Monday, 23 August 2010

Andy McCarthy hates being called what his words prove he is. This post plain confuses me. It opens with a lament: Having worked for a very long time with moderate Muslims, I can tell you it’s disheartening to be called an Islamophobe. Then demonstrates that that epithet, along with a few others, is well-deserved: I have long argued that: (1) Islam is not a moderate doctrine; (2) Islamists who practice terror and are otherwise aggressive toward non-Muslims (and toward Muslims who disagree with them) are not twisting or perverting Islam; (3) this does not mean that the Islamist interpretation of Islam is the only possible viable interpretation; but (4) a concrete theology of “moderate Islam” does not exist (even though there are plenty of moderate Muslims) and therefore it will have to be created; and (5) because it will have to be non-literal and reformist, it will have a tough time competing with Islamist ideology which, however noxious it may be, has the advantage of being firmly rooted in Islamic scripture. Nevertheless, (6) Islamist ideology is anti-constitutional and anti-freedom in many of its core particulars, so that (7) if, instead of letting them pretend to be “moderates,” we force Islamists to defend their beliefs, we will marginalize them—at least in our society, which (8) will empower true moderate Muslim reformers and—maybe—give them the space they need to solidify a coherent, moderate Islam that embraces the West, and in particular the separation of secular public life from privately held religious beliefs. If "Islam is not a moderate doctrine," how is it that he has "worked for a very long time with moderate Muslims"? How can McCarthy distinguish between "moderate Muslims" like his coworkers and those Muslims who merely "pretend to be 'moderate'"? Where does he believe these "moderate Muslims" come from? Are they Amabo—secret Christians pretending to be Muslim—whose moderate views are the result of never reading the Koran or attending services at a mosque or keeping halal? McCarthy attempts to dismiss such questions in a parenthetical of dubious explanatory power: a concrete theology of 'moderate Islam' does not exist (even though there are plenty of moderate Muslims) and therefore it will have to be created[.] Granting their existence in an aside is purely strategic—if he fails to do so, he will be disheartened again, so he grants their existence, then explains all the many ways in which people like them can never come to exist. It's the political equivalent of holding up a duck and beaver; explaining that no matter how much you coax them, they refuse to fuck; then astonishing the crowd by pulling a duck-billed platypus out of your hat. You have no idea how that strange beast came to be, nor are you interested—all you want to do is prove that ducks never fuck beavers. Which is an admirable goal, I suppose, if you want to tell the world that your lack of intellectual curiosity is matched in its profundity only by the pride you take in being ignorant. The ultimate irony, of course, is his claim that...
Everything in "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" that pertains to neither chrysanthemum nor swords. I can't counter Lemieux's endorsement of Matt Zoller Seitz's recap of "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," but I would like to register my annoyance with Seitz for setting the bar so high. Particularly annoying is the fact that Seitz discussed at length the most salient visual element of this episode, i.e. "the interplay of close-ups and wide shots on the show, specifically how the camera will start very close on characters' faces, encouraging our empathy, then slowly dollying back to put them in a context." I noted this dynamic in my analysis of Peggy and Pete in "The Rejected," but Lesli Linka Glatter structured the entirety of "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" around it. The one point on which I'll differ with Seitz (and Jefferson Robbins, whose work Seitz discusses there) is that with characters who are unaware of the larger context, the shots often begin wide before moving in for a close-up. When, for example, Sally cuts her hair, the scene does open with a close-up, but not one that encourages empathy: Glatter, having established the true object of the characters' attention, then pulls back behind the couch in order to create a space for Sally to enter: While it may seem as if the shot that follows works to establish empathy, the logic of the scene makes me think the decision to go with the close-up here is more pragmatic, as viewers would be unable to tell from a remove that Sally had lopped off her hair: I say that because after this close-up, the Glatter isolates her for while the babysitter frets about Don holding her responsible for Sally's actions: When the camera does return to a close-up, it does so not to create sympathy, but almost ironically: not for the last time this episode, Sally will have unwittingly done something that will cause someone else grief. The close-up emphasizes its own futility, as it demonstrates the distance between Sally and her interlocutor, be it her babysitter, her father, her mother or the man from U.N.C.L.E.: This scene will surely draw the ire (not to mention critical attention) of many, but instead of focusing on the rather tame thematic element—it turns out that even if they never watch an episode of Jersey Shore, children still experiment with their sexuality—I want to concentrate on the intimacy actually created by these shots. (If only to contradict myself a bit.) This moment of centering the shot on the television differs from the previous because it cuts to the following close-up: Unlike before, where the shot following the television pulled back, indicating a lack of total engagement with the image on the screen, here Glatter shows viewers that Sally is finally connecting with someone, albeit someone on a television screen. Her brother and their sitter passed time passively watching a cartoon, but for reasons the show has made plain, Sally is in desperate need of someone who can restore a sense (however imagined) of security to her world. Glatter provides her...

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