A rather more sinister trend

Chris Moos pointed out to me another Theos blog post by Ben Ryan. It too is badly written and badly thought.

A blog was recently drawn to my attention by one Dr Chris Moos that tries to paint the LSE Director Professor Craig Calhoun as a “faith warrior”. By deigning to argue that religion ought to be taken more seriously in academia in a range of different subjects as an overlooked cause Calhoun is displaying some sort of scary Christian zeal (apparently).

That last sentence really is gibberish, plus he appears not to know what “deign” means. To attempt to translate: I think he’s saying that Chris Moos is saying that Calhoun is a faith warrior because he (Calhoun) says religion should be taken more seriously. I think Ryan is also saying that Chris is being naughty in saying that. Meh. I tend to resent people who say we should take religion more seriously, and I do think it’s a form of bullying, and thus that “faith warrior” is not a bad metaphor.

It is the second half of Dr Moos’s blog that what I suspect is the real reason for the anti-Calhoun attack.

Missing word there. Contains? States? Explains? Offers? It takes a pretty bad writer to leave out a key word and not notice.

Moos led one of a series of stunts in which atheist and humanist societies show up to Freshers’ Fairs wearing t-shirts showing “Jesus and Mo cartoons”. Reports as to what happened next differ depending on who you ask, ranging between just short of the heroic martyrdom of these champions of free speech to a minor disagreement after which they were asked by the LSE to stop wearing the t-shirts or leave. This event has somehow become a cause and argument which has rumbled on now for years.

It wasn’t a “stunt.” That’s just rude. ASH societies like other societies have tables at the Freshers Fairs, and they have material on their tables and they wear relevant T shirts if they feel like it. That’s not a stunt, it’s just a thing that societies do. They weren’t asked by LSE to leave, they were asked by an officer of the LSE Student Union. The LSE SU officer really had no business doing that.

My concern over these stunts is that in this ongoing pointless dispute the protagonists are actually becoming part of a rather more sinister trend and that they have lost sight of the point of their campaigning.

First to be entirely clear – this is a deliberately provocative gesture, whatever its supporters might say to the contrary. The cartoons have been a cause celebre for years, the effect they have is well known.

Nonsense. That’s not true. Ryan may be thinking of other cartoons – the Danish Motoons and/or Lars Vilks – or he may be deliberately misleading the readers. It’s not true that J&M have been a cause célèbre for years. And that crap about deliberately provocative gesture is more of the same old bullshit by which people adopt the viewpoint of enraged theocrats in order to chastise people who are doing things that ought to be completely uncontroversial in a liberal society. It’s a bullying move, and it stinks.

If it were simply provocative that would be a bit irritating but not especially problematic – perhaps universities ought to be forced to be clearer on their stance on particular issues. However, it is the choice of target that I find distasteful. It’s the unpleasant use of jokes and mockery to create an acceptable “other”. In Britain in the past the butt of such jokes have at various times been the Irish, Jews, or among others, West Indians. Each time the effect is to justify a perception that “those people” are not welcome here or that they undermine the efforts of the rest of us. In our own time the acceptable other at which abuse can be thrown has become Muslims.

Every time these student societies decide to be provocative it is invariably Muslims who bear the brunt of the mockery. It is never Sikhs, or Hindus, or Jews or any other minority group.

Dense, isn’t he. He’s apparently forgotten all about poor dear Jesus – who is after all half of Jesus & Mo. How are Muslims bearing the brunt of the mockery when Jesus has top billing?

The guy’s a faith warrior in training.

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