Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spencer's Paradox: Another instance of thousands that can be plucked out of a hat





Spencer is an excellent reporter, but an incoherent analyst, of the Problem of Islam.


Today on Jihad Watch, Spencer the Excellent Reporter reports about an outbreak of Muslim rioting in Nigeria:

Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of this northern Nigerian city on Sunday (April 20), attacking Christians and their shops and setting vehicles on fire on claims that a Christian had blasphemed Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Thousands of Christians were trapped in churches until police dispersed rioters. Fearing that Muslims may attack again, many Christians have relocated to army and police barracks in the city.


As I discussed in part 2 of my 4-part analysis Robert Spencer: Soft on Islam?, Spencer the Incoherent Analyst is on record affirming that:

There are millions upon millions of people who are culturally Muslim but are not interested in advancing the jihad agenda or even necessarily aware of it.

Granted that this is very likely to be true. The problem is, we cannot sufficiently tell the difference between Muslims who are apparently harmless, and the ones who are now either deceitfully masking their dangerousness, or who may be relatively harmless now but who will at some indeterminable point in the future become dangerous, or who may just be taking a superficial break from the darkness of Islam and thereby merely seem to be okay from our limited perspective.

This problem is furthermore complicated by the singularly effective sociopolitico-cultural phenomenon in Islamic culture whereby Muslims in a variety of ways can enable the dangerousness and closely related supremacism inherent to Islam through various degrees of passivity and therefore various degrees of apparent harmlessness.

Now, our question of the day is: before these hundreds of Muslim Nigerians rioted in Nigeria and started attacking the lives and properties of Christian Nigerians, how many of them could easily have been counted as among Spencer’s “millions upon millions of people who are culturally Muslim but are not interested in advancing the jihad agenda or even necessarily aware of it. . .”? This rhetorical question highlights the fact that Spencer, in truth, has no way of knowing, and that furthermore, it is extremely likely that among those hundreds of rioters, many of them would have appeared to Spencer’s eyes to be among those “millions and millions” he refuses to condemn and whom moreover he insists on exonerating (if only, that is, he could actually pinpoint who they are).

That is the problem. The only way to meaningfully and concretely get around that problem is to face the grim fact that, because we cannot sufficiently tell the difference between Muslims who are apparently harmless and those who are potentially or covertly dangerous, we must rationally assume all Muslims are dangerous, and act accordingly.

With a nebulous diaspora all over the globe of innumerable, indeterminable Muslims fanatically bent on mass-murdering as many of us as possible and of wreaking untold damage to our infrastructure in the pursuit of their deranged eschatology, and with untold numbers of further Muslims either passively enabling those fanatics, or more or less actively supporting them, the risks are simply too high to do otherwise.

So, on which side will Spencer resolve his paradox? Will he join his hero Oriana Fallaci in saying in no uncertain terms that “Islam is indeed a problem”? It seems not. It seems that Spencer the Incoherent Analyst will continue to try to evade the stark decision that his paradox, mounting more and more under the pressure of the mountain of horrific data which Spencer the Excellent Reporter presents daily and incessantly, demandsjust as he danced nimbly around the aforementioned question thusly through his typical weaselly sophistry by answering:

“Elements of Islam are the problem. Muslims who reject them sincerely and work against those elements are not the problem.”

5 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Take a look at Front Page's most recent interview (apr 23) with Bill Warner here

It is slightly off-topic viz your above thread, but Warner pulls no punches, and recommends something I agree with, namely, critiquing (or "attacking" as Warner says) dhimmi apologists for Islam. The example project he recommends could work, and would be greatly enhanced by the completion of a Handbook for refuting Islam apologetics. I would add to his suggestion that we need (a) massive funding (though he implies this with reference to "organization"), (b) not only focus on dhimmi apologists but also Muslim apologists and so-called reformers.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

"dhimmi apologists for Islam."

my error, that should say "the dhimmis who are apologist for Islam"

The other thing about Warner is that he tends to oversimplify, particularly with this dualism business. (I don't believe that Meccan phase Islam was peaceful or tolerant, and I consider that whole claim itself to be an apologetic line). Nevertheless, the recent interview article in particular is strong.

Erich said...

kab,

I liked that interview. I find Warner to be the best analyst of the Problem of Islam (note, I did not say best analyst of Islam).

This doesn't mean he's perfect, of course. I also agree with you (also nobody mentioned this) that Warner is rather obsessed with the "dualism" of Islam. There is something to that framework, with regard to the Islamic schizophrenia about sex and about puritanical issues in general, as well as with the Islamic capacity to lie, and also closely related the fascinating leitmotif of Koranic commands, by which Allah says things like "It is forbidden for you to steal... exCEPT when x, y and z."

But Warner makes the mistake of turning this dualistic aspect into a uniform boilerplate for everything, which doesn't work for the Mecca/Medina split, as you have pointed out.

Other than that, I really like Warner's no-nonsense approach to forthrightly and clearly condemning Islam -- a quality of character and of mind that is sorely lacking in Spencer.

As for the Booklet, it really does need influential people to jump-start it. It would be nice if Spencer, Warner, Horowitz, and the other cast of characters all got together to jump-start it as the #1 project. But other than Warner, they don't even seem to be aware of the need for anything remotely like it; and even his example project is rather too vague.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

One of his example projects seemed pretty clear to me. Get a team of Islam critics (which he calls a "dog pack") to take apart and refute some well-known dhimmi apologist (politician, academic, journalist) who published some apologist material in a popular, widely-read source. (In fact, I have done this myself, in the past, but it is very time-consuming). It is necessary to call specific individuals to account, not just argue in the abstract. However, though one Islam critic (e.g., Spencer) can be fairly effective at this, when he has time for it, it seems to me (and to Warner) that a team is needed to take on each such dhimmi.
One critic by himself will not have time to gather all the relevant information in taking on individual dhimmis. But a team can basically overwhelm the dhimmi.

Right now, it is the other way around: Critics like Spencer are far outnumbered by the dhimmis and apologists.

Regarding Horowitz and Spencer, I'm not sure they'd be the best suited for this. I still recall the Spencer-Horowitz letter to the Emory Wheel, in which they claimed something to the effect that the jihadists had a "perverse" or "perverted" view of Islam. We need people who are going to cut through this kind of word play.

The focus needs to be off of Spencer and onto developing other projects with other people.

Erich said...

kab,

"One of his example projects seemed pretty clear to me. Get a team of Islam critics (which he calls a "dog pack") to take apart and refute some well-known dhimmi apologist..."

I meant vague with specific reference to the need for a Booklet. His projects would all benefit from the establishment of a Booklet first, and he has this dim, vague notion that Islamic knowledge is necessary, but he hasn't taken the next step in his mind, as we have, to see that without such a tool already in existence, all his projects would suffer enormously from the labors, re-repeated each time or scrambling around with notes from each last time they were implemented, of constructing our presentations of arguments and counter-arguments.

"(In fact, I have done this myself, in the past, but it is very time-consuming)."

Exactly why we need a Booklet first -- as you well know. So why can't Warner see this, come to this painfully obvious conclusion independently, and simply say so when he had the ample opportunity to do so in the Glazov interview?

"It is necessary to call specific individuals to account, not just argue in the abstract."

While that is one important thing to do, by itself it is not enough, since the faults of each individual called to task can be "contextualized" somehow by the Apologists, and in the best case imaginable, such contextualization would be done in order to isolate his "disease" from Islam itself by imputing his faults to something else ultimately (worse cases, of course, to exculpate him).

"However, though one Islam critic (e.g., Spencer) can be fairly effective at this, when he has time for it, it seems to me (and to Warner) that a team is needed to take on each such dhimmi."

Spencer is obviously not enough, because for every one individual he takes to task, there are dozens more he has no time for. Consider, to take one example out of a hijab, this puff piece written for the Harvard Divinity Bulletin by some kind of female Muslim academic (and self-professed "Muslim feminist") who managed to be the first (I believe) and still only (I also believe) female to officiate at a Muslim wedding (a wedding performed in the USA of course). Her puff piece is just riddled with a complex tapestry of "reform"-minded observations about certain aspects of Islam that seem regressive, woven together with her admiration for her Deen and its cultural mores regarding marriage, sanctity, morality and women.

http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news/bulletin/articles/ali_ceremony.html

Of course, this is a slight variation on the dhimmi confrontation project: this would be a confrontation of a Muslim reformer as a spectacle for non-Muslims to see the reformer exposed.

"One critic by himself will not have time to gather all the relevant information in taking on individual dhimmis. But a team can basically overwhelm the dhimmi."

Not only a team is necessary, but also a Booklet -- for without a Booklet, each team will have to regroup and re-research and re-piece together notes from their last encounter with a dhimmi/Apologist. An immense amount of time and labor would be eliminated with a Booklet already in place. (There would still be some labor and time necessary, since each case has slight variations, but why not save time and labor when one can?)

"Regarding Horowitz and Spencer, I'm not sure they'd be the best suited for this."

As I keep saying, influential people like Spencer and Horowitz (among many others) are absolutely necessary to jump-start the Booklet and elevate it to a #1 priority. They don't have to have hands-on control: just help in putting it to the front of the list of priorities. Without the promotional help of such influential individuals, a Booklet doesn't have a chance of being realized.

"I still recall the Spencer-Horowitz letter to the Emory Wheel, in which they claimed something to the effect that the jihadists had a "perverse" or "perverted" view of Islam."

That's because both of them are asymptotic critics of Islam -- i.e., they come close to, but do not want to, condemn Islam itself -- nor do they want to face the logical consequence of our inability to distinguish harmless Muslims from dangerous Muslims (namely, we must consider all Muslims dangerous). But I believe a Booklet project would not suffer from the promotional support of asymptotic critics like Spencer and Horowitz (and Daniel Pipes), for the nuts and bolts of the Booklet need not include any overarching assertions about whether Islam is being "perverted" by jihadists, or whether it is in fact being restored by them in the face of various sociopolitical forces that have to a great degree corroded classical Islam.

"We need people who are going to cut through this kind of word play."

Thus, in light of what I just said above, there would be the absence of such general statements about Islam -- not saying anything about Islam qua Islam and sticking to the nuts and bolts is better than actually making statements that would imply a stand on the side of the asymptotic analysts -- like Spencer's "I am not anti-Islam", etc., or Horowitz's "Is it possible to have a peaceful Islam? Why not?" and "Well there’s a billion and a half people in Islam, and many, many divisions among them. As you know, the Quran, just like the Bible, has plenty of contradictory statements. It is my experience that most people are conflict-averse. They may, in their individual lives, get into conflicts but they certainly don’t want to go blowing themselves up. They aren’t eager to go to war. That was true of many Germans in the 1930s.").

"The focus needs to be off of Spencer and onto developing other projects with other people."

I feel myself at a point in a cycle of finally wrapping up my criticism of Spencer. I think my time and labors have been well spent, for helping me bring to light and articulate a multitude of important points that radiate out of Spencer's deficiencies, the worth of which is manifested by the following (in descending order):

Inspiring me to articulate and clarify complex issues that radiate out of Spencer's (and Fitzgerald's) deficiencies

Educating others who might read my blog by provoking thought in them about these issues

Specifically publishing (through comments at JW during brief tenures of unbanned existence there, and more expansively on my blog) for the record flaws in Spencer's approach to put a dent in the Spencer following (only recently showing a ripple in the Blogosphere by the mention of me by Lawrence Auster on his site, and his reference in the form of a separate article on his site of a specific criticism of Spencer from my blog)

Actually affecting Spencer himself (I could be imagining things, but I could swear that I have had a "trickle-up" effect -- extremely negligible of course -- on Spencer, as I have noticed him using phrases I have used a thousand times during all the times I have been a commenter, such as "the dominant mainstream" (to refer to PC) and the metaphor that, to paraphrase, "people are just breathing the air of PC" -- phrases, however, that Spencer otherwise undermines through other statements he makes).