The Company We Keep

June 29, 2004 | 62 comments
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Sometime back, BYU Magazine ran a feature on BYU’s International Cinema which included mention of the difficulty of finding high-quality foreign films that would meet the requirements of the BYU code of standards. The director of the program was quoted as observing — with no apparent hint of irony — that films from Iran had proven to be a good choice for the theater, not only because of their high artistic quality, but because the censorship imposed upon them by the revolutionary Islamic regime in Iran made Iranian films just perfect for BYU standards.

Now, were I to discover at some point that my personal values closely paralleled those of a repressive fundamentalist regime, I hope I might be inclined to launch a deliberate re-evaluation of myself. Nonetheless, the discovery of not only strange, but positively repulsive, bedfellows seems to have less power to prompt institutional introspection.

The United States, for example, has found during recent international debates on human rights and on the International Criminal Court, that the only other nations supporting its position were not only nations that the U.S. has condemned as violators of human rights, but the very worst of such nations, known to commit unspeakable atrocities against their own populaces. The motivation for such nations to object to human rights resolutions, and to a forum to prosecute crimes against humanity, is fairly obvious. Why the United States would care to be aligned with such nations in that posture is less obvious, and more than a little embarrassing.

Much the same pattern emerges with international documents and declarations on social relations, where the United States has frequently allied itself with Iran, with the Sudan, and with other repressive regimes in order to introduce favored language or definitions concerning families, child rearing, and reproductive rights. The alignment of the United States with these regimes is, again, troubling. Even more troubling has been the involvement the Church-supported World Family Policy Center, housed at Brigham Young University, in fostering and brokering such alliances.

Given the horrific abuses committed by the Sudan and similar nations, most particularly their treatment of women and children, the support they offer for particular language in international documents on family-related matters should perhaps make that language somewhat suspect. It is doubtful that they are giving their official sanction to such language because they believe that “Families Are Forever!”

Or, in other words, with friends like these, shouldn’t we be at least a little worried when we find ourselves on their side?

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62 Responses to The Company We Keep

  1. Ryan Bell on June 29, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    FIX (ing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering).

  2. D. Fletcher on June 29, 2004 at 4:37 pm

    If your quote is challenge, Ryan, it’s on Sgt. Pepper… by Lennon and McCartney. The Beatles.

  3. Jim F. on June 29, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Dan, does it matter to your argument that Anderson said “the Islamic code of behavior” is much like our own rather than that Iranian censorship makes the films perfect for BYU audiences, or that the Islamic couple whom the Lundbergs describe is from South Africa rather than Sudan? It seems to me that it does, that you make a stronger implicit claim here than the evidence you give will support.

  4. Kingsley on June 29, 2004 at 4:57 pm

    Perhaps, Prof. Burke, you’re overreacting a little here. In referring to “the Islamic code of behavior,” the director seems to be saying in a very general way that Islam & Mormonism share an aversion towards certain things being displayed in films. Surely you don’t equate all of Islam with Islamic extremists? Mormons do, as a matter a fact, share a lot of basic moral tenets with Muslims, & perhaps it’s a cause for celebration rather than soul-searching. I think a charitable reading of the article & of Prof. Anderson’s words (brief as they are) in particular supports this view.

  5. Kingsley on June 29, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    Sorry to misspell your name, Prof. Burk!

  6. Frank McIntyre on June 29, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    I suppose we should be worried if, for example, we aren’t sure we are really pro-family for a good reason. But I am quite sure we are pro-family for the right reason, no matter other people’s reasons.

    But there is an important issue here worth discussing. One could make the same case using an opposite political leaning. Does it worry abortion rights advocates that they are associated with people that hate babies and think marriage as an institution should be abolished? Add that to your examples and then we can all argue about the central idea you present without any particular ideological baggage pro or con “censorship” or “women’s rights”, since the issue comes up all over.

    We’ll have to get some logic people in to name the fallacy where an argument is attacked by the company it keeps: ad companius?

  7. greenfrog on June 29, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    Is this a group ad hominem? IOW, if I find groups against whom I hold preconceived and negative judgments share some of my beliefs, I should question my beliefs?

    Perhaps it is my prejudices that need review?

  8. Eric James Stone on June 29, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    Politics makes strange bedfellows. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. I’m sure there are other applicable aphorisms.

    To give another example: The fact that Dan Burk and Saddam Hussein both opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq does not automatically mean Dan Burk is wrong.

    While finding oneself on the same side as people or regimes you find distasteful may give one pause, it does not mean that one’s position is incorrect.

  9. Kingsley on June 29, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    Eric James Stone: But what about the fact that they both have beards

  10. jeremobi on June 29, 2004 at 5:40 pm

    Will these work: “Bad Company Fallacy,” or “Company that You Keep Fallacy,” or simply “Description of Guilt By Association”?

  11. Dan Burk on June 29, 2004 at 5:42 pm

    Good grief. I can see I’m going to have to post this stuff with pinpoint citations.

    Jim — First, the Lundbergs begin by talking about the delegates from Sudan and Iran with whom they worked closely at the U.N. summit.

    The code of behavior in question in the BYU article is clearly the code imposed by the revolution, which keeps Iranian filmakers very tightly censored — Shi’ite Islam prior to the revolution was known (and was in fact looked down upon by Sunnis) for being quite liberal, due to the Persian/Zoroastrian influence — Iranian cinema under the Imperial government was politically censored, but otherwise very Western. Note that the director of the BYU program is not talking about the wonderful compatibility of films from, say, Jordan or Egypt — indeed, the degree of artistry mentioned in the article is a direct result of the extremely strict censorship; Iranian directors have had to become incredibly creative to tell stories in which there is to be no contact between the sexes, no indications of birth or any bodily functions, no women with their heads uncovered, etc.

    See more on post-revolutionary Iranian cinema here, and here, and here.

  12. jeremobi on June 29, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    Will these work: “Bad Company Fallacy,” or “Company that You Keep Fallacy,” or simply “Description of Guilt By Association”?

    Dan’s point as I understand is there’s need for us to pause more than we do. And I think he’s right.

    I know I feel very uncomfortable when the public position of the Church is lumped in with policies espoused by the KKK and their ilk.

  13. brayden on June 29, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    Are Iranian films of great artistic quality in the same sense that LDS films constitute great art?

    Of course, perhaps the better question is, what constitutes good art when referring to the cinema? Whatever the answer to that question is, I’m pretty sure Mormons have had nothing to do with it….

  14. Eric James Stone on June 29, 2004 at 5:57 pm

    Kingsley, I have a beard, too, so I can hardly condemn Dan Burk for having one.

    I think Saddam’s beard was just a phase he was going through; you know, the typical rebellious “I’m the leader of this country even if I live in a hole in the ground” type of thing.

  15. Geoff B on June 29, 2004 at 5:57 pm

    Dan, people join political causes and international movements for a variety of reasons. Adolf Hitler was a horrible person, but it also happens that he was in favor of people dressing neatly and he was nice to small children. Should I not dress neatly and not be nice to small children because Hitler was? On the international issues that you cite, it just so happens that the Bush administration is just about the only Western force in favor of abstinence education, discouraging abortion and promotion of the family. Evidence has clearly shown in Africa that abstinence education works in decreasing AIDS. Evidence also shows that promoting strong families has a wide range of social benefits. So, the Bush administration is on the right side here, and the rest of the West is on the wrong side — their international groups have been hijacked by the far left which is primarily interested in promoting radical causes. I was much more alarmed about the company we kept during the Clinton administration when we as a country were more concerned with promoting homosexuality than with promoting abstinence.

    As for film standards, have you been to a movie anytime in the last five years? Gratuitious sex, violence, foul language, etc. are the norms in Hollywood and in other European cinema these days. The fastest growing film-related enterprises are those like Clean Flicks and others that take out all of the disgusting material. Clearly, there is a demand for entertainment without the garbage. It’s a sad commentary on Western culture — not on BYU’s standards — when we have to look to repressive Islamic regimes for clean cinema.

    As the world — Babylon — continues to decay, the Church will consistently stand out as a beacon of decency among the smut. We’re seeing that fulfilled in front of our eyes.

  16. danithew on June 29, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    http://www.worldfamilypolicycenter.org/wfpc/about.htm

    The above link might be useful. It is also written by Bro. Lundberg (I believe) and shows that the Arab countries are some of the most prominent allies the Church has found in seeking to promote traditional family values.

    Though I’m glad that they help World Forums to avoid legitimizing same-sex marriage or alternative definitions of the family, I’m also concerned about the fact that we find ourselves as a Church making alliances with Saudi Arabian delegates, a country where women are not allowed to leave the home without permission from a male relative, where women can’t drive, where women are completely covered up anytime they are in a public place. I think the Wahhabi and Taliban approaches to how women should be treated by society are some of the most oppressive and misogynistic policies women have ever had to live under.

  17. Mary on June 29, 2004 at 6:06 pm

    Brayden, no, a lot of these Iranian films are really great. They would be good wherever they came from. Iranian cinema has been all the rage for the past decade, the “up and coming/hip” angle is somewhat in decline. The White Balloon (1995) is an excellent excellent film. Abbas Kiarostami, an Iranian filmmaker, is kind of seen as a indie filmmaking God. They guy is really good and very respected in the cinema world.

  18. Kingsley on June 29, 2004 at 6:07 pm

    Take a position on anything & automatically you’ll be linked with some whacko somewhere. Prof. McIntyre’s example of certain pro-abortion groups is a good one; so are certain anti-abortion groups . Is Prof. Anderson really referring to violently enforced censorship when he speaks of the values Latter-day Saints share with the “Islamic code of behavior”? Probably not–he probably merely means: There’s no gratuitous sex & violence in these films, hurrah. Perhaps closely analyzing this type of article is tantamount to hunting mice with a shotgun.

  19. Dan Burk on June 29, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    “Does it worry abortion rights advocates that they are associated with people that hate babies and think marriage as an institution should be abolished?”

    I don’t know. If I meet any abortion rights advocates, I’ll ask them. But if they are actually consorting with baby-haters (baby-haters, Frank? Really?) I should think they would be.

    “Is this a group ad hominem?”

    Recall that ad hominem is NOT a fallacy as to the origin of an argument — there may be good reason to be suspicious of the advancement of an argument on the basis of its origin, as in this case.

    “While finding oneself on the same side as people or regimes you find distasteful may give one pause, it does not mean that one’s position is incorrect.”

    As cutesy as this post is, it is essentially correct — except that if you are making alliances with purveyors of slavery and genocide, you ought to do more than just pause. They’re taking their position for a reason, and you’d better know what that reason is before you help them achieve it.

    “Eric James Stone: But what about the fact that they both have beards … ”

    Saddam had only a mustache, which is far more sinister, until he got stuck in the hole without a razor.

  20. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    Take your allies where you find them.

    We don’t like the means that the Islamic countries employ, but our view of the ends is the same in a great many cases. What should we do? I suppose that we could watch films that we thought were good and enjoyable as a sort of protest against the Iranian regime, or not take a moral stance against moral evils like abortion in the international sphere, but I think this would be valuing our purity far too high. Alliances are not marriages or even full partnerships.

    I wonder, too, about the selective use to which this guilt by association is put. If it were not for the repressive nature of Islamic regimes would Dan B. and others be entirely enthusiastic about hyperclean cinema and a strong moral stance in international conferences, or is the association with distasteful Islamic regimes just a useful stick?

  21. Frank McIntyre on June 29, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    I vote that no one be allowed to append the word “professor” to anyone’s name anywhere on T&S. “Doctor” is also out unless the person is licensed to remove an appendix.

    Nor am I going to refer to Nate as the “Most Honorable Judge” when he gets appointed to the Ninth Circuit (which appointment would serve him right).

  22. Frank McIntyre on June 29, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    Dan,

    There are 300 million people in this country. At least some of them hate babies. Some of those baby-haters are pro-choice. Therefore Pro choice people are on the same side as baby-haters. QED.

    You are at a law school in Minnesota. Surely there are some abortion rights advocates around! I bet I could find several right here at BYU. Maybe you just don’t get out of your office much…

  23. Kingsley on June 29, 2004 at 6:26 pm

    Prof. McIntyre: I only do it because of my Iranian-like fear of authority & to properly acknowledge the chasm of experience between me & my fellow posters … But perhaps my posts take care of that all by themselves!

  24. Dan Burk on June 29, 2004 at 6:29 pm

    “We don’t like the means that the Islamic countries employ, but our view of the ends is the same in a great many cases.”

    Did you really mean to say that, Adam? That you don’t care about the means employed, only the ends achieved?

    “I think this would be valuing our purity far too high.”

    Or that? That’s it’s okay to get your hands a little dirty as long as you’re happy with the result?

    “If it were not for the repressive nature of Islamic regimes would Dan B. and others be entirely enthusiastic about hyperclean cinema and a strong moral stance in international conferences, or is the association with distasteful Islamic regimes just a useful stick?”

    I will ignore the snide innuendo about my bona fides, and simply note that a strong moral stance in international conferences is precisely what I am advocating. Moral behavior is more than acheiving one’s preferred ends.

  25. Kingsley on June 29, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    Prof. Burk: Either that or Saddam grew out his beard as a protest against the invading western power’s inexplicable hatred of facial hair. He’ll probably wear a blue shirt to trial, the fiend.

  26. Dan Burk on June 29, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    Frank — Sorry, I am in Sweden. Everyone here seems to like babies. And support elective abortions.

  27. Eric James Stone on June 29, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    > As cutesy as this post is, it is essentially
    > correct — except that if you are making
    > alliances with purveyors of slavery and
    > genocide, you ought to do more than just pause.
    > They’re taking their position for a reason, and
    > you’d better know what that reason is before
    > you help them achieve it.

    Well, figuring out why one is on the same side as unsavory people is the reason for the pause. That involves examining both one’s own motives and theirs.

  28. Frank McIntyre on June 29, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    Dan,

    Oh, well if you are in Sweden then you might be out of luck. Regardless, you get the point. The issue of association comes up all over the political spectrum.

  29. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    Let me make myself clear beyond the possibility of even deliberate misunderstanding:

    If Sudan et al. were out of the picture, would you favor LDS/BYU efforts to go to international conferences and oppose abortion rights, gay marriage rights, and whatever else you had in mind when you referred to “language or definitions concerning families, child rearing, and reproductive rights”? Or do you already oppose them on other grounds?

  30. lyle on June 29, 2004 at 7:49 pm

    Dan: Perhaps the association has to do with BYU _explicitly_ cultivating ties with the Islamic world? a la BYU-J, inviting Islamic students to BYU, actually doing road-shows on why BYU is a good school for Islamic parents to send their kids to (similar to the argument made by LDS parents re: keeping their kids ‘safe’ while at college).

    So…worry about association if you like; but culture & reaching out to other communities is likely to make strange bedfellows. I worked with the Prof. Wilkins/Family group one summer…and found myself at the same table as the Libya & Sudan UN representatives (2nd rank ambassadors). anyway…today, I find myself sueing the Government of Sudan for genocide, etc. Yet…I’d still work with their representative & be proud of their support.

    BRT anyone?

  31. Dan Burk on June 29, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Adam — if that’s as clear as you’re going to get: no. Not the way you phrase it.

    I would support LDS/BYU efforts at international meetings (or anywhere else for that matter) to promote chastity, fidelity, parental responsibility, marital and familial cohesion, filial respect, spousal loyalty — and of course, wholesome recreational activities.

    That by itself might put Sudan et. al out of the picture.

  32. brayden on June 29, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    Mary – Okay, that’s good to know. I’m just glad I didn’t see you defending the artistic merit of the LDS-movie genre. ;)

  33. Dan Burk on June 29, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    Lyle — “Ties” with the Mideast are a good thing. And I don’t doubt that the Sudanese representative is a very charming fellow.

    I have also done enough negotiating on international treaties/declarations to know that his instructions would not include support the so-called “pro-family” stance at these meetings without there being a good political reason to do so.

    It wouldn’t take a molecular biologist turned law professor to figure out that the Sudan does not want to see the creation of any international obligation that might require it to ensure children and women are treated like human beings. I suspect that there are to a greater or lesser extent similar issues with the other international “allies” recruited to the “pro-family” cause.

    And, honestly, it is not a good thing for the Church (let alone the United States) to be linked with a regime like that in the public mind.

    Reach out to the Sudanese all you like. Just think things through very carefully before you start supporting their political wish list.

  34. john fowles on June 29, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    I suggest that when “the Church” (i.e. Prof. Wilkins’s World Family Policy Center) “sides” with Iran on anything, we can make two observations about such bedfellows. First, the Center is siding with groups with similar moral values, particularly with regards to the family. In other words, it is not siding with the Revolution or the human rights abuses, etc. So you might say that the Center is siding with Islam’s teachings generally on these issues, not with any one horrifically abusive regime. Second, the Center is doing so out of genuine concern for upholding correct principles against an international onslaught against morality and the sanctity of the family, not out of a penchant for censorship, brutality, or oppression.

    I would just add that the US is bedfellows with some of these regimes on certain international issues for very similar reasons. Dan noted that the US rejection of the international criminal court is “embarassing” because it lands the US squarely in bed with these brutal regimes. But just because those countries reject the ICC out of their desire that the ICC not impinge on their abusive activities doesn’t mean that is why the US is doing so. Rather, the US reasons for abstaining from the ICC are very clear and make very good sense. That is, the US does not want to reject the ICC out of a desire to maintain an oppressive regime but rather out of fear of politically-motivated prosecution. This is a very valid fear–just look at the many lawsuits brought against US leaders in Belgian courts until recently under their previous universal jurisdiction statute. The US is at risk for such suits because of the role it has been playing in international peacekeeping (completely independent of the Iraq war). I would say that it is a fallacy of composition to impute the oppressive regimes’ reasons for rejecting the ICC onto the US just because they happened to end up on the same side of the question. Thus, embarassment is probably not called for, even if your position is that the US should just give up its distrust of countries that want to see the US fail and join the ICC for pragmatic reasons in international law (which happens to be my personal opinion–if you are interested, I have written a paper on the US and the ICC, 2003 BYU L. Rev. 1129).

    All this is to say that the standards of the international cinema at BYU stem from our religious values of righteousness, moral uprightness, and cleanliness in thought and deed. I’m sorry that that sounds so boy-scoutish (and downright unacademic), but that is just how the Church’s standards are. Censorship is not the priority but rather cleanliness. Thus, if films coming out of Iran meet that standard, it is a fallacy to say that the international cinema at BYU chooses them because they have been censored. I understand that the director of the international cinema likely meant that comment in a sarcastic way and was indeed referring to Iran’s censorship in a tongue-in-cheek way. Believe me, there is no lack of “dissenters” at BYU who would prefer not to have high moral standards enforced in what is shown in the school-sponsored cinema.

    Also, just so you know, there are films from Jordan and Egypt, India, Israel, China, Vietnam, etc. (should I go on) in the international cinema. The cinema is not just getting its movies from Iran or other countries with such censorship policies.

  35. john fowles on June 29, 2004 at 9:12 pm

    “It wouldn’t take a molecular biologist turned law professor to figure out that the Sudan does not want to see the creation of any international obligation that might require it to ensure children and women are treated like human beings. I suspect that there are to a greater or lesser extent similar issues with the other international ‘allies’ recruited to the ‘pro-family’ cause.”

    Is it just me or does the language in italics closely resemble the reasoning of groups, particularly in the UN, who are pushing for language that equates the family with genocide, i.e., the family itself is oppressive of women because of the biological convenience of the fact that women can nurse and are therefore bound to the children produced in such a family, which is characterized as dominated and terrorized by an abusive male?

    Of course we need to join the fight in ensuring that women and children are according the human rights they are entitled to! But I am skeptical of the frank dismissal of any Sudanese (or Iranian) initiative to preserve the family as merely the political means to continue the oppression of women. I don’t think it is naive to think that the values of Islam are playing a genuine role in the stance that these countries are taking regarding the family, not a desire to perpetuate the oppression women and children, even though such is unfortunately often the way that the societies on those countries end up implementing a focus on the family.

  36. Nathan Tolman on June 30, 2004 at 1:04 am

    As the BOM so often points out, the Laminates, although wicked, often did things that were righteous. Why is this case any different?

  37. Adam Greenwood on June 30, 2004 at 10:36 am

    Thank you, Dan Burk. I see that my question could have been clearer than it was. Luckily you were able to answer clearly anyway, so we’re all spared a third iteration of the question.

    So, given that the distasteful allies of Sudan and Iran do not personally concern you, since you would oppose Wilkins-type efforts anyway, I would ask under what circumstances you’ve turned your ‘distasteful allies’ reasoning on your own political and religious beliefs, and to what result? For instance, I note that the posters on ex-mormon.org have been as repulsed by church leaders making a mountain out of the beard molehill as you have.

  38. Nate Oman on June 30, 2004 at 11:23 am

    Dan: In his book Law and Disagreement Jeremy Waldron makes the point that one of the purposes and virtues of legal texts is to allow those with radically differring moral commitments to nevertheless come to agreement on particular issues. It seems to me that one of the points to take away from this is that the true test for a law-making alliance is the quality of the laws that it produces. When Wilkins et al make an alliance with Saudi Arabia or the Sudan it is — to put things bluntly — absurd and stupid to assume that they are doing so in order to advance the cause of repression and female genital mutilation. These issues seem like red herrings to me. Rather, it seems that the alliance exists to create a particular legal text. Now, obviously one ought to think through these sorts of things carefully, but I suspect that this “thinking through” is largely going to take the form of reading and analyzing the legal text itself and its possible interpretations. I don’t know the details of the treaties at issue, so I would withold judgment on this point. As you point out, the ad hominem may be a legitimate origin for the argument, but we need to remember that at the end of the day there still does need to be an argument…

  39. jeremobi on June 30, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    I may have missed an argument, but I understand Dan’s point is not that Wilkins et al are allied with the Saudis or the Sudanese “in order to advance the cause of repression and female genital mutilation.” Rather, that it is possible or probable that such an alliance in fact does further abuse and mutilation.

    I, too, suspect that the ‘thinking through’ “is largely going to take the form of reading and analyzing the legal text itself and its possible interpretations”. The question at hand is whether that is all that should be considered.

  40. Jack on June 30, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    Artists tend to have a greater alliance with art than with their country/culture. Blacks and whites were mingling in the jazz dives of New York long before the Human Rights movement. The only thing that mattered was whether or not their chops were good. So an American artist (or critic/appreciator) can find some common ground with an Iranian film maker because they both belong to a supra-culture of artisits.

    Perhaps the LDS could learn a thing or two from the Iranians about how to create meaningful (or just plain good) art with in the confines of a strict moral standard. It seems like LDS film makers have to bust loose into something silly to find any kind of expression.

  41. Kingsley on June 30, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    Very good point, Jack. Like poets used to do, the Iranians have used the strictures placed on their art to great artistic effect. In the same way LDS artists (without jumping into bed with the Iranian thought police, as Prof. Burk fears they might do) can use LDS (read: Christian) strictures as a kind of control that channels & focuses, rather than hinders, creative power. Robert Frost’s famous “I’d as soon play tennis without a net as write free verse” comes to mind. It is funny how the (e.g.) filmmaking establishment continues to hail fast & loose cinematic use of sex & violence as groundbreaking, brave, when in reality it is old hat, passe.

  42. lyle on June 30, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    What happened to preaching & socializing with the sinners & the publicans? Perhaps beard pharissism isn’t the only so-called problem in the LDS church?

    As Nate pointed out, isn’t there some value in seeing “the other” as “self,” i.e. by finding common values/(again, BRT anyone?). Perhaps individuals could stop demonizing each other if they took the time to agree on things instead of disagree. [of course i would have to erase this post then...]

    so: I agree with Dan. We should be aware that we are creating some _possible_ PR problems by associating with dictatorships, much as when we cozyied up to Communist East Germany to get a temple built (ask Prof. Geddicks…he wrote a paper about the church’s efforts there & presented it at a conference…in Germany I believe). Also…we should recognize that perhaps we are furthering the repression of women/children in the Sudan.

    However…mayhap the _possibility_ of reinforcing a bad regime is outweighed by the positive good of association? i.e. the cooperative gain? or…becoming friends, individuals who know each other rather than hurl nationalism & ephiphets (sp?). While this undermines the logic of sanctions…perhaps we should cooperate with the Chinese & others instead of isolate them.

    Can we do both? neither? either?

  43. Nathan Tolman on June 30, 2004 at 6:56 pm

    On a similar note, the Church cooperates with China on various projects, like their Minority Cultural Center in Shenzhen (right across the border from Hong Kong), influenced by the PCC, when there are issues in China with the oppression of minorities. Elder Chia, an AA70 who lives in Beijing and Handles Church relations with the Chinese government could provide a longer list.

    But I agree with Lyle. Finding common ground is better than alienation, especially when, in the Chinese case, we are seeking permission from the Government to allow native members to meet together. But I will tell you one thing I saw when I lived in China: hurling accusations about human rights abuses get you nowhere, while being reasonable and understanding (upbraiding when moved upon by the Holy Spirit comes to mind), not agreeing that human rights problems should be given a pass, but listening, makes friendships and gets you places.

  44. Jim F. on June 30, 2004 at 6:56 pm

    John Fowles: “I understand that the director of the international cinema likely meant that comment in a sarcastic way and was indeed referring to Iran’s censorship in a tongue-in-cheek way.”

    Knowing Travis Anderson, I doubt it.

    “There is no lack of ‘dissenters’ at BYU who would prefer not to have high moral standards enforced in what is shown in the school-sponsored cinema.”

    To think that the criteria for what films will be shown in BYU’s International Cinema program are too narrow–as those of us whom you describe as dissenters do–is *not* the same as thinking we ought not to exercise high moral standards in deciding what films to show.

  45. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 12:52 am

    Well, I love to say it so… “I told you so”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/01/national/01enclave.html

    Note, a discussion on this has been going on (kinda) at my personal blog.

    So…if this is the company that we keep…I say fabulous. By doing BRT & working with Muslim countries…we have created a nice population of religious/ethnic diversity in Utah.

  46. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 1:31 am

    Lyle: That is a good article, especially for the Times. The other shoe dropped pretty heavily (as it always does), but the negative stuff seemed sort of clumsy & forced compared with the positive. & it ended well. Three cheers for Mormon & Muslim values!

  47. john fowles on July 1, 2004 at 1:46 am

    “To think that the criteria for what films will be shown in BYU’s International Cinema program are too narrow–as those of us whom you describe as dissenters do–is *not* the same as thinking we ought not to exercise high moral standards in deciding what films to show.”

    Wow. I wasn’t accusing you of being a dissenter. So what are the criteria? No sex? No nudity? No violence? No profanity? And art can’t exist in the absence of these?

    My point is not so abrasive Jim. My point is that if BYU is showing Iranian films, it is not because they enjoy the distinction of being sensored by a repressive regime. Rather, it is because they apparently conform to whatever standards the International Cinema has (I don’t know what those standards are exactly, but the nice thing about the Church is that I can feel relatively confident in merely assuming that they are the same moral standards that the Church generally supports). As do films from numerous other countries, even the uncensored USA.

    That in turn leads to the larger point I was trying to make: when the USA or Wilkins sides with oppressive regimes on some issue, it is not necessarily because they share the same repressive views or policies as those groups but rather because on a particular issue, those groups represent a similar standard. The standard itself can be wholly independent of the other repressive policies of the regimes, and might even stem from sincere religious or humanistic tendencies, even in those restrictive societies, even if those societies then obscure them with illiberal actions.

    As to some of the other comments, cooperation and BRT, as Lyle would put it, aren’t repugnant in any way and so they have a good point there, although such an ecumenical angle was not the basis of my point about pragmatic alliances.

  48. Jim F. on July 1, 2004 at 2:58 am

    John Fowles: I agree with you on the larger point you were making: the fact that the cinema program finds Iranian films acceptable doesn’t imply–without a lot of hidden assumptions–approval of the Iranian political regime.

    I took some umbrage at what seemed to me to be an unjustified assumption that Anderson was being sarcastic. That umbrage is probably what led to my reading of what you said about dissenters who don’t want high moral standards for the cinema program. I misunderstood it as a criticism of those who disagree about the particular standards in place. I apologize for misunderstanding what you were saying about that topic.

  49. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 7:48 am

    John: Why don’t you see if you can’t convince Madaam Welch to post here on T&S about how she selects _foreign movies_ for the foreign language housing complex at BYU. I know that she really enjoys the international cinema…(to the best of my knowledge) on campus. What about on _her_ campus?

  50. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 7:53 am

    Dan wrote: Reach out to the Sudanese all you like. Just think things through very carefully before you start supporting their political wish list.

    Lyle (belatedly responds): Because you write in Good faith, I won’t be offended. However…

    To think that because the LDS Church/Mormons, et al. find some common values with another group (whom are universally recognized as repressive on some issues)…that they would _blindly_/_carte blanche_ support _the other, i.e. represssive_ values is…

    insulting. simply insulting.

    The 15 aren’t stupid; nor are individual members. They aren’t going to support _genocide_ simply because we get a few votes that are pro-family in the UN.

  51. obi-wan on July 1, 2004 at 11:08 am

    Lyle — While I don’t have any IQ scores handy for either the leadership of the Church or individual members, their level of intelligence is no guarantee that they have even the remotest clue as to what is going on in any international negotiation. Ignorance is as bad as stupidity in such situations; probably worse. If you are stupid it’s less likely that you will be useful enough for those who are more savvy to bother exploiting you. But they can get a lot of mileage out of the ignorant.

    Let me tell you a story. The names have been changed to protect both the guilty and the grossly ignorant, and a lot of intricate maneuvering has been edited in the interest of brevity.

    Once upon a time there was a proposal for an international declaration containing a provision which (in the English translation; the French read somewhat differently) refered to “rights of sexual orientation.” This language, developed by human rights organizations, was intended to curtail the practice of imprisoning and often executing homosexuals, simply for being homosexuals, in what we will call the “Group A” countries.

    Delegates to the drafting conference were closely divided on this language. Country B secretly supported the language, because the administration in Country B knew that homosexuals were routinely beaten to death in the prisons of its own country, but was politically unable to initiate reforms, or even an investigation, because such a move against the prison system would be taken advantage of by the “Law and Order” opposition party in Country B. The prime minister of Country B hoped that the sexual orientation language in the international document would provide him with cover to fix the domestic abuses. The Country B delegate could not openly vote for the language, but had convinced the delegate from Country C to vote for it in exchange for Country B support of a different provision that Country C needed.

    Enter an NGO whom we will call “The Clueless Ambassadors.” Chanting their mantra, “Family values forever!” they were appalled that any international document should contain a refernce to sexual orientation “rights.” Learning that Country C planed to vote in favor of the language, and that this might allow the provision to pass, the Clueless Ones met with the delegate from Country D. The Country D delegate had been instructed to defeat the measure at all costs, because it would allow the current administration in Country D to demonstrate achievement of a “moral victory” when courting the vote of certain religious fundamentalists in the next election.

    With the assistance of the Clueless, the Country D delegate met with the Country E delegate and called in some favors. The Country E delegate than provided Country C with the support it needed for its separate provision, in exchange for reneging on the deal with Country B. Country C voted against the sexual orientation proposal, the proposal failed, and homosexuals continued to suffer beatings, imprisonment, and death in Country B and in the “Group A” countries. The president of Country D lost the election anyway.

    Now, whatever you may think about the morality of homosexual behavior, persons engaging in the behavior do not deserve beating, torture, imprisonment, or execution for their conduct. But that is the sort of thing that happens when amateurs like Wilkins and his crew start “scattering sunshine” in the international arena. Yes, kids, don’t try this at home — these are trained professionals.

    And in such situations, I tend to think that finding yourself on the same side of a negotiation as a ruthless and abusive regime would indeed be really, really good time to ask yourself what you are doing there. It’s often a good marker that you are being taken for a ride and/or that what you think you are voting for is not what you are voting for.

  52. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 11:23 am

    Obi:

    If you can keep track of international relations…so can the 15. They even have a more direct line to the best source. While individual members don’t have the direct line…they have the same brains God gave you. While we all have spent different time/energy on magnifying those brains…and have diff talents in diff areas:

    show some respect. you aren’t any better than wilkins or any other individual. we can disagree about policy/negotiated outcomes, but…don’t isnult their personal intelligence. For all you know, the 15 knew about & authorized this “horrible” deal. since there is no evidence to say yeah or neah…why don’t you simply ask Prof. Wilkins, via email, to respond to your allegation? Better yet, call him at home or in his office? He is rather approachable…as are most folks…if you are shouting/shooting out insults.

  53. john fowles on July 1, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    “I tend to think that finding yourself on the same side of a negotiation as a ruthless and abusive regime would indeed be really, really good time to ask yourself what you are doing there.”

    Obi-wan: this is part of the fallacy at issue here. Take the International Criminal Court, for example. No matter how much America’s foreign policy might disgust you, you cannot seriously argue that the US opposes the ICC for the same reasons as the Sudan or Iraq under Saddam. So just because they happen to end up on the same side of the issue doesn’t imply a US ratification of the repressive reasons of those countries for opposing the court. The US has legitimate reasons of its own that stem from its over-engagement in peacekeeping around the world.

    I think that Wilkins and his people are not oblivious to the fact that there is much wrong in the societies with which he forms coalitions in international negotiations to support the family. (Also, I would reject the notion that Wilkins is an amatuer at this type of thing). The real question is what is he fighting against. True, there is a lot of political maneuvering of the kind that your “story” expressed. But there is also the unfortunate little fact of extreme pressure groups from the other side that have tremendous resources and a tremendous hatred for what might be termed as “traditional” morality, etc. These groups have been trying to get broad and destructive language into international documents–documents of soft international law–for a long time now. I beleive that they have the right to do this. But I also believe that groups who want to shore up the way to the socially questionable agendas of such pressure groups have an equal right to fight their hardest to oppose this. Wilkins and his people are exercising that right, and they are justified in doing so. (All this comes independent of my personal views about what Wilkins is doing–I’m just saying he has as much right to do it as the other pressure groups have the right to subvert the family, etc. It’s just that they have much more resources and so Wilkins needs to find support where he can, i.e. in Islamic countries where people actually believe in religion on a daily basis and want to protect the family out of religious reasons. I’m sure that Wilkins is not oblivious to the fact that the societies in those countries, and their regimes, then squander the goodwill their religious principles buy them by abusing human rights in the name of the same religion that provides them with their otherwise laudable moral focus.)

  54. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Obiwan: Perhaps you might shed some light also on how you are ‘qualified’ to do negotiaion/distinguish good/bad negotiation while Wilkinson is an amateur? Perhaps you might also care to comment about Prof. Durham & his Law & Religion center at BYU law that does the same type of work…but in the area of religious liberty laws?

    Are you an FSO? Professor (your posts seem to indicate this)? Actual practioner of international relations?

    Without starting up a new thread that hashes over the old grounds of practioner vs. professor…it seems that you have some bio building to do before attacking wilkins (who has experience on both sides of the fence).

  55. obi-wan on July 1, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Lyle –

    Please read more carefully before you write.

    In the first place, who said my story was about Wilkins? (That particular one wasn’t, although I could perhaps tell others).

    Second, did I not say very explicitly that I was addressing the problem of ignorance rather than intelligence? If you think that intelligence, of whatever caliber, is by itself enough to navigate the snake pit of international treaty negotiations, you are sadly mistaken.

    For example, I assume that you are a relatively intelligent individual, but the lack of care you have just shown in reading and responding to my comment would be fatal in a close negotiation.

    Even highly skilled and experienced diplomats frequently don’t understand until years after the fact why their “allies” took certain positions; or they wake up the morning after the signatures are dry and realize they’ve been had. Setting a group of well-intentioned amateurs off on an ideological easter-egg hunt in that environment is simply, inevitably, going to result in their blundering into disaster.

    Thirdly, at what point did I make any statement concerning my comparative worth? I do feel some degree of confidence that I know more than 99% of the population does about diplomacy, but that is because of what I do regularly, as opposed to what they do regularly.

    Which brings me to, fourth, if the Church leadership is routinely spending all their time parsing out the ramifications of every amendment to an international declaration, or even micromanaging Wilkin’s operation as you seem to assume they are doing, then I would have to assume that someone else is running the Church, and I would be curious to know who.

    I am well aware of Professor Durham’s operation. For a variety of reasons that we needn’t go into here, a mis-step on his part is much less likely to result in disaster, although like anyone else, he needs to be extremely cautious.

    And as for myself, if I wanted to be identified on an internationally accessible blog, I wouldn’t need to use a pseudonym, would I? Let’s just say that my present employment puts me in a position to see these sorts of things first-hand. Beyond that, you will have to judge my arguments on their own merits.

  56. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Obi: Thanks, but I’ll just put your examples into the same category as Kerry’s hypothetical/anonymous allies.

    I don’t see a big diff between intelligence & ignorance. Hopefully I’ll consult you before concluding any major treaties.

    I’ll consider what you said, but so far, it just smacks of the elitism discussed in the “elite v. common” religion discussed previously at T&S.

  57. Nathan Tolman on July 1, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    obi-wan – I sympathize with your story of folly, but should we not be as hard on the politician who would not stand on principle as on the bumblers you describe?

  58. Adam Greenwood on July 1, 2004 at 9:00 pm

    And in country F, activists took ‘rights of sexual orientation’ to mean what it says and started working their way through the courts to enforce this new international norm.

  59. Davis Bell on July 2, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    Obi, working at IHOP does not qualify you as a practicioner of international relations. ;)

  60. Kaimi on July 2, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    “working at IHOP does not qualify you as a practicioner of international relations”

    It doesn’t? Dang it, now I’ve got to change my resume again.

  61. Davis Bell on July 2, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    Kaimi, you’re fine. While working at IHOP doesn’t qualify you to practice international relations, it does, however, qualify you to practice law, since we all know you guys make most of it up anyway, and then couch it in unintelligible language to convince the uninitiated that you actually learned something in law school.

  62. john fowles on January 25, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    I’m just posting here because Ronan’s talking about the Wilkins-Islam alliance over at United Brethren.

    In rereading this thread, I see that obi-wan, apparently an FSO or practicioner in international relations law, failed to address a comment I made here. Obi-wan, I would be genuinely interested in your views on this, if, as you say, you really are in a position to see these things first hand.

    Also, can you confirm whether or not, about ten years ago when Wilkins’s operation was still called NGO Family Voice, anti-traditional-family pressure groups did or did not try to introduce language into a UN document–which would have become soft international law–that defined the traditional family as genocide?

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