Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It Takes a Lot of Courage to Stand Up to the Pacifists

I'm no pacifist, and I certainly think it is unwise for teams of pacifists to wander around Iraq unarmed, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if to some extent these groups are more willing to be critical of violence committed by their own societies in foreign lands than they are of violence committed by the locals, but really, when it comes to all the things that people do (or don't do) because of religion, not condoning violence ranks fairly low on my list of complaints.

At any rate, when I read the story of how some Christian pacifists had been rescued by Western military forces, and had failed to make their gratefulness immediately and abundantly clear, I had a feeling that a lot of inane outrage and scolding would follow closely behind from Canadian pundits.

As to the question of which pundits could be relied on to provide said outrage/scolding, indulge me in quoting something I wrote last July,
"Perhaps she [Wente] is simply emulating Rex Murphy, affecting the attitude of the contrarian who doesn't 'fall' for the conventional wisdom. The thing is, when I think of contrarians I think of a Socrates or a Voltaire, the brave soul who takes on the establishment and (as usually happens when you take on the establishment effectively) ends up being punished for their actions.

What's really sad about Wente is that, while she portrays herself as the outsider bravely taking on the powerful, in actual fact she somehow, unerringly, always seems to side with the powerful against the weak."

So let's just say I was not surprised to see that Rex Murphy devoted his column in Saturday's Globe, entitled, "The Hostages are in one piece, but", to his twin concerns that the initial press release from the CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams - the organization the hostages belonged to) was insufficiently grateful, and to the fact that they didn't place enough blame on the people who took them hostage.

Margaret Wente also devoted her Saturday column in the Globe, entitled, "The hostages are in one piece, but" (no, that's not a typo), to her concerns about the scourge of pacifism. Wente goes further than Murphy, equating the pacifists with Communist sympathizers and going on from there.

I guess I have two points. The first is that when it comes to responsible journalism, both Wente and Murphy could learn a lot from Lynda Hurst of the Star who wrote a far more informative and balanced piece on the same topic, actually taking the time out of her busy day to talk to some people on both sides of the issue to get their side of the story (while still putting across a point of view and not just doing mindless he said/she said journalism).

My second point is to reiterate that both Murphy and Wente seem to have an unerring eye for situations where they can appear to take a brave stance while in reality siding with the comfortable majority against an unpopular minority.

Wente has a revealing quote in her article,
"The media spend a lot of time deploring the rigid dogmatism of the Christian right. They're much easier on the Christian left, even though its members also claim to be guided in the path of righteousness by the will of God. In fact, it's hard to tell who's more dogmatic. The pacifists of the Christian left, like the Peacemakers, believe that military force is never justified under any circumstances - especially when conducted by the West."

Perhaps, despite being a keen observer of world events, Wente hasn't noticed that the dogmatic Christian right she mentions is a huge, powerful and wealthy network of millions of people, including many influential folks going up to the highest levels of government and world power - a network which played a major role in starting (and continuing) the Iraq War. Meanwhile the 'equally dogmatic Christian left' she refers to is made up of a small band of unarmed people with no financial or political influence whatsoever. Yet the media insists on paying more attention to one of these groups. It's outrageous, but luckily Wente is here to balance the scales

As of this writing, Wente's column has only attracted 4 comments on the Globe site, but they do a good job illustrating both the inflammatory nature of the column and the self-serving phony bravery of it.

Comment #2:
"Finally a journalist with enough courage to speak the truth about this unnecessary tragedy"

Yes, nothing says courage like criticizing people who have committed themselves unconditionally to non-violence.

Comment #3:
"Some might argue that the World would not be 'whole' without mosquitoes, brown recluse spiders and avian flu germs. I beg to disagree. The world would be better off without a long list of irritants and the Peacemakers are on the list."

Comment #4:
"By their actions, the Christian Peacemakers have shown themselves to be no different than any other group of dogmatic and ideology driven religious fanatics. Seen in that light, it is not surprising that they aid, abet, and support Muslim fanatics such as those dedicated to the destruction of Israel (Hamas) and the subjugation of women (Taliban). Given their support of these acknowledged terrorist groups, perhaps the Christian Peacemakers should also be so labelled."

So to sum up, the pacifists are terrorists who should be wiped off the face of the earth, and it was brave of Wente to speak the truth about this situation. You can't judge a column by the comments it gets but sometimes the comments can serve as a mirror which reflects the ugliness hidden within the more careful and eloquent words of a professional writer. At any rate, both Wente and Murphy have writing talent and a national audience - I only wish they would do something more constructive with it.

For a truly contrarian opinion, this blog post from Right of Centre Ice is worth reading.


  • Well said.

    There have been some truly putrid columns in the Globe and Mail in the last couple of days. Did you see Christie Blatchford's? She actually used the phrase "Afghan people are naturally handsome and strong" (!)

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 5:50 AM  

  • I remember when I used to be dazzled by the wit and eloquence of Rex Murphy. At some point, I realized that all of his prettily wrapped gifts were bought at Wal-mart, if you follow my analogy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:17 PM  

  • Nicely said. I took Ms. Wente to task for her column as well this week, but you've shot straighter.

    By Blogger CoteGauche, at 10:00 PM  

  • IP - I never read Blatchford any more, her columns have never really provoked any response in me one way or the other - it always just seemed like celebrity style gossip applied to serious topics.

    I guess if Afghan people are naturally handsome and strong, and handsome and strong are both relative concepts, it suggests that there is a land where people are naturally ugly and weak, I wonder where that is.

    Famousringo - Yeah, I follow the analogy all right - every now and then Murphy is on target, but for the most part he's not really stretching himself, to put it mildly.

    Cotegauche - Your shot looked pretty straight to me - I wrote a post abot Wente's endorsement of discredited climate change proponents as well, so it looks like we're on the same irritated wavelength with regards to the weakensses of Wente's column. My sympathies.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:18 PM  

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