January 17, 2007

All Hezbollah Supporters Are Banned in Advance

I’ve been writing a lot about Hezbollah lately, so I thought I’d be a good sport and let Hezbollah supporters sound off in the comments. But it hasn’t worked out. One by one they have all been banned, sometimes for being hostile and rude to me personally, other times for abusing other commenters, and finally (big surprise, I know) for posting racist and bigoted comments about Jews and people of other religions.

None of this is acceptable.

I have better things to do than spend an hour every day moderating my comments and trying to decide if a Hezbollah supporter in question has crossed the line yet. So from here on out, if you leave comments supporting Hezbollah you will be summarily banned without warning and your comments will be deleted.

This is not a “free speech” issue. I will not get in your way if you choose to create I(Heart)Hezbollah.blogspot.com. If you want to ban me from commenting there, go right ahead. Free speech does not mean you, I, or anyone else gets unfiltered access to every medium in the universe.

If anyone thinks this makes me a bigot (or whatever) against the Shia, forget it. Today I banned a person for being overtly bigoted against Shia. That isn’t acceptable either.

I have met (some) Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon who are perfectly capable of holding down a civil and interesting conversation. Whatever cultural inhibitions they have regarding rudeness to strangers seems to break down on the Internet, though. This isn’t surprising. Many Westerners have the same problem.

I’m sorry if anyone thinks I’m being too draconian about kicking people out of the discussion, but it takes effort to cultivate a decent and respectable comments section and this is just something I have to do.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2007 06:47 PM
Comments

Do what you got to do and keep up the exceptional work!

Posted by: zellmad at January 17, 2007 07:20 PM

Civil discussion = discussion where Michael Totten wins. I haven't stopped by recently but every single pro-Hezbollah commenter has required banning? Every one?

You have the right to be a coward. And if you're a coward, you have the right to act like a coward. But this post drastically decreases your credibility.

You really can't win this debate on your own blog? You really can't announce a no-tolerance policy for personal insults from any party? Or for bigotry?

I look forward to you deleting this post. If I come back and it's gone, I'll find it comical.

Posted by: Arnold Evans at January 17, 2007 08:11 PM

Mr. Evans, I've been reading this blog for quite some time, and I was not aware of any contest that has winners and losers.

Michael has stated numerous times his policy of keeping the discussion on an adult level. I see you are unable to adhere to that policy. You should have your post deleted. You offer nothing but empty rhetoric and invective. You would be better served at DU or dKos, where they are known for their tolerance of different viewpoints. Frankly, I find that comical.

Posted by: templar knight at January 17, 2007 08:20 PM

Arnold, stop playing the victim.

And HL, I find it difficult to believe the line you are now feeding:

im just teasing you MJT to allow me back in and not delete my comments because it seriously was not me posting all that crap, just some odd person who didn't appreciate me on the blog :(

People should debate the issue and not the person. Hezbollah supporters don't seem very adept at tackling the issue and contributing much to the discussion, so we've seen more than a few comments get negative and personal.

Posted by: Jono at January 17, 2007 08:21 PM

Oh, Arnold, don't be ridiculous. This isn't about winning arguments, it's about keeping racist crap off my Web site. This is a long-standing policy, one that more blogs should adopt. If you want to read anti-Semitic garbage, so find a Nazi or a Klan site. This isn't the place.

Consider yourself on troll warning for calling me a coward over this. Your attitude is not acceptable, and I will ban you if you do not clean it up.

I am finished babysitting these comments, and you're on a very short leash.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2007 09:18 PM

SNNNAP!!!

Posted by: Gaius at January 17, 2007 09:30 PM

The problem with free speech is how easily it gets lost in shouting matches. I think the good analogy is shouting while someone else is speaking. Are the shouters exercising free speech or preventing it?

I can certainly relate to the frustration in moderating comments. The way people interact with a blog certainly changes what the blog is. While there is some loss to not policing things and fighting for balance, in practical terms such an expectation just isn't realistic. I think it is rather naive to complain when people won't let you tear something down, and attempts to do so result in what is most likely iinevitable.

Posted by: chris g at January 17, 2007 09:50 PM

The problem with free speech is how easily it gets lost in shouting matches. I think the good analogy is shouting while someone else is speaking. Are the shouters exercising free speech or preventing it?

I can certainly relate to the frustration in moderating comments. The way people interact with a blog certainly changes what the blog is. While there is some loss to not policing things and fighting for balance, in practical terms such an expectation just isn't realistic. I think it is rather naive to complain when people won't let you tear something down, and attempts to do so result in what is most likely iinevitable.

Posted by: chris g at January 17, 2007 09:50 PM

MJT, about HA supporters, from what I can recall AlGhaliboon was never abusive or rude*. However much we disagreed with him, he did engage in meaningful discussions, and was often interesting to read. His only fault was that he hogged the comment threads, the blame for which must be shared by those of us eager to debate him.

My point is, HA supporters and sympathizers may on occasion say interesting things, or articulate why they support HA in the first place. Of course HL's inane antisemitism is simply offensive and adds nothing to the debate, but this is not always the case.

This is just my opinion, of course. This is your blog, and you make the rules.

_________
* In here. He was quite rude to Tsedek in her own blog though.

Posted by: Bruno at January 17, 2007 10:11 PM

I think the problem with a blog is that here we got to talk to these haters for days on end and challenged their views in ways they're not used to. After all if they were capable of tolerating dissent they wouldn't be fascists. In such a situation you're going to find out that they all hate deeply and you're going to witness the ugliness that makes a fascist.

This is nothing like a polite five minute conversation after all.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 17, 2007 10:30 PM

Bruno,

Yes, Al Ghaliboon was more polite. I was referring to the recent Hezbollah supporters, all of whom have been rude, nasty, and racist. Hezbollah itself is violent, nasty, and racist, so that figures.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2007 10:46 PM

Investigation shows that at least two URL addresses have been listed by so-called Hezbollah Lover.

On previous threads 1/15 and thru January 16, 2007 06:57 AM: mailto:wa3ad@hotmail.co.uk

But the Hezbolllah Lover on January 16, 2007 06:45 PM THE URL CHANGED TO: mailto:slick_leb@hotmail.co.uk

In the many examples there were lots of copy and pastes likely from other propagandist friends and resources without noting those particular sources or using any quotation marks, but also mixed with personal interjections.

And then the URL is again listed as: mailto:wa3ad@hotmail.co.uk
TROLLS.

Posted by: JAS at January 17, 2007 10:56 PM

JAS, I'm sure they were all the same person. Who would want to rant like that for pages and copy HL's bad spelling, grammar, personality and ignorance?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 17, 2007 11:01 PM

Good on you for these rules. Civil discussion isn't about finding the line no one should cross, but setting a bar that everyone should attempt to jump. Imagine blogs where it is considered a point of honor to be as polite as possible to the people who you disagree with most. I can't imagine speech getting more free than that.

Posted by: J-P at January 17, 2007 11:02 PM

Dumb and Dumber is not unusual.

Posted by: JAS at January 17, 2007 11:06 PM

You're right not to stand for any nonsense and I believe Arnold was wrong to call you a coward, but there may be a point underneath his ax-grinding.

That point would be: wouldn't it be easier to identify a hostile/racist/insulting post (and ban the offender) than to identify whether a post is made by a Hezbollah supporter?

Within this forum, I myself have been called a Hezbollah supporter for being critical of your work (as well as an Islamist and Arab Nationalist for being critical of Israel). Whether I am or not would seem to be open for debate (I'm not...and the suggestion is laughable if you knew me), but dropping f-bombs and making anti-Semitic (or anti-Muslim) remarks would not.

Posted by: Naha at January 17, 2007 11:37 PM

Naha, I don't think you're a Hezbollah supporter.

I agree with you in principal, and that was my policy until today. The problem is that I have to spend so much of my time babysitting and the end result is always the same anyway.

This is a time-saving policy as much as anything else.

Maybe I'll go back to the old policy later. Right now I don't have the time or the patience.

After "Hezbollah Lover" called Pam an "ignorant whore" and my wife an "ugly anorexic," it was time to pull the plug.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2007 11:52 PM

Oh, and of course using Nazi Web sites as sources in rants against Jews. This just isn't the place for that kind of thing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2007 11:54 PM

It just shows how subtle culture can be. If he'd written "Jane you ignorant slut!" he would have gotten away with it.

(that's a TV show reference for you non-Americans)

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 12:12 AM

Which TV show is that from?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2007 01:04 AM

SNL, of course. The 70s version with Jane Curtin and - I am blanking - either Chevy Chase or Dan Ackroyd, as TV anchors, or as cohosts a la Crossfire - Jane says something displeasing, Chevy (or Dan) says "Jane, you ignorant slut." Not, BTW, "Jane, you ignorant slut!" He is very matter-of-fact about it.

D00d, Saturday Night Live? Where'd you grow up? You been in Lebanon too long ;>

Posted by: nichevo at January 18, 2007 02:09 AM

mjt - is it possible in the future to interview a hizbullah official who can carry on a civil discussion without the abuse or propoganda recitation? i think it would be a good balance to offset (though never eliminate) accusations of bias against them. does such a person exist?

if you have done this already, is there a link to it?

Posted by: mike at January 18, 2007 02:34 AM

nichevo,

The SNL skit was a spoof of a 60 Minutes segment called Point/Counterpoint which was the inspiration for Crossfire.

In 1970, the "Point/Counterpoint" segment was introduced, initially featuring James J. Kilpatrick and, eventually, Shana Alexander, a three minute debate between spokespeople for the political right and left, respectively. This segment pioneered a format that would later be adapted by CNN for its Crossfire show.
lnk

Posted by: zefal at January 18, 2007 02:52 AM

"SNL, of course. The 70s version with Jane Curtin and - I am blanking - either Chevy Chase or Dan Ackroyd, as TV anchors"

Josh - It was Dan Aykroyd. Chevy Chase also played the anchor on the fake news, but Aykroyd made that line (in)famous.

MJT- It would be great to see you on CSPAN once in a while. Perhaps you've been on and I've just missed it.

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at January 18, 2007 02:54 AM

oops, nichevo, not Josh........

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at January 18, 2007 02:57 AM

Kudos MJT.

Thanks again for your efforts, and service, in providing an excellent source of information about the ME.

Concur with the previous comment about CSPAN; would love to see you and M. Yon together for an hour or two comparing notes and comments about the ME.

Regards,

Posted by: Ron Snyder at January 18, 2007 04:02 AM

Michael,

Why don't you get Charles Johnson (I think he helped with your website design) to put in some 'register to post' code? It would make your job a lot easier if people had to register to post comments.

Posted by: Mick at January 18, 2007 04:17 AM

Hi Michael,

Would be interested in your views on the story today that Iran offered the US a deal on 2003 (so when Khatami was still in power) to stop support for Militant groups. This would have been in exchange for an end to the US boycott, and a stop to anti Iranian groups in Iraq:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6274147.stm

According to the reports, Cheney vetoed the deal.

Had it got through (and had the Iranians honoured it, granted two big ifs), would Hezb. really have been in the position to stir up trouble as they have been since July?

Posted by: Dirk at January 18, 2007 04:57 AM

MJT: I am not a regular here, although I have been reading for a while. I am not complaining, but I do want to let you know that I have mixed feelings about this policy. One of the things I like about the comments section here and on "Beirut to Beltway" is that I get to hear the viewpoints of Israelis, Lebanese and other Arabs on some of the more interesting topics in world events and at a level of detail and insight that is crowded out on the broadcast and print media. For example, I posted twice a request for Lebanese to tell me what they thought Israel's territorial ambitions in Lebanon might be other than preventing Hezbollah or Palestinian attacks and what they thought other Lebanese might think. I got only response and that was from Hezbollah Lover. I can't read much into the lack of response from any other Lebanese but Hezbollah Lover's response was interesting in that it was plainly idiotic, delusional and paranoid. That is useful information to have - that the spokesman for Hezbollah, albeit unofficial, self-proclaimed and a child - has no rational basis for the raison d'etre of his organization tells me something about it. That he degenerates into hateful and loony anti-semitism and name calling also tells me something.

I don't blame you for wanting to clean up the comments section. Certainly, Hezbollah Lover and Ali G before him sometimes made this area as readable as a spam filled inbox but perhaps there is a better way. Or not. The blog and comments section is still immensely valuable without them and you don't owe us your time to serve as babysitter.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 18, 2007 06:13 AM

Michael,

I don't comment here often, but I do read your work. I'm sorry that there are people who can't express their side of the story without resorting to nasty stuff. You're very right to simply ban a group as a whole, because you really don't have the time it takes to go to each one and ban one at a time. Such a waste of time.

Keep up the good work. And to all, if you don't like what Mr. Totten writes, hey, start up your own blog. Post about whatever you desire. You'll soon get readers and who knows, your blog might become famous.

Posted by: Daniel at January 18, 2007 07:18 AM

One by one they have all been banned, sometimes for being hostile and rude to me personally, other times for abusing other commenters, and finally (big surprise, I know) for posting racist and bigoted comments about Jews and people of other religions

One could substitute the same accusations to those who have been verbally aggressing supporters of Hezbollah and low-balling the Shiite community and Islam and/or Arabs in general.

Examples galore, just check the comments section if you're curious enough and if you're biased then I think you won't bother even if I copied/pasted those examples right here.

By the way, on behalf of all banned or to be banned supporters of Hezbollah, I am not a supporter of Hezbollah for that matter.

Regards,
Lira

Posted by: Lira at January 18, 2007 07:20 AM

MJT - there must be a way to either put in a tighter registration function or a word-phrase filter that would have the effect of eviscerating the trash talk and maybe duplicative posts. That would leave most of HL's posts as mere boorish drivel. At the very least, some boards do have a user-controlled ignore function.

His Islamist hatred of women (as well as his general intolerance for legitimate critical inquiry) is revealing.

I was talking with an acquaintance who returned from 2 tours in Iraq, and made the naive comment that it seemed Shias were less hostile towards and demeaning of women than Sunnis (e.g., Iran vs. Saudis) -- he just snorted derisively, and said on the ground, there was no discernable difference, and he was probably more disturbed by the Islamic male's deeply-rooted fear and hatred of women than by any thing else he'd experienced about Islamic culture.

I am curious how educated Lebanese women feel about HB and current trends. Can you find one or two to interview, perhaps?

Posted by: Pam at January 18, 2007 08:00 AM

Mike,

Blog is yours and you have right to manage it as you see fit.

However, I do not believe that banning is necessary at all.

We all can exercise our best judgement and choose to respond or ignore inappropriate (to one's personal opinion) comments from anyone.

I'd rather see who I am dealing with than be ignorant.

Again, blog is yours and I accept (like it matters) whatever your decision might be.

Sincerely,

Leo

Posted by: leo at January 18, 2007 08:02 AM


SNL, of course. The 70s version with Jane Curtin and - I am blanking - either Chevy Chase or Dan Ackroyd, as TV anchors, or as cohosts a la Crossfire - Jane says something displeasing, Chevy (or Dan) says "Jane, you ignorant slut." Not, BTW, "Jane, you ignorant slut!" He is very matter-of-fact about it.

Dan Ackroyd.

Posted by: leo at January 18, 2007 08:21 AM

Well, I don't think I've been called a Hezbollah lover yet, so I guess I'm safe. ;-)

I'm not sure that I support the idea of banning people based on their political affiliation. It seems rather bizarre to me. I try to judge people based on their actions, not their party (though sometimes it can be difficult).

Are people truly offended by what someone writes on the Internet in a blog comment? Perhaps it's just the years of experience that I have in this medium, but honestly the commentary here... even at its worst appears more friendly than normal internet conversation between Westerners on IRC, NNTP or any of the many forms of communication that are used on the Net. One of the most important things, in my opinion, when communicating on the net is to realize that people can be asses when they communicate in a pseudonymous forum.

I honestly recommend that anyone who gets offended by an Internet comment should Grow a pair, thicken their skin and ignore the multitude of asses on the Net... or go back to the Old Media world, where some censor had final say about how and what information could be communicated.

Every form of communication has its positive and negative traits... we must learn to manage the good and bad together in order to fully benefit from any communication system.

Of course, thats just my opinion.

'tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 18, 2007 08:51 AM

Just Google "Jane you ignorant Slut'" and you will get links for 4 different transcripts of SNL skits where it was used. Hi-larious!

While I would defend MJT's right to enact any rules or policies he sees fit on his own Blog, I must say that reading (or skimming) some of the less vitriolic of the endless rhetoric of both AlG and HL has been somewhat enlightening, although not necessarily in the way I think they intended. It is probably better to know firsthand what is in the hearts and minds of your adversaries. Their rhetoric has done nothing but validate MJT's reporting, in my opinion. But, he really does have better things to do than mediate, so good riddance.

Maya Angelou once said 'When people show you who they are , BELIEVE them.'
And these guys have shown us all a LOT.

Before these guys get all of the blame for monopolizing the threads, lets not forget their accomplices, the people who endlessly argue with them and feed their fire.
Trolls are like ants: if you don't feed them, they will go away.

Posted by: lindsey at January 18, 2007 10:40 AM

Ratatosk: I'm not sure that I support the idea of banning people based on their political affiliation. It seems rather bizarre to me.

I didn't want to do this either. But here I am, once again, cleaning up the comments and deleting a bunch of crap. I have better things to do, and this is a time-saving device as well as an attempt to keep up the standards around here. If I had help I might not have to do this, but I don't.

If even one Hezbollah supporter proved him or herself to be a reasonable and worthwhile commenter I wouldn't adopt this policy.

And, you know, blocking Hezbollah is not exactly like blocking Democrats or Republicans or Greens. Hezbollah are terrorists, or, if you prefer, racist war criminals. Whatever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2007 10:51 AM

By the way, I had to delete 39 comments in a row from Hezbollah Lover on a previous thread just now. This is the kind of crap that goes on around here, and is largely invisible to everyone else after I've cleaned it up.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2007 10:58 AM

Too bad there aren't such things as automatically bifurcated comments. Civil goes here. Uncivil goes there. Freedom of speech leading directly to freedom of reading.

Posted by: allan at January 18, 2007 11:04 AM

Mr.Totten a coward? How can you say that with a straight face. While you talk safely at home, Mr. Totten is actually in the trenches, putting himself in harms way interviewing dangerous people. And he's got the balls to write less than flattering articles about these vicious killers. Most journalists do not have this kind of courage or integrity, because they are more concerced with staying on the good side of these so-called freedom fighters.

Posted by: Justin at January 18, 2007 11:08 AM

pam,
your friend that had the tours in iraq is mixing up culture and religion, as you are. the muslim religion does not incite hate towards women, and i don't know much about iraqis, but culture plays a big role in the arab world, and then line between culture and religion is very blury.
and although there is some that mistreat women (as many cultures do), that does not mean the whole culture does. alot of what is practiced is more of the roles of each person in the society and in the home. however, there are changes being made by womens movements, albeit slow, but changes nontheless.
unless your soldier friend knows the culture, i don't think he is even close to understanding the mindset.

Posted by: buckeye at January 18, 2007 11:24 AM

I appreciate both your reluctance to ban Hezbolla supporters and the decision to do so. Even the rare polite commenter offered little but mindless party-line propaganda to the discussion, and the vast majority were simply uncivil, rude and insulting.

They had nothing to offer that would likely alter anyone's viewpoint anyways. Anyone who wants to engage in that sort of tripe has plenty of outlets in which to do so.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at January 18, 2007 12:00 PM

Lira, do you mind me asking what happened to your blog?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 12:12 PM

I read fairly regularly, but only posted once because it takes too much time to both write and come back and view replies later, and I read from work (bad me...). But I have enjoyed reading HL's comments. Its extremely interesting to see the mindset of somebody who appears to be reasonably educated but wholeheartedly supports Hezzie. On the other hand, if he's been crossing the line as often as you say I understand the desire to ban him. And if other Hezzies have been univerally as bad I understand the blanket ban. Still, I do like reading the other side's comments on your very interesting and insightful journalism. I hope you can leave open the possibility of letting a more civil Hezzie advocate post in the future.

Posted by: nate at January 18, 2007 12:16 PM

Michael, I can see both sides of this. Banning for obvious bigotry or personal attacks seems reasonable to me. Banning for ignorant or specious arguments seems self-defeating. Those who promote such positions reveal themselves more surely than any critic could.

Posted by: Sam Thornton at January 18, 2007 12:18 PM

There was one thing going on in that last thread that had me so floored and flaberghasted that I couldn't think of anything to say, and that was that HL was offended that I had made any comparison between Salafi preachers in Britain preaching "British Muslims must 'dismantle' British democracy - they must 'live like a state within a state' until they are 'strong enough to take over.'" and Hezbollah which has, of course actually created a state within a state and who's ursurping the roles of police, army and government is already destroying democracy.

What a blinkered, ignorant, bigotted view of the world that Salafis who want to do such things are horrible and evil, but is Hezbollah actually does those things they're angels just because they're Shiites!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 12:18 PM

By the way, I'm always pro-banning. I've seen forum after forum destroyed by allowing an unpleasant crowd to drive away all of the sensitive and intelligent people.

For instance the comment section at Harry's Place has been getting more and more boring as the assholes drive away intelligent conversation.

So I don't even think that idiology has to be the bar. If someone makes the comment section less pleasant or less interesting or too much about themselves, ban them.

And, (from my experience at Harry's Place) if you have a commenter who's using proxies and different names and so on to force his way in, he's just the sort of person you need to be deleting till he goes away. It is worth the trouble to keep some sorts of people away from your comment section.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 12:24 PM

I didn't want to do this either. But here I am, once again, cleaning up the comments and deleting a bunch of crap. I have better things to do, and this is a time-saving device as well as an attempt to keep up the standards around here. If I had help I might not have to do this, but I don't.

Heh, I know you don't ever intend to sleight others ;-). And my post wasn't meant to intimate that you were evil... rather it was an observation that I think will become more an more important as "Web2.0" (marketspeak) gains footing. As we change from a Top Down Media approach, to a Bottom Up Media Approach, we have to realize that most humans suck ;-)

If even one Hezbollah supporter proved him or herself to be a reasonable and worthwhile commenter I wouldn't adopt this policy.

I've appreciated several comments from Hez supporters. Both from the different perspective that they've occasionally shown, to the outright hatred that they often spew. All information can be of value.

And, you know, blocking Hezbollah is not exactly like blocking Democrats or Republicans or Greens. Hezbollah are terrorists, or, if you prefer, racist war criminals. Whatever.

Nope, but I've seen some pretty horrible things out of the fingers of Dems and Republicans as well... often as bad as what Hez supporters wrote here. They are currently obvious, because most of the time your commenters act somewhat sane (present commenter excepted). On other blogs, I think the natural human tendency to HATE the other tribe shows up pretty easily.

Sure, Hezbollah may be racist War criminals. They may also be freedom fighters, heroes and valid representation for some people. I don't support or like what they've done... but I am interested in seeing what the people that do like them have to say. Maybe there's a different view that is useful, maybe the different view will just be helpful in understanding that they're all hopeless fools.

I honestly don't care how you decide to handle the situation here on your blog. Its your home, you can tell people to fuck off ;-). However, this, I think is only the beginning of what will eventually become a much larger problem when dealing with a fully interactive media system.

Have you considered a technical solution? We had problems with trolls on Slashdot for a long time, but technical tools have made the situation much less problematic. In that scenario, users in good standing are randomly given "moderator" rights. They can't delete posts, they simply rate them. Users that browse comments can then choose to only browse at rating +1 and above, leaving most trolls at 0 and invisible. Users that consistently comment well are automatically given a +2.

I'm not saying that you should do this to fix the Hez problem, rather that I think you're just entering the woods and may want to look long term at how you'll handle the situation. You're a rare blog, one that provides real information versus armchair BS. I think you, before many, will need to deal with this issue over the long haul.

The other option might be to use volunteer mods that can clean up threads while you're busy running around the Middle East making the rest of of jealous. I think a number of your regular commenters would happily be fair and unbiased mods. ;-)

Maybe

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 18, 2007 12:31 PM

I also realize that I myself may seem to be skirting my own dictum when I critisize Islam whenever we have a militant Islamic poster. I do that because the one thing that needs to change about Islam before it can be compatible with the west , with democracy and with freedom is that it adherents need to be able to tolerate critcism without responding with violence or hatred.

And so I feel duty bound to make this experiment whenever I'm faced with a militant Islamist. It's relatively safe to do this through the internet, and I think that this is something that everyone should do to try to either force this cultural change or to at least brightly demark the line between freedom and silence. If there are those who must remain silent because they will be punished if they speak then those of us who are not threatened must not be silent when faced with their oppressor.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 12:40 PM

I would be willing to volunteer some time to moderating the comments, though before anyone bandwagons, remember that would also need some technical tweaks and might not be any easier to implement than registration or filters.

Philosophically, this is a good illustration that dialogue only works when both sides are willing to participate in good faith. If one side just tries to drown out the other, calls names etc. and refuses to listen, there's no point in talking.

Posted by: Stacy at January 18, 2007 03:46 PM

Buckeye, it may be culture, not Islam although I believe you are not entirely accurate, if you were to look at the letter of Islamic law. Of course I originally referred to it as 'Islamic culture' suggesting that I think there is something inextricable there, and indeed I do.

There is a point at which Islam makes the culture, and the culture makes Islam.

There was an intriguing article recently about how maybe the problem with Islam is that the religion never was forced from the ME and therefore never transcended or evolved much beyond its ancient cultural, linguistic, and essentially tribal roots, and I believe there is some truth to that.

Under Sharia in most ME cultures, a woman's statement in Court is worth half a male's, as just one example of many. The Saudis eschew honor killings for the most part, while most Sunni nations at least tacitly tolerate them at an institutional and community level, but the Saudis do not allow women to drive or leave the house without a male 'guardian.' A fourteen year old Muslim boy is permitted to make decisions for his mother or sisters in many, perhaps most, Islamic nations -- under Islamic law.

I find that most men are not fully aware of how bad the rules and daily reality are for women in Islamist nations -- and you guys think Dhimmis have it bad!



I'd still like to hear MJT interview some educated Lebanese women.

Posted by: Pam at January 18, 2007 04:01 PM

Well I don't think anyone was particularly interested in debating HL point by point when his hateful rants were so damn long and so numerous.

So our side couldn't really listen either. Who has time to reeducate a some indoctrinated child?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 04:02 PM

By the way, I was responding to stacy when Pam and I posted at the same time.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 04:03 PM

The Saudis eschew honor killings for the most part, while most Sunni nations at least tacitly tolerate them at an institutional and community level, but the Saudis do not allow women to drive or leave the house without a male 'guardian.'

Note, the Salafis are a sort of Sunni.

One interesting note, when the King of Jordan proposed a bill that would have outlawed honor killings it didn't pass.

And one legislator said that such a bill would interfere with "freedom of religion," a very telling statement since honor killings aren't actually part of the religion. But individuals terrorizing in the name of piety are seen as part of the religion, the best example being that killing a man who has left Islam is legal - in Egypt anyway (not sure about Jordan). This is the same thing, as I said, it's legal to kill and terrorize in the name of Islam so that the death sentence under Sharia can be carried out even without direct government involvement. In such a culture one can understand why Muslims believe that honor killings are part of their religion.

People should be more aware of this public sanctioning of terror so that we understand where terrorism comes from.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 04:11 PM

Pam,

Lebanese women have it far better than women from other Arab countries. Even women in Hezbollah areas are not required to wear a head scarf, etc. None ever cover their faces, not that I've seen, not even once.

Lebanon is a part of the Mediterranean world as much as it is part of the Arab world. The Christian areas are more Mediterranean than they are Arab, but the whole country is influenced to one extent or another by other countries that have a shoreline on the same sea. It has always been this way in Lebanon. It is a completely different world from the Arabian peninsula.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2007 05:01 PM

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=-6489102150268079408&q=hezbollah+women

This is for Pam. It's a documentary about the women of hezbollah as well as their women anchors, charity workers and wives of hizbolah fighters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZNViirWTnk

You might find this interesting too.

Posted by: UNcontested at January 18, 2007 05:58 PM

Josh Scholar - "Well I don't think anyone was particularly interested in debating HL point by point when his hateful rants were so damn long and so numerous.

So our side couldn't really listen either. Who has time to reeducate a some indoctrinated child?"

That's my point--if HL just wants to 'blog' in the comment section and not actually participate in the discussion, then we can't really have him here.

People tried for a long time to talk to the guy, but after awhile it was clearly useless. That's sad, but some people just are that way. We (and esp. MJT) have no duty to put up with that jazz day after day after day. The responsibility is on HL, and he (and the others like him, or worse than him) blew it.

Posted by: Stacy at January 18, 2007 07:09 PM

I'm not sure that I support the idea of banning people based on their political affiliation. It seems rather bizarre to me. I try to judge people based on their actions, not their party (though sometimes it can be difficult).

I don't want the government banning people based on their political affiliation, but that is a very different thing from a private website owner deciding what may be posted on their website. Michael's server, Michael's rules, if Hizbullah has a problem with that, they're welcome get their own server and ban Michael from posting there.

Are people truly offended by what someone writes on the Internet in a blog comment?

I daresay that if my name was on a website, and a bunch of (insert group I disagree with profoundly here) started dropping by and posting things I didn't want to be associated with, my reaction would probably be quite similar.

Free speech means you have a right to get a soapbox, climb up on it, and start talking. It doesn't mean anyone is obliged to let you use their soapbox to promote your ideas.

Perhaps it's just the years of experience that I have in this medium, but honestly the commentary here... even at its worst appears more friendly than normal internet conversation between Westerners on IRC, NNTP or any of the many forms of communication that are used on the Net. One of the most important things, in my opinion, when communicating on the net is to realize that people can be asses when they communicate in a pseudonymous forum.

Yep.

I honestly recommend that anyone who gets offended by an Internet comment should Grow a pair, thicken their skin and ignore the multitude of asses on the Net... or go back to the Old Media world, where some censor had final say about how and what information could be communicated.

Hey, my original 'internet discussion forum' was alt.(mumble), you don't have to tell me...

------

I think a number of your regular commenters would happily be fair and unbiased mods. ;-)

;-)

Posted by: rosignol at January 18, 2007 09:22 PM

I agree with the host on banning HA supporters for rudeness and vulgarity, or they should be reminded that it would hurt their chances of meeting the 72 virgins in heaven!

I am a lebanese american and here is my story:

I befriended an educated chia for the past 15 years and understood him to be a moderate, westernized, reasonable person as he was educated (post doctoral degree), lives in Sweden, wife doesn't wear a "chador", pretty much "la creme de la creme" of lebanese chia.

This of course all ended when we discussed politics, actually argued, by email, cc-ing many others, after the July unpleasantness. Turns out he was a staunch HA sympathizer and the hale of insults to my work email, and to other friends and mutual aquaintances, became never ending!
Why? bcz he could not respond to my arguments with any counter arguments of real substance!

I can send you copies of the emails exchanged so you can see for yourself what kind of people they are, and remenber, these are from a supposedly educated person!
- a physician who went to med school in the EU what does that say about the rest! good job in banning them!

I, like you, know first hand what is happening in Lebanon cz I lived it, many times over!

I have grown tired of advocating peace and reconciliation. The chia do not want to reconcile,they want to impose. Their interests, affiliations, and ideologies lie elsewhere ( Iran and Syria)

They are no more than instruments the corrupt regimes of Syria and Iran use to promote their interest in the region. And HA knows this and does it willingly cz it has much to gain should they win, namely, a non secular backward lebanon ruled by a 30 % chiite minority-

Nip it in the bud as they say, since there is really no peaceful way out of this. AS much as I'd hate to admit it

Posted by: Ryan at January 18, 2007 09:31 PM
And so I feel duty bound to make this experiment whenever I'm faced with a militant Islamist. It's relatively safe to do this through the internet, and I think that this is something that everyone should do to try to either force this cultural change or to at least brightly demark the line between freedom and silence. If there are those who must remain silent because they will be punished if they speak then those of us who are not threatened must not be silent when faced with their oppressor.
Josh...I'm not trying to fence, but as someone who has been on the receiving end of your insults and frantic assertions for simply voicing a criticism, I have to hope you're being more than a little tongue in cheek here. Posted by: Naha at January 18, 2007 10:02 PM

I have to hope you're being more than a little tongue in cheek here.

Not at all.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 11:21 PM

And I have no idea which comments of mine you're characterizing this way. My first impulse is that if you don't have a specific comment to critisize then you're probably being unfair.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 18, 2007 11:46 PM

Banning for ignorant or specious arguments seems self-defeating.

Mike, I sent that email to you without having checked your blog in a while. Ha! The joke's on me.

Banning for ignorant or specious arguments seems self-defeating.

Seconded.
At some point, Mike, I'm going to be a Hizballah supporter on here, Mike, not because I think families in Tel Aviv use Arab bone marrow to make matzah, but if only because for everyone that makes an accurate point about some morally wrong thing that Hizballah has done, there's someone else making a fatuous and exaggerated point.

So, hey, nothing personal, but when you ban me, it'll be a d*ck move.

Why do you feel like you need to have a neat, tidy, nice-nice comment section, anyhow, with people commenting in tactful straight lines? Let us fend for ourselves. why not get out of the policing business entirely. If people are rude, so what? Intelligent discourse can, if people feel like it, take place in the middle of rudeness. It just takes more desire and effort. What's so wrong with that?

Other than spam and personal threats, people should be free to support whatever stupidities they like, I say. My two cents. Ciao.

Posted by: glasnost at January 19, 2007 10:08 AM

Josh, I dunno what happened -- it just blanked out

Any tips?

Posted by: Lira at January 19, 2007 10:37 AM

..., but if only because for everyone that makes an accurate point about some morally wrong thing that Hizballah has done, there's someone else making a fatuous and exaggerated point.

So?

If Hizbullah does X wrong, they are not absolved of that wrong because some fool embellishes an accusation that Hizbullah also did Y wrong, and invents an accusation that Hizbullah did Z wrong.

What matters is what actually happened, the rest is propaganda and should be ignored.

Posted by: rosignol at January 19, 2007 10:40 AM

Josh, I dunno what happened -- it just blanked out

Any tips?

No.

I use wordpress on godaddy hosted server (very cheap) and occasionally back up the MYSQL database that drives it, but no doubt that is of no use to you.

You should email blogspot tech support.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 19, 2007 10:57 AM

Thanks Michael. I appreciate you efforts, patience, courage and fairness. I posted something in response to some vile comments regarding Jews made by HL about a week or ten days ago. It was disgusting trash. My only regret, and I'm sure you share it, is that, for those who still think Hezbollah are freedom fighters and not violent racist fascists, comments made by HL and his ilk show just how wrong that picture is. It is especially instructive to watch such folk act their best and insinuate themselves into a blog and then leak their venom. And then they just explode and you can see the whole thing: the bile, the veneer hiding it. It's been instructive.

But Josh made a good point about bad posters driving away good people. Dhimmi Watch and Little Green Footballs have problems of this type, to name two examples on the right, and the Huffington Post and Daily Kos on the left also have repulsive comments.

Posted by: Abu Nudnik at January 20, 2007 08:43 AM

viva la dictatura, la totalitaria, le assad, le chavez, le mubarak, viva michael....

Posted by: carla at January 21, 2007 12:56 PM

They asked LoqmAn Hakim, a Persian sage, where did you learn your manners. He replied - I learnt my manners from the rude, by not doing what they did.

I was actually learning a bit about the Hezbollahi mindset from the method of argumentation employed by that Mohammedan cultist HL. His racist and supremacist arguments could not withstand the scrutiny and criticism it attracted, and he actually signed off a couple of times, vowing not to return. Maybe it was not so necessary to ban him after all.

It is fascinating to read the mind of the Islamist. The manner in which they twist the language and rationalize rubbish to expose their primitive 6th century camel herder intellect. A lot can be learnt of the Islamic value system ("we respect people of the book therefore we rightfully hang atheists") by just debating with them.

I would say unless this develops into epidemic proportions, there is little harm to have a Hezbi-robo believer or two on this forum, IMO.

Posted by: manda at January 22, 2007 01:26 AM

Michael, have you considered enlisting the help of another person to handle the comments on your blog? If you have someone you can trust you can remove that headache and administrative burden from yourself and focus on the worthwhile posts that bring substantive arguments to the table. Just a thought.

Posted by: Brian at January 22, 2007 08:57 AM

As I've mentioned before your blog is the best managed I've seen. Part of the difference is that you are focused on a particular region and bring a wealth of first hand experience and knowledge to the table. The other is the obvious professional and personal interest you take in the commentary - when someone has a serious question you generally respond fairly quickly with a reasoned explanation. In other words you maintain a respectful and informative dialogue with serious readers; maybe there are other bloggers out there who do the same with the same style but I don't know of them.

Tammy Bruce runs a good comments section, but then she apparently brings in enough income from her radio host show and other activities that she has professional staff to moderate comments.

Michelle Malkin whom I admire doesn't have a comments section on her blog - although you can email her. Since she tries to cover the full spectrum of world events she is often trying to play catch up in getting informed on a subject. For instance, lately she was caught up in the Jamil thing and while I admire her going to Iraq I thought she lost a great opportunity on not reporting on the Kurds' success story and breaking the nearly complete news blackout on those fine people. Instead she spent most of her time chasing after the AP's bs.

I quit even going over to Hot Air, for as much as I enjoy Michelle's Vents, as far as I am concern that Allah character who runs that blog is a great example of someone who has reached their level of incompetence. He is so tied up in the thrill of having achieved a significant following (thanks to Michelle's coattails) that he gloats over knowing how to 'sell' even if his report headlines aren't quite accurate. Its gotten so bad that he's even stooped to quoting the NYT and Rosie when he feels like smearing someone but didn't have any facts... unreal. While there is a comment section I have no idea how one goes about registering to get on the allowed list - he certainly doesn't give any information that I can find on the site. What you see is an in-crowd that has come to know each other so well that they speak in a type of code. Before I quit going over there half the time I had no idea what they were really trying to say.

Anyway, to sum up, your reporting is great and you run a great blog. Since its yours and since you explain in detail and back up your explanations with a clear cut rationale as to why you make certain decisions, you don't owe anyone an apology. I for one have no desire to continually have to wade through inane rants from professed supporters of murdering thugs - they have nothing to teach me. I wish those who seem to want you to waste most of your life catering to the insane would at least put their money where their mouth is and hit that PayPal donation button for you.

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