Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The press, cultural relativism, and the importance of symbols

Dennis Prager, in two paragraphs, manages to demonstrate perfectly how the American press has changed in 60 years:

If an American interrogator of Japanese prisoners desecrated the most sacred Japanese symbols during World War II, it is inconceivable that any American media would have published this information. While American news media were just as interested in scoops in 1944 as they are now, they also had a belief that when America was at war, publishing information injurious to America and especially to its troops was unthinkable. Such a value is not only not honored by today's news media, the opposite is more likely the case. The mainstream media oppose the war in Iraq and loathe the Bush administration. Whatever weakens the war effort and embarrasses the president raises a news source's prestige among its domestic, and especially foreign, peers.
It is this "get Bush" mentality that allows our press to give equal weight to the possibility that a foolish, rude, ill-informed soldier destroyed a book, and the fact that Muslims are routinely decapitating people who don't share their religious beliefs. To the Bush haters, these are morally equal crimes and, to the extent the US commits (or might have committed) the former, must be equally publicized, dissected and punished. This is moral relativism reduced to the ultimate absurdity. Also, just to get a little perspective on the religious Muslims' whose exquisite sensibilities were so profoundly damaged by the news that one book was destroyed, Little Green Footballs reminds us what happens when those same Muslims have access to other peoples' religious symbols. Thus, during the April 2002 take-over of a Church in Bethelhem, this report emerged:
On April 24, the Jerusalem Post reported on the damage that the PA forces were causing:
Three Armenian monks, who had been held hostage by the Palestinian gunmen inside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, managed to flee the church area via a side gate yesterday morning. They immediately thanked the soldiers for rescuing them. They told army officers the gunmen had stolen gold and other property, including crucifixes and prayer books, and had caused damage.... One of the monks, Narkiss Korasian, later told reporters: “They stole everything, they opened the doors one by one and stole everything....They stole our prayer books and four crosses...they didn’t leave anything. Thank you for your help, we will never forget it.” Israeli officials said the monks said the gunmen had also begun beating and attacking clergymen.41
When the siege finally ended, the PA soldiers left the church in terrible condition:
The Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity seized church stockpiles of food and “ate like greedy monsters” until the food ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry. They also guzzled beer, wine, and Johnnie Walker scotch that they found in priests’ quarters, undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol. The indulgence lasted for about two weeks into the 39-day siege, when the food and drink ran out, according to an account by four Greek Orthodox priests who were trapped inside for the entire ordeal.... The Orthodox priests and a number of civilians have said the gunmen created a regime of fear. Even in the Roman Catholic areas of the complex there was evidence of disregard for religious norms. Catholic priests said that some Bibles were torn up for toilet paper, and many valuable sacramental objects were removed. “Palestinians took candelabra, icons and anything that looked like gold,” said a Franciscan, the Rev. Nicholas Marquez from Mexico.42
A problem that arose during the siege again shows Christian fear of Muslim domination. Two Palestinian gunmen in the church were killed, and the PA wanted to bury them in the basilica. “With two Muslim bodies inside the Church of the Nativity, Christianity could be facing an absolute disaster in Bethlehem,” said Canon Andrew White, the special representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Middle East. “It would be catastrophic if two Muslim martyrs were buried in the church. It could lead to a situation like that in Nazareth,” he said.43 Only after intensive mediation efforts were plans to bury the bodies inside abandoned.
Another example is the Taliban's decision in Spring 2001 to destroy ancient Buddhas parked somewhere in the desert in Afghanistan. They again exemplified the belief prevalent in fundamentalist Islam that all religious symbols other than their own must be destroyed. Perhaps I can get a bit more upset about a burned Koran when I can be assured that the same people now rioting will respect my sensibilities when they have access to symbols that are important to me.