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HRW's Whitson Defends Fundraising in Totalitarian Countries:

Inter Press Service

Bernstein maintained that "it's extremely unwise for a human rights group to raise money in a totalitarian country, even from human rights advocates in that country."

Whitson said the claim had no grounds, noting that the notion "that any money from Saudi Arabia is tainted because it comes from a country with a totalitarian ruling regime is a gross generalisation."

"The ethnic background of our donors is irrelevant to the work we do," Whitson told IPS. "It's not relevant to our work in Israel that many, many of our donors are Jewish. And it's not relevant for the work that we do that we get money from Arab countries."

"Should people be criticising us for the fact that much of our support base is made up of Jews?" Whitson said. "Should that imply that our work on Israel is in fact too soft?"

Let's review. The problem with HRW's fundraising in Saudi Arabia is two-fold: (1) Totalitarian (or even run-of-the-mill authoritarian) governments will only allow fundraising for human rights NGOs to the extent that the NGO is at worst only a minor nuisance to it. If HRW becomes dependent on Saudi money, it will have a significant incentive softpedal Saudi Arabia's human rights violations; (2) HRW specifically asked for money in Saudi Arabia due to its research and publicizing of Israel's alleged human rights violations in Gaza, and the cost of its battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations" (as if the U.N., with dozens of Arab and Muslim countries, is a hot bed of pro-Israel sentiment!). So HRW went to the elites of a totalitarian nation, with some representatives of the government in the audience(!) to ask for money to help it combat the controversial policies of a liberal democracy.

On point 1, Whitson has intentionally distorted the point to an issue of the "ethnic background of our donors." Elsewhere, she responded to me by concluding that "believe it or not, some Arabs believe in human rights too." If Whitson has some reason to believe that HRW's mission won't be compromised by fundraising in totalitarian nations, say that HRW is limiting its fundraising in such countries to 5% of its budget so it doesn't become dependent, let her say so. But her claim that the issue I raised is the "ethnic background" of HRW's donors is egregiously dishonest.

As for point 2, HRW director Ken Roth has claimed that the pitch regarding Israel was made in the broader context of discussing HRW's work in the Middle East, and did not amount to a request for funds specifically to combat Israel. ("I've been told that we talked about the range of our work in the region, including Israel, Saudi and elsewhere.... That's [the Israel stuff] certainly part of the story. We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception. It wasn't a pitch against the Israel lobby per se. Our standard spiel is to describe our work in the region. Telling the Israel story — part of that pitch — is in part telling about the lies and obfuscation that are inevitably thrown our way.")

So, HRW acknowledges that it used its reporting on Israel and its battles with Israel's supporters as part of its pitch in Saudi Arabia. The only remaining question is how prominent this was. Given HRW's constant refrain that it believes in "transparency," HRW should release a transcript of the remarks made before the Saudi elites, or, better yet, a video. And while they're at it, how about releasing data on how much money comes from citizens of repressive regimes, how much of that money is earmarked, and for what?

Meanwhile, here is lawprof Maimon Schwarzchild's account of his acquaintance with a vociferously anti-American and anti-Israel senior staffer at HRW.

UPDATE: HRW has now sent a statement on the controversy to its Board of Directors, which I reprint below:

A number of recent media reports have suggested that Human Rights Watch has compromised its neutrality by meeting with potential donors at receptions in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. These reports are based on misleading assumptions and wrong facts.

Human Rights Watch does not accept donations from any government. All of our US$44 million annual budget is raised from private individuals and foundations. Of that sum, almost 75% comes from North America and about 25% from Western Europe, with less than 1% from all other regions of the world combined. As an organization with a global mandate, we are naturally endeavoring to diversify our financial base and have begun to actively explore funding in regions as diverse as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Accordingly, Human Rights Watch staffers made presentations on our work to two private audiences in Saudi Arabia in May (as well as to audiences in Amman and Beirut). [click to continue reading]

(show)

NaG (mail):
Someone should ask Whitson if global warming skeptics have less credibility if they receive any money from Exxon.
7.17.2009 10:09am
Dan28 (mail):

On point 1, Whitson has intentionally distorted the point to an issue of the "ethnic background of our donors." Elsewhere, she responded to me by concluding that "believe it or not, some Arabs believe in human rights too." If Whitson has some reason to believe that HRW's mission won't be compromised by fundraising in totalitarian nations, say that HRW is limiting its fundraising in such countries to 5% of its budget so it doesn't become dependent, let her say so. But her claim that the issue I raised is the "ethnic background" of HRW's donors is egregiously dishonest.

Do you expect anyone to believe that your objection to this fundraiser has nothing to do with the fact that the people involved were Arabs? Does HRW fundraise in China? I bet they do, but I don't really know because I don't really care - and you don't either.

If you really think the threat of a hypothetical future Saudi crackdown on their donor base has any impact on the day to day decisions of human rights researchers for HRW, I think you're simply out of touch with what their lives are like and the kind of personalities that work for HRW. Yes, there are some obnoxious anti-colonial ideologues there who are far more obsessed with crimes committed by first world powers than by third world powers. But that's an ideological problem, not a problem of financial interests.

The people who work for HRW are the kind of people who love the idea of telling a donor base to f-off in the name of a just cause, and they are the last people who are going to cave on principle for the sake of expediency. It's a personality trait common to the profession that makes organizational planning meetings at HRW a complete nightmare.

So HRW went to the elites of a totalitarian nation, with some representatives of the government in the audience(!) to ask for money to help it combat the controversial policies of a liberal democracy.

A classic misdirection, acting like Israel's status as an alleged "liberal democracy" has anything to do with criticisms of a human rights record that is almost entirely focused on Israel's control over occupied areas in which all Jews have citizenship to Israel and all Arabs have no citizenship to any state and live in a virtual police state. Yes, yes - you blame Arabs for that predicament, I get that. But lets not pretend that Israel's being a "liberal democracy" insulates the state from criticisms of policies that have nothing to do with liberalism or democracy.
7.17.2009 10:29am
Ken Arromdee:
Global warming skeptics admit that they oppose the idea of global warming. HRW, on the other hand, doesn't admit to being an anti-Israel organization.

Moreover, the other bad things that Exxon does are outside the mandate of global warming skeptics, since global warming is a narrowly focussed issue. On the other hand, the other bad things that Saudi Arabia does are also things that HRW supposedly fights.
7.17.2009 10:35am
MCM (mail):
global warming is a narrowly focussed issue


wow. first time i've ever heard that one.
7.17.2009 10:39am
Ken Arromdee:
If you really think the threat of a hypothetical future Saudi crackdown on their donor base has any impact on the day to day decisions of human rights researchers for HRW, I think you're simply out of touch with what their lives are like and the kind of personalities that work for HRW. Yes, there are some obnoxious anti-colonial ideologues there who are far more obsessed with crimes committed by first world powers than by third world powers. But that's an ideological problem, not a problem of financial interests.

I think that the basis of these articles is "assuming that HRW means what they say...."

You are right that they could already be biased enough that Saudi funding will have no further effect, but they claim not to be biased and we really should take them at their word.

(And if we don't, their own bias is a worse problem than the Saudi funding.)
7.17.2009 10:42am
George Dixon (mail):
No shock here, the left is ever 1) self righteous and 2) anti-semitic 3)anti-business but in need of cash
7.17.2009 10:45am
Mitch500:

The people who work for HRW are the kind of people who love the idea of telling a donor base to f-off in the name of a just cause, and they are the last people who are going to cave on principle for the sake of expediency. It's a personality trait common to the profession that makes organizational planning meetings at HRW a complete nightmare.


Do you have any actual evidence to support this claim?
We know for a fact that HRW went to Saudi Arabia and used the organization's criticism of Israel as a selling point at the fundraiser. Even with the new statement to the Board of Directors it remains unclear if the discussion of Saudi Arabian human rights violations was anything more than superficial. We still don't know what was said at the event, or for that matter who the donors are and how much they gave.
7.17.2009 10:45am
George Dixon (mail):
No shock here, the left is ever 1) self righteous and 2) anti-semitic 3)anti-business but in need of cash
7.17.2009 10:45am
Dan28 (mail):

Do you have any actual evidence to support this claim?

No objective evidence, although I'm not sure what would qualify as objective evidence for that kind of claim. But we're talking about friends of mine.
7.17.2009 10:52am
Seamus (mail):

Someone should ask Whitson if global warming skeptics have less credibility if they receive any money from Exxon.


I can't speak for Whitson, but I'm perfectly willing to say that when Reason magazine's science editor, Ron Bailey, was a global warming sceptic, he didn't lose any credibility with me because the Reason Foundation got money from Exxon. A lot of people tried to make a big deal of it at the time, accusing Bailey of being a shill for Big Oil, but I thought that was bullshit. Just like the implication that HRW has "lost its moral compass."
7.17.2009 10:54am
Pseuss (mail):
We sought, in part to juxtapose that criticism with the charges we face in much of the Middle East (and from some Western critics) that our US donor base makes us "soft" on Israeli human rights violations.

So according to Whitson the final punchline was: support us financially and we'll really sock it to the Israelis.

Amazing
7.17.2009 10:56am
yankev (mail):

Do you expect anyone to believe that your objection to this fundraiser has nothing to do with the fact that the people involved were Arabs?
Yes, Dan28, it's just that well-known Jewish Zionist Likudnik neocon hatred toward Arabs. It has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia's refusal to allow Jews into its country, its refusal to recognize Israel, its decades long support for economic and military action against Israel, its funding for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terrorism, its worldwide dissemination of blood libel and the Protocols, and its funding of mosques, univeristies and think tanks to spread its poison in the US. Yep, its just the meer fact that Saudi citizens are ethnically Arab -- just sheer ethnic hatred and bigotry, once again, on the part of Israel's defenders.

And to save you the trouble, of course I am falsely smearing Saudi society as ant-Semitic simply because they oppose the building of Israeli settlements in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Betelgeuse VII on land that Israel is planning to expropriate by military expansion. I'm doing that because its such an effective tool, as anti-Semites (what's that, you say-- as Arabs, the Saudis are semites too) can't tolerate being called anti-Semites.
7.17.2009 11:01am
yankev (mail):
I for one am sure that HRW has not compromised its principles for the sake of taking money from anti-Semites.

I am equally sure that the Mayflower Madam never compromised her virtue, and that her employees (subcontractors?) did not compromise theirs, for the sake of taking money from their johns clients.

And that Ramparts never compromised its objectivity and Ted McGinley never compromised his acting talent.
7.17.2009 11:07am
yankev (mail):
Nor did Ghenghis Khan ever compromise his peace-loving nature.
7.17.2009 11:09am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
More evidence that criticism by Berstein and Goldberg only bolsters the credibility of Human Rights Watch.
7.17.2009 11:32am
fishbane (mail):
I googled for Bernstein's attacks on politicians who have financial entanglements with Saudis (after all, if an NGO's financial ties with Saudis are so vitally dangerous, then surely actual U.S. politicians with financial ties to them much be much, much more dangerous), but I must have been using the wrong search terms.
7.17.2009 11:35am
willis (mail):
I would find HRW's missive to it's board much more convincing if it came from it's board to HRW, along with a Sarbanes-Oxley style of program to enforce it.
7.17.2009 11:40am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'm not sure what the point of Fish's post is, but you can try googling Chas. Freeman and Bernstein.
7.17.2009 11:40am
rosetta's stones:
Ok, let's review HRW's statement:

These were receptions in private homes, hosted by people who were interested in Human Rights Watch and who invited other guests to learn more about us. Among the guests at one of those receptions were the deputy head of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia and a member of the Shura Council, a government-appointed consultative body. Neither of these individuals was solicited for funds, nor would Human Rights Watch ever accept funds from such officials, in any country. Government officials are, of course, important interlocutors for our advocacy on Saudi human rights policy.

She sorta gives the game away with the "interlocutors" reference. Love to see her expand on this. Love to see the transcript, and preferably video. The presence of Saudi gangsta government officials during these events is enough to judge the character of them, however. It's a clear message to them over there, and it damn well better be for us.




We feel Human Rights Watch distinguished itself with accurate, sober, and impartial work on the Gaza conflict in early 2009, including coverage of Israel's use of white phosphorous , as well as Palestinian political violence during the conflict.

I'm sorry, but the phosphorous meme gives the game away. That group must ground itself in reality. Must. One glaring slip such as this... and they're lost. Impossible to recover from such a blunder. Impossible. They must not allow themselves to be drawn into the conspiratorial, paranoid morass of misinformation and misanalysis that is ME information flow.




By the same token, no assumption should ever be made that a Saudi citizen's support for human rights reflects or is captive of Saudi government policy.

Huh? Why would any of us make any assumption otherwise, is what I wanna know. She can't make the statement she's making... it's impossible for her to know this... and her statement flies in the face of any common understanding of the authoritarian society that the Saudi gangstas have propogated.
7.17.2009 11:53am
yankev (mail):

by Berstein and Goldberg only bolsters the credibility of Human Rights Watch.
Cute link. I especially liked


self-appointed position as intellectual arbiter of the shtetl. (Ironically, his writing about Jews is shallow and cramped, as with this post about Brooklyn Jews, which is as cliched and outdated as is possible without using the words plotz or shmear.)


and

To which Duss adds: "Discussing the very real and intense hostility that right-wing pro-Israel groups show toward HRW's reporting — hostility to which Jeffrey Goldberg has, through sloppy and tendentious journalism, now added some weight — is obviously not the same as invoking 'the Jewish lobby.'" Look out, Duss! When the shtetl police kick at your front door, how you gonna come?
Classy. Gives me a better idea of who HRW's supporters are. I imagine that to them, any charge made by a political conservative, or by a Jew, or by a supporter of Israel, is prima facie proof that the charge is false. When it comes from someone who is all three -- serious cred boost for HRW.
7.17.2009 12:10pm
Dave456 (mail):
Interesting facts from the arabnews.com article

The reason HRW is out of money:
The group is facing a shortage of funds because of the global financial crisis and the work on Israel and Gaza, which depleted HRW's budget for the region.

"Half of this amount comes from individual donors. We call businessmen in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world to support HRW by sending donations," said Elmasry, who is also a managing director at Morgan Stanley in London.


So the middle eastern branch of HRW spends all of its money investigating Israel and then replenishes those funds in Saudi Arabia.
7.17.2009 12:38pm
cubanbob (mail):
Dan28 (mail): Like Whitson and the HRW you have established what you are, now all that left is just the haggling over the price.
7.17.2009 12:43pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
"Does HRW fundraise in China? I bet they do, but I don't really know because I don't really care - and you don't either."

I think many people would care if HRW raised funds in China, using its research and publicizing of human rights violations in Taiwan.
7.17.2009 12:48pm
Dan28 (mail):

Like Whitson and the HRW you have established what you are, now all that left is just the haggling over the price.

Yeah, I enjoyed that Peter Singer article too. What exactly is your point again?
7.17.2009 12:53pm
Dan28 (mail):

The reason HRW is out of money:

Ironically enough given the current thread, one of the major reasons why HRW is out of money is because they have become the indirect victims of Madoff's ponzi, in part because HRW relies heavily on Jewish donors and foundations like the Levy Foundation.

I would guess that HRW has much more at risk in terms of financial losses among Jewish donors if they are seen as too anti-Israel than they have to gain from Arab donors if they are too pro-Israel. Which is probably why their PR people feel such a strong need to respond to these accusations.
7.17.2009 1:03pm
kwo (mail):
Human Rights Watch does not accept donations from any government. All of our US$44 million annual budget is raised from private individuals and foundations.


There's no bright line between the Saudi government and its citizens, particularly its elite citizens. As a monarchy, and a tribal monarchy at that, the line between public policy and private initiative is very blurry.
7.17.2009 1:04pm
Dan28 (mail):

I would guess that HRW has much more at risk in terms of financial losses among Jewish donors if they are seen as too anti-Israel than they have to gain from Arab donors if they are too pro-Israel.

Blearg. The negatives in that sentence got confounded. Let me try again:

I would guess that HRW has more at risk in terms of a negative reaction fro Jewish donors if they are seen as too anti-Israel than the have to gain from Arab donors for being critical of Israel.
7.17.2009 1:05pm
NaG (mail):
Seamus: My comment has two points, depending on how one answers the question.

If you think that global warming skeptics lose credibility if they get money from Exxon (as many on the left have claimed), then HRW should refrain from gathering money from totalitarian states. The implication is that HRW's work product will be tainted since HRW will be hesitant to criticize its source of funds, or alternatively that HRW's mission is aligned with that of the totalitarian nation, which is a contradiction on its face (at least, if HRW is truly concerned about human rights).

However, if you think that global warming skeptics do not lose credibility for accepting money from Exxon, then your assumption is that a donor is generally unable to control the message of the recipient. Saudi Arabia, in this case, may be giving money to HRW because of its work in attacking the authority in Israel, and may view the payment as worthwhile even if HRW then turns around and criticizes Saudi Arabia for its own abuses. There is also something to the idea that if Saudi Arabia is stupid enough to give money to a human rights organization, that organization should take it -- so long as that organization does not in any way modify its mission statement or actions based on that donation. If HRW stops criticizing Saudi Arabia as a result of this, that's very bad. But if HRW continues doing what it is doing, including criticizing Saudi Arabia, then that reflects more on the donor than the donee.
7.17.2009 1:21pm
Ken Arromdee:
In order for global warming skeptics to be a good analogy to HRW, HRW would have to proclaim itself to be an anti-Israel organization (global warming skeptics admit being global warming skeptics) and would have to give up opposing other types of human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia (global warming skeptics generally don't oppose other activities done by Exxon).

On the other hand, global warming skeptics who denied being such, who claim to oppose many other things that Exxon does, and who get money from Exxon anyway by pointing to their global warming skepticism, would indeed be like HRW, and I'd be glad to condemn those.
7.17.2009 1:34pm
Dan28 (mail):

In order for global warming skeptics to be a good analogy to HRW, HRW would have to proclaim itself to be an anti-Israel organization (global warming skeptics admit being global warming skeptics) and would have to give up opposing other types of human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia (global warming skeptics generally don't oppose other activities done by Exxon).

The bigger problem is that the accusation of bias for Exxon employees is based on the tangible self-interest of Exxon as their employer. The only thing we know about the Saudis that gave money to HRW is their national identity. A better analogy would be accusing global warming skeptics of bias because they held a fundraiser in an oil-rich area, such as Houston.

Saudi Arabia, in this case, may be giving money to HRW because of its work in attacking the authority in Israel, and may view the payment as worthwhile even if HRW then turns around and criticizes Saudi Arabia for its own abuses

HRW is not raising money from "Saudi Arabia". They are raising money from individual citizens within Saudi Arabia. For all we know, those individuals want HRW to criticize human rights violations within Saudi society.
7.17.2009 1:39pm
Seattle Law Student (mail):

No shock here, the left is ever 1) self righteous and 2) anti-semitic 3)anti-business but in need of cash



Which is presumably why American Jews (such as myself) have so strongly embraced the Republican Party. /sarcasm

Anti-semitism has a home across the political spectrum from left to right. Likewise it crosses income levels and ethnicities. Anti-semitism is an equal opportunity hatred.

In the same vein, self-righteousness has a home across the spectrum.

I won't even bother arguing with your third point because it is such an article of faith amongst conservatives that rational discussion of whether the left is anti-business is impossible, and would only hijack the thread.
7.17.2009 2:00pm
yankev (mail):

Which is presumably why American Jews (such as myself) have so strongly embraced the Republican Party. /sarcasm

Warning, SLS -- my drift toward the Republican party started in law school. It took another 20 years to get there (e.g. I was appalled when Reagan was elected) and two more before I would admit it to myself, but looking back, my disenchantment with the DFL and the Democrats generally definitely began in law school, when I started analyzing some of their positions. Significant steps included Carter's throwing the US Jewish community to the wolves over the Andy Young affair and Fritz Mondale's embrace of Jesse Jackson notwithstanding the latter's hymietown remarks and Israel-bashing. Someday you may look back the same way at the Obama White House, Sen. McKinney, and who knows what to come.

Or not.
7.17.2009 2:17pm
PLR:
Slightly off-topic, but I have heard there is a guide with official talking points regarding the issue of Israeli settleements in the West Bank. Is there a comparable guide for responding to criticism of the IDF? Just curious to see whether I see any patterns, one way or the other, in any random Corner of the internet.

Thanks in advance.
7.17.2009 2:24pm
Seattle Law Student (mail):
I might well be a republican were it not for the Messianic Christianity of their base*. I lived in Germany, they are good people, it took one charismatic douchebag to turn them into raving lunatics. I look at the republican base and see that waiting to happen.

Right now there is an odd confluence between far right wing Christians who want to see the temple rebuilt to hasten the end times and Israel. That is not a stable pairing.

* that and the party's absurd stance on personal liberties and other social issues.
7.17.2009 2:24pm
rarango (mail):
"I lived in Germany, they are good people, it took one charismatic douchebag to turn them into raving lunatics." Forget Christians—the issue in Germany is precisely why vegetarians are a threat to society.
7.17.2009 2:36pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you think that global warming skeptics lose credibility if they get money from Exxon (as many on the left have claimed), then HRW should refrain from gathering money from totalitarian states. The implication is that HRW's work product will be tainted since HRW will be hesitant to criticize its source of funds, or alternatively that HRW's mission is aligned with that of the totalitarian nation, which is a contradiction on its face (at least, if HRW is truly concerned about human rights).

However, if you think that global warming skeptics do not lose credibility for accepting money from Exxon, then your assumption is that a donor is generally unable to control the message of the recipient.
You're missing the issue. The problem isn't that HRW "accepts" money from Saudis. The problem isn't even that HRW solicits money from Saudis, though that is a problem.

The problem is that HRW solicits money from Saudis by telling them that they need to give HRW money so HRW can go after Israel.
7.17.2009 2:50pm
DG:
The crux of this entire affair seems to be whether Arab News was accurate or not. If they were accurate, HRW is a bunch of liars and they are "leveraging" their Israel coverage as a method of gaining Arab dollars. If its inaccurate, its an entirely different ball of wax.

The other big issue is HRW's style when it comes to Israel. While it publishes on a lot of countries, there is an unseemly speed and breathlessness about their coverage on Israel, especially during times of conflict. This has led many to believe that they are reflexively anti-Israel. There is also the suspicion, which has been validated in the minds of many by interactions with HRW staffer and supporters, that they have a special animus against Israel, similar to that of many on the hard left, from whose ranks HRW's staffers are largely drawn.

I don't think HRW is anti-Semitic. I do think they may have an institutional anti-Israel bias that impairs their ability to function as an objective human rights monitor.
7.17.2009 2:51pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Right now there is an odd confluence between far right wing Christians who want to see the temple rebuilt to hasten the end times and Israel.
That's maybe 5% of fundamentalist Christians, who are maybe 20% of the population (not all evangelicals are fundamentalists). So you're talking about around 1% of the American population. The vast majority of evangelical Christians who support Israel don't do it for "end of times" reasons. I had a blog post about this a while back, and got tons of feedback from people who grew up in evangelical communities that they never heard of this end of times reason for supporting Israel, and none of their pro-Israel relatives did, either. I'm not saying that should make you a Republican, but the end of times loons are about as important to the Republicans as the Louis Farrakhan wing of the Democrats is to them.
7.17.2009 2:53pm
TheGrandMufti (mail):
The simple fact that HRW targeted Saudi princes to finance anti-Israel activity has irreparably damaged HRW's reputation.

No spin can repair this actual outright conflict of interest and places HRW in league with gender apartheid totalitarian anti-Semites.

David Bernstein is right on point.
7.17.2009 2:59pm
Ken Arromdee:
HRW is not raising money from "Saudi Arabia". They are raising money from individual citizens within Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. You know, that form of government where the government has control over individual citizens.
7.17.2009 3:03pm
Ken Arromdee:
There is also something to the idea that if Saudi Arabia is stupid enough to give money to a human rights organization, that organization should take it -- so long as that organization does not in any way modify its mission statement or actions based on that donation.

We're not omniscient. We can't tell if its mission statement or actions have been modified and they'll probably deny it regardless of whether they are or not.

That's why the concept of "appearance of impropriety" exists.
7.17.2009 3:06pm
Dan28 (mail):

Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. You know, that form of government where the government has control over individual citizens.

Come on. Yes, Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. But they aren't a freaking hive mind. Most of the things people do, even in a dictatorship, are not controlled by the government.
7.17.2009 3:22pm
rosetta's stones:
Come on. Yes, Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. But they aren't a freaking hive mind. Most of the things people do, even in a dictatorship, are not controlled by the government.




Of course, freedom loving nations everywhere insist on government oversight at quaint little gatherings in residences. Happens all the time:


These were receptions in private homes, hosted by people who were interested in Human Rights Watch and who invited other guests to learn more about us. Among the guests at one of those receptions were the deputy head of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia and a member of the Shura Council, a government-appointed consultative body. Neither of these individuals was solicited for funds, nor would Human Rights Watch ever accept funds from such officials, in any country. Government officials are, of course, important interlocutors for our advocacy on Saudi human rights policy.
7.17.2009 3:33pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Dan28 -

The only thing we know about the Saudis that gave money to HRW is their national identity. A better analogy would be accusing global warming skeptics of bias because they held a fundraiser in an oil-rich area, such as Houston.
That is simply insane. If you pick up a rich Saudi invited to an HRW fund-raiser versus a person at the Galleria, everyone here, including yourself, could make far more accurate guesses about the the Saudi. Trying to pain this as racial or ethnic is simply not accurate. It is not because they are arabs, but because they are influential people in country that does anti-semitic things.

The difficulty is not even that HRW is trying to raise money in SA, but that it does so by appealling specifically to the prejudices, not the better natures, of its audience. As to Dan28 and Xanthippas's impression what is evenhanded reporting language, I suggest that they are simply unable to see the obvious because of their own prejudices. All that reporting can be very easily reconstructed with different names and causes to reveal how slanted it is, if you care to go through the exercise. You don't see the slant because you believe that it's true.

BTW - Seattle Law Student. Learn some European history and get your caricatures of Christians from somewhere other than popular culture. You are making such tribal noises that you might as well start painting your face with woad.
7.17.2009 3:38pm
Anynonyno:
The level of question-begging nonsense on this thread is just out of control. I don't understand how most of you people expect to be taken seriously.

David M. Nieporent accurately restates the main accusation against HRW: "The problem is that HRW solicits money from Saudis by telling them that they need to give HRW money so HRW can go after Israel."

Okay, so what evidence do any of you have that that was the tenor of the conversation between the HRW representative and the private Saudi citizens? All I've seen is people saying that they just know that HRW is a deeply anti-Israel organization so the HRW representative at this meeting must have spoken in that manner. Which isn't terribly convincing evidence of anything.

The only facts we actually have here are that someone from HRW solicited donations from private citizens of Saudi Arabia, and that HRW's work on Israel was one of the topics discussed. The only way that becomes a scandal is if you throw in a bunch of tendentious unsupported assumptions.
7.17.2009 3:41pm
Seattle Law Student (mail):
Assistant Village Idiot-
?

I was characterizing why I'm not a Repbulican, based on my perceptions of Movement/Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity, not Christianity itself. Christianity in its many forms is a beautiful religion held dear by many millions of good people.

If I offended you, I apologize.

That said, to outsiders elements of Movement/Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity are genuinely scary. As is true of fundamentalists of any stripe, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, environmentalist, libertarian or whatever. When absolute certainty erodes doubt there is no room for rational discussion. I'm uncomfortable with people with whom I cannot hold such a discussion.
7.17.2009 4:04pm
Floridan:
DB: ". . . Louis Farrakhan wing of the Democrats"

Is Louis Farrakhan a Democrat?

Can you name one prominent Democrat who resides in the "Farrakhan wing"?
7.17.2009 4:07pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Can you name one prominent Democrat who resides in the "Farrakhan wing"?
Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And that priest Obama was friends with in Chicago. Cynthia Mckinney. That's three.
7.17.2009 4:09pm
Dan28 (mail):

That is simply insane. If you pick up a rich Saudi invited to an HRW fund-raiser versus a person at the Galleria, everyone here, including yourself, could make far more accurate guesses about the the Saudi. Trying to pain this as racial or ethnic is simply not accurate.

Thanks for making the implied bigotry of this whole line of argument explicit. You in fact believe that you can make categorical assumptions about these people knowing only their nationality. HRW is completely right to describe this as an attack on the ethnic background of their donors. That's what gives this argument it's force, which is why it only works among those people for whom "Saudi" is a pejorative rather than a national group.

It is not because they are arabs

Yeah, right.

but because they are influential people in country that does anti-semitic things.

Who said they were "influential"? And how does living in a country that "does anti-semitic things" mean anything about who they are as individuals? This is tribalism.
7.17.2009 4:18pm
cirby (mail):
Human Rights Watch? People still listen to them?

The last straw for me was when they took their prominent "Saddam Hussein is the worst dictator in the world" stories (including all of the torture and genocide accounts) and buried them deep in their web site the week we went into Iraq to (among other things) depose Saddam Hussein. You couldn't even find the articles with a site search - you had to do external Google searches to find the information because they delinked it so fast.

HRW is just another of those pseudo-humanitarian groups that spins a good yarn for fundraising, but abandons their principles when they become too inconvenient for the budget.
7.17.2009 4:40pm
goldberg:
George Dixon: "No shock here, the left is ever 1) self righteous and 2) anti-semitic [sic] 3)anti-business but in need of cash."

Hmmmm. My name is Goldberg, and I'm on the left. Guess that, by definition, makes me anti-semetic ...[Or, in other parlance, a self-hating Jew?]
7.17.2009 4:56pm
Seamus (mail):

Significant steps included Carter's throwing the US Jewish community to the wolves over the Andy Young affair



Huh? If anyone was thrown to the wolves, it was Andy Young, whom Carter fired.
7.17.2009 5:01pm
Seamus (mail):

The last straw for me was when they took their prominent "Saddam Hussein is the worst dictator in the world" stories (including all of the torture and genocide accounts) and buried them deep in their web site the week we went into Iraq to (among other things) depose Saddam Hussein. You couldn't even find the articles with a site search - you had to do external Google searches to find the information because they delinked it so fast.



Funny. I found those articles yesterday without any trouble. I guess they brought them back.
7.17.2009 5:02pm
Floridan:
DB: "Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And that priest Obama was friends with in Chicago. Cynthia Mckinney."

Very impressive. A retired preacher, a nameless priest and a former congresswoman who is not now a Democrat (she is a registered member of the Green party).

Sounds like a clipped wing to me.
7.17.2009 5:22pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
The commotion about HRW's fundraising in authoritarian countries is, while interesting, a distraction from the more important issue: Is HRW's reporting neutral? That's too big a question to answer with one incident, but to the extent Whitson's Saudi trip does bear on it, we're missing two crucial pieces of information:

1. What exactly did Whitson say? Ken Roth claims that, in context, her remarks are more innocuous than Bernstein and Goldberg report. For him to make that claim, there must be a transcript or video. Let's see it.

2. If the context confirms that Whitson did appeal to her audience's animosity to AIPAC (and like-minded groups), has HRW ever appealed to an Israeli audience's presumed hostility to pro-Palestinian activist groups? Kevin John Heller acknowledged several weeks ago that this was a legitimate question bearing on HRW's neutrality. What's the answer?
7.17.2009 5:31pm
Patrick Meighan (mail):
"So, HRW acknowledges that it used its reporting on Israel and its battles with Israel's supporters as part of its pitch in Saudi Arabia. The only remaining question is how prominent this was."

Since when do you acknowledge that to be a question, David? In your original piece (printed in the WSJ) you state as a declaration of simple fact that HRW's fundraiser in Saudi Arabia did not--in any way--mention any of HRW's work *except* for the work it does monitoring Israel. Here's some of your quotes, to that effect:


"A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners? No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW's demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW's battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations." (Was Ms. Whitson required to wear a burkha, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel "human rights" activists"? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.) Apparently, Ms. Whitson found no time to criticize Saudi Arabia's abysmal human rights record.


and:


"But there is something wrong when a human rights organization goes to one of the worst countries in the world for human rights to raise money to wage lawfare against Israel, and says not a word during the trip about the status of human rights in that country."


and:


"The point of my post, though, is not that HRW is pro-Saudi, but that it is maniacally anti-Israel. The most recent manifestation is that its officers see nothing unseemly about raising funds among the elite of one of the most totalitarian nations on earth, with a pitch about how the money is needed to fight "pro-Israel forces," without the felt need to discuss any of the Saudis' manifold human rights violations..."


These statements of yours (that Israel's human rights record was the only issue touched upon during that HRW fundraiser in Saudi Arabia, and that Arab violations [generally] and Saudi violations [specifically] went unmentioned) were central to your piece in the WSJ, and were declared in an unqualified fashion, as one would declare that March follows February. If you are now admitting those declarations to be a "question," I'd have to ask your evidence for the above-quoted statements, as well as urge you to contact the WSJ and inform them that your piece may have been in error.

Best,

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

[i've deleted your other 5 posts, all in response to nothing in particular. you've made your point, such as it is]
7.17.2009 8:16pm
JK:
I was hoping the Republican meme that "if you criticize Obama you get called a racist" might mitigate the constant claims that people who criticize Israel are anti-Semites, but alas. As someone who tends to do a lot of criticizing of things in general these trends concern me.
7.17.2009 8:19pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Anonyno, that information was imparted at the related links.

Dan28, then I must conclude that you don't know many in the evangelical community. I know thousands. Some of them are indeed weird, but you could not have made that statement if you were dealing from data you had acquired yourself. These are not scary people. Your tribal fears are showing. I will note also that what you profess to deplore, you actually demonstrate yourself. You mind read that even though people say it isn't about their being arabs, it really is, and you are glad I made the bigotry explicit. How familiar are you with Saudi Arabians? Get them talking about their foreign laborers sometime, or about women in general. In many areas they do indeed display a hive mind. The ones who don't slip out of their elite status rapidly. Rather than assuming that such things cannot possibly be true because they go against your template, you might note what appeal was made to these specific individuals in SA - the focus was specifically on Israeli abuses, not general ME ones. The HRW people knew exactly what they were doing.

Now, that may be a decent long-term strategy for well-meaning HRW people who want to create some buy-in from countries not usually supportive of human rights. But it would be a strategy with risks, and using this as an initial approach would certainly weaken the general support for human rights.

I take at face value your characterization of HRW activists of people who would love to stick it to powerful people for a good cause. Though such data would be impossible to obtain, it is entirely likely that such a mindset prevails there. You have left out the next step, however, which is what they perceive as a good cause. If one starts by assuming that Israel should not be in Gaza, then everything they do there will look like a human-rights abuse. If one does not start with that assumption, then the argument vanishes.

JK. Easy to say. There are certainly those who are anti-Israel but not antisemitic. However, the overlap is so large that it cannot be dismissed so lightly. As noted above, SA does not allow Jews in its country. Many arab demonstrators in Europe do not make any distinction between Jews and Israel in their rhetoric. Historically, there has been a great deal of anti-Jewish violence in Europe before Israel existed. That there is not 100% correspondence is an evasion. Many antisemites try to hide behind something they can sell as more acceptable in the UN, but their actions say the opposite.
7.17.2009 8:45pm
geokstr (mail):

Right now there is an odd confluence between far right wing Christians who want to see the temple rebuilt to hasten the end times and Israel.

And there is one hell of lot stranger, no, bizarre, confluence between the left and fundamentalist Muslims, who advocate killing gays, enslaving wymmyn, practicing pedaphilia, and stoning atheists, which is pretty much the anti-definition of everything the left holds dear. But they do share a pathological hatred for Christians, so that makes it OK.
7.17.2009 9:16pm
JK:

JK. Easy to say. There are certainly those who are anti-Israel but not antisemitic. However, the overlap is so large that it cannot be dismissed so lightly. As noted above, SA does not allow Jews in its country. Many arab demonstrators in Europe do not make any distinction between Jews and Israel in their rhetoric. Historically, there has been a great deal of anti-Jewish violence in Europe before Israel existed. That there is not 100% correspondence is an evasion. Many antisemites try to hide behind something they can sell as more acceptable in the UN, but their actions say the opposite.


You make a fair point, but I also think your unfairly conflating all forms of criticizing Israel. I agree that there's a high correlation between people who say that the national of Israel is illegitimate, or a terrorist state, or fundamentally racist and antisemitic. OTOH I don't think there is a significant correlation between Americans, such as myself, who don't think that it's in the US national interest or moral obligations to support Israel (primarily financial support) to anywhere near the extent that we do (particularly if you when it is consistent with positions on foreign military aid).

I know there are serious and intelligent people who disagree with me on this, and I don't go around calling the Zionist or whatnot. None the less many of these same people, who have basically serious positions, will assume I'm an antisemite if I express my posiitons.
7.17.2009 9:41pm
JK:

And there is one hell of lot stranger, no, bizarre, confluence between the left and fundamentalist Muslims, who advocate killing gays, enslaving wymmyn, practicing pedaphilia, and stoning atheists, which is pretty much the anti-definition of everything the left holds dear. But they do share a pathological hatred for Christians, so that makes it OK.

No doubt, but that doesn't...
1. Make Pat Robertson anymore the type of "friend" that Israel should want.
2. Make evangelical Christians any less nutty just because an even nuttier group hates them.
3. Mean that anyone who criticizes (extreme) Christianity be sympathetic to (extreme) Islam

It just means there are a lot of dumbasses on both sides of the isle. In other news, guess who a dog just bit.
7.17.2009 9:48pm
Mitch500:

If you are now admitting those declarations to be a "question," I'd have to ask your evidence for the above-quoted statements, as well as urge you to contact the WSJ and inform them that your piece may have been in error.


Apparently you missed that in the very first post of this series, DB wrote "For my part, if Ms. Whitson did indeed criticize Saudi human rights abuses during her trip, I apologize for suggesting otherwise" and called for Whitson to release a transcript of her remarks.


Yikes, Professor Bernstein is really having a great deal of difficulty making factual assertions that end up being, y'know, factual. Cynthia McKinney (whom he purports to be "a prominent Democrat") is *not* a member of the Democratic Party. One clue would be that she ran for President of the United States as a member of a party other than the Democratic Party. That was all of, I dunno, 8 months ago.


This conveniently ignores the fact that McKinney served in Congress for six terms as a Democrat and only joined the Green Party after losing the '06 primary.
7.17.2009 10:11pm
Patrick Meighan (mail):
"Apparently you missed that in the very first post of this series, DB wrote "For my part, if Ms. Whitson did indeed criticize Saudi human rights abuses during her trip, I apologize for suggesting otherwise" and called for Whitson to release a transcript of her remarks."

a) I'm looking all over the WSJ posting of Professor Bernstein's and can see no such provisional apology. And even were it to be there (which it isn't)...

b) How morally and rhetorically bankrupt must a person be to level--in various fora--a repeated accusation with absolutely no evidence to support said claim, and then to offer the accused a muted, provisional apology, on the condition that the accused provide evidence to disprove the original baseless claim? When did the internet turn into upside-downland, where the burden of proof rests upon the accused, and where absolutely any baseless accusation can be repeatedly and viciously hurled against someone--and be presumed true--so long as the accuser mumbles a provisional apology on condition of the accused forking over the evidence that the accuser demands?

This is sick-making.

I can't imagine that Professor Bernstein would consent to being baselessly smeared the way that he's just smeared the HRW, and I don't blame him.

"This conveniently ignores the fact that McKinney served in Congress for six terms as a Democrat and only joined the Green Party after losing the '06 primary."

Quick quiz: was Professor Bernstein requested to name a former Democrat who reminds him of Farrakhan? Or was he asked to name even one prominent Democrat who resides in the "Farrakhan wing"?

For the answer to the quiz, click here.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA
7.17.2009 11:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Can you name one prominent Democrat who resides in the "Farrakhan wing"?

Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And that priest Obama was friends with in Chicago. Cynthia Mckinney. That's three.
You left out Al Sharpton, who the Democratic presidential candidates all treated with respect when he ran for president in 2004.
7.18.2009 12:33am
neurodoc:
David Bernstein: ...the end of times loons are about as important to the Republicans as the Louis Farrakhan wing of the Democrats is to them
Patrick Meighan, you dispute Professor Bernstein's assertion about the importance of "the of times loons" to the Republicans? You think those "end of times loons" are considerably more important to the Republicans than are those sympathetic too or politically aligned with Farrakhan are to the Democrats or considerably less so?

Or is it that you think there is no such thing as a "Farrahan wing of the Democrats," making that a null set, and as we know any statement about the null set is always true? How about instead of saying the "Farrakhan wing," he had said the "Jesse Jackson" or "Al Sharpton" wing, would you have denied that they have some influence on the Democratic Party?
I think most here understand that Professor Bernstein's was that the end-of-times crowd has no substantial influence within the Republican Party, not that there are a great many Democrats who look to Farrakhan for leadership or guidance.
7.18.2009 12:52am
Patrick Meighan (mail):
"Patrick Meighan, you dispute Professor Bernstein's assertion about the importance of "the of times loons" to the Republicans? You think those "end of times loons" are considerably more important to the Republicans than are those sympathetic too or politically aligned with Farrakhan are to the Democrats or considerably less so?"

I have no particular opinion about the importance (or lack thereof) of "the of times loons" (sic) to the Republican Party. I don't spend much time studying the Republican Party, or assessing the relative strengths of the various factions within it. That's why I didn't comment on that assertion.

"Or is it that you think there is no such thing as a "Farrahan wing of the Democrats,"

I'm not a Democrat, and I don't know if there's such a thing as a "Farrahan (sic) wing of the Democrats." For all I know, there is one, but we're still waiting on Professor Bernstein to name even one prominent, actual Democrat who fits into the wing which Professor Bernstein purports to exist. Your guess is as good as mine as to why the eminent scholar is thus far unable to do so.

"I think most here understand that Professor Bernstein's was that the end-of-times crowd has no substantial influence within the Republican Party, not that there are a great many Democrats who look to Farrakhan for leadership or guidance."

a) Professor Bernstein is, presumably, a big boy (why, he's a law professor at George Mason University!) who can speak for himself and--unless he says otherwise--actually meant everything that he actually said. And one of the things that he actually said is that there exists, within the Democratic Party, a "Louis Farrakhan wing." The next prominent, actual Democrat that Professor Bernstein names who resides within that purported wing of the party will be the first.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA
7.18.2009 1:30am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
neuro:

the end-of-times crowd has no substantial influence within the Republican Party


The Left Behind series has sold 65 million copies. A major theme of these books is that non-Christians are doomed, and this doom is portrayed in gory detail. The associated video game "rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian."

White evangelicals are about 25% of the electorate, and they voted overwhelmingly for Bush and McCain.

The "end-of-times crowd" includes millions of people, and they vote GOP, in an era when the GOP is increasingly starved for votes. What is the basis for the claim that "the end-of-times crowd has no substantial influence within the Republican Party?"
7.18.2009 1:33am
Ken Arromdee:
The associated video game "rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian."

That description isn't a self-description. It comes from an organization hostile to them. Generally we don't rely on someone's enemies as the main source of information about them.
7.18.2009 2:19am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Generally we don't rely on someone's enemies as the main source of information about them.


Generally we wouldn't rely on the people who made the video game to make candid admissions about offensive material embodied in the video game. Generally that kind of information would be revealed by those whom the makers would view as "enemies." It would tend to not be revealed in "a self-description."

If you have some basis to claim that the game is being described incorrectly (aside from a vague insinuation that the source I quoted is lying), I hope you'll share it.

And let us know if you're claiming that the Left Behind series does not promote the idea that non-Christians are doomed, while portraying this doom in gory detail. Because the existence of the video game is not essential to the point I'm making. The intense popularity of the series is sufficient to demonstrate that "the end-of-times crowd" includes millions of people. And this group is a major force in the GOP. If they weren't, someone like McCain would not seek an endorsement from someone like Hagee.
7.18.2009 2:53am
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
jbg - nice trick, trying to sneak by that equivalence of the end-of-times-crowd and white evangelicals. I'll bet that even works among your usual set.
7.18.2009 8:30am
rosetta's stones:
Meighan,

Do you accept HRW's wishywashy statement here?


"At the receptions in Saudi Arabia, we discussed and answered questions about our work in Saudi Arabia, which includes coverage of women's rights, the juvenile death penalty, domestic workers, and discrimination against religious minorities."


Notwithstanding the rhetorical adornments HRW threw into this statement, the statement does not describe the character or quality of the discussion in question, a discussion that was attended and scrutinized by senior officials of a brutal, totalitarian government.

To this point, we cannot preclude that HRW is anything but another greedy NGO, now pimping for such as the Saudi gangstas. They can certainly disavow me of that assumption, if they release the tanscript, or preferably video, as well as show me the books on the Saudi cash they took in.
.
.
.

And tell me, since when have the Greens bought off on the likes of McKinney and her brand of Jew baiting kookiness, anyways?
7.18.2009 8:31am
Seamus (mail):
And let us know if you're claiming that the Left Behind series does not promote the idea that non-Christians are doomed, while portraying this doom in gory detail. Because the existence of the video game is not essential to the point I'm making. The intense popularity of the series is sufficient to demonstrate that "the end-of-times crowd" includes millions of people. And this group is a major force in the GOP. If they weren't, someone like McCain would not seek an endorsement from someone like Hagee.

You don't think it makes a difference whether end-of-time evangelists take glee in playing a game in which they practice killing people because they refuse to be born again, or they simply believe that people who refuse to be born again will in fact die in unpleasant ways during the end times? I'd think that to be a pretty significant difference. And if the latter is a more correct characterization, I'd say that end-of-time evangelists are a lot more innocuous than the Al Sharptons on the Democratic side, who do things like incite a mob to burn down a white-owned store. (Or do you claim that Pat Robertson had incited a mob to burn down any stores owned by secular humanists?) Or maybe you'd like to admit that you just think they're "scary" because they have odd beliefs?
7.18.2009 9:40am
Patrick Meighan (mail):

"Meighan, Do you accept HRW's wishywashy statement here?"


I don't know if it's truthful or not. David Bernstein says otherwise, and his assertion was the original one. What's his evidence for that assertion?


Notwithstanding the rhetorical adornments HRW threw into this statement, the statement does not describe the character or quality of the discussion in question...


How, exactly, do you know that? What's your evidence for that statement?


"To this point, we cannot preclude that HRW is anything but another greedy NGO, now pimping for such as the Saudi gangstas. They can certainly disavow me of that assumption, if they release the tanscript, or preferably video, as well as show me the books on the Saudi cash they took in."


It's a very convenient world when we get to make assumptions about other people based on zero evidence--and make broad, repeated declarations therefrom--and then put the onus on them to prove otherwise. Not an intellectually-honest world, but a convenient one.

"And tell me, since when have the Greens bought off on the likes of McKinney and her brand of Jew baiting kookiness, anyways?"


If you wanna discuss Cynthia McKinney's personal beliefs, start a different thread about her and let's discuss it. However, they're irrelevant to the topic of this thread, which is Professor Bernstein's evidence-free smear against HRW.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA
7.18.2009 10:27am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
idiot:

nice trick, trying to sneak by that equivalence of the end-of-times-crowd and white evangelicals


Who bought 65 million copies of the Left Behind series, if not white evangelicals? Muslims? Atheists? Chassidic Jews? Gay hippies? Shakers? Scientologists? Rosicrucians? Pagans? Aliens? Followers of the Church of the SubGenius? Pray tell.

==================
seamus:

You don't think it makes a difference whether end-of-time evangelists take glee in playing a game in which they practice killing people because they refuse to be born again, or they simply believe that people who refuse to be born again will in fact die in unpleasant ways during the end times?


The video game embodies the former. And it's a short leap from the latter to the former. Once I believe that someone deserves to die, it becomes fairly easy to convince myself that I might as well kill him. Exhibit A: Scott Roeder.

And lots of people who aren't willing to pull the trigger are content to provide various forms of support to the person who is.

Infidels like me are an offense to and a potential target of all violent fundamentalists, and not just the ones that live in a cave on the other side of the world.

do you claim that Pat Robertson had incited a mob to burn down any stores owned by secular humanists?


I do indeed claim that there is a direct connection between the rhetoric that comes from people like Robertson and the crimes committed by people like Roeder and Rudolph.
7.18.2009 11:23am
StanC:
JBG

I think you are getting a little carried away. End of Days (although not particularly interesting to me) is a popular topic in literature. By eg. science fiction writers, romantics, and others. See one of our greatest poets, http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/lord_byron/poems/5967. Just because you read something, does not mean you believe or care what the author believes, you may just find it diverting, for whatever reason.
7.18.2009 11:40am
StanC:
Sorry let me try that link again. Darkness
7.18.2009 11:43am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
stan:

End of Days (although not particularly interesting to me) is a popular topic in literature. By eg. science fiction writers, romantics, and others. See one of our greatest poets


Byron (and others) wrote about the end of the world. He didn't write about how people who don't follow his religion deserve to suffer and die. Big difference.

Just because you read something, does not mean you believe or care what the author believes, you may just find it diverting, for whatever reason.


If we suddenly discovered that millions of copies of Mein Kampf (or some book expressing a similar philosophy) were flying off the shelf, we would probably not gloss over that by saying readers just found it "diverting." We would rightly be concerned. Because as a general rule, works of popular culture (books, movies, music) succeed when they find an audience which feels an affinity to the perspective expressed in that work.
7.18.2009 12:49pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The wonderful thing about the internet is that the options for recursive self parody are endless
The associated video game "rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian."

That description isn't a self-description. It comes from an organization hostile to them. Generally we don't rely on someone's enemies as the main source of information about them.
7.18.2009 1:32pm
Seamus (mail):
The video game embodies the former. And it's a short leap from the latter to the former. Once I believe that someone deserves to die, it becomes fairly easy to convince myself that I might as well kill him. Exhibit A: Scott Roeder.

Scott Roeder is not, as far as I can tell, an end-of-times evangelists, but since you've already shown that distinctions less subtle than black and white aren't your forte, it's not surprising that you lump him in with them. (A quick internet check indicates that he is, however, associated with anti-government groups. So if "there is a direct connection between the rhetoric that comes from people like Robertson and the crimes committed by people like Roeder," then there ought to be an even stronger connection between the rhetoric that comes from people like the Cato Institute or Ron Paul and the crimes committed by people like Roeder, since his world view is actually closer to theirs.)

Byron (and others) wrote about the end of the world. He didn't write about how people who don't follow his religion deserve to suffer and die.

To say that evangelical Christians believe that non-evangelicals deserve to suffer and die is like saying that people who sell life and disability insurance believe that those who don't follow their advice to buy insurance *deserve* to suffer and live in penury (and/or have their families suffer and live in penury) if they die or become disabled. I suspect you don't know many evangelicals; I have to say I've never met one who took glee in the prospect of the deaths of non-evangelicals, much less who thought it would be a good idea to help the process along.
7.18.2009 2:28pm
Seamus (mail):
If we suddenly discovered that millions of copies of Mein Kampf (or some book expressing a similar philosophy) were flying off the shelf, we would probably not gloss over that by saying readers just found it "diverting." We would rightly be concerned. Because as a general rule, works of popular culture (books, movies, music) succeed when they find an audience which feels an affinity to the perspective expressed in that work.

So if I pay the video game Ant City, I really "feel[] an affinity" to the "perspective" that likes setting pedestrians, dogs, and cars on fire, and in exploding gasoline tank trucks, leaving big craters in the middle of the street? I guess I'm a freaking menace to society then. Better call Janet Napolitano.
7.18.2009 2:34pm
JK:

The wonderful thing about the internet is that the options for recursive self parody are endless

The associated video game "rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian."

That description isn't a self-description. It comes from an organization hostile to them. Generally we don't rely on someone's enemies as the main source of information about them.

That's also a great example of a post where I honestly have no idea whether it was meant as a ironic joke or not. I'm really pretty much 50/50 on it.
7.18.2009 2:35pm
Seamus (mail):
The associated video game "rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian."

If you have some basis to claim that the game is being described incorrectly (aside from a vague insinuation that the source I quoted is lying), I hope you'll share it.


I went to the linked article, and my bullshit detectors suddenly went into overdrive "Danger Will Robinson" mode. Switching to Wikipedia, I saw that it appears that the "good guys" don't get points for killing nonbelievers per se, but for fighting those who are active participants in the Global Community Peacekeepers (the Orwellian-styled bad guys). Wikipedia also says that there are plenty of people who remain neutral between the good guys and bad guys, but that at some point (beyond the time frame of the game), the neutrals will have to choose sides. The article doesn't say that they'll be killed simply because they "resist becoming a born-again Christian."
7.18.2009 2:46pm
rosetta's stones:


Notwithstanding the rhetorical adornments HRW threw into this statement, the statement does not describe the character or quality of the discussion in question...




How, exactly, do you know that? What's your evidence for that statement?


How about, the HRW's statement itself, which acknowledges that the Saudi government gangstas sat in on the discussion?

Do you think those thugs set aside their every day tasks, just for good ol' HRW? Don't be ridiculous. You're not contributing fairly here, please do so. If Bernstein is hyperbolic, then so are you, it's just "clandestine" hyperbole, an interesting new technique.

Those Saudi gangstas are first, last and always gangstas. That's their job.




"To this point, we cannot preclude that HRW is anything but another greedy NGO, now pimping for such as the Saudi gangstas. They can certainly disavow me of that assumption, if they release the tanscript, or preferably video, as well as show me the books on the Saudi cash they took in."




It's a very convenient world when we get to make assumptions about other people based on zero evidence--and make broad, repeated declarations therefrom--and then put the onus on them to prove otherwise. Not an intellectually-honest world, but a convenient one.


The Saudis are gangstas, and the HRW is pimping for them, as any encumbered transaction such as this one must surely imply. Sorry, but it has to be so. There are bright lines here, you're just trying to blur them.

Release the transcript and video. Open the books. They're evidently refusing to do so.

If you're pimping, you have to be very conscious of who and how and when you're doing your pimping. Check the ACU kerfuffle, if you require confirmation. They're being crucified right now... and whether that crucifixion is right or wrong... the ACU weren't conscious of the circumstances behind that which they were pimping.... and now they gotta face the consequences. At least they appear to be putting documents on the table. We've seen nothing from HRW.




If you wanna discuss Cynthia McKinney's personal beliefs, start a different thread about her and let's discuss it.

If you're saying let's discuss it... then get busy... right here. I wanna know why the Greens are cozying up to that bigot McKinney.
7.18.2009 2:47pm
Seamus (mail):
The intense popularity of the series is sufficient to demonstrate that "the end-of-times crowd" includes millions of people. And this group is a major force in the GOP. If they weren't, someone like McCain would not seek an endorsement from someone like Hagee.


Yeah, but without the video, you don't have much to rely on to support your claim that evangelical Christians are a real menace, the way the Sharpton crowd are. And since it turns out that even the video game really doesn't support that claim, you're left with nothing much more than a general sense of unease about wacky religious views that differ from your own. You know, in some circles, that's considered religious bigotry. (Those circles, that is, where the term isn't reserved for white Christians.)
7.18.2009 2:56pm
Seamus (mail):
If you have some basis to claim that the game is being described incorrectly (aside from a vague insinuation that the source I quoted is lying), I hope you'll share it.

Boyoboy, the more I read, the more ammunition I find. See this, from the Wikipedia article:


The Anti-Defamation League, while criticizing the exclusionary theology of the Left Behind series as a whole, stated that the game avoided the level of violence found in the novels and that it was "an option only used by players if necessary when their forces are attacked." They went on to say, "Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded in the game."


It's getting hard to avoid the conclusion that you came upon that article, that your bullshit detector was sleeping (or rather, that it said "Yep. Has the ring of truth to it. Conforms to everything I've ever heard about evangelicals."), and that you just ran with it, without stopping to consider that the article might have been overblown and misleading.
7.18.2009 3:02pm
Pseuss (mail):
Dan28:

They are raising money from individual citizens within Saudi Arabia. For all we know, those individuals want HRW to criticize human rights violations within Saudi society.

Yeah right. With the head of the Saudi-govt-sponsored human rights bureau sitting right there.

Don't forget that "human rights" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. The official Saudi notion of "human rights" is much closer to that of the UN Human Rights Council than it is to the views formerly espoused by HRW.

I'd like to ask Whitson if any Saudis asked whether HRW supports the freedom to defame Islam. The UNHRC has been grappling this issue which is heavily supported by the Muslim nations.
7.18.2009 3:05pm
Pseuss (mail):
rosetta wrote:

Do you accept HRW's wishywashy statement here?


"At the receptions in Saudi Arabia, we discussed and answered questions about our work in Saudi Arabia, which includes coverage of women's rights, the juvenile death penalty, domestic workers, and discrimination against religious minorities."


Meighan totally missed the point here.

Whitson's statement intentionally avoids mentioning the specifics of what was discussed in the salon meeting. She mentions that "their work" includes women's rights etc. but did not actually state that that was a topic discussed, let alone whether the audience was sympathetic to women's rights or alternatively less than comfortable with HRW's current viewpoint.

She deliberately misleads here, and certain posters here who think HRW has a halo apparently misread her statement.
7.18.2009 3:30pm
neurodoc:
Release the transcript and video.
Do we know that a transcript or video was ever done?
7.18.2009 5:14pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
I have read some weird stuff from people who either hate or fear Christians, but the comments on this thread and the accusations made against evangelical Christians are every bit as repulsive as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Here we have Christians accused not just of being "weird" but of planning to slaughter non-Christians come the "end times." According to another idiot on this site, the fact that a series of books about the rapture has sold over 60 million copies means that we are surrounded by kill happy freaks of nature that are only looking for another Hitler to set them off.

Well, friends, you may want to look inside yourselves and see how easy it is to demonize a religious group; attributing to it the desire to kill with secret rituals when the time is right. Who knows what devious plans those Christians have, when they can afford to buy millions of books? Hitler anyone?

Whether its paranoia or hatred is immaterial. The casual slur of Christianity is as common as the use of the "N" word in the Deep South during slavery and segregation and just as indicative of a deep seated bigotry.

Thanks for exposing yourselves.
7.18.2009 6:26pm
Dan28 (mail):

Dan28, then I must conclude that you don't know many in the evangelical community. I know thousands. Some of them are indeed weird, but you could not have made that statement if you were dealing from data you had acquired yourself.

I don't know what you're talking about, but I didn't say a thing about the evangelical community in this thread. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?
7.18.2009 7:14pm
JK:

Whether its paranoia or hatred is immaterial. The casual slur of Christianity is as common as the use of the "N" word in the Deep South during slavery and segregation and just as indicative of a deep seated bigotry.


The idea that judging people harshly because they believe in fairy tails is similar to judging people based on the color of their skin is unfortunately the sort of logic I've come to expect from religious people.
7.18.2009 7:38pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
jbg,

Who bought 65 million copies of the Left Behind series, if not white evangelicals? Muslims? Atheists? Chassidic Jews? Gay hippies? Shakers? Scientologists? Rosicrucians? Pagans? Aliens? Followers of the Church of the SubGenius? Pray tell.

Keep Bob Dobbs out of this. Of course no SubGenius would waste his money on a Left Behind book when its premises are so incontrovertibly refuted by his own church's more rational, free-market eschatology. From a review of the Subgenius video, Arise:

You say you want to know more about that "end of the world" stuff? Well, aren't you a bright one, getting right down to brass tacks, even without coughing up a love offering of hard cash? Well, the SubGenius message is open to all. When the End Times come, "Bob" will broker a deal in which each fully paid-up SubGenius will be rescued from the destruction. Then, from the giant pleasure saucers parked in orbit over the Earth, we will enjoy the agony of our former tormentors via 3-D television.

And like any good religion, not only hasn't the quiet passing of the predicted apocalypse in 1998 caused the Church to miss a beat, but robust sales of their excellent X-day video, which documented their preparations for the non-event continue unabated.

By the way, if you've never seen Arise, it's really something to behold. It's how I imagine a Walt Disney movie of a Dr. Bronner's label might look through Hunter Thompson's eyes.
7.18.2009 9:06pm
Sarcastro (www):
Yes, Moneyrunner43! Everyone is talking about Christians in general! They are such a victim, just like the blacks and the Jews!
7.18.2009 10:19pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
And Jukebox, you pollute this site. But don't stop because it gives me ammunition. Some weirdoes at Volokh again.
7.18.2009 10:36pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Sarcastro off drugs: Some of my best friends are Christians - in general.
7.18.2009 10:39pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
seamus:

Scott Roeder is not, as far as I can tell, an end-of-times evangelists


Really? Maybe you should look into his apparent connection with something called the Prophecy Club.

Anyway, it's hard to put nutty people into neat categories and make sense out of what they do. By definition. But there's a lot of overlap between the group of people who are preoccupied with the Rapture and the group of people who are violently opposed to abortion. A member of either of those groups is very likely to be a Christian fundamentalist.

the rhetoric that comes from people like the Cato Institute or Ron Paul


If Cato and Paul had a record of making statements that can be construed as excuses for violence, you would have a point. But they don't. On the other hand, people like Falwell and Robertson have made such statements. And every now and then various other people in the GOP make such statements.

I've never met one who took glee in the prospect of the deaths of non-evangelicals


"Glee" is a bit of a straw-man overstatement. I think it would be more accurate to describe the feeling as smug self-righteousness. And if the Left Behind series didn't encourage that feeling (and similar feelings), I doubt that it would have been such a smashing success.

And this question of "glee" is beside the point. When a fundamentalist terrorist like Eric Rudolph takes it upon himself to implement God's will, he is essentially no different than an Islamist terrorist. And the danger of these terrorists is not mitigated if they happen to not feel "glee."

I don't feel particularly comfortable or safe around people who believe that God will make me suffer and die because I've picked the wrong religion (or no religion). And it's small comfort to hear them claim that they feel sad and ungleeful about this. Especially since there's no good reason to take this self-serving claim seriously.

So if I pay the video game Ant City


I don't know anything about that game, but if you put a lot of time into a game based on the idea of setting people and things on fire, I would think twice about inviting you to housesit for me. Or encouraging my local school board to hire you as a teacher. You can learn something about people from the culture they choose to consume. The ideas in the Left Behind series tell me something about the millions of people who have shown an intense interest in those ideas.

Switching to Wikipedia


The wiki article about the game is here. A variety of opinions are expressed (including the ADL statement you cited). Jack Thompson has good credentials as a Christian, and he said "the game is about killing people for their lack of faith in Jesus." And as I said, the game is secondary to my point. The more important issue is the success of the series itself.

you don't have much to rely on to support your claim that evangelical Christians are a real menace … you're left with nothing much more than a general sense of unease about wacky religious views that differ from your own


I guess you need to educate yourself about the long history of anti-abortion violence. I'm inclined to think of that history as not "nothing."

===============
money:

you may want to look inside yourselves


You may want to look inside yourself and try to figure out how you became a person who posts phony quotes and then ducks when challenged. And after you take responsibility for doing so then people other than fools might consider taking you seriously.

===============
leo:

Keep Bob Dobbs out of this


Good point, I did kind of take his name in vain. If I wake up dead you'll know why.
7.18.2009 11:48pm
neurodoc:
Boy, how did this thread jump the track from a discussion of Professor Bernstein's indictment of HRW to one of the influence of end-of-days thinking?
7.19.2009 12:51pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Neurodoc,

It amazed me also. I posted on the swerve yesterday. The reason I chimed in is because of the level of virulence that some people feel they can direct at Christians and nobody gives a damn.

It's just accepted when people like Jukeboxgrad likens the Left Behind series to Mein Kampf.

What started it was the comment by Seattle Law Student expressing the fear that evangelical Christians are just waiting for a Hitler to set them to killing Jews or atheists or who knows what.

Does it bother you that someone studying the law should have such an incredible, irrational fear of evangelical Christians? When he becomes a lawyer and later a judge, what kind of judgment will he bring to cases of freedom of religion for Christians?

I did get a chuckle over Seattle Law Student telling us that he might well be a Republican except for those rabid Christians …

" and the party's absurd stance on personal liberties and other social issues."



And I may well be a Muslim except for my Christianity.
7.19.2009 4:29pm
Bad English:
"they are good people, it took one charismatic douchebag to turn them into raving lunatics."

Barack Obama is not charismatic.
7.19.2009 5:21pm
JK:
Moneyrunner43, since this topic is basically dead, I wanted to ask if you really believe that Christians face more discrimination in this country then Atheists, Jews, and Muslims?
7.19.2009 6:26pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
JK,
I don't know why you are asking the question.

Does the relative level of discrimination between religions allow people to make the libelous accusations that Seattle Law Student and Jukeboxgrad have made on this thread? Quite a few people commenting here are atheist. Are we having discussions about atheist regimes in the USSR, China or Germany and how dangerous atheists are when they are in power? Is that a valid discussion? Should we cast aspersions on Jews because of their disproportionate numbers as lawyers (and who doesn't hate lawyers)? If someone demonizes a group I belong to, making bizarre allegations based on lies, should I sit back and take it? Are Christians the designated punching bags because people like you assume that we are less persecuted than other groups?

To answer your question, I have no basis for assuming that Christians are less persecuted than other groups. But if they are, so what?
7.19.2009 7:40pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
JK,

Of course I know why you are asking the question. But the question itself is an attempt to change the subject. No one person or group deserves to be libeled.

But I forgot that you mentioned Muslims as a group. I believe that Muslims are viewed with suspicion following the attacks of 9/11 which were carried out by Muslims on Jihad. These attacks were not viewed with horror by many followers of Islam, but were celebrated in many parts of the Islamic world. You could buy T-shirts with Osama's picture on them. It would be irrational not to be concerned. What was the government's first reaction? It was to reach out to the Muslim community and proclaim that we did not hold them accountable.

The American people have bent over backwards to accommodate Muslin sensibilities, to investigate crimes against Muslims and to create an atmosphere of trust. The media are going so far as to commit self-censorship by refusing to print the Mohammad cartoons even as they were the cause of deadly riots overseas.

We do this despite the fact that Islamic states like Saudi Arabia suppress Jews and Christians and in Iran we have an Islamic regime that does things like this. So are Muslims discriminated against? Well, some observers believe that the separation-of-church-and-state police (the ACLU) are more tolerant of Islam than of Christianity. And does the recent controversy about the appointment of a self-professed Christian to the Obama administration give you a clue about the answer to your question?
7.19.2009 9:04pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
money:

You could buy T-shirts with Osama's picture on them.


And in North Carolina you could buy T-shirts that said "RUN RUDOLPH RUN." Dangerous fundamentalists come in a variety of flavors. What a shame that you tend the ignore the ones who happen to be part of your tribe.

Are you ever going to tell us your excuse for posting a phony quote?
7.19.2009 11:52pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
jbg - yes, and North Carolinian fundamentalists have committed so many terrorist acts, y'know? Similarly, purchasers of Left-Behind books often buy more than one in the series; or buy them for others who they are trying to alarm, but don't read them; or buy them because they aren't more than nominal Christians but like scarey stuff; or just find apocalyptic stories entertaining; or, or. That 65M ratchets down pretty quickly, and I doubt they quite fit the profile you imagine. That you feel fear and contempt about a group of people, and can find others who share your prejudice, is not evidence that they actually are dangerous or contemptible. Your reference to "tribe" I find ironic, for tribalism was precisely what I suspected.

Distinctions matter. They are, in fact, keys to precise thought.
7.20.2009 4:29pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
idiot:

North Carolinian fundamentalists have committed so many terrorist acts, y'know


Is there a big difference between actual terrorists and those who support them? For years Bush told us there wasn't. "North Carolinian fundamentalists" helped a terrorist hide in the woods for five years. If that had been an Islamic community hiding an Islamic terrorist, would you be treating their support of him as meaningless? I don't think so.

purchasers of Left-Behind books often buy more than one in the series


So you mean there are only 6 million wacky fundamentalists, not 65 million? That's terribly comforting. After all, 6 million is such a tiny number.

That you feel fear and contempt about a group of people, and can find others who share your prejudice, is not evidence that they actually are dangerous or contemptible.


There is plenty of evidence that members of this group "actually are dangerous." You're ignoring this, even though I've already cited it. That tells us something about your attitude toward evidence.

Your reference to "tribe" I find ironic, for tribalism was precisely what I suspected.


Tribalism is an accurate way of describing your inclination to gloss over terrorism when the terrorists happen to be members of your own group.
7.20.2009 7:54pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
jbg, even if it could be shown that abortion-related violence is the result of concerted terrorist efforts rather than one-off nutcases, it is still rare. Rarer than union violence; rarer than environmentalist violence; rarer than gunman shooting church or prayer group violence; rarer by far than AQ violence. Distinctions matter.

Your thought is that for some reason conservatives are afraid to consider some questions because the answers are obvious and painful. You repeat this accusation frequently. You might consider the possibility that people have in fact considered and discussed the questions and come to different answers based on the data.
7.21.2009 12:07am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
idiot:

even if it could be shown that abortion-related violence is the result of concerted terrorist efforts rather than one-off nutcases


Your denial is rampant. Where is your evidence that Army of God is less "concerted" than Al Qaeda?

abortion-related violence … is … rarer by far than AQ violence.


Really? In the last thirty years there have been hundreds of violent attacks against abortion providers in the US and Canada. There have been that many AQ attacks here during that period? You should explain why they've been kept secret.

We probably wouldn't be talking about AQ at all if they hadn't been extremely successful on one particular day.

You might consider the possibility that people have in fact considered and discussed the questions and come to different answers based on the data.


I'll be very happy to consider the "data" regarding hundreds of violent attacks by AQ in the US and Canada. You just need to show me where this "data" is hidden. Likewise for the "data" which demonstrates that Army of God (and related groups) are less "concerted" than AQ.
7.21.2009 12:41am

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