Stereotypes versus political correctness

My husband and I discussed the concept of stereotypes with the kids.  What we were trying to get through to them is that it’s wrong to take ideas about a group, even if those ideas are complimentary or accurate, and to assume that they apply to an individual.  The mere fact that Jews tend to have higher IQs doesn’t automatically mean that Joe Schmostein is smart.  On the other side of the balance, merely because blondes are the butt of myriad dumb blonde jokes still means it’s a huge mistake to assume that a given blonde is dumb.  (And, Z, because you’re very literal, let me say here that I realize that dumb blonde jokes are just that — jokes — but they’re still a useful rhetorical tool for discussing stereotyping.)

What both my husband and my children had a problem with was that, while it’s wrong to apply stereotypes to individuals, and while it’s wrong to perpetuate lies about an entire group to satisfy ones biases (e.g., those dumb blondes), that doesn’t make it at all invalid to look at group behavior and draw conclusions about the group.  If the numbers show that Chinese people consume more rice more capita than other people (I’m guessing here, but it sounds reasonable), the existence of this data means that this statement isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.  That fact’s existence doesn’t mean that any individual Chinese person should be assumed to like rice (ask first before serving), but it does mean that there is an operating truism about the group.

Mr. Bookworm’s confusion about stereotypes versus factual data about a defined group became apparent when the conversation in the car turned to war atrocities (my children are at the ghoulish phase), and my son raised the subject of genital mutilation.  In a previous ghoulish conversation, I’d told him that the Japanese, during the Rape of Nanking, subjected women to genital mutilation as part of their torture and murder.  I then mentioned that Arabs are well-known for castrating their enemies.

My husband was outraged:  “That’s a stereotype!”  “No,” I said, “in terms of the cultural norms of warfare, that’s a fact.  I’m not saying that all Arabs slice off their enemies’ penises.  I’m just saying that it is a typical and traditional Arab approach to war.”  He subsided, unconvinced.

I doubt even this horrific story will cut through his PC, multi-culti world view to convince him:

Devotedly washed and sprinkled with rose petals, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb lies prepared for burial.

But the rituals of death cannot wipe away the horrific injuries that have mutilated his body almost beyond recognition.

Nor do they blot out that Hamza – riddled with bullets, kneecapped and with neck broken and penis hacked off – has the rounded cheeks and gentle face of a child.

[snip]

The teenager’s family were told not to speak of his terrible fate. But in a pitiful act of defiance, they posted the footage of his corpse online.

[snip]

An unseen attendant tenderly shifts the scarred limbs and head so that the viewer can see each injury, including two bullets which were fired through each arm and then entered his chest.

‘Look at the evidence of his torture,’ the narrator urges. ‘Take a look at the bruises on his face and his neck that was broken. Take a look at the bruises on his right legs

‘In addition there is worse. They did not satisfy themselves with all the torturing so they cut off his genitals.’

Savage cultures do savage things, and all the multi-culti pieties in the world won’t erase the fact that the savage Muslim/Arab culture is committed to male genital attacks as a sign of power.

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Comments

  1. Mike Devx says

    While studying Book’s main link in her post (the symposium of four panelists), I was struck by some things.

    Are we discussing sexual mutilation as the desecration of a corpse, or as the torture of a living human being?  They seem to me to be two very different things. 

    The panelists were mainly discussing the Mumbai terrorists.  They lamented (intellectually) the lack of forensics, as they couldn’t draw conclusions, but the evidence from local doctors seemed to indicate a ferocity of torture that they literally were incapable of describing, it was so horrifying.  The worst ferocity, and the earliest, was reserved for Israelis.  Now these terrorists’ political grievances centered around the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, so their frenzy towards Israelis as their focus can’t be explained in any rational sense.  Given what you would expect by the horror of the doctors, it would seem that sexual mutilation as torture was a part of it, but by no means all of it.

    One panelist said of the 1948-49 Israel-Arab war that the IDF warned its Israeli soldiers to not be taken alive because of what would happen to them.  One senses this is not mere stereotypical propaganda.  The only conclusion is that they would be tortured before being killed.  But, no specific mention of sexual mutilation.

    The panelists kept referring to the helpless rage underlying the sexual mutilation. (The panelists had no objection to the prevalence of sexual mutilation in honor-shame societies, by the way.)  Three of the four kept pointing to psychological explanations that I couldn’t tie down into a coherent explanation, but they may have just been speaking “above me”.  Based on a prior study by a woman studying very young children in which, at a particular stage of development, when given dolls, those very young children would *all* (?) sexually mutilate the dolls. My personal reaction (“How could I never have heard of this study?”) still resides mostly in disbelief.  Helpless rage triggered by a psychological disorder involving being trapped in arrested development at that young an age due to some aspect of the honor-shame society… hmmm…

    Now, the desecration of a corpse is a different thing.  To me it appears an act of almost clinically quiet ritualuzed disdain.  I just don’t see “frenzied rage” involved here.  Moving from corpse to corpse to corpse in a steady, determined manner.  I could of course be wrong.  I do recall repeatedly encountering this kind of sexual mutilation – desecration of the corpse – in war stories.  Where those who have been there on the ground for the aftermath simply state, “Oh, yes, of course.  Happens all the time in certain cultures.”

    I guess when it comes to stereotypes – things you can state about general populations that you can’t state about individuals within that population – and the honor-blame culture, I’m more muddled now than I was going in.

  2. Michael Adams says

    Ymarsakar, it’s not, “Of course I don’t have cable.”  It’s,”Of course I don’t have cable, I’m an intellectual” 0) I would never squander money to watch television,  If I have some to spare, I buy books.

  3. Charles Martel says

    Ymarsakar, “evil” is a silly term used by primitives who believe in a sky fairy and who are not man enough to do good—whatever that is—as its own reward.

  4. Gringo says

    Regarding Arabs’ mutilating bodies, I came across an interesting passage in Michael Totten’s article on his visit to Hebron in the West Bank. A Hebron resident is discussing the 1929 massacre of Jews in Hebron:

    “The killers did horrible things to people,” David said. “They castrated men. An Arab working at a bakery put his Jewish boss into the oven and baked him. They cut off women’s breasts and horribly raped them. These are the easy pictures to look at.”
     
    While mutilation is not an everyday occurrence, not something one would expect with the frequency of being served hummus in the Middle East, it appears that corpses are mutilated more often  when they are the result of conflict with Arabs than when there is conflict, for example,  with Americans.
    Similarly, while the odds of being murdered in Detroit in a given year are small- about 40 per 100,000- the odds of being killed in Detroit are much greater than they are in Lake Wobegone- or New York City, for that matter.
    http://pajamasmedia.com/michaeltotten/2011/05/31/darkness-in-palestine/
     
     

  5. says

    This gives more support to my view that the Israelis simply lack the hate required to destroy the Palestinian problem once and for all. They have warriors and statesman like Sharon of the past and Bibi of the now, but it is the nation and its people that do the fighting, not the leaders. Without the requisite hate in their hearts, they lack the will to carry the fight to the finish, which in this case means using nuclear weapons.

    We saw a couple of these things during the Apache-American war and the Comanche-American war. The Native American tribes of warring raiders were chased to oblivion and almost wiped out. There was no “nation-state” plan for them until they ceased hostilities, then reservations were offered.

    If the Americans had reacted with the “moderation” of the Israelis of 1950, 1960, and 1990, we would still be fighting Indians in Texas and raiders across the Mexican border.

    Leaders and national resources are important, and Israel seems to be getting both at once. But a nation that lacks the ruthlessness to destroy their enemies, cannot win.

    There’s no way about it. You need people to fight in war. Those people have to come from somewhere and are motivated by something. The Israelis, predominantly, are motivated by kindness, their religious guidance, compassion, and love of human life.

    American strength came from boundless ambition and unlimited personal courage. A courage to say that their way of life is superior and worth defending and killing for. Until the Israelis decide as a nation that their continued survival is more important than the lives of every single Palestinian on the earth, Israeil will continue to lack the fire required to put an end to this conflict decisively.

  6. Mike Devx says

    Ymar, did you read the second half within Book’s link to the symposium panel?  The second half dealt with the problem: What can you do when a nation or organization deeply based on honor-shame has targeted you as “the other” that is shaming them, and have dedicated themselves to your destruction?

    Three of the four – and perhaps all four – saw no recourse except one: You must defeat them utterly and completely.  The surrender must be total – not just militarily, but a complete cultural, nationwide recognition of defeat, and of surrender.  Only then can you do what the USA did – if you wish – which is to rebuild them back up, as was done with Japan and Germany.

    It makes the whole concept of “land for peace” for the Israelis a bitter joke.
    It explains Sadat’s assassination after signing a peace treaty with Israel.
    It explains why Arafat was unable to proceed at Oslo… so close? and yet so far away. Come the Intifada instead!!
    It certainly explains Hamas.  And Fatah climbing into bed with them, destroying any hope for any deal.
    It explains why an Israeli passport is illegitimate in so many Muslim countries.  “What is this worthless piece of trash paper?!?!”

    We over here can scarcely comprehend the depths of the problem.  You wonder if the lefties over there in Israel get it… how could they not?  But they don’t seem to get it.

    Perhaps the panelists overstated the case; perhaps the key requirement is they must all, first, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept publicly, via treaty, that Israel is a defined and defensible nation.  Maybe that would be enough to break the honor-shame rage and vengeance.  I have my doubts.

    But land for peace?  It is a dead idea.

  7. says

    Have you guys noticed yet that while Z spoke much concerning American “torture” with DQ, Z hasn’t spoken much about the Arab/Palestinian/Islamic torture talked about here by Book? In fact, I don’t think I saw him post one comment here.

    A little denial perhaps, to go with the intellectual arrogance of course.

    Z will go off the rails quoting me or quoting Bush or quoting Martel, on the environment or WMDs in Iraq, but curiously leaves the reality of Islam alone for the most part. Perhaps the reality is too uncomfortable and harsh for the idealist in vogue. 

    Japan also has and had a shame culture and so did medieval Europe, partially. The Japanese had ritual suicide, the cutting into their bellies and guts, in order to produce pain and test their endurance and denial of earthly sensations for the divine and sublime. The Islamos, however, are content with torturing other people and utilizing the weak for their sustenance. That’s why Japanese economy is booming and Islamos are too busy hacking off dicks to worry about doing anything constructive. There’s a difference there, seemingly. A difference in motivation and societal influence on constructive/destructive behavior.

    Mike, no, I skipped that article primarily because whatever they say, won’t surprise me since I’m not new to it and not much of what they (can) write is new to me. IT’s just worded in a fresh fashion by some on the panel.

    We over here can scarcely comprehend the depths of the problem.  You wonder if the lefties over there in Israel get it… how could they not?  But they don’t seem to get it.

    The Israeli settlers the Israeli government forcibly relocated got it. The only way to remake Palestine is to take over their land, colonize it, and take over. They’re not going away. Unless they use my suggestion and use nukes to clear the way. People can’t live in irradiated ground where the background radiation is in thousands, after all. Tough on the environment and it can blow over into Israel with the change of the wind, but a barrier of nuclear retardation is much more effective than whatever deals israel thinks it can get via giving up land.

  8. says

    The only way to convince Palestinians that our way is the better way is to keep killing them in job lots until the corpses rise to the height of the moon. And then wait a while for their response and if their response isn’t to our liking, to continue piling up the corpses.

    Medieval minds in this Western world of ours isn’t “many” to begin with. But there are some. There always is.

  9. says

    Sadie, I believe in negotiation through superior firepower. It doesn’t matter what the Palis want. It matters how many of them they want to see killed and blown up before they become reasonable with us.

    If they think torturing our soldiers will make us think twice, I’ll tie together 50,000 Palestinian prisoners, hack off their legs and arms, put grenades in them, and throw them into the sea and drop a nuke on them in the bargain while video taping it.

    Let’s see whether they think they can trump that.

  10. says

    Ymarsakar: The only way to convince Palestinians that our way is the better way is to keep killing them in job lots until the corpses rise to the height of the moon.
     
    Ymarsakar: If they think torturing our soldiers will make us think twice, I’ll tie together 50,000 Palestinian prisoners, hack off their legs and arms, put grenades in them, and throw them into the sea and drop a nuke on them in the bargain while video taping it.

     

  11. Mike Devx says

    I don’t have Ymar’s way with words, but I can try my own.

    The United States was last engaged in an existencial war for its survival in WWII, against primarily Japan and Germany.  Some notable events in this existencial war with Japan:

    – The firebombing of Tokyo : At least 100,000 dead.  More likely far higher than that.
    – The atomic bombing of Hiroshima: At least 120,000 dead within days
    – The atomic bombing of Nagasaki: At least 60,000 dead within days

    Real war is hell.  It’s been generations since we faced real war.  It does no good to hide your face from its reality – SHOULD it happen.

    Israel rightly believes it is not yet facing an existencial threat to its very existence.  The Palestinian refugee organized people – let’s go ahead and call them a “State” under Hamas/Fatah – are utterly dedicated to their destruction, and would wipe Israel off this earth at this moment if only they could.  The surrounding Arab countries are also dedicated to Israel’s complete destruction, but at this point do not act, for a variety of reasons.

    Iran will be the trigger point for the existencial war crisis for Israel.  Israel will have no choice but to respond, and will have every legitimate right to do so, with every capability at their command.  It will be a real war.

    And let me repeat:
    Real war is HELL.

    (It would be a very good idea to stop Iran, then, by the way, before they get to where they want to go.)

  12. Charles Martel says

    Ymarsakar, now you’ve done it. You’ve just given Zach permission to get on his moral high horse and tsk tsk at the horribleness of your suggestion about the Palestinians.

    This will be followed by days and days of irritating calls on the rest of us to support him in his ostentatious moral repugnance. This from a man who is totally inarticulate when it comes to describing the basis of his morality.

    Oh, boy!

  13. abc says

    Mike,

    “The United States was last engaged in an existencial war for its survival in WWII, against primarily Japan and Germany.  Some notable events in this existencial war with Japan:
    – The firebombing of Tokyo : At least 100,000 dead.  More likely far higher than that.
    – The atomic bombing of Hiroshima: At least 120,000 dead within days
    – The atomic bombing of Nagasaki: At least 60,000 dead within days
    Real war is hell.  It’s been generations since we faced real war.  It does no good to hide your face from its reality – SHOULD it happen.”
    Although I disagree with them, many would heavily discount your claim that we were engaged in an existential war for US survival during WWII.  Even the conservative Pat Buchanan believes we didn’t need to enter WWII.  We were attacked by the Japanese, but with the war build-up the US could repel any further attacks on US soil.  More importantly, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not necessary, nor was the bombing of Dresden by allied forces.  War is hell, but some of what you are pointing to are losses that could have been avoided.  Too often, the victors get to justify as necessity wounds on enemies inflicted as a part of revenge or as a part of a race against the Soviets to divide up the spoils of WWII.  I agree that we shouldn’t hide our face from reality, but I wonder whose version of reality?

    “Israel rightly believes it is not yet facing an existencial threat to its very existence.  The Palestinian refugee organized people – let’s go ahead and call them a “State” under Hamas/Fatah – are utterly dedicated to their destruction, and would wipe Israel off this earth at this moment if only they could.  The surrounding Arab countries are also dedicated to Israel’s complete destruction, but at this point do not act, for a variety of reasons.”

    The US State Department, I am told, has produced reports arguing that Israel cannot survive 30 years, given the technological changes in weapons capability that will be in the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the great differences in birth rates of Palestinians versus Israeli’s.  I would not assume that Israel has the security view that you claim.
    “Iran will be the trigger point for the existencial war crisis for Israel.”

    Why?  Israel has nukes and other WMDs, while Iran lacks nukes and has smaller stockpiles of other weapons.  Getting nukes would seem to neutralize Israel’s advantage, or am I missing something…  Ahmadenajad talks about wiping Israel off the map and denying the Holocaust, but Reagan talked about nuking the Soviets.  Do we really think that leadership in Iran (and he isn’t the real power anyway) will risk total annihilation on the basis of a populist’s comments?  I think MAD keeps even a nuclear Iran in check.  And while I’d prefer fewer nuclear players to more, I don’t believe the cost the world should bear to keep that number low is unlimited.

    “Israel will have no choice but to respond, and will have every legitimate right to do so, with every capability at their command.  It will be a real war.”

    “Legitimate right” is not a blank check.  If Israel nukes all of Iran tomorrow, they will not have had a legitimate right to do so.  You give your bias away when you make comments like this.
     

  14. Mike Devx says

    Ann Coulter also has a way of phrasing her arguments in ways that drives them absolutely bat-crazy.

    Sputtering with complete outrage: “You can’t say that!”

    Ann, with her usual buoyant laugh: “I just did.”

  15. abc says

    Mike,

    “(It would be a very good idea to stop Iran, then, by the way, before they get to where they want to go.)”

    And where is that?  According to what Seymour Hersch has dug up, there is no evidence of an ongoing, but hidden nuclear weapons program.  (http://www.readersupportednews.org/off-site-news-section/69-69/6128-seymour-hersh-no-evidence-of-iranian-weapons-program)  Of course, that was the story with Iraq, but it didn’t stop Bush from invading anyway.  History repeats itself quite often apparently.

  16. Charles Martel says

    “According to what Seymour Hersch has dug up. . .”

    This from a man who also thinks Paul Krugman is a great economist and Jean Paul Sartre was a great philosopher. Oy!

  17. Mike Devx says

    Back to the essentials of Book’s post:

    It is a stereotype that the Palestinian Hamas/Fatah refugees, the Arab States, and Iran want to completely destroy Israel.  This is a stereotype grounded in truth.  But there are certainly individual Muslims out there who do not want this.

    The stereotype is the driver of the reality.

  18. Mike Devx says

    abc,
    Another commenter complimented you on your change in commentary style recently, in another thread.
    I just wanted to say I’ve noticed what I see as a change in your commentary style, too, and I like it.  A lot.  Just thought I’d say that.

  19. abc says

    Mike, thanks for the compliment.  Who says I don’t change when the facts merit it?

    I know that stereotypes are the driver of subjective construction of reality, which is faster and sometimes safer than trying to be more deliberate about it.  In the case of Iran’s weapons program, I hope that we won’t shoot from the hip again.  Stereotypes are often wrong, and the costs are too high in war to rely upon them.

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