Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Post-Modernism, Post-Structuralism, Secularism, and Bigotry

I have been in several debates with those who claim that they are atheists and secularists in recent months, to the point of being excluded from various internet groups and forums.  The most bizarre argument offered was that my arguments against Islamophobia and wider anti-Arabic stereotyping are "post-modern nonsense".
This sort of idiocy on top of illiteracy requires a great deal of unpacking and analysis, so bear with me.
First, to understand post-modernism, the historical record of modernism needs to be understood.
Modernism was a type of thinking that had a certain type of impact on art, architecture, literature, and politics on both the historical Left and Right wings across Europe and the Americas.  It's genesis was the birth of the Industrial Revolution.  The first instance of man and machine integrating into each other so to produce capital was seen as a kind of miracle.  The Right argued that this was an indication that the bourgeoisie would be the successor to the historical ruling class, monarchy, and that their policies in the workplace were as divinely inspired as the historical pronouncements of the monarchs.  On the Left, writers like Marx and Engels posited that the advent of the industrial world was an indication that there would be a clash between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, that the revolutionary potential of the wretched of the earth would lead to a class war where the workers would outnumber the owners and end with a world controlled by direct democracy, what they called 'pure communism'.
The period of time between the birth of Modernism and the beginning of the First World War can be described accurately with the term coined by historian Barbara Tuchman, the proud tower, a period when the whole of Europe believed that the relationship between labor and capital had become perfectly synchronized and could automatically function in a fashion akin to a clock tower.  The Left in Europe was defined by the Second International Workingman's Association, a political party that held significant sway in Germany, France, Italy, and Russia.  The Right also developed a certain type of pro-monarchical Tory philosophy that always could gain a significant presence in the various parliaments.
Fourteen years after the birth of the new century, an arms race between Germany and England, caused by a dispute over whether the Germans could claim the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire as their sphere of influence and develop protectionist trade relations with them, exploded into a war where all the attempts to prevent it simply imploded.  On the Left, the German Social Democrats had promised to use their majority in the Reichstag to deny war bonds that would fund the military, but under the banner of Socialist Patriotism they reversed this pledge and gave the army their funding, as was the case across Europe.  On the Right, the whole conflict was essentially a family feud between the monarchs, all of whom were the grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
At war's end, two different philosophies, both developed by members of the Second International, were born simultaneously and would vie for power for the next two decades.  In 1917, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin helped found the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, derived from Lenin's philosophy of Bolshevism.  In 1919, Benito Mussolini published Italian Fasci of Combat, the original essay that defined the coordinates of Fascism.
Each philosophy was fundamentally at odds with each other and saw their respective outlooks as the path to a new age that would begin once the other was eradicated.  To this extent, a Second World War was begun.  Adolf Hitler and Mussolini defined their goal as conquest of land currently held captive under Stalinist oppression.  The Comintern defined Fascism as the political and social integration of the most reactionary members of the bourgeoisie with the machinery of government.  Each of these philosophies claimed that their victory in the World War would result in the creation of a new world order for the benefit of mankind.
But then something happened that showed both philosophies as equally corrupt and perverted.  The discovery of the concentration camps in Poland gave visual and audio proof of the debauchery of the Third Reich.  It is important note here that Fascism was never deferential when it came to their genocidal intents, the entirety of Mein Kampf was a road map proscribing the murder of Jews, Poles, and other undesirables.
The discovery of the Katyn Massacre of Polish army officers was the beginning of the end of Stalinism.  Stalin lied to the Polish Government-in-Exile and claimed to have no idea about where their officers were, allowing the Germans to find the graves in occupied Poland and use them as propaganda tool.  It is hard to pinpoint which text Stalin used to justify his enmity to the Poles, but the general logic of wartime Stalinism was brutal and said all those who reject Soviet rule were inherently Fascists in disguise.  Polish patriotism at that time was defined by a Roman Catholic identity and reverence, and since the Church had been vocal in their rejection of Communism from the beginning, the logic of Stalinism identified the Polish officers as potential terrorists.
The absolute end for both Fascism and Stalinism was the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Several things were proven with those bombs that served as the final eulogy of the Modernist epoch.  The Axis powers were defeated, ending any future potential for Fascism unless it could be subservient to American interests, as was the case in post-war relations with Salazar's Portugal and Franco's Spain.  Likewise, the army general who headed the Manhattan Project, Leslie Groves, was always vocal about how he understood from day one that the bombs were not meant to end the Japanese war but to serve as a warning to the Soviets.  Both competing ideologies were made redundant by the Americans, who had previously been strictly isolationist in the time following World War I.
Post-modernism was a reaction to the gulag, the death camp, and the atom bomb.  The Left and Right Modernist philosophies were proven to be failures and corrupted.  The victorious philosophy was Americanism, the ideology of suburbs, father knows best, women in their place, and anti-Communist unionism.
This is how post-modernism began.  Because it is essentially the organizing philosophy of a massive bomb site where everything that was there before was massacred, it is a very difficult concept to define, to the point some joke that a definition of post-modernism is inherently not post-modernism.  But here are some attempts.
In terms of theater, a post-modern play, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or Waiting for Godot, is defined by the transformation of the Shakespearean soliloquy into a dialogue where the actor breaks the third wall and addresses the audience as if they are also characters in the play.  The characters are aware that they are in a narrative play and oftentimes exhibit the classic markers of an existential crisis.
Post-modern literature has been a voluminous pursuit by writers like Gore Vidal, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo.  The defining characteristic is an awareness of textuality and the notion of the unreliable narrator.  In Pynchon's Against the Day, characters re-ennact typical plots from turn-of-the-century Romance novels, like cowboy narratives and adventure stories, always with a peculiar sense that they are involved in a narrative.  In a particular instance, the Chums of Chance, Pynchon's characters, ripped from an adventure penny dreadful, ask how and why their dispatcher is able to communicate with them, essentially wondering what their life is defined by.  The novel opens with references to previous jaunts that have become popular novels.  Vidal's Burr, perhaps his finest novel, narrates two stories simultaneously.  First the protagonist, Charles Schuyler, is summoned to Burr's office to assist the aging former Vice President in the composition of his memoirs.  Then the narrative goes back in time as Charlie reads the draft version of Burr's memoir, retelling episodes of American colonial and revolutionary history first through Burr's eyes and then through Charlie's, with the reader of the novel constantly aware that they are reading a book about another book.  This kind of self-awareness is the definition of post-modernism in written form.
Post-modern architecture, the discipline which was the first to exhibit the post-modern philosophy, continues this self-awareness through the design of buildings and rooms.  For example, an architect might create a space where Roman columns frame a display of twentieth century kitchen utensils on a table designed in the fashion of Native American carpentry.  This intentional collision of time periods and their modes of production is seen throughout our society again and again, especially in areas where shopping centers are located.  Building edifices are erected so to simulate medieval castles as shoppers enter a twenty first century store that is compliant with fire codes, workplace rules, and affirmative action allowances for the disabled.  Even if it looks like a castle, inside there are bathrooms for wheel chair-bound customers, the fire alarms are routinely serviced by the fire department, and the norms of medieval societies are absolutely not invoked.
Out of this particular aspect of post-modernism descends kitsch, the intentional co-opting of memorabilia for a use that was not what the manufacturer intended.  Warhol's famous cans of soup, Kenneth Anger's use of Mickey Mouse dolls in a fashion to simulate masturbation in 2004's Mouse Heaven, the entirety of the Robot Chicken television series, all of these are examples of post-modernism at it's zenith.
Now that I have defined both Modernism and Post-Modernism, now to the claim that post-modernism is equivocation and justification for anything, be it Muslim subjugation of women or any other number of abuses.  This is fundamentally untrue, post-modern media has always been political and critical of culture, especially post-World War II Western culture.
What is being suggested as a definition of one thing is in fact the definition of an entirely different academic ideology, post-structuralism.  The roots of post-structural thinking are in post-war French universities.  Noam Chomsky has been especially critical of what post-structuralists call theory, dismissing it as poly-syllable truisms cross-pollinated with Maoist rejectionist thinking, so I will derived this insight from him.  Chomsky tells it like this: the 1973 publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago and the 1976 deposition of the infamous Gang of Four in China was the final straw that broke the camel's back in terms of credibility for the Chinese Communist experiment and those remaining Maoists in the Western academe.  In order to protect what remaining credibility they had, they created an entirely new philosophy, post-structuralism, so to explain why they had been so unfathomably mistaken about the Sino-Soviet Split.
In some sense, post-structuralism borrows the vocabulary of post-modernism and jettisons the morality.  The concept of narrative and textuality is especially stressed here.  But instead of being principled and making a moral judgment, there is an absolute equivocation of all perspectives.  A post-structuralist says that all narratives are valid and that when two narratives come into conflict, that conflict should be denied resolution and instead both narratives should be viewed as equally valid.  In this mode of thinking, a Nazi commandant at Auschwitz is entitled to tell his story without rebuke because the story of his surviving victims is merely a conflicting narrative that provides a wider understanding of the conditions from which both are derived.  If someone made a huge mistake and claimed Mao Zedong was the vanguard of the proletarian revolution across the globe and that all critiques of Mao's human rights record are just 'alternative perspectives' or 'conflicting narratives', it is  pretty simple to get off the hook for everything and anything you can imagine.
But what is more interesting is the way post-structuralism is utilized not by working people but by the ruling class.  The American conquest of the West and the genocide of the Native American is justified by the logic of post-structuralism, these are just two conflicting narratives with equal validity.  Vietnam War?  Everybody has a valid point of view, especially pro-war Republicans like Ronald Reagan.  The apartheid of Palestinians?  Conflicting narratives, nothing more.  The list goes on and on and on and can be found in major bookstores under the heading of History.  That is why Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES inflamed so many on the Right, he used the post-structural logic in a way that reverted the discussion back to the moral clarity of post-modernism.
So what sort of morality does post-modern thought offer in regards to bigotry against Muslims and Arabs in general?  A great deal.  First, the notion of inter-textuality helps trace a lineage of humanist thinking in Islam that should not be rejected for petty reasons related to imposing Western norms of secularism on a culture that was much more progressive than the West up until the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the world order dictated by the colonialist Sykes-Picot Agreement.  Second, it undermines continuing human rights abuses by the secular West and it's agents upon the Middle East and Africa while simultaneously offering valid critiques of Muslim culture.  Finally, because it is derived from academic critical thinking, it shows boobs like Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins for the charlatans they are.  The absolute textual illiteracy they exhibit when offering critiques of religions is so literalist and militant they are only equalled in their galling ignorance by their polar opposites, proselytizing religious literalists who call for bombing abortion clinics in the same way Christopher Hitchens called for the bombing of Baghdad.  Let us hope that these religious fundamentalists are eventually and equally rebuked by the wider public, our civil and human rights depend on it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Ferguson Is An Atheism Issue

Many would prefer to not face this fact, but religious doctrines are responsible for the battle being fought in Ferguson.  That statement may seem absurd, but the historical fact is American Christianity, especially Protestant strands of it, have been responsible for teaching our population over the centuries about race theory, the idea that ability and election are determined by skin color.  This can be most plainly seen in the Mormon religion, which officially banned African Americans from full membership due to a scriptural teaching that said skin color was really sign of sinfulness.  Mormonism is of course unique in this sense because it is the first Christian faith come with a whole new book to be appended to the Bible.  But the idea was not invented by Joseph Smith when he wrote the book.  Many Christian preachers and ministers would often use their pulpit to re-tell the story of Cain being marked by God in retribution for Abel's death so to show black skin meant descent from a sinful lineage.  It is this literalist vision of the Bible that helped re-enforce the acceptance of slavery in America by whites.
Oftentimes today, atheists are engaged in debating Creationist quacks like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, or Ray Comfort, who are all notably white.  But it is not expressed properly by those who debate these snake-oil salesmen why Creationism is dangerous.  It's one thing to argue that Creationism will make your child stupid, that it is fundamentally a parent's prerogative whether they want their child to learn things that will make them look like absolute fools when grown, and that there are norms like the scientific method that show Creationism to be bunk.  But it is entirely another issue when one says 'Creationism was taught in the South in the Jim Crow era so to reinforce an ideology discrimination'.  If/when someone brave enough ever decides to say to Ken Ham 'hey, didn't the Australians use Biblical literalism to justify the rampages against your country's Aboriginal people?' or ask Ray Comfort 'didn't the South justify slavery with the ideas about the mark of Cain?', then there will be a new dimension added to the conversation.
Karl Marx once described ideology as 'they are doing it but they know not what they do'.  The majority of American whites do not understand racism as fundamentally an issue tied to Creationism because our dialogue on the topic is, to put it mildly, dreadful in comparison to our fellow English-speakers in the UK.  We don't talk about racism as an historical pseudo-science derived from Creationism.  We don't talk about Young Earth Creationism as a precursor of re-introducing race theory to school curriculums due to our idiotic cultural notions of politically-correct post-modernism that says there are only 'narratives' instead of truth and falsehood, right and wrong.  This social attitude is one which allows apathetic comfort for the majority of whites who don't see race as a problem they need to deal with because 'hey, I'm not a racist so it's someone else's fault, don't blame me.'  The reality is that our national religion, despite the fact we try to deny it, is racism.  It is a proven scientific fact that the brain and body of white people show signs of stress, adrenaline rush, and fear when they see men of color, according to a neurological study where subjects were put in an MRI machine and shown a slideshow of images.  It is simply hardwired into whites, it's something you can't totally purge because history as a force of nature itself has caused this.
Ferguson is atheism's fault, in that Free-thinkers, after two centuries, have yet to finally eradicate one of the true dangers of religion, social approval of discrimination.  We make podcasts, we write articles, we even speak out at school board meetings about school prayer displays.  But we never look at a community of color living in squalor and recognize how the brand of racist Christianity is still being upheld as the national faith.  We refuse to acknowledge the Biblical Literalist Evangelical movement that helped George W. Bush win elections transformed itself into the Tea Party overnight.  No one wants to challenge these realities, to argue that there is a link between lifting a poster of Barrack Obama with a bone through his nose on Saturday and preaching Young Earth Creation on Sunday.  It's about time that real discussions about racism as a pseudo-science and as a religious doctrine being actively enforced in society, despite the separation of Church and State, were brought to the fore.  Some have tried in the recent past to say atheism itself is non-political by default.  I disagree, in that many of the most contentious debates, including class, gender, sexuality, and abortion are fueled on one hand by rational thinkers and on the other side by religious fanatics.  The reason America never properly developed a Socialist movement in the twentieth century was tied to religious rejection of atheistic Marxism.  Women are refused birth control and reproductive agency by those who have a religious fascination with all thing inter-uterine.  Racists in political power discriminate because of false notions about human biology, race theory.  Claiming atheism is apolitical by default is impossible in a country where religion dictates the policy of half the political spectrum.  And because mankind will always be prone to flights of fantasy and dreams, there will always be religion, it is impossible to eradicate humanity's heritage without burning some of the most valuable works on earth, like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  And as such, atheism will always be a political stance rooted first and foremost in the development of our modern discourse of Left-Right politics.  It was only after the French Revolution that atheism and anti-clericalism became socially tenable, and those who opposed that tenability, monarchists and clergy, sat to the Right of the aisle while Atheists were on the Left.  Before that, most literate Free-Thinkers called themselves Deist, hedging their bets with a notion of an existing God who just does nothing, watching the earth spin like a couch potato viewing professional wrestling.  And even then, in the thought of a Deist, there was room for the belief in racism.  Jefferson, who most Americans revere for his secularism, was never able to purge himself of racism and refused to free his slaves as George Washington did.  In reality, it was the much more secular Ben Franklin who took up the cause of abolitionism and fought nobly to end the Triangle Trade.  It is his example that American atheists should emulate.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Point of Occupy Wall Street

The classical summation of his method offered by Marx was the explanation that he inverted the Hegelian dialectic, turning idealism into materialism.  In this sense, allow me to begin with the anti-thesis, not just because it needs no explanation in regards to implications but because it historically happened first.
The Tea Party was, first and foremost, a protest of the economic norms governing world capitalism and American finance laws at the time.  It was, in a generalized sense, a rejection of the bail-outs combined with the underlying racism first stirred in the primaries by Hillary Clinton over Obama as the first African-American President.  This rejection of capitalism is not unique to Marxist political theory, of course, because Fascism itself was first and foremost an opposite and equal reaction to Bolshevism, claiming that capital had betrayed humanity but personifying capitalism through race (Jews) instead of class (Bourgeoisie).  And the underlying design and motifs of the Tea Party, with gold-and-black 'anarcho-capitalist' flags matching the color motifs of the yellow fasces in Mussolini's banner, were an obvious indicator of the true motives behind these notions of neo-liberalism the Tea Party embraced.
Onto the thesis, Occupy Wall Street.  The popular complaint was, quite understandably, 'Where is your manifesto, where's the platform, who are the candidates?', because the impression was that there would be an Occupy presence in Congress just as the Tea Party had created.
But this, I claim, was the critical mistake.  Quite seriously, who did you expect to run a political campaign out of a Manhattan Business District public park?  The understandable reaction of many who praise Occupy is to try and overlook the drug scene, hippies, free love, and the occasional lunatic fringe idea that comes from someone wandering into the park wearing tinfoil on his head.  But I would call the tin foil man the most important person at Occupy.  Why?
The failure of most analysis of Occupy has been a failure to understand the dialectical opposite of an elected official.  If the Tea Party's great success was electing Congressmen that have done something so radically effective from their point of view, shutting down the government and the like, then the Occupy movement must present the equal and opposite force, voters to radically re-orient the American Left's Party in Congress, the Democrats.  The reality is that the Democratic Party depends on the Occupy demographic as a core constituency, especially Obama's previous two campaigns and now the Hillary Clinton pre-announcement campaign, based on Internet technologies.  Romney's real loss has been seen as rooted in his inability to utilize tech solutions on the campaign trail as well as Obama did.  I claim this constituency must challenge the Democrats, just as the Tea Party did the GOP, so to equally radicalize the Left in reaction to the Right.  Occupy is where the mind is not given answers, the stuff of manifestos, but questions, the stuff of genuine political change.  This is about going to Democratic Party candidates and asking them not just the obligatory "Women-Gays-Minority" trifecta checklist of bigotries but also the question Tin Foil man asks.  Obviously the first guy who wears a shiny hat asks about the Federal Reserve or something like that will be laughed off the stage as a kook, but if enough constituents are putting the pressure on and asking the important questions from a genuine Leftist perspective, not conspiracy theories but genuine questions about the American banking structure and why no bankers went to jail, that's when things begin to get uncomfortable.  The candidate is agitated.  And that is when no-bullshit-Change We Can Believe In actually starts.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

On The American Atheist Movement and Social Darwinism: An Essay for Black History Month

This post is being written in honor of Black History Month and is dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, and Matthew Shepard.
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I have tried to keep away from this blog for a while for a number of personal reasons, but of late I have been finding myself compelled to say something to correspond with February, when America tries to make some form of reparation (half-heartedly) over centuries of slavery, rape, murder, genocide, social discrimination, and bigotry.  But I also feel this compulsion because, quite honestly, I am getting frankly embarrassed by some of the crude absurdities I become affiliated with by calling myself a Humanist and affiliating with my local branch, Humanists of Rhode Island.  Now, to be clear, this is not an attack on any one group or person, I have previously been printed in Opinion columns of the local newspaper with a by-line as a Humanist.  Indeed, this is rather meant as a call to those who think they are really Humanists to behave like it.  And I also do not believe in the nonsense distinction between Atheism Plus and Humanism, Secularism and Free-Thought, or whatever other semantic gymnastics someone wants to play.  Every non-believer in history, with the exception of perhaps the Marquis de Sade, has proclaimed that their version of Atheism was correct because it guaranteed a straighter path for humanity.  Joseph Stalin said state atheism was correct because it would end economic exploitation and capitalism's abuses of the proletariat, for example, as did Ayn Rand, though her dialectic of class struggles was divided into 'Makers vs. Takers'.  In general, anyone who argues the correctness of dis-belief in regards to ethics is grasping at, perhaps vaguely and in the dark, a notion of Humanism, a philosophical outlook that did originate in the works of a Catholic Inquisitor, St. Thomas Moore, but which later evolved over the next half-millenium to embrace skepticism, rationality, and the logical conclusion of these outlooks, atheism.  Indeed, Moore himself wrote a short fiction book, perhaps a precursor to fantasy fiction, which portrayed a world where Humanism would be fully embraced and practiced.  The fact the book was titled UTOPIA is a point to return to.
First, the notion of Humanism requires a more definite identification.  What does a Humanist find as their totem, their object of devotion?  The much more immature Humanists today seem to embrace the label as a way of saying they skip Church on Sundays and seek to insure the separation of Church and State, as well as hoping to see the commonly accepted notions of Human Rights guaranteed for all.  But this is only a shallow, naive vision of reality.  A Catholic celebrates the mysteries of the Catholic mass, as an observant Jew honors the heritage of the Torah.  What is it for Humanists that gives awe and a recognition of the majesty of the world?  The Humanities, of course!  Humanists are those who celebrate the Humanities, the academic but passionate study of the world we live in, holding true to notions of propriety as upheld in the notion of academic freedom.  The late Edward Said, a Palestinian Humanist and professor of literature, wrote "Humanism is the only - I would go so far as saying the final- resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history."  But for him to say such a thing, Said spent his entire career developing his Humanism through his practice and profession of the Humanities as a member of the Columbia University faculty in New York.  That statement, written as Said fought what would be his final complications with a long-term case of terminal leukemia, was the conclusion he had reached after watching religious conflict destroy the culture, society, and livelihood of the people he was a part of, the Palestinians.
He also wrote that statement as a robust critique and rejoinder to one of the so-called 'Four Horsemen', Christopher Hitchens.  Said had been something of a friend and mentor, or so he thought, to Hitchens in the 1980's and '90's.  In fact, Hitchens went as far as co-editting a book with Said, BLAMING THE VICTIMS, about the plight of Palestinians and misrepresentations of their cause in the Academy and Media.  But, as author Richard Seymour notes in his indictment of Hitchens, UNHITCHED: THE TRIAL OF CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, it was around the time of the war in the Balkans, Hitchens began to show a more conservative side.  Hitchens claimed that the Bosnian intervention by America was symbolic of how Americanism was replacing Communism as the true vanguard revolutionary movement, that Jacksonian democracy and it's expansionist notions of Manifest Destiny was in fact the true 'Permanent Revolution', only replacing Trotskyist Socialism with the sort of Libertarian Capitalism upheld by Joseph Schumpeter and, to a lesser extent, Murray Rothbard.  Within three years, Hitchens would claim 9/11 radicalized him to a point where he just needed to start an entire revolution of atheism that would create a 'New Enlightenment', as he called it, a more just world society based on Humanist principles.
And simultaneously he became a cheer-leader for the most obviously religious of presidential administrations since Jimmy Carter, that of George W. Bush, which would go on to bungle two wars it started, fail to capture Osama bin Ladin, and embrace the most militantly right-wing members in the Israeli Knesset.  My personal favorite was when Bush called for democratic elections for Palestinians, made sure they were UN-supervised, and then refused to accept the results when the Gazans voted in a political party that Washington rebukes.  Hitchens himself was quite pleased with this move, and used Hamas as a punching bag in order to show how 'religion poisons everything'.
Now, objectively speaking, there are elements about Hamas that are obviously objectionable, in several ways.  In the film PARADISE NOW, the film makers portray both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority as basically useless, a mess of bureaucrats who exploit their control of resources to curry favor and allegiance from the greater population.  But the other fact is this: Humanism upholds the value of democracy and fair elections as a human right.  If you are a Humanist, that means you acknowledge the validity and rights of poor people to vote into power a party they want.  Many American Humanists aligned with the Democratic Party still seethe with anger over the 2000 election and the loss of Florida through obvious gerrymandering.  But these same Humanists see no problem in doing the same thing, disenfranchising poor voters of color, while simultaneously cheerleading the bombing of these people because they voted for the party opposed to Western objectives.  This is truly an ethical dilemma.  Is it okay for Muslims to vote for a party that acknowledges their oppression is based around their Islamic identity and therefore embrace it, much as both Democrats and Republicans seek the religious vote?  Frankly, it's not my right to say yes or no, because I live half a world away and don't know the reality of the situation.  But, is it right for me as a Humanist to say 'this election is valid but this one is not, purely because I don't like Islam?'  No, and to do so is racist.
Another cause Hitchens seemed apt to defend is the views of anyone who was labeled 'Islamo-phobic' by the press, as well as calling any and all openly Muslim political parties 'Islamo-Fascist'.  This is a common symptom in the Humanist movement, and I will therefore dissect it so more can understand just how badly they are behaving.
As noted earlier, Hitchens himself identified, at least in his youth, as a Trotskyist, a believer in the revolutionary socialist politics proclaimed by Leon Trotsky, the head of the 'Left Opposition' to Joseph Stalin.  What becomes clear, after reading enough Hitchens, Trotsky, and Stalin, is how indebted the entire 'New Atheist' platform owes to the two most brutal authoritarians in Russian history.  Therefore, it seems necessary to revisit these relics of the Socialist Left to better grasp the implications of this point.
After the death of Lenin, the Soviet leadership was divided into a three-way struggle for power.  To the Right, Bukharin proclaimed that forcing revolution on the mass of peasants was simply madness, and it was necessary to maintain Lenin's New Economic Policy, allowing the farmers to develop industry and turn the uncultivated majority of the land into cities and towns akin to the rest of Western Europe, something that would take two generations.  In the Center, Stalin proclaimed the theory of 'Socialism in One Country', the idea that the peasants and farmers should be forcibly collectivized and the property be surrendered to the State while the Party would preserve society and lead it into what Marx called 'pure Communism'.  To the Left, Trotsky exclaimed that the Revolution was doomed unless the Communist and Socialist parties around the world took power and brought aid and alliance to Russia, a 'Permanent Revolution' across the world that would not stop until the entire world was made up of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Stalin won this game through sheer political games and nepotism, killing Bukharin in a Russian jail while having Trotsky assassinated in Mexico.  In the delusions of Hitchens, Trotsky would have been the better successor of Lenin and the USSR would have succeeded.  However, he failed to recall what made Trotsky so powerful to begin with, his leadership of the Red Army in the Russian Civil War.  As the War Commissar, Trotsky had defeated the Whites with a level of brutality that was nowhere near anything that could be called Humanist.  To make former officers under the Tsar fight for the Revolution, he held the families of these military men hostage and threatened to murder them if the officers deserted.  When his armies took power in a locality, they would suspend all notions of democracy in the union movement that had put them in power and declared any workers found to be shirking their duties would be shot on sight without trial.  To inspire hatred of the enemy, Trotsky and Lenin said all the opponents of the Revolution were anti-Semitic pogrom-inspiring reactionaries, members of the Black Hundreds, when honest historians like W. Bruce Lincoln have made clear the anti-Bolshevik forces were more like four or five different political parties, with outlooks ranging from Libertarian Communism to Social Democracy to Monarchism, that could never unify in their opposition.  Stalin was no saint in comparison, but Trotsky was likewise no saint in comparison to Stalin.  There is a joke in many Left wing circles, 'Stalinists are totalitarian, but the MOST Stalinist types are the Trotskyists'. 
Simultaneous with the death of Lenin was the rise of a new, anti-Communist movement, based on military ethos and notions, that was taking power.  The atheist Benito Mussolini, a former radical trade unionist, called it Fascism, and it used Marx's model of dialectical social conflict but replaced class struggle with the struggle of Nation and Race against Bolshevism.  Trotsky, now in exile, issued a call for the worldwide Communist parties to align with their old opponents, the Social Democratic parties, in a United Front against Mussolini and Hitler.  As a reaction, Stalin opposed Trotsky by calling this notion of a United Front a Fascist plot and labeling all Social Democrats as 'Social Fascists'.  This move would have traumatic results for the world.  If the Social Democrats and Communists in Germany had called a truce, at least for a few years, their combined votes would have made the National Socialist Party a mere footnote in history.  Instead, the Stalinists played obstructionist politics to such a point that Germans chose Hitler so the Reichstag would return to the business of government.
By understanding this, one can clearly see how Hitchens really operated.  But it also is worthwhile, in comparing 'Social Fascism' with 'Islamo-Fascism', to look to the obvious parallel between the Social Democrats and Islamist parties.  In the West, most believe that Islamist parties are all akin to the Khomeni regime that took power in Iran.  However, this is absurdly reductionist and welcomes racist exploitation.
The basis of Islamist politics is Sharia law.  There are points that are problematic in terms of social policy, but one aspect that I find worthy of investigation by any Humanist is in terms of fiscal policy.  Admittedly, I am a Marxist, in that I believe the root of all social relations in society are based in economic relations and the ability of the capitalist to exploit those relations within the proletarian majority of society.  Conservatives in America say they oppose gay marriage because of religious notions, but I see this as a mask, their opposition rests on the tax revenues lost when gays, particularly white male gays who become successful in their careers, are able to file as spouses instead of as single adults.  Gay marriage does not threaten traditional marriage, but it does impact traditional revenue streams for the IRS.
Sharia tax laws are amazingly balanced and pre-sage neo-classical Keynesian economics by centuries.  Debt and usury, divorce, issues America only properly addressed in the 20th century, were being arbitrated by the Caliphate while Europe wallowed in the Dark Ages and burned non-believers.  And on the topic of Muslim feelings about non-Islamic religions, it is worthwhile to recall the jizya tax was collected not as an economic incentive to convert to Islam per se as much as because the Muslims payed there taxes, zakat, through the mosque.  Jews across the Middle East and Europe fled European Christians intent on massacre and found sanctuary under sharia law in Babylon, North Africa, and Spain.  Not until the founding of the State of Israel did these historic populations relocate from Muslim countries they had lived in for centuries.
This brings me to my final point, the notion of social evolution Hitchens posits.  Even if he was crass and reactionary, Hitchens was not so stupid he did not realize that he was dangerously close to invoking the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and other Englishmen who used their atheism as an excuse why they, as enlightened Europeans, were bringing civilization to the backward peoples they colonized.  In fact, his idea about bringing democracy to the backward Middle East, starting in Iraq, was basically just that, just replacing 'enlightenment' with the vague notion of 'democracy'.  Clearly he was simply living in a utopian fantasy.
I began this essay by invoking both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.  This is an important point to raise.  In popular culture, especially white culture, Martin Luther King is upheld as a pillar of decency while Malcolm X is either ignored or portrayed as a mistaken radical who failed to see the light of King's nonviolence, perhaps because King was a Christian and Malcolm a Muslim.  However, this is a much more complex issue.
King was not opposed to Islam, just the teaching of Elijah Mohammad and his followers, the black nationalist Nation of Islam.  In the larger Islamic world, the Nation of Islam is seen as a heretical sect, a blasphemous group that has abandoned the core notions of the Prophet's message, that Islam transcends race, economic standing, or class, instead claiming that only Africans are truly able to become Muslims and that all whites are a non-human race of devils bred by an agent of Satan, Dr. Yakub.  King repudiated black nationalism because it is prone to separatism and segregation, as well as a distinct twinge of anti-Semitism.  But before his death, Malcolm had broken with the Nation, made pilgrimage to Mecca, and became a traditional Muslim.  In the brief period before he was murdered by men linked to the Nation, King and Malcolm actually met and shook hands in a photograph.  Some of the aides to both men claim that they had discussed the idea of uniting their efforts and forming a joint campaign, with Malcolm leading northern blacks from his base in Harlem while King would do the same from his pulpit in Atlanta.  When listening to King's interview after Malcolm's murder, it is possible to discern not just sadness but disappointment in the great Doctor's voice.  Could this be disappointment because he understood that, without a northern leader like Malcolm, the Civil Rights Movement would be only seen in history as a fight against Southern Jim Crow instead of what he was truly interested in, ending the greater American tragedy of racism and economic injustice?  Many today believe that King was killed when he began speaking out about Vietnam, poverty, and a greater issue of social justice that went North of the Mason-Dixon line.  We may never know, but it is clear that both men died in defense of a philosophy that encouraged respect for your fellow human being, regardless of race or religion.  Am I going too far when I call this thinking a certain type of Humanism?