The Bipartisan Trepidation over Kathy Barnette

There is great concern expressed in MAGA circles about surging Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Kathy Barnette. The MAGA crowd was already troubled by Trump’s endorsement of physician Mehmet Oz in the Senate race. But they had to defer to the former president and de factor party leader. Then Barnette effectively attacked Oz and WEF favorite David McCormick during a recent televised debate, which endeared her to the populist-nationalists. The got Steve Bannon and the War Room involved. Her position on abortion, decidedly pro-life and featured in a powerful campaign ad, also garnered attention.

Pennsylvania US Senate candidate Kathy Barnette with Republican rivals, Newtown, Penn, May 11, 2022

But MAGA is not the only group Barnette has concerned, and that is what I want to talk about in today’s blog. The establishment media is now mobilizing to undermine Barnette’s candidacy (which, for the record, I do not support). CNN ran a hit piece yesterday titled “Surging GOP candidate Kathy Barnette has long history of bigoted statements against gays and Muslims.” Reported Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck tell the CNN crowd, that the candidate “has a history of anti-Muslim and anti-gay statements.” Their reporting speaks to the hardcore of their audience: “In many tweets, Barnette also spread the false conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama is a Muslim.” This is sure to get a few backs up.

While she has said a lot of objectionable things about gays, CNN uses her comments on Muslims to push Islamophilia under the guise of condemning bigotry. The tone of the story is such as to suggest that her views on Islam and Muslims are worse than her antipathy towards gays. It’s not as if the things Barnette has said about Islam and especially Muslims is entirely unproblematic. For example, in the passages I will share in this blog, her rhetoric about discriminating against religious worldviews may suggest a weak understanding of freedoms of conscience and expression. However, the argument she makes regarding why it is not racist to reject Islam and, moreover, by implication, the appropriateness of objecting to this ideology, is in line with arguments I have made on Freedom and Reason. Indeed, at points, her argument sounds as if it were cribbed from my blog. This gives me a chance to reinforce my position.

“You are not a racist if you reject Islam, or if you reject Muslims, because they are not a race of people. They are a particular view. They are people that have a particular view of the world, and we have a right to discriminate against worldviews.” Again, I am uncertain of what Barnette means about discriminating against worldviews. Discrimination against citizens on the account of the ideological views they espouse is wrong. Nobody should be punished because they are a Muslim. But we should discriminate against Islamic views in the sense that we should keep strictly apart from our laws and policies the doctrines of Islam.

Moreover, as Kenan Malik has told us, humans are culture-bearers. They bring their culture with them when they migrate. Islamic extremism and fundamentalism are incompatible with American culture, representing threats to the security and, more generally, the integrity of the United States. Immigration law and policy should take into account the seriousness of those threats. Barnette is correct when she points out that there is nothing racist about anti-Islamic sentiment. Muslims do not comprise a race of people so criticism of Islam cannot fall in that category. Being a Muslim is not even an ethnic identity. Even more than Christianity, Islam is a religious ideology in the purist sense of the term, with emphasis on ideology. This point becomes clearer when we take up the next quote by Barnette.

“We discriminated against Hitler’s Nazi Germany view of the world, right? That was a worldview. That’s how he saw the world around him. And we discriminated against it. We rejected it.” Why? “Because that’s a particular view of the world that we don’t agree with.” This may be jarring given the pro-Islamic propaganda aggressively pushed by the corporate state, but it is correct analogy. Like German National Socialism, Islam is an ideology. All religion is an ideology. But not all ideology is as hateful as Nazism and Islam. Just as there is no obligation to embrace Nazism merely because it is the sincerely-held belief of some people, there is no obligation to embrace Islam. Indeed, the expectation is that the morally-upright citizen condemns Nazism, only tolerating its expression in light of First Amendment norms (and the instinct is to not even allow that). This means allowing but countering its expression with prejudice.

To put this another way, there is nothing unjust about feeling or expressing prejudice towards Nazis. To make those expressing such repugnant ideas uncomfortable and unpopular may be construed as discrimination in the sense of prejudicial treatment of a category of things. It seems this is what Barnette is saying. If there is no difference between Nazism and Islam as things of a category (of course the systems have different content but are nonetheless ideologies of similar form), that is a pernicious ideology, then Barnette has expressed bigotry only in the technical sense that she holds an obstinate attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction, i.e., she believes and is of the opinion that Islam is objectionable and that Muslims are purveyors of an objectionable view in exactly the same way it is expected of morally-upright persons to believe and express the opinion that National Socialism is objectionable and that Nazis are purveyors of an objectionable view. We often don’t think of bigotry (or chauvinism) in positive terms, but this is one meaning of bigotry. The right or wrong of it is a matter of standpoint. What is acceptable and unacceptable bigotry depends on whose goose is being cooked. We want Nazis to lose. Why not Muslims?

Barnette articulates her position cogently: “We have the right to discriminate against worldviews because all views are not morally equal. All views are not equal. So we have the right to reject it. And let me just say offhand, I reject how Muslims see the world.” I agree with this, especially in an ideology’s effects. Consider genital mutilation. One’s religion may advocate the practice. I will condemn that advocacy. I will moreover advocate laws forbidding the practice. Does that makes me anti-whatever religious doctrine seeks to and does violate the human rights of children? Sure. But it also puts me on the side of the angels. I am also right to condemn and limit within Constitutional parameters doctrines that would and do violate the human rights of gays and women. Though I struggle with this as a civil libertarian, I am sympathetic to the French ban on the hijab.

Despite holding entirely objectionable views on homosexuality, Barnette is pushing back against the extreme cultural and moral relativism of the postmodernist establishment, which in its hatred of the West, finds anti-Western ideologies laudable and especially finds a view analogous to Nazism worthy of smearing a candidate for US Senate by accusing her of bigotry in the sense of unreasonable prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group. But opposition to Islam is not unreasonable. It is, like opposition to Nazism, an entirely reasonable standpoint. Why the two ideologies are not treated the same by those in charge of the culture industry is explained by the hegemony of progressive ideology. And that’s the point of calling out CNN for its Islamophilia.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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