Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pat Robertson's fatwa?

Babble on.

I've long thought that Pat Robertson is a Class A, no-qualifiers-required asswipe. His latest utterances have done nothing to change my opinion:

Robertson told viewers of his longtime show, "The 700 Club," on Monday that Chavez was turning his oil-rich South American country into "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition.

Now, I'm no fan of Hugo Chavez. I happen to believe he fudged last year's recall vote, and that he's generally bad news for both the people of Venezuela and the entire hemisphere of the Americas. But calling for his assasination by the United States is just plain wrong.

Of course, I'm not the only one who thinks Robertson needs to stifle himself. In a post entitled "American Taliban" Timmy the G shows he's equally unimpressed:

American Mullah Pat Robertson issues the fatwa against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez...Yes, that Muslim extremism is awful stuff. Christian extremism, however, is as American as...well...wingnut religious "leaders".

It's nice to know that Timmy and I can actually agree on a thing or two, despite our obvious and frequent differences. Where I part ways with him, however, is in his over-the-top invocation of the Taliban.

Yes, Robertson has some influence - that's why we're even talking about this. If it was just some nut on a street corner, it wouldn't be news. But he and other more extreme Christian elements in the U.S. are not stoning women to death. They're not committing state-sanctioned atrocities on a daily basis.

As someone who wants to see Robertson soundly thrashed in the court of public opinion, I cringe at the use of the Taliban as a point of comparison. I think it's a bad idea for a couple of reasons. First of all, by exaggerating the vileness of Robertson and his kind, you give doubters an excuse to dismiss your valid points about the danger he poses. Cry wolf every time you spot a rat and after awhile folks will stop listening to you. Secondly, by equating a fellow like Robertson with Mullah Omar and his band of theocratic thugs, you diminish the memory of the true horrors perpetrated by the Taliban. If Robertson's just a batty old crank, free to blather on like an idiot on the airwaves, and the Taliban was no worse than that, then what was all the fuss about? We should not trivialize mind-numbing brutality, lest we desensitize ourselves to it.

Robertson's brand of thinking deserves to be denounced. But if it's as serious an issue as Timmy asserts, then a more serious treatment is merited. Specious comparisons are counterproductive.

Babble off.

Update: Timmy's response is here, and it's a pretty good one. Apart from the fact that I don't fear the Christian extremists as much as he seems to, I have only one real quibble (which he has since corrected):

"Damian views Robertson as a "crank" with relatively little influence..."

I guess I should have been more clear. What I was trying to get at is this: while some of us understand that the Pat Robertsons of the world pose a real danger, most people don't. They think he's just some harmless crank with a TV show watched only by senile bigots in red states. Only by treating the topic seriously will we have a chance of convincing the average guy to be vigilant.

More on this topic here (ht:Right Ho).

CanConv is all over the story as you might expect, and many of the posts listed are worth reading. One I'd like to point out, however, falls a little short:

Democracy only matters when it’s friendly
and conversely, dictators are only bad if they’re hostile to your interests.

These basic principles of The Real Politik as we all know it, was confirmed again today when Pat Robertson, leader of the Christian Coalition of America said...

Hmm. Robertson stepped down as President of the CC in December 2001. Is it still fair to call him the group's 'leader'? Without clarification of his role in the organization, I think this is a little misleading.

And lastly, half-assed backtracking is just pathetic. If you spoke without thinking, make a full apology and retraction. If you didn't, then stand by your words. But this whole "I didn't say what you think I said" thing is a joke, since we can all go back and read the transcript.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... What. An. Asswipe.

Oh, and one more thing: it is possible to excoriate Robertson without supporting a brutal thug like Chavez, and without seeing sinister CIA/DoD conspiracies. Just not if you're a lefty. They never learn.


At 3:04 p.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

Mea culpa. I was too flippant about the issue.

Like you, I fear and condemn the actions of Muslim extremists. But I also recognize the growing similarity between the tactics, and indeed the goals, of their Christian counterparts.

At 3:15 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

It's so easy to take a swipe at wacky, crazy fundamentalists, isn't it?

The advocacy of assasination of hostile heads of state is not necessarily a bad thing. It definitely is a bad thing when you're not at war with that state, though.

Since the U.S. is not actually engaged in hostilities with Venezuela, suggesting the assasination of its leader is a bad move.

On the other hand, taking out the leadership of a combatant foreign state is probably a good idea (like the U.S.'s attempted "decapitation" effort against Saddam Hussein in early 2003).

Certainly it's more humane than an actual invasion, which will undoubtedly affect the civilian population badly. Assasination takes the war effort home to those responsible for it -- the leadership.

I think the case could be made for assasination, provided that the parties are actually at war first. Certainly if we had been able to take out Adolf Hitler in the fall of 1939, or Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003, life might have been easier for people on the ground.

At 3:19 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Chris, as usual, you raise a good point. I was going to get into 'good assasination vs. bad' but felt it would distract from the main thrust of the post: that Pat Robertson is an idiot, but comparing him in the U.S. to Mullah Omar in Afghanistan is counterproductive.

At 4:22 p.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

Chris does raise a good point, and in fact I even mused that assassination was one option the US had besides war in Iraq (without actually advocating it). Regardless, I think we can all agree that discussing the killing of a foriegn head of state over the airwaves on a religious show is probably not really appropriate.

At 5:04 p.m., Blogger sacamano said...

I think he is just about the funniest thing happening these days. Today he is claiming that by "take him out" he might have been referring to kidnapping rather than assasination.

The only problem is, he didn't say "take him out" he said:

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we are trying to assassinate him, we should go ahead and do it," Robertson said Monday. "It's a whole lot easier than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Classic, classic stuff.

At 11:19 a.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

Goodness me, we were doing so well. And then those last three words..."The never learn."


I don't think you're fair to Cathie's post. She is neither supporting Chavez nor implying there is a CIA plot to assassinate him.

She is, however, saying that Donald Rumsfeld is a platitude-spouting schmuck who has, at best,a distant relationship with the concept of honesty and no respect for actual history.

At 11:36 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

You're right: I was baiting a bit. Hard habit to break. Mea culpa.

It should have read: Some lefties never learn. ;)

At 12:00 p.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

I should have realized that.

I never learn.

At 11:23 p.m., Blogger bob said...

Robertson is a hemorrhoid. But enough people know he's a hemorrhoid that he can be neutralized.
On the other hand, the fatwas on our heads (and don't think for a minute that there aren't) are a lot more likely to be realized.
(US spellings, forgive please).

At 11:32 a.m., Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

First, some nuance. I am quite happy with illustrative metaphors including "American Taliban" or "islamofascist" provided they illustrate more than they obsfucate, or worse yet change, the subject. The success of any particular metaphor is going to be dependent on context. So, an argument that attacks Christian Reconstructionism as a Taliban-like ideology while finding any old excuse for the actual Taliban is unconvincing. But then so are arguments that abhor the end of result of Islamic fundamentalism when it takes absolute political power, as is the explicit aim of many of its proponents, while ignoring the dangers of Christian fundamentalism should it take absolute political power as is the explicit aim of many of its proponents.

It seems to me that many folks would rather take pot shots at one or the other out of a partisan convenience of the moment. It is a much more lonely rhetorical position for Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens or, if I dare say, myself to be opposed to fundamentalist rule regardless of the particular brand of fundamentalism in question. Taking aim at Muslim or Christian fundamentalists tends to draw down a limited but robust range of insults and proclamations of doom.

Damian, we have talked before about our difference of opinion about the threat both potential and actual of Dominionism and its allied ideologies. But for many of us, that threat is much more immediate in its impact on public policy - even Canada's quasi-Scandanavian public policy - than the somewhat hard to calculate risk of being blown to bits on the subway by a Wahhabi/Salafist/etc. So I agree with you that it is a mistake to dismiss either fundamentalism as a threat based on the false comfort of assessing a greater threat from the other much as it would be foolish of me to decide I do not need flood insurance because I have already bought fire insurance. But I think it is also a mistake to dismiss Pat Robertson, a former Presidential candidate, as a harmless crank when many people have excellent reason to believe the ideology he represents is a clear and present danger to their liberty. I am not certain that is your position because I believe your main point has to do with an apparent dismissal of the atrocities of the Taliban.


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