Saturday, April 26, 2008
Warning Labels on Islam: which label would Spencer support?
Readers of my last nine essays on this blog (or of any one of them) will know what my answer is to this question: obviously, the milder and more lenient warning label above, the latter. This makes Spencer an asymptotic analyst of the problem of Islam—and that is unacceptable. He should stop playing analyst, and keep his day job of reporter.
For cogent argumentation based on copious evidence, please see my previous nine essays on this blog.
One reader of my blog recently proposed an interesting analogy, which inspired me to put up this post today. That analogy involved warning labels on foods, and the logic of such labels:
[It is] useful to add that the allegedly neutral and/or positive aspects of Islam are part of the problem, at least in terms of Westerners' ability to perceive and comprehend the threat. We have discussed this before. An analogy: A package labeled “Cereal” that contains mostly edible bits but also contains some toxic bits is more dangerous than a package containing the exact same mixture that is labeled “Danger! Toxic!”
Indeed, to all who can read, a package that contains 100% toxic material and is labeled as such is safer, by virtue of the warning label, than a package labeled “Cereal” that contains a lower percentage of the same toxin. (The latter is more likely to cause injury or death).
To which I responded:
The force of your analogy is further strengthened by two features of the “cereal” in question, Islam:
1) The systemically coherent nature of Islam, by which parts cohere unto the whole to a sufficient degree to be systemic. Spencer seems to disagree that there is a systemic whole to a sufficient degree (else why would he bring up the exculpatory “millions of Muslims who are not interested in, or even aware of, the jihadist agenda”—and more importantly, why did he affirm in no uncertain terms that he is “not anti-Islam”?). Spencer seems to subscribe to the notion that there is no Islam there, only multiple spheres, no one of which is coherent enough to be aggregately condemned: hence, in the Spencerian model, there is no box of cereal per se, and any attempt to apply a warning label to “Islam” is plain wrong (if not immoral in the context of his Christian humanism). That is why I think that not only is he soft on the problem of Islam, his softness is perilously counter-productive—for he is massively laying the groundwork, on a theoretical analytical level, for helping to dispose ourselves to avoid applying that warning label. If we fail to apply that warning label appropriately—on Islam itself—then how would that reluctance translate concretely in terms of our policy with regard to the dangers posed by Muslims inspired by Islam?
2) With Islam, we cannot tell which spoonfull, or which box, is non-toxic, and which is toxic: in this way too, your analogy is helpful, because it's the same with food products about which there is a general warning. When a few e-coli cases happen, the USDA shuts down all beef production and/or distribution for a time in order to sort out the problem & threat. The vast majority of beef during such shut-downs are “innocent”. What possible concrete relevance, then, does Spencer's protestation have that there are “millions of Muslims who are not interested in, or even aware of, the jihadist agenda”? That would be like a consumer activist who otherwise spends all of his time documenting the dangerously lax standards of the beef industry also, out of the other side of his mouth, saying with reference to a beef shut-down to protect consumers, that there are “millions of beef products that are completely safe”. What's the point in saying that, when there are times and situations when you have to treat ALL beef as a potential threat?
And yet, Spencer spends virtually all his time on Islam reporting on the ever-growing mountain of Islamic horrors, a mountain of dangerous filth which would move any reasonably intelligent person (except Spencer, apparently) to connect the dots and with screaminglly rational alacrity apply the appropriate warning label onto Islam itself, and onto all Muslims. Thus the paradox of Spencer.
A second reader added:
Erich hits the nail right on the head when he points out that whenever there are problems with food items, be it beef, spinach, cauliflower or anything else, either all beef is quarantined, or all spinach from a certain maker is quarantined: nobody makes the argument of how a majority of the food in question is harmless.
To which I must add this caveat:
Only one problem remains, however. As is well known, “analogiae claudicant”—i.e., analogies are all imperfect in some way, if only because they by necessity cannot avoid being different, to one degree or another, from the thing they are illustrating.
The way that Islam differs from the cereal (or the recalled food) in the food warning label analogy is that Islam is sufficiently complex to allow people to exploit fudge factors by which there is no Islam there, per se, to target in a coherently comprehensive way. The exploiters of these fudge factors, therefore, try to particularize the problem into more manageable (i.e., more PC-palatable) bite-sized chunks rather than the Whole Enchilada—Spencer’s “elements of Islam”, for example—and not Islam itself. The more radical of these exploiters won't even settle for bite-sized chunks, of course: their way of exploiting the fudge factors is to atomize the problem virtually out of existence. While Spencer does not do the latter, what he does do—when he puts on his Analyst hat, that is (as opposed to his Reporter hat, which daily documents the grotesquely ghoulish and ever-growing mountain of Islamic horror)—serves to enable those whose goal is to exculpate Islam altogether.
It is a shame to see that Spencer is decidedly on the side of the particularizers who seek to only target chunks off of Islam, as though Islam were not a coherently systemic entity—at least not sufficiently so to warrant treating it as a whole entity to target with a warning label.
As that Jihad Watch reader “neverpayretail” indicated, his exchanges with Spencer (documented in my recent post Spencer: Pussycat or Lion?) revealed this to him as sort of an epiphany: he had not realized that Spencer was one of those who insist on not condemning Islam; but he learned from their exchange that indeed he is.
And the reason why “neverpayretail” was surprised by this epiphany of Spencer's real position is the exceedingly odd “day job” of Spencer's by which he spends all day shovelling the staggeringly mountainous shit of Islam into people's faces.
One would reasonably expect Spencer to answer questions like neverpayretail and others asked him with relatively simple and clear answers—
“Oh yes, I am against Islam. Yes, I am against all Muslims who either passively enable Islam or who actively support Islam. Well, while I disagree with the bald statement that all Muslims are loyal to Islam, I would nevertheless affirm that because we cannot tell the difference between whatever number of Muslims out there who might be harmless, and those who pose an Islamic danger to us, we must practically speaking act as though indeed, as you say, all Muslims are loyal to Islam.”
This is what Spencer should be saying when he is addressing this particular issue. But he is not. In fact, he unfailingly shows himself to be bending over backwards doing Cirque du Soleil gymnastics in order to avoid making the tough decision that the very mountain of shit about Islam he reports daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, would compel any reasonably intelligent person to make—at least anyone whose mind has not been clouded by either PC MC, a confused Christian humanism, or a little of both.
Spencer should keep his day job, and let the appropriate analysts—those who have matriculated beyond the asymptote—do theirs.