We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Weapons come in many forms

Some weapons are marvels of technology, such as laser guided bombs or an F-22 fighter. Other weapons however use much older technology, based on something invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1447. Such a weapon can do more damage to the cause of puritanical Islam than a thousand well aimed bombs.

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35 comments to Weapons come in many forms

  • Bombadil

    Although Indonesia’s Muslim majority is largely moderate, there is a trend towards the imposition of sharia law.

    (emphasis mine).

    The mind, it boggles.

  • ResidentAlien

    I’ve said it before but I don’t mind repeating myself…..

    We should get the Koran translated into as many of the local languages of the Muslim world as possible and distribute copies. I really like the idea of some wise-ass kid in Indonesia arguing with a self appointed moral guardian that there is nothing in the Koran which says he can’t buy a copy of Playboy. At the moment that kid has to take the word of the local movement for the “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” because the Koran is only available there in classical Arabic which nobody other than the Imams really understand.

  • guy herbert

    … the Koran is only available there in classical Arabic which nobody other than the Imams really understand.

    Suggest it’s hard to know how many imams really understand the language of the Koran either, considering that a lot of them come up through local madrassas. Textual criticism is not approved of in the the more powerful contemporary schools, but the institutional structure in the less developed parts of the world is just reproduction of whatever the local tradition happens to be (if you are lucky), or either making it up as you go along, or a Saudi-funded import (if you’re not), so the possibility of textual criticism really doesn’t come up.

    In pre-Reformation Europe would we have expected local priests and their flocks to understand the Bible? There’d have been sophisticated congregations and a scattering of highly-educated theologians, but mostly not. Compared with that situation, contemporary Islam benefits from modern communications, in that new ideas can spread fast. But it suffers by them too, as there’s no single church and no filter of authority to suppress dim populist enthusiasms.

  • michael farris

    The meta-message that many will receive from Playboy is roughly:

    “Democracy and capitalism means women take off their clothes to pose for other men who aren’t their husbands.”

    This is not necessarily a message that will be welcomed.

  • Mark Rosenkranz

    The book “White Male Privilege” might help fight against racism. Amazon.co.uk has a synopsis.

  • Mark Rosenkranz

    The book “White Male Privilege” might help fight against racism which would mean there would be less violence which would mean we would need less guns. Amazon.co.uk has a synopsis.

  • If the press is a weapon, selling Playboy is the equivalent of firing blanks. What counts is not that literature rocks the boat, but that it rocks the boat in the right direction – that the literature in question speads ideas that improve society. Indonesia needs books on rule of law, individual liberty, and how to tolerate people without necessarily liking them.

  • Praxis

    This is not necessarily a message that will be welcomed

    Nonsence. Boys will be boys everywhere.

  • Pavel

    Reading Koran is an efficient anti-islamic propaganda. An unbiased reader will find out that:

    1. the text is mostly boring to the point of impenetrability;
    2. there are many contradictory and illogical statements;
    3. hatred and calls to violence – lots of them.

    In short, Koran looks like a pseudoreligious babble written by a desert bandit. Oops – dictated, not written. Mohammed was illiterate.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    Indonesia needs books on rule of law, individual liberty, and how to tolerate people without necessarily liking them.

    Let ’em read whatever they like – if they want to buy Bastiat’s The Law, that’s cool, if they want to buy Hustler or The Koran or The Bible, so be it. The state shouldn’t be doing anything to promote any ideology or publication anywhere, dometically or internationally. If the equivalent of the Gideon Society wants to pay (out of private funds) for distribution of The Libertarian Reader, then that is their freedom.

  • michael farris

    me:This is not necessarily a message that will be welcomed

    someone else: Nonsence. Boys will be boys everywhere.

    And don’t want their others, sisters, girlfriends or wives to take off their clothes for strange men to leer at. Not to mention that women won’t take that kindly to the message either.

    Of course I think playboy and the like should be available for those indonesians who want to buy it, but I don’t delude myself into thinking of it as an agent for positive cultural change.

  • Jacob

    “Playboy’s publishers said they were producing the magazine to defend democracy and freedom of expression against fear and intolerance. “

    And I thought they were out to make money…
    Nothing wrong with making money, but why coat it in dishonest babble ?

  • nic

    Sexual excess is always present, either hidden or in the open. Bringing it into the open market place of ideas is just part of a more open society. So the magazine is a positive move.

    I know I link to this everytime the question of free expression of images come up but this is not a right that we should be taking for granted in this country under the Labour government and the present Home Office: http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/

  • And don’t want their others, sisters, girlfriends or wives to take off their clothes for strange men to leer at.

    Neither do people in the west, so by that logic there should be very little demand for porn in the west, yet in the USA alone some claim it is worth $10 billion per year.

    Thuis may have something to do with the fact 99.99% of the women seen in the porn industry are not closely related to the (mostly) men reading it.

    but I don’t delude myself into thinking of it as an agent for positive cultural change.

    You are entitled to your view but I could not disagree more.

    Jacob:

    Nothing wrong with making money, but why coat it in dishonest babble ?

    Why is it dishonest? I can think of easier ways to make a buck than selling porn to Muslims. Just maybe they think what they are doing is in fact a good thing. I certainly do.

  • J


    1. the text is mostly boring to the point of impenetrability;
    2. there are many contradictory and illogical statements;
    3. hatred and calls to violence – lots of them.

    Yes, but this is true of the Bible* and Mein Kampf, not to mention most other ideological texts, and yet these books appear to influence people. I think it likely that they influence less in themselves, as they do as talismans for a system thought that is actually spread by its adherents, not by its written form.


    Oops – dictated, not written. Mohammed was illiterate.

    As was Socrates. Surely you aren’t suggest that ability to draw shapes with a pen correlates with quality of thought, are you?

    *Yes, I know the new testament is non-violent, if you ignore dope trip (I mean Revelation) of St John. This makes it a whole 1/3rd better than the rest of the Bible. Yay.

  • I think it likely that they influence less in themselves, as they do as talismans for a system thought that is actually spread by its adherents, not by its written form.

    And how! For a great many people the Bible, the Koran, Mao’s Little Red Book etc. are unread and so are indeed talismans, physical objects used to give form to the irrational.

  • RAB

    I like the idea of Gideonising the Koran, translating it into all languages and flooding the Muslim world with them.
    It may kick off a belated Islamic Reformation, you never know!
    As to Playboy. Well best of luck. I see no contradiction in making money and spreading democracy and freedom by the way.
    It’s just that having spent some time in Egypt recently, I wonder how much more sex these guys need.In one to one conversations with Egyptian males the ONLY subject is sex and it’s not even double entendre, but horribly , crudely single.
    Perhaps a bit of soft porn will have them… er
    to exhausted to pick up their AK 47’s
    But I doubt it.

  • michael farris

    Perry, You’re a product of the west, have a lifetime of experience in the west and know how to interpret Playboy and the like.
    Indonesia is a third world country with a weak educational system and very little in the way of civil society (I’m being understated here).
    Very many (not all, but very many, maybe most) Indonesians don’t have anything like your context to help them interpret the relationship that Playboy has to mainstream western culture. They’re liable to take it at face value as an expression of the western mainstream and the behavior of western women and how Indonesian women (including sisters and wives) will behave if western values become more established in Indonesia.

    I’m reminded of a conversation Michael Totten relates between himself and a muslim who thought (seriously apparently) that key parties were an established part of American Christmas celebrations (perhaps inspired by the movie the Ice Storm).

    As a sign of press freedom, Playboy in Indonesia is okay (not as good as a free press that scrutinizes the government mercilessly, but okay). But a harbinger of enlightenment or western values it is not.

  • “Printer’s ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.”
    – Christopher Morley, _The Haunted Bookshop_

  • Paul Marks

    I was aware that (as far as we know) Socrates did not write any books, but I was not aware that he could not write.

    I am not saying that J. is mistaken, but I would like a source (I am interested).

    The Old Testament does indeed have a lot of nasty stuff in it.

    But the Koran does not have a New Testament any concept that the New Covenant transends the Old Covenant.

    And (of course) most of the Old Testament is not supposed to be the direct word of God (most of it is admitted to be what various men thought that God’s will was).

    The Koran is supposed to have been spoken to “the Prohet” by divine beings (and he then dictated it to other people).

    The problem with the argument “that if only the local could read the Koran in the own language…..” is that (as Pavel pointed out) is that the Koran is mostly rather evil and it was written on the orders of an evil man (a murderer, rapist and so on). That is not deny that he was a military and political genius (perhaps the greatest one who ever lived), but he was not in the business of being fluffy – he was in the business of conquest.

    It is better that the Koran is chanted in a language that nobody undertands (as long as those in charge of saying what it means are ancient elders – not people educated in the Gulf), otherwise most Muslims (who at the moment are not wildly interested in murdering us) will find that O.B.L. and co have their interpretation of the Koran about right.

    On Indonesia: The new antiporn law will (amongst other things) hit relgious dances and depictions that have existed in the area long before Islam arrived.

    It would be better if Bali left the Java dominated country. After all people feld to Bali when Java came under the Islam so it is a bit hard to have them under Java now.

    I know it is a pity about the ancient temples (and other such) of Java and I know that the Muslims of Java used to be tolerant (in some periods).

    But time marchs on. Tradition is weakening and people today are looking at what Islam actually is (i.e. what “the Prohet” wanted it to be) and so they do evil things.

    Reformations are not always good things.

    Even the Christian Reformation led to more stress being put on such things as justification by faith (rather than by a decent life “works”) and more stress being put on the doctrine of predestination – which the Roman Church had largely interpreted out of existance before Luthor and Calvin came along.

    And then of course the competing sects of Christianity had to try and outdo each other in how many witches they could burn and how intolerant they could be. And they engaged in terrible wars in which, for example, a third of the population of Germany died. And (as we can all see) there was the cultural vandalism on the Protestant side (although really it was the Calivinists who were particularly guilty of this).

    I admit that whenever the Roman Catholic church had actually felt under threat in the past it had reacted savagely. But it had tended to be fairly passive when it there were just a few people dissenting (till the conflict with the Protestants came alone, which meant that no dissent could be tolerated).

    The more centralised Church of the Counter Reformation was a reaction to the Reformation.

    Yes over time both sides got slack. With some Protestants (or rather non Roman Catholics) holding the view that if there was only one road to God it was a very broad road with lots of different sorts of people on it, and many Roman Catholics going back to the attitude of let sleeping dogs lie.

    But that was with a background of a text, the Bible, that in the New Testament at least is not very aggressive or brutal.

    Of course Christians murder people, but justifications for torture and murder are hard work in a Christian context (Augustine back in the 5th century was a very intelligent man – he really had to work at turning the gospels on their heads, in order to both justify the various wickedness that he wished to justify and to make predestination seem rational).

    Telling the followers of Islam to ignore tradition and custom and get back to the root of their faith is very bad advice indeed.

    By the way I rather agree with J. about the last book of the Bible.

  • As a sign of press freedom, Playboy in Indonesia is okay (not as good as a free press that scrutinizes the government mercilessly, but okay). But a harbinger of enlightenment or western values it is not.

    Oh I agree that it would be a better sign if a press highly critical of political and RELIGIOUS issue were appearing… but I actually *do* think Playboy is a harbinger of enlightenment and western values 🙂

  • “Surely you aren’t suggest that ability to draw shapes with a pen correlates with quality of thought, are you?”

    No, of course not. The ability to read (and write) couldn’t possibly affect the sophistication of a man’s thought. Never having read a book shouldn’t mean a man is less knowledgeable about the real world or less able to express himself than anyone else. All of those other books either conflict with the Koran and are therefore lies or agree with it and are therefore unnecessary.

    Right?

  • Mike Lorrey

    Bombadil,
    Keep in mind that a muslims idea of “moderate” means they only apply sharia to actual muslims, and then, they go kinda soft on some of the less important sins, as well as being rather accepting of western technology but not its social ills. Moderate means women are privileged to wear only veils, not Burkhas.

    Moderate muslim men still exercise their right to execute any member of their family that dishonors the family.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Bombadil,
    Keep in mind that a muslims idea of “moderate” means they only apply sharia to actual muslims, and then, they go kinda soft on some of the less important sins, as well as being rather accepting of western technology but not its social ills. Moderate means women are privileged to wear only veils, not Burkhas.

    Moderate muslim men still exercise their right to execute any member of their family that dishonors the family.

  • aaa

    If the press is a weapon, selling Playboy is the equivalent of firing blanks. What counts is not that literature rocks the boat, but that it rocks the boat in the right direction – that the literature in question speads ideas that improve society. Indonesia needs books on rule of law, individual liberty, and how to tolerate people without necessarily liking them.

    In case you weren’t aware, people read Playboy for the articles on politics and the arts. Ask any subscriber.

  • Mommy Warbucks

    people read Playboy for the articles on politics and the arts.

    For sure 😀

  • W. E. Messamore

    1. the text is mostly boring to the point of impenetrability;
    2. there are many contradictory and illogical statements;
    3. hatred and calls to violence – lots of them.

    Yes, but this is true of the Bible* and Mein Kampf, not to mention most other ideological texts, and yet these books appear to influence people.

    I can’t say whether you’ve read the Bible or not, but if not, I challenge you to give it a read. I found very little of it boring (some of the geneologies can get a little long, but otherwise it’s a fascinating and even entertaining read, not to mention edifying).

    As for being violent and filled with hatred, I take issue with that. While it is filled with accounts of violence, many of these it does not condone, and in fact the perpetrators of this violence are the “villains” of the text.

    As for the many condoned acts of violence committed by the “heroes” of the people of Israel, remember that these were legitimate acts of defense. The Israelites were surrounded by viscious and barbaric groups that threatened them, attacked them, enslaved them, and wanted to wipe them out.

    The Bible clearly values peace, but you know the famous Orwell quote that explains why people can sleep peaceably in their beds at night. Surely you don’t disagree with the legitimacy of violence as self-defense.

    There can be no argument whatsoever of the historical record of the Bible as having a profoundly civilizing influence on people. The Founders of the greatest, freest, and most prosperous civilization ever were strongly influenced by the Bible. They grew up during the First Great Awakening, and they were well-versed in the Bible, and extremely devout men.

  • Uain

    “Perry, your a product of the West……”

    Right on michael ferris!
    I have multiple acquaintences from 3rd world countries and they have told me that their impression of the West was shaped by our media. One Chinese bloke told me that in Beijing, they all got their image of USA from watching Vin Diesel movies. Similar case with acquaintences from the Middle East. Also, their corrupt religious and/or political leaders will tell them the same to say how bad we are. Maybe Playboy might instigate more bone honing in muslim countries but I don’t see how that would make them more civilised, when what they really need is concepts like freedom of religion, rule of law and private property ownership.

  • AKH: Indonesia needs books on rule of law, individual liberty, and how to tolerate people without necessarily liking them.

    Brendan: Let ’em read whatever they like – if they want to buy Bastiat’s The Law, that’s cool, if they want to buy Hustler or The Koran or The Bible, so be it. The state shouldn’t be doing anything to promote any ideology or publication anywhere, dometically or internationally. If the equivalent of the Gideon Society wants to pay (out of private funds) for distribution of The Libertarian Reader, then that is their freedom.

    Recall the subject of this post: the power of the press to do damage to tyranny. I stated the types of books relevant to that mission. I said nothing about state sponsorship of literary enlightenment. Indeed, literature that promotes social change for the better comes almost exclusively from the private sector.

    In addition, such literature must be directed at the masses. To an earlier Samizdata post I commented: England had a blogosphere [coffee houses]; France had think tanks [salons]. Granville Sharp and his allies could lead society to oppose slavery and eventually end it because they reached out directly to all walks of life. Voltaire couldn’t get religious tolerance to catch on in France during his lifetime because those writings reached a tiny minority.

  • Praxis

    There can be no argument whatsoever of the historical record of the Bible as having a profoundly civilizing influence on people.

    Sure(Link). No doubt(Link). Clearly(Link).

  • Uain

    Jeez Praxis, I would think you would try to read outside of those who affirm your preconcieved notions.

    It is a historical fact that Christianity has contributed more to civilize the world than say… Socialism? Naziism? Communism? Islam? etc, etc…
    Yes, people acting in the name of religion have done bad things, but notice that this occured before printing became widespread and the masses learning to read (driven by the Christians wanting their children to be able to read the Bible)

    *so they could not be easily lead astray by evil men posing as religionists*

    The crimes against humanity in the last century occured do to the *lack of religion* in the nostrums of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc, ad. nausem, all while the majority of the proponents and adherents to these evil philosophies could read quite well thank you (Dr. Pol Pot studied at Sorbonne) and *specifically* formulated their philospohies to be anti-religious.

    The Salem Witchcraft nonsense in the link you provide is so misrepresented and so typical of the sloppy junk research that accompanies anything by the anti-religion nutters, I don’t know where to start. Suffice it to say that there is a thriving cottage industry at least in the USA of immoral people trying to judge people of centuries past with out the least effort to put their critique in the context of the time. Of course these same nutters wax indignant if anyone points out their hypocritical support of abortion.

    And *these* people would judge their ancestors???

  • Praxis,

    In each of those linked instances, the government FAILED to follow the Bible. Christians were not authorized to use force to put down any forms of heresy or (in the case of witchcraft) spiritual treason. As for the prosecution of witches, does “thou shalt not bear false witness” mean anything to you?

    The more I think about it, the Salem trials resemble trial lawyer abuse far more than they resemble McCarthyism (especially when one considers that witches, by the Medieval concept, were fictional, while Commie agents were not). In both cases, citizens used existing laws to lynch their neighbors.

    Any assessment of Christianity has to control for state usurpation of the church (as I pointed out in a previous thread) and should look at both sides of the ledger. Christianity also ended slavery in Britain and invented worldwide charity.

    If someone misreads the Bible (say, assumes that Christians are authorized to enforce Hebrew theocratic law when they’re not) and acts on it, is the Bible to blame? If so, then Samizdata would be to blame for reader actions inspired by misinterpretations of the blog’s content. What defines both Christianity and Samizdata are their respective philosophies, not the spin that others place on them.

  • Oh, if the Catholic Church had remained a truly private-sector entity, Spain would have still had a state religion, and the Spanish Inquisition would have still happened, perhaps more rapidly. State religion existed because autocracy existed; monarchs don’t trust the rabble to mingle directly with spiritual entities that outrank the Crown.

    The Spanish Inquisition was King Ferdinand’s plan to consolidate power, and he would have done it with or without the Vatican. As it so happened, Western kings didn’t have authority to appoint ecclesiastical boards, so Ferdinand had to bargain with that piffly Italian city-state to set up the basic machinery which he would later usurp. The ascension of his chief chief lobbyist (Rodrigo Borgia) to the Papacy made the Inquisition easier – yet more proof that the State always wins over the church when the two merge.

  • merovign

    Compare and contrast the Spanish and Papal inquisitions. Culture, not faith.

    And it’s rather a sad fact that some people appear to be congenitally incapable of dealing with the crimes of Islamism or Communism or Naziism without immediately and unceasingly deflecting that criticism to a less threatening target they’d rather discuss, namely Christianity.

    I know, I have people in my family like that. It is physically impossible to stay on the topic of what to do about problems happening Right Now, as they, literally in every response, try to drag the conversation back 400 or 900 years and dodge the current issue.

    It is crazy-making to try to keep the conversation on topic when one of them is in the room.

  • W. E. Messamore

    I couldn’t have said much of that better myself, Praxis. I’d add that I question your judgment in drawing conclusions about a religion, culture, and civilization that has spanned centuries and continents by referring to two isolated events and one book published by people who, according to the very article you linked to, had to forge support for it from the Christian theologians, because they called his book illegal and unethical. Thoroughly examine history and see the overwhelming persistence of true Christian thought in advocating for and establishing freedom and peace, in subverting and destroying tyranny and oppression, in shattering barriers of race and culture, and in creating an overall feeling of goodwill and benevolence among men.