Poster from American Freedom Defense Initiative

Poster from Rabbis for Human Rights

[The following commentary has just appeared on Anthropology News in my blog there called “Middle East Muddle.: I provide the first paragraph, and the rest of the commentary can be read here.]

In the late 19th century there was little doubt about the gulf between “civilized man” and the “savage,” as anyone reading John Lubbock or Edward Tylor or Lewis Henry Morgan would readily note. Anthropology has come a long way since the cultural evolution scenarios that followed immediately upon the Darwinian revolution in biology. By the time Claude Lévi-Strauss penned Tristes Tropiques in 1955, the tables had turned, with so-called “civilized man” seen as acting the “savage.” Anyone reading Bartolemé de las Casas on the Spanish atrocities in the New World in the early 16th century could have come to the same conclusion. So it is quite un-anthropological today to encounter a poster in the New York subway system about the “war between the civilized man and the savage,” let alone to be urged to “support the civilized man.” Yet, this is the message paid for by the “American Freedom Defense Initiative.”

For the rest of this post, click here.

Since writing this, several groups are now running counter ads in the subways. For more on this, see the commentary by Omid Safi.