show us what they consider to be important and worthy of our attention, but this whole think reeks of condecention and elitist smarm. And it also graphically points out the very real chasm that exists between mainstream thought and the attitudes of those who bring us our news and information in the big media.

Check it out for yourself:

Burqas On The Subway & The Islamic Problem

I am not a Muslim. I don't pretend to be an authority on Islam or Islamic culture. I have never visited a Muslim nation, nor have I even stepped foot inside a Mosque. I have little to no understanding of the nuance of the Koran or how it applies to the daily lives of Muslims.

I do however know some things for certain. I know that a good chunk of the problems around the world today, and a lions share of the violence --from stonings in Iran, to murder/suicide bombings in Israel, to genocide in the Sudan, and the list goes on-- stem from Muslim fundamentalism and it's incompatibility with the reality of modern life on this planet (including the very simple fact that not everyone is a Muslim). I know that all nations practicing fundamental Islamic law are backwards, 10th century hellholes, known best for slavery, beheadings, suicide murder, and the suppression of even the most basic civil rights. I know that Muslim leaders, regardless of where they reside, are all too often a voice of encouragement to such abominations, and rarely criticize even the most horrific acts carried out in the name of their religion (like 9/11), without also including some conspiratorial rant against Israel as a counterpoint. I know that even allegedly 'moderate' Muslims have been largely silent in the face of such dysfunction, preferring instead to seek victim status, and the protection which they know it affords them in this multicultural, 'sensitive' society we've developed (which, ironically, does not exist in Islam). It does not take an expert on Islamic culture or history to recognize that there is something very wrong here, on a very basic level.

Mind you, this is not an indictment of all people who call themselves Muslim, however it is a hard truth that these people need to come to terms with quickly, if they wish to save their faith from becoming even more of a pariah than it already has. Up to this point, we as a nation have been more than willing to give the so-called 'moderate' Muslims the benefit of the (rather large) doubt. Immediately after 9/11, president Bush made sure he was seen with Muslim leaders, and there has not been any real widespread persecution or violence against Muslims in America. Certainly nothing like the Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor (which was, in my opinion, wholly justifiable, however unfortunate and heavy handed it may seem today).

You see, most people in this country can identify with the plight of Muslims (and other immigrants) who come to America to seek a better life; nearly everyone here can trace most of their family back to relatives who did exactly the same thing. And we certainly sympathize with Muslims who come here to escape the tyranny and brutality of their home nations.

However, we find it very difficult to accept these people when they attempt to bring a part of those tyrannical and brutal regimes here with them. Case in point, the burqa. We all know it as the symbol of Taliban oppression used to help keep women as fourth class citizens in Afghanistan (just below the dog and goat), now no longer mandatory in that country (but old habits die hard, and many women still opt for the formless, top-to-bottom cover rather than risk a dirty look, or worse, from the local mullah steps I suppose). However, it is not uncommon here in NYC (at least, not as uncommon as it should be) to see women walking around in a full burqa, complete with the little mesh grate so that not even her eyes can be viewed by the lecherous infidel public, lest she excite a male to the extent that he cannot resist and takes her 'honor', (which would obviously be her fault for being such an eye-exposing whore) leading of course to death by stoning.

Now it has been argued that these women have the right to wear a burqa, which is obviously true. But honestly, when these people come to the United States and walk around in blatant symbols of oppression and hardship, one which we have fought a war in Afghanistan to help remove, it becomes very difficult for most Americans, myself included, to sympathize with their culture or plight as immigrants. More importantly, if they are so unwilling to adjust even slightly to our traditions and way of life, why should we have any respect at all for theirs? This of course recalls the case a couple of years ago of the Florida woman who wanted to have her drivers license photo taken in full burqa (which is odd, because if she has to wear a burqa, it's surprising that her male overseer allows her to drive... but I digress). Anyway, I believe that sanity prevailed in that case and she did in fact have to remove her veil for the photo (or not get a license), but the fact that anyone could argue on her behalf in that case was mind boggling. Aside from the obvious fact that wearing a burqa for an ID photo entirely defeats the purpose of an ID photo (and any security implications associated with such), what reasonable grounds can one have to justify something like that? Religious belief? What if a Klansman wanted to wear his white hood for his license photo? Or what if a nudist wanted to take the picture naked? Those are not religions, you say? Says who? Many Klansman and nudists regard their respective belief systems as religion, and with a bit of light paperwork, they'd have the tax status to prove it. So who decides what a legitimate religion is? The government? No, I don't think I want the government making those kinds of decisions, and neither did the founding fathers, as this is exactly what the establishment clause sought to prevent. So beyond that, what legal grounds would anyone have to argue for the diver-license-burqa? And no, for the record, feel-good, warm and fuzzy 'cultural sensitivity' does not trump the word of law.

But this is merely a symptom of a much larger issue. Historically, when most immigrants made their lives here in this country, for better or for worse, they did so because they saw this as a place where they could have a life better than the one they left behind. And it is also very true that most immigrant communities have had growing pains in their first few generations here. One only needs to look back upon 19th century Manhattan to realize this. But we have not seen anything like what has been happening with the Muslim community previously. You see, when the Irish came to America, they did not want to make the country like Ireland. And when the Italians came, they did not want to make the country like Italy. Nor the Germans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans etc. Each brought a piece of their culture, but realized that America is a nation unto itself and different from the one which they left behind... and they were happy with that. That in turn led to a rich, diverse set of people who contributed their unique experiences and valuable cultures to the overall American tapestry, thus enhancing it for each and every citizen, and helped to make us the most successful nation in the history of the world. The crimes and acts of violence committed by Irish & Italian immigrants during their periods of adjustment, however despicable, were more often than not carried out for the rather simple goal of making fast money or otherwise 'getting ahead' in a world that they had yet to fully come to terms with. After a few generations, these tendencies had by and large faded into the background. In stark contrast, the violence we see Muslims committing around the western world today has the far more nefarious intent of actually changing the values of their host nations as they exist today, and imposing the fundamental belief system of Islam on the rest of the world. These are not 'immigrants' as we have come to know the term historically, but rather jihadist missionaries who take advantage of western tolerance and diversity to spread their beliefs by any means necessary (literally).

In fact, many of the western Muslim communities' more vocal members, openly state that it is the goal of Muslims to become the dominant, and eventually the sole faith in America and world. One only need to look at the recent Islamic violence in Amsterdam, arguably the most tolerant and liberal society in the world, to see that regardless of how open and understanding we try to be, fundamentalist Islam only seeks to either convert or kill. The murder of Theo Van Gogh puts an underscore on what conservatives have been asserting all along, and what liberals have been attempting to deny: that Islamic terrorism occurs not as a reaction to any foreign or domestic policy of this or any other western nation, but rather from very basic Islamic incompatibility with modern life. Here you have Amsterdam, a nation which has minded it's own business and not offended anyone in the last 500 years, is neutral in basically every global conflict, and welcomes people from all corners of the world with lax immigration and welfare laws. Yet somehow now finds itself with a very serious terrorism issue. It seems that the individual who brutally and publicly murdered Theo Van Gogh, then nailed a jihadist screed to his chest with a knife was not necessarily unique in his beliefs there.

Can anyone honestly argue at this point that we 'create' terrorism through 'insensitive' foreign and domestic policy? No, one cannot. As I said before, you cannot hope to find a more liberal/progressive society than that of Amsterdam, and even they are under attack. What are they being 'punished' for? Leftists will point out that Theo Van Gogh was of course involved with a controversial film project that took a critical look at fundamentalist Islam (as though this was some kind of legitimate rationalization), but it only further proves my point; when you allow fundamentalists of this sort to go totally unchecked in the name of 'tolerance', it will only serve to foment their fundamentalist tendencies and encourage ever-escalating acts of violence against their host nation, to the point where the basic freedom of speech rights of all citizens are steadily encroached upon for the sake of 'sensitivity' (which has become code for 'not wanting to upset those who may find it a religious duty to make a home movie of your decapitation'). I believe Ann Coulter put it best when she said "Ah, yes, we must seek to mollify those who hate us and want to kill us, otherwise they'll hate us and want to kill us". You see, Muslim fundamentalists are not impressed with our multiculturalism, tolerance or sensitivity to their culture. They do not come to America (or Amsterdam or Canada) with the intent of committing mass murder, only to have their hearts and minds won over by our liberal values. Quite the contrary. They view our value system as a weakness to be exploited at every possible opportunity. You can see this demonstrated on every level imaginable; from the Iraqi insurgents that hide weapons and ammo inside a mosque, to Palestinian terrorists that use children as runners to carry messages and explosives, and set up bomb factories in the middle of residential districts. The 9/11 hijackers themselves lived good, middle class lives here in the USA for several years, and yet had absolutely no qualms whatsoever with waking up one morning, getting dressed, driving to the airport, and flying jumbo jets into skyscrapers.

And where are the so-called 'moderate' Muslims? The ones who come here and love this country and work hard and build a family and go to school and have Jewish and Christian friends and think that burqas are an abomination and suicide bombing is the most horrific and cowardly act that a human could possibly commit (with no caveat about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians or American favoritism)? They're out there... you see them occasionally on Fox News, or but they are not nearly loud enough. I think that some of that has to do with the liberal media not wanting to cover pro-America Muslims because that may translate into more widespread support for the Bush administration policy. But generally speaking, there simply are not enough loud voices from within the Muslim community speaking out about these issues. One has to wonder why... I know that if some group of crazies was out blowing up schoolbuses and airliners in the name of Jesus Christ, the outcry from Christians in this nation would be deafening. Surely, when a small taste of this occurred here in the form of Timothy McVeigh, he was one of the most hated men in the nation; swiftly and surely condemned by all and rapidly executed. Contrast this to Osama bin Laden, who has become a sort of pop hero even within the mainstream of Islam. One wouldn't have to look very hard to find a picture of Osama hanging in a classroom of a Madrasa, or even on a T-shirt sold on an Arab streetcorner. I wonder how many Sunday schools have a portrait of Tim McVeigh hanging up? When was the last time you saw a Tim McVeigh tee? Unless we begin to hear more from the moderate Muslim community around the world, and until they begin to take some actual, tangible steps to condemn and stamp out these murderous fundamentalists on their own, we must be left to conclude that either the so-called 'moderates' are not actually all that moderate, and actually do tacitly approve of the global 'jihad' against the west, or that they are such a small percentage of Muslims, that in fact Islam as a whole is simply too dangerous to continue to exist in it's current incarnation. Neither of those options are very pleasant to think about, but alas, those are the only two logical conclusions one can reach if the rather conspicuous silence continues.

So you'll have to excuse me if I'm a bit uncomfortable, and a touch offended when I see a burqa-clad female (presumably) trotting down the street as though this were Kabul. I can't help but wonder if she realizes exactly what freedom means, or if she is here to help stamp it out.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why are New Yorkers so liberal?

An appropriate topic for my first real post here, I think.

To start, we need to think about what liberalism and conservatism mean when applied to the real world, and the actual experiences of real people. Liberalism is a system which places an emphasis upon government to provide for the population, and for the individual to contribute to the 'greater good' with higher taxes and other means for distribution of wealth and services throughout the society. I hate to use the word 'communism', but liberalism as it exists today does in fact reflect communist theory in most of it's major points. This was not always the case, but nonetheless, today's liberals and the Democratic party as a whole are far closer to a communist party than we have ever had in this country previously.

Now, this of course begs the original question of why New Yorkers are so overwhelmingly liberal. If you ask the average New Yorker this question, they'll probably tell you that it has to do with their sophistication, education, tolerance or other elitist mumbo jumbo when compared to the rural philistines which inhabit the vast cornfields and trailer parks of red state America.Truly, much ink and bandwidth has been devoted to this very topic in the last several weeks since the end of the election, as stunned lefties try desperately to make themselves feel better about the election results. Even though they lost, it has been repeatedly rationalized, the results only prove what they had believed all along; i.e. the superiority of the urban intellectual class over the moronic Bible-thumping homophobic warmongers in the rest of the country.

However, up until this point, such feelings were kept carefully private; only spoken at cocktail parties and dinners amongst those of like mind, lest they make too much noise and alienate the poor sheep in the rest of the country whose vote they resent, yet nonetheless need to gain national political power. Fortunately, they have become so unhinged at their stunning loss, that these once-quiet thoughts are now being spoken out loud for all to hear, to the long term detriment of their party.

But I digress. The reason for such liberal/socialist/communist leanings is not out of some great intellectual enlightenment bestowed upon those who pay $3000 a month for a studio loft in SoHo. No, I am afraid that the reason is far more simple, and less existentially glamorous than that.

City dwellers, by definition, tend to live a far more communal existence than their rural counterparts. They live right on top of each other (literally), they travel together on buses and subways, they dine with each other at restaurants (I do not know a single resident of NYC who dines out fewer than three times a week...and orders in the rest of the time). They have public parks, not backyards; few own cars and drive anywhere themselves with any regularity. Personal space is at an absolute minimum, public space is the norm.

All of this adds up to a genuine feeling that the lives of all the citizens are intertwined to a degree that the individual needs should in fact give way to the needs of the collective society. After all, if you make life better for the next guy, it will inevitably be better for me, as I will likely have to deal with the next guy approximately five million times each day.

These feelings of course lead to massive local government (NY has the highest taxes in the nation). But people pay it because they see it as wholly necessary... their responsibility as citizens. And it's just the way it's always been (What are they going to do, NOT have a subway?). The idea of privatization has never been raised, for a number of reasons (powerful unions, bureaucratic momentum, corporate distrust, general complacency... pick one). It's ironic that the big business capitol of the world would have virtually no privatization of any public sector service, but alas, this is the current (and future) state of NYC. It's the same with welfare and education. Schools are meant to be public, and we need to do all we can to accommodate minorities... because we all live right on top of each other and we can't have angry minorities, now can we?

There is of course a better way, or at the very least another way, but this system has been so ingrained in the fabric of city life that all other ideas a viewed, at best, with tremendous suspicion. People here have simply become liberal drones. It is a near impossibility at this point for most New Yorkers to wrap their heads around any governmental concept that is not rooted in socialism and/or multiculturalism. People forget that Giulianni was mayor for eight years before 9/11 made him a hero of epic proportions. In those eight years he was truly one of the most hated men in the world in certain leftist circles. He got the Hitler-moustache treatment on protest signs long before George W. came on the scene. Why? Because he did things differently. He shook up the establishment (and believe me, New York is nothing if not an establishment city) and worked harder than anyone before him to make real, positive change (a somewhat laughable, somewhat scary thought to cynical New Yorkers). Eventually though, even before 9/11, he earned the respect of a good portion of the population. His results were basically impossible to argue against, and only the most hysterical leftist saw his overall administration as anything but a real turning point in the city, which had been well on the road to ruin after a truly disastrous term with Dinkins at the helm (who actually beat Rudy on his first time out, and even after ruining the city, came very close to winning reelection against him the second time). Yes, New Yorkers can see the light eventually, but the light has to basically be a ten-thousand watt stage lamp 5 feet from their face, and their eyes need to be held open with toothpicks for at least 3 years. But there is hope.
The larger problem arises, however, when those who reside in the city begin to feel that what they believe works for them must also work for the rest of the country. Add in a sense of hyper-superiority due to 'superior' education/culture/etc., and you have the situation we currently find ourselves in; Elitist east cost intellectuals believing that it is their entitlement to rule over those unfortunate enough to not live within walking distance to Cipriani and The Met.

Don't get me wrong... I love this city. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It truly is one of the greatest places to live in the world, and I am damn lucky to be here. But by virtue of my address, I am not somehow elevated to a level of cultural superiority over those who plant corn in Iowa or herd cattle in New Mexico. And I certanly do not believe that it is my right, or the right of any government to tell people how to live their lives. If I were in charge of this city, I would of course do things very differently, however, the people of NYC vote every four years, and ultimately the people are responsible for their government, especially at the local level. I have serious problems with certain laws here that I feel do not pass constitutional muster (the draconian gun control, for example), but beyond that, it's hard to deny the simple fact that this is a liberal city, and is likely to remain so for quite some time. It has nothing to do with tolerance or cultural superiority, and everything to do with habit and proximity. Trust me, I live here.


It's about time that I got one of these... at least that's what everyone tells me.

So here I am, joining the blogosphere as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. How exciting.

Anyway, before I begin, a little about me. I am a 27 year old marketing professional who was born and raised in New York City. I have identified myself as a conservative republican since the time I first became politically aware (around the 5th grade or so when my teacher was an avid Dukakisite), and it's been an uphill battle ever since. I have faced liberals of all stripes since then, some nice, some nasty and some that were just plain confused. It's not easy to be a conservative here in NYC, and I plan to share many stories on this blog. Believe me, I have a lot to say.

But that's enough about me for now... hope you enjoy.