Friday, July 23, 2010

The Ethereal Standard: Democracy Edition

I saw a post the other day that is a perfect example of the ethereal standard in action:

You can click to zoom in if you like but basically the poster is making a huge laundry list of things that Israel must do before it can be "a full member of the first-world democracy club." Some examples are (though wrong) understandable but others are not, for instance:

-Demanding the Palestinians be allowed to export their products.
-Demanding the Ultra-Orthodox serve in the military and work.
-Demanding that women be able to pray at the Western Wall (which they already can).
-Demanding that Israel set borders.

All of these things are probably legitimate things to criticize and debate about in their own right, so you might be wondering why this is a case of the ethereal standard. The answer is simple: No other nation has to jump through completely arbitrary hoops before being recognized as a democracy. Israel's actions toward the Palestinians have nothing to do with it's international government structure, any more than America's actions toward the Iraqis make it undemocratic.

If someone tried to tell the HPers that America is not a democracy only because it is occupying Iraq, they would be laughed out of the thread. But because we are talking about Israel, the ethereal standard is pulled out, given a dust-off and measured against Israel's status. It works perfectly: Israel doesn't measure up. Of course.

But when talking about Israel's enemies, the ethereal standard is still used, but in reverse: The bar is set so absurdly low that it's impossible for them not to be democratic.

The Palestinians had one election? Democracy! Who cares if they will never have another!
Turkey is often proclaimed to be a democracy! Who cares if they banned Youtube for insulting a historical figure!
Lebanon is a democracy?! Give me a break.

But the HPers will defend these nations' democratic status to the death, while if Israel had committed any of the above mentioned actions the calls would have been long and loud.

So I guess the question is: Why do the HPers hold this ridiculous double standard? Cognitive dissonance can probably answer it: As good liberals they can't side with a totalitarian government against a democracy, but as good leftists they also need to support the weaker side. So rather than support the stronger (but democratic) side, they prefer to force a reversal of roles in their own minds, so that they can denounce Israel and still think they maintain their liberal values. I hope it's worth it.


  1. The point is Israel isn't a liberal democracy by not adhering to some set of imaginary perfect set of conditions?

    Then why don't the HP posters apply it to the rest of the world? Or is liberal perfection demanded only of Israel?

    So we have our answer and nothing Israel does or doesn't do will ever satisfy the righteous wrath of its self-proclaimed critics.

  2. Actually there are more than a few HuffPo, Salon, Crooks and Liars, DailyKOS commenters who regularly assert that the US is the most ruthless evil fascist dictatorship ever to blight the planet. Except of course for the Jews. And that Obama is merely Bush-3 with dark skin. You always except them to overreach and get called out, but they never are.