Person of the year

by Henry on December 22, 2004

Spotted in Toronto, where I spent part of last weekend – while George Bush is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Time Canada’s “Newsmaker of the Year” is Maher Arar. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

{ 33 comments }

1

Donald A. Coffin 12.22.04 at 11:56 pm

And Fafblog’s is a cabbage. Which sorta looks like Bush, now I come to think of it.

2

old maltese 12.22.04 at 11:59 pm

In the Time Canada story, Arar says, “The fact that I was released is a miracle if you consider that, in my opinion, no one wanted me to be released—the United States, Syria, Jordan, even some elements here in our own government.”

Who in the Canadian government would that be? “Some elements” is fairly specific, compared to the generic “United States, Syria, Jordan”.

3

Donald A. Coffin 12.23.04 at 12:07 am

And Fafblog’s is a cabbage. Which sorta looks like Bush, now I come to think of it.

4

Henry 12.23.04 at 12:11 am

Me, I’m waiting for Fafblog to do a number on Eugene Volokh’s ruminations on “copyright law and Elric of Melnibone.”

5

Barry 12.23.04 at 2:37 am

Old Maltese, the ‘anonymous official’ mentioned are rumored to be RCMP.

6

Ken Houghton 12.23.04 at 2:13 pm

There was–memory serving from a long-ago early report–very little explicit support from the Canadian government in the early going. Several ministers seemed to believe their job was to accept the charges as valid without an investigation.

7

Mark 12.23.04 at 7:09 pm

Of course, Time Canada’s choice was cynically and entirely political; they could just have easily and more credibly have chosen Zahra Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, as an agonist for international human rights.

Kazemi, you will recall, was the Iranian-Canadian journalist who had the temerity to cover the Iranian pro-democracy student protests in 2003. For this crime she was abducted by the Iranian government, raped and beaten to death.

In response – characteristically powerless and craven – the Canadian government did next to nothing. It’s ex-Prime Minister, in fact, recently travelled to Iran to sign oil deals with the same fascist theocrats who slaughtered Kazemi. Presumably our ex-Prime Minister washed his hands of her blood after shaking hands with his Iranian government minders.

Kazemi’s son has since sought justice for the torture and execution of his mother, to no avail. His fight for the return of her body and the punishment of her killers goes on.

Choosing Hachemi would have thrown a spotlight on [Iranian] theocratic fascism, and Canada’s reluctance to meaningfully condemn, and indeed support, such tyranny. Of course, this would have damaged Canada’s delusions about its own moral worth. This must not be allowed: the plebs must be kept sedated and ignorant. By choosing Hachemi, Time Canada would also implicitly lend credence to the theory that the greatest threat to Western liberal democratic values comes not from Western curtailment of its own freedoms, but from anti-democratic rogue states, Middle Eastern jihadism and theocratic fascism. Since the left refuses to engage with this intellectual model of the world, the choice of an allegedly oppressed Muslim Canadian was obvious.

8

Matt Weiner 12.23.04 at 7:45 pm

allegedly oppressed Muslim Canadian

He was sent off to another country to be tortured, and there is no evidence that he did anything wrong–not that this would be justified if there had been. By referring to this as “alleged” oppression you completely undercut your credibility. Pity, because it seems as though Hachemi might deserve some recognition.

9

oneangryslav 12.23.04 at 7:53 pm

Quoting Mark:
By choosing Hachemi, Time Canada would also implicitly lend credence to the theory that the greatest threat to Western liberal democratic values comes not from Western curtailment of its own freedoms, but from anti-democratic rogue states, Middle Eastern jihadism and theocratic fascism. Since the left refuses to engage with this intellectual model of the world, the choice of an allegedly oppressed Muslim Canadian was obvious.

Yes, Mark. Time Canada is well-known as teh bastion of the Canadian Left. If only there weren’t so many lefties in the corporate headquarters on Bay Street.

10

Matt Weiner 12.23.04 at 8:41 pm

And while we’re at it–there’s a good reason for the left to refuse to engage with the model of the world on which the greatest threat to Western liberal democratic values comes not from Western curtailment of its own freedoms, but from anti-democratic rogue states, Middle Eastern jihadism and theocratic fascism.

Namely, that model just seems wrong–if we consider liberal democratic values in our countries. Anti-democratic rogue states etc. just aren’t going to destroy liberal democratic values in our countries–we’re at no risk of being conquered. Western curtailment of our own freedoms, however, has already dealt a major blow to liberal democratic values in Western countries, given that “not having people tortured” is a core liberal democratic value.

Now, if we were to talk about the threats to liberal democratic values worldwide, there could be a conversation. I’d still say that Western countries have to maintain liberal values before we can hope that they spread, but our internal state may not be the biggest factor in the global spread of democracy (except as it leads to ill-advised foreign policy).

11

Mark 12.23.04 at 9:10 pm

Oneangryslav,

I suppose you and I are using a different definition of “left” here, or have different views of Time Canada’s left bias. You also seem to mistake corporate ownership with editorial bias.

Matt,

“Anti-democratic rogue states etc. just aren’t going to destroy liberal democratic values in our countries—we’re at no risk of being conquered.”

You have hit upon an key area of disagreement between the left and the rest of us. As regards Europe, demographics and the European tendency to appease illiberal anti-democrats, has led and will continue to lead to an erosion of the values of Western democracy there (the most recent being the censorship of a Sikh religious play in Britain; and new “anti-hate” (censorship) laws). In that sense, Europe might indeed find itself “conquered” by a disenfranchised, aggrieved Islamicized population in 20-40 years.

As regards the non-European West, I think we might reasonably be concerned about WMD terrorist acts. If you want to argue that there is no significant threat from WMD armed-jihadists, I’m willing to consider it, but I haven’t seen someone successfully argue this case. I’m not sure you want to suggest the an erosion of civil liberties is more pressing than potential jihadist attacks (ala Beslan or Hiroshima); perhaps you can clarify.

12

Luc 12.23.04 at 11:56 pm

In that sense, Europe might indeed find itself “conquered” by a disenfranchised, aggrieved Islamicized population in 20-40 years.

Indeed. Must remember to destroy the US. Anyone promoting the entry of Turkey to the EU is an enemy. And it is either them or us.

But I’m glad you’re comparing Hiroshima to a jihadist attack. That is the right Posnerian analysis of war.

13

Matt Weiner 12.24.04 at 1:52 am

Mark, I don’t think the point of my first comment came across: shove off. If you’re going to deny facts, or minimize the horror of things that happen to people of the wrong race and religion, then I’m not going to try to engage your argument.

14

Mark 12.24.04 at 2:10 am

Matt,

I thought I tried to emphasize a HR situation that was worse than Time Canada’s selection. Your suggestion that I think Hachemi or Arar belong to the wrong race or religion points to your unfounded and racist assumptions about my own. You should probably watch that.

When you decide to engage in intelligent discourse, perhaps we can try to discuss things again. If you want to keep hurling insults, you’re on your own.

Luc,

The relevant feared nuclear jihadist attack would be much like Hiroshima in that a nuclear weapon would presumably be detonated in an urban centre. Many security analysts take this seriously. What part of that comparison do you find unreasonable?

15

Peter T 12.24.04 at 3:56 am

…minimize the horror of things that happen to people of the wrong race and religion

Huh? Who’s minimizing Zahra Kazemi’s case?

16

Matt Weiner 12.24.04 at 5:08 am

Mark described Maher Arar as “an allegedly oppressed Muslim Canadian.”

I maintain that, as an innocent man who was sent to another country to be tortured, Arar is an unequivocally oppressed Muslim Canadian. And for Mark to refer to that “oppression” is sickening.

Perhaps Mark has evidence that Arar is not innocent or was not tortured–or not Muslim or Canadian. If so, he should reveal it. If not, he should explain why he felt necessary to refer to the oppression as “alleged.” Then–maybe–we can discuss things.

17

Matt Weiner 12.24.04 at 5:10 am

And for Mark to refer to that “oppression” as “alleged” is sickening.

18

Mark 12.24.04 at 5:34 am

Matt,

I’m not sure who you’re trying to fool by your mock outrage at the use of the term “allegedly”. I’ve outlined a case of murder and rape by the Iranian government against a Canadian citizen tyring to fight real (as opposed to linguistic) oppression. Your little indignant acting job looks a bit silly beside people with actual problems. Still, you wouldn’t be the first leftist to demonstrate misplaced moral outrage.

And I see you’ve wisely avoided repeating your racist assumptions earlier. You might think about retracting that bit.

19

Matt Weiner 12.24.04 at 6:18 am

For the last time Mark, get stuffed. I’m not saying you oppressed Maher Arar. I’m saying that the Canadian, American, and Syrian governments oppressed him by having him tortured. That’s not “linguistic” oppression; that’s real oppression. You don’t consider torture worthy of the name “oppression”; that’s all I need to know about you, regardless of your race or religion. (And, as you would notice if you read my first post, I did say that Hachemi deserved recognition.)

20

Cryptic Ned 12.24.04 at 6:34 am

What percentage of Canadians know who Maher Arar is?

For a person whose case is important to our government as well, I would guess that maybe 1 in every 10,000 Americans do.

21

Mark 12.24.04 at 6:45 am

Matt,

Your posts are barely coherent. You deploy racist assumptions, pretend to be sickened by the use of the term “allegedly”, and direct your fake moral outrage at your opponents rather than a theocratic, fascist government.

In what profession do you think “get stuffed” counts as brilliant counter-argument? Do you think academics at this blog would give passing grades to their freshman students if “get stuffed” appeared as a rebuttal in a term paper? If not, why do you expect your audience to be persuaded by your use of it?

22

Mark2 12.24.04 at 9:22 am

I’d like to note that the Matt/Mark exchange signifies everything that is wrong with modern political debate in general and blog commenting specifically. As I have no desire to be drawn in to this, I will comment only once. If anyone wishes to misrepresent my intended argument as part of their rebuttal, I hope it will likely be obvious to others that they are doing so. That said, here’s my take:

Mark’s initial post was inflammatory. I don’t know what makes the selection cynical and political, or why the selection of Bush could not be described as such for presumably similar reasons, but I do think the selection is interesting as a means to raise critical questions about Canada’s place in the “WoT.”

Hachemi’s case is interesting, but much of the backstory took place in 2003. While his selection might have raised the focus on Iranian theocracy, it also seems to violate was is probably the foremost criteria by TIME: timeliness. That said, I think Kazemi herself might have deserved the nomination in 2003.

The phrase “allegedly oppressed” does seem to understate the events of Arar’s case. If there is a reason for the use of a qualifier, I am unaware of it.

What makes this thread so ridiculous is the rapidity by which is became a snide contest of rhetorical gamesmanship instead of a reasoned argument. I expect and hope that academicians, and this academic blog, encourage thoughtful and sincere discourse. This isn’t to say that the beliefs that underlie this exchange are insincere, just that the style of argument in which they are manifested lacks any persuasive potential to anyone interested in an open exchange of ideas. That’s all.

23

Mark 12.24.04 at 1:42 pm

mark2,

You make some interesting points, but ultimately they are tangential.

Arar was arrested in Sept. 2002, freed in November of 2003. His legal case continues. Kazemi was raped and murdered in 2003; her son’s fight intensified throughout 2004 and continues. Timeliness doesn’t seem to be the relevant difference between these two cases. So what is the difference?

You partly hint at an answer, which is consistent with my initial point: the selection is made to “raise critical questions about Canada’s role in the WoT”. Of course, by raising some questions, Time Canada wants to avoid raising others. Canadians are meant to ask: “Why do those beastly Americans force us poor Canadians to treat our own citizens so badly?”

The question fits nicely with many Canadians’ perception of themselves: morally virtuous Canadians compelled to do wrong acts by stronger but ultimately less virtuous Americans. This childish passive-aggressive victim culture forms a large part of our political beliefs. I could go into the vicious anti-American comments by our MSM and ruling politicians, but you can just as easily google the stuff for yourself. Or come up here and live it for a few years.

If Time had chose Hachemi, the questions readers might have asked would be different, perhaps: “Why does Canada not take serious steps to secure justice for a murder and rape of its own citizens by a fascist theocracy? Why is the (leftist) Canadian government not more critical of said fascist theocracy? What is the moral and practical orientation of our foreign policy in both word and deed? How does our inability and unwillingness to seriously confront a Middle Eastern dictatorship cohere with our view of our role in the WoT?”

These questions are uncomfortable for many Canadians fed a steady diet of anti-Americanism. They run counter to the victim culture I mentioned, above. The questions are difficult to ask, and hint at answers that require revision of standard leftist models. All of this would provoke independant and subversive thought in Time Canada’s readers, and this cannot be tolerated by Canadian leftist elites. Hence, the selection of Time Canada was both cynical and political.

24

Matt Weiner 12.24.04 at 1:44 pm

Mark2–
I don’t mean to claim you as agreeing with me, but I agree with you. I should not have let myself get drawn into that one-upping contest, and I apologize for it. For the record, I think outrage at the Iranian government is perfectly appropriate over the Kazemi case, but that need not prevent us from being outraged over the Maher Arar case.

25

Peter T 12.24.04 at 3:05 pm

A “leftist” Canadian myself, I am (reluctantly) drawn to side with Mark in this spat. There are several reasons why the Zahra Kazemi case merits greater outrage than that of Maher Arar, not least that Arar is around to tell his tale, and in seemingly decent health. There are some facts that are still unclear in either case (the Arar affair is mid-inquiry and there hasn’t been any evidence from Syria) but Kazemi’s rape and murder are incontrovertible.

26

Mark the Original 12.24.04 at 4:30 pm

I think both cases are of crucial importance, and both, unfortunately, do not seem to have prompted the widespread outrage among (WASP) Canadians as they should have.

That Hatchemi’s murder is already being forgotten is unconscionable. The ex-PM who signed an oil-deal with the theocrat murderers should be shamed in the press, and the deal broken off.

Re: Arar, Mark’s characterization of Arar as an “allegedly oppressed Muslim” is just stupid. There is nothing “alleged” about it. The man, a CANADIAN, was “deported” to Syria, kept there against his will for more than a year in secret, with no communication with the outside world, no charge, no trial, zippo. He claims to have been tortured while imprisoned. Whether or not he was – and I see no reason why he couldn’t have been tortured (it’d fall well in line with everything else he went through) – there is no question that he was oppressed.

Idiots swilling their lattes in downtown Toronto proclaiming that what he went through was “alleged oppression” disgust me no end.

27

dave heasman 12.24.04 at 5:20 pm

” the Canadian government did next to nothing. It’s ex-Prime Minister, in fact, recently travelled to Iran to sign oil deals with the same fascist theocrats who slaughtered Kazemi. Presumably our ex-Prime Minister washed his hands of her blood after shaking hands with his Iranian government minders.”

“The ex-PM who signed an oil-deal with the theocrat murderers should be shamed in the press, and the deal broken off. “

Is there some reason you’re not naming him/her? Should we all know all the living Canadian Ex-PMs and every last filthy detail of their corrupt dealings?

28

trish 12.24.04 at 5:31 pm

“mark the original” has made the crucial point for me, Arar was deported to Syria from the United States, but is a Canadian citizen.

I am not trying to detract anything from Kazemi. Zahra Kazemi took great risks in order to try to achieve something very valuable, and we should be horrified and politically active about her fate. But the Canadian government did not initiate this tragedy.

In contrast, Arar was travelling home, and he should not have been at any more risk that I am when I fly home to Vancouver from overseas and have a stopover in the USA. The fact that he was not as safe as I would be exposes a horrible failure of both the Canadian and American governments to respect the rights of Canadian citizens. This should never have happened at all, and the fault lies in my country, and in the country next to me, not somewhere overseas. What happened to Arar in Syria is hard to control, what happened to him on this continent that resulted in him being sent there is absolutely in our control and completely unacceptable. That’s what makes it so scary to me, that what’s safe for one Canadian isn’t safe for another.

29

Mark 12.24.04 at 7:13 pm

Mark the original,

If you want to retract your ad hominem attacks, then we might discuss things. Until then, I’ll leave you to your childish rants.

trish,

Arar was left to the tender mercies of Syria, but eventually escaped, is now free and in apparently good health. Kazemi, was abducted, raped and murdered by theocratic fascists, while fighting for noble cause. Both were Canadian citizens travelling abroad and expected to receive the protection of the Canadian government. Kazemi’s case, however, is a more egregious example of the horrors of the dictatorships that blight the middle east, and an example of the paralysis or indifference of (leftists) Western governments to same. If the feckless Canadian political response to foreign malfeasance is to blame for Arar’s treatment, it is doubly to blame in Kazemi’s case.

Time Canada’s preference for the Arar case over the Kazemi case can only be explained by an understanding of the base political point they wished to make, as I mentioned, above.

30

tymon 12.24.04 at 9:50 pm

It’s good to see how much this debate has elavated itself from the initial nastiness. I kid.

Seriously though, what’s the point of this argument? Is anyone having their mind changed?

Perhaps we should all have a thought experiment: can my exact argument and rhetoric (notice how these are separate) be used if I flip the position I initially argued for. Why isn’t someone raving about how Bush is a cynical and politically slanted pick and it shows how “the right” has no concern for individual liberties (re the Arar departation) and allows the callous Americans to maintain their perception of moral superior above all others.

BTW, Mark’s criticism of ad hominem attacks followed by calling someone’s post a ‘childish rant’ almost made me piss myself. Almost.

31

pedro 12.24.04 at 10:30 pm

So… Mark… why ‘alleged’? Care to explain?

32

Factory 12.25.04 at 12:26 am

The reason why the Arar case is significant, whereas Hatchemi is less significant does not revolve around the amount of harm that was done to the two parties. It’s an issue of who was the main instigators of the abuse, it is not an issue that Iran was doing such things, but it is an issue that the US and Canada are.
As for the signing of oil deals, this is a non-issue, if you want to get oil you have to get it via a ‘bad’ country, there just isn’t enough oil from ‘good’ countries. And Iran hardly stands out from the pack when it comes to dodgey oil producing countries.

33

abb1 12.26.04 at 10:59 pm

Both were Canadian citizens travelling abroad and expected to receive the protection of the Canadian government.

Kazemi was arrested taking photographs outside a prison in Tehran during protests. This is not ‘travelling’, she was involved into anti-government activity in a foriegn country. This is completely different from the Arar’s story.

If you want to find an analogy to the Kazemi’s story, read something about 2003 Miami FTAA protests, for example; a number of journalists were arrested and assaulted there too. Fortunately no one ended up dead, as far as I know. In Iraq however, according to Reporters Without Borders, the US army was also very aggressive towards journalists, five of whom were killed by US soldiers during and after the fighting. But US officials made no proper investigation of these deaths. Not that the Iranian government is any better, of course.

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