Fear of reaction is no excuse for self-censorship. Indeed, the opposite is true.


When Mohammedans are fuming and their western lackeys tie themselves in knots to make excuses for savagery, one constant emerges — the defective regurgitation of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Defective because, where Said wrote in pursuit of objective inquiry, his seminal work has now become the go-to defense for insipid moral relativism. It’s the fetishism of guilty souls — “let us not debate, for we are sinners.”

Alice in Arabia and the Foul Idiocy of Censorship

Under pressure, ABC cancels a show that might have told the truth about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. (NR)

By Tom Rogan

If everybody minded their own business,” the Duchess said in a hoarse growl, “the world would go round a deal faster than it does.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Cry insult and let loose the enemies of freedom.

Late last week, following days of media clamor, ABC Family canceled a pilot for Alice in Arabia. The show was to have centered upon a young American woman as she attempted to escape from family kidnappers in Saudi Arabia.

To be sure, ABC’s critics were vociferous, both in volume and in number. But they should never have been able to succeed.


At a basic level, consider the hyperventilating banality that defined the censorship crew’s arguments. BuzzFeed’s Ayesha Siddiqi scoffed at the comparison of Saudi Arabia to Wonderland. In the Guardian, Raya Jalabi declared that “the very premise of the pilot is deeply problematic — not least because it carries the very real potential for perpetuating negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) echoed this sentiment, claiming that Alice in Arabia might lead to “things like bullying.” Coincidentally, CAIR receives quite a lot of money from Riyadh.

In an ironic twist of prejudice, Rega Jha insinuated that, as a former Arabic linguist in the U.S. military, the writer of Alice in Arabia was inherently racist. The corollary implication: that U.S. military personnel kill innocent Muslims (try the opposite). Time’s Rabia Chaudry ranted that Alice in Arabia bears similarity to lynching narratives.

Facing this sea of anger, one could easily, like Alice, have become lost.

Luckily, however, Lily Rothman was on hand to elucidate censorship’s beneficence — why ABC is lucky to have those who know, to tell them what to speak. But Rothman’s summation also tells us something else.

Through all these various criticisms, one constant emerges — the defective regurgitation of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Defective because, where Said wrote in pursuit of objective inquiry, his seminal work has now become the go-to defense for insipid moral relativism. It’s the fetishism of guilty souls — “let us not debate, for we are sinners.”

But let’s be clear. Fear of reaction is no excuse for self-censorship. Indeed, the opposite is true. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly explained, a democratic society must accept the risk of offense as the price of empowered dialogue. After all, is there any area of political discourse that we can guarantee will not cause offense to someone?

Of course not.

And let’s be clear about something else.

While Alice in Arabia would likely have been somewhat cartoonish in its philosophy, it would still have been to America’s benefit. That’s because it would have illuminated the predicament of women in Saudi Arabia.

Yes, an expansive insight into Saudi Arabia would have been preferable. Nevertheless, we must accept the world in which we live. We must recognize that TV stations like ABC Family possess the avenues of appeal that C-SPAN-style debates (sadly) do not.

Correspondingly, while we must always pursue deeper scrutiny, we should never choose blindness over even a blurry window into injustice. That’s especially true with regards to Alice in Arabia.

Because in the end, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are not a small concern. Because for thousands of women in the kingdom, each new dawn begets new slavery. Because when a woman in Saudi Arabia is accosted for wearing nail polish, or beaten at a whim, or has her genitals forcibly mutilated, or is leashed like a dog every day of her life, these are not just small inconveniences. And when five-year-old girls live and die as human piñatas, these are not simply “real-life difficulties.”

Rather, they are testaments to a profound and ongoing evil. Like the signs “whites only” or “Kauft nicht bei Juden,” this is the denigration of humans simply for the sins of their being.

It doesn’t get more black-and-white than this.

Today, in America, the victorious censors, those like Salon’s lifestyle editor, should look in the mirror.

Lifestyle. A word of subjective definition in a world of unequal freedoms.

— Tom Rogan is a blogger based in Washington, D.C., and a contributor to the Guardian and The American Spectator.

2 thoughts on “Fear of reaction is no excuse for self-censorship. Indeed, the opposite is true.”

  1. How can anyone negatively stereotype muslims?!

    Muslims are *supposed* to be unchangeing, set-in-stone stereotypes!

    As for Ed Said’s blatantly racist slander-meme of “Orientalism,” the East has earned the derision we accord its hidebound superstitious traditions!

    The Qur’an was arranged in order of its chapter lengths, from longest to shortest, because the caliph Uthman figured the most important stuff would have been given the most space in the text, whereas in reality, basic principles are the most important yet shortes, with the sub-sequent lists of nearly-infinite symptoms taking up the most space!

    Then the hadiths followed the same twisted order, and the sharia books feared to change that order, and so also mimicked it!

    As Plato noted, the superstitious mind only worships the gods because it fears not to!

    Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge (Spanish: Emporio celestial de conocimientos benévolos) is a fictitious taxonomy of animals described by the writer Jorge Luis Borges in his 1942 essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins” (El idioma analítico de John Wilkins).

    Wilkins, a 17th-century philosopher, had proposed a universal language based on a classification system that would encode a description of the thing a word describes into the word itself—for example, Zi identifies the genus beasts; Zit denotes the “difference” rapacious beasts of the dog kind; and finally Zitα specifies dog.

    In response to this proposal and in order to illustrate the arbitrariness and cultural specificity of any attempt to categorize the world, Borges describes this example of an alternate taxonomy, taken from an ancient Chinese encyclopædia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.

    The list divides all animals into one of 14 categories:

    Those that belong to the emperor
    Embalmed ones
    Those that are trained
    Suckling pigs
    Mermaids (or Sirens)
    Fabulous ones
    Stray dogs
    Those that are included in this classification
    Those that tremble as if they were mad
    Innumerable ones
    Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
    Et cetera
    Those that have just broken the flower vase
    Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

    Borges states that the list was discovered in its Chinese source by the translator Franz Kuhn.

    Influences of the list

    This list has stirred considerable philosophical and literary commentary.

    Michel Foucault begins his preface to The Order of Things,

    This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of thought—our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old definitions between the Same and the Other.

    Foucault then quotes Borges’ passage.

    Louis Sass has suggested, in response to Borges’ list, that such “Chinese” thinking shows signs of typical schizophrenic thought processes. By contrast, the linguist George Lakoff has pointed out that Borges’ list is similar to many categorizations of objects found in nonwestern cultures.

    Keith Windschuttle, a LIBERAL Australian historian, cited alleged acceptance of the authenticity of the list among many academics as a sign of the degeneration of the Western academy.

    In summary, Ed Said’s slanderous notion of “Orientalism” – and as he admits in his own preface to the second edition! – is nothing more than victim-blaming racism, accusing Westerners who dare to notice that islam is barbarism of being pre-judiced hater-racist-bigots, when in reality:

    Judeo-Christianity is based on the Golden Rule of Law (most simply put as Do Not Attack First) and also therefore based philosophically on the similar ideal that, between people, all is forbidden unless and until specifically allowed – i.e: I’m not allowed to do anything either TO, or FOR, you, without getting your express consent, first.

    From agreeing to this Rule, we gain trust, progress, and Civilization.

    Islam is based on the exact opposite – on what I call the brazen rule of chaos (or, of crime), where they slanderously hold it’s their holy right and duty to always attack the innocent others first, (before they can be ‘inevitably’ attacked) and where all is allowed unless and until it’s very specifically forbidden.

    From this, they inflict distrust, stagnation, and barbarism.

    Our philosophy and religion are lawful, theirs criminal.


  2. Ed Said bitched and whined, twisted and moaned that we had noticed, like Borges, that Orientals, having lived under systems of top-down mindlessly authoritarian slavery for so long, were unable to organize their thoughts and concepts into correct categories or syllogisms.

    As usual, how is it supposed to be our fault, much less “racist” of us, just to notice and so comment on this inherent lack of rationality in their societies?!

    It’s not actually impossible for them to learn how to think properly, to observe cause and effect, as the existence of their Arabic term “Zirf” implies,* but when they have had to defer all their individual thought processes to idolatrous authorities for so long, their ability to do so on their own has been demonstrably impeded by the norms of their own indoctrinating “cultures.”

    So, it’s almost a given that they would blame us as the cause of their inability to perceive cause and effect, BY blaming our noticing their lack of it, FOR their own lack of it!

    As usual, we aren’t doing even any moslems any favors by indulging their historic lies.

    No problem was ever solved by ignoring it, and the first step in solving any problem is to admit it exists, and then to describe and define it.


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