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Al Qaeda faces its own tone scolds

There are few arguments I find more tedious than the ones about the ‘tone’ that atheist organizations should take. The James Crofts of the world will have you believe that they’re only acting out of the strategic best interests of the group (with delightful British accents and unflappable pep), but all too often the fight over ‘tone’ boils down to “you’re factually correct, but the way you said it wasn’t flattering enough to the majority group, and therefore it’s wrong”. Sometimes the majority group needs a sharp five across the eyes in order for them to realize they’re in the wrong. Further, I will not begrudge a minority group the use of whatever language it needs to articulate its position – it is the oppressors who need to adjust their language; not the oppressed.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that language use has no effect on persuasive strength. What I am saying is that in an instance where I feel that a minority group is not being as persuasive as I personally think they could be, my response is to advocate on their behalf, not chide them for failing to be “civil” enough. Ultimately, I imagine that groups articulating the dynamics of their oppression are smart enough to figure out on their own that flattery is better received than insult. I am also quite aware of the fact that “civility” breeds complacency, and that anger usually comes after diplomacy has failed.

With that in mind, I couldn’t not laugh at this story:

A “manifesto” left by Islamists in Mali indicates that disagreements between them may have led to their defeat – so far – on the battlefield. The document, published by a French newspaper, is said to contain advice by the head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdel Malek Droukdel.

It criticises militants in Mali for implementing Islamic law too quickly and predicts France’s intervention.

(snip)

The criticism of subordinates in the Islamist movement by Mr Droukdel appears to indicate that he thinks some of the groups operating in northern Mali were hotheads who needed to be reigned in and adopt a more softly-softly approach if the ultimate aim of a jihadist state was to be achieved.

“C’mon, you guys! I know that we want to ruin everyone’s ability to live their lives free of brutally-enforced absolutist theocratic law, but let’s not be all… y’know… mean about it!”

It’s nice to know that, however isolated and marginalized atheists may feel in society, there is one common thread that runs though all of humanity: in any group of people, there’s always at least one busybody asshole running around telling people they’re ‘doin it rong’.

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Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Even the BBC now can’t catch a common goof like “reigned in”?!?

    Wot’s the point of discussing nice-talk when you can’t even sort out yer homonyms, eh?

    (Listen up, Auntie Beeb: Queen Victoria reigned in the latter part of the 19th century, and regularly she reined in her rambunctious spawn Prince George. Got it now?)

  2. Ulysses says

    Listen up, Auntie Beeb: Queen Victoria reigned in the latter part of the 19th century, and regularly she reined in her rambunctious spawn Prince George. Got it now?

    Actually the child of Victoria who spent the most time and effort being rambunctious was her eldest son, whose name was Edward.

  3. says

    Actually the child of Victoria who spent the most time and effort being rambunctious

    Kaiser Wilhelm was only her nephew, but he was pretty rambunctious, too. One can frame WWI as a family dispute if you want to look at it narrowly enough.

  4. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Actually the child of Victoria who spent the most time and effort being rambunctious was her eldest son, whose name was Edward.- Ulysses

    Actually he was Albert Edward, known within the family as Bertie. His mother, of whom he was terrified, intended that he should take the throne as Albert Edward when she died, but once that had occurred, he chose to drop the Albert. (“Dropping the Albert” sounds like a slang for something, no?)

  5. says

    He and I have had it out on a number of occasions. Once on this blog, and at least once over Twitter. I don’t think he’s ever told people that they must use this tone or that one, but that’s also not what I wrote.

    Mostly this was just a ball-busting dig at James, not a substantive criticism of his position.

  6. leni says

    From the article, why shit went wrong:

    Point 1: The destruction of the shrines, because on an internal front we are not strong, and there is a potential for an external intervention, and negative repercussions are expected

    Point 2: The application of religious punishment… the fact that you prevented women from going out, and prevented children from playing… is contradictory to the policy”.

    It reminds me a little bit of our corporate overlords finally getting things like harassment policies because it’s “good for business”, as opposed to just being fair or “good for humanity”. Getting them not to act like sociopaths requires getting them to understand the benefits of not being totally evil.

    However, since the benefits in this case involve extremists sucking as many people as possible into their Islamist utopia, I’m not really sure if this slightly advanced level of moral calculus should bother me more or less than their “hothead” tactics.

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