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Twenty-eight years ago me and my horrible hair graduated @sunyplattsburgh, thanks to the mentorship of Professor David Mowry. We lost him yesterday. Read my very emotional tribute to him at #philosophy #collegife Hi listeners! Do you want to see our host Jack Russell Weinstein (@diasporajack) in person as he deejays fun and exciting music? Come down to @ojatadogmahal records this Saturday for the fourth installment of Ska and Waffles! Rehearsing for Tuesday night! Want to hear #Klezmer music live? Come to Why? Radio’s 10th anniversary party, Tuesday at 6:30. Details at @prairiepublic @diasporajack @empireartscenter Above two folds! Thanks @gfherald @prairiepublic ❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩
#philosophy #ask #morals #advice #questions #help #curious #hardquestions #anything #podcast #discussion #currentevents #philosophyiseverywhere #whynot #politics #ethics #art #metaphysical #religion  #myund #questionoftheday WHY? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life, the Prairie Public radio show is celebrating its 10th birthday and we’re all invited to think philosophically about music with them!

Join the party for food, an interview with legendary Jazz flutist Mark Weinstein, and live Klezmer music! All for free!

For more information, visit or go to
Award winning Jazz Flutist Mark Weinstein plays World Jazz and Straight-Ahead with world-class musicians rooted in the music of Cuba, Brazil, Africa, Argentina and his Jewish heritage. A Latin Jazz innovator, Mark was among the first jazz musicians to record with traditional Cuban rhythm sections in an epic album, Cuban Roots, released in 1967 with Chick Corea on piano. He also has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a professor of Education at Montclair State University, in New Jersey. His music is the soundtrack to Why? Radio. You can learn more about him at 
Stay after the recording for a live concert, as Mark joins the Balkansi Klezmer Band for a jazz-infused exploration of the classic Jewish folk music, Klezmer. Balkansi is an ensemble based in Grand Forks that specializes in traditional music from one of the richest and most diverse musical regions in the world. The members of the band include Tamara Auer on violin, Haley Ellis on clarinet, Edward Morris on guitar, Zephaniah Pearlstein on cello, Michael Ferrick on bass, Rachel Agan Muniz on percussion.

And then stay even longer for an informal Q&A with Why? Radio host, Jack Russell Weinstein. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼
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Let me begin by noting that my decision to use a pixelated version of featured picture attached to this blog is one I am uncomfortable with, As I say below, I think there is nothing wrong with showing nudity. But I also know that this is going to show up on people’s Facebook and RSS feeds and I didn’t want to impose the picture on others without warning. Do you think readers would react differently to my comments if I had shown the original picture instead of the censored one?

Much of the liberal-democratic world is used to nudity in protests. From PETA to peace activists, nudity has become an effective tool to get attention (link probably NSFW), precisely because the media likes to cover it. But these tactical decisions are the result of prurient motives — the media likes to film nudity because people like to look at it; these pictures are often arousing.

Recently, though, Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, an Egyptian blogger, posted nude pictures of herself to protest Egyptian and Islamic conservatism and their attitudes about women’s sexuality. As The New York Times explains:

“Ms. Elmahdy — whose boyfriend, Kareem Amer, spent four years in jail for writings deemed insulting to Islam and Mr. Mubarak — posted the photographs with a statement declaring them an act of rebellion against Egypt’s conservative culture and “sexual complexes,” in the spirit of the revolution. She argued people should “try nude models who worked in Fine Art Faculties in the early 1970s, hide all art books and smash naked archaeological statues,’ read the statement, alluding to some recent protests staged here by ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafis. ‘Then take off your clothes and look at yourselves in the mirror, then burn your body that you so despise to get rid of your sexual complexes forever, before subjecting me to your bigoted insults or denying my freedom of expression.'”

Several questions come to mind. Can an act of sexual exposure — of possible objectification — counter sexism? Many would argue that it only makes it worse. (Karl Marx, for example, might refer to this as “universal prostitution.“) Is it moral to expose oneself to such personal risk? This woman is laying a lot on the line for what is likely very little gain. This seems extreme for anyone.

Most interesting to me, though, is the question about the power of shock itself. In an Islamic context, this photo is indeed over-the-top shocking, not to mention, in many countries, illegal. As an American, I can hardly imagine it’s impact. So, the question becomes, is using shock in this way an effective political tool? If it isn’t, what’s the point? And, more philosophically, are there any limits to how one should use shock to cause change? If sexuality is acceptable, what about images of violence? If violence is morally acceptable, what about images of suffering?

I don’t mean to say that sexuality is equivalent to violence — I think sexuality is a wonderful thing that should be explored and cultivated, and I don’t find nudity objectionable at all, but I am very uncomfortable with depictions of violence and suffering. Since I am not shocked by this picture, I’m not sure how else to enter into the perspective of those who view it as inherently dangerous and immoral except by analogy with things I don’t like, like violence.

And herein lies the problem. Shock is culturally defined, but shock is also intended to change culture. When is this acceptable and when isn’t it? Are there instances that you think are beyond the pale — that are morally wrong? And, given the Islamic context, do you think Aliaa Magda Elmahdy did a good thing? I wold love to hear from our Islamic readers as well.

One comment on “When is shock a moral political tool?

  1. Nudity is natural, sustainable, and harms none. Violence and suffering are different. I applaud Aliaa Magda Elmahdy for her courage. As long as she respects herself she won't further sexism.

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