Sunday, December 30, 2007

Debate Like A Machine: Update

Today, Robert Spencer posted a “
part 3” in his encounters with Islam apologists who in one way or another have challenged him to debates—this time with some academic pop anthropologist named Gabriele Marranci, a professor at the School of Divinity, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Prof. Marranci had apparently posted on his own website a list of questions to Robert Spencer, which Spencer only discovered in a roundabout way when, in the comments section of “part 2”, some Jihad Watch reader mentioned Marranci’s website. Evidently, Marranci did not see fit to try to contact Spencer directly, but merely posted on his own website his challenge to Spencer, perhaps expecting that somehow, through the dynamically interconnected processes of the Internet, it would eventually get on Spencer’s radar. And so it did.

Once again, Spencer in his response to Marranci exemplifies the two flaws I articulated in my previous post—in this case more visibly the first flaw (injecting too much emotion) rather than the second (failing to have a developed an automatic template to apply to such challenges in more or less robotic fashion, rather than responding to them like an extemporaneous human being). The second flaw is always present and evident, of course, so long as Spencer persists in ignoring the exigency of a universally definitive yet concise Anti-Islamic Manual. The first flaw, however, seemed more dramatic this time around, almost as though Spencer were making a specific point of making it blatant, albeit couched in the ostensible context of taking the trouble to answer Marranci’s questions.

Don’t get me wrong: Spencer’s response is a pleasure to read, and in the end, his obvious implication that Prof. Marranci is not worth treating with complete respect—but rather with wry pepper-shakes of flippant and sarcastic jabs & digs here and there amid the eminently substantive answers he nonetheless supplied to Marranci’s list of questions—might be dead right.

As he wrote after his responsive response to Marranci’s list of questions:

ll admit my answers are a bit laconic and tongue-in-cheek. Ill admit that I tend to react that way when Im being condescended to. If Dr. Marranci really wants to debate, Im game. If he wants to lecture me about the difference between belief and practice, which I have written about ad infinitum, and about the meaning of words, like an errant schoolboy, then he is going to have to find another mark.

Nevertheless, even if Spencer’s characterization of Marranci's comportment is correct, I maintain that if Spencer is going to bother at all to create a formal post that addresses such challenges, he should refrain from taking umbrage at his challenger’s attitudes, he should refrain from talking about the peripheral flaws of his challenger’s challenges, and he should refrain from reacting in prickly and emotional ways to them—and just get down to brass tacks.

This is not to say that Spencer should not, as a separate and distinct essay, articulate the problem of such challenges in general (and therein get off his chest the attitudinal problems of the typical challengers that come his way). Just don’t mix that articulation with the direct and formal responses he deigns to proffer, is what I suggest. Those direct responses need to be lean and mean to the point of being robotic.

And, of course, they need to be applied as automatically as is possible, generated as though from a boilerplate template.

Which brings us to the exigency of a definitive and concise Anti-Islamic Manual—ideally what would be the pre-eminent bible for such a boilerplate template.

How much longer are we going to wait for somebody to step up to the plate and get that boilerplate going?

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