Remember when the whole Bill Maher /Sam Harris thing exploded a few weeks ago? You know, when Harris and Maher called Islam "the mother of bad ideas". Their point was that Islam is an inherently more violent religion than any of the others. Fortunately, we had Ben Affleck present to be the voice of reason. My contribution to that whole kerfuffle was one that I’ve been making for years; you can’t compare third world Muslims to first world Christians and think that you’re making an intellectually honest assessment. I brought up The Crusades and The Spanish Inquisition because comparing Christians then to middle eastern Muslims today is a more reasonable and fair comparison. Those points in time were when each religion was losing the modernity and enlightenment race so that’s more of an apples to apples comparison. When Christians were the primitive religion, they were savages to the tune of slaughtering millions. Now that the Christian dominated western world is winning the modernity race, it’s Muslims who are behaving the way Christians did when they were in the same evolutionary (societally speaking) position.
Slapping the ‘violent’ label on Muslims when we’re the ones who have been going to the middle east and meddling in their business for decades is a little absurd. We set Iran back a hundred years when we tried to install our guy as their prime minister. Iran was well on their way to secularism when we foisted the Shah on them so that we could get their oil. For some reason that no one could have seen coming, they weren’t super excited about the western world picking their leaders for them. Enter the Ayatollahs. We did that. Baghdad used to be a very cosmopolitan city until we decided they needed some American style democracy. Or were we stopping a mushroom cloud? I always get confused. Anyway, we turned it into the primitive hellhole it is today. Lebanon was also a beautiful city. It’s too bad we keep letting Israel bomb the shit out of it every ten years. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. We’re responsible for a lot of killing in the middle east, and we didn’t even do it because we have convictions. We did it for oil. How is greed better than religious fundamentalism? I actually have more respect for the whackadoodles than I do for the oligarchs.
We’re the ones who keep going over there to take their stuff. They never fucked with us before we started doing that. When you’re fighting a much better armed opponent, you have to resort to primitive tactics like IEDs and beheading videos because you don’t have tanks, drones, and missiles to work with with.
So a fair comparison isn’t being made by Maher and Harris. I’ve always said that the best way to deal with Afghanistan is to carpet bomb the country with iPhones. I’m not kidding. Modernity always eradicates (not entirely, but mostly) religious extremism. Think about it, if you already have an iPhone you really don’t have as much to pray for as someone without electricity. My Afghanistan solution would have been much simpler, cheaper, and more effective than what we’ve been doing. It’s really a two point plan. We have our pharmaceutical companies sign contracts with the warlords to buy all of the heroin. That gives the warlords income stability and therefore less to kill over. We have an oxy habit to maintain so why not create a win/win situation? Then, we carpet bomb the country with mobile technology. We could strike a deal with Apple, Google, and Samsung to buy a billion dollars worth of tech in exchange for their moving more jobs back to the US. Another win/win. Only after those two steps have been taken, do we go in and build a few key infrastructure components by hiring as much Afghani labor as we can. We don’t build cities or schools because they should do that. No, we give them what even we don’t have; universal broadband coverage. More big contracts for US companies. And in exchange for the billion dollar Afghanistan contract, Comcast would have to agree to capping their market share in the US to 10% of all households. This would clear the path to get some more players in the telecom game. And then we leave with the confidence that the iPhone will defeat the jihadists because we know that it will.
How do we know? Because I’m finally getting to the point of this piece. I came across this article in The Telegraph yesterday. It was funny and it proved me right on what I’ve been saying all along so naturally, I had to share. The article was about French jihadists who went to join the fight in Syria. We’ve seen small numbers of vulnerable whackadoodles from the US, UK, France, and a few other countries go and join the fight because they were radicalized enough to think this was a good idea. Why just a few? IPhones (stick with me, I’m getting there). This article was about letters some of those wannabe jihadists wrote to their families at home. They’re high-larious! It appears that jihad isn’t turning out to be all they hoped it would be. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the letters;
I’ve basically done nothing except hand out clothes and food. I also help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. Winter’s arrived here. It’s begun to get really hard.
I’m fed up. They make me do the washing up.
I guess they didn’t realize that even terrorists need clean underwear, and that the underwear won’t clean itself.
They want to send me to the front, but I don’t know how to fight.
And last but not least, my favorite;
I’m fed up. My iPod doesn’t work any more here. I have to come back.
And there it is. The embodiment of an argument I’ve been making for years from a batshit crazy used-to-wannabe jihadist.
And then there were other issues they hadn’t thought out, like the fact that their children born in Syria would not be French citizens. Oh no! No universal health coverage and baguettes?
You should read the article, there’s more there that I’m not going to get into. Proving myself right is all that needs discussing on this blog! But in all seriousness, Maher and Harris were completely wrong because their tunnel vision inhibited their critical thinking in this instance. You can’t just look at the factors that support your conclusion without looking for outliers. There are always outliers. A good conclusion consists of looking at all of the outliers and determining if the preponderance of the evidence points in one direction. Take climate science for example. There was an outlier having to do with tree rings or something (I forget, but you can look it up). Why was it an outlier? Because there are a thousand pieces of evidence that point in a different direction. That doesn’t mean that you deny that the tree ring evidence exists. It means that you keep looking for evidence and weigh what you gather proportionally. It should be weighted at 1000 to 1 until you get something to change that to a 1000 to 2 or 1001 to 1 ratio.
But you don’t disregard that which is inconvenient for your opinion. And you can’t ever assume that there is no evidence contradicting your point because there most certainly is. Whether it’s studying science or a crime scene, something is always going to point in another direction. Life is never neat or tidy the way we keep insisting on framing it. Critical thinking involves proactively looking for the contradictions.
The evidence that Maher and Harris either haven’t looked at, or ignored is at least (much more, in my opinion) as compelling as the evidence they cite. And now I have a very unhappy Frenchman in Syria with a dead iPod to prove it.