Thursday, August 2, 2007

Note to Spencer: why people can be reasonable and wrong at the same time

In an article on Jihad Watch today, Spencer uncharacteristically vents his frustration. While he is, as usual, correct within a delimited focus of the issue, he is grievously purblind about the larger issue involved. In that article, Spencer takes to task one Joel Mowbray (who in a Front Page article defended Spencer against his recent defamation by CAIR representative Hooper):

“But the main reason why I am writing this, although I am grateful for Joel's taking the time to write this piece, is the business about ‘reasonable people’ who disagree with me.

“Really? Plenty of ‘reasonable people’? I wish Joel had taken the time to supply some names. Does he perhaps have in mind Dinesh D'Souza, with his relentless attributing to me of things I do not actually say, and his claim that I want Muslim countries to replace the Qur'an with the Torah? Is that ‘reasonable’? Or does Joel mean maybe Robert D. Crane, the former Nixon aide who called me demonic and falsely charged that I was misrepresenting the content of Islamic texts, when those texts actually clearly bore out my point?”

And so on.

Of course, Spencer is rhetorically speculating on what and who Mowbray meant by the ‘reasonable people’ who might disagree with Spencer in one way or another. In doing so, Spencer is ironically doing what he accuses Mowbray (and the others he lists) of doing: imputing to him things he has not in fact said. But this is a rather trivial miscalculation. Worse than this is the contextual assumption of Spencer’s frustration here—an assumption that perforce presumes the “vacuum” which I have mentioned many times before: the vacuum where a dominant, mainstream, sociologically systemic and historically long-standing PC Multiculturalism does not exist. When such a PC Multiculturalism—i.e., the actual PC Multiculturalism and not the shrunken and oddly stunted version Spencer and others tilt their lances at—does not exist, then certain factors and phenomena caused by it that impinge on Spencer (and Fitzgerald, et al.) become misdiagnosed—often seriously so.

Such is the case with these ‘reasonable people’ that Spencer assumes must in fact be the obviously—and verifiably—unreasonable Dinesh D’Souzas, Robert Cranes, Carl Ernsts, Omid Safis, etc., of the world. Spencer cannot imagine that ‘reasonable people’ could exist out there who would disagree with him. Indeed, they do exist—in the millions and millions. But these ‘reasonable people’ are not correct, even though they are ‘reasonable’: that is where Spencer errs. Spencer’s myopia to the profoundly systemic nature of PC Multiculturalism blinds him to the fact that the effectiveness (and sociopolitical dominance) of PC Multiculturalism, with respect to the problem of Islam specifically, operates by channeling good human qualities—such as intelligence, courage, patriotism, morality and reasonableness—away from any critical examination of Islam and always, rather, along certain axiomatic grooves or channels whereby Islam remains forever sanitized from anything substantively bad, and whereby the vast majority of Muslims remain forever harmless and good contributors to society (except, of course, insofar as any one of them may succumb to normal human imperfections totally unrelated to Islam, while any more glaring bad behaviors they may exhibit can always be chalked up to their being “oppressed” by the evil West in one way or another).

Thus, the problem of those millions of people in the West who really are more ‘reasonable’ than the Dinesh D’Souzas, etc., of the world is not that they are not ‘reasonable’. The problem is that their unremarkable reasonableness is stuck in a socio-politico-psychologico-cultural mechanism, the PC Multiculturalist paradigm, whereby its normal activity is re-routed to a conclusion that forever protects Islam and the vast majority of Muslims, and that forever remains suspicious of the Spencers of the world who try to present counter-evidence to the Box they are in.

As long as Spencer only concentrates on the falsely ‘reasonable’ Dinesh D’Souzas of the world, his methods will be excellent and appropriate. But with regard to those millions of actually reasonable people out there who are stuck in disagreement with Spencer, he has developed no counter-arguments that I can see, and he does not seem to care to do so, and has even arrogantly dismissed me (and banned me more than once from Jihad Watch) in the past for bringing up this most urgent problem in our ongoing War of Ideas.


Kab-bin-Ashraf said...


A couple of items I wanted to bring to the attention of you and your readers:

(1) Mobray and/or the editors at FP have made substantial revisions to the original paragraphs which were quoted by Spencer. I quote these below.

(2) Yesterday, or the day before that, Spencer wrote an article at FP dealing with the problems of PC, in the context of the "flushed Quran" case. I think this shows that Spencer is not "myopic" about PC.

Now, back to (1). Here are the Mobray quotes that I retrieved from JW about a half an hour ago (I have highlighted in bold and added my comments in { } for some of the phrasing of Mobray's which I found misleading, imagining myself in the position of a reader who was not familiar with Spencer's work):

"[...]Spencer, who has courted controversy {could imply that Spencer's intention is to court controversy rather than to enlighten/educate about a problem of major importance} with his and his bestselling book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, is a genuinely provocative figure {implies that Spencer is actively "provoking," rather than there being in place (a) zealous Muslim defence of Islamic law viz public criticism of Islam (e.g., as shown by CAIR), (b) extensive self-destructive PC throughout the society which is what contributes to some people being "provoked" by mere presentation of criticism of Islam} with whom reasonable people can disagree. But he pales in comparison {this phrasing implies that Spencer is bad, but not as bad as those other "characters"} to some of the characters who have headlined CAIR conferences.

"CAIR's primary objection in its attempted legal blackmail is that Spencer is “a well-known purveyor of hatred and bigotry.” But if the group objects to “purveyors of hatred and bigotry,” why would it feature a neo-Nazi at several of its conferences?
{There Mobray doesn't distance Spencer from the charges; again, the implication is 'He's bad, but not as bad as those more extreme haters and bigots.'}
Plenty of reasonable people can take serious issue with Spencer—and plenty do—but shouldn't CAIR be more troubled by neo-Nazis, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and Islamic terrorists?"
{Serious issue about what? In an article that should be clear to those who are not familiar, or only a little familiar, with Spencer, Mobray needed to defend Spencer clearly from the charges. I was disappointed to see these quotes, because they look like PC posturing: It's as if Mobray was trying to distance himself from Spencer, and thus from honest Islam critics. However, see below.}

End of Quote.

Now here is the revised version of the Mobray article's paragraphs about Spencer, retrieved from FP just about half an hour ago:

"[...] Spencer, who heads and is the author of the recent bestselling book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, is a top-notch scholar who backs up his work on Islam with careful and meticulous research that is founded on Islamic sources. How does this compare, in any way, to some of the characters who have headlined CAIR conferences?

"CAIR's primary objection in its attempted legal blackmail is that Spencer is “a well-known purveyor of hatred and bigotry.” But how is one a "purveyor of hatred and bigotry" when all one does is reveal and demonstrate the teachings that are inherent in Islam? And if CAIR really objects to “purveyors of hatred and bigotry,” why would it feature a neo-Nazi at several of its conferences?

"[…]Why is CAIR councerned with Robert Spencer -- a scholar who has dedicated himself to isolating those features of Islam that inspire Islamic terror? Shouldn't CAIR be concerned with the same thing and be thankful to Spencer? Isn't Spencer doing a tremendous service in arming Muslim reformers with the crystal-clear information they need to confront Islamic extremists? Won't reformers in this way stand a better chance at the enormously difficult challenge of modernizing and democratizing Islam? [...]"

End of Quote.

I can understand Spencer's objections to the first version of the article. I also think the revised version makes a much better case against CAIR's bully tactics. I applaud Mobray and/or FP for revising the article.

Erich said...


Spencer’s essay (from FP August 1) you refer to (linked below) on the surface seems to contain a clear-eyed recognition and condemnation of PC, but on closer inspection contains a couple of subtle problematic features.

First of all, in that essay, when Spencer adverts to PC it is largely parenthetical. Spencer has never written one essay devoted to the problem of PC; his recognition of it is always in parenthetical and/or editorial remarks. This indicates to me a dereliction of duty, since a frontal and comprehensive analysis of PC is of primary importance in our War of Ideas vis-a-vis the Problem of Islam, not of parenthetical importance.

Secondly, even though some of the parenthetical remarks from that essay pass my stringent standards re PC, when they are considered in the larger context of all the other statements Spencer and his Vice-President, Fitzgerald, have made which I have documented and analyzed, they are not sufficiently precisioned to eliminate ambiguities. (And for every one statement I have documented & analyzed on this blog, there are five more I have noticed but simply neglected to include, since this blog is not meant to be exhaustive.)

Example, Spencer writes "The American public square today simply has no apparatus for dealing with the possibility that the protected victims might be perpetrating evil themselves." What exactly does Spencer mean by "public square"? This term is not clear enough to fend off interpretations that would locate most, or all, of the problem in a cabal of media and academic elites who might be "manipulating" that public discourse. I.e., this is close but no cigar: Spencer needs to directly and massively advert to the problem of millions of ordinary folks beholden to PC axioms (with regard to protecting Islam and most Muslims from criticism & condemnation) in order to satisfy me that he understands PC in its proper nature and scope. As long as he continues to parenthetically and ambiguously advert to the problem, I am not satisfied that the "PC" he is referring to is the same beast I am concerned about.

FP article:

About Mowbray:

1) IMO, an FP revision is not good enough, since they archive these articles, and most readers don’t go back to previous days to read (let alone to re-read). A formal retraction or presentation of the revision needs to be published by FP later, not merely in revised form of the original in the archives.

2) I find the revisions you quoted rather curious, since they are not mere tweakings, but seem to go against the grain of Mowbray's original wording rather markedly. Mowbray owes us readers to come clean and explain a) why he changed the wording, and b) whether -- and/or to what degree -- he still harbors the opinions reflected in the original essay.

Erich said...


P.S.: Another problematic feature of that Spencer essay is the way he couches the problem of PC as "anti-Christian". While I agree (and have written on the Hesperado) that anti-Christianity is one important component of the historical evolution of PC, Spencer is creating the impression that it is the primary feature of PC, and that, IMO, is a distortion of the nature & scope of PC, again contributing to the delimitation of the problem -- a distortion I would speculate is motivated by two things:

1) his baseline tendency to delimit the problem of PC

2) his possibly excessively pro-Christian bias.

Nobody said...


New topic - on today's statements by Obama, Clinton and Tancredo, it would obviously be under discussion on whether invading Waziristan, nuking Pakistan or threatening to nuke Mecca & Medina should happen or not. I understand how sensitive JW staff are following Ibrahim Hooper's antics a few nights ago, but because of that policy, even debate on this topic is squelched.

Here is what I posted on JW, which may get deleted or edited by Marisol. Judge for yourself whether it's appropriate or not:

Obama's statement is one of the few of his that I agree with - if he also had contingency plans for Iran and Saudi Arabia, he'd be worth supporting. Tancredo's statement this time was more of a suggested threat rather than an actual follow-up action, and one I agree with. While I agree with the moderators of this forum that we posters shouldn't make genocidal posts, it's a mistake on the part of those in power or those running for office to rule out any option, no matter what - it has the effect of emboldening the enemies who know that certain things like nuking Waziristan will never happen.