Tuesday, September 4, 2007

We Need a Definitive Anti-Islamic Manual

As I reminded my readers in a previous post, concerning what I termed a fourth problem with Jihad Watch, the Anti-Islamic Movement desperately needs a manual of points and counterpoints that would refute pro-Islamic apologetics.

In fact, it is our #1 priority in our War of Ideas, since there is too much disinformation—aided by the dominant and mainstream climate of politically correct multiculturalism in the West—as well as too much bewildering complexity out there, concerning the problem of Islam.

The “fourth problem” with Jihad Watch is that Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald are being derelict in their duty to bring their considerable talents and influence to bear in order to help jump-start this desperately needed and crucial tool for our War of Ideas against Islamic jihad.

One example of many that illustrates the negligently unfocused mindset at Jihad Watch is a response by Hugh Fitzgerald to a most appropriate question from a commenter in the comments field of a thread on Jihad Watch a few weeks ago—to wit: “Why are we all sitting here talking, and not doing anything?” And Hugh answered:

We are not merely “talking” and “not doing anything.” The work at this and other sites is essential to the task of mass divulgation of material. Education right now is the key.

If mass divulgation and education now is the key, as Hugh Fitzgerald correctly asseverates, then he and Robert Spencer ought not avoid any longer their desperately needed parts to play—deploying their considerable influence and talents—in getting the project of a definitive Anti-Islamic Manual up on the table for consideration, brainstorming, planning and publication.

The general state of our War of Ideas—even among those of us who “get it”—is mired and floundering in a welter of a confusing, bewildering and disorganized excess of information about the problem of Islam. We currently have too much information about the texts, history and culture of Islam; and that excess of information is intolerably complex, disorganized, and redundant in maddeningly—and counter-productively—variegated ways.

Non-Negotiable Qualities of the Anti-Islamic Manual

The Anti-Islamic Manual must embody the following qualities: It must be definitive; and it must be simple.

1. Definitive. It must be the best, and last, word on the subject. If it merely joins the mountain of other tracts and texts about the problem of Islam, as one more source more or less equal among them, its effectiveness will evanesce, and in fact it will serve to increase the confusion and complexity of the situation, rather than to clarify, simplify, and decrease it.

2. Simple.

a. Not rocket science.

The Anti-Islamic Manual should not be rocket science, nor should it be richly layered like a scholarly essay or history book. Hugh Fitzgerald’s recent essay on Jihad Watch, where he recommends 27 books (mostly scholarly works), is unnecessary overkill for the purposes he himself sets forth—namely, for “the task of mass divulgation of material” in the interest of the education of Infidels to help them fight the War of Ideas with respect to the Problem of Islam. We concerned Infidels doing our part in the War of Ideas need not be scholars or Orientalists to know the basics about why, and to what extent, Islam is evil and dangerous.

b. A cookbook and nothing more.

It must be ruthlessly simple in content, expression and presentation. It should contain no superfluous prose. It should read like a cookbook, simply yet comprehensively supplying the necessary ingredients of our arguments and counter-arguments and—where necessary—how to mix them and prepare them for “cooking” our opponents in debates.

Epilogue: There is no free lunch.

Relying on unpaid volunteers would be the surest way to consign this crucially needed project to straggling, fitful and ultimately doomed oblivion. All concerned individuals—whether of academic qualifications or simply intelligent “civilians”—who would be of help to such a project, cannot be expected to expend such immense amounts of time and labor as will be required, without respectable monetary compensation for their efforts.

Conclusion:

Hugh Fitzgerald and Robert Spencer can help by publicizing this project on Jihad Watch, as well as by soliciting funds for it. Why are they not doing so? How long must we wait?

4 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

"Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald are being derelict in their duty"

I don't think this is particularly their responsibility. It'd be nice if they'd do it, but they don't appear to be interested in doing the actual work of it.

(They're busy with JW/DW and other worthwhile projects, for which they do receive some payment. The Handbook project would have to be a full-time undertaking lasting a least a few months, but more likely a year).

So why continue to focus on them? We need to try to enlist other experts. I think we should be prepared to turn over the whole concept of the project to interested experts, like Ibn Warraq or others.

"to help jump-start"
"up on the table for consideration, brainstorming, planning and publication."

They've already jump-started it. We've already done most of the brainstorming. What we need are experts who are willing to make the time to actually sit down and do this.

"We currently have too much information about the texts, history and culture of Islam;"

I agree with that in the sense that we have too much of certain kinds of information. However, we lack key pieces of information, without which our case looks like a piece of Swiss cheese with some very large holes. Specifically, we lack up-to-date Islamic jurisprudence for most of the schools, for most of the issues we're addressing that require such information. We also lack poll and survey evidence, voting results, and policy decisions by Muslims and their institutions, organizations, and governments.

In short, we lack simple-yet-powerful summary information that would give us a good indication of what Muslims today actually believe, support (or are willing to tolerate), and practice.

The construction of the simplified and streamlined Handbook requires a base of material with which to construct, simplify, and streamline. We do not have an adequate base of materials. We have a few scattered tid-bits of important facts, and a large volume of unimportant minutiae, but we do not have anything like a thorough, systematically-collected body of critically-important information from which to draw. The actual practice of constructing a rebuttal is therefore severely limited because because we do not have an adequate base of facts. We have a bit of this and a bit of that, but this patch-work is nowhere near what we need.

"and that excess of information is intolerably complex, disorganized, and redundant"

Agreed on all of those points, other than in regards to the glaring gaps and patch-work composition of our fact base mentioned above.

"2. Simple.
a. Not rocket science.
The Anti-Islamic Manual should not be rocket science, nor should it be richly layered like a scholarly essay or history book. Hugh Fitzgerald’s recent essay on Jihad Watch, where he recommends 27 books (mostly scholarly works), is unnecessary overkill for the purposes he himself sets forth—namely, for “the task of mass divulgation of material” in the interest of the education of Infidels to help them fight the War of Ideas with respect to the Problem of Islam."

Agreed, but Hugh posted that list in the context of providing an alternative reading list for university students. The 'mass divulgation' may have been in reference to the role of JW/DW sites. If the latter is the case, then yes, JW/DW should have a Handbook or at least an organized, thorough, up-to-date fact-base from which a Handbook could be constructed.

"We concerned Infidels doing our part in the War of Ideas need not be scholars or Orientalists to know the basics about why, and to what extent, Islam is evil and dangerous.
b. A cookbook and nothing more.
It must be ruthlessly simple in content, expression and presentation. It should contain no superfluous prose. It should read like a cookbook, simply yet comprehensively supplying the necessary ingredients of our arguments and counter-arguments and—where necessary—how to mix them and prepare them for “cooking” our opponents in debates."

Of course everyone will agree that it should be simple. Disagreements are likely to arise in the actual mock-ups or concrete examples of how this would be implemented. You need to be more specific, illustrating what you actually mean by simple.

"Epilogue: There is no free lunch.
Relying on unpaid volunteers would be the surest way to consign this crucially needed project to straggling, fitful and ultimately doomed oblivion. All concerned individuals—whether of academic qualifications or simply intelligent “civilians”—who would be of help to such a project, cannot be expected to expend such immense amounts of time and labor as will be required, without respectable monetary compensation for their efforts."

I have come to the conclusion that this cannot be accomplished by unpaid experts. The bulk of the project will have to be completed by a team of experts who are working full-time, for a few months to one year. Moreover, there would have to be at least a few experts representing a wide range, not just depth, of knowledge.

"Conclusion: Hugh Fitzgerald and Robert Spencer can help by publicizing this project on Jihad Watch, as well as by soliciting funds for it. Why are they not doing so? How long must we wait?"

They have already publicized the idea at least twice. As for funds, I don't believe that they would provide funds for a rag-tag bunch of non-experts to take on something that is clearly beyond their abilities. I also do not think that Horowitz (Freedom Foundation) or Regnery (the publisher of Robert's books) are willing to fund such a project; otherwise they would have done so already. Nevertheless, they might, and they would be the ones to approach re funding.

Suppose Regnery or Horowitz did fund this? Any product then would be dismissed out of hand by left-leaning critics as biased, tainted, etc. That's not a valid method of argument, but unfortunately it is an extremely cheap and effective one in today's society. We need to get away from this whole perception of "right-wing Christian" and move toward a more neutral-seeming presentation. The fact is that-- however unfair it may be--people like Hitchens, Harris, and Warraq can get away with saying things about Islam that those who are perceived as "right-wing" and "Christian" cannot.

The other problem that Spencer and JW/DW cannot shake off, because of the Christian connection, are the numerous glaring problems within the Bible. It's just not enough to say "Oh, that's just historical, no one follows that anymore." That rebuttal has thus far had no inhibiting effect on the behavior of apologists (e.g., they keep quoting those embarrassingly appalling passages from the Bible). Another problem associated with dealing with Horowitz or Regnery is that certain lines of attack against Islam would be off-limits because of their tendency to backfire on a Christian. For example, a major moral criticism against Islam involves attacking the outrageously nonsensical and immoral hell-fire penalty. Trouble is, a significant percentage of Christians in Horowitz's and Regnery's audience also believe that people should be burned and tortured for all eternity on the grounds of mere disbelief. Thus, it is so easy for Muslim apologists to pull a tu quoque in response to that, so that the argument is basically off-limits for most Christians.

In addition, there are a whole range of criticisms that can weaken Islam through pointing out the supernatural absurdities, logical contradictions, and so forth. Because Christian beliefs contain many of the same kinds of absurdities, it is all-to-easy for apologists to pull tu quoque or, indeed, for many non-interested non-religious audience members to chalk up another point for religious equivalence.

For these and other reasons, I do not think the Handbook should be funded by a source that can easily be dismissed as "Christian" or "right-wing." Again, such characterizations are completely non-substantive and unfair, but unfortunately they are extraordinarily effective in our PC-dominated society. We are in a war of ideas here. We need to win it. Anything that weakens the persuasiveness of our presentation needs to be reduced or eliminated. Anything that provides the opposition with a target needs to be reduced or eliminated.


The last thing I'd like to mention is that such a Handbook should include not just rebuttals, but should include the major arguments striking the major weak or problematic points of Islam. Otherwise our side will only be playing catch-up, responding to the script dictated by the apologists. Responding in this manner is extremely costly in terms of time and money; it is extremely inefficient (though necessary). To see this, one need only look at how easy it is for apologists to utter a series of brazen falsehoods that are gobbled up by the media, and the amount of time, effort, and patience required to correct those falsehoods. I would like to use a method that is easy and effective which makes the apologists scramble around and get tangled up in all kinds of research, wasting their time instead of mine and that of fellow "infidels." There are several major criticisms of Islam itself that are not responses to apologetics, yet these may be the most effective. (Indeed, they induce apologetic responses, which are then addressed in the Handbook rebuttals).

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

P.S.

I wrote: "We also lack poll and survey evidence, voting results, and policy decisions by Muslims and their institutions, organizations, and governments."

I do have a file containing that kind of information, but that is nothing like the thorough, systematic, organized body of information we'd need to have, from which to build the definitive rebuttals. Without up-to-date information that is thorough, systematic, and organized, apologists will simply exhale "Muslims no longer believe/do that," and the house of cards will fall. We have to keep in mind that while apologetic arguments are often not convincing to us, they do often suffice for most people. Thus we are burdened with providing an overwhelmingly strong response. That is, what we are doing involves an absurdly high level of overkill. That requirement is of course due to the uneven playing field set up by anti-western/pro-Islam PC MC.

Erich said...

Kab,

You wrote after quoting me:

"Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald are being derelict in their duty"

I don't think this is particularly their responsibility. It'd be nice if they'd do it, but they don't appear to be interested in doing the actual work of it.

You and I have had this misunderstanding at least a couple of times in the past. You continue to misunderstand what I am calling for. I am not calling for Spencer and Fitzgerald to actually roll up their sleeves and do all the work of researching and producing the Handbook: I am calling for them to help jump-start, to help get the ball rolling, on the project that would lead to the publication of the Handbook. A project such as this requires the necessary spark of jump-starting; and jump-starting benefits enormously from a considerable influence and popularity -- which Spencer & Fitzgerald, through their venue JW, enjoy.

Then, it's not only the "spark" of jump-starting that Spencer & Fitzgerald can provide: they can also help to keep the flame of that spark going, by re-publishing calls for the project of the Handbook on JW, and contributing a couple of inspiring essays each on the exigency of a Handbook. (They may also have contacts and connections they can try to persuade to help.)

Finally, they can use their influence and popularity, and their venue JW (as well as frontpage, with which Spencer is formally associated, and New English Review, with which Fitzgerald is associated -- in addition to other associations I don't know about) to solicit much needed funding for this project.

All these three things I have articulated above would require Spencer & Fitzgerald to expend a certain amount of time and effort; but they would not require them to actually construct and publish the Handbook (a much more timely and laborious expenditure). It is something along the lines of the above three things which Spencer & Fitzgerald could do, that I maintain they should do, and that I maintain they are being derelict by avoiding.

(They're busy with JW/DW and other worthwhile projects, for which they do receive some payment. The Handbook project would have to be a full-time undertaking lasting a least a few months, but more likely a year).

What they are busy with is of secondary importance now, in my estimation. The #1 priority in the War of Ideas front is the Handbook. All else is secondary, and sometimes it is posiively counter-productive, because it merely adds to the bewilderingly complex and excessive mountain of information out there, blunting our propaganda weapons in the War of Ideas, rather than making them more precise and efficient.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

My apologies. I have indeed assumed that you wanted Spencer and Fitzgerald to work on the project, in addition to the supervisory and other roles you've mentioned.

You had recommended that they spend 50% of their time for about a year on the project. Later you downgraded the request to less than 25% of their time or even just a couple of posts a year. I will take your most recent requests in the above post as representing your current thoughts on the issue, which as I would estimate involves a lot more time and effort than two posts a year.

I don't agree that non-expert volunteers should be doing the actual work of the project. They might be helpful in terms of providing feedback for honing draft versions of rebuttals. However, most of the rebuttals require specialized knowledge that non-experts don't have, or can't feasibly access. It would take non-experts an extraordinary amount of time to put together effective rebuttals. In addition, I don't think anyone would actually fund those non-experts, at least not to the extent of actually paying them sufficiently for their full time.

Even if we wanted a kind of second-rate but usable Handbook constructed by non-experts, I have doubts as to whether we could actually get enough motivated and well-informed people with enough time on their hands to do this. This is based on the fact that numerous attempts to enlist volunteers in multiple venues resulted in only one (in addition to the original four) who actually contributed a draft rebuttal. And even in that case, we had to do considerable re-working to try and bring the rebuttal in line with a more concise, less prosy format. That rebuttal remains incomplete, as are all of the other rebuttals. These kinds of problems are not likely to arise among motivated experts who are committed to working full-time on an adequately-funded project.

I have concerns that the right kind of experts, who are capable of doing these rebuttals in a thorough yet concise way, may be very rare. Nevertheless, we need to try to get a team of experts to take on the project. They would be in a position to obtain the necessary funding for their work, and would be able to organize and coordinate the project, once it's in their hands.

I also don't agree that JW/DW should be involved with the project. The project needs to be independent of JW/DW. I would still recommend that JW/DW construct their own Handbook for their readers' use. However, a Handbook that is going to be used in a wide variety of contexts cannot be tied to anything perceived (and readily dismissed) as "right wing" or "Christian." No matter how unfair or non-substantive that criticism may be, the fact remains that for those who are not yet already convinced, many of them are so biased that anything seen as "right wing" or "Christian" will render the entire project a non-starter. Take the very same material presented by atheists, agnostics, or other non-Christians, with no connection or funding involving sources deemed "Christian" or "right-wing" and this PC MC hurdle is easily passed.

It seems to me we have two basic realistic options.

(1) A second-rate Handbook completed by non-experts who are not paid and which may never be completed; and

(2) A first rate Handbook that would be completed by a team of paid experts which, I would expect, could be completed and published within a year.