Carnival of Socialism And Ahmadinejad.
Have you had one of those moments, when you hear a line of reasoning or an argument and think: “Hang on, there’s some very dodgy thinking behind this”?
I had one recently.
That’s what I hoped for.
Imagine my surprise when I scanned the page and saw
“Jews Sans Frontiers look sat Iranian President Ahmadinijad’s recent controversial speech.”
I thought for a moment and wondered if “controversial” was some new euphemism that I’d missed.
That happens amongst the English and in politics. Often rather than use the real word another lesser one is concocted, eg. instead of kill, the word pacify, instead of murdered, the word dispatched. There are many more examples of such vile euphemisms, history is littered with them.
Still, I thought that must be just a slip of the keyboard, as most conscious people scanning the speech would see Ahmadinejad’s racism, and if they were in any doubt they could look at the draft PDF version where the naked Holocaust denial would leap off the page.
So I was surprised to find such a remark on a popular Green blog, and without any reaction from the readers, who appear to be, for the most part, middle class, highly educated activists. It is perplexing that the downplaying of Ahmadinejad’s racism, and how we are meant to believe that it is just “controversial”, wasn’t picked up by others.
But, let me explain it in another way, would any halfway sensible Green activist or socialist be tempted to say:
“he’s is a racist – but”
No, certainly not, yet that is in essence what is being argued, as can be seen in the comments box:
“Jim Jay said…
Keep it up Roobin
Mod: A. [Ahmadinejad] is anti-semitic – but his speech (or at least all the bits reported in the news) wasn’t. He said Israel is a racist state – it is. He said it was formed with violence – it was.
That’s why his speech is controversial, because whilst he may hold obnoxious views the things he said on this occasion did not denounce the Jews or deny the Holocaust.
I’m perfectly happy to criticise the Iranian regime and its leaders – but I’m not obliged to pretend he said things that he didn’t.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:45:00 AM “
Think back, I can’t imagine any socialists in Britain 30 years ago, saying
“Enoch Powell is a racist, but his speech wasn’t….”
It is that insidious “but”.
That unconscionable need to qualify Ahmadinijad’s words and somehow lessen Ahmadinejad’s racism, that is the major problem.
In the comments thread I pointed out that another famous anti-Jewish racist, David Duke, often uses similar arguments to Ahmadinejad, but who would ever think of seriously saying:
“David Duke is a racist, but…”
No one would. Certainly not Greens or most socialists, who should be more sensitive, and should have learnt to avoid that line of thinking.
So all in all I am disappointed.
Disappointed that the Carnival of Socialism instead of highlighting the cream of the crop ends up using the decidedly spurious line of reasoning (I paraphrase) “He’s a racist, but his speech wasn’t”. As I said, very dodgy thinking and extremely disheartening.
Finally, if my point wasn’t clear enough, if Greens or socialists wouldn’t dream of excusing the BNP leader, Nick Griffin by saying “He’s a racist, but….” then why do it with Ahmadinejad?
Update: Thanks to The Contentious Centrist for the pointer towards Mick Hartley’s 2007 post, we’ve been here before.
“The Iranian president further strongly criticized supporters of the Zionist regime’s behavior towards those who question the Holocaust, and said, “They said that the Holocaust is a reality and nobody has the right to question or raise doubt about it.” “
I just wonder if those, who were so willing to excuse his utterances, will even see the Holocaust denial embedded in those words? Unlikely.
Update 3: Bob adds more political meat to the bone in his comment:
“[Jim:]That’s why his speech is controversial, because whilst he may hold obnoxious views the things he said on this occasion did not denounce the Jews or deny the Holocaust.
[Bob's reply:]Am I reading you right Jim? You’re saying it was controversial precisely because… it wasn’t racist? If he’d said something more explicitly racist we could have all comfortingly said, ‘ah that Mahmoud, he’s so predictable’, and then got on with our lives?
When I was becoming acive in the socialist movement, I think most socialists would have responded to the opening of the speech – calling for the hastening of the reappearance of the Hidden Imam – as something not to take seriously.
Then, when he opened the substantve part of his talk with a condemnation of the way that “In the Middle Ages scholars and scientists were sentenced to death”: what a cheek! From the president of a country which has hounded out most scholars and scientists, which has the second highest execution rate (and highest per capita) in the world.
But anyway, the key to why his speech is racist is his use of the words “the Zionists”. If someone talks about “the Zionists” and refers to the Jewish nationalist movement, then they’re probably not being racist. But if someone talks about “the Zionists” and refers to a shadowy global conspiracy with tentacles in every world capital, able to initiate wars and financial crises, then they’re probably being racist.” [my emphasis].