For a change today, I will not be berating Robert Spencer or Hugh Fitzgerald for any slip-ups or erroneous interpretations. Instead, today’s post will recount the recent demise of a regular Jihad Watch commenter—who went out not with a bang, but a whimper. As of this morning, I noted with pleasure that Spencer summarily banned that commenter, who called himself “Roobart Sbunsar”, with eminently and deliciously justified reason.
But we get ahead ourselves. Let me backtrack a couple of days, and begin there.
Two days ago, on December 7, Robert Spencer posted on Jihad Watch a symposium about the fanatical puritanism of Iranian laws that was cross-posted from a FrontPageMagazine.com article. Aside from Robert Spencer, the symposium featured Steve Schippert and Nancy Kobrin, as well as the regular moderator at FrontPageMagazine.com, Jamie Glazov.
Somewhat past the halfway mark of the symposium, the topic derailed onto the broader issue of criticism of Islam, with Steve Schippert expressing his politically correct indignation at both Spencer and Kobrin for their articulate critiques of the various aspects of Islam that contribute to so many sociopolitical pathologies around the world—pathologies that are either unjust (as with the theme of the symposium,
When Schippert’s turn came up, after Spencer and Kobrin had offered their insights criticial of Islam, he forthwith re-directed the focus onto the faults of Spencer and Kobrin, essentially “scolding” them (as Kobrin aptly described it) for their “insensitivity” to the totality of Muslims whom they were, according to him, collectively impugning. At that point Glazov, then Kobrin, came to Spencer’s defense. Schippert’s next response only served to ratchet up his uncomprehending and passive-aggressively arrogant disapproval of the others, coupled with his irrational need to defend Muslims and Islam axiomatically. It continued this way until the end of the symposium, and it was a welcome diversion, for it provided Spencer, Kobrin and Glazov a nice opportunity to see, and to deftly diagnose and counter-argue, the politically correct multi-culturalist psychopathology of the likes of Schippert—which, alas, is all too common in our era regarding the problem of Islam.
What does all this have to do with “Roobart Sbunsar”—and who or what is he, anyway?
I’m getting to that. Bear with me please.
Later that same day, it turned out that Steve Schippert posted on his own blog a snippy reaction to what had devolved at the symposium, directing his politically correct crankiness at Spencer specifically. Spencer posted this on Jihad Watch, along with his own responses, in a post entitled Schippert strikes back!
It was in the comments field of that post where “Roobart Sbunsar” made his appearance with a couple of comments.
Who or what is he or she?
“Roobart Sbunsar” is a person who, over the past few months, has contributed many comments in the comments fields of many different Jihad Watch articles. Mostly, his comments have had a distinctly anti-Islamic tonality, though he rarely fails to inject a Leftist bias that he seems incapable of suppressing for too long—either to indulge in a little Bushbashing here, a little generalizing about the evils of neo-cons and Christians there, or more than a little eye-poking here and there of fellow Jihad Watch commenters whom he tends to treat as odiously right-wing. Some of these fellow Jihad Watch commenters have conjectured that this “Roobart Sbunsar” is the new name of one or more former troublemakers in previous comments fields on Jihad Watch—a new anonymity either to mask his previous identity and convey the impression of multiple views where there is only the one eccentric crank, or to revive that cranky eccentricity after having been previously banned, or a combination of the two. (One such possible former identity was as “GetBornAgain”—a commenter who comes across, in this comments field from last summer, for example, as highly confrontational and contrarian in his Leftist bias and his affectation of being the only liberal in a hostile environment of right-wingers all around him. If that commenter was indeed “Roobart Sbunsar” in his former life, he was being less careful and clever than he has been under his new name, and perhaps he got banned for being so. It does seem likely the two are the same, for “GetBornAgain” made a similar protestation in the above noted link that I have noticed “Roobart Sbunsar” has made many a time, to the effect of “Yes, I am a liberal and I hate Bush, but I also hate Jihad like you guys. . .” And there is something about the general tenor of the former’s writing style and attitude that seems consonant with that of the latter.)
As time has gone along over the past couple of months, and my eye has not been able to help pausing to peruse, rather than darting past, posts bearing the signature of “Roobart Sbunsar”, an intuitive feeling has grown within me that something fishy is going on with this character. As I intimated above, he seems a bit too glib with his anti-Islamic comments; they seem to be more slyly and cleverly interposed, like an agent laying mines, than anything sincere and genuine—almost as though he were trying to create an impression: “Hey, I’m one of you guys, see?” Meanwhile, he is insinuating himself deeper and deeper to lay strategically placed bombs, as it were, bombs of rhetorically destructive (though in reality pathetically inept) criticism of the very foundations of Jihad Watch.
These misgivings of mine have only increased in wariness by clues here and there. One such clue was an interchange “Roobart Sbunsar” had with Robert Spencer himself, in a comments field a couple of months back, concerning his nickname, for it quite specifically references a scurrilously mendacious (if somewhat trivial) smear against Robert Spencer by some pro-Islamic apologists (Dean Esmay, et al.) who claimed (without sufficient evidence, of course) that when Robert Spencer had on occasion transliterated his English name into its Arabic equivalent to be appropriately rendered Roobart Sbunsar, he was in error and this error revealed his ignorance about Arabic which he otherwise disingenuously denies or about which he evades scrutiny. Spencer rightly detected that the reason “Roobart Sbunsar” chose his moniker was in some sense to honor the smear tactics of those aforementioned pro-Islamic apologists (Dean Esmay, et al.). In his initial response to this suspicion of Spencer’s, “Roobart Sbunsar” claimed complete ignorance of the relevance of his nickname. Later on, he claimed that in fact he had chosen it as a show of respect to Spencer and because he liked the name. I find that dubious and disingenuous.
Another clue relates to Robert’s suspicion I noted above, which I share. In some other comments field after the above interchange, “Roobart Sbunsar” picked up on a parenthetical reference to Spencer knowing Arabic, and asked at least twice, with a disingenuously disarming show of sincerity, “Does Robert Spencer know Arabic?” This points directly at the aforementioned dispute between Spencer and those pro-Islamic apologists (Dean Esmay, et al.), and buttresses the suspicion that “Roobart Sbunsar” chose his name as a not-so-subtle dig at Spencer’s credibility as an expert on Islam vis-à-vis his knowledge of Arabic.
It should be noted for the record that Spencer has more than adequately proven that his rendering of his name in Arabic is indeed the proper rendering (for confirmation, just google the appropriate terms and read).
Yet another little clue surfaced when in a comments field the distracting subtopic of the alleged identity between Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald came up. Initially, “Roobart Sbunsar” slyly remarked, with an affection of facetiousness, that such a rumor is kind of neat in that it “keeps the mystery alive”, and thus keeps readers interested. A few weeks later, he was pressing the issue as though he had never been facetious—thereby unmasking his two-faced agenda—by repeatedly (and pointlessly off-topic) referring to Spencer and/or Fitzgerald as a two-headed entity (“Fitzspencer” and so forth), and at least once insinuating that they were indeed not two persons, but one.
To get back now to the FrontPageMag.com symposium on Steve Schippert: In the comments field of that Jihad Watch post (linked above) dedicated to Steve Schippert’s gripe about Spencer’s “tone”—a “tone” not sufficiently “sensitive” for the precious ears of the vast majority of decent, fragile, thin-skinned Muslims out there—“Roobart Sbunsar” posted this seemingly innocuous observation and claim:
“I think he [Schippert] was referring to the fact that Mr. Spencer kept referring to him by his first name, which can sound patronising at times.”
I read this, and I thought, “Hmm: I suppose he has a minor point, though I’m not sure it’s that important...” I just assumed he was correct, and that Spencer had in fact been calling Mr. Schippert by his first name in the symposium interchanges. At that point, I did not go back to re-check the symposium transcript to make sure. Then, reading further in the Jihad Watch comments, I saw Robert Spencer’s correction:
“Just what are you trying to do? I didn’t refer to him by his first name even once. Are you a complete fool who is unable to read, or a malevolent smear artist?”
So I re-checked the transcript of the symposium—and lo and behold, Robert Spencer was correct! He consistently referred to Mr. Schippert as, indeed, “Mr. Schippert”.
On the basis of this comment alone from “Roobart Sbunsar”, coupled with the subtly, vaguely suspicious nature of many of his previous comments over the past months, I concluded that he was slyly trying to insinuate himself into the Jihad Watch community to poison the proceedings as best he could—but usually carefully sly (often interjecting gung ho anti-Islamic comments just to show that he’s one of the gang). This time, however, he couldn’t help but show his hand.
We are not quite yet done with the Sbunsar/Spencer drama.
After Spencer’s challenge, there were no replies—not a peep—from “Roobart Sbunsar” for over 20 hours. Then, on the next day, on December 8 at , “Roobart Sbunsar” made a comment about some tangential point completely unrelated to Robert Spencer’s direct question to him some 20 hours earlier.
The ever-vigilant Robert Spencer noted this and approximately 30 minutes later posted:
“I asked you a question. Why don’t you answer it?”
Again, not a peep was heard from “Roobart Sbunsar”—this time for over 24 hours, until, as usual, he popped back into the thread to post a few vacuously barbed comments, including the following roundabout reply to Spencer’s direct question to him—the roundabout offhandedness of his reply reeking of a thinly veiled insolence. But the form here was less egregious than the content:
As for the “question” (are you gonna ask it a hundred more times, or are you actually gonna say something original for once?): I was under the impression that Mr. Spencer addressed his opponent the same way he addresses all his opponents: disrespectfully and in a patronising manner. If this was not the case here (an extremely unlikely scenario, given his history with the likes of Khaleel Mohammed), my apologies.
Again, Spencer was right on top of things, and a little over two hours later, delivered this delicious revenge to the outrageously unacceptable shenanigans of “Roobart Sbunsar”:
“So let me get this straight: you’re now admitting that you have not read this Symposium at all, and made a statement about what I did in it based on what you that I probably must have done it?
“And then you expect to be taken seriously?
“I don’t mind disagreement and I can take a lot of abuse, but I don’t like liars.
“Sir, to be respected is fine, but to be worthy of respect makes it easier. Khaleel Mohammed, as I explained to you before [and here, Spencer references this prevous post from the Jihad Watch archives]. . . was defaming me and trying to destroy my reputation by spreading falsehoods about my work. Do you think that is behavior worthy of respect? Apparently you do, because now here you have engaged in it also, albeit on a smaller scale.
“I don’t like banning people, but I don’t think you’re adding anything valuable to the exchanges here. Goodbye.”
This overall saga has not been without some instructive value, shedding some light upon one type of pro-Islamic troll who haunts anti-Islamic forums and chat rooms on the Net—and upon one special subset of a particular (and peculiar) type of “text jihad” deployed by various cyber-minions of Islam. As with jihad in general, many of these cyber-minions are likely working alone and simply take it upon themselves to do whatever they can for the overall cause. With this “Roobart Sbunsar” character, we have a rather odd cyber-mujaheed who seemed to be trying to disrupt the proceedings in subtle, circumscribed ways—among other things, casting doubt on Spencer’s credibility with regard to his knowledge of Arabic; re-stirring the pot of the rumor of Spencer and Fitzgerald being the same entity; and (the straw that broke the camel’s back) interjecting a bald lie about Spencer’s comportment in the symposium, a lie so casually and cleverly inserted, it had me fooled!