Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Madrasah vs. "The Point": Any Difference?

It’s always nice when Mark Hyman wears his xenophobia on his sleeve. It at least lends his editorializing the benefit of being sincere.

Hyman comes right out and says that the recent terrorist plot uncovered in Britain “demonstrated that multi-generation Europeans of foreign descent have shown more allegiance to radical Islam values from abroad than to their own country or to Western values.” The main culprit? Multiculturalism, of course.

And what is multiculturalism? According to Hyman, it’s “the push to have immigrants, their children, and their children's children adhere to the values, customs and ideals they left behind rather than assimilate into Western society.”

Odd. That’s not what any of the several dictionaries I’ve looked at say. Not even close. Most say something similar to this: “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.”

What we’ve got here is another example of Hyman setting up a straw man and wasting his time knocking it down.

The evidence of his detachment from reality is evident from his own words. He says, “multiculturalism supporters view Americanization as offensive. They see the adoption of U.S. and Western values to be repugnant.”

If I came across such a statement in an essay by a student, I’d scribble in the margin, “Where’s your evidence? Give an example or cite a source.”

Hyman doesn’t because he can’t. The multiculturalists he conjures up exist only in his fevered imagination.

He then makes a similar jump when he says, “Because of multiculturalism, home-grown terrorists have terrorized Spain, France and Britain.”

Really? Again, I have to ask: what’s the evidence? Lacking that, what’s at least a hypothetical explanation for how multiculturalism might conceivably lead to terrorism, even in theory? We don’t get either.

It would be bad enough if Hyman wasted our time with argumentative tactics that would embarrass a first semester composition student, but there’s real ugliness in his comments as well, specifically, the blanket judgment that “multi-generational” Europeans of foreign descent have more allegiance to radical Islam than to Western values.

Note the lack of any qualification of this statement. Not “some.” Not “many.” According to Hyman, this is true of all such people, apparently including the many descendents of foreign-born immigrants who aren’t even Islamic.

That’s where his commentary goes from simply being naïve and manipulative and veers into the ugly realms of xenophobia and racism.

In fact, Hyman has more in common with the radical Islamists than he would ever suspect. Like the militant mullahs who preach hatred of those who don’t conform to their narrow view of religious righteousness, Hyman’s voice calls out his own form of radicalism, egging on his listeners to despise those who don’t think, believe, talk, and behave the exact way they do.

In place of the minarets of the Imam’s, Hyman has broadcast antennae. But both the radical Imam and Hyman work on the same principle: gain influence by convincing those who are scared, gullible, and unsure of themselves to hate the “Other.” The “Other” is responsible for your problems. The “Other” is responsible for the world’s problems. It is not only acceptable to hold them in contempt, but a duty. Those who suggest problems are complex and solutions subtle just don’t get it. The answer is unswerving belief in what is obviously right (which is whatever the Imam or the Hyman says it is) and elimination of the “Other.”

Multiculturalism (the real thing, not Hyman’s cartoon version) is a danger to both the radical Islamists and the Hymans of the world. The basic tenet of it is that people who are different can recognize and accept differences, yet still get along and forge a unity that transcends differences without erasing them. Such a vision is anathema to those whose power and/or sense of self is built on the delusion that they have direct access to Truth and that their status among the “elect” can only be proved to themselves and each other through labeling those outside their circle as inferior nonbelievers out to harm the righteous.

As much as their practitioners might deny it, the rhetoric of radical Islam and the radical right are wonderful gifts to one another. More than that—they are two sides of the same coin (and not very different sides, for that matter).

Which would still be fine if the rest of us didn’t have to live with the results. While the Islamists call America the “Great Satan” and label the West as degenerate, and the radical right mouth stupidities such as “they hate us because they hate our freedom,” the work on actual solutions to the problems that lead to radicalism (helping the poor, greater access to education, compromises on political and international issues, and yes, a healthy sense of multiculturalism in an increasingly multicultural world) is put off.

We find ourselves in a Catch-22: to work on the solutions that will end radicalism, we must first end radicalism.

Perhaps the first step out of this conundrum might simply be for those of us with the power to oust radicals in positions of leadership (i.e., those of us living in societies where we can vote out our leaders) to do just that.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 7.69

For another recent riposte to Hyman's views on multiculturalism, see this earlier edition of The Counterpoint.


At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If/when you compose your textbook on propaganda in the U.S., would you have to have Hyman as your co-author?

I mean, he IS an awfully rich source of material.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

I guess I'd have to. I certainly wouldn't want to be accused of plagiarism!



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