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Martin Amis - The age of horrorism
September 19, 2006 7:37 AM   Subscribe

The age of horrorism. On the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Martin Amis analyses - and abhors - the rise of extreme Islamism. In a penetrating and wide-ranging essay he offers a trenchant critique of the grotesque creed and questions the West's faltering response to this eruption of evil.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese (66 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Horrorism? He lampoons himself before he even begins the first paragraph.
posted by prostyle at 7:45 AM on September 19, 2006


So what does Gore Vidal say about "the rise of extreme Islamism"?
posted by davy at 7:47 AM on September 19, 2006


Sometimes I think Martin Amis should have been nicer to his dad before he died.
posted by davy at 7:48 AM on September 19, 2006


Steven Scholl takes Amis to task in this guest editorial on JuanCole.com.
posted by rocketpup at 7:50 AM on September 19, 2006


I would just like to formally announce that I have officially heard enough of this shit.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:53 AM on September 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


Seems like an OK ethos to me. 19 kind men build towers, fly away triumphantly in airplane. Just this morning I saw some lovely gentlemen working together to put out a fire, just to save the little pope dolly at the center. No wonder Halliburton is paying us so much to bring soldiers home and create peace in the middle east.
posted by Simon! at 7:54 AM on September 19, 2006


Response to the article by Martin Amis, written by Pankaj Mishra and published in the same newspaper one week later.
posted by alasdair at 7:56 AM on September 19, 2006


Lollorrism.
posted by delmoi at 7:58 AM on September 19, 2006


I suppose this is the real function of writers. Amis acts as a sort of scapegoat, to say what others wouldn't dare. Even then, he has to dress it up real pretty to make it a little less disgusting.
posted by nixerman at 8:01 AM on September 19, 2006


I don't know much about Amis, I'm sorry to say (other than trying and ultimately failing to get through "Money", and seeing his relatively inarticulate appaerance on Bill Moyers some months back). Is he another born again Brit hawk in the mold of Christopher Hitchens, or has he always been an asshole?
posted by Hypnic jerk at 8:02 AM on September 19, 2006


the comment previous to mine is most odd: Amis, one of the most respected writers in the western world, is here called a jerk by one who notes he has never even read him. Now,you may not like what he says in his specific article (Posted at a left opf center highly regarded paper), but to dismiss him so out of hand is ludicrous, esp if unwilling to let us know what specifically is objected to in the Amis piece.

As for the piece itself: a vcareful reading and you will note how Amis hedges things, a linguistic jerrymandering.

As for the Cole site: no a zillion muslims are not all members of Al Qaeda...but why is it that Muslims are causing terror in Iraq,Syria, Jordan, England, Spain, Italy, Yemin, Indonesia, Darfur etc etc--and most of them are NOT in Al Qaeda.
posted by Postroad at 8:13 AM on September 19, 2006


"Today, in the West, there are no good excuses for religious belief..."

Well, thanks for sorting that tricky bit out for us.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:15 AM on September 19, 2006


How novel! An editorial about extremist Islam!
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:17 AM on September 19, 2006


Amis, one of the most respected writers in the western world,

cough, cough... you mean pseudo-pornographic, misogynistic hack (IMHO).
posted by saulgoodman at 8:18 AM on September 19, 2006


How novel! An editorial about extremist Islam!

Though a bit more impressive than your comment.

There is so little that is constructive in this thread and, unfortunately, I'm not finished with the article so it won't be me to increase its quality. Why such flippant disregard for this editorial? It appears that those who are criticizing it haven't even read it yet, and are merely pointing out that Amis is a) British and b) kind of a jerk. Well, now, how dare he share his opinion with others! Amis, despite what you think of his character, is a sharp fellow and a fantastic writer. To those who disagree with him - why? (I'll read the Observer rebuttal once I'm finished with the Amis piece).
posted by billysumday at 8:23 AM on September 19, 2006


I don't always agree with him, but he's certainly no asshole on the Hitchens scale. Though it's a little alarming to see him actually quote Hitchens.

(Oh, and the whole time-running-backwards schtick in Times Arrow not particularly original and actually kind of annoying)
posted by Artw at 8:31 AM on September 19, 2006


Oh, and reading the piece is actually quite a lot more interesting than reading the comments on it.
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on September 19, 2006


Thanks for saying that saulgoodman.

This rise of extreme Islamism is nearly as horiffic as the concurrent rise of extreme Christianism.
posted by nofundy at 8:40 AM on September 19, 2006


This rise of extreme Islamism is nearly as horiffic as the concurrent rise of extreme Christianism.

Exactly. This is why anyone who employs the suffix is instantly discredited, their scope is so limited as to not see the hypocrisy of their suggestion. What is the useful distinction to be made by those three letters? Nothing, it is simply a platform for invective laden disconnection from reality, projected under the hilarious guise of stimulating intellectual consideration. You'd get laughed out of the fucking room if you posited similar suggestions about the thinly veiled religiously charged language the presidents speechwriters lift from fundamental psychopaths to use as such colorful garnish throughout his diatribes.
posted by prostyle at 8:50 AM on September 19, 2006


I disagree with Amis's conclusion, but more importantly I disagree with his approach. It's easy to try to peg this into some grand historic scope, but it does nothing to explain, in the present why people are forming groups against the west and why others are joining.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the sole purpose of the rise of violent terror groups since 1993 is to trigger a civil war in Saudi Arabia. It's fun to say this is all about oil for the U.S., but it may suprise you to learn that it's pretty much all about oil for the radicals too.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:57 AM on September 19, 2006


Interesting. Scholl's rebuttal (from rocketpup) says Muslims are benevolent and fascinating:
I have spent endless hours talking with Muslims on the streets of Arab towns and never felt threatened or in harms way as an American visiting a Arab country; I have never spoken with Sunnis or Shi’is who feel that it is their religious duty to kill me or all non-Muslims because we are worse than animals. Muslims, from mosque preachers to garbage collectors, have never shown me the kinds of fanaticism that Amis leads us to believe are now pandemic in the Arab Muslim world. In my visits to the Arab world I have always been showered with kindness, hospitality, and enjoyed vigorous debates on religion.
Meanwhile Mishra's rebuttal (from alasdair) says that Muslims are widely united in outrage against the "Anglo-American alliance":
"This explains why the crude anti-Western rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attracts cheering crowds from Tehran to Jakarta and Shanghai; why the rants of Hizbollah's chief Sheikh Nasrallah make him a cult figure across the Arab world. It explains, too, why five years after 9/11, the Taliban and al-Qaeda appear to be resurgent and the terrorist methods of organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas enjoy unexpected legitimacy."
On one hand: "Most Muslims don't hate us."

On the other: "It's your fault that Muslims are uniting in hatred against you."
posted by Tubes at 8:57 AM on September 19, 2006


why, when new york gets bombed, do the french declare that "we are all americans," while when mumbai does, they don't?
posted by yonation at 9:00 AM on September 19, 2006


If I have to hear the oh-so-illustrative-of-my-point story about Qutb coming to America again, I'm gonna barf.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:06 AM on September 19, 2006


The comparisons to Hitchens are apt - the two of them go way, way back. I think they've been egging each other on all this time, occasionally dissing each other in print too.
posted by Beefheart at 9:06 AM on September 19, 2006


I don't always agree with him, but he's certainly no asshole on the Hitchens scale.

Actually I have to take that back, having got to page two, where Israel is mentioned and everything goes out the window.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2006


"Extreme" religion+politics movements -- whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever -- is always even more distasteful than "moderate" religion+politics movements. For the subtlety impaired, I'm saying that religion+politics movements always suck. (Pope Joseph "Benedict" Ratzinger is as repulsive as Osama bin Laden, and as correct.)

As for Amis, I'm a fan of his fiction (and yes, the information is always bad news), but that doesn't mean I agree with his political views more than I'd agree with Celine's. For that matter I love my "SO" and think highly of her intellect and moral character but I don't always agree with everything she says either.

By the way: we are all Baghdadis, but some of us don't know it yet.
posted by davy at 9:11 AM on September 19, 2006


I didn't mind the article, after all it's an opinion piece, not policy. So relax. Personally, I preferred this. via Arts & Letters.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 9:12 AM on September 19, 2006


He is (or was) a fine writer, and no one sane can disagree that extremist relgious violence of any type is abhorrent.

I wanted to like this article, was hoping for a mix of sanity about the limits of the threat if managed by sane people combined with some history and some real Brit high dudgeon about just how destructive radical religion can be.

But this article contains little new (another essay on Qutb and his trip to New York??), and only reveals that Amis' scope is severely limited. With little or no real-world experience, he is limited to reading historical accounts etc. which confirm his essential view that he and his kind are 'better', which may be true from one perspective (when better means better fed, better educated, better prepared for the 21st century) but is utterly lacking when it gets into generalizations about morality.
posted by cell divide at 9:16 AM on September 19, 2006


Also, yeah the part on Israel pretty much threw the whole thing to the level of farce. Check out this passage:

Typing in the combined names of "Jenin" and "Auschwitz"... I came up with 2,890 references; and, typing in "Jenin" and "Nazi", I came up with 8,100 references. There were 63,100 references to the combined names of "Sharon" and "Hitler"

Great research technique! BTW Palestinian and Nazi in Google gives 2.9m results. Someone write an article!
posted by cell divide at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2006


Phew, the article was a bit long. A lot of suppositions and attempts to classify current events into historic light. Some of what he writes I agree with, but dislike his style of writing. Some of what he writes just plain annoys me. Nothing really new is said here and at times he falls into the same traps many many people do (dismissing the humanity of suicide bombres for example).
I wonder if he intentionaly hides behind long rambling narritivies to make critisim more difficult. Someone upthread had the perfect word for it, gerrymandering.
posted by edgeways at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2006


Oh and don't forget the part about when he's outraged his young daughter's bag was searched at the airport. That's when you really start to feel the 'crazy old man' come out.
posted by cell divide at 9:24 AM on September 19, 2006


Amis does have some eloquent things to say about Iraq.

Rumsfeld, too...On television, at this time, he looked as though he had just worked his way through a snowball of cocaine. 'Stuff happens,' he said, when asked about the looting of the Mesopotamian heritage in Baghdad - the remark of a man not just corrupted but floridly vulgarised by power. As well as the body language, at this time, there was also the language, the power language, all the way from Bush's 'I want to kick ass' to his 'Bring it on' - a rather blithe incitement, some may now feel, to the armed insurgency.

No one can wrinkle their nose in print quite like Martin Amis. But just as you're getting to agree with him...

There are vast pluralities all over the West that are thirsting for American failure in Iraq - because they hate George Bush. Perhaps they do not realise that they are co-synchronously thirsting for an Islamist victory that will dramatically worsen the lives of their children.

An unfair, unrealistic, and simplistic charge. I've disliked Bush and his war from day one, but I'm certainly not thirsting to see the bloodied remains of Iraq folded triumphantly into Iran. But the war was a mistake and its authors should not be allowed to make further mistakes; we should have tried (and should still try) to defuse the conflict that Qutb's inheritors seek to ignite with as small a loss of life as possible. Not particularly different from Amis's stance, I suppose--though I gather that Amis is rather more amenable to violence while being much too British to admit it. Good for him, I suppose. When is he shipping out to join his unit?
posted by Iridic at 9:48 AM on September 19, 2006


As for Amis, I'm a fan of his fiction... but that doesn't mean I agree with his political views more than I'd agree with Celine's.

That's my take on it too. I don't understand why people expect writers to have sensible views on world affairs; if they were sensible, they wouldn't be writers in the first place.
posted by languagehat at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


The general sense I'm getting here is that Amis has come to realize that you don't try to analyze the psycho who's shooting up the school or whatever. You keep him from killing anyone, usually by killing him. Not exactly breaking new ground here.

He seems to have swallowed the Iraq story hook, line, and sinker, though... that's surprising. I guess even very smart people want some certainty in life; I know I have started craving certainty more as I got older. But I am shocked at the way Amis conflates formerly (officially) secular but heavily Shi'ite Iraq with Wahaabi fundamentalism. It is intellectual laziness to lump all muslims together like this.

I must agree, though, with his premise about the subjugation of women being responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the arab world (and, in varying degrees, other states with predominately islamic populations). These states have taken 50% of the population out of the game, and they're losing badly. Countries like Saudi Arabia that pour so much energy and wealth into subjugating women and keeping men intellectually incurious are doomed to fall behind in the marketplace of ideas.
posted by Mister_A at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2006


> This rise of extreme Islamism is nearly as horiffic as the concurrent rise of extreme Christianism.
> posted by nofundy at 11:40 AM EST on September 19 [+] [!]

Nearly, forsooth. Public beheadings (on the other side of the world) bother nofundy almost as much as public prayer (annoyingly nearer to his place of residence.) Nofundy's moral sensitivity is an inspiration for us all. No, "inspiration" is too spiritual-sounding, he'll probably get offended. "Example" for us all? Closer, but actually it's "specimen" that really nails it.
posted by jfuller at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2006


Nice strawman, jfuller. We all know you're well versed in arguing against such wonderful constructs, and who can blame you? We're all Looney Tunes! You've made it clear that you have nothing contextual to contribute to the conversation at hand, so thumbs up for the ad hominem - always a class act.
posted by prostyle at 10:15 AM on September 19, 2006


You've made it clear that you have nothing contextual to contribute to the conversation at hand, so thumbs up for the ad hominem - always a class act.
--posted by prostyle at 10:15 AM PST on September 19


Actually, I think that jfuller's comment was quite contextual, and quite apt - or were we not discussing fundamental Islam in the modern world? And, interestingly, he makes a very good point, which you conveniently dismiss.
posted by billysumday at 10:39 AM on September 19, 2006


...interestingly, he makes a very good point, which you conveniently dismiss.

The point consisting of a comparison between something nofundy didn't say and how jfuller would interpret that? Woopdy-fucking-doo
posted by prostyle at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2006


Amis:

The age of terror, I suspect, will also be remembered as the age of boredom. Not the kind of boredom that afflicts the blasé and the effete, but a superboredom, rounding out and complementing the superterror of suicide-mass murder. And although we will eventually prevail in the war against terror, or will reduce it, as Mailer says, to 'a tolerable level' (this phrase will stick, and will be used by politicians, with quiet pride), we haven't got a chance in the war against boredom. Because boredom is something that the enemy doesn't feel. To be clear: the opposite of religious belief is not atheism or secularism or humanism. It is not an 'ism'. It is independence of mind - that's all. When I refer to the age of boredom, I am not thinking of airport queues and subway searches. I mean the global confrontation with the dependent mind.

posted by billysumday at 10:45 AM on September 19, 2006


Care to parse that for me? I've been pretty rusty on my insane psychobabble as of late. Honestly, I have no idea what that paragraph consists of. Superboredom? Superterror? Superretarded.
posted by prostyle at 10:59 AM on September 19, 2006


"It is independence of mind - that's all. When I refer to the age of boredom, I am not thinking of airport queues and subway searches. I mean the global confrontation with the dependent mind."


Absolutely true, though not in the way he thinks. It's the corporate/church/GOP dependent minds here at home that must be freed before we can get on with the business of repairing this near-broken nation.
posted by stenseng at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2006


The point consisting of a comparison between something nofundy didn't say and how jfuller would interpret that? Woopdy-fucking-doo

Actually, I think he did say that. His statement says quite a lot actually. He doesn't just argue that all types of religous fundamentalism are detrimental (as his name presumably implies), a statement I could agree with in the abstract. He is saying that the rise of extreme Islam is almost as bad as the concurrent rise of extreme Christianity.muc

He's saying that extreme Muslims may do some bad things, but not as bad as Christians. Have you read a newspaper in the last 5 years? I don't like the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the west either, and I don't deny that there are elements that would be more than happy to commit terrible atrocities in the name of their Christian faith, but the truth is that they don't (for the most part) get the free pass in our society to act out the worst of their impulses the way Islamists do.

Yes, all religious extremism is bad, but by any objective standard, extreme Islam has caused more pain, suffering, tears, and blood than "extreme" Christianity has over the last few decades.

Stick with the moral equivalence line. It'll sell a lot better than this "Christian extremism is worse than Muslim extremism" schtick.
posted by SBMike at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2006


"...we haven't got a chance in the war against boredom. Because boredom is something that the enemy doesn't feel."

1. Glibness/superficial charm.
2. Grandiose sense of self-worth.
3. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
4. Pathological lying
5. Conning/manipulative
6. Lack of remorse or guilt
7. Shallow affect
8. Callous/lack of empathy
9. Parasitic lifestyle
10. Poor behavioral controls
11. Promiscuous sexual behavior

posted by saulgoodman at 11:17 AM on September 19, 2006


Yes, all religious extremism is bad, but by any objective standard, extreme Islam has caused more pain, suffering, tears, and blood than "extreme" Christianity has over the last few decades.

So what? This isn't USA vs. USSR here, the two religions have VERY different roles in society. "We" have done as much evil as "them", but it gets pushed more nationalistically as opposed to religiously in Christian countries.

Will anyone pretend that nationalist imperialism committed by Christians hasn't done more evil in the world than Islamic extremism?

This blind comparison of "our" extremists vs. "theirs" sets up an entirely false narrative and it's not an accident that we find ourselves thinking along these fallacious lines. The history of the world is not one of competing and incompatible ideologies; it's just very convenient for some people that others think this way.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:24 AM on September 19, 2006


After reading Mishra's response to Amis's editorial, I am quite confused. Did Mishra even read Amis's piece? Amis is not exactly advocating (or so it seemed to me) a continuation of the violence in the Middle East. At one point, his mind trips into a flight of fancy in which billions of dollars are spent attempting to free the women of Islam from their relative bondage, thus sparking an internal Islamic revolution, pitting man against woman. To me, it seems as though Amis is expressing his desire to witness some sort of ACTION - his is the realization that these battles in which we find ourselves (both within our own countries and governments and those amongst other countries and people) are of paramount importance - but he is not endorsing the way America and Britain have gone about them. Which seems pretty reasonable to me. Mishra does not truly address Amis's main points, but skips past them and harshly judges him for being one in a long line of arrogant, intelligent white men. Which is all well and good, of course, but ultimately he's just talking past Amis, and that is frustrating.
posted by billysumday at 12:03 PM on September 19, 2006



Will anyone pretend that nationalist imperialism committed by Christians hasn't done more evil in the world than Islamic extremism?


It's a good point, but I don't know that the imperialistic tendencies of western society can be solely or even mostly attributed to Christianity. Not since the crusades at least. At most, Christianity might be a uniting banner, but at the root of it, western imperialism is more about economics than religion.

Actually, rereading your comment, you seem to be saying as much. Are you pretty much saying that the evils committed by greedy and unscrupulous people who happen to be Christian are equal to the evils carried out in the name of Islam? I might be persuaded to agree with you on that, but that is not what nofundy originally said.

The history of the world is not one of competing and incompatible ideologies

Not exclusively, but I think it comes up fairly often. Are you arguing that extreme Islam is compatible with a multicultural, respectful, egalitarian society? I'm not snarking here, I really want to know.
posted by SBMike at 12:05 PM on September 19, 2006


Will anyone pretend that nationalist imperialism committed by Christians hasn't done more evil in the world than Islamic extremism?

Exactly. Call me when our Christian Dominionist leaders are not busy stirring up hornets in every corner of the world in an earnest effort to start up Armageddon, and then we'll talk about how horrible Islam is.

When it comes right down to it, our society is screwed on a fundamental level thanks to Christianity. We've got entire cultural traditions that don't work well (the nuclear family, puritan consensual crime laws, unbelievable angst over sex and reproduction, strong denial of death, harsh Calvinist economic ideas, etc.), and our taboos are so powerful that we're unable to even discuss most of these in a reasonable manner. Worse yet, we're convinced that everyone else needs to have these traditions as well, at the point of a gun if necessary. We conduct our foreign policy accordingly, creating enemies and burning bridges everywhere.

It will take centuries of day-in, day-out terror before Islam afflicts the West with even half the damage that these Christian ideas have already done. Come on, here: in America our Christian agitators are hoping to roll back society fifty years or more -- hell, they'd go pre-Enlightenment given half the chance -- and you're worried about some religion that has most of its adherents halfway across the world? Bah.
posted by vorfeed at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2006


Yes, all religious extremism is bad, but by any objective standard, extreme Islam has caused more pain, suffering, tears, and blood than "extreme" Christianity has over the last few decades.

No, that's subjective still. If you look at the mess that is Africa, and blame that on Christian colonists (not to mention blaming Christians for the third-world-crushing game of global capitalism), I'd have to agree with nofundy's assertion. Nobody wins in a blame game. ;)

On preview: vorfeed said it fairly well.

why is it that Muslims are causing terror in Iraq,Syria, Jordan, England, Spain, Italy, Yemin, Indonesia, Darfur etc etc--and most of them are NOT in Al Qaeda.

b/c most of "Al-Qaeda" got blown up in Afghanistan? i've never really believe in a discrete organization named Al-Qaeda. just my2c. it seems like a metonym for Islamism, which is just as dubious.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:20 PM on September 19, 2006


I mean that Islamic extremism/Islamic terrorism as we know it does not date back more than a few decades, but is being spun as this West vs. East thing, which is total bullshit if you look at history. So much of our own culture came to us directly from Islam and modern Muslims are not throwbacks, excepting a very few prominent political agitators. Fundamentalism as such does not exist outside of the context of a larger modern (and in many ways secular) society.

Christianity might be a uniting banner, but at the root of it, western imperialism is more about economics than religion.

Yes, and so is much of the anti-Western stuff coming from the Muslim world!

I'm getting lost with respect to the point I wanted to make, but I guess what I felt should be noted is that it seems like any sort of east vs. west argument invariably zooms in on "Muslim extremists" i.e. Wahabbists and Salafists to the exclusion of all other potential points of comparison.

No, Christian fundies are not right now killing as many people as Muslim fundies, but that's because the role fundies play in our respective societies are very different. (I am ignoring for the moment whatever role Christianity plays in legal violence like wars, because that's not the comparison being made.)

I mean, if one wants to examine the conflict between East and West, fine, but the actual comparison being made is predicated on a false correlation and false conclusion derived from it:

a) Christian fundies = Muslim fundies
b) less violence from Christian fundies
Ergo, Christians are better than Muslims.
Ergo Bomb Iraq :P
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:21 PM on September 19, 2006



It will take centuries of day-in, day-out terror before Islam afflicts the West with even half the damage that these Christian ideas have already done. Come on, here: in America our Christian agitators are hoping to roll back society fifty years or more -- hell, they'd go pre-Enlightenment given half the chance -- and you're worried about some religion that has most of its adherents halfway across the world? Bah.


Christian ideals have certainly done a lot of harm to our society, but they are no longer the driving force in our society. The last 400 years or so of western society has been characterized by a long, slow, reevaluation of Christian ideals through the lens of reason. The results haven't always been good, and there are lots of misguided people who would abandon reason (who have become much louder in the last few years), but your statement completely ignores 400 years of scientific discovery, secularization, separation (to a great extent) of church and state, and experimental democracy.

Some annoying taboos persist in our cultural DNA, but some of these taboos aren't 100% wrong either. You mention Christian agitators as wanting to go pre-enlightenment, but that's not the goal of any but a handful of extremists in this country. Foolishly, many Christians might support these extremists and their policies, not realizing the extreme ends that these policies will logically follow, but I'm pretty sure most American Christians just want less smut on TV and a nod to God from the government.
posted by SBMike at 12:34 PM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


SBMike: What about these kind of Christian ideas? How do these manifestations of Christian thought fit in with this statement:

The last 400 years or so of western society has been characterized by a long, slow, reevaluation of Christian ideals through the lens of reason.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:40 PM on September 19, 2006


Christian ideals have certainly done a lot of harm to our society, but they are no longer the driving force in our society...

What? Honestly, I don't think we live in the same country.

I'm pretty sure most American Christians just want less smut on TV and a nod to God from the government.

Yeah, what would be so bad about that? Sounds pretty reasonable... cough, sputter, slippery slope
posted by prostyle at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2006


It is intellectual laziness to lump all muslims together like this.

"Intellectual laziness" is one way of putting it. "Vicious bigotry" would (in my opinion) be more accurate.
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on September 19, 2006


Wow, this thread brought out the stupid in many of you (from now on, I shall grind my axe by attributing quotations that didn't come from you. And my middle name? "Classy.")

Granted I'm a huge Martin Amis fan, but seriously -- not many of you actually read what he had to say. That's OK I guess, because neither did Mishra, and he presumably got paid for what he wrote.

As for the Hitchens-Amis connection, they went to school together I believe. And Hitch is one of Amis' kid's godfather. And Amis directly addresses him and former Trotskyites at the end of Koba the Dread (which you shouldn't bother with).

So yeah, he and Hitch are obviously having more drinks together than usual. But as is typical with Amis, I read him more for his one-liners and quips than for his overall structures. He's one the few authors in English who are good enough on the sentence level for that kind of labor IMO.
posted by bardic at 1:11 PM on September 19, 2006


The results haven't always been good, and there are lots of misguided people who would abandon reason (who have become much louder in the last few years), but your statement completely ignores 400 years of scientific discovery, secularization, separation (to a great extent) of church and state, and experimental democracy.

None of which has done a single thing to actually address the root of the problem. I'll agree that we've come a long way, but that long way has been recovery from the damage that Christianity has done -- a recovery that Christians have fought every step of the way -- and we've still got huge problems that our much-vaunted "reason" is, oddly enough, not willing to address.

Sorry, but if our society were so damn reasonable, abortion and gay marriage would barely be on the political map, much less be the single issues that decide national elections. "Most American Christians" are not even within light-years of reason, not while more than 70% of Americans believe in miracles and angels. So long as our "secular", "scientific", "democratic" society insists on the eternal perpetuation of Christian ideas and ideals, even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, I don't see how our brands of secularism, science, and democracy are going to be able to fix the problems Christianity has caused.
posted by vorfeed at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2006


I think some people have misunderstood what I was trying to say. I wasn't trying to credit Christianity for the valuable rewards we have reaped from the Enlightenment. I wasn't praising or even strongly defending Christian ideas themselves. I was simply saying that the potential of Christian ideas to cause harm in our society is largely mitigated by secular values. Secular values have been under intense fire and have been eroded under W, but are still there. This assault on the very things that keep religious fundamentalism in check is as troublesome to me as I'm sure it is to all of you.

And, for the record, I 100% agree with this:

None of which has done a single thing to actually address the root of the problem. I'll agree that we've come a long way, but that long way has been recovery from the damage that Christianity has done -- a recovery that Christians have fought every step of the way -- and we've still got huge problems that our much-vaunted "reason" is, oddly enough, not willing to address.

posted by SBMike at 1:51 PM on September 19, 2006


Martin Amis is a brilliant rhetorician but a fuzzy thinker. He likes the language of moral scorn and his love of that language often seems to drive his arguments. And he'd probably admit this - he thinks you have to be slightly stupid to set up shop as a novelist (though that might just be his way of being charming to James Wood). His political positions are usually inconsistent and he usually moves on from them - during the 1970s he felt the yobs were winning (see Success) just as Thatcher came on the scene; in Money the yobs were ignorant yuppies rather than uppity union barons;
then there was the nuclear weapons period, the wanting to be Jewish period (his feelings about Israel seem to fluctuate wildly); and not so long ago he was comparing George Bush's Texas to Saudi Arabia. No point getting worked up if he decides he's against multiculturalism for the time being.
posted by Mocata at 2:00 PM on September 19, 2006


Martin Amis is a brilliant rhetorician but a fuzzy thinker.

I'd agree with that. I think his moral compass is pretty solid too, although he tends to explore the darkest people and urges among us. But yeah, he doesn't tend to think through a lot of what he sets up (or, what languagehat said).
posted by bardic at 3:58 PM on September 19, 2006


Whoah. I'm not a Christian, or any other religion, nor a supporter of the Bush administration or the juggernaut they let loose, but you are in hyperbolic territory.

First of all, Christian fundamentalism isn't the main affiliation of the present leadership--remember all of that talk about the over-representation of neocons (a.k.a. Jews)? Second, I know lots of people who believe in supernatural stuff--none of them are Christian and none of them support this war or this president. My sister is a Pagan and believes in "miracles." Jimmy Carter, after all, was our first openly "born again" president.

The "taboos" you rail against fell decades ago for most Americans. 75% of US married couples report that they cohabitated before marriage (USA Today, chew before swallowing). The proportion of first births conceived out of wedlock to women ages 15 to 29 has soared over the past six decades, from 18 percent between 1930-1934 to 53 percent between 1990-1994. In my state, homosexual partners get married every day. More women work outside the home than ever before in our history.

Is Bush reactionary? Yes. But he has delivered very little of value to the Christian right other than rhetoric. Meanwhile, while we were all watching him wave his right hand around about gays and abortion and stem cells, he has set back the environment, the economy, the schools, and a plethora of other important aspects of governance that have nothing at all to do with Christianity. And we fell for it.
posted by Cassford at 10:39 PM on September 19, 2006


So I did read this complex, fascinating and infuriating article all the way through (agreeing with the few who commented that the many hadn't read it).

After much thought I say that I astonishingly (to me) more or less agree with his evaluation of the state of affairs, though I dramatically disagree with his evaluation of who is responsible for this.

In New York, I have had experience with hundreds of Muslims to a greater or lesser extent -- and in fact I've only found them to be intelligent, civilized and peaceful people.

Yet I do believe that Amis fils is talking about something meaningful when he talks about Islamicism, and that that movement is in the big picture a great threat to me and mine as a secular liberal.

And I think I agree with him that the final battle is to be between those people who believe crazy stories and act irrationally because of them ("religionists") and the rest of us "rationalist" "secularists".

Now if he only understood that *his team* was the one that actually kicked the ball into their own goal, he'd be brilliant.

(I couldn't let this pass: this West vs. East thing, which is total bullshit if you look at history. Actually, if you look at history, you find the Crusades, over 250 years of the West attacking the East precisely over the question of Christianity vs Islam.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:11 PM on September 19, 2006


I do want to reinforce -- there is a lot wrong with the article -- I'm by no means endorsing it. I share Amis' alarm with the current state of things and agree with some of his insights but we come from completely different places.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:17 PM on September 19, 2006


lupus that is a great comment. I would add, however, that his characterizations of specific events, even those which reinforce the idea that radical religious terrorists are a real and serious threat, are really lacking. His passages on Israel, airline security, and Iraq were so far off the mark as to make his central point about a real danger useless.
posted by cell divide at 11:27 PM on September 19, 2006


I'm not a Christian, or any other religion, nor a supporter of the Bush administration or the juggernaut they let loose, but you are in hyperbolic territory.

Read this. There's literally a right-wing death cult here in America that has the administration's ear.

So I did read this complex, fascinating and infuriating article all the way through (agreeing with the few who commented that the many hadn't read it).

In fairness, I really shouldn't have commented on this post at all; I didn't make it more than halfway through the FA before the acid reflux kicked in.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:19 AM on September 20, 2006


I still wish the religious extremists of whatever stripe would kill each other off -- somewhere else.
posted by davy at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2006


The "taboos" you rail against fell decades ago for most Americans. 75% of US married couples report that they cohabitated before marriage (USA Today, chew before swallowing). The proportion of first births conceived out of wedlock to women ages 15 to 29 has soared over the past six decades, from 18 percent between 1930-1934 to 53 percent between 1990-1994. In my state, homosexual partners get married every day. More women work outside the home than ever before in our history.

What have those examples got to do with the specific taboos I mentioned? I won't even give you the "sex and reproduction" one, because those cohabiting and out-of-wedlock couples still aren't treated as equal to married couples, even if they stay together for decades. "Your state" is also not typical when it comes to gay marriage, to say the least. Your examples break the you-must-be-married taboo, but they don't even touch the overarching taboos around marriage itself.

Here's an example of the kind of taboo I'm talking about: your quotes frame human habitation as a choice between marriage and unmarried cohabitation. You didn't even consider polyandry, polygamy, extended family compounds, split families, or any of a number of possibilities, even though many of these were prevalent throughout history. This is what I mean when I say that Christianity has messed us up -- in our so-called "rational" society, there are many options that we don't normally consider due to these largely silent, but still harmful, taboos.

Meanwhile, while we were all watching him wave his right hand around about gays and abortion and stem cells, he has set back the environment, the economy, the schools, and a plethora of other important aspects of governance that have nothing at all to do with Christianity.

If you think that the Bush administration's actions on the environment ("be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it"), the economy (Calvinist ideas rather than social ones), and schools (textbook manipulation, homeschooling, and vouchers) have nothing to do with Christianity, you're not paying attention. These may not be overtly Christian actions, but they come directly from Christian ideals. Few people seriously question our Christian environmental paradigm, with Man on top, all other creatures below, and an absolutely insurmountable difference in consciousness between the two. Few Americans are willing to think seriously about an alternative to Calvinist economics, even though these economic policies hurt every American personally. And though we do question the administration's ideas about school, we don't seriously question the need for forced schooling itself -- take a look at the origins of the practice sometime, and see if they don't strike you as being overtly religious, aimed toward instilling a Christian sense of obedience and "moral values" in children.

I'm not talking about how one or two Christian leaders have screwed us, I'm talking about how Christian ideals have screwed us, particularly the ones that are so deeply embedded in our society and culture that we don't even stop to question them anymore.
posted by vorfeed at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2006


He may be "one of Britain's most celebrated and original writers", but his prose in this article is so turgid and convoluted that I could hardly get through most of the page. Get to the point already, I kept thinking, or say something more interesting along the way.

"Islamism, as a mover and shaper of world events, is pretty well all there is" - if this is the point, it's poorly supported with a pastiche of ruminations on various scenes. Then again, I didn't make it all the way through. I have to spend my limited time for world events getting facts, and will have to decide what they mean without mr. Amis's assistance.
posted by jam_pony at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2006


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