Feb 122015

There was a time not too long ago that whenever any Muslim anywhere did something morally reprehensible, the assholes on Fox News would demand that every Muslim everywhere repudiate those actions and engage in a public repentance ritual. There were some groups that were more than willing to do this, and went on air to publicly repudiate all acts of violence on behalf of all the Muslims in the world.  Then there were those people who said that asking for this sort of thing is kinda… well, I guess the word wouldn’t be racists, but whatever the religious equivalent of racism is. Two murderous psychopaths detonated a home-made bomb in Boston, and you expect all Muslims everywhere to denounce the act? You’re implying that the Muslim plumber in Oklahoma shares in the responsibility for that act somehow. Fuck you.

I side with the latter.

Interestingly, now that an atheist killed several Muslims,  some of those people appear to be flip-flopping. I’m going to ignore the weirdness that this looks to have been over a parking dispute rather than religious reasons. Likely the killer’s strongly negative views of the religious made it emotionally easier to pull the trigger. So let’s say that there was at least some religious motivation mixed in there. A number of prominent atheists have jumped up to publicly denounce these murders.

Now on the one hand, these are the equivalent of church leaders. It’s certainly a good idea, after this sort of thing happens, for a church leader to remind everyone in his church that we do not fucking do this sort of shit. Just so no one gets the wrong damn idea. We don’t want to be like those assholes secretly applauding the women’s-clinic bombings.

On the other hand, if I recall correctly, a lot of the people making these public statements are the same ones who said “Stop demanding that all Muslims repudiate every action of every crazy individual, you’re being racist.” Or as Scott would say, you’re building a Super-Weapon.  And yet, as soon as an equivalent situation crops up in atheist land, they immediately jump up and repudiate the action.

I’m left confused by the inconsistency. If you demand that others “own” every action by everyone in their religion, I’m going to think you’re an asshole, but at least you’re consistent when you then apologize for some psycho in another state killing people. If you protest that it’s bigotry to imply that a huge and diverse group all be tarred by the actions of individual nuts, I understand why you would refuse to accept the guilt-by-association when someone tries that on you. But if you claim that all Muslims shouldn’t be called on the carpet for every extremist’s action, and then also jump up to apologize for an unrelated atheist’s extreme actions, I’m left wondering… were you secretly trying to sabotage the Muslims earlier? Because you are clearly not heeding your own advice. In the realm of “Leading By Example” you are in the camp of judging an entire group by the actions of isolated extremists.

Maybe it’s just a tacit acknowledgement that we all know that people really do stereotype groups by the outliers they see in the news. A realpolitik acceptance that humans are simple, racist creatures, and it’s best to work with that fact when it comes down to brass tacks. We can talk a great, noble game of not judging groups when it is some other group that is being judged. This allows us to paint ourselves as noble. As soon as it’s OUR group that’s being judged, well shit, we all know that people really are racist, and the noble talk is all bullshit, so get the PR machine going and start telling everyone just how much we repudiate that guy.

Bleh. Hanson wins again.

Still, I don’t want anyone getting the idea that I’m not strongly against murder. o.O So let’s strike a balance…

Killing people is an abhorrent thing, and no one should do it. But anyone who wants to imply that I, or any other atheists, need to repudiate the actions of a murderer who is an atheist, is a bigoted asshole.

  8 Responses to “Apologizing for Others”

  1. I don’t blame them.

    You can be against this kind of collective apologizing/denouncing and still do it yourself. I don’t really consider it hypocritical. It’s more like being against a law, but still following it yourself.
    Classic game theory I guess. Unilateral disarmament is a bad strategy in our culture wars.

  2. The situations don’t seem similar. The atheist seems to have killed those people in a dispute over parking, not because there’s a well-known branch of Atheism that commits violence against non-atheists in the name of Atheism (is there?). Or do you mean that even when Muslims kill people over parking disputes (and not because they belong to that branch of Islam that preaches violence) other Muslims still have to repudiate that?

    • People have been jumping up and apologizing as if it was religiously motivated, so I’m just assuming that it was for the purpose of argument. But I agree, it doesn’t seem similar.

    • Statistically speaking, people don’t kill each other over parking nearly as much as they kill each other over religion or racial issues. Until we see any actual evidence it’s reasonable to assume that race and/or religion were the primary causes, not parking disputes.

      Re: Muslims as aggressors: Based on my minimal observation of conservative media, yes I expect other Muslims would be called on to repudiate it.

  3. If the people had said “Muslims, don’t apologize for the actions of other Muslims” and *then* gone on to apologize for the actions of other atheists, they might be called hypocritical.

    If they said “Non-Muslims, don’t *demand* Muslims apologize for the actions of other Muslims” and then went on to denounce the actions of another atheist, I don’t see a problem.

    People shouldn’t consider all Muslims, or all atheists, a monolith and apply collective responsiblity to them (/us) but they do. It’s fine to tell people not to do that, and fine to take steps in case they do. It’s like saying “don’t commit arson” but still having fire insurance.

    • Yes, this. Denouncing public demands for others to Action X while still taking Action X when the opportunity presents itself to you personally is utterly normal; take anyone who is a non-militant vegetarian, for example. Or for a more direct one: Ozy has said that they consider taking the Giving What We Can pledge to be a good thing for to do, but shaming people for not taking the pledge to be bad; they don’t consider anything above 1% of income to be obligatory. In the same way, you can hold that apologizing for bad actions on the part of fringe members of your group is good, but requiring it is not.

  4. A quote I’m quite fond of: “As I am sure any cat owner will be able to tell you, someone else putting you in a box is /entirely different/ from getting in a box yourself.”

    Choosing to repudiate something with the knowledge that you don’t have to and no one should be expecting you to is a very different situation than someone demanding that you do it or else.

  5. I guess I’m an atheist.. even if I do not want to label myself anything :)

    I do agree that I will not apologize for others atheists actions.

    Nice post.

    Thank you for your ‘words’.

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