Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Grinch relaxes slightly, remains unapologetic to minions
When Hugh Fitzgerald first broached his idea, about a week ago (November 22), of having an “Interlude” at Jihad Watch—a place within the Jihad Watch site where he, the rest of the staff, and readers may share and indulge their tastes and pleasures in various representations of Art (mostly musical selections, and mostly linked to You Tube)—his presentation of its raison d’être and procedural parameters was rather imprecise. This imprecision—due perhaps as much to his characteristic manner of rococo locutions as to the inchoate stage of the idea’s germination at the time—led a couple of readers to assume, naturally, that the “Interlude”, as a harbor of artistic respite from the constant tension of terror, would welcome aboard any manner of Western (let alone generally non-Islamic) culture, including therefore any manner of popular music, including rock, pop, and so forth—since, as is obvious to all Jihad Watchers, all manner of popular music—whether the brashly lewd Britney Spears (let alone the ferociously vulgar music of hip hop and rap) or the elegant and suave Cole Porter—is equally forbidden as sinful temptations to the Muslim to forget his apodictically gnostic Absolute Truth about the Meaning of Life handed down to him by Mohammed who in turn took Dictation from God Himself (or at least from God’s Personal Secretary, the Angel Jibril—i.e., the symbolism Gabriel stolen from the Judaeo-Christian mythologoumena).
So, as we were saying, a couple of commenters on Hugh’s post—one in particular—had naturally assumed the “Interlude” would welcome pretty much any manner of popular and classical art and music, and so offered up what their tastes inclined to as part of the general fun. When Hugh got wind of this, he began to thunder borborygmatically from on high that he never intended his “Interlude” to accomodate any and every thing: it was only meant to accomodate what comports to his tastes, not to those of others.
Apparently there are some who want democracy, or still worse, equality in such matters. I don’t much care for that idea. The Interlude as conceived is intended to reflect, as I wrote, one person’s taste, my taste, my own sense of what is being overlooked undeservedly, or perhaps known (even well known) in one country, but hardly known outside that country. Everyone can suggest songs for posting by email, and if they meet the described criteria, they may well be posted. There is nothing unreasonable about that.
This seemed a curious way to proceed, since his “Interlude” was calling on and dependent upon the very same readers whose individuality he was dismissing as irrelevant to his Sultanesque whims. (The curiosity only deepened as Hugh took great pains, in more than one impacted response, to counter-argue and attempt to crystallize by apparent restatement what was never really clear in the original idea, that, to wit, the whole “Interlude” business was simply the indulgence of his artistic tastes, not anyone else’s except coincidentally if they matched his.) One reader, as we said, took issue and not a little understandable umbrage at this paradoxical despotism reaching out with one hand to his people while slapping them with the other for their impertinence. Of course, not every reader had a problem with Hugh’s approach; indeed, most of them seemed just fine with it. In the meantime, Hugh’s “Interlude” became a regular feature of Jihad Watch, linked on the left-hand margin of the main page.
Then, today, Hugh re-introduced his idea in a new post—and, lo and behold, he now couches the whole enterprise in noticeably more magnanimous and charitable fashion:
You can then add to the list of things not to be tolerated in Islam almost all of American, and West European, popular music. One more recognition of what we think of as harmless and is in Islam deemed haram and condemned with ferocity. Thus you can add to the lengthening list of things not to be tolerated in Islam, which obviously includes most forms of artistic expression, the free and skeptical inquiry without which the enterprise of science is not possible, the solicitude for individual rights and for the autonomy of the individual that is such an important part of advanced Western democracies, these harmless and pleasure-giving and laugh-giving (“There is no humor in Islam” -- Ayatollah Khomeini) songs and movie excerpts, the mere insects of an hour. Insects of an hour they may be, but those insects keep chirping on the hearth, by the fireside, in the gloaming.
Though he is still leaving wiggle room for himself to censor, and censure, any given entry by any given reader (“. . .almost all of American, and West European, popular music. . .”), there is none of the imperiously tight-assed language of the straight and narrow way that there was in his many comments on his original post. Perhaps the common sensical epiphany dawned on Hugh that if his “Interlude” is going to survive at all, it needs readers who are treated not in the spirit of Islamist submission, but as a population upon whose happy participation he obviously depends. This curious dependence combined with downright rude diffidence in the relationship between Hugh and his readers is not confined merely to the “Interlude” enterprise: it is a constant, underlying haze that hangs around Jihad Watch in general, evinced by both Hugh and Robert Spencer, which we have noted here before more than once—most especially in our previous post, Insufficient Gratitude Watch.
P.S.: Had I not been banned from Jihad Watch by Hugh and Robert (not once, not twice, but thrice), I could have posted a couple of helpful corrections to Hugh’s “Interlude” post today: there was a typo in the quote I supplied above (“givinig” should be “giving”, which I corrected in my transcription); and curiously, Hugh employed the Latin locution for “daily bread” in the accusative form—panem quotidianum—rather than in the nominative, panis quotidianus. I note that Hugh used the same accusative form in a post of his from nearly two years ago—incidentally, yet another of those accusatory rebukes of his, castigating the Jihad Watch readership—a readership that is generally a cut above, in intelligence and good manners (with natural exceptions that will not end the world if given a longer leash), other forum reader populations on the Internet and which thus does not deserve to be treated so ungratefully.
Update: On a Jihad Watch post today, Hugh re-invites his readers to participate in his “Interludes” yet again. If the reader scrolls down the comments section to a labored explication Hugh makes in huffy reaction to the continued incidence of participants not getting his rigidly narrow criteria through their heads, he will find that Hugh has only deepened the absurd discourtesy of his pet project. Doubtlessly, one will find good music, and rare treasures, among the selections that Hugh has assembled from among his own choices as well as from those he has despotically decreed comport with his own tastes; however, to frame the whole enterprise in terms of readership participation—and to implicitly depend upon that readership as an audience off which to convivially bounce his ideas and selections—while simultaneously maintaining an imperiously rude diffidence to their desires is, as we said, absurd and discourteous. And just because a sufficient number from among that readership plays along to keep his discourteous absurdity afloat, does not make it right.