February 18, 2003
Appearance and reality

I am a Macintosh user, and have been one for over ten years now. What kind of image does that statement conjure up in your mind? If you don't care about computers, it probably means little to you. If you've been around computers for a while and have ever been involved in Advocacy Wars, that statement will bring to your mind very different images depending on which side you've been on. (If you're still fighting the Advocacy Wars, you probably don't have time to read this blog.) The fact is, Macintosh users have something of a reputation for being overly zealous in expounding the benefits of their beloved Mac. Zealots is a term that springs to mind, as are things like "obnoxious" and "stark raving mad," especially if you've ever been on the receiving end of a barrage of emails from aggrieved Mac Zealots. The situatiion now is probably not as bad as it used to be, now that Apple has a relatively stable business and is not in imminent danger of going out of business (its problems notwithstanding). The crown of obnoxious zealotry has probably passed to the Linux crowd, who not only advocate their favorite operating system, but also have the Open Source Religion. I fought my battles in the Advocacy Wars even before I was a Mac user; in those days it was the Atari ST versus the Amiga, plus various other computer platforms that have now been all but forgotten. Then there were the schismatics, the people who fought narrower battles. I remember one guy who plastered every Mac mailing list and newsgroup advocating the use QuickDraw GX, especially after NeXT bought Apple. This was a next-generation imaging system for the Mac OS in the days of System 7 and as many Apple products, it was really good, conceptually ahead of its time, pushing the limits of the hardware and ultimately unsuccessful even on the Mac platform. Apple never made it a standard part of the operating system, so few programs made use of of QuickDraw GX. Parts of it still survive even now in the new imaging models Apple uses in Mac OS X, but this one small part of the Mac OS inspired (if that is the right word) one lone nut to write fifty or more postings every day to all kinds of Mac fora. I'm glad I never ended up like that.

The reality of Mac users is that they're far less obnoxious than the lunatic fringe makes them appear. Most Mac users use the Mac as a tool, not as a religion. But it is the lunatic fringe that is the vociferous and also the one most likely to bombard non-Mac sites with its evangelism. And thus the outward face of Mac-dom tends to be defined by the lunatic fringe, at least to those who don't pay much attention to the much larger corpus of more sedate, realistic Mac users who inhabit the rest of the Mac Web. I usually don't write about this because I've outgrown the Advocacy Wars, and base my continued use of the Mac on simple pragmatism. I have a lot of Mac software, and I still prefer the user interface. But more importantly, I don't feel any need to dispel the erroneous impression the Mac lunatic fringe is creating in the wider world, because I simply don't care. To put it in more topical terms: the Mac Lunatic Fringe does not hijack airliners and slam them into the World Trade Center. They don't use force to impose their views. They're nuts, but they're mostly harmless.

But still, the outward appearance is largely dictated by the impression generated by a relatively small fringe. This appearance quickly becomes reality if it not counterbalanced by saner voices. But again, in the case of the Mac I don't care enough to do much about it. But as my earlier allusion to September 11th demonstrates, there are people who should care, and those people are the secular, moderate Muslims. Right now the image of Islam is one of a bloodthirsty, backward, primitive religion bent on destroying all the infidels. And it's hard to argue against that view since so few moderate, secular Muslims have come forward to denounce the acts and ideas of the Islamofascists.

I was surprised by the comments to my Combating the Enemy Within blog entry. The Instapunditing brought a good many visitors to my site, but the comments were dominated by those who thought I was too lenient in my stance on Muslims; some of the comments came straight from the racist canon. It's hard to tell how widespread this kind of opinion has become, but I do know that for a fact that the image of Islam and Muslims has been going down the drain for some time now. And my views have been changed too in a negative sense. I remember being in New York just before September 11th, and in our midtown Manhattan offices I was reading from material that was on my in-pile. It was from a research outfit called 13D. I was not familiar with their output, nor do I read them very often, but they had a piece out at the beginning of September 2001 with the title The World's Greatest Threat: Islamic Fundamentalists. My view of Islam at that point was that it had its problems, that the PLO and Yassir Arafat were utter scum and that Arab regimes in general were despicable. But I remember thinking to myself at that time that surely the situation can't be that bad. A few days later I was in a transformed Manhattan, and my views had started to change too. As I said previously, I am not yet at the stage where I am willing to give up completely on all Muslims; there are those who are loyal citizens of the west, and who despise the fundamentalism just as much as we do. But they seem to be a small minority, and the organizations purporting to represent Muslim either here in the Netherlands or across the Atlantic (such as CAIR) are only reinforcing the view that Muslims can't be trusted and are irreconcilably opposed to the liberal values of the west.

And over the last year and a half, there have been times when I have thought to myself "to hell with them all," much along the lines of the commenters here. That's why it's so important that the moderate and secular Muslims who do support the West in this war speak out. Loudly. Because if they don't, the Islamofacsists and their minions in organizations like CAIR will continue to poison the image of all Muslims. Letting the lunatic fringe determine the image of all Muslims is going to have serious consequences. My hope is that it is just a lunatic fringe, but sometimes I do wonder.

The tide can still be turned, but time is running out. Decisive victory over the various tyrants in the Middle East who support the Islamofascists is a necessary first step in what the West can do to defeat Islamofacsism. Nobody likes to be on the side of a loser, and we have to make sure that any regime which supports Islamofacsists in any way will be made a loser. A big, big loser. And we have to start soon with Saddam. I wish Bush would get on with it already, and screw the UN and the Weasels. If we don't get rid of Saddam now, he'll become a hero to the Arab immigrants in the west, who will be emboldended by such a victory. And the problem will be worst for France. Those dollar signs they have in their eyes after Iraq gave them sweetheart contracts have made them blind to the most obvious reality. Get on with it!.

Posted by qsi at February 18, 2003 08:42 PM | TrackBack (0)
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