Its a Small World After All
October 16, 2003 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's recent speech to the OIC has drawn criticism from around the world for its antisemitic tone. The same kind of assertion has been doing the rounds for centuries. The question is: where do beliefs like this come from?
Does this kind of conspiracy theory fall neatly out of small-world network theory (coupled with private obsessions and prejudices) or is Kevin Bacon really the Centre of the Hollywood Universe?
Is this an existing kind of inductive fallacy or do we need a new name for this phenomenon?
posted by snarfodox (27 comments total)
I wouldn't place too much faith in what Mahathir Mohamad has to say; he's one of the small handful of people who could most likely beat George in a "world leader most disconnected from reality" competition. I can't think of anything he's said, reaching the global media, that hasn't been completely absurd.
posted by Jimbob at 9:45 PM on October 16, 2003

antiromantic tone?:
The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy
Methinks someone is tone deaf. There's no subtle tone there. If that's not a blatently antisemetic statement, well, then someone has to provide me a definition of antisemetism where that statement's OK.
posted by dchase at 9:59 PM on October 16, 2003

damn spellcheck - that's "antisemetic", not "antiromantic".
posted by dchase at 10:00 PM on October 16, 2003

A word of clarification :

While I believe that the gross majority of folks who hold such beliefs are indeed antisemites... the statement itself is not antisemetic, any more than a statement that Mormons rule the world by proxy (laughs at inside joke) would be anti-Mormon.
posted by silusGROK at 10:09 PM on October 16, 2003

Actually I am glad that imbecile said this in front of the entire world media. I hope he continues to do so as well - it will keep reminding us what Islamist Fascism is really about, and discredit their apologists.
posted by reality at 10:27 PM on October 16, 2003

Yeah, I caught this on the idiot box last night and Mahathir's statement puzzled me greatly. What point was he trying to make when he said that 6 out of 12 million Jewish people were killed but now they rule the world? That more should have been killed? That the the Jewish people, mindful of what happened then, are now intent on controlling the world so it never happens again? I'd like to understand even though I expect it's going to be a stupid point he's trying to make.

But sometimes he does make some valid comments. As part of his opening address to the 13th NAM Summit (one of the largest gatherings of world leaders outside the UN) at the beginning of this year, he said the following, which I found quite reasonable:

It is not religious differences, which angered the attackers of the World Trade Centre.

It is simply sympathy and anger over the expropriation of Palestinian land, over the injustice and the oppression of the Palestinians, and Muslims everywhere. If the innocent people who died in the attack on Afghanistan, and those who have been dying from lack of food and medical care in Iraq, are considered collaterals, are not the 3,000 who died in New York and the 200 in Bali also just collaterals whose deaths are necessary for the operations to succeed?

Actually, the life of any human being is sacred, no matter if the person is a friend or an enemy. That is why war is not a solution. A contest based on who can kill more people in order to establish who is the victor and who the loser, worst still in order to determine who is right and who is wrong is primitive and does not speak well of the so-called high level of civilisation we have achieved
posted by Onanist at 10:35 PM on October 16, 2003

I think Mahathir and Berlusconi should settle this clash of civilizations business once and for all with a debate. Whoever makes the most absurd statement wins. If things get out of hand, we'll send in the sheriff.
posted by homunculus at 10:57 PM on October 16, 2003

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar offered an Australian reporter congratulations: "I am sure you are very happy to be promoted" (from deputy sheriff). Always gives me a laugh to see how much Mahathir and his counterparts enjoy hanging shit on Australia. Strange dynamic at work in this region....
posted by Onanist at 11:31 PM on October 16, 2003

The same Syed Hamid said about the reaction to Mahathir's antisemetic statements, "I'm sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing." Yeah, right.
posted by homunculus at 11:45 PM on October 16, 2003

The same Syed Hamid said about the reaction to Mahathir's antisemetic statements, "I'm sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing." Yeah, right.

That does seem to be the emerging consensus:
"I don't think they (the remarks) are anti-Semitic at all. I think he was stating the facts," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher added: "There are people wanting to create trouble, invent problems that do not exist... I would advise them to read the whole speech, which was a speech addressed to Muslims asking them to work hard and affirm their personality."

And Fahmi Huwaidi, an Egyptian political analyst, told Aljazeera: “Nowadays, any criticism against the Jews and the Jewish policy is considered anti-Semitic.
posted by boaz at 2:45 AM on October 17, 2003

For all the haters in the world there must be a "they" who are responsible for all the problems of the world.

Which group is your "they"?

If you can't name it then perhaps you are not a hater.

Why must religious "leaders" employ the tools of hate?
posted by nofundy at 4:51 AM on October 17, 2003

what nofundy said.

(and knowing the actions taken in the past as a result of these beliefs makes his statement all the worse--this is the leader of a country, with the power to put his beliefs into action--and knowing how common this belief is in some parts of the world makes me shiver)
posted by amberglow at 5:30 AM on October 17, 2003

That mornon says many dumb things, as this BBC posting says in summing up his remarks at
posted by Postroad at 6:59 AM on October 17, 2003

Re: Easterbrook - Lotsa discussion on Romenesko's Letters page from journalists debating the propriety of this, and attempting to separate what may be a valid point from an offensively-worded presentation.
posted by soyjoy at 7:33 AM on October 17, 2003

soyjoy: I can't imagine what could be valid about even mentioning Weinstein's religion, let alone vaguely threatening that behaving like this could bring on another Holocaust ("recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice"), but thanks for sending me to the Romanesko page—I read about the NY Post editorial bemoaning the Red Sox win and ran right down and bought the paper: 25 cents for a piece of Dewey-Beats-Truman history! (Needless to say, they've taken it off their online editorial page.)
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on October 17, 2003

Which group is your "they"?

Dumbasses. They're everywhere! They run EVERYTHING!
posted by majcher at 8:46 AM on October 17, 2003

languagehat, I was trying to characterize the discussion by summarizing letter-writers' arguments. I have no dog in that fight, haven't read either the column or the apology. But glad there was a happy ending.
posted by soyjoy at 9:31 AM on October 17, 2003

odd. Romenesko has now removed that letter from the Letters page (it was there, though, I saw it too). I've never seen him do that. Wonder why. I assume it was your fault somehow, languagehat.
posted by soyjoy at 11:51 AM on October 17, 2003

*twirls mustache, laughs evil laugh*
posted by languagehat at 1:52 PM on October 17, 2003

For all the haters in the world there must be a "they" who are responsible for all the problems of the world.

Which group is your "they"?

I know! I know! The group of people who make "they's".

If you can't name it then perhaps you are not a hater.

Why must religious "leaders" employ the tools of hate?

This is dangerously close to an irony....
posted by weston at 5:37 PM on October 17, 2003

I think Mahathir has a valid point, and was trying to galvanise Muslims into action by stating some facts about the Muslim world's backwardness. Albeit his drawing comparision to the Jewish world was clumsy, and we have had a field day indulging in our favourite activity of mocking him.
posted by lunadust at 7:37 PM on October 17, 2003

Which group is your "they"?

The important thing in choosing a scapegoat is following the trend. In California, for example, American Indians are back in vogue.
posted by homunculus at 12:51 PM on October 18, 2003

Damn cowboys!
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:03 PM on October 18, 2003

>>The question is: where do beliefs like this come from?

> Your question is like the "why do they hate us" columns written after 9.11. Really now, lets not act too naive.

This post was actually intended as a question about where conspiracy theories come from (in the sense of how the argument is constructed), but it was instructive to let the thread go where it wanted to go.

I think the comments provided to this thread highlight one of the problems with trying to discount the emotion behind an argument when considering the merits of that argument. Our outrage tends to suppress the rational response so that we attack the biases and the prejudices within that argument rather than the validity of the form of the argument itself.
posted by snarfodox at 6:19 PM on October 18, 2003

Mahathir slams 'sheriff Howard'
posted by homunculus at 12:23 PM on October 19, 2003

Mahathir full speech here for you to review.
posted by elpapacito at 3:42 PM on October 20, 2003

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