Saturday, April 12, 2008

Robert Spencer: Soft on Islam? Part 4








Basically, Spencer
s softness boils down to two overall positions:

1) A refusal to condemn Islam itselfIslam, the whole Islam, and nothing but Islamconcomitant with a refusal to regard as irrelevant whatever good or neutral component parts may be contained in Islam (since any such good or neutral parts, seen in the properly wider perspective, necessarily support the systemic evil of the organic whole of which they are consituents).

2) A refusal to regard all Muslims as our enemy, regardless of the apparent harmlessness of a certain number of them.

With these two points in mind, we shall present some rather disparate material on Spencer that more or less revolves pertinently around them, which shall hopefully wrap up all the threads of our series.

I. As part of his editorial remarks introducing a piece on Geert Wilders last month, Spencer objects to the Washington Times labelling the then upcoming film, Fitna, by Wilders as anti-Muslim:

"anti-Muslim"? If Muslims commit violence and justify it by reference to the Qur'an, as they do on a more or less daily basis, why is it "anti-Muslim" to call attention to this? . . . But in fact, reality is not pro- or anti- anything. It just is what it is.

To which I rejoined with a scintillatingly apposite remark, if I dont say so myself:

From the American Heritage dictionary: "anti-" means "opposing, against".

Im against beheading. Arent you?

Once again, as we saw in Part 3, this triggered Spencers quibblingly contrarian pique, and we were off on a roll again:

I know from experience that you are a relentless and indefatigable fault-finder, but does even basic reading comprehension ever enter in? Let's try again. Read slowly, now. This is what I said: "But in fact, reality is not pro- or anti- anything. It just is what it is." To which you responded:

"From the American Heritage dictionary: "anti-" means "opposing, against". I'm against beheading. Aren't you?"

Now, any fair-minded person would understand that my statement above is not, as you took it, an abdication of all moral judgments. Here again, you seem to think, as you have in the past, that I would lightly and casually contradict the import of all my work for years now. It might be more likely, and more charitable, for you to consider that maybe what I meant was that reality has a certain character, that A is A, that existence exists. If the Qur'an teaches violence against unbelievers, it is not an act of hatred for Muslims [sic: Spencer must have meant "non-Muslims"] to point that out. It is simply a matter of fact. Now once that is established, one may evaluate that fact in different ways. One may think that fact is a good thing, like Osama bin Laden. Or one may think that fact is a bad thing, like me. But these judgments do not inhere in the fact itself.


Spencer here is completely ignoring the context of his own previous statementthe context being his objection to the term anti-Muslim, which was, of course the main point of my remark which, apparently, was too trenchantly terse for his basic comprehension skills. He is here unduly isolating and extremely restricting his argument to bare semantics devoid of the context in which he was originally editorializing. In that context, he was using his reality is not 'anti' anything statement to buttress his opinion that the term anti-Muslim is not a term he wants to embrace, and similarly not a term that fairly describes critics of Islam like Wilders. That is the wider, more pertinent point that Spencer in his quibble to me is completely ignoring.

The point is, what
s wrong with being anti-Muslim? The reader will know, from reading my previous Parts 1, 2 and 3, that for Spencer, apparently what militates against the term anti-Muslim is his conviction that the vast majority of Muslims are cultural Muslims who have no interest in pursuing the jihad agenda and even no awareness of it.

Why does Spencer keep an arm
s length away from such a term as anti-Muslim? What is he afraid of? Would it be that he essentially agrees with the PC MC paradigm? Namely, that to profess an anti-Muslim sentiment (let alone a concrete plan to act upon that sentiment in the interest of our proactive self-defense) would entail tarring all those millions of harmless Muslims (whose inner minds he knows, apparently, for he knows what interests them and what they are aware of) with a bigoted brush and worse still, the all too easily realizable potential for sweeping most or all of Muslims up in a terribly unjust (and of course un-Constitutional) dragnet that would then precipitously lead us Westerners to the edge of that abyss our Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism has been dreading for the past 50 years: racism, lynch-mobs, deportation and/or (shudder!) internment of masses of innocent Brown People (i.e., the most fashionable Brown People today, Muslims)all, of course, inexorably linked to the inevitable genocide of them that would soon follow?

This would be the only logical basis for such a gingerly squeamishness to boldly use the term
anti-Muslimlogical, that is, but not rational.

Spencer concluded his pointless response with this prickly omen:

You are an irritant, a poor thinker, and an unfair judge. I have banned you several times, and probably will soon do it again.

Intrepidly ignoring his petulant threat, I then forged ahead with my unvarnished though still intelligent and mature response, first quoting him, then commenting:

"If the Qur'an teaches violence against unbelievers, it is not an act of hatred for Muslims [I neglected to correct what must have been a typo in Spencer's comment for "non-Muslims"] to point that out. It is simply a matter of fact."

How many Muslims follow the Qur'an? A minority or a majority? Is it not rational to hate them for doing so? Rather than tilting against an abstraction, Islam, it is more concrete to condemn those human agents who actually concretize that abstraction
the hundreds of millions of Muslims who are either implementing the evil proscriptions and prescriptions of the Koran (not to mention the Sunnah), or those others who are either actively or passively enabling that evil.

I think Geert Wilders is "anti-" the Muslims who follow Islam
for he is "anti-" Islam. How could he not be against the Muslims who follow Islam then? [Actually, I was incorrect about a certain detail here: Wilders has gone on record assuring interviewers that he is not "against Muslims"but nevertheless, that is peripheral to my main point, which stands] And how can we tell which Muslims among the 1.2 billion do not follow Islam? Should we even try to discern the difference? Is it our problem? What does your distinction mean, if it is not trivial?

After two or three Jihad Watch readers weighed in with criticisms of my position (pretty much agreeing with Spencers basic position), Spencer responded again:

That's not what I asked. You are shifting the argument. You took issue with my statement about the character of facts, and suggested that I have no moral problem with the evils of Sharia. I called you out on it, and instead of answering, you brought up a separate question: whether the distinction between Muslims and Islam is legitimate. Worth asking, and worth discussing. But are you really interested in truth here, or just in playing prosecutor? If the former, then answer my other questions first. If the latter, then go away, which, if you keep this up, you will be doing soon (again) anyway. You have consistently portrayed me as saying things I don't say and then pilloried me for saying them, and I am not of a mind to continue allowing you to do it on my nickel.

Unfortunately, I never bothered to check that thread again, and so never read this last response of Spencershonestly, because his prickly hypersensitivity and kneejerk tendency to issue veiled threats to ban me made me exceedingly uncomfortable.

At any rate, for what it
s worth, Spencer begins by accusing me of primarily suggesting that he has no moral problem with the evils of Sharia. This, to put it bluntly, is a staggeringly sophomoric reading of my obviously sarcastic initial comment. Obviously, when I wrote initiallyI'm against beheading. Aren't you?I was not suggesting that Spencer might support beheadings, for Crissakes! God, that guy is dense sometimes! I was in fact, through elliptical irony, putting the spotlight on the exact opposite: Knowing that Spencer obviously condemns beheadings, I then suggest he put his money where his mouth is and condemn Muslims for either overtly or tacitly, actively or passively, supporting beheadings and the Sharia Law that enables beheadings (along with other similarly barbaric and unjust rulings), by the very fact that they, as mature and responsible human beings, continue to remain members of Islam.

My statementapparently not simplistically and legalistically literal enough for Spencers rigidly square box of a mindwas meant as a challenge: What is wrong with being anti-Muslim, if to be Muslim necessarily entails a supporteither overt or tacit, active or passivefor beheadings which are part of the classical tradition of the Islam which all Muslims, through at the very least their mere fact of being Muslim, are ethically responsible for supporting?

As I read further down that thread now, I see that it basically petered out from that point, with more Jihad Watch readers contributing their asymptotic approachi.e., lets fight Islam, and lets condemn and fight lots of Muslims, by Gum, but Heaven forbid we go all the way and say that all Muslims are our enemy! In addition, there were hints that I cease and desist, as though Spencer enjoys a distinction other humans dontthat hallowed distinction, that is, of being above criticism.

To sum up this section, I could not put it more eloquently than a certain Jihad Watch reader (Jaynie59) put it in this comment:

I should be banned now, then, if saying that all Muslims are a threat is not allowed on this site. I believe all of them are a threat. You cannot call yourself a Muslim and not believe in basic Islam and what Islam is on a basic level. The analogy of Germans vs Nazi's is not valid because not all Germans were Nazi's. A Muslim is not a member of any race, nationality, or political persuasion. A Muslim is a believer in Islam. And if they are a believer in Islam, they are a threat not only to unbelievers, but to other Muslims who don't believe and act as they do.

There is ample proof of this and I am sick and tired of it being denied. Islam will win in the end because even people like Mr. Spenser care too much what others say about them than what is the truth that needs to be spoken. But I guess that's how politics works. And that is very depressing.

I would only modify one word of the above quote, to reduce the hyperbolic pressure that at a certain point had understandably built up in the writers emotions: I would substitute may for will in the third to last sentence. And I would append that even if an Islamic victory in the end never comes to pass, untold numbers of our innocents will still likely be slaughtered and maimed because, in no small part, of the brakes on our rational ruthlessness which Spencers needlessly gingerly yet highly influential rhetoric is helping to apply.

II. I would like now to quote other Jihad Watch readers who basically come down on my side of the equation (even if they never specifically supported me):

One of them, Infidel Pride, posted the following comment on the same thread discussed above, wisely apropos, even if it does repeat themes we have already established in our series:

. . . ideologies do not slaughter 200m people, inflict horrific abuses and espouse any supremacy. Their subscribers do! One could come out with the most vile ideology in the history of the world, but if such a following does not gather any support, its potential is worthless. Which is why this business of loving a sinner but hating the sin has always rung hollow: sins do not exist in a vacuum, and don't happen unless and until a sinner commits them.

Yep, there are any number of Muslims who have no idea about what Islam is all about, or who may be driven by either filial piety or by denial towards not distancing themselves from Islam. Fair enough. However, fact remains that all the excesses of Islam perpetrated over the millenia . . . would not have happened had there not been Muslims to perpetrate those excesses in the first place. One doesn't have people and governments worldwide sweat over the antics of various cults simply because they don't have the following they do. If Islam didn't have all its members from 632AD until this day, it could not have (let alone would not have) mass-murdered over 200 million people, or inflicted horrific abusesno matter how much it would have wanted. Let's say for the sake of argument that the Hutus of Rwanda came out with a blueprint for world supremacy. Anybody out there thinks that such a threat would deserve to be taken seriously, given the number of Hutus worldwide?

On the question of choice of words, don't like the term 'hate'? Fine, replace it with abhor, dispise, loatheany of these terms which don't hit one so directly in a negative way.

Bottom line: it's fine to cast the blame on Islam, but remember: Islam, no matter what it advocates, would be powerless to execute on any of thatwithout Muslims!

Another Jihad Watch reader, FLLegal, after quoting one of Spencers characteristically gingerly and fastidiously careful editorial pronouncements

"Anti-Islam folks" like me. Now, this is simply false. I am not "anti-Islam." I am against supremacism and subjugation, I am against the denial of human rights to women and religious minorities. As I say here, any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts.

then contributed this lancinatingly accurate observation:

Well I AM "anti-Islam" for the very nature of Islam is supremiscist [sic] and preaches subjugation. I've read the Quran and excerpts from the Hadith. If you are to believe the text of the very foundation of Islam, i.e. Islamic writings, then you have to be "anti-Islam". . .

Islam by its VERY NATURE and to its core is evil. Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude does so contrary to Islamic writings, i.e. the Quran & Hadith, and is not a "good Muslim". They are in fact apostates of the sword weilding prophet Mohammad and take a position contrary to the vile & violent Quran/Hadith writings. The BIG LIE is that "Islam is a Religion of Peace" for it is not.

Notice two things about Spencers editorial statement quoted above:

1) He reiterates his challenge to Muslims, as though a sufficient number of Muslims would be capable of turning the ghastly ship of Islam around. (We have already examined in the preceding parts of this series the question of whether this incessantly repeated challenge by Spencer to moderate Muslims
is a rhetorical ploy or is sincere, and we concluded in Part 3 that it is likely not merely a disingenuously clever rhetorical ploy, but is sincere. We also, however, concluded that it does not matter which it is, since either maneuver will have roughly the same effect of unduly softening our ruthlessness in the face of this unprecedented enemy.)

2) More interestingly, we see Spencer on record objecting not only to the term
anti-Muslimbut also expressing his explicit aversion to the term anti-Islam as well! My, my. Just what, one wonders, is Spencer decidedly antiwithout having to pad his antipathy with weaselly semantics that so blunt the force of his objections? Oh yes, hes anti those detachable parts of Islam called the jihad agenda and shariaas though there would be anything viable left over after those parts have been detached. Right.

Yet another Jihad Watch readershiekyermamiadded his two cents that cut like a refreshingly lucid knife through Spencers needlessly diplomatic bullshit:

Are we anti-Islam? Of course we are. We cannot coexist. To deny it is mere wordplay. Mr. Spencer's disclaimer above is wordplay, I can't see it any other way. The Muhammedans certainly see it my way because 'resisting Islam' is a heinous crime and since the Koran is the 'immutable word of Allah' the Muslim is our mortal enemy.

Sorry, but I have no illusions. There cannot and will not be 'reform' or a major overhaul of this mad cult, the only choice we have is to dig our heels in, to oppose and ridicule it and finally destroy it before it destroys us.

Following on the heels of this was a nicely put zinger to Spencer by Infidel Pride (whom we quoted above as well). Again, he begins by quoting Spencer:

"Anti-Islam folks" like me. Now, this is simply false. I am not "anti-Islam." I am against supremacism and subjugation, I am against the denial of human rights to women and religious minorities."

And comments superbly:

You may not be 'anti-Islam'. You may be against supremacy and subjugation of Infidels, and against denigration of women. I honestly am at a loss to see how you or anyone else can simultaneously be both.

It's like claiming 'I'm not anti-Nazi, but I oppose the holocaust' or 'I'm not anti-Communist, but I oppose the gulag and the purges'. Anybody who supports equality before the law in an Islamic setting is in fact anti-Islam. Without necessarily knowing it!

III. Continuing in this vein, we again examine Spencers refusal to condemn Islam itself: Spencer has stated the following in multiply thematic ways:

As I have said many times, there is no "true Islam." But jihadists make recruits by presenting their Islam as the true Islam, and by pointing out chapter and verse of the Qur'an, as well as the example of Muhammad and the rulings of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. For peaceful Muslims to stop this from being a successful appeal, they have to confront it.

No true Islam? What has been massacring over 250 million people and cruelly subjugating millions more over the past 1400 years while brutally conquering lands from the south Philippines to Spain in the name of a pathological, deranged, supremacist eschatology? A false Islam? A second Islam? Are there multiple Islams”? Let us stop the diplomatically oily and needlessly complicating semantics and instead concentrate on the Enemy as it has concretely attacked us for the past 1400 years, and as it reawakens from its relatively quiescent recent slumber to resume its attacks on us again, shall we?

As
Spencers own Vice-President, Hugh Fitzgerald, recently in a comments field on Jihad Watch put the problem most eloquently, finally showing a sign of abandoning the security blanket of his Asymptotic Cigar in order to edge his toes perilously close to the inevitable Whole Enchilada:

Islam, Islam, Islam.

Later, in an interview about Oriana Fallaci whom Spencer has praised many times and whom he highlights on his site with a permanent tribute, he answered this question from the interviewer:


Interviewer: Do you agree with her that the Islam is indeed a problem (in the US and Europe)?

Spencer: Elements of Islam are the problem. Muslims who reject them sincerely and work against those elements are not the problem. But the imperative to subjugate non-Muslims under the rule of Islamic law, and many elements of that law itself, are indeed the problem, as they are directly incompatible with the dignity of the human person and the equality of rights of all people.

Notice that Spencer did not contradict the interviewers characterization of Fallacis position, that Islam is indeed a problem. Instead, he answered that elements of Islam are the problem. How mealy-mouthed can one get? He sounds like a smarmy defense attorney here trying to weasel out of a direct assertion. I dont know about you, reader, but in 2008, after all the grotesque atrocities committed in Islams name by Muslims and nothing substantial from Muslims protesting against this, we need a far meatier, robuster formula. We need straight talk from our Anti-Islam representatives.

Ummm. . . how about Islam is the problem. . .? Would that do? Why cant Spencer simply say Islam is the problem and Muslims are the problem? His slapdash, parenthetical and intermittent answers on these most pressing questions are found grievously wanting. And frankly, they are getting tiresome. For Christs sake, its bad enough that our entire culture all around us refuses to name the problem and name the enemybut to have the Director of Jihad Watch himself squirrel around on this most pivotal point of the whole issue is just too much!

Let us read on with the interview about Oriana Fallacithat lady who knew better than Careful Mr. Spencer how to condemn Islam and Muslims:

Interviewer: Is the Quran the “most stupid and dangerous book in the world” (The Force of Reason, p. 63)?

Spencer: I haven’t read all the books in the world. But certainly the Qur’an’s program for violence and Islamic supremacism is dangerous for non-Muslims, and should be rejected by all free people, including Muslims themselves, who if they continue to hold to the uniqueness of the book should at least reject literalism in those particulars and some others.

Notice that Spencer studiously side-steps answering the question directly. The interviewer is asking him if he agrees with Fallaci, whose quote he cites with source and specific page number. The reader must conclude by Spencers tap-dancing answer that Spencer disagrees with Fallaci, or finds her salty Mediterranean hyperbole unpalatable to his gingerly taste. A far better answer from Spencer would have been something like: I love that quote from Fallaci. While there are many highly stupid and dangerous books that have been written in the world, it would be difficult to argue that the Quran does not qualify as the prize-winner par excellence.” Even that, on second thought, would not have been quite up to snuff. For, if we consider the inspirational effectsboth amorphously psycho-cultural and specifically textualof the Quran throughout history and the mountain of misery and mayhem it has caused, it is clear that Spencer should have simply answered Yes, Fallaci is correct.” But no. Spencer had to finesse his answer like a weaselly lawyer and by implication make Fallaci seem like a flake. Shame on him.

Yet another Jihad Watch reader wrote in a comments field what needs to be written:

God bless Robert Spencer, but I think he is too generous in not stating that Islamic is inherently violent. On this point, I disagree with him.

And another Jihad Watch reader quotes Spencers thematic challenge to Muslims to clean up their act

So I post this as it may be instructive, and to call upon all self-proclaimed moderates like A. M. to stop their denial and to work for positive change within Islam, first by acknowledging that change is needed. For the culture that produced Najib Bellari will produce many more like him, unless the assumptions that led to his act are confronted and combatted within the Islamic community.

and he makes this screamingly obvious retort that Spencer has no excuse for obtusely and repeatedly ignoring:

I don't think this can really be done. If you acknowledge that Islam is inherently violent and so forth, how can [Muslims] continue to believe in it? If [they] don't make this acknowledgement, then reform is not really possible.

IV. Finally, I offer the following observation. First, I quote Spencer yet again in one of his editorial remarks on a news story:

This [Muslim] guy is upset about the film Fitna because it shows Muslims committing acts of violence in the name of Islam. And no doubt he believes, or wants us to believe, that Islam is a religion of peace. So in service of that he goes to protest the film at the Dutch embassy, carrying a flag from Hizballah. Isn't it ironic that someone would protest against linking Islam with violence by carrying a Hizballah flag?

And here is my reply:

No, it’s not ironic. Spencer persists in framing the posture of such Muslims in terms of cognitive dissonance
which implies a potential for such Muslims to mollify their inimically bellicose posture. After the 1,000th time of reading Spencer framing the posture of such Muslims this way, it starts to wear thin. To the extent that people of the Anti-Islamic Movement think according to this Spencerian model, we have to modify it radically: We have to wrap our heads around the grimly brute fact that there is no potential for such Muslims to mollify their inimically bellicose posture.

In plain English: There is no hope for reform by Muslims of Islam.


Closely related to this, we have to wrap our heads around the equally sobering fact that we cannot reasonably distinguish putatively harmless Muslims from the dangerous Muslims to the degree that would be sufficient to adjust our need to be ruthlessly pro-active in our self-defense.

In plain English: We must consider all Muslims to be our enemy.


The Spencerian model by analogy would be as though one would observe a wave of conquering barbarians pillaging and massacring, and continue to pose the question“If the Barbarians might sincerely desire peace, why are they not protesting against their waves of marauding armies who are pillaging and massacring people?”

Of course, translating the Spencerian model to the framework of this analogy exposes an absurdity, and the reader might object and say, “Well, it’s not the same situation; in the case of the Barbarians, there is simply the conquering army pillaging and massacring in its invasion, but in the case of Muslims, we have many Muslims not doing any harm and we also have quite a few Muslims protesting and arguing that Islam does not mean us harm.”

Well, this objection vividly highlights the whole problem with the softness of the Spencerian model: he persists in framing the issue as though our predicament in the face of an Islam Redivivus might be different from that of the invading Barbarians of the analogy.

My point is that we must stop thinking as though there is a difference.

We must, rather, put the whole issue in starkly no-nonsense terms:

1) Islam is evil, cruel, unjust, and exceedingly dangerous.

2) Islam is, through the agency of multitudes of Muslims, trying to conquer the world.

3) While there likely exist many Muslims who, for various complex socio-psychological reasons, are harmless, our inability to identify them and distinguish them from dangerous Muslims is sufficiently infirm to lead us to the pragmatic conclusion, in the interest of our own proactive self-defense against the likelihood of horrific attacks on us, that we must treat all Muslims en bloc as the Enemy.

This is the stark expression of the Problem of Islam that Spencer seems to resist.

It is becoming increasingly clear from the ever-growing mountain of evidenceboth now and through the history of Islam as we learn it more and morethat any arguments Spencer might supply to justify a significant attenuation of this stark expression are faulty and, in their faultiness, would hinder our ability to proactively defend ourselves.

17 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Good grief! Kittens?! Spencer soft on Islam Part 4?!

As I've recommended before, you need to focus less on criticizing Spencer and more on doing something positive, or at least applying your criticisms where they would actually be helpful, e.g., focussing on refuting the apologetics of people like Armstrong, Ernst, et al.

Spencer and his methods aren't broken in any significant way so stop trying to "fix" them.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

"1) A refusal to condemn Islam itself—Islam, the whole Islam, and nothing but Islam"

Assuming it is true that Spencer has not condemned Islam as a wholistic entity, I don't think this is important. That is, I don't think it makes much practical difference whether Islam critics such as Spencer explicitly mention (i) Islam as a problematic whole versus (ii) the parts of Islam that are problematic. The issue is one of categorization. Does one use an essentialist wholistic category (which you recommend), or does one use a feature-by-feature based category (which Spencer appears to be using)? I don't think it makes much practical difference, because the same problems are going to be criticized anyway (e.g., jihad, sharia elements, etc.). I suspect that the feature-by-feature method of classification is more accurate. Also, I suspect that the feature-by-feature approach is better received by the media. That's important to keep in mind. Spencer is addressing people who still need to be convinced. His primary concern is not, and should not be, to further convince those who are already convinced about the Islam problem. Therefore, he has to be very accurate and factual, sticking to the facts and keeping interpretation and conclusions to a minimum (i.e., leaving the conclusions up the audience).

You have to remember that Spencer's method is not broken in any significant way. He has at least two best-sellers. I don't think that Spencer coming out with sweeping statements such as "Islam is evil" or similar statements that you seem to want are going to convince anyone that's not already convinced. These kinds of statements tend to scare people off or raise their suspicions, turning away people who might otherwise maintain interest in hearing more information if a more exacting, precise method of presentation is used. Moreover, harsh sweeping statements condemning Islam in total are easily taken out of context by Islamic propagandists in order to portray Islam critics as simplistic bigots.

Erich said...

kab,

"Does one use an essentialist wholistic category (which you recommend), or does one use a feature-by-feature based category (which Spencer appears to be using)? I don't think it makes much practical difference, because the same problems are going to be criticized anyway (e.g., jihad, sharia elements, etc.)."

One problem remains: as certain people have pointed out, when we Infidels believe in the viable existence of moderate Muslims, it can tend to lay the groundwork for their continued insinuation into our culture and their continued deception -- deceptive sugar-coating. And this can have practical effects in actual policy, as well as more amorphous disposition of untold numbers of Infidels prepared to remain open to the hope of "dialogue", etc. All this I maintain is inimical to the utter ruthlessness we have to adopt -- both in attitude and in concrete policy. Spencer's "softness" which I exhaustively detail in the 4-part series I also maintain has a similar effect. Of course, it is highly ironic and paradoxical, given the mountain of evidence Spencer churns out on a daily basis. Nevertheless, I think it is an important factor. And I suspect it has to do with Spencer's Christian-based humanitarianism that wants to keep our hearts open to the conversion of Muslims as well as our own divinely graced humanity which should not, according to that humanitarianism, descend into ruthlessness. I think such a disposition is grievously mistaken, for it would weaken our resolve both in attitude and in concrete policies. How much do we have to learn about the staggeringly grotesque evil of Muslims, now and throughout 1400 Goddamned years, before we adopt a seriously aggressive posture, for crying out loud?

"I suspect that the feature-by-feature method of classification is more accurate."

More accurate if one wants to resist the systemic indictment of Islam and consider it always from a casuistic perspective. This, however, ignores the organic nature of Islam, whereby exceptions to the rule are accidental and due mostly to extraneous factors -- factors which if we take too seriously as meaning anything significant about Islam and about Muslims, may well be to our peril.

"Also, I suspect that the feature-by-feature approach is better received by the media."

I don't see that the media is receiving Spencer fairly at all, no matter how careful and gingerly has tried to be for 4 long years. It's time we just talked straight and grimly no-nonsense, and stopped worrying aabout the MSM's blessing.

"[Spencer's] primary concern is not, and should not be, to further convince those who are already convinced about the Islam problem. Therefore, he has to be very accurate and factual, sticking to the facts and keeping interpretation and conclusions to a minimum (i.e., leaving the conclusions up the audience)."

If he wants to leave conclusions to the audience, then he should stop saying things like "I am not 'anti-Islam'" and "I am not 'anti-Muslim'" and "there are millions of 'cultural Muslims' who have no interest in the jihad agenda and aren't even aware of it", etc.

He should also stop issuing that mantra of a challenge to Muslims to clean up their act.

I.e., he can be simultaneously hopeless about Islam reforming AND stick to the facts -- he doesn't have to lay the groundwork for hope about Islam at every turn, as he does.

"You have to remember that Spencer's method is not broken in any significant way. He has at least two best-sellers."

Having best-sellers is not indicative of not being broken. Plenty of better-sellers than Spencer's exist out there of bullshit about Islam.

"I don't think that Spencer coming out with sweeping statements such as "Islam is evil" or similar statements that you seem to want are going to convince anyone that's not already convinced."

I am not so much calling for Spencer to make those sweeping statements, as I am objecting to his many other statements that effectively undermine such a sweeping condemnation, and by doing so tend to support the central tenet of PC MC: that the danger and evils of Islam are detachable from Islam, and from millions of Muslims. This central tenet tends to undergird our grievously mistaken analyses and policies with respect to the menace Islam poses -- and the risks are too high now.

"harsh sweeping statements condemning Islam in total are easily taken out of context by Islamic propagandists in order to portray Islam critics as simplistic bigots."

Thousands of examples can be adduced to show that Islam propagandists (both Muslim and non-Muslim) need no substance to smear critics of Islam, no matter how careful they are, with the broad brush of "bigotry".

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

You write:

"If he wants to leave conclusions to the audience, then he should stop saying things like "I am not 'anti-Islam'" and "I am not 'anti-Muslim'" and "there are millions of 'cultural Muslims' who have no interest in the jihad agenda and aren't even aware of it", etc."

I meant conclusions about Islam.

Self-defence for Islam critics is obligatory; I can't see what possible advantage there would be in Spencer not defending himself from baseless accusations. Indeed, those ad hominem attacks and red herrings constitute data to hold up to the audience to say "Here, look at the dirty tactics the opposition uses...why can't they refute me on substance?"

That there are millions of cultural Muslims, etc., is basically an empirical statement. Spencer is fact-driven more than ideologically-driven. Anyways, there's no justification for suppressing factual information.

You state: "Thousands of examples can be adduced to show that Islam propagandists (both Muslim and non-Muslim) need no substance to smear critics of Islam, no matter how careful they are, with the broad brush of "bigotry"."

That doesn't mean that Islam critics should not continue to be as rigorous, accurate, and factual as possible in their presentations. It's better to be smeared for presenting the facts than for presenting sweeping conclusive statements that come across as hyperbole.

Erich said...

kab,

Your various counterpoints to my points are all addressed at great length in arguments I constructed in the 4-part series; and because of complexities involved, the only way I can do my arguments justice would be to laboriously restate and /or paraphrase what I already spent a long time doing in that series -- which, understandably, I am not eager to do.

Nobody said...

Erich

There are some threads worth revisiting in this context:

On assertions without evidence (the key here is the sub-thread, not the main Matako debate)

This post from 'somethingaboutislam' was awesome:
Islam may be many things, but so was Nazism. Nazism wasn't just about killing Jews and conquering the world. It was also about socialism, correcting economic inequities, building infrastructure, taming inflation, combating crime, the Volkswagen Beetle, exercise and public health awareness, etc. All of those things good. And the autobahn. Got to love the autobahn. Had the Nazis not started a world war they couldn't win, they'd still be in power today.

Does this mean that is would be fair to say that "Nazism is not necessarily a violent, dangerous religion because Nazism is many things"?

I can't speak for you, Robert, but I am willing to say that islam IS a violet, dangerous religion no matter how many "Things" it is. The Beetle notwithstanding.

The only difference between Nazism and islam is that islam has a cover - the status as religion. And in our PC west, that gives it carte blanche to continue without coming under direct government, media, or general social attack.

If only the Nazis had it so good.


Esmay speaks and my comment there

Lawrence Auster & Me

Esmay's dismay

Erich said...

nobody,

Thanks for that quote and those links.

I have only checked one of those links out (Lawrence Auster & Me) and to my simultaneously pleasant and unpleasant surprise, saw an old exchange from nearly 2 years ago between Spencer and me -- an exchange that likely pushed his irrationally prickly sensitivity an inch further toward banning me not long after that. The exchange is directly pertinent to the topic of this 4-part series (to which I am adding a Postscript soon), and I will definitely use it. I am not a little surprised by how clear I was two years ago about this very issue.

I have not spent the time combing through the JW archives and/or Googling to try to find all my old posts there, so I thank you for finding this.

Erich said...

PS: on the Lawrence Auster & Me comments link, the commenter "Television" (wink wink) mentions 2 or 3 times another commenter "retail" (aka "neverpayretail"), and a couple of others also mention him. But there are no comments by him: apparently Spencer had them deleted, which is kind of odd, since he left mine there.

Erich said...

PPS: I notice the other link you gave me, "On assertions without evidence", does retain comments by "neverpayretail" (he is in fact the main commenter of the "subthread" you are pointing out to me that is relevant to the "Spencer soft on Islam" issue).

That thread is from the same time period as the Auster thread (May of 2006) yet retains retail's comments -- while retail's comments seem to have been deleted from the Auster thread. The mystery grows...

Erich said...

The "On assertions without evidence" comments link is excellent! Two commenters, "neverpayretail" and "somethingaboutislam" confront Spencer with sublimely impeccable pertinence -- and Spencer fails miserably to rise to their intelligent, mature and elementary challenge.

They zero in on the heart of why I have written my 4-part series on Spencer being soft on Islam, and I will be reproducing those comments with my own editorial remarks soon.

Erich said...

Now I'm plowing through the "Esmay speaks" comments field, and I notice two comments that exemplify the two sides of this argument:

The first is a commenter who utterly rejects the critiques of Spencer by "neverpayretail":

1) Tell me what punches are pulled in these headings [chapter titles of a Spencer book]"

"Chapter 1: Muhammad: Prophet of War"
"Chapter 2: The Qur'an: Book of War"
"Chapter 3: Islam: Religion of War"
"Chapter 4: Islam: Religion of Intolerance"
"Chapter 5: Islam Oppresses Women"
"Chapter 6: Islamic Law: Lie, Steal, Kill."
"Chapter 7: How Allah Killed Science"
"Chapter 8: The Lure of Islamic Paradise"
"Chapter 9: Islam--Spread by the Sword? You Bet."

....and so on.

Your suggestion about Robert's alleged "weakness" is ridiculous. He has put his life in danger in expressing his criticisms of Islam.

Posted by: Archimedes [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 29, 2006 4:39 AM

Then following that, another commenter:

2)
"neverpayretail

...Invaluable as Robert and his work has been, there is a difference between him simply presenting the evidence without comment - a persuasive exercise, vs. contradicting any assertions about Islam being dangerous and violent - something that's howls for a contradiction."

That howling contradiction is precisely the point here. And I maintain that this contradiction is not merely a theoretical one in the realm of ideas, but has practical consequences to the extent that it lays the ground for and helps to entrench a collective disposition among us Infidels for softness with regard to what we do, concretely, in the face of the menace of Islam and its human agents, Muslims.

All of Spencer's stubbornly contrarian quibbles against "neverpayretail" and "Television" on these comments fields linked by "nobody" -- all of Spencer's quibbles and stubborn maintenance of his refusal to condemn Islam are completely undermined by one fact -- a fact Spencer himself has otherwise acknowledge several times:

We cannot sufficiently distinguish harmless Muslims from dangerous Muslims.

Spencer therefore stubbornly tries to remain suspended in an untenable position. His degree of influence in the Anti-Islam Movement make it more important, not less important, to take him to task and demand that he come clean once and for all on why he remains suspended.

In those comments fields, he does not respond head-on to the arguments of "neverpayretail" and "Television"-- in this respect he is behaving just like the pro-Islamic critics who continually dodge and never actually respond to Spencer's arguments.

Erich said...

Apropos of the foregoing, here is one example (of many) of Spencer's arrogant non-responsiveness:

"Retail:

In this as in any subject, there are multiple legitimate conclusions that may be drawn from the same evidence.

I think your analysis of the question at hand is not only wrong, but manifests astoundingly poor judgment, which if followed would drastically weaken the anti-jihad resistance.

Now, enough.

Cordially
Robert Spencer"

Spencer merely asserts that "Retail" is wrong -- and not only wrong but dangerous to the "anti-jihad resistance". He merely asserts it, without supplying any argument at all. Then he ends it by saying "Now, enough". He presents a staggeringly insufficient pronouncement from on high that is screamingly NOT enough, then declares, "Now, enough".

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Let's cut to the chase. Suppose everything you are arguing here about the labeling of the Islam problem is correct, and that Spencer's approach has the problems that you've identified.

Now what?

Unfortunately, as I think should be clear by now, there is no practical positive consequence to this, because Spencer disagrees with what you say--if (or to the extent that) he is attending to it--and he is not about to change his method of presentation in accordance with your recommendations. In other words, you're not going to get Spencer to do or say what you want him to do or say. So why spend so much time on that? If you haven't got the results you want so far, why continue with the same focus on criticising Spencer or his methods?

It seems the most obvious and direct way to get the results you want is to take up the task yourself. Another way is to support those who are more in line with your views, e.g., many of the ex-Muslims at Islam-Watch certainly do condemn Islam per se, in total.

(I say this not to discourage, of course, but rather with the aim that you will focus on something that is more likely to get the results you want, if on a smaller scale).

Erich said...

kab,

Looks like my efforts have had a little "trickle-up" effect: I corresponded with Lawrence Auster about this, he put up one snatch of one of my blog essays on his site, and today Spencer put up an essay on JW. I have not yet read it, but I'm sure he stubbornly maintains his non-positional position on the matter of remaining magisterially suspended between

1) incessantly expecting Muslim reform

and

2) conceding that Muslim reform is virtually impossible.

Here's the link:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/020749.php#comments

Aside from that, my efforts in this regard are not merely to try to get Spencer to change his mind -- that would be rather ridiculously quixotic; but to raise awareness of certain important facets of this issue with others who read my critiques.

To paraphrase Spencer,

"Many strange things have happened in history and I would never say that Spencer changing his mind is absolutely impossible, but we are extraordinarily foolish when we harbor any hopes of it actually happening on a large scale..."

Nobody said...

Looks like my efforts have had a little "trickle-up" effect: I corresponded with Lawrence Auster about this, he put up one snatch of one of my blog essays on his site, and today Spencer put up an essay on JW.
Which one?

Erich said...

Actually, it was from an email I sent Auster, in which I cobbled together patches from a couple of my blog essays. That Auster entry evidently caught the eye of some guy named "James" whom Spencer thanked as his source for the "contradiction" Auster accused him of.

Unfortunately, that Auster entry rather severely truncated my analysis of this particular problem (my analysis including the analyses of those other guys like "neverpayretail"), so Spencer was responding to a rather limited critique. I'm finishing up my dissection of Spencer's response now.

Link to Auster's entry:

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/010413.html

Erich said...

Auster posted yesterday a feature piece linking to my "Robert Spencer reacts" essay. He also posted some info from a Guardian article I provided him by email about how Winston Churchill expressed concern along with his colleagues in 1954 about too much "coloured immigration" into the UK.