Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship
Published on Apr 13, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler
When Narratives Collide
The heroic Capt Richard Phillips is held captive for five days by deadly, mercenary pirates high on hallucinogenic Qat. President Obama refuses to order an immediate rescue, (see conservative combat journalist Jeff Emanuel's excellent piece about this), the Navy Seals nevertheless expertly rescue Capt. Phillips—and left-liberal British journalist, Johan Hari, immediately insists that we " are being lied to about the pirates."
Hari argues that the Somali pirates have been driven to criminal hostage-taking because America and Europe have polluted Somalian waters with radioactive waste, caught all the fish in their ocean, created a failed nation state–and thus, have forced the men to become pirates dependent upon the kindness of strangers' ransom money.
And yes, with the usual twist of logic, Hari explains that the original British pirates were starved and beaten by cruel British sea captains and therefore turned to piracy which was, in truth, an egalitarian, collective movement which also rescued African slaves on the run. And, in this bid for our sympathy, Hari hopes that we, too, will confuse eighteenth and nineteenth century British-born pirates with the twenty-first century Somalian variety. (Well, Hari also supported those who recently rioted in the streets of London during the G-20 meeting. He viewed the rioters as "on the right side of history.").
A narrative is also supported by refusing to cover events that do not support it, by pretending they do not exist. According to the left-liberal New York Times, (which used to be my Bible too), there has never been an honor killing in America. There are only "domestic violence" incidents which people-like-me wish to falsely label. (Stand by for a book by conservative journalist, Bill McGowan, Gray Lady Down, which is about the New York Times).
According to the Times, the 2009 Buffalo beheading of Aasiya Z. Hassan was not an honor killing, nor were the 2008 honor killings of Dallas-based Amina and Sarah Said, Atlanta-based Sandeela Kanwal, or Alexandria-based Hawlett Mohammed. In fact, just to be safe, the paper of record chose not to cover these honor killings—not even as incidents of domestic violence. To do so, might dangerously undercut their ruling narrative of injured Islamic innocence bearing up nobly under the onslaught of infidel insults such as Salman Rushdie's work, the infamous Danish cartoons, etc.
Narratives are supported by presenting only some of the facts, not all of them, or by smoothly slipping in very objectionable facts in a piece that heralds their mirror-opposite.
Just this past weekend, friends pointed out that the  Times featured a "Black Imam" from Saudi Arabia as proof that the Saudi King, (yes, the same fellow to whom President Obama bowed, deeply), is dedicated to an anti-racist and anti-segregationist program. Although black and born poor, Sheik Adil Kalbani will now be the "first black man to lead prayers in Mecca." The portrait paints the advancement of Sheik Kalbani as proof that Saudi Arabia is now committed to tolerance, justice, and non-discrimination. Buried in the article, is the fact that Sheik Kalbani lives with two wives and twelve children.
Thus, polygamy is seamlessly presented as acceptable, even as part of a new era of tolerance—in the New York Times. And the fact that Saudi women are not allowed to be seen in public without a full face-and-body covering, are publicly lashed if they are suspected of talking to men who are not their close relatives, are not allowed to drive, are forced into child marriages to men old enough to be their grandfather, etc—simply does not matter. We are still back in the American 1840s and 1850s, where racial justice for men trumps all concerns about gender justice for women.
But, do these mind-twisting narratives really matter so much? I fear they do.
In the last few years, more and more women have begun to appear on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, veiled Saudi-style. Some even wear dark glasses to cover their "naked" eyes. These women or their parents have immigrated from many countries, some are African-American converts, many seem relatively young. I believe that the college-age, educated women among them truly believe that they are walking symbols of resistance against: racism, white supremacy, western imperialism, western colonialism, "Zionism," etc. Funny, their male counterparts/superiors dress far more comfortably, whether their clothing is western-or Islamic-style. Many American feminists say that this female willingness to suffer is no different than American women who wear very high heels and tight shoes and who undergo plastic surgery.
I disagree. The ruling politically correct narratives about pirates and American empire and about Islam and women will doom western civilization and all those who share its values if we refuse to understand the difference between civilization and barbarism; if we continue to falsely accuse Israel of "apartheid" and fail to condemn Islam for its gender and religious apartheid.
Finally, the concept of a "narrative" is an armchair philosophy. When the brave Navy Seals rescued Capt Phillips they were acting in the real and very dangerous world, they were not safely narrating a tale.
My deepest congratulations to them!
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