Sunday, December 23, 2007
Debate Like A Machine: Another Appeal For An Anti-Islam Debate Booklet
In the last week, Spencer has posted on Jihad Watch two examples of a common problem he has had with trying to debate Muslims and Muslim apologists. (Each post, in turn, contained numerous links to previous attempts Spencer has made to have debates with Muslims and Muslim apologists—all failing, clearly because of the flaws of his interlocutors, to rise to the level of an authentic debate.)
The first example was on December 19, entitled Why can’t Muslims debate?, in which Spencer clearly demonstrated the illogical and flawed approach on the part of the latest challenger to a debate at that juncture, named Nadir Ahmed. At the same time, Spencer took the trouble to respond to what little substance he could discern in his opponent’s opening challenge, and reiterated what he had stated in his introductory remarks to the effect that this opponent, given his shoddy attitude and illogical methods, was not worth engaging in a debate, since it seemed clear that he would not respect the rules of a real debate. His opponent then boasted that Spencer was a “coward” and was “running away” from the challenge to debate.
(The second example appeared on Jihad Watch three days later, in a post entitled When beaten, call names. This reiterated the same themes as the previous post—to wit, the poverty and bankruptcy of both the style and substance of every Muslim and Muslim apologist Spencer has tried to debate; in this case, a blogger named Ali Eteraz, with whom Spencer had seven exchanges in the past, and who recently flung some salvos against Spencer from the safety of his own blog site.)
Although on one level I agree that Spencer was formally correct both in his rebuttal of the spare meat he could find in Nadir Ahmed’s challenge, as well as in his rationale for eschewing any actual engagement in debate with same; and although I have always come away from reading the transcripts of exchanges Spencer has had with Muslims and Muslim apologists largely satisfied by Spencer’s superiority in debating skills and substance—nevertheless, I feel it necessary to write this piece today to point out two crucial tactical mistakes I believe Spencer is making in terms of this whole issue. These tactical mistakes once illuminated, in turn, will help underscore our exigent need to develop a comprehensive, definitive and simple Anti-Islam Debate Handbook.
The first tactical mistake Spencer is making in these exchanges with Muslims and Muslim apologists is broad and general: he needlessly frames and imbues his responses with emotional posturing and jabs here and there. Spencer—and all of us who get involved in exchanges with Muslims and Muslim apologists—need to retool our debating style into a lean and mean machine, utterly emotionless, only presenting the pertinent facts and interpretations at each relevant point in the exchange. Pertinent facts and interpretations may also apply to the illogical and/or irrelevant behavior of the opponent himself as well, of course. However, this should not be couched in emotional terms: simply point out where and precisely why the opponent is being illogical and/or irrelevant. There is no need to embellish this with the salt and pepper of sarcasm, mockery, or personal ripostes.
In the grand old style of debate of the 19th century, such embellishments and emotional grandstanding are entertaining and even rewarding from a literary and rhetorical standpoint; but in terms of our exigent need to clarify and simplify our critiques and condemnations of a dangerous and unjust Islam—and because of our current contextual morass of too much information about the jungle of minutiae that constitutes Islamic news, laws, history and texts—, we cannot afford to continue to flail around and, in effect, perpetuate this bewildering welter of excess knowledge.
The best way to work toward this goal—of clarity and simplicity—thus, would benefit immensely from a concerted effort by Spencer, and all of us, to rein in our emotions during debate exchanges, and adopt a rigorously muscular just-the-facts-ma’am approach. No matter what the Muslim or the Muslim apologist says, no matter how illogical, annoying, maddening or infuriating their evasions, dances and tricks become, we must respond like cold machines at every point. No excess fat, no emotion. (We can save our embellishments and emotions for when we rally our own and preach to the choir.)
Even though Spencer’s latest challenger, Nadir Ahmed, comported himself illogically and abusively, and even though he thumped his chest claiming “victory” when it would be obvious to anyone of remedial intelligence that he had not even properly initiated any debate (let alone responded to Spencer’s subsequent response) over which he could possibly claim any such victory, still: it behooves Spencer to simply, coldly, and efficiently dispose of the Nadir Ahmeds of the world without adding anything extraneous other than pointing out parsimoniously why x, y and z of Nadir Ahmed’s challenge is defective or insufficient. For, even though Spencer is correct to say that he only bothered to respond even once to Nadir Ahmed not for Nadir Ahmed’s sake, but for those persons of good will who might be reading along, Spencer seems still to be underestimating the influence of Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC) even over those who are intelligent and of good will. And those, unfortunately, constitute the majority of intelligent persons of good will in our time. Thus, Spencer is assuming that such persons will be eminently satisfied by Spencer’s reasoning for eschewing further debate with Nadir Ahmed. Some will, but alas, I fear that most will not, because their PC MC will tend to obfuscate certain key nuances by which they can tell whether or not Nadir Ahmed is really sufficiently bankrupt, or whether Spencer might be skirting one or another issue. In such a sociocultural situation as we operate in, then, Spencer needs to be ready to join any and every debate on Islam, and see it to the end.
And because of this, acting like a machine is not all that is needed—for, my reader might rightly complain that Spencer does not have the time to do that. And this brings up Spencer’s second tactical mistake.
Every time Spencer has a debate with a Muslim or a Muslim apologist—and this applies to all of us, famous or not, official or unofficial, who find ourselves in situations of such exchanges—it seems to be a somewhat extemporaneous exercise, it seems incomplete, and it seems to vary too much both in style and data from one instance to another. What we need is a ready-made system of challenge (offensively) and response (defensively) to these Muslims and Muslim apologists and their offensive challenges and defensive claims. Such a ready-made system would take enormous time to devise and create, to be sure; but once it is created, it will save time, and allow Spencer and other lesser humans to engage in practically any debate that comes their way.
In short, it would be a comprehensive template of claims and responses—claims about how bad Islam is and responses to counter-claims—, not the constantly shifting situation of extemporaneous engagements with opponents, each time differing in content, sources and style, that encumbers us now, with the whole ongoing enterprise only deepening the complex mush of too much information about Islam that makes it even worse.
In fact, the nature of the style and substance of our opponents will aid us in this regard, for they keep repeating themselves! It is they who have a fairly fixed boilerplate template of defenses and challenges, and it is high time we develop a counter-template that can be more or less automatically applied (with only minor adjustments here and there) each time they cue the predictable dance of their propaganda.
For more on this template, see this previous essay of mine.
For our ongoing debates in the War of Ideas against Islam and its apologists, we need to debate like a machine, and our machine needs to be definitive and simple.