The Lileks Zone

Kristof clarifies things for you

Remember the Nick Kristof interview from last week? Kristoff responds, sort of, to the interview with our host Hugh:

A radio interviewer asked me the other day if I thought bigotry was the only reason why someone might oppose the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. No, I don’t. Most of the opponents aren’t bigots but well-meaning worriers — and during earlier waves of intolerance in American history, it was just the same.

This is a common trope: every immigrant group has a rough patch, thanks to Whitey – even the Irish, who were white, had trouble with Whitey. These misplaced, overblown fears about those furrners and their inscrutable folkways were nonsense then, so they surely must be nonsense now. Dangerous nonsense. Glen-Beck-strength nonsense. But just because you’re not a bigot, you’re still complicit:

Most Americans stayed on the sidelines during these spasms of bigotry, and only a small number of hoodlums killed or tormented Catholics, Mormons or others. But the assaults were possible because so many middle-of-the-road Americans were ambivalent.

As expected, we get a litany of all the historical sins, from the anti-Catholic Know-Nothings to the internment of Japanese-Americans, anti-Chinese hysteria, and of course the anti-German sentiment during WWI. (We were downright Hunophobic.) So while you, the Mosque-in-that-place opponent, may not be specifically bigoted, you’re generally bigoted on behalf of America and its history, and we have to support the mosque to show we’re better than people in 1834.

You can judge America by the nasty minority who did bad things “because so many middle-of-the-road Americans were ambivalent,” but you can’t judge Islam by the nasty minority who do bad things because so many middle-of-the-road Muslims were ambivalent. Got it. In any case, he ignores the point so many make: oh, go ahead, build it, but not there. If you want to promote understanding, and 70% of the people don’t want it there, then your insistence on doing so indicates you don’t understand. As for concerns about statements from the Healing Imam about the US role in killing Muslims, or the eventual future of Israel as an Arab state, well, here, look at this picture of a lynching in 1879.

In Kristof’s mind, there is no legitimate reasons to oppose the Cordoba Center in that particular location. So you’re either an extremist, an idiot, or a tool. Same point as before, but with a nice transparent glaze of nuance to forgive the idiots and pawns and complicit silent Americans. They not what they do. You could even call them no-nothings. Have a nice day.

PS: “A radio interviewer”? Would it have killed him to use the guy’s name?

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