Friday, May 25, 2007

Unwashed Commentor more perspicacious than Spencer

In today’s Jihad Watch, Spencer dashes off an observation about a recent article in Salon, the online magazine, concerning how the pop anthropologist Carlos Castaneda managed to hoodwink significant portions of Academe for decades beginning in the 70s, in great part through their winking and willing collusion with his singularly unscholarly hoax:

“A hoax that supported theories held by academics, such that it fell to people outside the academic establishment to debunk the hoax. Sounds to me a lot like the whole ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ enterprise.”

Again, as with Hugh’s many perspicacious observations, this one of Spencer’s is not incorrect, nor is it trivial: the problem with it is that its purview is grievously restricted.

One finds, however, on reading down the Comments section, a far more pertinent observation by one of the minions who frequent Spencer’s site—minions who, by their participation in his Comments fields, for the most part enrich his site with considerable intelligence, useful information, and not a little wit sprinkled here and there; an enrichment for which Spencer, and especially Hugh, have never shown sufficient and appropriate gratitude.

At any rate, here is the more pertinent observation, which helpfully massages Spencer’s restricted focus on this issue—though, as we shall see, its conclusion tends to undercut the incisiveness of its main point:

It is obvious that a remarkable and revolutionary change in every area of our culture—our perceptions, our standards, our morality and beliefs and what we see as acceptable and true—has taken place since the end of WWII. The U.S. public’s world view has been transformed through a Culture War in which such Post-modern concepts as Political Correctness, Multiculturalism, Moral Equivalence and Diversity have slowly infiltrated and transformed our culture and as a result of the success of this attack, we are left with fewer and fewer tools we can now use to name, evaluate, debate and fight Islam.

The academy’s cloak of silence which was extended over Castaneda’s ideas—which were one small weapon in the Culture War—was extended to cover many other ideas and people as well. Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey—two extraordinarily influential figures—big guns in the Culture War—had ideas and work that are just as flawed or as fraudulent as Castaneda’s. The silence about those deficiencies and the almost universal acceptance of their ideas, which form the foundation for much work since in the areas of human sexuality, culture, the issue of nature vs. nurture as determining behavior, may well hamper attempts by us to correctly perceive, understand and then attack a major fault line in Islam—sexuality and the treatment of women.

Posted by: GaryK
at May 25, 2007 11:38 AM.

This comment by “Gary K” somewhat loses its stride in the second paragraph—lapsing back into the narrower focus on Academe and, by implication, those bogeymen, the “Elites”. This loss of momentum could be deftly rectified had the author simply summarized the connection between the two paragraphs—to wit, by reminding the reader that the tendencies of Academe find considerable traction and support in a surrounding sea of political correctness, and also by resisting the temptation to ascribe to Academe (and to public education in general) a nefarious and unduly powerful role in creating that political correctness, not to mention in somehow molding the public world view along politically correct grooves.

Nevertheless, the first paragraph helpfully adverts to the wider issue of the sea change in the public conscious that not only America, but also the entire West, has undergone in the past 50-odd years. And it is this sea change—systemic and sociological in nature and extending far beyond “Elites” in its scope—that accounts for the curious and aggravating irrationality that currently cripples our collective ability to rationally analyze, and then to take rational actions against, the problem of Islam.

It would be nice if once in a blue moon Spencer (or even, God forbid, Hugh) would advert to this wider vista of the problem—let alone actually take the time and trouble to pen major articles about it on a regular basis.


Sergey said...

I do not see much sense in distributing blame for Western cultural suicide between masses and elites. As we say in Russia, "Fish rots from the head". America is just a clone of Europe, and it copies and reproduces, sometime with time lag, European hereditary mental anomalies. European elites became decadent after WWI, and this decadance infected US 30 years later; it was transmitted to American soil with academician refuges from Europe. See the map - these blue states, bastions of politcorrectness and multiculturalism, neatly correlate georaphically with Ivy League universities, Holliwood and liberal newspapers headquarters. On the other hand, Church-going conservative America is concentrated exactly as far as possible from all this abomination. It is more instructive to understand which misconceptions and falsehoods of the core American culture heritage made the nation susceptible to these deadly spiritual viruses. I suspect that something in these core beliefs of Founding Fathers was not kosher - may be, irrationality of Protestantism, may be, egalitarism, may be humanistic illusions of Enlightenment. That insanity of postmodernism is pervasive enough to taint both Right and Left, elites and masses, neo-cons and Wall Street libertarians, is true, but trivial; but what in Western spirit itself debilitate West to readily accept this nonsence?

Erich said...


The only problem with your thesis is that it doesn't explain why the majority of people (professionals and ordinary folks) on the Right, Republicans, and even Church-going conservative America subscribe to the dominant paradigm about Islam itself. The majority of them without giving it a second thought simply assume that Islam itself is okay, but that the problem stems from a minority of "extremists" who are probably motivated political and economic factors, but certainly not by fundamental and mainstream doctrines of Islam itself.

Related to this is the "sea change" I have alluded to in many of my essays on this blog as well as on my other blog The Hesperado -- the West has gone through a sea change in sociopolitical consciousness in the past 50 years. Today, the vast majority of people on the Right, Republicans, and Church-going conservative America would agree that, for example, the internment of Japanese during WWII was a bad and "shameful episode" in American history -- whereas at the time, in the 40s, the majority of the American public (Left and Right) supported it. This is just one example: another is that I would wager that most people on the Right etc. would tend to agree that Western Colonialism was a bad thing on the whole. Why would they think that? Only a sea change in public consciousness explains how people on the Right would think that. I cannot subscribe to the idea that the Left has been dastardly and powerful enough to change the minds of millions of conservatives on these kinds of issues. No: the public mind itself has changed, for reasons much more complex and sociologically diffuse than merely the Machiavellian machinations of some dastardly minority.