Debating Duck-Duck-Goose↑

So I imagine you are familiar with the game duck-duck-goose? Probably played it as a child. All but one starts out sitting down in a position. Then the one on the outside goes around chooses one person to be the “goose” they then have to jump up and try to run and tag the person before they get back and can sit in the “gooses” now vacant seat. Lots of fun. Well, I’ve recently noticed this phenomena in a few other realms.

About a week ago I was listening to a debate by two constitutional lawyers who were discussing the concept of what is so special about religious freedom. Why do some call it the “first freedom.” Throughout the debate I found myself typically agreeing with one of the speakers more than the other. Then towards the end the other speaker articulated a point that I expected the first to be fully in agreement with. But because of the nature of debate he couldn’t agree. So he had to get up and run around to the now vacant viewpoint of the other speaker. Listening I found it almost humorous.

I also have noticed it in another series of debates. For those in the USA I imagine it has been hard to not have been exposed to some form of “Tebow-Mania.” I’m from Denver and a big Broncos fan so I’ve enjoyed following this story. It becomes humorous though to listen to the “experts” debate what is going on and what the explanation for it all is. They end up picking sides and then as they debate invariably end up switching viewpoints. If the other speaker starts articulating something too close to their own views they run around and take up the now vacated view the other speaker used to hold.

So what? It’s just an observation that in many venues agreement is boring. We don’t really want consensus. Our own viewpoint is so often driven not by consistency with our own principles but just in distance from the person we are debating. We define ourselves not by what we are but by what we are not. We can’t stomach a perceived convergence between our views and someone with whom we “ought” to disagree. In the end we are playing a form of logical or principle duck-duck-goose.


What I’ve read recently↑

I’m not going to post a full review but have not written recently and wanted to at least share a few links.

If you are looking for an in-depth scholarly treatment of Turkish history (and let’s face it, who isn’t these days?) check out Turkey: A Modern History by Erik Zurcher.

I’ve also just finished God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics by Monica Duffy Toft, Daniel Philpott, and Timothy Shah. I will definitely be writing a full review of that book in the coming days. I really enjoyed it. It is a book written by political scientists dealing with the question of “does religion matter in Global Politics?” and if so why and what the implications of that are. If it sounds interesting to you I would encourage you to check it out.

Also of note, Time magazine ran a cover story on Turkish PM Recep Erdogan. If you haven’t – or even if you have – been following the events of the Middle East over the past few months this will help give some perspective for what is going on when people talk about “The Turkish Model” or why people are looking to Turkey. Also as the USA and other western countries seem hesitant to support Syria like they did in Libya many are looking to Turkey and specifically Erdogan to take the lead. He is certainly a polarizing figure but one that is worth learning more about.

What do you watch↑

U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime ...
Image via Wikipedia

Recently have been thinking through the issue of how and where you absorb information and how this influences your perception of events. What options are even out there: Al Jazeera? BBC? CNN? Fox News? Why does it even matter?

Today I had an interesting experience. I was sitting in an undergrad classroom waiting for our professor to arrive and the students began talking about Barack Obama and Recep Erdogan and the results of their talk yesterday at the meeting of the United Nations in NYC. Most of the discussion was going on in Turkish and so I was only picking up bits and pieces. Then someone decided to translate it into English for the various international students. The common view of these students was:

“The new leaders of the Middle East, Barack Obama and Recep Erdogan.”

Where do ideas like this come from? Why did these students frame it in this way? I think that the perspective of the media whereby we receive information shapes our feelings towards particular events.

I’ve noticed this particularly as an American currently living abroad and watching and reading material from a different perspective than I am accustomed to. Recently, I’ve been watching much more Al Jazeera because it is about the only reliable English news channel available to me. I’ve noticed subtle differences in perspective for myself as I watch media from a different stance.

One of the benefits of new media is that it gives almost universal access to media coverage and, if the consumer so chooses, to read from a wide variety of sources. How active are you in reading from different perspectives?

Make Up Your Mind↑

Today while I was waiting to finish registration for a new year of graduate school I started flipping through a copy of the Institute’s journal and came across a really interesting piece. I’m not going to go into the full details and name names in this post because that really isn’t the issue that I’ve been thinking about tonight, but rather the article itself investigated a really interesting question.

The article was an evaluation of negative discourse regarding an individual and a study of what the content of the discourse was based on the language in which it was written. I did not take time to delve into the details of the study to check the veracity of the data but the general conclusion was this. In articles published in one language the figure was presented as anti-American, anti-Western, Islamist, Seeking to re-establish a global caliphate 90% of the time. Yet, in articles written in another language the same figure was presented as being a CIA agent, controlled by Westerners, a Zionist, a Westernizer 98% of the time.

What do these figures tell us? Well it tells you that it is imperative that you think for yourself. It is necessary to acquaint yourself with multiple sources of information. It should inspire you to learn another language (a task I personally need to undertake with even more vigor). It should at the very least encourage you to read articles written by “them” whoever them is for you. No matter what your background or occupation or goal if you desire to interact with people successfully you need to understand what they think and know and to do that you are going to have to learn what they are learning. You just never know what they might be hearing about you.

Reading Today’s Stories…9/9

Breaking news, according to Twitter | The Media Project

From the Media Project that offers a lot of great work about issues for journalists has another piece about the way that twitter has changed the field. The basic rule for journalism is Check, and re-check your facts. Yet you want to get the story out quickly, especially when it comes to breaking news and tragedies. In the age of twitter when “news” comes at 140 characters from any and every source it makes the work of traditional journalists more difficult. If they check facts they are late to break the story. If they use unchecked facts and are wrong the backlash can be great. Read the whole story here.

Traveling This World And Others | Challies Dot Com

I really enjoyed this post about reading together as a family. It was something that we did at times growing up. It is an enjoyable way of seeing the world – and other worlds – through your imagination. I would not describe myself as an especially imaginative person but I can get caught up in a story and hope that I will be able to pass that on to my family in the future. Read the whole story here.

“Who Was Muhammad, Was He Violent?”: Teaching Islam Ten Years after 9/11 | Politics | Religion Dispatches

A thought provoking piece from a professor of Islamic Studies at Georgia State University. He identifies two common approaches that western society has taken to the increased awareness of Muslims and Islamic culture. He calls this the Dante/Deepak dichotomy. On the one hand there are those in the tradition of Renaissance poet Dante who in his Divine Comedy portrayed Muhammad in the lowest depths of hell. The other side is Deepak Chopra and others who try to retell the story of Islam in a more palatable and pluralistic way. In his opinion Professor Abbas says American society will have to let go of both views and deal pragmatically with the issue – recognizing both the compatibility and contradictions.  “Neither Dante nor Deepak will solve the problem.” Read the whole story here.