Recently on Facebook I posted three “rules” for anyone wishing to discuss the “controversy” over the Park51 project, popularly but erroneously known as the World Trade Center Mosque.
The first and most basic rule was “It’s not a mosque.” And it’s not. It’s a community center, both a YMCA, if you will, and an interfaith study center.
The results were gratifying: many people cheered on my bluntness, while my right wing friends tied themselves into knots trying to continue their outrage. Again and again I would reject their “but it’s a controversy!!!!1!” with “It’s not a mosque.” Like moths to the flame, however, they could not stop themselves from arguing from the premise that someone was building a triumphalist mosque on sacred ground. Sorry, it’s not a mosque.
“But why does even the liberal media call it a mosque?” they cried. The short answer is that someone went into the monkey house (Pam Geller, I’m looking at you) and made a face, and now the monkeys are hooting and flinging poo.
However, before I used that metaphor, I referred us all to Lincoln’s little riddle: “How many legs does a dog have if you call its tail a leg?” One of my right wing friends, who is not unread, wittily replied, “Five tails,” knowing that the correct answer is, “Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it one.”
So now I have a really great shorthand for labeling that crowd’s specious and poo-flinging debate style: the “five tails crowd.” Even when shown the stone cold facts, they will continue to shriek their misinterpretation, and in fact go even further afield in their outrage. “If it’s not a mosque, why is everyone defending their First Amendment rights/???>?”