Saturday, June 2, 2007

Diana West’s selective myopia

The “selective myopia” to which my title refers is not limited to Diana West, of course. It pertains also to Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald, and many others in the sadly too small minority of people who have woken up to the problem of Islam.

As I have analyzed in more depth on my other blog, The Hesperado—here, here and here—this selective myopia refers to one type of myopia out of two types of myopia that now beset our ability to defend ourselves from Islam.

The first myopia is the grandest, so to speak: it is the general myopia in the West to Islam itself as the source of the problems of terrorism and of a more amorphous campaign to insinuate the anti-liberal tenets of Islam into the West.

The second myopia is the inability to see the accurate nature and dimension of the first myopia.

It is this second myopia which I believe continues to hobble the efforts of sincere anti-jihadists such as Spencer, Fitzgerald and West (among many others). Many of these anti-jihadists may claim that they have a proper appreciation of the problem of PC (the first myopia)—and they may even complain about it regularly—, but few of them, if any, in my estimation, seem to grasp the nature and dimensions of this problem. Instead, they tend, in their brief forays into analyzing the internal Western problem (of PC), to delimit their focus, and in doing so, they demonstrate a myopia of their own, a “selective myopia”.

Diana West, in an article cited at Jihad Watch today (June 2, 2007), appropiately criticizes General Petraeus and his adviser, David Kilcullen, who basically equated Muslim jihadists with swashbuckling adventurers and, by implication, romantic guerillas and freedom fighters. West is not wrong in criticizing these absurd equivalencies of Petraeus and Kilcullen; but she begins to err when she so forcefully implies that the problem is delimited to a few—even if a powerful and influential few—rather than a much broader, deeper and more diffusely mainstream problem of PC throughout the West. Influential figures like Petraeus and Kilcullen would not have the traction for their ridiculous equivalency theories were there not this larger problem of PC; nor would Petraeus and Kilcullen even dare to make those equivalency theories were they not so comfortably dovetailed with the prevailing PC; and finally, the substance of Petraeus’s and Kilcullen’s equivalency theory is likely derived from that larger sea and atmosphere of axioms which most people in the West unthinkingly drink up and breathe. But one would never even glimpse these wider dimensions of the problem from West’s articulated complaint.

Thus West writes:

“Such remarks [by Petraeus and Kilcullen] convey either non-comprehension or indifference to the evil nature of jihad.”

To which I would say: “Gee, ya think...!!!???” I.e., it should be utterly unremarkable that Petraeus and Kilcullen do not comprehend, or are indiffferent to, the evil nature of jihad—for the simple reason that such incomprehension and/or indifference (really it is just incomprehension) is the dominant and mainstream way of regarding Islam throughout the West. One should only be surprised if a Petraeus or a Kilcullen actually says anything that goes against the prevailing grain.

Thus, one must conclude that such a remark by West conveys either non-comprehension or indifference to the depth and breadth of the problem of PC, by which her story of Petraeus and Kilcullen would inspire nothing more than a yawn.

Now, of course, this does not mean one should not call critical attention to the influential likes of Petraeus and Kilcullen whenever they express these prevailing shibboleths; but the point is, one should not frame this criticism in terms that persistently imply that it is not a larger, deeper, systemic and sociological problem.

6 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

To make this argument about West requires reading additional articles by West. She "gets" the PC problem in relation to Islam, and does understand its great extent. It is a mainstay in her writings. Here are some examples:
[1] [2] [3]

I quote her from [3]:

"[...] My list of idea men and women would include Hirsi Ali, Bat Ye'or, Bruce Bawer, Andrew G. Bostom, Walid Phares, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq and other experts and observers unbowed by the strictures of political correctness that strangle debate on Islam — its teachings, its demands, its history.
Iraq would figure into such a curriculum, but from a broader perspective that would allow us to size up the global battlefield in terms of the two great threats to the Western way of life: the spread of shariah through active jihad (war, terrorism), and the spread of shariah through Islamization (demographics, multicultural correctness). Of the two, the second — quiet jihad — is the more serious threat, as the continuing Islamization of Europe shows.
We need an Islam Study Group."

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

You wrote:

"...but she begins to err when she so forcefully implies that the problem is delimited to a few—even if a powerful and influential few—rather than a much broader, deeper and more diffusely mainstream problem of PC throughout the West."

A brief survey of West's articles will show that she does understand that the PC problem extends widely.

Erich said...

Kab-bin-Ashraf,

Thanks for calling my attention to the West articles.

However, after reading all three, I'd have to disagree with your apparently unqualified assertion that she "gets" the problem of PC -- sufficiently.

You have to understand that I look at statements with an eagle eye similar to how a person who finally "gets" that the problem is Islam itself and not peripheral aspects indirectly related to Islam would look at statements that may criticize and lament all manner of things that seem to be addressing the problem of Islam, but are really beating around the bush.

Article #1 only vaguely refers to how the American military has become "increasingly" PC, and one gets the distinct impression from that article that PC is definitely a managerial problem in the US military (i.e., a problem of higher officer "elites").

In article #2, while West has the suitable phrase "across the states they threaten, political correctness rules the day" -- this does not necessarily mean she believes PC is mainstream: PC could "rule the day" because our rulers and various "elites" are foisting it on the people, etc. Further in that same article, one again gets the impression she is in fact pointing to PC as a problem mostly (or even only) in the Elite stratosphere -- "Its not just the political hacks and the news media clouding the message with PC. Even some of the coalition military leaders are acting like squids, releasing a trail of political correctness."

And in article #3, she doesn't really advert to PC much except to mention in passing "how blinkered government thinking is" with regard to PC.

So at least in these three articles, West is not at all pointing out what to me is the actual nature and dimension of PC, as the very general atmosphere of Western societies, extending far more broadly and deeply than merely in academe, government, military leadership, and media.

If we remain too oblivious to the actual nature and dimension of a problem, how are we going to even begin to tackle and solve that problem?

Erich said...

P.S.: I.e., I don't mean to deny that West is further along in recognizing the problem of PC. Of course, she knows it is hindering our ability to solve the problem of Islam; but that doesn't mean she has a sufficient grasp of what that phenomenon is -- its nature and dimension -- that continues to hinder her work and the work of all those thinkers she admires.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Have you looked into the sociological, anthropological, and psychological research on PC and related constructs? I know you looked into some of its history and origins, but I'd love to see the science on this. I've just never gotten around to actually doing a search of the journals to see what's been done, or not done. I'd like to see the whole thing tackled the way we'd tackle a problem scientifically. Do we have a rigorous definition of PC generally, and do we have a taxonomy of PC phenomena?

Erich said...

kab,

"Have you looked into the sociological, anthropological, and psychological research on PC and related constructs?"

I have not yet; I doubt there is much out there, since the fields of sociology, anthropology and psychology are rather saturated with PC themselves -- and part of the PC mindset is either to deny there is any PC, or to vilify anyone who critiques PC (since PC, after all, is simply being "open minded" and "tolerant" and "progressive", you see), or a semi-incoherent mush of the aforementioned two positions.

"I know you looked into some of its history and origins, but I'd love to see the science on this...I'd like to see the whole thing tackled the way we'd tackle a problem scientifically."

It would be a difficult science to organize, not only for the aforementioned practical reason, but also because the phenomenon itself is so massive, amorphous and atomized.

"Do we have a rigorous definition of PC generally, and do we have a taxonomy of PC phenomena?"

Good questions. I haven't yet tackled a rigorous definition. Part of the problem is that it is complex and amorphous. Another problem is that it is a complex whole that has many beneficial parts, yet those parts are in many ways inextricably connected to bad parts (such as the defense of Islam) -- though the PC complex functions to give all its parts the aura of goodness, and so when that rare person comes along who objects even only to one or two parts of the whole, he tends to be vilified as attacking the whole.

I might give some thought to your two questions and post some initial stab at answering them.