Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How progressive is Progressive Bloggers?

I believe in democracy. I think most progressive bloggers do, but I have a problem when people use it to oust others from contributing.
I believe in free speech. Does PB?

At issue: the riddance of Robert McLelland.

Jews are being (pardonne le mot) fucked on a daily basis.
Robert McLelland statement "Fuck the Jews" CAN be conceived as an anti-semitic statement, but doesn't necessarily have to be conceived that way; it all depends on the context.
Here's an (somewhat extreme) example of context: Every day many Jews do get fucked, literally speaking. And, most probably, a lot of them enjoy it quite a bit (I hope), since sex can be a pleasant passing of time :). Theirs nothing wrong about fucking a Jew, just like there's nothing wrong about fucking an Arab, a Canadian, an Israeli or a Dutch person; enjoy fucking!

Clearly this wasn't the kind of "fucking" that Robert had in mind, but it does show that "Fuck the Jews" doesn't have to be an anti-semitic statement.

So what is an anti-semite?
As a matter of convenience let's use the Wikipedia description:

Antisemitism (alternatively spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is discrimination, hostility or prejudice directed at Jewish persons as a religious, racial, or ethnic group, which can range in expression from individual hatred to institutionalized, violent persecution.
So discriminating someone solely because he's Jewish is anti-semitic. But, for example, criticising the state of Israel because you don't agree with one of their policies doesn't have to be anti-semitic. Yes, there's a fine line somewhere, but is it up to the "Chief Moderator" of "Progressive Bloggers" to decide where that line is?

I'm Anti-everything
Generalizing is the issue here. Everybody does it, yet it's the root of the problem. When I hear a "State of Union" address by George Bush, my instinct tells me something which comes pretty close to "Fuck the Americans"; all the double-speak and spin, it just makes me sick. But I do realize there are plenty of Americans who are more disappointed in George Bush than I am. That's why you won't (easily) find something like "Fuck the Americans" on my blog.

I also have problems with a lot of the policies of the government of Israel, as you can often read on my blog. Does this make me an anti-semite? NO! If that makes me an anti-semite than we can call pretty much anyone who criticizes a Jew, Jewish Institution, the State Israel etc. an anti-semite.

Jason Cherniak could be considered an anti-semite...
Take Jason Cherniak as an example. He talks about good and "bad" Jews in many of his posts. Is he therefore an anti-semite? I don't think so.

Jason does smear the Jew Noam Chomsky, accusing him of being a Holocaust-denier. As Eugene pointed out (thank you, Eugene) Noam Chomsky is not a Holocaust-denier. Do we consider smearing a Jew with false accusations anti-semitic? Conceivably.

The 5-1 vote; Democracy abused.
Robert's use of language is not my "cup of tea". I don't like his provocative style of writing in a lot of his postings and comments. But this is the Internet! It's free speech, and I'm glad it's here. Love or hate Robert's postings, 95% of what he writes is progressive (and a lot more progressive than Conservative Liberal Jason Cherniak).

The vote to expel Robert does remind me another time and place: Germany in the 1930s. In both cases democracy was implied from the top. I don't remember voting for or against Robert, nor do Germans remember voting for or against extinction of the Jews.

Above all freedom of speech is at the core of a well functioning democracy. I believe most progressive bloggers blog because they are idealists. And to me Robert is clearly one of them. If his postings become anti-semitic of nature, we, as a community of progressive bloggers, should call him on it. But removing him from the PB through a vote from the top is not Progressive.

14 comments:

Scott Tribe said...

First off a) That infamous post of his is not the reason he was removed (in fact, at the time, when that post was brought back up a year later in 2005, we were under pressure to remove him from the site for it, and the 3 of us at the time unanimously decided not to), and b) would you rather Wayne or I have removed him arbitrarily?

Wayne certainly has that right since he runs the site - he doesnt need to have a panel of people voting on stuff like this (or approving new affiliates for that matter) to advise him what to do. Yet now, having a panel that tries to represent the community and its diverse ideologies and positions is a bad thing?

The fact of the matter is, Wayne retains the right to overrule any decision we as a moderator team vote on, and this instance, he agreed with our vote and did not.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I really need to stop talking about this (I'm sure many agree) but I do feel the need to point out that the recent curfuffle was NOT about Robert's "F#ck the Jews" post.

In a recent comment on MyBlagh, Ti-Guy said:

When the State starts rounding up my Jewish neighbours, I’ll speak up.

Robert's response was this:

Not me. People like Klownsella, Chernyuk and Smeagol the Jew have taught me it’s not worth getting involved. When next they come for the Jews I doubt I’ll even be able to muster up a “what a shame”.

It's also important to note that he hasn't (to my knowledge) apologized for that remark, or even contextualized it, but he HAS defended it.

That's all I wanted to say though. I'm getting sick of talking about it.

Erik Abbink said...

When next they come for the Jews I doubt I’ll even be able to muster up a “what a shame”

So that's IT?

That's all it takes to be removed from PB, "doubt I'll even be able to muster up a "what a shame""?

Again, I don't agree with this type of a remark, and I do think it carries a level of anti-semitism that I find provocative.

But we also know the context. And the context tells me Robert is not an anti-semite, as concurred by PB staff.

I believed that anyone who considers themselves progressive, should be able to participate in the blog roll. This does not seem to be the case (anymore).

PB desperately needs better guidelines/regulations before it starts ousting more members.

How can we comply with being progressive enough?

Is being anti Israel not progressive?

Are we allowed to slander other Jews (Cherniak does)?

Where do you guys draw the line?

Scott Tribe said...

Erik, we have removed exactly 2 members in 3 years of running this site. I hardly think we're going to be starting a great purge.

The comment was one thing, but the subsequent refusal to apologize for it at Prog Blog in Paladeia's diary and making additional statements was quite another. It was a cumulative effect, and we've listed our reasons.

Anyone who considers themselves progressive should be in the blogroll? So if Kate Macmillan sends in an application tomorrow for Small Dead Animals saying she considers herself progressive, we should just throw her on, no questions asked?

We are hardly an echo chamber Erik. Of the applications we receive, I can again count on my 1 hand over the past 3 years blogs that were rejected for ideological reasons of not being "progressive" enough or at all.

Erik Abbink said...

So if Kate Macmillan sends in an application tomorrow for Small Dead Animals saying she considers herself progressive, we should just throw her on, no questions asked?

I wonder what would happen, wouldn't you?

I would like PB to be self regulatory, instead of "run from the top". If Kate wants to have a try at it, let her have a try at it; we already have Conservative Jason Cherniak, and he has been whining lately....

Psychols said...

"The comment was one thing, but the subsequent refusal to apologize for it...."

This is a tiresome theme. Say what you want but apologize if the progblog moderators take exception.

I'd suggest that five moderators owe an apology to Robert McLelland.

Scott Tribe said...

You're entitled to your opinion psychols, but I beg to differ. The majority opinion was that he went over the line and voted accordingly. And Erik, I find that notion of self-regulation rather unworkable, and prone to abuse much more then a community of moderators overseeing the site.

I'm not trying to be mean here, but if blogs or bloggers think there is a better way of doing things, they are either free to bring up such ideas at our forums (thru their own posts or diaries) to either Wayne or to the general blogging populace to see if they have a measure of support.. or alternatively, they are free to leave Prog Blog (and a couple of blogs have, much to my regret), or to go start their own "anarchists" aggregate or "free-will" affiliate if they think we're not doing what they think we should be doing... and I'd wish them all the best of luck in that endeavour.

Erik Abbink said...

This is a tiresome theme. Say what you want but apologize if the progblog moderators take exception.

I'd suggest that five moderators owe an apology to Robert McLelland.


I completely agree with you, Psychols. If PB moderators intend to purge all members who write arguably a non-progressive post with which the majority of the moderators don't agree, then within a year, there will be no PB member left.

Robert is a progressive blogger, far more progressive than Jason Cherniak ever will be. (And, Cherniak DID make an anti-semitic statement; did he apologize yet?).

It is my believe that the PB moderators decision, who to keep and who to purge, has got "double standards" written all over it.

It's time for Scott and his tribe to apologize and admit the "mis-take"; If Robert is NOT progressive, than who the hell still is?

Erik Abbink said...

'm not trying to be mean here, but if blogs or bloggers think there is a better way of doing things, they are either free to bring up such ideas at our forums (thru their own posts or diaries)

I think I just did so in my comment

You can't possibly tell me with straight face that Robert is NOT a progressive?

Some of his posts might not strike you as particularly progressive, but does that mean he can't be on PB?

I'm surprised that not more PBs are more outraged about this:

When next they come for another PB, I doubt I’ll even be able to muster up a “what a shame”?

Scott Tribe said...

It is rather ironic after having been told for more then 6 months now by a group of our affiliates that we have been allowing blogs put out statements that were not progressive in their view and that we should be doing some more of the echo-chamber stuff and applying more litmus-tests to who was progressive and who wasn't to now be hearing from a very few blogs that we're a bunch of authoritarian ideologues at the site. I guess if we've got both sides angry at us - we must be doing something right.

The Prog Blog team has nothing to apologize for. It was Robert who should have been doing the apologizing, and to our regret, he did not - and only made his case worse. His own co-blogger left because of what he said and then didnt say.. and you're trying to tell me we should be apologizing to him?

IF you don't like the decision... thats your opinion and your right. But the moderators have made their decision, and its final, and my conscience is clear and very sure the right action was taken by the site.

Psychols said...

"to now be hearing from a very few blogs that we're a bunch of authoritarian ideologues at the site"

I have seen very few comments that suggest any such thing. At issue is not the right of Wayne and the moderators to make decisions regarding the site. It is the reality that the free exchange of ideas is a precondition for progressive change.

Erik Abbink said...

I guess if we've got both sides angry at us - we must be doing something right.

Some kind of middle of the road politics is not what I call progressive. It's a N-American MSM attitude that can not be defended.

You should be doing the right thing, and that can sometimes be the least popular. Believing the middle must be right, is what it is, a believe. And believes tend to give shitty reporting.

It was Robert who should have been doing the apologizing, and to our regret, he did not - and only made his case worse.

Then share with us what he needs to apologize for.

His own co-blogger left because of what he said and then didnt say.. and you're trying to tell me we should be apologizing to him?

That's a non-sequitor. And it's not the only one.

You purged him for making conceived anti-semitic statements, you don't call him anti-semitic, but you do think he should apologize.

Apologize to who? Jews? or to PB? Please explain.

IF you don't like the decision... thats your opinion and your right.

Finally something we can agree upon.

But the moderators have made their decision, and its final, and my conscience is clear and very sure the right action was taken by the site.

Again, this line of reasoning is not what I call progressive, it's called repressive. Anyone who begs to differ with you is wrong because , you "are very sure the right action" has been taken and because you're "Chief Moderator"? Try sound reasoning for a change.

Psychols is getting it:
It is the reality that the free exchange of ideas is a precondition for progressive change.

Given the fact that most of us (right?) believe Robert is not an anti-semite, I think it's time to admit PB made a mistake.

Robert should be a part of the PB. Like everyone else, he does make mistakes. But no apology needed; anyone who reads the wider context of his blog knows where he's at.

It's not too late.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Wow, I'm getting so sick of this.

It's not about whether what Robert said was "progressive" or "conservative". It was REPUGNANT. Expressing indifference to the rounding up of a people by the State according to their religion isn't "left" or "right" it's just wrong. Robert shouldn't apologize because people told him he should apologize, he should apologize because he said something repugnant, and then proceeded to defend it.

I don't think his comment was "unprogressive" or "conservative", or "over-the-top" or "controversial". I think it was DISGUSTING. Saying that the next time someone comes to round up the Jews, not only will you not stand up, but you're not even sure you'll view that act as "a shame" is repugnant. Period. And if he'd apologized for such a repugnant statement, and explain that he didn't really mean it, I'd wager he'd still be a Prog Blogger.

But he didn't apologize. He simply defended the statement, and tried to explain how it's not fair to label someone an anti-semite just because they express an indifference to the rounding up of Jews by the State. I'm sorry? Would it also be unfair to label someone a racist just because they expressed an indiffference to the State rounding up black people to send them back to Africa? Or that they think it's a shame that slavery was ended?

Give me a break.

Robert's not in "trouble" (such as it is) because he said something controversial, or "unprogressive", or anti-Israel, or "edgy". The trouble is he said he's not sure he'd think it would be a shame if the State started rounding up Jews again. I'm not at all surprised that people are defending his right to publish something so disgusting. If people were suggesting his blog be shut down, I'd rally to Robert too. But I'm shocked people think he should be able to continue to be associated with Prog Bloggers after such a repugnant comment, and his subsequent defence thereof.

(Oh, and can we quit it with this argument that if you're not an anti-semite in your heart that gives you license to write anti-semitic things. I'm sick of the "Robert's not really an anti-semite so he can write whatever he likes about the Jews" argument. It's like claiming "It's not fair to call me a racist just because I wrote that it might not be a shame to 'send the blacks to Africa'". If Robert didn't mean to express an indifference to the rounding up of the Jews by the State, then he needs to say that, not defend the remark. His claim that "indifference is not hostility" is specious. "Explaining" that the remark isn't anti-semitic because he didn't say the State should start rounding up Jews again, just that he didn't think it would necessarily be a shame if they did, is idiotic. It's like a publisher of a Southern newspaper saying "I didn't say they should lynch that black guy. I'm not a racist. All I said was, if they lynch that black guy, I doubt I'll even be able to muster up a 'what a shame'". Get a grip people. It's clear that what Robert said was wrong, and he should apologize for it. If he doesn't apologize for expressing an antipathy to the rounding up of the Jews by the State, how am I supposed to believe he's NOT an anti-semite?

Erik Abbink said...

Well, Robert did apologize, but he's not back on the blogroll at progblog...yet...

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