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TOTD 03 Oct 2001

We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly.

-Bill Maher, Host of "Politically Incorrect"
There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that [of Bill Maher]; it never is.

-Ari Fleischer, White House Spokesman
The plight of Bill Maher reminds me of something Ezra Pound wrote about London in 1919: "A single intelligent remark can destroy a man's entire career."

-Robert Anton Wilson
Have we all gone mad?

What becomes of a country when opinions considered perfectly legitimate -- and indeed uttered by hundreds of academics, journalists and members of Congress -- suddenly become a crime worthy of the media death penalty?

-Arianna Huffington
There never is a time for remarks like that. But this is America, right? Where our right to be offensive is constitutionally protected. Here there always is a time for such remarks! Actually except for 3 times -- in 1798 we had the Alien and Sedition Act; in 1918 the U.S. Sedition Act; in 1940 the Alien Registration Act -- all 3 later repealed -- made it a crime to mouth off at our government. And it made our government no longer quite American.

-Brooke Gladstone


I took the RAW quote from his essay, "WAR AGAINST SOME TERRORISTS: 7 Ways of Looking at a Monkey-House." You can find that essay here:

You can find Arianna Huffington's column, "Land of the Free" from which I took the quote here:

Brooke Gladstone is co-host of NPR's "On the Media," and I took her comment from a transcript of last week's show:

You can lend your support to Bill Maher by signing an on-line petition to ABC and its sponsors.

I signed the petition and added my own comments:

"Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Harry Browne, made the exact same (obvious) point about the stupidity of calling people who are willing to die for their beliefs "cowards." He received criticism for his statement, but nothing like the criticism Bill Maher has received. The Bush administration ignored Browne's statement for fear of giving the Libertarians any publicity, but George W. Bush singled out a tv comedian for public condemnation for making the exact same point. I guess it stands to reason. Most Republican voters have never heard of the Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party "leadership" is desperate to keep it that way. Much safer to beat up on an entertainer like Bill Maher. ABC's complicity with this brand of political cowardice disgusts (but does not surprise) me."



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2001 12:03 pm (UTC)
Well, free speech aside, Bill Maher is stupid.

Suicide is inevitably a coward's act, no matter what the Japanese, the radical Muslims, or the Klingons might tell you.

Suicide is an extreme act of negative karma. It is absolutely one of the worst things you can do to your soul. Besides which, it prevents you from doing anything positive with the precious life you have been afforded. It is wasteful and stupid. In the case of people who take out others while they commit suicide, it is also profane.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 12:26 pm (UTC)
I think you have an interesting perceptual filter
Do you take Bill Maher to be praising suicide attacks?

If so, why do you think that?

I took Maher's remarks to be a condemnation of the hypocrisy and cowardice of American Presidents who order the deaths of civilians in other countries without ever leaving their bubbles of luxury and security.

To your list of suicidal folks, you can add the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnamn war. Prior to your comments, I never would have placed them in the same catagory with Klingons.

Take care.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 12:31 pm (UTC)
Re: I think you have an interesting perceptual filter
There's something rankly idiotic about setting yourself on fire. There are certainly better ways to express your displeasure, aren't there? Perhaps not as dramatic, but 'the final solution' isn't much of a solution, is it?

No, Maher was just not thinking. If he had been he might have said the first part and left off the second. I agree that lobbing bombs at someone from the safety of a bunker is pretty cowardly. But I do not agree that suicide is not cowardly.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 3rd, 2001 12:46 pm (UTC)
Re: I think you have an interesting perceptual filter
No... I don't think Bill meant that at all. I think, as I said, that Bill was not thinking when he spoke, which is a human tendency.

I would truly find him difficult to deal with if I thought he was praising suicide, or suicide attacks. As it is, I hope he keeps his show, and weathers the negative publicity, but I also hope that he understands why some of his advertisers pull out. He can say what he wants, but it's not their job to pay him to do it if they or their customers find it offensive. There's always the street corner for free speech.

One of the most offensive things about Vietnam was the Vietcong having their children put grenades in soldiers' pockets, or sending them into foxholes strapped with explosives. Radicals are fanatics; they are not rational. There is nothing noble about their slavish and cultish following of a belief to the grave. There is, in fact, something nasty and sick about it.

I refer you to Jim Jones, or Heaven's Gate, for further consideration of dying for your beliefs and taking others (especially innocent children) along for the final ride.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 12:45 pm (UTC)
Re: I think you have an interesting perceptual filter
I beg to differ about the "not thinking" part. Of course he was thinking. Anyone who feels strongly enough about something to put out a public statement has obviously given it some thought. If he (or any other opining folk) hadn't been thinking, what would come out would be free association stuff about pogo sticks and popcorn.

Oct. 4th, 2001 10:43 am (UTC)
Re: I think you have an interesting perceptual filter
now that's funny!
Jim K.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 05:28 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Maher is stupid more times than when he has something intelligent to say. However, I cant help but feel sorry for Maher in this instance simply because ...1.We still have free speech, right? 2. do you believe its still suicide when a couple of men take a few thousand with them? 3.I dont believe suicide is cowardly. Threats of suicide or an unaccomplished suicide attempt is probably deserving of the term, cowardly. Thats all.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 05:58 pm (UTC)
pretty graphic!
Hey Venus, gorgeous lady!

Wow, 'tis the first time I have interacted with LJ since signing off, and I am *most* pleased to have you talking here too. I have always been provoked (to thought, to new ways of looking at things) by your words.

Miss you. Hope you and CRV are well. Kevin and I are both thinking about trips back east, albeit separately and without la babe (who is doing *marvelously*, and has two new teeth!). I'll let you know if plans firm up; I would love to catch up with you again. And, what was the name of the spicy pickled mango condiment? WANT MORE!!!

Warmest to you,


(And I realize, this has nothing to do with the hot topic at hand...but such is life.)
Oct. 3rd, 2001 07:55 pm (UTC)
Re: pretty graphic!
we are well. good to see you back here in LJ land. I began hitting the keys here, but decided to send a longer mail instead.

Go!! Now!! You've got mail!!
Oct. 3rd, 2001 08:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is
The "final solution" is still a cowardly act. It presupposes that there are no other viable or tenable options available for living. The only people who I would even consider having a right to consider suicide would be people who are actively dying and in severe pain (that is, physical pain, not psychological angst).

Sticking your head in an oven or blowing your brains out or taking a bottle of pills with a liquor chaser is not exactly the most sensible way to deal with your problems, whatever they are. There are many stories of people who have overcome adversity to achieve great things, a possibility that is nullified by a senseless waste of life, especially at your own hand.

I'd suggest that you speak with some people who have experienced NDE (near death experience) and see what they have to say about the value of life and living it to the fullest. Pain is inevitable in life... suffering is optional.

Yes, if you use yourself as a weapon to kill others it is still suicide. Killing yourself is always suicide, there are no dancing around the semantics of that. You are dead, you did it, you committed suicide. And there are good reasons why attempting it is an illegal action that requires intervention and therapy.

We have to be careful with our "right" to free speech... it's not as airtight as we might believe. There have been many times in this country's history when we have been censored, censured, and harrassed for speaking our beliefs. I would prefer that we spent at least twice as much time thinking and listening as speaking, since we have two ears and one mouth, and our brain is supposedly bigger than our tongue.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 12:48 pm (UTC)
The use of "cowardly" in the context of people who are willing to die for their beliefs -- whether we agree with those beliefs or not -- is hardly cowardly. If this were the case, not only the Buddhist monks you mention would have had to be cowards, but so would every soldier whose ever stood on every battlefield facing certain death. So would the Israelis who blew up British military installations and troops in Palestine in the 1940's.

Its a bit of semantic propaganda. You can call these lunatics (and I use that term because I think anyone willing to kill innocent people to further their own way of life is insane) many things -- militants, inhuman, hateful, misguided -- but the word "cowardly" doesn't apply here.

I doubt I would ever have the balls to do what they did for what I believe in. I disagree entirely with their values, but I can't call them cowards.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 01:11 pm (UTC)
Cowardly Acts
Hmm. Well, I don't find stabbing someone in the back a valid proof that someone is not a coward.

If they wanted to die for their beliefs, then why not start a *real* war, face to face, etc. A soldier dies in battle, face to face with his enemy, and that is brave.

A coward straps explosives to his chest and terrorizes innocent civilians, or blows up his car in front of public buildings, or uses his children to kill people.

Just because you care so little for your own life that you find yourself expendible for a cause does not make you brave. We have a perceptual difference here regarding this, we don't understand that these people think they are going straight to heaven for killing themselves. That is their belief. If so, there has been no sacrifice, has there? They think their bread is buttered on both sides.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 01:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Cowardly Acts
No, but flying in their face isn't. We weren't stabbed in the back. What these people did took balls. Whatever their motivation, it certainly wasn't cowardice. These aren't people who killed themselves because they couldn't face the pain of life; they killed themselves because they had absolute faith in something bigger than themselves. I don't know that they decided that they were expendable as much as I'm certain they died for a belief. That's not to say I agree with that belief, but someone believing something other than what I do isn't itself grounds for labeling them cowards.

If these people were cowards, they would have handed over Bin Laden by now. Not being afraid to die isn't cowardice.

I do understand they think they're going to heaven for their acts. So did every Christian martyr and, I would hazard a guess, many of those who volunteered for suicide missions during the world wars, Vietnam and Korea. They don't fight us face-to-face, as a Taliban prisoner currently held in a Northern Alliance prison said in an interview, because they know they can't win that kind of war. In his words "The US is very big and we are very small. There wouldn't be any hope of winning."

Guerilla tactics have been used in war before, and standing up to someone you perceive as an enemy when you know the odds are heavily stacked against you, again, isn't cowardice. Its a David-and-Goliath scenario. Cowards don't die for god and country; they tend to hide.

These are people who went to certain death for what they believed. None of them expected to survive. People risk their lives in every religion precisely when they think such a risk has become worthwhile, and that by rendering service to their god they'll be rewarded in the afterlife. Every religion has its martyrs -- some are misguided. None of them are cowards.

The monks in Vietnam, for example, follow a religion that teaches strict non-violence against others. They believed that they're being in the world was, in effect, support for those acts. They thought that, with their deaths, perhaps they could stop the violence and save thousands of lives. They put the well-being of others ahead of their own, aided by the belief that they would either find liberation (since Buddhists don't believe in any heaven worth staying in) or be reincarnated to continue on their path toward it.

I don't see any of this as cowardice. In their own minds, all of these "martyrs" were willing to die for what they believed and placed the lives of others above their own. Again: misguided? In the terrorists' case, I believe so. Cowardly? Less so than myself or almost anyone I know.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 03:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Cowardly Acts
I'm not even going to try to rationalize with you.

All I can say is, read what you said in ten years, or when somebody you know died because of a terrorist act. Bravery? Come on.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Cowardly Acts
You missed it, I'll say it again...

I'm not agreeing with what they did. I'm saying what they did wasn't cowardly. Who they kiled was wrong, but that doesn't change the fact that riding a plane into the side of a building takes tremendous fortitude. Saying "I don't like it, so its cowardly" is irrational. It in no way justifies what they did.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 07:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Cowardly Acts
Bravery is engaging someone who you disagree with and confronting them eye to eye. Sneaking around and attacking someone who is not even involved, or has no idea you are coming, is cowardly.

It's like sticking out your foot and tripping someone walking by. Sucker punching someone. Drive by shooting.

What you can't seem to grasp is that these people spend a great deal of time psyching themselves up, entering a state of self hypnosis that is focused to allowing them to do what they do, the jihad, without fear. Yes, all soldiers are trained to do that... but it's not bravery, it's brainwashing.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Cowardly Acts
Bravery is engaging someone who you disagree with and confronting them eye to eye

By this definition, lobbing Cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away is, indeed, cowardly.
Oct. 3rd, 2001 08:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Cowardly Acts
Never disagreed with that, did I? ;-)
Oct. 3rd, 2001 03:19 pm (UTC)
Who's the Boss?
um.... I've never heard that those two men make up the entire movement. Bin Laden and his cohorts, telling these people to die for their cause, and killing untold numbers of innocents while creeping around incognito and denying any involvement IS a cowardly act. The men who flew the planes are about as significant as the planes themselves in my book. They are NOT the motive. They were simply tools.
Americans in general aren't as prepared for the grave as some other cultures. The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, for instance, was written to prepare one for a smooth and fearless transition into the beyond. These highjackers have been over and over this for so many years that I imagine they were calmer than any of "us" can fathom but I don't know if I can call that bravery. It is brave to stand fast in the face of fear... but what if your cult-leader has spent the last 10 years erasing that fear? You're just another drone...

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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