Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Get Smart



The other day in the comments field of an article on Jihad Watch, yet another in a long line of disingenuously innocent-sounding commenters issued a passive-aggressively veiled challenge to Robert Spencer.

The latter’s radar, of course, constantly attuned to the paranoia setting, moved him to suspect this particular commenter rather immediately of nefarious motives.

Spencer is probably right about some of that commenter
s ulterior motives. Those motives, however, are irrelevant to the challenge he set forth; and, unfortunately, Spencer failed his test.

The commenter in questionone maxwell46&2asked Spencer a series of questions marbled in a larger context of that strange type of disjointed grammar and typo-ridden prose characteristic, it seems, of disingenuous trollsrendered even stranger by the juxtaposition of large islands of perfect grammar and typography (note: in the transcripts below, I cleaned up his typos, with one exception). It becomes clear, however, from an overall impression of this maxwell, that he is smarter than he superficially lets on.

Anyway, to get to the substance of his posts: They are sufficiently reproduced by Spencer himself when he quoted maxwell in large chunks and responded to them, so I shall mostly quote Spencer himself. I will put Spencer
s replies in italics. My comments will be interspersed in [brackets]. (After that, we note Hugh Fitzgeralds answers to the same questions.)

Here is the transcript:

Does being Muslim necessarily imply you are culturally inferior to Westerners and all other non muslims, not capable of thinking creatively, producing great art or music like the West has since Abbas Ibn Firnas, the Renessaince [sic], being scientifically accomplished and making strides in technology, mathematics, natural sciences and other areas?

No.


[Spencer here missed his chance to unequivocally stand for the cultural superiority of the West, in comparison with Islam. What Jihad Watcher in his right mind would deny that the West is culturally superior to Islam!? And yet, lo and behold, not one of Spencers supporters saw fit to weigh in on this important point and politely yet firmly correct their Leader (and many of them compounded this silence by positively, yet disingenuously, denying what maxwell also astutely claimed, that most of them would in fact assert the cultural superiority of the West. For most Jihad Watchers, it seems, the virtue of protecting their Leader trumps the candor to stand for what they believe in). The key word here is cultural and our maxwell cleverly, it seems, provided that key term for use in salvaging everything else in his question. Spencer, in firmly answering No, failed to avail himself of that key term, and thereby firmly rejected the notion that being Muslim necessarily implies the types of cultural inferiority described in the question. The other key term slyly provided by maxwell here is being Muslim: what does this mean? This means, of course, following Islam. What else could it mean? And by following Islam, the Muslim in fact guides his thinking and action in certain ways that indeed do, as maxwell notes, result in 1) in inability to think creatively, 2) an inability to produce great or or music like the West, and 3) an inability to be scientifically accomplished and to make strides in technology, mathematics, natural sciences and other areas. I see no reasonable objections to these asseverations—nor would most Jihad Watchers, including Hugh Fitzgerald. It is only when, and to the degree to which, a Muslim in question is not being Muslim”, strictly speaking, that his otherwise universally human abilitiesshould he be, as a human being, gifted in any of areas explicated abovewill be able to breathe and unfold. And furthermore, even such a “lesser Muslim will most likely be unable to unfold his potential in a Muslim environment, and will require an amplitude for the mind and soul in an optimally conducive psycho-sociopolitical atmosphere, such as the modern West provides better than any other culture. All this hinges on and revolves around the crucially pivotal role of Islamic culture in deforming and straitjacketing every human who follows it. Spencer, apparently, would disagree with all this. He therefore gets a failing grade for this question. Let us continue.]

Does it imply your [i.e., the Muslim
s] moral standards are necessarily corrupt and backwards, that you [i.e., the Muslim] are not capable of feeling empathy for any non muslims?

No.

[Again, Spencer missed his chancehere out of his trigger-happy concern to avoid saying anything that might sound remotely bigoted. The first part of maxwells question can be answered Yes perfectly reasonably. A person who is a Muslimwhich means he follows Islamis a person whose moral standards are necessarily corrupt and backwards: for Islams moral standards are such. On what possible basis would Spencer dispute this? On the basis of the pioneering dental hygiene which Islamic culture provides? As for the likelihood that there exist Muslims out there who do not follow Islam sufficiently to deform their moral compassthen they are not really Muslims. And, furthermore, if they are not really Muslim, and yet they continue to identify themselves as Muslims, what does that say about their moral compass? I can sympathize with certain Muslims out there who continue to identify themselves as such out of pure fear from their surrounding communities of Muslims (including their own family members) who would punish them for more frankly leaving Islam. But that exception, rather than serving to buttress Spencers point, actually serves to contravene it even morefor, a Muslim who is self-defined as such only out of fear is not really a Muslim, but a desperate man continuing to leave his label on, for fear of the consequences that his Islamic culture would inflict upon him were he to act more freely and with the dignity every human individual deserves. Some culture that Spencer refuses to brand as inferior, huh? Shame on Spencer.]

Does it imply you [i.e., Muslims] cannot be expected to accomplish what other immigrants have in the West?


No.


[Here, Spencers obtuse hammer falls with a thud well off to the side from where it should more intelligently land. The more intelligent answer is that, to the extent that Muslims follow their Islam, to that extent they will not accomplish what other immigrants have in the West, and vice versa: to the extent they do not follow their Islam, to that extent they will match the performance of other immigrants. And this rule simply mirrors the universal rule about Islam: Muslims do better as human beings the less they follow Islam, and do worse as human beings the more they follow Islam. And a necessary corollary to this rule: Muslims (with rare exceptions that prove the rule) will never be able to enjoy the potential to fully maximize their talents and their participation in the ethical responsibility and personal freedoms of the West, as long as they remain Muslims, no matter how residual is their Islamfor any remaining residue of Islam in their hearts and minds will always exert itself, more or less, as an inhibiting and perverting force. Spencer missed his chance to formally express this crucial rule about the problem of Islam -- evidently because he doesnt agree with it.]

Does it imply you owe the world an apology simply for your existence as a muslim even if you eventually leave Islam?


No.

[Of course it does. A Nazi who has left Nazism and forsworn it would be expected to articulate his regret about his past and to apologize for it, and any Nazi who did not do so would be rightfully deemed with suspicion. Multiply that by a hundred-fold: for Islam is far worse than Nazism. Needless to say, maxwells question does not oblige his respondant to assume a Draconian punishment for any given ex-Muslim abstaining from any such apology: the point is, any given ex-Muslim who does so abstain would rightfully be viewed with suspicion, if not varying shades of contempt.]

And does it mean you cannot be considered a full human and must be deemed a sort of demon?

No.

[The correct answer, which Spencer failed to provide would be: Insofar as Islamic culture deforms the humans who follow it and through that deformation so profoundly perverts all the basic indicators of humanity, inducting its members into a darkness that partakes of a demonic darkness, the answer would be
Yes. This affirmation, however, does not speak to ontology: Muslims are not subhuman or demonic ontologically speaking: they become so through psycho-cultural deformationand that deformation is subject to the rule we spoke of earlier: The less a Muslim follows Islam, the less deformed he is; though the corollary to this is that he will never wholly free himself of that deformation until he cuts the cord and apostasizes definitively.]

I have actually sort been able to determine, analyzing your writing, that you would actually say yes, definitely without a doubt to all the above questions. I guess I have those sort of mind reading/analytic powers that way.

Your analytical powers are quite poor if you think I hold any of those views. I do not. I ask you to establish any one of your charges with actual quotes from my writings.

[Actually, it seems likely that maxwell was baiting Spencer, daring him to say
Yes, yet in fact slyly expecting him to say No as he did. Thus was maxwell smart.]

Conclusion:

Later on in the comments field, as we noted above, Hugh Fitzgerald
answered the same questions
—in exactly the same way as did Spencer. In his brief conclusion, Fitzgerald noted:

That is the short-answer reply. There is a great deal more one could say, in order to flesh out an insufficient answer to questions that are not adequately worded, sometimes because they are loaded, and sometimes because they miss the larger point to which a "no" or a "yes" would be inadequate, and misleading.

Which is to say, Fitzgerald would require a more expansive articulation of weaselly language by which to maintain his asymptotic analysis of the problem of Islam
however much more perilously close to breaking free of the asymptote would his analysis be, when compared to that of his colleague, Spencer (another insight of maxwells, by the way, again couched cleverly as a dare—which, again, Fitzgerald failed as did Spencer).

Neither Fitzgerald nor Spencer really got maxwell
because, concerning the appropriate analysis of the problem of Islam, they have yet to get smart.

7 comments:

Nobody said...

Somehow, I didn't get the impression that Maxwell was a troll, although I did think that he was somewhat clumsy in the way he expressed his views, leaving Spencer with little choice but to denounce him.

However, his disclaimer here that he wouldn't hold it against those who do hold such views, is perfectly legitimate. Robert thought he was trying to bait him, and refused to take it. Which is up to him, but I read Maxwell differently.

Erich said...

nobody,

"leaving Spencer with little choice but to denounce him."

maxwell did no such thing: I argued copiously here that Spencer was wrong in denouncing him. To be persuaded of your interpretation, I'd need to see at least a counter-argument to mine.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

I would have liked to have seen Spencer or someone else in that thread call the troll's bluff regarding all those names of Muslim "illuminaries [sic]." (Too late to bother now...)

Avicenna and Khaldun were significant scholars, by Islamic standards, but they also supported the classic jihad policy (conversion to Islam, payment of the jizya tax, or death). I didn't have time to look up the others, though past experience suggests that most of them would be jihadists and sharia-supporters. I recall Firnas from Hesp's recent post.

If the troll was referring to Az-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam, this was the thug-companion who, under Muhammad's orders, tortured Kinana with fire.

The point of turning over those particular stones would be to reveal, once again, the finding that Muslims presented as good and moderate quite often aren't, by non-Muslim standards.

Nobody said...

Erich: "maxwell did no such thing" (being clumsy, and leaving Spencer with no choice...)

Well, here is a question that he asked that I definitely wouldn't at least in that manner, even if that was my opinion, since the respondent would have no choice but answer No:

"And does it mean you cannot be considered a full human and must be deemed a sort of demon?"

As for why I read Maxwell differently, I've read his past posts, and he doesn't look like a provocateur, the way not only Spencer, but other JW readers concluded that he was.

Erich said...

nobody,

You wrote:

"...here is a question that he asked that I definitely wouldn't [answer 'Yes' to] at least in that manner, even if that was my opinion, since the respondent would have no choice but answer No:"

maxwell's question -- "And does it mean you cannot be considered a full human and must be deemed a sort of demon?"

As I wrote in my essay, that question can be answered "Yes" in the following way:

"The correct answer, which Spencer failed to provide would be: Insofar as Islamic culture deforms the humans who follow it and through that deformation so profoundly perverts all the basic indicators of humanity, inducting its members into a darkness that partakes of a demonic darkness, the answer would be “Yes”. This affirmation, however, does not speak to ontology: Muslims are not subhuman or demonic ontologically speaking: they become so through psycho-cultural deformation—and that deformation is subject to the rule we spoke of earlier: The less a Muslim follows Islam, the less deformed he is; though the corollary to this is that he will never wholly free himself of that deformation until he cuts the cord and apostasizes definitively."

Nobody said...

Erich

Your response is fine, but I would have worded the question differently, so that more people than you could have responded with an 'yes':

Does an Islamic worldview and attitude make one less human and humane than one otherwise would be?

The response to this question would be a simple yes/no. The response to the other one is either a complex yes or a simple no. That's why I think (and probably Max realized) that it was clumsily worded.

Erich said...

nobody,

I think maxwell was not being "clumsy" but actually clever -- wording that question (about demonic and implicitly "subhuman" Muslims) that strongly on purpose -- to force Spencer to make a choice: Spencer is an intelligent, free man -- he is not compelled to only answer "Yes" or "No" when someone asks him questions. He can finesse his answer in a sophisticated complex fashion if we wants. Spencer chose to simplistically stand his ground on "No", rather than to use the question as an opportunity to show how that question may be adjusted in order to answer "Yes".

Spencer erred on the wrong side of the blade of that sharp question.