Friday, June 8, 2007
The Pedagogy of Jihad Watch
For the most part, the pedagogy of Jihad Watch is excellent. Even the wrinkle, which has been, now and then, an issue discussed and debated among many Jihad Watch readers—of Robert Spencer’s apparent unwillingness to condemn Islam itself—may be overlooked, seeing that it is handsomely outweighed by the mountain of data and analysis which he and his website bring to light: a mountain not only conveying the pathology of Islam and the danger of Islam, but also the stubborn, seemingly systemic unwillingness of Muslims to take pragmatic responsibility for the pathology and danger arising out of their own Islam. (There is a wrinkle to this wrinkle, so to speak, which may be the subject of an upcoming essay on this blog here; but for now, I pass it by to attend to the topic at hand.)
Where the pedagogy of Jihad Watch falters is where it insufficiently communicates the actual nature and scope of Political Correctness. My previous essay, Jihad Watchers respond to the JFK plot, examined copious evidence of Jihad Watchers demonstrating their misapprehension of PC in relation to one particular thread on Jihad Watch concerning that news story. Such an examination could be replicated a few times almost every day—day in and day out, week after week, month after month—by simply reading the Comments sections of various Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch threads, and finding the typical expressions of such misapprehension which in my estimation seem to constitute the vast majority of comments from Jihad Watch commenters. Such misapprehension includes the delimitation of the scope of PC, the assumption of an explanatory vacuum that then has to be filled, usually by dastardly and/or stupid “Elites” of one sort or another, and the consequent exoneration of the ordinary folks along with the excessive power and influence over Western institutions and mores ascribed to Muslims.
I will only adduce one example today:
First, Spencer frames his post today (June 8, 2007)—concerning the story of a Muslim who stabbed his brother to death in Montreal in order to carry out the Islamic punishment for what he perceived to be his brother’s apostasy and/or blasphemy against Islam—thusly:
No one dares address the idea that it is permissible to murder apostates in Islam. No one would dare require immigrants to renounce this idea. No one would dare require mosques to hold programs teaching against this idea, and other Sharia provisions, if they want to stay in the West. No, they're imported wholesale, with no consideration of the ramifications.
Then, a fairly regular Jihad Watch reader comments thusly:
None of our fearless leaders really wants to go there—they might trigger the savagery inherent in the Religion of Peace. (Nobody wants to grab the tiger’s tail!) I'm starting think our leaders don't even let this schism into their awareness:
(1) After all, it’s a RELIGION, practiced world-wide, whose believers describe themselves as followers of peace, compassion, & submission;
AND YET (2) everywhere this “peaceful religion” is established there is violence, corruption, poverty and repression.
Cognitive Dissonance! Our leaders/ lawmakers/ administrators need to believe they are virtuous Americans: they are tolerant not prejudiced, inclusive not divisive; they're open-minded, fair, impartial, kind, understanding... So they can only acknowledge a “tiny minority of extremists”. And if they happen to believe this religion DOES have shortcomings, it’s not theirs to address anyway, since we have “separation of Church and State”.
Further, in America “all men are created equal”. In recent history we’ve gone through the civil rights /equal rights struggles of the 60's: we know that “discrimination is bad”. The government has issued a public apology to the Japanese-Americans rounded up into internment camps during WWII: we now know “we can’t infringe immigrants’ rights just because their homelands are at war with us”. So by extension, we can’t pre-judge any person or group. We can only condemn evil actions—after the fact.
Our Administration has essentially called anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the immigration bill currently being debated in Congress a “narrow-minded bigot”. I don’t know how we get the guys we’ve elected to represent us to actually STAND UP FOR US and DEFEND OUR INTERESTS. Sometimes I think they can’t SEE our country’s best interests. (==gloom==)
The reason I have plucked this one comment out is because its semi-incoherent yet sincere grappling with the problem of PC is quintessentially typical of what I think most Jihad Watch readers think and feel about this issue.
We see this commenter above takes the ball Spencer threw out and runs with it. Right out of the gates, he localizes all, or most, of the blame on “our leaders”. Then he compounds this error with assuming that our leaders do not “dare”—Robert’s locution—to conceptually digest the problem of Islam only, or mainly, because they are afraid that doing so would rouse a much more dangerous and violent Islam than now exists. The commenter, however, quickly undercuts this logic with a characterization of our leaders as people who labor under certain key types of ignorance about Islam, adding some speculation as to why our leaders do not get the problem of Islam: they have bought the idea that Islam should be respected as a “religion”. But if our leaders have succumbed to the idea that Islam should be respected as a religion, that should not be remarkable: they have done so not in their capacity as “leaders” or “Elites”, but simply in their capacity as carbon-based life forms in the West, where nearly everyone has been formed—or deformed—by the paradigm of PC Multiculturalism.
The commenter then goes on to paint a picture of the values that form the basic predispositions of the belief-system of theses leaders. In doing so, the commenter seems to be listing values that grow out of the amorphous culture of American decency, and basically arguing that while they are good values in and of themselves, they are currently working to render us vulnerable to an enemy who despises and seeks to exploit those values. But while the commenter has a point—a rather peripheral point—these values he lists seem to resemble political correctness more than they do American values per se:
...tolerant not prejudiced, inclusive not divisive; they're open-minded, fair, impartial, kind, understanding... So they can only acknowledge a “tiny minority of extremists”.
The commenter goes on to capsulize a history of what we know to be the rise to prominence of PC, though he is less clear about exactly what process he is referring to—involving most notably the 60s “Cultural Revolution” and (separately but quite related) the transformation, in the minds of Americans over the span of a few decades, of Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese during World War II from a necessary and harmless policy to a terribly bigoted, racist and “shameful chapter” in American history. So, while our commenter is getting warm insofar as he is now widening his point to a larger sociopolitical process in recent history, he still gives the impression of delimiting that process to “leaders” and government—even though there can be glimpsed in his locutions the potential for the broader and deeper phenomenon he might be groping for when he refers, once or twice, to how “we” are doing this, in effect, to ourselves:
So by extension, we can’t pre-judge any person or group.
This glimpse, unfortunately, is swallowed up in his final paragraph that effectively nullifies any sense of PC being a significantly and substantively wider phenomenon than our leaders, government, and other nefarious Elites:
I don’t know how we get the guys we’ve elected to represent us to actually STAND UP FOR US and DEFEND OUR INTERESTS. Sometimes I think they can’t SEE our country’s best interests.
Sometimes...!!!??? Sometimes you think...!!!??? Here we see the commenter has not at all grasped the prevalent, systemic, atmospheric nature and scope of PC. He is frustrated by how, and why, his leaders can be so out of touch with the concerns to make the people in their charge safe and secure. But his frustration is not one based on the lucid grasp of why and how and then reacting to that; it is more a frustration based upon a bewilderment that this is happening at all, given his apparent implied premise that the surrounding sociopolitical atmosphere—made up of millions of ordinary folks as well as Elites—is not itself thoroughly saturated with the PC axioms that lead our leaders to think and do the way they do.
And the point is, this commenter is really only dutifully extrapolating the only logical (albeit semi-incoherently articulated) conclusions which flow from Spencer’s flawed pedagogy. Were Spencer to regularly remind his readership—through the medium of the editorial remarks with which he peppers (often with sparkling and wry wit, with a dash of whimsy here and there) his presentation of daily news stories and essays as well as through an occasional essay of his own along with an occasional essay by Hugh Fitzgerald or some other Jihad Watch board member, or perhaps by an outsider once in a blue moon—of the actual nature and scope of the problem of PC, it is likely that most readers would slowly come around to adjust their own misapprehensions of PC. Spencer and Hugh have performed just such an invaluable service with regard, for example, to the benighted policy of the Bush Administration vis-à-vis Islam: for, it would be safe to say that the majority among the Jihad Watch readership would ordinarily be of the type to reflexively defend Bush and his staff and be stubbornly resistant to the idea that Bush and his staff could be so grievously mistaken about Islam; but this same readership has, over time, through their enormous respect for Spencer and Hugh, come around to the position where they will not tolerate the Bush Administration’s naivete about Islam just because they otherwise support him and rightfully excoriate the Democrats.
I therefore similarly call for Spencer and Hugh to perform a similar pedagogic service, with regard to the problem of PC, leading such readers as the one quoted above gently, slowly and persuasively away from their typical misapprehensions about PC toward a more sophisticated and realistic understanding of it. But, of course, for Spencer and Hugh to lead the way, they must first come out of their own little fog concerning the wider fog.