Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Jason Calacanis Shows His (Horribly Bigoted) Stripes

Here’s no secret: Jason Calacanis doesn’t impress me. Sure, the dude can make money (but so could Bernie Madoff), but as far as ideas go? I’m underwhelmed, seriously and truly underwhelmed.

So today, when I spotted this delicious rant of Jason’s on TechCrunch, I was quite pleased to be among the first in line to watch his descent:

RANT: For over a year, I haven’t visited a gas station and have been able to give the finger to the bastards in the Middle East who believe that women and gays are about as valuable as dogs, and that the freedoms we enjoy in the United States are the root causes of all evil. If Obama had any leadership ability, as opposed to his consensus-building nonsense, he would have taken the billions we’re going to spend in Afghanistan and simply spent that money on electric car and solar subsidies in America. We have to stop wasting our money building schools and bridges for backwards societies that don’t appreciate them and start spending that money on energy independence. There is no reason we couldn’t put solar panels on every rooftop in America, and electric cars in every driveway, instead of spending money fighting enemies that don’t want the freedom we’re promoting. Sorry about the rant, but I’m really frustrated that Obama, who I voted for, is such a disappointment. He was supposed to bring some innovation to politics and his policies feel no different than the failed strategies of Cheney/Bush (in that order). If I was president, I would cut our losses in the Middle East and stop sending any money there, instead investing it in nuclear, solar, wind and EVs. This is such an obvious solution to everyone except the idiots we put in power. Shame on all of us. END RANT

Don’t get me wrong – in the midst of his total bigotry, Calacanis has a couple of good points about energy; I’m all about getting off oil (though obviously not for the same reasons). But then, wait, he goes on to say this (in a response to another comment):

It fairly well established that our presence in the region is not welcome. We really shouldn’t be there trying to force democracy on people who believe in lashing women, gays and people who think differently than the religious zealots who run the place.

The more time we spend there the more terrorists we inspire. We should leave and make strategic strikes on terrorist outposts when we need to. We can’t win the heart and minds of people who don’t believe in the most basic human rights (let alone who let religious leader run their societies).

Are their intelligent people in the middle east? Sure, they are just not in charge, in jail or they’ve been murdered already.

Wait wait wait…what? The only intelligent people in the Middle East are in jail or dead?

I’m pretty sure Calacanis’s absurd rant speaks for itself, so I’ll just leave ya’all to marvel in it…

There are a million more things to say, and as @weddady and I have enjoyed pointing out on Twitter, there are lots of incredibly intelligent and awesome Arabs reading TechCrunch, reading Jason’s bullshit, and calling him out on it. We’ve also enjoyed pointing out Arabloggers.com, Arab Techies, the fact that Harvard’s studying Arabic blogs, and all the numerous incredible Arab tech orgs. But Jason’s not interested in that.

Here’s my TechCrunch comment, in full:

Look, you have some points about energy; regardless of where we’re getting it from, there’s no reason to remain dependent on oil with the technology we’re capable of.

But shit like this? “I haven’t visited a gas station and have been able to give the finger to the bastards in the Middle East who believe that women and gays are about as valuable as dogs, and that the freedoms we enjoy in the United States are the root causes of all evil.”

What the HELL do you know? Honestly? Have you ever set foot in the Middle East? Clearly, you’ve never been to Beirut, at least.

But lest I think you’re singling out just the dictators in power…

“Are their intelligent people in the middle east? Sure, they are just not in charge, in jail or they’ve been murdered already.”

Wow, Jason. I’m not sure it gets more ignorant than that.

Oh, and Mahalo sucks.

55 Comments

  1. My goodness. Thank you for bringing that out. A rabid, bigoted accumulation of lies and racist slander. I don’t think though many would disagree with the idea of stopping sending any American money to the Mideast (money sent to the regimes that is) provided that Calcanis includes Israel in his scheme.

    • You know me. Can’t keep my mouth shut.

      But seriously – I’m with the idea. I’m with a lot of what he said, IF he were directing it at the region’s regimes (yes, Israel included). But to insult the people of the Arab world like that? To call them stupid, ignorant, and callous about human rights? Sick, dude, sick.

    • I am little bit sorry for the disturb as I pointed the article to jillian and weddady but it was impossible to shut up when you find such rant full of ignorance and misconceptions. citing one or two articles from western media to argue and to generalize about regions of more than 10 countries which each of them has its own particularities is unacceptable.
      many issues in middle east started when USA started to intervene. people tweeting about iran and protests forget or don’t know about putsch backed by CIA and US government against democratic elected prime minister mossadeg in Iran …because as usual oil.

      Rafik

  2. Thank you for this! I had to bite my lip while reading his “rant”

  3. Jillian,

    Glad you wrote this piece. I recieved Jason’s commentary via his mailing list yesterday before it went out on TC and was mortified. I immediately responded via twitter and got into a mini-twitter duel. It was RT’ed by some people from his organization in a form that made me look like a doofus/him look like he was campaigning for the rights of “gays and women” as a whole.

    You can find the correspondance in my timeline on twitter (@evanmrose, amongst other silliness which if you do visit, please disregard :-) As a disclaimer, I don’t claim to be some great historian or to know all about the ME but I did study Social Anthropology at Harvard(A.B. June 09). However, I did do a good deal of work & took multiple courses dealing with this exact issue in the Middle East. Having read a number of ethnographies that detailed actual life/cultural history and having heard stories from a good friend/hallmate who consistently travels back for political activism, I was especially dissappointed to hear the grand generalizations he made so flippantly.

    In any case, great piece!

  4. I’m not a bigot or a crook–I’m honest.

    Here are the basic facts:

    1. The *majority* of the middle east region is hundreds of years behind the rest of modern civilization when it comes to basic human rights. Raping, beating and torturing women, gays and free thinkers is the norm in majority of the middle east.

    2. There has been progress in various countries including Jordan and Bahrain
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Bahrain
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Jordan

    3. There are intelligent, considered, freedom fighting individuals in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. These individuals are, in large part, hiding in fear, have been murdered or are locked in prisons where they are, in all likely hood, being tortured.

    4. The middle east is the only significant region on the planet that practices brutal things rapes, amputations and lashings as part of their justice system.

    Is there anything I’ve said above that is factually incorrect?

    I don’t make these comments flippantly–I make them FACTUALLY. It’s time for a real discussion about the brutality that is systematic and accepted in these countries.

    If you simply object to me referring to the “middle east region” with one brush, I can refine that statement to say “most of the middle east region” or make a list of specific countries. Would that make my statements less offensive to you? I’d honestly like to know because this is an important dialogue.

    all the best,

    Jason

    • Jason,

      you see the problem with tour remarks is that, like everyone in US media, you’re merely repeating cliches. The real issue here is that you and like minded-people point fingers at the “middle-east” (whatever that is) disparagingly. The real question is: since you seem to feel strongly about freedoms and rights, what are YOU doing about it? Just ranting?

      AT LEAST, have some respect for Arabs risking their necks and freedom for these rights you are so passionate about, instead of merely ranting they are actually DOING.

      The truth is, people like Kareem Amer, Hanevy Ould Dahah, Fouad Al-Farhan or Sami Ben Gharbia or Wael Abbas have no lessons to receive from you as you don’t really KNOW what freedom or human rights are… because you were born into them.

      For you, this is just a “rant”; for people like Zouhair Yahyaoui, it’s a matter of life or death.

      So do yourself a favor, get back to your hi-tech stuff and Leave the mideast alone. You have nothing to say or add on the subject.

    • I think there is no denying the facts Jason mentions. The main problem is with the conclusion that seems overly general and broad. Several nations in the Middle East are evolving away from those barbaric practices. Some refuse and are rightfully condemned.

      It would have been better if his conclusion had been that those working and fighting for more human rights in the Middle East and that the human rights violators are evil, barbaric and backwards.

      BTW, the continuous trend towards religion and against science in the US makes me fear that rights may soon evaporate there.

    • Jason- I’m sorry, but your blog is very one sided and close minded. There are plenty of Americans who do exactly what you were speaking about but when you magnify the Arabs, they’re the only ones who seem corrupt. If American people were so open minded, then way isn’t gay marriage legal in every state? If American people were so open minded (about women rights), then why does the woman make a dollar less than a man? If American people are so open minded, then why do American soldiers in Iraq continuously rape Iraqi women? Corruption is a part of every nation and you my friend are obviously racist and want any excuse to talk crap about the Arabs.

    • While Jason is certainly a charming and headstrong individual, he needs to understand that such political arguments are about as out of place as Mahalo’s relevance in the broader search engine world. I appreciate the time that he likely took to read a Friedman book or two, but without any grounding in the reality of the cultures of Middle Eastern states, or regime politics of the societies he slanders, or foreign politics and diplomacy, or civil-society and institution building or even a vague awareness of theories of modernization, his opinion isn’t worth anyone’s time or energy.

      Despite the fact that the quality of name certainly means much in the incestuous venture-capital world that TechCrunch slums, in academia, even the policy world, such an inchoate level of awareness is shameful. This is underscored by his supporting bibliography of… two Wikipedia links. Arrogance and zeal is not the same as honesty. He has failed to make any factual claim other than a deep reliance on Orientalism.

    • Jason,

      You hit on a very delicate issue with a very broad brush. Many of your comments are very valid, and many/most would agree with them. But you wrapped it in a very insensitive rant, which should have been refined before it went out to the interweb, and thats whats bugging people out.

      I think you should apologise for the tone, instead of justifying your brashness – it really does make you look like a great big yanky bigot.

      Regards
      Burf

    • The only “fact” I got from your comment is that you need to do your homework. For the meantime I suggest you save face by not talking about the Middle East. Silence IS golden in your case.

      Now to tackle some of your so-called facts:
      1. Are you kidding me? Unfortunately abusing women (and in some cases men), and homosexuals (not “gays” as you referred to them) is still a common thing across all cultures. Just now we’re hearing news of Californian Evangelicals being the driving force behind a death penalty legislation for homosexuality in Uganda. So spare us your patronizing misinformed opinions. Abuses are not limited to a single region in the world. Calling the ME hundreds of years behind is ignorant not to say obnoxious.

      2. As someone has pointed out on your TechCrunch post, progress in civil liberties and human rights has been undeniable even if in some cases painfully slow. Syria currently has a female vice president, a feat that the US is yet to experience. I’m not saying that human rights are exemplar in Syria, but you’re Wikipedia education doesn’t really allow you much say in the matter. Pro tip: you do business and tech best, stick to that. We’ve already got too many faux-pundits than we need.

      3. Those individuals you talk of are in fact a multitude. Unfortunately you’re correct that most of them are silenced by fear, banishment, and persecution. I tip my hat for those brave enough to speak up.

      4. You’ve said fact so many times it makes me want to puke. Here’s how I’d fix your statement: Saudi Arabia is one of the rare countries in the world to practice amputations and lashings as part of their justice system. Rape is never a part of any justice system. Seriously, where do you come up with this shit. I do recognize that some communities respond to rape by marrying the victim to the rapist. That’s atrocious but it’s not prevalent and it’s definitely not a part of the justice system. Just because the Wahhabi Saudi regime who happens to be in bed with the US enforces an extreme understanding of Sharia doesn’t mean that the whole region has nothing but brutal savages.

      So to answer your questions, yes, everything you said was factually incorrect. I hope I helped clear a bit of the riddle that is the ME.

      All the best to you,

      Anas

      PS: does anyone else find it funny that every other reply to Jason had to point out that Mahalo sucks or irrelevant? cheap shots you guys.

    • “1. The *majority* of the middle east region is hundreds of years behind the rest of modern civilization when it comes to basic human rights. Raping, beating and torturing women, gays and free thinkers is the norm in majority of the middle east.”

      Yeah, no. No, it’s not. Raping is not the norm ANYWHERE, and beating and torturing is the norm in one or two places, NOT the majority…which is not to say it doesn’t happen elsewhere, of course, but the norm? Way to overstate.

      “2. There has been progress in various countries including Jordan and Bahrain
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Bahrain
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Jordan

      There has also been significant human rights progress in Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere. In fact, the least progress has been made in countries which the United States heavily backs (Saudi, Egypt).

      “3. There are intelligent, considered, freedom fighting individuals in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. These individuals are, in large part, hiding in fear, have been murdered or are locked in prisons where they are, in all likely hood, being tortured.”

      No, they’re commenting on my blog. Most not even anonymously. They’re also on Twitter, at conferences, in the blogosphere, in my workplace, in your workplace (well, maybe not, since you probably have say on the hiring).

      “4. The middle east is the only significant region on the planet that practices brutal things rapes, amputations and lashings as part of their justice system.”

      Except they don’t. You referred to Iran and Afghanistan, both countries with brutal human rights track records. Guess what? NOT THE MIDDLE EAST. Aside from those two countries, Saudi Arabia is really the only one that fits the bill in terms of lashings and stonings…stuff you also hear of in Africa and Southeast Asia.

      Jason, the real question is, why are you targeting the Middle East and where are you getting your news from?

    • Wow, when I read your post on tech crunch I just thought you based your racist ideas on generalizations. I was ready to give you the benefit of the doubt. But apparently you’re rather happy about your arrogance — so happy you forgot how to make a logical argument. If you’re going to blow your horn about FACTS why don’t you cite one credible source to back up all the ludicrous claims you make about raping women being “the norm.” Please cite the legal authorities from any country that falls under the vast ambit of “the middle east region” which back up the claim that rape is legal or worse that it is a legalized form of punishment.

      Oh, and while you’re at it, can you please share with us what the middle east region is, and maybe give an example of what an insignificant region looks like (as opposed to a “significant” one, like the MER).

    • (Proof by Absurdity, no offense.) If I wanted to take the same kind of shortcuts I could say that Americans are the children of criminals and unwanted low education and quality Europeans (in Europe). They had no future in their own country so they went to the New World. First thing they did was to kill the locals.
      The genetic teachs us that you (Americans) share your criminal grand grand parents’ DNA so: you are criminals.
      And I can prove it (facts):
      – Most of the serial killers are in the US.
      – You love war so much you need to fight against other unknow people.
      – In california you want to ban gay marriage.
      – You use abortion instead of condoms.
      – The percentage of death by firearms is outrageous.
      – …

      Saying that, even if factual:
      1.- I am wrong
      2.- I am stupid
      3.- I am offensive

      Solution: Jason, take your passport and travel around the world without eating in Mac Donald’s and without staying in a Starwood hotel. :p

      All the best (BTW, I love the US. Really.) :)

  5. Wow – can’t believe anyone is making a deal out of this. Jason is a good smart guy, but does not pretend to be a political heavyweight – just one man’s opinion.

    How people see bigotry in this, I don’t understand. He is not saying leave the middle east because they are Arabs (and Jews) he is saying leave because we are not welcome. I disagree with him but to call it anything more than what it is is just comical.

    As for lumping Israel into the rant, I am not sure Jason’s perspective, but it seems silly. The concept of the article (as I read it) is why continue putting money into non-democratic non-functional pseudo states. Israel is an enduring democracy that fights for gay rights and the like. Additionally Israel has more companies on Nasdaq than any country in the world except for the US. Seems silly to jam that together with Afghanistan….

    • Here’s the thing give any ME country billions of dollars in aid every year and in a decade they’ll dominate Nasdaq. The US alone has pledged 2.7 billion dollars in aid to Israel. Not to mention that Israel thrives on occupying other peoples’ lands and resources: Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinian.

      Also here’s another area where Israel dominates: war criminals. How many Israeli officials and top ranking officers can’t go to the UK in fear of arrest for war crime charges? I can count five in the recent weeks, including Tzipi Livni. I assume you know who that is, if not, dare I suggest – gasp- Wikipedia?

      Also, enough with the democracy bullshit. Lebanon is also an enduring democracy and it was pummeled to the ground in 2006 by this so-called enduring democracy. A democracy that endorses racism and treats non-Jews as mere animals has no moral leverage. Let’s cut the crap.

  6. Is is really necessary to list the societal and governmental norms in the Middle East that lead to the suffering, oppression, abuse and death of many of its brightest and best including women, children and gays? Since it is clear that Jason is referring to these atrocities in policy, law and culture, perhaps it is more respectful to those peoples to acknowledge the relevance in Jason’s statement instead of denying its legitimacy and taking a defensive position?

    Context is everything and the context of Jason’s statement is clear: he does not want to support through the purchase of their oil, governments and regimes that oppress, abuse and kill their own people.

    • To Jason, Jon and Trace,

      Disclaimer: I am not of middle eastern descent. All of the below is clearly opinion. I would welcome someone who has studied further/lived there to come in and school us all on whats going down for real.

      A few points:

      1) The argument here isn’t that there aren’t historical, structural and incredibly horrific injustices. I think we can all agree that the way things are going down over there is brutal. Likewise, the argument isn’t Jason’s intelligence, dude clearly is crushing the startup scene and helping out other entrepreneurs in the process so high five to that. Israel is a different story, not even going into that.

      2) My concern–as indicated in my first tweet–was the generalization about the Middle East in general and the use of particularly inflammatory words like “savage” and “backwards” which to me indicate a callous disregard for the intricacies of the situation. Until this post (which is likely because our dialogue occured on twitter), I never had any indication that you recognized A)There are numerous parties involved in this issue, not all of which are to blame and B) the history behind the situation.

      3) The Taliban et al. most certainly do oppose our culture as a whole, I agree on that point. However, to say that they (Middle East as a whole) “don’t want the freedom” we’re promoting is a somewhat narrow sighted. The opposite of Radical Muslim hierarchy/justice is not American Democracy. To call it such and say that we are spreading “freedom” there is complete claptrap. Our “culture” if you can even call it that is so radically different from theirs that imposing it on them wholesale is an injustice in and of itself. There is middle ground and there is freedom within Muslim culture. Millions of people live peacefully every day under less radical regimes.

      This story isn’t new. Radical interpretations of religion have been used to exert political and military might for thousands of years. The Crusades? Come on man, millions dead to kill the “others” in the name of uniting under Christ (I’m Catholic btw, not throwing salt on JC). The “othering” of people unlike yourself in order to impose radical policy is a trend through civilized society that existed from a tribal all the way to a modern society level. This trend very often manifests itself in beatings, rape, murder, stoning, slavery and other equally brutal acts. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking its the “Middle East” or “Muslims” who are doing this and that it didnt exist long before and during in other parts of the world. It is simply far less publicized.

      All of that said, you are right in noting that there are opressive leaders imposing radical views on the society as a whole which really sucks. The ultimate goal should be a level playing field without violent influence which would be my definition of “freedom.” Trace and Jason, you’re both right in that these issues need to be addressed. If all of these comments do anything to raise awareness then I’d be more than satisfied. However, in addressing these issues it is important to remember–if youre interested in leaving feathers unruffled–that there are nuances and background that need be understood before generalizing. Also, “Middle East” can also be replaced by direct mention of radical regimes responsible for the atrocities, possibly not even mention of the country as that implies the people as a whole.

      Caveat: I’ve often wondered in a world where we consume so much BS media and reality television why there isnt ACTUAL reality television. I’m not a media guy so I don’t know the ins and outs but it seems to me that news should be the ultimate reality television. When Chester James and Donovan Robinson rattle off the news, I often say “damn, that sucks” but at the end of the day I’m still sitting on my couch. I havent done anything and I don’t understand very much if anything about what’s actually going on. Maybe its that as a culture we like to passively consume pre cut and pre chewed information. Why is it that we cant get a flip or a blackberry into the hands of a kid or even an activist in Iraq right now and have him stream information through the same satellites that bring us the current “news”? I think doing so would be remarkably revealing if edited carefully by unbiased people with morals. If done right you’d feel just a sliver of the horrors of life outside of cushy US but even that would be exponentially more moving than news currently. Of course this is all very easy to say/think/plan sitting in NY and there are huge theoretical holes (i.e. Military PR spinning, political positioning/PR of regimes on the ground) but I can’t help but think there are situations where this could be hugely revealing. I know about the twitter campaigns, blogs and books. I’m thinking something even more intimate and current. Would Americans even watch if it were provided? Just a thought and no I’m not ready to dive in headfirst myself so I am a hypocrite.

      Best,

      Evan

    • Trace,

      If by chance you’ve returned to read comments, why not check out “those peoples'” statements for yourself?

  7. Interesting discussion.. According to this list http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/reports/ReportHRI_-4-2.pdf the middle east isn’t really much worse than the US!

  8. Why is everyone moralizing about “Middle East” Countries? Culture is different in different areas, it is not necessary that every country obey the “rights” that your country endows you. What is not working in Arabic countries is that they suffer from the resource-curse and it plagues African countries too.

    For someone claiming to be a “journalist”, Jason is incredibly naivé to comment in this manner.

  9. What Jason ?! Wikipedia ?! is that where you get your “FACTS” from ?! I am sorry to say that you still have a lot to learn about the middle east and the Arab World..

  10. Jason DOES make a few good points which I’ve been repeating for a long time but, I think there is an approach and taint in his comments that make it hard to accept that he might be objectionable. And with Nasser’s follow up comment, you can see how people like Jason feel. They aren’t getting a clear path towards HELPING the people, they are just being brushed aside and told to stay out of their business.

    “So do yourself a favor, get back to your hi-tech stuff and Leave the mideat alone. You have nothing to say or add on the subject.”

    The US is…was…a SUPER POWER, we’re SUPPOSED to help.
    But, you know what. I’m kinda tired of the US giving help out. We’ve got our own problems that we can’t begin to fix because our focus is not where it needs to be.

    *disclaimer: I am neither a historian or enlightened person on the subject of Middle Eastern politics. Scratch that, POLITICS in general. I make my decisions from personal experiences those I’ve had and those that I’ve been told by close friends.*

    • Hey man,

      Big fan here, but I need to set the record straight. The only country the US is helping is Israel, be it in arms or finances. The fact of the matter is that over one million Iraqis dead and over four million displaced. I believe we both agree that this kind of help anyone can do without. This is a tiny example of the so-called US help. I believe those funds are better spent on health care for the 44’000 Americans that die each year because they can’t afford it.

      I agree with you: US politicians (and people) should concentrate on fixing their own problems and the rest of the world will take care of itself.

  11. Jason, first of all, as a big solar fan myself, I give you 2 thumbs up for promoting SOLAR!
    WTG! (:

    I’m not a big fan of Obama either, but you do have to give credit where it’s due. I don’t think any other US president has pushed for renewable energy, especially solar, like Obama does. I don’t think any other president has been so outspoken encouraging people to invest in renewable energy and offering generous federal grants, tax rebates and incentives on residential, commercial and agricultural projects, in addition to other tax breaks and incentives being offered for renewables at the state level, all over the United States.

    You brought up some good points though regarding human rights, too bad you had to generalize the entire ME region and the people to get your point across.
    Cheers!
    Najia

  12. I, for one, would blame Jill for giving voice to such a ridiculously absurd rant.

    What Mr. Calacanis so conveniently ignores is that the US’s presence in the region was never to spread democracy. In fact the US has promoted coup d’etat after another one, in Turkey, Iran, Syria, Egypt, you name it, the US has had a bloody hand in the internal turmoil, and it was certainly never on the side of even ONE elected official. The last elections in Palestine are only a slight example.

    I’ve heard enough of this American-style self righteous human rights double speak to make my stomach turn like rolling coaster. Maybe MidEastern History for Dummies might help him get his facts straight!

  13. Anyways, why the hell should anybody encourage, legalize or even make gay relations a normal thing? This is actually what it means to be backward; and no true religion can hail such a thing.

    Before you talk about energy, technology, development or economic wars; first set your heads right about the gay notion.

    That is very sick.

    • Abdullah,

      I don’t censor comments on my blog in most cases, and I won’t censor this one, but I feel compelled to jump in quickly and say that I highly doubt most readers of this blog will agree with you on that point.

      I do, personally, think that it’s fair to hold off on certain gay rights (read: marriage and similar ideas) until other more firm human development issues (read: education, clean water) are rectified, however, the rights of everyone to live comfortably and safely must be guaranteed.

    • I don’t even see why you care about the “gay notion.” Allow me to quote someone from a website I frequent: “I have never had a gay person attempt to recruit me, convert me, accost me, evangelize me, restrict my freedoms or deny me my rights as a human being. Nor have any supposedly ‘morally corrupt’ groups.”

      So you see, that’s why I care more about energy, technology, development, and economics. These are the things that impact my quality of life as well as the quality of life of my compatriots. I have no interest in fighting windmills imagining them to be monsters. Let’s care about what matters, not about things that a 1400 year old book tells you that they’re sick.

  14. All,
    Jason is definitely painting with a broad brush. It sparks the debate which can be a good thing. I suppose if you’re close to the issues, family etc. it can be hard to listen to an outsider criticize. Here’s why we do: many American’s are tired of hearing about “the trouble in the Middle East”.

    The point is that US money would be better spent at home – hence the energy and war spending talk. Keeping our money here in the US simplifies the world – simple, right? Let’s get our money and our troops the heck out of there once and for all. Then the world can point fingers at someone else for meddling for a change – anyone else think China would fit the bill for World interloper for a change?

    Jason, keep up the heat! It’s a great topic.
    Michael
    @Fantocracy

  15. “I haven’t visited a gas station and have been able to give the finger to the bastards in the Middle East”

    I think he might want to investigate who profits from gas station purchases (hint hint, it’s not just oil producing countries in the Middle East)

    “We have to stop wasting our money building schools and bridges for backwards societies that don’t appreciate them”

    I doubt that Jason has any valid evidence (other than mere anecdotal) that the schools and bridges are unappreciated. Actually, a lot of the money spent over there is not for this purpose – it’s for rebuilding the oil production infrastructure. (roads/factories/storage etc…)

    “pending money fighting enemies that don’t want the freedom we’re promoting”

    There is not enough space here to explain how the U.S. is *not* promoting “freedom.”

    “Are their intelligent people in the middle east? Sure, they are just not in charge, in jail or they’ve been murdered already.”

    This is simply juvenile and particularly ignorant. I don’t think any response is needed.

  16. 1. This is a great discussion and I’m thankful that we are all having it. Let me say that when I referrer to the savages in the middle east that I’m NOT saying that everyone in the middle east is a savage. I’m referring to the people in the middle east region who are acting like savages and running countries that rape, torture, silence and murder people as their standard policies.

    If you referred to “fat Americans” or the “fat people in America” I would take that as you referring specifically to the fat people in America–not the people who are in shape. There is an obesity problem in the United States and their is a human rights issue in the middle east region (not all all countries–but certainly the region).

    So, if you would like me to be more clear, I will do so: I’m referring specifically to the savage governments and religious leaders who take part in and condone torture, murder, rape, lashings and human rights violations. I am NOT referring to Jordan, Bahrain and other places that have made advances, nor am I referring to the freedom fighters in Iran, and other counties, who are putting their lives on the line to fight the savages I’m calling out.

    Once again:

    a) there are a lot savage political leaders, religious leaders and governments in the middle east region
    b) not all people in the middle east are savages–obviously!

    I can’t believe I have to make this clear, but it seems I do!

    2. As I state in my piece, I don’t believe the US should be very involved in the region. I don’t think the majority of Arab countries/countries in the middle-east want us there. Certainly, we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Although crushing Al Qaeda is noble, and the good people in the region are rooting for us, we’re not going to accomplish this by occupying Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

    3. The only reason the United States is so involved in the region is our addiction to oil–I AGREE! I agree so much that I think we should isolate the *savage* countries run by savagers who control this oil by becoming energy independent. We should then deepen our relationship with the countries that are making progress.

    4. The United States policy in the region has been, historically, a disaster. I agree 100%. We need to make up for this by getting out now and not relying on the region for ANYTHING. We should be as involved with the savage countries as we are North Korea–which is to say not very.

    I’m happy to hear the free people of the region engage this discussion.

    best jason

    • You haven’t really made any argument, you’ve just made blanket statements about Middle Eastern governments without names.

      (I apologize in advance to my cohorts for a very US foreign-policy-machine-esque perspective.)

      Please tell me then, what your prescription for the KSA would be? You have a regime which is both autocratic and religious, but not the worst guys to be running the country. Mind you that these governments are committing violence and human rights abuses against not just liberal opponents, but more often Islamist influences like the Brotherhood. What do you do when the state collapses because they run out of money and support? I would dare say that some of that violence (I only concretely assert this in the case of Nassir) stands in the way of even less liberal governance (e.g. Gaza after democratic elections). How can anyone look at Yemen and expect anything else to happen when you start to defund hard states? These aren’t liberal bastions of democracy waiting to happen, but if you looked for example Clark’s work on ‘Social Movement Theory and Patron-Clientelism,’ you may appreciate the logic of such politics.

      But on the opposite end, UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Lebanon are all modernizing and if you pull out you risk destroying the best things to happen to the region in modernity, especially with Qatar’s involvement with deal brokering in regional affairs. Especially considering what USAID and State is doing with democracy assistance.

      I think Jillian is wrong in one regard, I don’t think you are bigoted. Instead I think you haven’t shown an elementary appreciation for nuance, which is irresponsible for someone acting in a ‘journalistic’ capacity.

    • Hi Jason,

      So, I’m glad I didn’t have time during the workday to respond because, as you can see, the responses mostly have come from around the region, which is much better than my Arabist opinion!

      That said, I would be remiss not to address this on my own blog, so, I’ll respond to the points you make here.

      a/b: I know you aren’t referring to every person in the Middle East; still, I don’t think it helps your understanding of the people of the region to make such blanket statements. If you don’t mean what you say, then just say what you mean. You must realize, being a well-known tech person, that people from the region read and follow your blog, right? Why insult them with such statements? What’s the point? You can still make points about the Saudi royal family or Mubarak without so crassly insulting my friends.

      2. I think this is a reasonable point; I don’t think we should be involved in the region either, at least the way we are right now. Our policy should be informed by what the people want, and not by orientalism and western values, which may or may not translate.

      3. I’m also all for getting of oil dependency, though my reasoning for that is probably informed quite differently from yours.

      4. Okay sure (on the issue of reliance), but why do you keep referring to them as “savage?” Is waterboarding not savage? Is handing weapons to one side and then advocating for the other not savage?

      Basically, what it comes down to is this: I think that your opinions on the Middle East are informed entirely by two things: Your White western values and the media. You are a wealthy man, by any count, and yet, you have no desire to travel to the region and better inform yourself, instead relying on American perspectives and media? What, FOX and Tom Friedman? Maybe CNN?

      Nobody here is denying the torture, violations of human rights, and other horrors that occur in the Middle East. Nobody. But to think that they are somehow unique is simply naive. Consider North Korea. Consider Cambodia. Consider Mexico, Brazil. Consider the horrible atrocities committed by the United States toward the Japanese people, native Americans, Black people. Consider the atrocities committed against aboriginals in Australia and Canada, until maybe 30 years ago. Consider all of that, and then tell me the Middle East is unique.

      And then realize that maybe, just maybe, the issues of the Middle East have more to do with dictatorships than they do Islam (I know you never mentioned Islam, but your grouping of Afghanistan and Iran in the Middle East – which they are not a part of – informed me enough). And then consider that maybe those dictatorships have some correlation with the way American and European foreign policy has been informed for the past century.

      Not that any of that is an excuse for violence. But your approach is naive, and your lack of desire to listen to, and understand actual Arab (or “Middle Eastern”) sentiment is worrying.

      I am no expert; I’ve spent time in only five majority-Muslim countries (again, I have a feeling that that’s your primary definition of “Middle East”). But what I do–and what I feel is paramount–is LISTEN. And yes, it’s confusing; this is an extremely complicated region. But I think you could benefit from some readings of the Arab blogosphere in general (and maybe some new Twitter friends in the region–not the lackeys of the State Dept and Freedom House types, mind you, but actual friends in the region). In fact, I invite you. Let me know if you want any introductions.

      I’m glad you’ve got an open mind, and I’m glad this discussion has happened.

    • Imagine this scenario with me: staff meeting. You’re running the show. You go ahead and say: “not all of you are thieves, crooks, and liars.” I don’t think you would be running any staff meetings anymore.

      You might have an honest intent. However, your wording still fails miserably.

    • Another comment with no sources. Please reference credible history books. You can’t harp about FACTS while failing to provide a single one with evidence.

  17. I’m confident I’ve managed to come off way too glib about human rights abuses.

  18. Jason, I think reducing our presence in the Middle East may be a good idea in some respects, but I don’t think you realize the full extent of our military juggernaut. Your ire at the Middle East may be a bit misdirected.

    For example, in this article by Daniel Volman –

    “The budget request submitted to Congress by the Obama administration for FY 2010 proposes significant increases in U.S. security assistance programs for African countries. This suggests that, at least initially, the Obama administration is following the course laid down for the new Africa Command by the Bush administration, rather than putting these programs on hold until it can conduct a serious review of U.S. security policy towards Africa. For more information, see the Summary and Highlights for International Affairs Function 150: Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/122513.pdf).”

    Page though the document if you have a minute, and I think you’ll be surprised at how much money is going to Africa. “The administration’s request raises the total funding for arms sales to Africa from $8.3 million in financial year (FY) 2009 to $25.6 million in FY 2010.” And that’s just *one* small part of the funding. A lot of money is going to projects in Sudan – which as you may know, falls under your guidelines of “savage governments and religious leaders who take part in and condone torture, murder, rape, lashings and human rights violations.”

  19. Americans have a bad habbit of critiquing human rights abuses in other countries while simultaneously overlooking human rights abuses when it serves America’s interests. Examples:
    1. Restoring the repressive Iranian Shah in 1953
    2. Supporting the “repression” of communists in Indonesia in 1965, resulting in 250K deaths.
    3. Supporting the overthrow a democratically elected president (Allende) with a military dictator (Pinochet) in 1973

  20. I posted a long entry on my blog regarding the discussion that began on TechCrunch, which (pardon the self promotion :) I invite you to read, but I’ll sum it up briefly here:

    – Yes, Jason, some of what you write is factually incorrect.
    – The rest is mostly half-correct sentences, obscene generalisations, and buzzword-charged statements that mean little in themselves, and surely do not represent any “debate” arguments.
    – The way you address us, Middle Easterners, is incredibly pretentious.
    – The Middle East does not look like Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, as Jason may believe. The nuances, the shades of grey are infinite.
    – Actually, yes, what you wrote makes you a bigot.

    With your permission, Jillian — the post is here.

  21. It is a familiar pattern after 911. Make broad bigoted statements with total ignorance of “middle east”, geopolitics and U.S. foreign policy. His is probably in reaction to Christmas day plot and media coverage.

  22. “Oh, and Mahalo sucks” – a childish retort that lessens the impact of your argument.

    • Childish, sure, as my boyfriend already pointed out in an earlier comment. But certainly nowhere near as dangerous as Jason’s myopia.

  23. Jason Calacanis said,

    RANT: For over a year, I haven’t visited a gas station and have been able to give the finger to the bastards in the Middle East who believe that women and gays are about as valuable as dogs

    Obviously, Jason Calacanis hasn’t recanted his comments yet, so I’m going to call him out on them.

    First of all, you might think you’ve ‘given the finger to the bastards in the middle east’, but in fact the proverbial finger might have been given to you, unwittingly of course :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masdar_City

    Now, your sweeping statement that the ‘bastards in the middle east’ are all oil dependent is largely ignorant. An uninitiated individual might get the impression that when oil dries up, the middle east is doomed. Well, please go right ahead and come up with alternative source of energy (before WE in the middle east come up with it). I’d salute you (and knowing that the US is home to the largest number of climate change denialists in the world, I’d also say I dare you).

    gays are about as valuable as dogs

    Homophobia isn’t more widespread in the middle east than, say, Russia. Of course, there are problems, (and there are more free and intelligent people than you could ever realize that talk about them) but that doesn’t give you the right to paint everyone in the middle east with the same brush.

    As one smart gentleman once told me, “when you smear an entire group of people and not the negative action you intend to address in them, you’d come across as a racist, bigoted little fuck”

    As for women rights, sure there are problems, but seriously, what do you know about feminism in the middle east? can you for instance, make a distinction between Syria, where we had feminist movement since the 50s, and other places, where advances in the subject matter are slow but picking up recently?

    Do you possess the ability to NOT look at the middle east as a monolith?

    I don’t expect you to remove these comments or respond to me here, but I had to chime in anyway.

    (P.S. it’s curious that you’d portray the value of dogs in your comments as being something of no value. I don’t know what you bastards in the US think of dogs, but here in the middle east with treat them nicely..;) )

    (P.P.S I’m a long term resident of the middle east and I talk about the above subjects openly. I’d never felt that my views on social challenges put me in trouble with the authorities. Magically, I’ve never been jailed because of my views)

  24. Careful with the misreading:

    “Wait wait wait…what? The only intelligent people in the Middle East are in jail or dead?”

    Why do you leave out the first clause from that “or” statement? The other choice was “not in charge”.

    The rest of your criticism is valid, but most of the anger here comes from you misconstruing Jason to be saying that all Middle Easterners are unintelligent, which is just not what the words there say.

    • But even then, that’s not true. There ARE intelligent people in charge in some capacities. (certainly not the highest leadership positions in most countries, but can you really say that about most “western” countries either?)

  25. I wasn’t offended by Jason’s rant at all. Here are the facts:

    1) The Middle East was the cradle of civilization, it was the birthplace of books, libraries, and algebra

    2) Religion came along and ruined all that, permanently arresting intellectual progress in the region, leading to…

    3) The majority of people in power in the Middle East view women and gays as worthless (See Ahmadinajad’s recent comment about “iran has no gays”).

    4) The West-East oil relationship is dysfunctional. The West values freedom and equality, the East hides it’s misogyny (Middle East) and rampant child slavery (India) and the West gladly looks the other way

    5) The West truly wants freedom and equality for the people of the East, and the people of the East seem to truly want the same. But, for whatever reason, the people of the East and the West cannot seem to topple the regimes (governmental and religious regimes) that keep this from happening

    So Jason speaks what typical Americans feel. It’s not a slight against anyone, it’s just an honest take. I don’t think he’s a bigot at all. I think he just wants what everyone here wants- religious freedom, equality for gays and women, and progress. I think you jumped the gun on this post. Jason Calacanis has too much of a track record to be called a bigot for this. I’m underwhelmed by him as an entrepreneur too, but he’s a generous, tolerant guy and is just speaking in the name of sane, common-good goals in my opinion.

  26. Karl: Thank you for that fair take on my position. I’m a lover of freedom, human rights and good people. I’m a hater of the “bastards” who torture, rape, murder and deny people their human rights.

    So, I actually consider George Bush a “bastard” for approving torture (water boarding) and I’m ashamed that the United States–even for a brief time with the worst criminals in the world–did this.

    I never said all people in the middle east are bastards, I said I don’t like the bastards in the middle east. I was referring to the specific *bastards* who rape and torture folks.

    I’m sorry that folks are so sensitive that they misinterpreted what I was clearly saying. Also, I didn’t make any comments on the history of the middle east, arabs, or Jews. Folks are assuming I feel a certain was about those things–and they are incorrect in their assumptions and would probably be surprised to hear that I’m not a fan of the USA policies in the region historically AND that I don’t agree with everything Israel has done–far from it.

    All the being said, I’m the least bigoted, most open minded person you’ve ever met. I grew up with thousands of different types of people in Brooklyn… I love all good people. :-)

    • You aren’t bigoted, you are just wrong and unwilling to do anything other than rehash a set of aphorisms.

    • Jason,

      I do apologize for the term “bigot,” as I’m not sure that describes you accurately. I admit that I am very reactionary, and that some of your initial comments were so harsh that I reacted a bit out of line.

      That said, I’m still frustrated at your unwillingness to listen to people who actually have on-the-ground experience in the Middle East; you instead only reply back to people like Karl, whose #3 comment still demonstrates dishonesty and lack of experience. If someone were talking about experience with racism, who would you listen to: a white person or a person of color? It’s the same idea.

      I also, like Collin, am frustrated by your lack of desire to acquire any deeper understanding of the nuances of the region, instead rehashing the same aphorisms again and again. Virtually no one who commented disagrees with you that these things (abuses of women, gays, etc) exist in some places, but nearly everyone except you has pointed out contradictions, examples, and truths that you refuse to acknowledge.

      Also, you said: “I’m sorry that folks are so sensitive that they misinterpreted what I was clearly saying.” Seriously? That’s the oldest, most pathetic trick in the book. Apologize for others being too sensitive.

      If you are, as you say, a hater toward those who abuse human rights, then why are you singling out the Middle East instead of including it amongst a wealth of nations that practice such abuses, including our own? I can name 30 more off the top of my head–more countries than even exist in the Middle East, let alone the Middle East and North African region.

      So, in all honesty and with all due respect, I do wish that you would take some time to educate yourself about the region. Travel there. Read. I’m not suggesting you go to Saudi Arabia–it’s on my personal boycott list right now too–but why not Syria, which has a woman as vice president? Why not Lebanon, which is making great strides toward gay rights? Why not Bahrain, Jordan, Oman? If you don’t want to paint the region with a broad brush, then how about gaining some real insight into the countries that are making progress?

  27. More seriously:
    When I read information (in the newspaper, tv, etc) about my area of expertise (IT, web, economics), I really have difficulty to take as absolute reality the other pieces of information they provide me…

  28. That’s a human trait Titi and totally normal, we all do that. Anyone who would deny that is not completely being honest. We generally don’t pay attention to something till there is at least some aspect that strikes our interest.

    Clearly you’re not bigot Jason, all you did was “rant” and you did state such in your post, so as far as I’m concerned you deserved the benefit of the doubt right from the get go, and a rant by definition is not necessarily rational anyway. Nevertheless it is rants of this nature that tend to contribute to common misconceptions, misunderstandings and often fuel conflicts, especially in this day and age, where regional politics, religion, ethnicity and nativism have taken center-stage, making people hyper-sensitive and ready to go off at any given time to defend themselves or defend others who they feel are being wronged.

    My gosh, where is that darn Wikipedia when you need one? ;)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rant

    “A rant or harangue is a speech or text that does not present a well-researched and calm argument; rather, it is typically an attack on an idea, a person or an institution, and very often lacks proven claims. Such attacks are usually personal attacks. Compare with a dialectic.

    In some cases, rants can be based on partial fact, or may be entirely factual but written in a comedic/satirical form….”

    Best,
    Najia

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