Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fasionable Murder

One might think that murder - arguably the worst crime - would remain taboo. But that would be to presume that human beings are inherently sane, or ethical.

In fact, humans are both sane and insane, ethical and unethical, savage and urbane, a mixture of best and worst motives. There is often no coherence or balance to what we believe, feel, or do; and in my lower moments, I wonder what essential difference there might be between the human and any other animal. Perhaps it is the capacity of some people for self-discipline in conformity to nothing more than abstract ideals of virtue; I don't know of any animal which demonstrates any capacity like that. But a little time on the planet shows that even that trait is in fairly short supply.

But back to murder. A visit these days to any North American university campus will reveal the fashion craze of wearing a black and white PLO scarf, as though it were nothing more than a leather bracelet or earring. Evidently, it doesn't matter that wearing the PLO scarf is only a step away from wearing a swastika armband. Forget Huey Lewis's old "it's hip to be square"; I guess it's now hip to champion murder, and to speak the truth, genocide, since that is what the PLO's founding premises add up to.

The PLO is, and always has been, dedicated to wiping out the state of Israel through murder. Its record of bloodshed includes murdering school children at the Ma'alot School, murdering Israeli Olympic athletes, murdering airplane passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport...the list goes on and on. Its late leader, Arafat, was a corrupt, bloodthirsty, psychopathic virtual dictator, who in no sense could ever be conceivably linked with ANY characteristic of liberal democracy: not rational discussion, not democratic procedures, not free press, not free speech, not checks and balances, not rule of law, nothing.

Yet the same students who constantly chant that Bush is a "war criminal" for "murdering Iraqi civilians", who denounce "Chinese atrocities in Tibet", who feel perfectly free to denounce what they view as "terrorism" anywhere they see it, carve out a big exception when Jews are the victims of the violence. In that case, the murder's great! So great that we all ought to wear PLO scarves to show our solidarity - like wearing a New York Giants jersey the week before the Super Bowl.

As though murder, genocide, and terrorism weren't bad enough on their own, there is also the underlying question of Israel's right to exist. And on that question, I think it can be safely said that if Israel does not have a right to exist, then no country in the world has a right to exist.

But that's probably a topic for another post.


Anonymous said...

Tal, I think I understand the motivation behind the post, but the argument simply does not hold water for several reasons. Perhaps the most imortant one, and the only one I'm going to deal with here is the issue of symbolism that is inherent in military clothing, and the various counter-statements that can be made when a civilian wears that clothing.

I know you are too young to have first-hand experience of the 60's, but I'm going to make the assumption that you are aware of the trend among many groups of deeply anti-military hippies who would wear various items of military clothing and other artifacts with the specific and explicit intention of ridiculing the symbolism those artifacts carried.

We would wear stuff from both the good guys and the bad guys from both world wars, the American civil war, even the American/Brtish war, all with the very specific and clear intention of ridiculing the whole military pomposity and mind set.

The same intent is clear for most Westerners who wear the black and white scarf: remove its frightful, terror-based symbolism by rendering it impotent and meaningless through turning it into a trendy fashion statement.

I'm a little surprised that you seem unaware of that.

Greg Watson said...

Sorry, I did not intend to comment as anonymous. I sometimes get mixed up with blogspot's sign in process.

I should have commented as:

Greg Watson


Andrea said...

honestly...I had to google what a PLO scarf was so I (even as a non-fashion type of gal) would imagine these are worn in pure ignorance..I have girlfriends who wear scarves in this manner and im 100% confident they have NO idea what the symbolism could be construed as.
That, in itself, is another post entirely.

Tal said...

Andrea, I think you are right, and I should have noted in my original piece that the majority of campus students traipsing around in these things probably are not fully aware of what they symbolize. Some are, though, and I suppose I should have distinguished the two groups.

Still, it is remarkable (I think) that such a trend could emerge without a corresponding avalanche of protest.

Greg, along these lines: I don't know how many university students you've talked to recently, but quite a lot of them seem cognitively incapable of anything like the sort of sophisticated/ironic thinking you attribute to them. In the absence of contrary evidence, I suggest we stick with Occam and simply presume that the scarf-wearers are a mixture of those who deliberately wear them as a sign of solidarity, and those who don't have a clue what they represent. Or is "sophisticated, ironic thought" more characteristic of human beings than perversion and ignorance? Kinda doubt it.

(Not exactly a cheery thread lol)

Greg Watson said...

Ah well, you've got me there. I haven't any chit-chats with university or college students in about ten years or so.

If things are as bleak as you propose, what with students being incapable of that rather low level of sophisticated wit and tending more toward plain ignorance, well, that would be rather tragic I think and then perhaps you are right after all.

I sort of hope not, if you know what I mean.

June said...

Good luck with your degree.What is it in?


HMc said...

Hey, Tal.

I attend a liberal arts college in the Northeast. A couple of weeks ago, I spent the day at Harvard for something, and also spent a couple of hours at Dartmouth around the same time.

I am quite aware of what the PLO scarf looks like, and I can say with absolute certainty that I haven't seen a single one on my campus or sported on anyone else on any other campus I've visited. I'd DEFINITELY take notice of such a thing, if I saw it.

If this is some kind of trendy thing to do, it hasn't hit the Northeast. Yet.

Tal said...

That's good to hear, HMC, though I am a bit surprised.

HMc said...

Rachel Ray is a terrorist sympathizer... :)

(You will have to cut and paste this link to your browser.)

Kind of lends credibility to the "sheer ignorance" theory, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Check out

I'm amazed that you think Israel, the country with the world's fourth biggest army, is seriously threatened by desperate, starving Palestinians who are being targeted for not being Jewish. They live in refugee camps. Go visit them.

Tal said...


Israelis are *not* threatened by people who - does it need to be said? - don't perform threatening actions.

But they are "threatened" by suicide bombers. Why do you think the Palestinian leadership tries to keep the suicide bombing going?

More broadly, the nation of Israel has been in danger of being annihilated by a coalition of surrounding Arab armies literally since the day the British left sixty years ago. Didn't you know?

It is shocking how so many people continue to see, *no matter what*, Israel as *worse* than the bloodthirsty lunatics who have been trying to destroy the entire country and everyone in it - literally, trying to effect a second Holocaust.

Pondering in Nanaimo said...


First, I know this post is old.
Can you not see why Palestinians have fought the way they have? What means do they have otherwise? Their plight is ignored internationally when they try political methods, as are the deaths of their civilians (which far exceed the Israeli deaths and always have).

They were booted off their land, and ethnic cleansing continues today. Some of us have sympathy for them.

And what's wrong with suicide bombers? Is it more moral and brave to sit back at range and fire Hellfires? They don't have the guns, so they do what they can. You can bet that lots of others have throughout history. Some we call heroes.

Palestinians want the foreigners with the guns and tanks and jets to get out of their country and leave them alone. We've spent billions of dollars and lost way too many fighters to prevent the same thing happening to us. why can't they fight back without being slurred as "terrorists"?

Hope All Is Well

Incidently, have you actually studied the "coalition" against them? It ain't forty years ago, anymore.