Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Extreme Makeover

Several months back, I blogged about some of the misleading terms used in our media to describe current events.

Here's another one: extremism. In fact, this one is my pet peeve.

The media's use of this term bothers me. Not because it insults me personally, whom many might consider to be an extremist of sorts.

The reason it's incorrect is because it implies that the extremist's core beliefs are okay. His only vice is that he (or she -- sorry for the gender profiling) is extreme in his convictions. If he'd only become less zealous, a bit more mellow and moderate, he'd be a great guy. "Your views are fine," we are telling the jihadist. "Just don't take them to such extremes."

I remember a decade back, shortly after September 11th, 2001, I was driving in my car listening to a radio talk show host bemoan the "religious extremism" of the Taliban. "As a matter of fact," he ranted, "they are so extreme, so barbaric... why, they even wear beards!" I listened thoughtfully while stroking my unkempt beard -- no, make that: my extremely unkempt beard.

My initial thought was to call the station and complain, but never got around to doing so. Instead, I devoted my Shabbat sermon to it. I explained to my congregants:

Extremism is not bad if you are being extreme about something good. Example: someone who is extemely charitable, excessively peace-loving, exceedingly modest, intensely studious, extraordinarily selfless, ultra kind, giving, humane, just, etc. Even if you're extreme about something that others might consider archaic, aberrant, or defiant of social norms, such as sporting an untrimmed beard, so long as your eccentricity causes no harm to yourself or to others, surely everyone should concede that such hairy "extremism" (if one could rightly call it that) is rather benign. To the smooth-faced moderates who deride bearded males as extremists, I say: "Live and let live."

However, if one is extreme about something bad, i.e. he believes in an extremely evil ideology, is extremely violent, extremely deceptive, extremely malicious, etc... then THAT is bad.

What's bad about this individual is not that he's extreme. It's that he's BAD. What makes him worse than a moderately bad person is that he is EXTREMELY bad.

So when our media refers to a jihadist as a "religious extremist," they are doing humanity a huge disservice.

Their description of the "extremist" masks the real underlying problem. The jihadist's problem is that his views are violent, malevolent and vindictive. By censuring "extremism," we are not confronting the real enemy, but instead are getting sidetracked by focusing on something irrelevant. In fact, we are emboldening him by acknowledging his right to his noxious ideology but merely pleading with him not to be so devout. This only reiterates his opinion of us, that we (i.e. the Western world) are spineless enemies of faith.

Instead of protesting his extremeness, we ought to refer to him by what he is: an Islamofascist hatemonger. Or, if he actualized his ambition and committed an act of terrorism, then he is an Islamofascist genocidal murderer.

He is not merely an "extremist." He is an enemy of G-d, an enemy of mankind.

To describe Ahmadinejad as an extremist is obscuring the facts. Fact: his main vice is that he is blood thirsty and an outspoken proponent of genocide. Why does it matter that he is extremely blood thirsty? And what if he were only moderately blood thirsty? Would we then sigh a breath of relief? Is mild genocide then okay?

So let's be honest and address the real issues. If someone believes that it's okay to murder a non-believer, his vice is not extremism. His problem is his abhorrent beliefs. If his religion sanctions murder, then he has a perverse religion. Calling him an extremist vindicates his blood thirsty religion. Instead, his only shortcoming has now been reduced to a mere lack of moderation.

Furthermore, the media often calls "settlers" like the Fogels' (may G-d avenge their blood) "religious fundamentalists" or "extremists" as well. Why not? The settlers have beards too.

So thanks to our wonderfully unbiased media, we now have moral equivalence between peace-loving Jews who are "extreme" in their views by insisting on their right to live anywhere in the world, including Samaria, and their blood-thirsty Arab counterparts who feel that Samaria ought to be Judenrein, whose stated objective is ethnic cleansing of the entire Levant, and who celebrate the most incomprehensibly brutal form of infanticide, all out of their extremely Islamofascist convictions.

Indeed, the media has created a moral equivalence between all settler Jews (99.9% of whom do not advocate violence or murder of any kind, and would love nothing more than to live in peace with their Arab neighbors) with jihadists (99.9% of whom advocate mass murder of Jews and ethnic cleansing).

In fact, all ultra-Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Protestants, or any other extremely devout individual of another faith or creed, are now lumped together in the same boat as radical Islamists and Jihadists. (ultra = extreme). And since many people might consider me ultra-orthodox thanks to my ultra-non-conformist beard (in addition to the fact that I am extremely opinionated), I guess that makes me a fundamentalist extremist who is capable of hijacking a plane. Thank you media for another job well done at skewing everyone's perspective and corrupting our minds.

As you can see, I'm getting extremely irate. I think I'd better call it a day.

Have an extremely good night! :-)

PS Maimonides does write that extremism in any form, even in the benign sense of being extremely and excessively generous, extremely miserly, etc., are both incorrect, and that one ought to "take the middle path" and do everything in moderation. While this is an objective truth that everyone ought to strive toward, it has no bearing on what I wrote above. Even if someone is extremely serious or extremely light headed, both attributes negated by Maimonides as "extreme," he still is not an evil or dangerous villain. No one is his right mind would equate an extremely self-effacing but harmless hermit with an extremely blood thirsty Jihadist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for one more excellent post. Keep rocking.