Paradise of Storm

Month: August, 2016

On the Stupidity of Reza Aslan

Reza-Aslan-on-The-Daily-Show-Screenshot-800x430

by Guy Walker

When Reza Aslan wakes in the morning, he laughs one cold slithering laugh. The dull profanity of the morning sun spills through the soiled linen curtains and across his eyes, and he opens them to a shaven clawless cat licking his earlobe. He pets the thing with only his fingertips, in short painful strokes that cause the old imbecilic feline to erect his backside and wheeze a muted cry. “Good boy, Mohammed, my bald little prophet,” he sneers prudishly. Aslan heaves himself up from his cot, white padding spilling from a tear in the corner, and pours a bowl of curdled milk, and kneels to all fours, lapping up the bits of fermented solids as the cat stares patiently on. “Did you know I’m a professor? A scholar!” he stammers in between selfish gulps. “I’ve been on CNN!!” He slams his fist on the corner of the bowl, sending the watery cottage cheese through the air, and begins sobbing, little ponds of tears and drool pooling on the checkered floor. The cat turns away indifferently, Aslan’s incoherent exclamations fading into the distance, into soft brittle anthems of self-pity as the cat curls into a ball in a dim sun spot on the red hirsute rug.

There are only three books on his only book shelf: The No Cussing Club, by McKay Hatch, A Shore Thing, by Snooki, and the Quran, the latter of which is embroidered in gold leaf and plastic gems, with a small fan blowing on it at all times. He holds the book up close to his face, and flips through its entirety with the edge of his thumb like it were a flip book. “Ahhh, the prose and subtle paean of God’s last revelation. This book gets me every time,” he says gazing wonderingly at the peeling linoleum wall, as a gang of ants drag a dead cockroach across the floor.

As Aslan saunters off to the rusting ivy-ridden gates of UC Riverside, where he teaches creative writing to a decaying group of toothless meth addicts, a tattered white king pigeon defecates on a passing wagon pulled by hyenas below. Reza’s lips tighten into a churlish aristocratic pose of disgust, and he repositions his spectacles as he notes in his notepad about the eminent whiteness of the pigeon. Clearly, it’s not just the dark colored pigeons who shit on things. Down the crumbling avenues of swollen rubble, the braided petrified trees all lay fallen across their horrible patches of ashen grey earth, all usable soil blown off in the storms a decade ago. A gaunt hairless dog with violet skin limps across the road, and Aslan swings around light poles, skipping in a haphazard menacing sort of way. He obsesses never to step on a crack on the sidewalk, because as a child, he heard from someone who heard from someone that if he did it would break his mother’s back, and he never grew out of the belief. Hopping from cement parcel to cement parcel, his professor-edition leather satchel embroidered with “Yes, I actually AM a professor,” swings aimlessly around his neck, as he sings, “Cracks on the sidewalk! Cracks on the asphalt! Crack in the ghettos, crack in my butt! Violence is here, and violence is there! But if a Muslim kills you, it’s not Islam’s fault!” He wipes the frothing saliva off his chin with a baby blue bib, and stops next to a tumbleweed to take a shit.

At this point, a Smerdyakov-looking mujahideen runs by wielding an AK-47, his beige and heavily soiled shalwar kameez fluttering in the coruscating morning air, but his chronic steatopygia slows his fanatic religious momentum to a gross and lonely stagger. There’s not many people left to kill in the world, but still, the man is chased by a gang of bailiffs, their scintillating armor blinding the few people around. Aslan moves quickly and intersects the gun-gilded officers, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, he throws both hands into the air, erect as a giraffe dick, and declares “BEHOLD!! FEAR NOT! THIS MAN IS NOT DOING IT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM! Also, Christians do the same.” But the mujahideen stops, turns around, and replies, “No, I’m definitely doing this in the name of Islam. It says right here, ‘And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory—We will bestow upon him a great reward.’ Or here: ‘And fight them until there is no fitnah and the religious, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease—then indeed, Allah is seeing of what they do.’ Or here: ‘If they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.’” Aslan responds sharply, “I don’t think you know this yet, but I’m a professor of religions. I know things other people don’t. You’re not doing this in the name of Islam.”

The truth is, Reza Aslan is a passive-aggressive apologist who manipulates the truth through his own denial. In a 2007 debate with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Harris postured that it is the role of Aslan and other moderate Muslims in the public eye to steer Islam more towards being a religion of peace, rather than the predominant opinion at the time to prosecute those who draw cartoons of Mohammed, or hacking off the genitalia of their girls en masse. Aslan responded by turning away from this offer, and repeating his qualifications as a public figure. “[T]here’s a reason I don’t write books on neuroscience. I write books about what’s going on in the Muslim world because I have an expertise about what’s going on in the Muslim world.” It’s a pubescent puerile argument to try to win a debate by declaring how smart and qualified you are. It doesn’t argue anything substantial or meaningful; it’s a crude fuliginous declaration of “Trust me, I’m an expert,” which, fittingly, is actually the name of a book that Aslan has essays published in. “Trust me, I’m an expert.” It’s such a pandering offensive idiom, something akin to Trump’s pasted together lexicon of entropic elitism. It admits that the person didn’t get a degree for the supposed purpose of a degree—to think critically and argue constructively—but rather for the sole and shallow purpose of saying they have a degree.

In a viral Youtube video titled “The Stupidest Interview Ever,” when a Fox News anchor tried to argue that Aslan didn’t have the right to write a book about Jesus because Aslan himself is a Muslim, Aslan kept repeating over and over, “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” “I am a historian.” “I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament.” The truth is, not a single one of these claims is true. He only has one PhD, which is in sociology. He is not a professor of religion, but rather of creative writing, at the University of California, Riverside, that barren wasteland of meth addicts, tract houses, bros, and dust storms. Yet he continues to posture himself as a scholar and historian of religions.

While on CNN, he argued that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a Muslim problem but a central African problem. But David Pakman from The David Pakman Show refuted this vague claim with specific global numbers: seven of the top eight countries listed by UNICEF with the highest rates of FGM in Africa were predominately Muslim countries. Egypt has a 91% FGM rate, Sudan 88%, Somalia 96%, Guinea 96%, Sierra Leone 88%, Mali 89%. And beyond Africa, Pakman shows, Kurdish Iraq has a 72% FGM rate, Indian Shia Bohras have a 90% rate.

Aslan went on to say in the CNN interview that countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Turkey are free and open societies. But in Malaysia, 93% of Muslim women had their clitorises hacked off. In Indonesia, 98% of women. These astounding rates of barbarism are not some fringe ineffectual minority as Aslan tries to argue by using Saudi Arabia as the most extreme example because they don’t let their women drive cars. Numbers as high as these require serious reevaluation of our tolerance for certain aspects of certain ideologies. In a Vice article publish in 2015 about female genital mutilation being on the rise in Malaysia, a 19-year-old Muslim girl openly shares that she is “circumcised because it is required by Islam.” In the Quran, circumcision is described as a tradition for men, but a duty for women. The delights of uncontrollable pleasure, of our only refuge from this desert twirling hell, has been hacked away in the name of an invisible deity. This mass violent insanity should be reason enough to disprove the existence of any benevolent higher power.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, 68% of the world’s Muslims believe governments should abide by Sharia law (chopping off the hands of thieves, death to apostates, beating of wives, death to homosexuals, the stoning of adulterers, and an assortment of other savory tenants of obedience).

Aslan has many times proclaimed that “a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim,” which leaves us to doubt those who say Islamic terrorists are not Muslim. If a Muslim is whomever he or she declares themselves to be, then, by Aslan’s own definition, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and other such terrorist groups are very much Muslim. Extremely fringe populations admittedly, yet nonetheless Muslim. And to Aslan’s credit, in a speech he gave at the University of Toledo in 2015, he admits that if ISIS says they are Muslim then they are Muslim. But then he continues: “If you want to blame religion for all of the bad things that religion does, fine. As long as you are willing to credit religion for all the good things religion does.” He credits the thousands of Muslims fighting ISIS as one of the notable virtues of Islam, as coruscating evidence that Islam is also a force for peace. The flaw he makes here is ISIS is killing in the name of Islam, while the thousands of people who also happen to be Muslim are simply resisting against these insane goat-fucking men who are ransacking their homeland and raping mothers and daughters. These resisters are doing so not in the name of Islam, but by necessity, by a survivalist’s instinct to protect where one lives.

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April 2016, Aslan made the baseless claim that “right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more Americans since the attacks of 9/11 than Islamic terrorists have. You are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist […] So yes, we are under threat of terrorism in this country, it’s just not Islamic terrorism.” But according to the International Security Program, in the United States 94 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists since 9/11, and 48 people have been killed by far right wing attacks. The toddler fact is seemingly true, which, if a gun advocate gets killed by his own toothless newborn whilst shitting in his diaper, then Darwinism has worked again and nature has necessarily thinned its herd.

In all his prudish passive aggression, Aslan declares he writes books about the Muslim world because he has “an expertise in the Muslim world.” But he doesn’t. He hurls himself into his classroom at UC Riverside, constructed with glued chunks of plaster and horse hair, and opens his three-ringed binder, pushing his glasses up to the top of his nose with one finger. He clears his throat of all its phlegm, and begins a lecture on punctuation. Because after all, he has an expertise in creative writing.


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Squirt Guns and the Death Throes of Emojis

01

by Guy Walker

When Apple released that they were going to replace their real-life looking pistol emoji with a squirt gun, there were a few hours of nervous unsteady control amongst the avenues of Downtown LA. The dreary overgrown intersections between Chicago gang outfits stopped as well, not because it was the Parade of Nations at the Olympics and it’d be the appropriate gesture of solidarity to do here in Chicago, but because their mutual communicative devices had changed, their metonymically pixelated hieroglyphs had been translated into something else, something either mockingly childish or terribly magniloquent, and it was done so overnight. For a moment, the mutes, the schizophrenics, the retards, the gun enthusiasts, and the gun control advocates were all the same, all floundering in the tepid shit-ridden swamps of language, unsure whether they would sing the poems of Whitman or belch a bit of hell.

The Walmarts and mega shopping malls uniformly hushed, everyone frozen in place as to not disturb any temperamental idiot with a gun and the wrong set of emojis who could be pushed over the edge. A man with a round hunched neck and soiled polo shirt froze with his hand shoved in the discount bra bin at Sears, his eyes nervously and silently scanning the rows of empty clothing racks. A six-hundred pound woman with a Trump-Pence nightgown used as a t-shirt who was once galloping through the soda aisles on her scooter-made-for-handicapped-people, stopped and tried to camouflage herself amongst the American themed sugar cookies. A stock-boy who was stacking cans of Campbell soup, wondering what is the difference between him and Andy Warhol, stopped and waited expectantly with everyone else for the effects of replacing the pistol emoji with a squirt gun.

To confirm their worst, most exigent fears, it was the children who stormed and terrorized the public. Great herds of kindergarteners simultaneously broke out of their classrooms and flooded their playgrounds, shooting their super-soakers into the air, all just to celebrate the warrantless expansion of their prepubescent lexicon. A five-year-old with half-inch thick reading glasses was trampled in the sandbox, water balloons that looked like hand grenades splashing all around him. Boys drew six-pacs on their stomachs and Hitler mustaches with markers, and spoke only in quotes from Napoleon in Animal Farm. A young teacher assistant fell to her knees in agony, but was completely silent in doing so, and began frantically pressing the crying emoji on her smartphone, not sending messages to anyone, just haphazardly scrolling multi-page compositions of tears. Two of the kids began swinging on the monkey bars at the same time, cackling under a torrent of rain bullets, and one of the teachers tried to communicate that two at a time was not allowed. She pressed the two finger emoji, then the monkey face emoji, then the red circle with a line through it, then held the iPhone screen up to the boys. “Peace, Monkey. No Way!” they read. “Yeah! That’s Right, No More Peace! No More Glossy Apples! Just Penis! Poop! Butts! And More Bad Words!” they screamed with rotten humor, firing their water pistols into the teacher’s face. She responded expectantly, with an Instagram selfie ending in a series of hashtags: #tgif #newemojiday #boysareweird #iminlovewithkanyewest.

But the hazy tautology of our spectrum of possible communicative symbols did have some positive net effect. Action movies suddenly turned into animated sandbox dramas, and young inept children and politically correct adult virgins went to see them, stuffing sugar-free cotton candy into their smacking esurient mouths. God turned out to be a naked comedian who only made jokes about Teletubbies, Jarool, and Princess Diana, as he chewed tobacco and spit casually onto the glistening bald heads in the audience. Down on skid row, a skinhead touched his own chest with a sentimental caress, and where there was once a massive opaque swastika was now a tattoo of a unicorn rubbing himself with a bushel of orchids. The skinhead smiled to himself, cupped his mug with both hands and sipped his steaming chamomile tea. All women became men. All men became women. White people stained their skin with floor stain in order to look black, and they took to the streets, chanting “Black Lives Matter! It’s Pretty to be Fatter!” for 72-hour shifts, before finally collapsing onto waterbeds filled with distilled fluoride-free water. Caitlyn Jenner transitioned into a human fetus, then a Venus Flytrap, because, in her words, “fetuses are like amorphous sexless heroes, but flytraps are enigmas of bloody heavens.” She petitioned the public that she shouldn’t be forced to eat flies, and went on a hunger strike and eventually died. Hippies bought suits from Saks Fifth Avenue and began hating gays because they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Overnight, the whole emoji-speaking world flipped—peace became war, and war became peace—and everything stayed the same.

Words have always evolved and transformed their meaning into strange agglutinative forms. “Nice” to used mean silly and foolish. “Awful” used to mean “worthy of awe.” “Naughty” meant being poor or needy. In the story of Jesus’ conception, the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew “almah,” or young woman, translated it into the Greek “parthenos,” meaning virgin. This single mistranslation led to countless generations of zealous followers to synch up their private tingly areas, to deny themselves untold libidinal splendor. It is expected to have a few embellishments along the tortuous banal profession of storytelling and translations—a bit of exaggeration here and there, a few less loaves and fishes, a few more people in the crowd, year by year, until miracles are made.

When Plato defined humans as “featherless bipeds,” Diogenes brought a plucked chicken into his classroom, retorting “Behold! I’ve brought you a man!” Plato then expanded his definition to be a “featherless biped with broad flat nails.” To Einstein, “god” meant the sum total of the laws of physics. But to an Islamic extremist it means the disperser of martyrdom, the ghostly gallant king that will grant you 72 virgins. But 72 isn’t 72. It means “a lot,” “a bunch,” “a fuck ton,” whatever your most lyrical paeanic way is to put it. And the Quran never said it would grant a martyr many virgins. The original word that the Quran used means “raisins.” You’ll get a sack of raisins if you honor god’s word and kill a gang of French people drinking champagne. It’s because the ephemeral capricious nature of our words and their definitions are too easily manipulated to our desired meanings, to meanings that could serve us very well to believe. It’s easy to believe the virgin definitions, both in the story of the birth of Jesus and the gift of martyrdom, because they grant us an advantage, they grant us the awe and wonder that we so desperately crave on this ransacked polluted desert, to liven up these dreary hungover routines that leave us hunched over night after night wondering when all this hapless confusion will end. Someone was the first to grunt the word for ‘food’, ‘rock’, ‘sky’, ‘god’, ‘fart’’, egodystonicity’, ‘symparanekromenoi’, and the rest of us agree that these are the words and their respective meanings, from chimps plucking and eating the lice from each other’s heads to hairless pink men hurling themselves in a metal tube towards other planets, we croaked and coughed our way towards collective progress.

And emojis will unwittingly shove us towards the next glorious frontier.

Last year, Oxford Dictionaries named the laughing-crying emoji, or the ‘Face with Tears of Joy,’ the word of the year. And naturally, parents and prudish types will wince at the seemingly accelerated degeneration of human language, and point to the Yeats and the Eliots and the natural prose on the common man from the past, but their sordid complaints are wrong and have no strength against the impenetrable momentum of the human lexicon. These assorted hieroglyphs are the cute articulate paeans of modern man, something Hegel and Wittgenstein would have envied, because of the economy of language is dealt in a single image. Ever since Webster’s Second Edition Dictionary, words have been defined according to how they are being used on the street, in the cafés, amongst the silly gaggles of girls and their daily banter. There is no fixed meaning to anything anymore.

According to the Global Language Monitor, there are over a million words in the English language. Teenagers today speak an average of 800 words a day. But, if we are lucky, emojis can potentially reduce this even further, to just a handful of muted voguish symbols, to a squirt gun and a smiley face, to praying hands and an eggplant, to an alien head and a thumbs up, and together we can rid the world of violence, misery, color, and all meaning. We can finally return to where we came from, and point to things and grunt, and throw our feces from up high in trees. Together we can be free.

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