Me vs. Debbie Schlussel on the BBC
So BBC Radio has a program called "World Have Your Say," which covers issues of interest around the globe and frequently features bloggers to give their opinions. They emailed me about a year ago to be on the show, then bumped my segment "because of rioting in Addis Ababa." I can't compete with that.
Well, they called me again today, and the topic was Rep. Virgil Goode's comments. So I made myself available between 10:30 and 11 to make my international radio debut. As is typical for these kind of talking head segments, they pair up the conservatives and liberals. And yes, I was paired with Debbie Schlussel, the same person who wrote the paranoid, lunatic rating about Barack Obama this week entitled "Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim." So I was the balance for the insane. Making me sane. Confirmed. So shut up, voices in my head!
I came on the line in the middle of the discussion. They had some conservosphere irregular named Myron from Virginia, who claimed his fear of Keith Ellison stems from the fact that he'll introduce Sharia law into the Congress (!). His "opponent" was Rob from Raising Kaine, who very calmly and rationally explained that 218 Muslims aren't going to be taking over Congress anytime soon, and that it's a stupid argument anyway to equate all Muslims with pure evil. Trapped, then Myron compared the election of David Duke to Keith Ellison!!! A paraphrase:
"You know, when David Duke ran for office, the liberals were all upset, but now when this guy wins a seat in Congress, it's fine!"
Rob countered, startled, asking, "Did you just compare the KKK to Muslims?" Myron answered that most members of the KKK were not violent (!)... the hole just kept getting bigger from there.
The host cut off that discussion (or manifestation of wingnuttery, take your pick) and introduced my segment. "All right, we have two other bloggers, Dave from Los Angeles and Debbie from Michigan..." Could it be? Could I be about to face off against Debbie Schlussel? The most paranoid woman on the Internet?
She got to kick off the segment, and sure enough, I recognized the voice. I had to think strategy and think about it quick. Should I try to debate her, or just answer honestly what I thought about Rep. Goode's comments. About five seconds into her statement, I realized that it was impossible to debate her. The paranoid rantings are almost impenetrable. She went on and on about Ellison organizing the Million Man March, and CAIR, and random Muslims in Michigan There are two approaches to lunacy of this sort. You can attack it, or let it play out for what it is. So when they came to me for comment, I did the latter.
I think Mr. Ellison is an American citizen. His family is American. He can trace his ancestry in America back to 1742. Virgil Goode doesn't understand what it means to be an American. He doesn't understand why settlers came to America in the first place, to escape religious persecution and to practice their beliefs freely. He doesn't understand the meaning of the Bill of Rights, or the idea of "no religious test" for public office.
Unfortunately, it looks better on paper than it did with my stumbling speech. But I thought it was the way to go. Schlussel ventured off into crazy-land again after that, and then they brought on a Muslim-American blogger, who preferred the attack style of confrontation. He called Schlussel's comments "the textbook example of fearmongering and xenophobia, to conflate all Muslims with the most extreme few." So they returned to me for comment, and I simply had to pile on.
I completely agree that this is an expression of xenophobia. You have a woman on the phone, Debbie, who wrote an article this week about Barack Obama, claiming that he must be a Muslim because his middle name is Hussein.
After mentioning a couple of the choicer bits from that sorry post, the Muslim-American blogger chimed in. "Yeah, in fact the post was called 'Once A Muslim, Always A Muslim.' She was basically calling him the anti-Christ because his dad was Muslim."
Sadly, Schlussel was already off the line by the time we mentioned this. I guess she had to attend some anti-croissant rally ("These pastries are unnecessarily deferential to Islam!"). But the point was made. And really, these forums are worth their weight in gold. People get angry that conservatives are given free reign to spout their hate on these talk shows. No, I say let 'em. People aren't stupid. They can smell out bigotry from a mile away. Obviously balance is important, as a counterweight for those views. But really it's enough for the counterweight just to shine a light on the folly to their immediate right.
UPDATE: I almost forgot how Schlussel responded to my comment about Goode not knowing what it means to be an American. She claimed that the Founding Fathers fought religious extremists in their midst by declaring war on the Barbary pirates. Right, because we fought the Barbary pirates because of their RELIGION, not because they, you know, stole our ships and enslaved the crews. And also, by virtue of practicing Islam, Keith Ellison is... a Barbary pirate, apparently. Like I said, you can't compete with that logic.