Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The pesky truth: the Statue of Liberty WAS originally a Muslim Woman

I"m fed up with the lie blindly and enthusiastically accepted by the right that credible, professional media has a secret agenda to lie to the general populous.  It is false. In point of fact, the only real "fake news" of any substance or quantity originates from the right, particularly the right wing propaganda machine.

There is a fact free, fact averse paranoia which is being promoted by "their" president, Rump, and his White House, most notably by press secretary Spicer and other spokes puppets that the main stream professional media are liars.  We see it in a wide range of major stories and also minor stories like the one about the origins of the Statue of Liberty origins, a topic featured on CBS news and USA Today among others.  The Statue of Liberty Originated as a Muslim Woman story is an excellent template to examine the right wing mdeia paranoia.

The reality resisted by the right, for example, in their anti-Muslim bigotry,is that the story is true and factually correct that the Statue of Liberty really was originally conceived and designed as a female Muslim figure, Libertas, (the Roman Goddess of Liberty) by the artist who created it, Bartholdi. 

Why pick a Roman goddess reconfigured as a Muslim woman in Egypt? Why not? A little history: the Romans conquered Egypt when Octavian /aka Augustus kicked out Marc Antony and Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemeic dynasty put in place by the Macedonian Alexander the Great. (Cleopatra was actually ethnic Greek.) Trajan conquered the rest of the applicable territory to the canal a bit later.  And in the era of Bertholdi (a German from the Alsace Lorraine region of France) the French were fascinated with "orientalism" and neo-classic subjects in the works of artists like Gerome and Ingres as well as Bartholdi.  So the assumption that the Egypt of the mid 19th century, the time of the construction of the Suez Canal, was subject to rigid Islamic fundamentalism is false, as is the right wing notions of the Islamic version of Aniconism as it pertains to a Muslim woman being the image for a statue of Libertas/Liberty.

Aniconims is the prohibition of figural art, sometimes defined as only applying to human figures, sometimes applying to images of all forms of natural and supernatural subjects, both plant and animal, as well as figures such as angels and demons, etc.  The strongest examples of aniconism tend to occur in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  But that varies tremendously by geography and historic era.  There is in fact a rich tradition of figural art in Islam, both religious and secular forms.  But don't take my word for it, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has an excellent essay on it, here.  In my personal experience, which has included viewing a wide range of Islamic art featuring human beings, aniconism tends to be limited to religious contexts, such as inside mosques.  The assumption that all figurative art is prohibited in Islamic countries or by Sharia law is ridiculous, the kind of bigoted misinformation one finds on the right.

A little more history as context to the original statue that became the Statue of Liberty in New York City harbor, while Egypt at that time was a semi-autonomous part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, it was ruled by Mohammed Ali Pasha, a Muslim Albanian.  Egypt had a substantial presence of Albanian mercenaries.  But the real control of Egypt was by the French and English, who owned the debt for the building of the canal, and who held important seats in government that provided de facto control of the region involved in the Canal zone.

The original design was for a female figure holding aloft a torch, that would serve as a lighthouse at the mouth of the Suez Canal, back in the 19th century.  We only have the current statue of Liberty, or more correctly, and certainly ironically, "Liberty Enlightening the World", because the funding on the Suez Canal version fell through.  The title for the proposed but not completed Suez Canal version of Libertas, holding a torch just like the one held by the USA Statue of Liberty was very similar, "Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia".

This rubbish about the mainstream media is simply not true.  It relies on a mixture of propaganda from what has become a right wing propaganda machine, a concerted effort to misinform and dis-inform, and from willful intentional ignorance on the part of the right wing and right wing leaning information consumers.

The premise of being "post Truth" is wrong, that facts simply matter less in this first quarter of the 21st century.  This is pure bloody-mindedness combined with a childish denial of objective reality by those who don't find reality catering to their prejudices.   Put another way, the facts are not their friends. It is compounded by resentment that the 21st century requires education based knowledge and expertise, and that gut hunches and wishful thinking are insufficient for making good decision or for good governance.  An example of this would be Sarah Palin's selection and appeal as John McCain's VP choice and Betsy DeVos, the theocrat Education Secretary pick of Trump who wants God in schools, not facts or logic.  These are two women who shed only darkness on the American populace.

To be unable and unwilling to differentiate fact from ideological fiction, to believe one doesn't need to know anything of history, or art, or factual comparative religion, or geography is a weakness.  To deny objective reality is a terrible failing.  This is a facet of right wing ideology which not only dangerously exacerbates existing tensions but which endangers us all in the short, middle and especially the long term.

1 comment:

  1. In his book, "10 Philosophical Mistakes", Adler condemned the philosophical and argumentative (Socratic) approach of equating opinion to fact by asserting evil and good are subjective. The point Adler made was that simply the existence of an opinion does not make each side equal - if one course is selfish and harmful, the fact that the person backing it likes it, doesn't make that position morally equivalent to the person/side which opposes it. Succinctly, wrong is wrong - needless, excess harm is wrong, in whatever form. Saying that I like X, if X is harmful, doesn't make X ok or good. This isn't a moral point (or not alone one), it is a point that when people deny fact, deny truth, they are denying the objective in favor of the subjective.

    Further, in his well known book, "Six Great Ideas", Adler asserts 2 essential points.
    According to Adler the pursuit of truth in all branches of knowledge involves:
    "1. The addition of new truths to our existing body of knowledge.

    2. The replacement of less accurate or comprehensive forms with better ones"

    Meaning, adding truth, adding objective and observable fact to our body of knowledge is good and the right course of conduct, and replacing outmoded irrelevancy also is a noble and proper pursuit.

    Drawing directly from this, concluding Adler opposed the denial of fact is obvious. Considering Adler is thought of as the greatest philosopher for "common men" in American history. And Philosophy, and philosophers, are seen as compasses and guideposts to what we, as a society SHOULD undertake. They clarify for us the calling our conscience is making to us when in a position of conflict. They point us in the right direction about what we SHOULD do.

    It's far from the right thing to deny science, it's far from the right thing to pretend the papers published by paid employees of fossil fuel companies are valid in all cases or even often. It's like pretending the conclusions by the tobacco industry which said smoking wasn't dangerous were accurate.

    This practice of pretending the existence of an opinion creates equivalency of fact is destructive, it's logically absurd, and morally disgusting.