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.

11 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Both of us would agree that PC is common amongst the general publics and the "elites" (government, mainstream media, and certain sections of academia). As I understand it, you are claiming the null hypothesis, i.e., no significant difference between the individual members of the general public and individual members of the "elite" in the average level of PC (regarding Islam).

I espouse the alternative hypothesis that the "elites" in question are significantly more PC than the general public with regard to Islam. (I would further add that the relatively lower average levels of PC in the general population are significantly due to the influence of the media, government, and certain sections of academia). The poll I cited for you last week showed that most people in the general public (in the U.S.) have a healthy concern about Islam and the media's PC coverage of it. I have not done a scientific review of all the evidence. However, if you are claiming the null hypothesis which I mentioned above, you must show that the average levels of PC regarding Islam are not significantly different than those among the elites. Otherwise, what is your basis for your claim?

Note: There are no doubt some subsets among the general public who are more PC then the average of the "elites"; and some "elites" who are less PC than the average of the general public. However, you are talking about general trends.

P.S. I view this as an empirical question. It should only be addressed with scientific evidence.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

"...the relatively lower average levels of PC in the general population are significantly due to the influence of the media, government, and certain sections of academia)."

I think I need to clarify that. The "elites" don't lower the level of PC in the general population. Rather, the general population has a lower level of PC. The influence of the "elites" contributes significantly to the PC in the general population. Without that influence, PC among the general population would be significantly lower. For example, if the PC in the general population was something like a 5 on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), about 2 or 3 increments of that would be due to the influence of the elites. Without that influence, the general population's level of PC might drop by 2 or 3 increments. I would rate most western governments at about 7 or 8 on that 10 point scale.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Here is a summary of the results of that poll (see "Take a poll on the poll"), a summary made by a poster at JW:

Start quote:

"Are the mainstream media doing enough to report on the threat of radical Islam in the U.S.?
Yes 2.2 %
No 97.8 %

Do you think the mainstream media have a more favorable view of Islam than Christianity?
Yes 87.5%
No 12.5%

Do you think the mainstream media are intentionally refusing to report on the rise of radical Islam?
Yes 94.5%
No 5.5%

Do you think radical Muslims will practice suicide bombings in the U.S. in the near future?
Yes 95.7%
No 4.3%

Do you think our government should do more to appease the demands of radical Muslims?
Yes 7.4%
No 92.6%

Posted by: Mackie [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2007 5:10 PM"

End quote.

Now, that may be a right-wing dominant poll, however, even so, I don't think there are going to be very many people in the general public who would utter the "elites" apologetics such as Islam means peace, etc.

I will also add that even in Ontario, one of the furthest left-wing of the Canadian provinces, which are on average more leftist and PC than the U.S., over 95% of the general public in polls rejected the Islamic family law proposal, whereas none of the major parties, leftist or conservative, were willing to oppose it. The government in power rejected it only after sitting on the fence for a few years. [Incidentally, that whole process is rather difficult to explain using a simple "PC is Islam-friendly" explanation--not that I'm suggesting you'd apply PC as a catch-all explanation for all the west's Islam woes].

Erich said...

Kab,

I'm a little confused as to where that poll comes from and what its methodology is.

Am I correct that you are talking about the on-line poll conducted through the AFA (American Family Association) web page?

If so, how did you and IP calculate those percentages (as you guys did on that Jihad Watch thread "Take a poll on the poll")? I don't see a place on that web page whereby one can do that.

To the degree that the respondants to this poll were culled from places such as Frontpage and Jihad Watch, then it's likely the pool does not reflect the public at large. That's roughly like advertising a poll on Craigslist for a question about how evil Bush is.

If this is not the poll you're referring to, could you link me?

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

I did mention another piece of evidence and that was the public's response to Islamic personal/family law being introduced. Similar results have been obtained in other countries. The "elites" (politicians, mainstream media, and certain academics) are either on the fence or else overly sympathetic to it, whereas the overwhelming majority of the general public is against it.

"I'm a little confused as to where that poll comes from and what its methodology is."

"Am I correct that you are talking about the on-line poll conducted through the AFA (American Family Association) web page?"

Yes. Just search the phrase "Take a poll on the poll" (which I mentioned) at JW. Then go from there. The poll may not be active now. The numbers were previously available. Some posters calculated the percentages based on that. Mackie's calculations are basically consistent with the calculations made earlier that day.


Re biased sample, yes, I mentioned that. One can still compare a predominantly right-wing sample of the public with right-wing "elites"--very few of whom seem to recognize the Islam problem or as I mentioned they are sitting on the fence.

Here are a couple of polls I was able to dig up in a brief search about the public's views of Islam. These are from PEW, which is not right-wing.

PEW 1
Views of Islam Remain Sharply Divided
Plurality Sees Islam as More Likely to Encourage Violence



PEW 2

Pessimism Grows As Iraq War Enters Fourth Year
Two-Thirds Say U.S. Is 'Losing Ground' in Preventing Civil War
(scroll down to bottom to see views on Islam and violence).

You will note that, as expected, the general public's views of Islam are either naive or warped due to PC. Also as one would expect, leftists have a more favourable view of Islam than do those on the far right. However, leftists view of Islam is still probably less favourable than it is among those members of right-wing elites. I also don't think it's likely that left-wing members of the public would agree with such egregious nonsense as "Islam is peace" a la the present U.S. administration's official position.

In any case, whatever my opinion is on this--and I am merely looking at this casually as a poster making a comment, not someone who is actually researching the issue--you need to have empirical evidence that people who subscribe to the "elites are the (main) problem" view are as mistaken as you claim they are. If they're wrong, you ought to be able to show that with some kind of appropriate scientific or quasi-scientific evidence. If you can't, what is the basis for your repeated claims that the concern about elites is misplaced, disproportionate, mistaken, etc.?

Nobody said...

If so, how did you and IP calculate those percentages (as you guys did on that Jihad Watch thread "Take a poll on the poll")?
Erich

I didn't calculate any percentages, although anyone with 5th grade math could run the numbers. When I took the poll, the current results showed up, and I copied it into the thread in question.

I do agree with you that it's skewed, because it isn't merely a reflection of FrontPage or JihadWatch readership. Rather, as the name suggests, the readership would be the American Family Association, which would be a Conservative Christian group, and therefore, very likely to be hostile to Islam to begin with (or at least more so than other population groups). I therefore think that it's a bad illustration of what Khaybar wanted to demonstrate.

However, I don't agree with either of you that the group of PC deluded people are merely elites, or that the PC issue infests an overwhelming majority of the populace. For the first, I think it's safe that not too many people would initially state their suspicions about Islam unless and until they sense that the other person to a degree at least understands them, and wouldn't perceive them to be bigots. OTOH, the fact that in the GOP at least, all the presidential candidates are now talking about Jihad at least in the debates demonstrates that their own internal polling has told them that this is one of the things that their support base is most concerned about. However, like I pointed out on Dhimmi Watch on the Hugh's commentary on footwashes in UM, Dearbornistan:

I have a theory (and it's just that) that if they (including the general public at large - Right and Left and Center, not just the JW readership) grasped what we here grasp, everybody would be out howling for not only a ban on further Muslim immigration to Infidel lands, but also mass deportations of not only foreign born Muslims but 2nd and subsequent generations Muslims. In addition, in such a situation, Islam would be classified as a hostile ideology like Communism or Nazism, rather than a religion, and wouldn't enjoy first amendment religious protections that it currently does.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Nobody,

Most right-wingers in the U.S. are Christians, and almost all right-wing politicians in the U.S. are Christians. (Indeed, about 85% of the general public in the U.S. are Christians). Also, that AFA poll likely got a lot of hits (I would guess several thousand) from JW on the day of the poll, and that includes a lot of right-wingers and centrists who don't support everything the AFA supports (including many who think that Islam is a religion [esp. "Abrahamic"], therefore it is good), and many left-wingers and non-believers of various stripes--and there are many that frequent JW and affiliated sites, probably more than the approx 16% in the general population--who don't support much of what the AFA supports. In any case, I've already acknowledged (three times now) that the poll probably attracted a biased sample. I don't believe that it is anything more than a crude approximation showing the level of concern about Islam among the right-wing general public that can be compared against what we see in the official statements of "elites" on the right. (It is a right populace vs right "elites" comparison. It says little about the remainder of the population).

Of course, I would welcome the presentation of any empirical evidence on this issue.

The poll itself, of course, exhibits a certain amount of PC in phrases such as "radical Islam/Muslim". I don't know of any candidates of any party who've come out and said we need to be concerned about Islam, should oppose Islamic law, etc. The emphasis is always on "radicals" "jihadists" etc., and not on Islam itself. Granted, "jihadists" is an improvement, but it implies, to the public perception, a focus on violent jihadists. How about someone who is willing to oppose the CAIR-type propaganda jihadists, and who will oppose Islamization more generally.

"However, I don't agree with either of you that the group of PC deluded people are merely elites, or that the PC issue infests an overwhelming majority of the populace."

I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with. Both Hesp and I believe that PC is widespread. He and I differ on the issue of the relative prevalence of PC among "elites" vs the general public. I believe it is higher among the elites, whereas Hesp--if I have understood him--seems to believe it is not higher among the elites.

There is lots of apparent PC among the public about Islam, including the widespread belief that Islam is no more dangerous than other religions (see PEW study cited in my previous post). I also do not believe that the majority of the public can be said to be infected with PC to such an extent that they would be unable to process factual information about Islam. Part of the PC view viz Islam among the general public comes from a lack of knowledge combined with pro-Islamic propaganda fed by the media, "my Muslim friend," etc. I think maybe about 25% of the public are quite PC, but I think only about 5%-10% of the non-Muslim public is so PC (or otherwise ideologically-inclined) that they would accept even a partial form of sharia such as in personal and family law. Moreover, if the public were properly informed about Islam, that approx 5-10% figure would plummet, I would guess, to well below 5%.

The key problem is that the governments, mainstream media, and certain academics aren't doing their jobs. Moreover, they are actually doing significant damage by setting up Islamic governments (Iraq, Afghanistan), while importing massive numbers of non-assimilated hard-line Muslims into the west. The elites generally are slanted heavily in favor of Islam and Islam apologetics. The only exceptions to this are cases where jihadists blow stuff up, but in those cases Islam is absolved of responsibility.

Of course an educated non-Muslim public would go a long way toward solving the Islam revivalist problem. But the fact is that most people don't have time to take the necessary detours off the beaten paths to find out about all the problems with Islam, to find out that it's not merely a problem of a small minority of violent extremists, etc. Normally they'd get this information from the media, but then again the media doesn't like to present hard-hitting negative information about mainstream religions, especially Islam. The media and politicians are in turn supplied by "expertise" from Islamic scholars who, of course, are mostly Islam apologists, many of them funded by Islamic sources.

Hesp is asking for a more detailed analysis of PC on the JW/DW site. But look at the problem: PC or no PC, the general public (who does not read JW/DW) does not have sufficient knowledge of Islam to sustain a solid belief, that would survive a barrage of highly skilled apologetics, that Islam contains major problems, and that, therefore, we must take significant steps to reduce its influence and its harm on non-Muslims. The vast majority of the public are not PC ideologues, and most of those who go to JW/DW do not need to hear any analyses about PC. They will respond to reliable, clear, factual presentations about Islam and the problems with it. They can be reached much more easily than the elites--who've been fed a steady diet of Islamic apologetics for the past several years, especially in the post-9/11 period. Once they get it, the social pressure on the "elites"--especially the politicians and media--will increase such that the problems of Islam can be dealt with. Hence the rationale for the Handbook project--which is primarily to be used by Islam critics to tackle Islam apologetics as they arise in everyday situations, thereby spreading knowledge about the problems of Islam while undoing the damage caused by PC pro-Islamic propaganda. I don't think essays on PC are the core of what we need here. As a supplementary issue it may be of interest, but the core of what we need to do is to get the facts to the public and most immediately to everyone around us personally. That itself will go a long way to defeat the PC myths about Islam.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

P.S. The 16% figure (or 14-15% according to some) only refers to the approx percentage of non-believers.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Again, Why focus on JW/DW? Even if it is true that they don't "get" PC to the extent that you'd like, they--the writers and the readers--do get the Islam problem. Why not focus on those who do not get the Islam problem?

Erich said...

Kab,

There are many points you raise that I would like to respond to, but for now I will only have time to get around to one:

Two comments by you bring up a point I think needs illumination:

"I also do not believe that the majority of the public can be said to be infected with PC to such an extent that they would be unable to process factual information about Islam. Part of the PC view viz Islam among the general public comes from a lack of knowledge"

and

"if the public were properly informed about Islam, that approx 5-10% figure would plummet, I would guess, to well below 5%."

I think the way you conceptualize PC fails to account for one particular feature of the PC paradigm, which has a sort of 3-phase process of "retreat-while-still-standing-its-ground" so to speak:

Phase 1:

The PC paradigm separates Islam itself from all pathologies and dangers that come out of the Islamic orbit. People beholden to PC can seem to get the "problem of Islam" when they object to all manner of damning Islamic data you present to them, but though they seem to be objecting to Islam, they are really objecting to any number of definitional permutations that effectively separate Islam itself from the objectionable data in question. These permutations vary, but they all share the same basic construct: they are ways to make the objectionable data pertain to a minority that is both 1) not representative of Islam itself (even is "Islam" remains for them a rather ragged and ill-defined thing), and 2) not substantively relevant to the majority of Muslims out there.

Phase 2:

Even if the PC person of Phase 1 can somehow open his mind to the point that we are examining Islam itself as the "home base" so to speak of the pathologies and dangers under consideration, a second Phase usually kicks in at this point: now, even if Islam itself might be blameworthy and causative, a new line of separation is drawn (or if the line was there it is now more explicitly drawn because of the new shift in ground which we have forced upon discussion) -- a separation of Islam itself from the vast majority of Muslims. In the scheme of this separation, Islam itself is conceived in terms of a "religion" that may have objectionable features, but those features remain archaic and dormant and are only "activated" by an extremist minority. This Phase 2 effectively superimposes a Western template onto the Muslim world -- the template being the way religion functions in the modern West, where only relatively dysfunctional, or obsessive-compulsive, or ridiculous, or unhinged types of Christians, etc., tend to insist on reviving the fundamentalist features of the Bible and Christian tradition. This superimposition of the modern Western template onto the Muslim world is part of the general parochialism that characterizes PC Multiculturalism -- a "positive parochialism", so to speak, of condescending to the Noble Savages of the Third World, meant to counter the "negative parochialism" of Western Colonialism and crypto-neo-Colonialist "bigotry" and "racism" that remains and needs to be constantly uprooted wherever it rears its ugly head.

Now, if we persevere and are somehow (usually miraculously) able to get our PC person past Phase 2 to the point where they begin to budge on the possibility that an unacceptably large minority of Muslims -- let alone a clear majority -- are pathological and/or dangerous (or that they at least unacceptably enable if not support that pathology and dangerousness), then Phase 3 usually kicks in: at this point, the relation of Islam itself to most of the pathology and danger (and/or support for same) among this unacceptably high number of Muslims in the Muslim world is obfuscated by other explanations that have little or no relation to Islam itself: politics, economics and "culture".

The sequentiality of these Phases is not set in stone. Many PC people hold all three at the same time in their heads in more or less coherent fashion. Some may have recourse to a different sequence of phases in their reflex responses to challenges; etc. However, I think that in terms of the logical and psycho-logical functionality of PC vis-a-vis the problem of Islam, the sequentiality as I set it out illuminates what is going on: a logical mechanism that for the most part effectively brackets out Islam from all the damning data -- even when that damning data is acknowledged.

Erich said...

Kab, you ask:

"Again, Why focus on JW/DW? Even if it is true that they don't "get" PC to the extent that you'd like, they--the writers and the readers--do get the Islam problem. Why not focus on those who do not get the Islam problem?"

A fairly good answer to this question would percolate via a reading of two older (and brief) essays of mine from The Hesperado:

1) http://hesperado.blogspot.com/2006/09/three-problems-for-price-of-one.html

2) http://hesperado.blogspot.com/2007/01/three-rude-shocks.html

(Please read them in the above order.)