Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — attempting the unbiased exploration of nuance in often low-nuance discourses ]

As usual, billboards, pamplets and ads on the sides of buses are worth watching. Let’s start with the Shariah twins:

The similarities are pretty obvious — what are the differences?

Well, the upper one was put up first, while the lower one was a response to it — that’s one difference, and it accounts for the similarities. Another difference has to do with the URLs each of them provides for further inquiry:

Again, the second is a response to the first and mimics its URL, although it switches automagically to when you click through. And “defending religious freedom” is clearly a double-sided coin…

The actual situation is neither that “Islam is a religion of Peace” nor that “Islam is a religion of War” — I would suggest it is that Islam is a religion that believes in opposing injustice in the name of peace, for the sake of eventual peace. In this regard, Islam is not unique.

Islam also has adherents who would like to see the entire world under Islam’s banner. In this again, Islam is not unique. Islam has given the world great poetry, history, architecture, philosophy, music, mathematics, science. Again, Islam is not unique in this. In one of my own fields of special interest, social entrepreneurship, Islam has given use Muhammad Yunnus and the Grameen Bank… The Islamic world also includes many religious leaders who espouse virulent anti-Semitism. In short…

Islam as expressed for better or worse in a vast diversity of human lives and situations neither renders each and every adherent an angel nor a beast. God may be perfect, but Muslims are only human. In this again, Muslims are not unique.


Let’s turn from religion to patriotism:

According to the lower image, the Tea Party is not the enemy. That’s fine by me — I have friends who are Tea Party stalwarts. According to the upper image, which was put up by a local Tea Party related organization using the Tea Party name, the sitting President of the US is the equivalent of Hitler and Stalin. And if they weren’t seen as enemies by the US, I don’t know what the Second World War and Cold War were all about…

So let’s just say that when Obama‘s death camps pass the five million mark in Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, poets, Christians or whoever killed, I will no longer think the comparison a trifle overheated. To put it mildly.

But hey, I have a question for the Oath Keepers among our readership.

If you are supposed to fire on the enemy, and the illustration in your ad specifically features British red-coats, but you’re not allowed to fire on American citizens, and Col. Kevin Benson, who wrote the disputed article in Small Wars Journal, is an American citizen whom you consider a “red-coat” — are you supposed to shoot him? Please note, I also have friends who are SWJ stalwarts.

What about droning Anwar al-Awlaki? I suppose these paradoxes of double identity all belong in the same category as Bertrand Russell‘s celebrated paradox of the Spanish barber:

There was once a barber. Some say that he lived in Seville. Wherever he lived, all of the men in this town either shaved themselves or were shaved by the barber. And the barber only shaved the men who did not shave themselves.

All of which is fine, until you begin to wonder, as Russell did, whether the barber shaves himself?


Back to religion (jihad) — or are we still on politics (Israel)? — for a quick look at the San Francisco Muni advertising discourse, which has now reached the point where I need to amend my usual two panel format:

Pamela Geller paid for the first ad, which encourages US support for Israel, okay, but also seems to call some group or other “savages” — we’re not quite sure who that group consists of since she doesn’t specify it — but she could plausibly be meaning all Palestinian suicide bombers, all Palestinians, all Arabs, all Muslims, even perhaps all those who support Israel… we just don’t know.

Given the amount of hatred floating around on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I’d suggest the ad is indeed inflammatory, and that the Muni — who didn’t think they could refuse it under applicable US law — was acting appropriately if somewhat surprisingly in posting its own ad in response, seen here in the middle panel.

Now Geller has announced her intention to respond to the Muni’s ad with one of her own, seen here in the third panel — and all eyes will be on Muni if and when she does — to see if they will continue the back and forth.


The world is the cinema. There actually are people setting fires in several parts of the cinema, and others whose words could be the sparks that ignite yet more fires. Some of the fire-setters have names like Ajmal Kasab and Osama bin Laden, some like Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik, some like Vellupillai Prabhakaran. The theater is crowded, and some people are yelling “fire”…

Furthermore, there’s a difference between panic and precaution.