Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Power of Letters

On July 28 at 5pm I will be in front of the Strand Theater in Rockland, Maine, standing against the racism and Islamophobia that broke out in response to a local history museum inviting Al Jazeera's Washington bureau chief to speak at their annual fundraiser. (Thanks to Midcoast Peace and Justice for organizing.) Tickets for the evening with Abderrahim Foukara are $35, and I probably won't be attending his talk; I'll read about it in the press later. Isn't that what journalism is for?

The event has raised the hackles of hundreds who voted in a depressing Bangor Daily News poll that asked: Do you agree with the decision to have Al-Jazeera’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief speak at a fundraiser for the General Henry Knox Museum? After my vote the count stood at YES 468 (25%) versus NO 1,374 (75% of 1,842 total votes). This from a paper described by the more rabid posters as "liberal."

The event raises money for the General Henry Knox Museum. Henry was a class warrior who triumphed, a buddy of George Washington and land speculator, who died allegedly choking on a chicken bone.

From the museum's website emerge hints of a social history begging to be told:
"He dabbled in many of the emerging businesses in midcoast Maine: He shipped timber, quarried lime, made bricks, experimented with agriculture, built canals on the Georges River and got involved with land speculation. Most in Thomaston welcomed him, despite what was perceived as his wife's haughtiness and fondness for gambling, as well as his struggles with squatters."
Appropriately enough, earlier in the season the museum invited Dr. Konstantin Dierks, Associate Professor of American History at Indiana University (Bloomington) and Associate Editor of The Historical Review, to discuss his work on the cultural, social, economic, and political history of communications. Dierks: "The American Revolution and the War of American Independence were fought over paper and with paper, over letters and with letters."

Nowadays such struggle are fought over bytes, with bytes.

According the the BDS,
The annual gala fundraiser is one of the museum’s biggest events, (Executive Director Ellen) Dyer said, adding that tickets are still available. Foukara follows in the footsteps of philanthropist Doris Buffet, last year’s speaker, and CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, who headlined the event in 2009. “I anticipate that this will be a success as well,” she said of Foukara’s speech. “We’re trying to promote an open conversation about what’s going on in the world now. Free speech is very much in keeping with what the Founding Fathers were trying to fight for.”
         The comments on the BDS article about the controversy are a Rorschach ink blot test of 21st century U.S. racism and jingoism, managing to slur everything from European-style single payer health care to "libtards" who allegedly supported Sadaam Hussein. Only a couple of posters seemed to have awareness of where Al Jazeera is based (Qatar) and whether it can really be considered a non-biased news source for the Arab spring uprisings, especially those taking place in oil rich Libya. Posters included birthers and several who self-identified as Vietnam vets, while topics ranged from the role of journalism in the age of Rupert Murdoch and phone hacking, to 9/11 as a false flag operation, the tax exempt status of churches vs. their role as political advocates, and the bill of rights, specifically the 1st amendment right to free speech. A recurring theme was what language we would all be speaking if certain posters had not sacrificed (self-appointed to speak for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, by the way) e.g. I gave you four years on the ground so you aren't speaking Russian right now.  

Posters argued, often at length, over freedom of religion, federal control of food production, the intricacies of Islamic applied theology, U.S. immigration policy -- and its history, and several revolutions besides just the successful tax revolt by a powerful bunch of aspiring landowners back in 1776. Posters urged that Mecca be nuked, and wished for Harry Truman to come back (Truman's name came up several times, actually). They discussed how to recognize propaganda, and debated when and where it is properly deployed. In a thread arguing that no WMDs were ever found in Iraq, and that even the CIA and the Republican Party admit it, is found this typical post: maybe not but they sure do have al queda and train their babies to kill Americans. duh!

Others that attracted my attention out of the 700+ posts:
Al-Jazeera has an agenda -- that is world-wide Sharia. It's funny (that's ironic) how people will scream "free speech" when the enemies of our freedoms want to talk, but if anyone pro-Israel wants to talk, they get death threats and hate speech and canceled.  Yet we give platforms to the worst sort of hate-mongers in the world. 

We have killed million around the world just because they wouldn't let American corporations screw them and steal their resources...all sold to the American public as 'protecting American interests' b.s. Don't post on things of which you clearly know nothing about...another proud product of our public indoctrination system.

As usual these days, public education took several hits. One poster contemptuously asked of someone who attributed the attack on Pearl Harbor to the U.S. denying oil to imperial Japan, did you learn that in public school?

Everything I need to know about Islam I learned on 11 September 2001.
End of discussion.  

Fact:  Muslims have started far fewer wars in the past 1000 years than Christians have.
Also:  It was a christian who led the holocaust.  

...although he (Hitler) made public statements which seemed to affirm religion, it was purely for political purposes. 

How much do you people hate America? Are you for real, inviting our enemy to speak. I can only hope enough protesters will show up and drown out his speech. Oh I forgot that's a liberal tactic.

There was some reasonable dialogue:
How exactly is a journalist from a multi-national news organization our enemy
it's like a house of cards.  if this speaker makes any sense, is human and in front of us, we might not hate him.  if we don't hate *him* then all Muslims aren't terrorists and that would blow our collective minds. 

HeartofSky  commented A nation afraid of...a journalist. Interesting. And also added this to the discussion: DirecTV satellite in Bangor carries Al Jazeera now. 
And some funnies:
Not every organization named Al ______ is a terrorist organization. If that is the criteria for a terrorist organization than Mr. Yankovic better run for the hills before the lynch mob comes to get him.

If there were two sides to the posting "debate" they might be characterized as:

I couldn't care less about Arabs or Al Jazeera or Isreal for that matter.  I care about America.  Islam, Sharia, Arabs and Al Jazeera should stay on their side of the planet! 


If we continue to play the ostrich and hide our heads, the world will eat us alive. We need to be more open and listen. If we just keep killing everyone we do not agree with, people will realize we are the problem and get us... just a thought.

Trumped by: They are desecrating our historical heritage - don't they know there is a war going on?

'Nuff said. See you in Rockland on July 28, or wherever else Islamophobia rears its ugly, un-American head. 
April 9, 2011 New York City rally of thousands against wars & racism

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