"Stop the ACLU" Update
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 11:50:17 AM EST
Defenders claim address was out of date
This story of how a Jewish family has allegedly been forced to flee a town in Delaware after complaining about aggressive Christian proselytising has now received a decent amount of attention. The detail that Nedd Karieva's Stop the ACLU.org decided to publish the family's address and that Karieva is "pleased" to have had such an effect has been a particular source of negative comment, but he does have some defenders. Most vociferous is perhaps Jay Stephenson, of sister-site Stop the ACLU.com. He writes:
Assuming the original reports (http://www.jewsonfirst.org/06b/indianriver.html) are accurate, the mother and son apparently moved as early as late 2004. How could the 2006 publication of the address the father maintains have "driven" the family from their home in 2004 or played any role at all?
I must confess that it had not occurred to me that Karieva might have been so incompetent as to post an outdated and therefore incorrect address (although in fact the exact date from which the family was allegedly split up cannot be discerned from the article), but in fact I never claimed that the posting of the address had led to the family's alleged flight; it just seemed to me to be a significant bit of context worth including in an overview. Karieva became a central issue only when he expressed his pleasure at having "had an effect" when told about the family's predicament. We can draw significant conclusions about him and his movement from that, whether or not he actually managed to get the address right.

Karieva also insists that he is in no way anti-Semitic, being himself part Jewish. Stephenson, meanwhile, treats us to some rambling anti-Palestinian rhetoric in order to prove his own pro-Jewish credentials. Again, such an allegation was never made by me, although Karieva's lack of concern about the family having been allegedly subjected to anti-Semitic abuse is telling. There does seem to be some surprising anti-Semitism in the USA (currently being dredged to the surface by Sacha Baron Cohen), but in this case Karieva was simply unlucky that his target was Jewish. Had an atheist family been run out of town, no doubt it could be "justified" (to some) on the grounds that atheists are either Communists or extreme moral relativists. Pagans could be dismissed as devil worshippers, Muslims as America-haters, Hindus and Buddhists as stroppy immigrants. Christians who prefer private devotion over officially-decreed piety would simply be baffling. But, for obvious historical reasons, picking on a Jewish family throws the unpleasantness of certain actions into sharp relief; hence the popularity of the term "Judeo-Christian" on the US right.

Now, it seems, Karieva has decided to end his campaign against private individuals:

It was suggested, NOT compelled or mandated, by our legal counsel to delete the content and thus take this page out of your [sic] arsenal. In its place, we will continue to post ACLU supporting lawyers and companies like Progressive Insurance and the Ford Foundation so that we may boycott them from ever getting our money and business.

Karieva addresses himself to "The Daily Kookoos (KOS with 3 extra O's), Jesus (Armchair) General, (Hair) Salon and others." I assume the last reference is to me, since my blog is hosted by Salon magazine, but readers should be aware that I do not work for Salon itself. Alas, we are not treated to a mocking pun based on the words "Talk to Action".

The more one looks at this story - and isn't this characteristic of life - the more it seems to pick up a Rashamon-like quality, but if there's one theme that stands out for me it is this :

Along the whole range of political opinion there is one quality that sets some apart from others, and that is the extent to which people operate from and perceive the world - and others - through predetermined and inflexible ideological blinders. It is those whose powers of perception - including moral perception - and intellectual perception have become enfeebled and flabby such that they need external exoskeletons of rigid ideology for support, who I see demonizing others and often large, undefined groups. Does demonization ever do any productive work ? I doubt it.  

Though I see more coming from the right currently than from the left it is likely this a characteristic of our poltiical age and not some eternal truth : demonization knows no left or right.

A few days ago, as this story was heating up, I posted an idea - that the bloggers who say they support the "Stop The ACLU Coalition" should simply be asked, directly and politely - one by one as individuals with their own voices - whether they thought the outcome in Indian River was a good thing. I only emailed few people - 7 in all - and only received a response from one person, whose views I sharply differed with but who was willing to post his views and who was, in the email exchange, quite polite.

However, nothing more than my call for such an undertaking - which really could have only worked if many joined in, because one person alone cannot serve as any sort of collective moral voice - had an unexpected result. Others in the group of 200 bloggers listed as supporting the "Stop The ACLU Coalition" stepped up as voices of moral clarity to shame an entrenched few who chose to hunker down and defend their behavior.

When I called for such a project, there were voices on the left who told me that my idea was pointless because the group in question was "extreme" and all the same. Well, the word "extreme" doesn't usually do much work in my lexicon - "extreme" relative to what ? But from looking from even 10 or 20 of the blogs of the group of 200 one of the few things I could say was that they all disliked the ACLU. Another commonality, if one could call it that, was the diversity of the group.

These were individuals, each one, and not cookie cutter people. I don't know what else one would expect to find... "Stepford Bloggers" ? I've never seen such a thing and hope I never do.

No, the right is diverse, and the left is diverse. And, each time anyone points to some vaguely defined group and demonizes that group - based on little evidence and with broad brush strokes that tar indiscriminately, I would call that a type of violence.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst for Political Research Associates and Talk To Action commentator, has said that demonization is not just a problem, it is the problem, and I am coming to believe him

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