A reader writes:
In the spirit of vigilantly pointing out what is right under your nose I offer the following critique of this post defending Marty Peretz. With all these things said about Peretz, the fact remains that if anybody used the exact same language with any other group of people, they would be trashed unambiguously. I think that we may be too quick and harsh to judge in most circumstances, but if the part of the formulation that he didn't apologize for had been made with "Jews" or "blacks," then the person who said it would be persona non grata amongst the intelligentsia and forced into disrespectable retirement.
It wouldn't matter how many other good characteristics they had. Nobody like Jack Shafer would offer any sort of defense whatsoever and you wouldn't write a blog post on how torn you are over it. The condemnation would be clear and simple. I know you know this and have pretty much said so but still the answer to Jack is "yes WHY are we just worrying about this now? Why has this vileness not been taken head on before? Why are we holding back on this when we wouldn't in other similar circumstances?"
Some forms of bigotry are respectable and anti-Muslim bigotry is the top one. It won't even be a blip in his career while others have gone down for far less. Why should he have a better fate here than any of those people? Something is very wrong and that matters much more here than noting his otherwise good character and your long friendship with him.
I read your whole post on Marty Peretz three times and was really blown away by the cognitive dissonance of it. Your assertion that Peretz is committed to openly airing debates is terribly unconvincing given his derision of rights that are designed to foster such debates.
In the span of one week, Peretz wrote two blog posts demonstrating his open contempt for the First Amendment. He started out by saying, "I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that [Muslims] are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse." Abuse? It does not appear to occur to him, in this post or his apology, that there is no such thing as an "abuse" of the First Amendment. An act is either constitutionally protected or it isn't.
Then, as if to balance out his hostility to one group's rights with hostility to another's, he suggested that the government get an injunction to stop the Qur'an burning at the Dove World Training Center. Read this part:But it is disgusting. And it is disgusting no matter how many people believe the act would be and should be protected by the First Amendment.In fact, it is uncivilized. I believe that the Obama administration should go to the Supreme Court or maybe tactically to the most sensible and civilized appellate court and seek an injunction against this atrocity that 1. will encourage Muslim madmen to respond in kind and 2. will also encourage primitive Christians to extend and expand the auto da fé. (Italics in the original, if you can believe it.)Yes, burning the Qur'an, burning any book, is disgusting, but disgusting and "uncivilized" speech is still protected. Could you imagine the Supreme Court just dismissing standards like incitement of "immediate breach of the peace" or "imminent lawless action" and saying, "But it's uncivilized"?
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