Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Spot the bullshit

You know, I really can't be bothered with a coherent essay regarding Paul Holmes' utter idiocy on multiple subjects (but mostly burqa). Instead, I'm just going to quote the most ridiculous parts - the cliches, strawmen, stereotypes and misinformation.

It starts in the very first paragraph - and remember, in journalism paragraphs are incredibly short. "It really is an offensive piece of medieval kit that speaks of medievalism and religious extremism." Aside from the bigotry, this is a just plain bad sentence. It's a piece of medieval kit that speaks of medievalism? That man has a way with words, truly. But then, I say that as a radical that speaks of radicalism.

"[I]n the countries where Islam reigns, they tend to have stalled in their development several hundreds of years ago" Oh.

The biggest population by country of Muslim people is in Indonesia. They have problems with poverty and corruption, but countries several hundred years ago didn't have, say, telephone systems: coverage provided by existing network has been expanded by use of over 200,000 telephone kiosks many located in remote areas; mobile-cellular subscribership growing rapidly. Unemployment is 7.1%, with the biggest employment sector being services with 48.9%. Unemployment in the US is 9.7%, with much lower agricultural and industry employment but a comparable poverty rate (12% in the US, just over 13% in Indonesia - but the US figure is from 2004 rather than 2010, and may be higher now due to the recession and increasing inequality). And the lowest 10% of the households in the US have an income of just 2% of the total, compared to an admittedly-not-much-higher 3% in Indonesia. (Unfortunately the CIA World Factbook does not have poverty rates and household income percentages for New Zealand.) Debt as a percentage of GDP is also far higher in the US, as an aside, since right-wingers like to bang on about how bad that is so much. The most recent data on the Factbook is 58.9%, with a lengthy footnote about how it is defined by the government with a conclusion that if it were all totalled up it would be about 30% higher. Indonesia has 26.4%. I was going to do an OECD comparison as well, but I found the website incredibly confusing to operate.

At any rate, many Islamic countries have growing technological centres, and while inequality is an enormous issue, you can't discount the fact that it's getting to be a pretty pressing matter in the US and NZ as well. You also really can't conflate Islamic with Arab - only 20% of Muslims live in Arab countries. And, by the way - if you're talking Christian countries, you'd have to go with Brazil, which has the highest population of Christians of any country that is over 90% Christian. Brazil has a 7% unemployment rate, 26% of the population below the poverty line, and a public debt of 60%. Other strong showings for Christian population are Ethiopia, the Congo, Nigeria, Mexico, Philippines, Ukraine, Armenia, East Timor and American Samoa. Not exactly what you'd call world leaders when you're picking a statistically good place to live, unless you're super rich I guess.

Oh right, I was talking about Paul Holmes and the second half of that sentence. "so the general cleanliness of their communities - and by that I mean the dust flying round and the rubbish people discard - and the burqa helps keeps your clothes cleaner for longer. This was my observation in Yemen."

It was his observation in Yemen, people. Clearly we are dealing with an expert. Also, there is no dust and rubbish in the modern world, and certainly not New Zealand.

"So I'm not actually bothered too much by the burqa. It just looks silly, antiquated, foreign." Silly? I don't know, I find a lot of fashion pretty silly. Warm tops with three-quarter sleeves, for example. WTF is the deal with that? If you need a warm top, chances are you need it to go the whole way down your arm, and yet the three-quarter sleeve top is something that recurs frequently in the cycle of what clothes you can find in stores at any given time. Purely aesthetically, I actually prefer a lot of styles of hijab to some Western fashions, and a simple Google image search for "hijab" throws up a lot that are anything but antiquated.

"I don't think we mind too much the head scarf, the hijab, though I'm sure most of us think it silly, in the same way we think Exclusive Brethren women silly with their inevitable covering of the hair." Uh, not really? Then: "You see head scarf and you know you're looking at bigotry." This sentence is about the most ironic thing I've seen all week, and I've been reading a lot of politics lately.

"No, it's the mask. The scarf wrapped round the head and underneath it, just below the eyes, the niqab. What's more, it is intimidating." I can think of dozens of things more intimidating than a woman in niqab. Like white men in Western clothes.

"It says: 'I am not part of your filthy heathen community. I'm here enjoying all of the privileges the enlightened West can provide, but I don't really approve of you all and have no desire to be part of you. I am happy to be a long way from the atrocities, monstrosities and medievalism of the country I fled, but still, I cannot be part of you.'"

Even if it did say that (which is very debatable - I'd argue it says "for personal reasons that are none of your business, this is how I prefer to dress right now"), is there actually anything wrong with that last sentence? Is it really more important for refugees to 'properly integrate' into our culture than it is for them to escape the "atrocities, monstrosities and [here it is again] medievalism of the country [they] fled"? Is it a requirement of holding a particular belief that you look down on others who hold different beliefs? I guess Paul Holmes thinks so.

"Look, if one of us is going to a Middle Eastern or Muslim country we make sure we take suitable clothes. So New Zealand women will take clothes that cover their body and they'll take a headscarf. We know it. Wear a pair of cut-off jeans in Morocco, for example, and get spat on and mauled by the men. That's what happens. I've seen it." Paul Holmes knows all about sexual harassment. Also, it's an important religious belief that no one should wear too much clothing in our culture and it would be incredibly shocking to-- Oh wait. See my next paragraph.

"In our communities, we expect to see the face of the person we are meeting or trading or interacting with. We don't like seeing a face covered. Simple as that." Winter is a very difficult time for me. The scarves, hats pulled down, faces tucked into coat necks, hoods drawn up... terrifying. In fact the worst part of the earthquakes has been people wearing dust masks! "To us it seems deceitful, weird, untrustworthy." By covering your face, you're lying. Somehow.

"Want to get ahead in New Zealand and Australia? Take off your stupid niqabs." 'Stupid'. A+ rational argument there.

"I venture to suggest that even the most reasonable New Zealander - even the most pro-immigration as I am - will tell you they hate the Muslim face mask." Well, I don't know. I think I'm pretty reasonable. Would I tell you I hate the Muslim 'face mask'? Let me consider this deeply for a moment.

...No. No, I would not. I would tell you that I hate bigotry, intolerance, lack of compassion, the legislation of such things and violence - both verbal and physical - towards those different from you.

"The French, in overwhelming numbers right through their legislative process, banned them in April." Also, the Swiss banned the building of minarets, and Californians banned gay marriage. Wait, are these supposed to be evidence of good things?

"Said Nicolas Sarkozy, 'In our country we cannot accept that women can be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.' That says it all, really." That's true, that would be awful. And banning the burqa in public means that women who have a strong investment in wearing that are - wait for it - going to be cut off from social life, prisoners in their homes, with vastly reduced chances to create ties to the local community or access needed services. Consider for a moment - if the government were to ban covering your upper body in public, how often would you go out? I would send an email quitting my job right the fuck now.

"And it ain't right to try and get on a bus with your face covered up because of some old medieval claptrap. It ain't how we do things. It is, as Sarkozy says, all about imprisonment." Going about your day is all about imprisonment. Yup. You heard it here, folks.

Luckily for my blood pressure, he's about exhausted himself on the subject there. There's only a couple more paragraphs in the column, which are sure to be completely inoffensive.

"What was also awful this week was the mauling of the visiting Australian women's guide dog, Perry," <- yep, pretty awful. "by a rampant, murderous pitbull in Hamilton." Well that's... emotive, but okay. I guess attacking another dog out of the blue is probably worthy of an emotive description. "The Labrador looking after his mistress suddenly found himself under attack by the monster owned, probably, by someone who does not seek work." Wait, what? Is there some statistic I'm missing here? Maybe a pie chart of rampant, murderous pitbull owners and their job search status? Though statistically I guess most people aren't seeking work - most of us are already in employment.

The comments and other links (whether other Opinion headlines or other 'articles' by Paul Holmes) would no doubt give me even more to comment on, but honestly I've been at this for something like an hour, absent a quick break to feed, water, cuddle and praise my rabbits. Paul Holmes can have one hour out of my week - and even that's pretty damn generous. Now I'm going to do something far more important - play computer games.

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