Russell Blackford on blaming the victim

January 7, 2010 • 5:59 pm

A few days ago, Nancy Graham Holm wrote an execrable column, “Prejudiced Danes provoke fanaticism,” in which she held Danish cartoonist Kurt Westegaard and the Danes themselves responsible for provoking an axe-wielding Muslim’s assault on Westegaard and his granddaughter.

Over at Metamagician and the Hellfire Club, Russell Blackford gives Holm a well-deserved spanking:

What utter nonsense! First, people in Western democracies (or, arguably, anywhere else) should have every right to be suspicious of religion, or of a particular religion, and the right to express their suspicion in whatever form they find most natural – including by way of satire or mockery. They should then have the right to stick to their guns and refuse to apologise, even if somebody takes offence. We can argue about whether or not a particular expression of views – once interpreted “correctly” – was wise or justified, or whether it was tainted in some way, but people do, or certainly should, have the right to express what they think and feel. It is not reasonable to demand that they give insincere apologies if someone else responds with violent acts. Even a wildly implausible view, tainted by suspect motivations, and expressed in a highly provocative way, does not provide any excuse for acts of murder. . .

Holm’s entire article is incredible. She would do better to stand up for the right of Danes such as Westergaard to be suspicious of religion – and to express it openly if it’s what they feel. What she has written is worth denouncing – soberly, deliberately, and in all seriousness this time. Let the name of Nancy Graham Holm find its place in every hall of ignominy and shame, indelibly incribed there for posterity.

I wonder if Holm has any regrets about what she wrote.

21 thoughts on “Russell Blackford on blaming the victim

  1. Nance Graham Holm is apparently a principal at “The Danish School of Media and Journalism”. In other words she is partly responsible for teaching future journalists in Denmark. I wonder what she teaches them about freedom of speech. Scary stuff.

    1. Reminds me of a common critique leveled at Sam Harris claiming that Islamic fundamentalism was the result of political disenfranchisement. Sam replied by pointing out that Islamic fundamentalism was about the fundamentals of Islam.

  2. The comments that follow the Guardian article are almost universally wonderful; they give me cause for hope.

  3. Russell’s blog post about Nancy Graham Holm is great. It’s cool and thoughtful, but very firm and dismissive.

    There’s one thing that probably needs to be added. It is clear that the great majority of journalists in Europe and in the rest of the ‘free’ world are, as Henryk Broder says in Der Spiegel, choked by fear. Nancy Graham Holm takes it to the next level. She’s not only fearful. She thinks people have a right to murder those who have offended. It’s time we started getting out ducks in order on this one. This is going to get worse before it gets better, and it will get quickly worse if people don’t stand up to the threats. Giving in to the threats is a form of negotiating with terrorists. If it works once, they have every reason to do it again. If this woman is a journalism teacher, she should be sacked, since she seems to lack the slightest notion of the importance of a free press.

    1. It is also a form of habituation. Moreover, a habituation to panic reactions that are reversed in CBT by exposing yourself to situations that triggers them. (Panic reactions say from death experience in the hand of abusive parents or peers – apparently it is enough to have helplessness and abuse to trigger such experience and thus build up to panic.)

      IIRC it took decades before plane hijackings were down to a manageable level in the public mind. The same will happen in any established abuser-abused relationship, to be sure.

  4. In light of the coming holiday I want to hear Ms. Holm come out and blame those uppity blacks and Rev. King for making James Earl Ray pick up a rifle.

  5. People who believe ridiculous things shouldn’t get upset when others laugh at them. The trouble is, when that happens and they become violent, they get punished for their violence. Then they claim to be persecuted.

    Just look at the reaction from Christians to the same kind of thing.

  6. This is really timely. Blackford’s piece helped me understand why I was so fumbling about with a similar spankable post over at Bad Astronomy.

    The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, which by now _thankfully_ steps down as president for the skeptic organization JREF, has started to politically defend his Discover blog-relatives the Colgate Twins framing-ism and accomodationism.

    [I’ll write “framing-ism” because I’m not aware that the CT brand of framing really works. Statistics says accommodation likely doesn’t.]

    This is Plait’s right of course, but it has taken a turn to the real ugly.

    At the 400th birthday of Galileo, BA wrote an astronomy post on Galileo where he happened to append a negative piece of the catholic church dealings with the science and scientist. Not negative to the church as much as negative to the “arrogant jerk” that upset his friend the church leader when writing on science!

    Now I’m no historian, but Wikipedia claims with references that most historians that have looked at the respective correspondences believes that Galileo wasn’t intentionally trying to upset his friend. He felt blindsided by the church reaction.

    Even so, if we didn’t know anything at all (and we likely don’t know if the church knew about Galileo’s reaction either), it was the church that comes over as an “arrogant jerk”. For ignoring or rejecting Galileo’s reaction, and by taking criticism of religion as criticism of person.

    By the accommodationists own most popular tall folk tale, no less.

    But having analyzed that far, I was still unsatisfied, I felt I missed something. I should have taken a step backward and realized that Plait is actually blaming the victim!

    This is no better than blaming a raped female for having walked in dark quarters with nice clothes for her being raped. And FWIW, Galileo was also violated mind and body (no free speech, forced retraction, house arrest).

    This Plait did for reasons _only_ to make a point against critics of accomodationism/”good manners”, no less! [You have to read the post and the accommodationist ones leading up to this.]

    If that isn’t the actions of an “arrogant jerk”, I don’t know them. The problem is that Plait in person seems neither. (Not that it matters to him, as he in his own argument look to single actions to label people.)

    Maybe I should go back and append Blackford’s accommodationist “blame-the-victim” spanking.

    1. FSeeeM, I tend to reverse things in english!

      I meant “Blackford’s spanking of “blame-the-victim” accommodationists, of course.

    2. Now I’m no historian, but Wikipedia claims with references that most historians that have looked at the respective correspondences believes that Galileo wasn’t intentionally trying to upset his friend. He felt blindsided by the church reaction.

      That proves it was his fault. He should have read the minds of the religious folk and tiptoed around their sensibilities. 30 seconds with google would have found him Chris Mooney’s blog, and the Pope would have seen the light in a heartbeat.

  7. Speaking of victims and islam, here is some more victims to discussing religion:

    “Three churches have been fire bombed in Malaysia just hours before Muslim groups held protests over the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims. […]

    Police say it is still too early in the investigation to link the attacks to last week’s court ruling that allows non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’ when referring to God. This overturns a three-year government ban.

    The Catholic Church claims they have been using the term for decades.

    Some Muslim groups fear that Christians want to use the word ‘Allah’ as part of a plan to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity.

    The government department has appealed against the court decision.”

    First, I’m appalled that you can’t freely describe or discuss islam in this nation.

    Second, I’m glad the ban was overturned.

    Third, I’m appalled that the government is actively supporting non-free speech anti-democracy.

  8. As a reaction to the violence against Westergaard and in support of free speech, we should each of us draw our own cartoon of Muhammed and display it somewhere: office cubicle, blog, car window. They can’t kill us all. Imagine the disincentive for the next would-be cartoonist killer if they knew that their act would cause hundreds of thousands of Muhammed images to sprout everywhere like dandelions. Should we really care about the feelings of anybody who would take more offense at this than at the attempt to murder this man and his family in their home?

  9. Regrets from Holme? I doubt it; generally such people are far too stupid to realize what they’re saying is utterly vile nonsense – in fact they usually believe they are wise and that everyone should do as they say.

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