Saturday, May 17, 2008

Contradiction Watch 4








Two assertions by Robert Spencer:

1) . . .Islam really isn’t a peaceful religion. . . it manifestly isn’t, as it is the only religion that contains doctrines and traditions mandating warfare against unbelievers. . .

2) To say that Islam is a dangerous, violent religion is simplistic and misleading because Islam is many things.

Discussion:

Lest Spencer ever get wind of this essay and see fit to weasel out of the above contradiction (which is yet another permutation of the same contradiction about which we have written twelve previous essays on this blog) by exploiting the slightest opportunity for sophistry which those quoted words offer, let us not forget his Clintonesquely finger-wagging (or Nixonianly jowl-shaking) asseveration:

I am not “anti-Islam”.

Another objection to the first quote above is its ellipsis-riddled nature. I did not quote it in full because I wanted to emphasize the impact of its latent crux. The reader will readily see, from the restored quote which I hereby reproduce verbatim, that I have not done any injustice to the meaning:

And also: if Islam really isn’t a peaceful religion, as it manifestly isn’t, as it is the only religion that contains doctrines and traditions mandating warfare against unbelievers, then what exactly will George W. Bush gain by pretending that it is? Will he convince peaceful Muslims not to support the jihad?

We could, indeed, direct these same rhetorical questions to Spencer himself (as in fact those readers of Jihad Watch did in a variety of intelligent and detailed ways in the transcripts I provided in at least two earlier essays here and here):

If Islam really isnt a peaceful religion, as it manifestly isnt, as Robert Spencer tells us by also pointing out that it is the only religion that contains doctrines and traditions mandating warfare against unbelievers, then what exactly will Robert Spencer gain by otherwise asserting that he is “not anti-Islam” and that “to say that Islam is dangerous, violent religion is simplistic and misleading”? Will he convince peaceful Muslims not to support the jihad?

The dissonance one sees in Bush is magnified and intensified in Spencer, since the former unlike the latter does not have a “day job” of spending years amassing and pointing out the mountain of horrible data about Islamic danger and violence, nor is the former on record making statements that contradict his “Islam is a religion of peace” statements.

14 comments:

Erich said...

champ,

I didn't know how else to communicate this to you, as I don't post on Jihad Watch anymore.

I noticed you conjectured whether that "anonymous" poster on the Koran-kissing thread was "cantor" (i.e., moi). The answer is no, but having read the posts of "anonymous", I support what he wrote 100%. Whoever he is, his posts are like a breath of invigorating, fresh, clear air for a person who's getting tired of Spencer's convoluted juggling act of sort of condemning Islam but not quite doing so.

I'm working on a new post here that addresses that story of the Koran-kissing General and Spencer's analysis of it.

champ said...

Hi erich,

I wasn't sure if you & anonymous were one in the same, but I guess I wasn't too far from center on since you seem to agree with anon "100%".

Robert does make a good point, erich, why aren't you focusing your energies on the terrorists instead of Robert. I've known you for nearly three years, and you used to direct more of your attention on them and less on Robert/Hugh; now the reverse is true, where you spend all of your time focusing on JW and it's posters. You've made a noticable shift over the past year. Why?

Erich said...

Hi champ,

"I wasn't sure if you & anonymous were one in the same, but I guess I wasn't too far from center on since you seem to agree with anon "100%"."

Yeah, and I've read his subsequent comments since that time, and I still agree 100%. For the record, I don't think it's Lawrence Auster, because I've had some emails with Auster and I have read his site a little, and I have a couple of major problems with Auster's view too. My best guess is that this new "anonymous" is one of two guys who posted a lot of comments on Jihad Watch about two years ago, challenging Spencer, which I have reproduced in a couple of my essays here (including the essay "Transcripts Part 2"). I don't recall seeing them in the intervening time, at least not raising criticisms of Spencer, so maybe they (or one of them) just lay low for 2 years, and only now have resurfaced.

"Robert does make a good point, erich, why aren't you focusing your energies on the terrorists instead of Robert."

Well, others such as awake and Kinana and Kab have voiced the same opinion. No matter how nicely it is framed (let alone snippily, as when Spencer frames it), it amounts to someone saying: "Hey, what you are doing is worthless or worse. Why don't you stop doing it."

And if I persist in doing it, the implication then is that I have a screw loose, because why otherwise would I keep doing something so obviously wrong?

It's an arrogant and insulting attitude to take with someone who disagrees with you. Of course, my critics have a right to disagree with my viewpoints, but that doesn't mean I have to bow down and do what they say, does it?

I would, however, be more inclined to at least listen to them, if they actually offered some counter-arguments that showed they have read my positions in detail. (The closest has been Kab, but it seems to have come to a point where we just have to agree to disagree, since it hinges on two opinions at odds, not two facts one of which can be proven without a doubt to be false.)

"I've known you for nearly three years, and you used to direct more of your attention on them and less on Robert/Hugh; now the reverse is true, where you spend all of your time focusing on JW and it's posters. You've made a noticable shift over the past year. Why?"

I wouldn't say I spend "all" my time on JW and posters. I certainly have been creating a lot of essays for my JWW site, but not in such a way as to eclipse the Hesperado one. I have 135 essays on JWW, and 126 on Hesperado. Also, the Hesperado essays tend to take me much longer to research, draft and finalize, as they are richer and more complex and rely more on stuff I have to get from multiple sources (the recent "From Fitna to 911" for example took me the time it takes to write like 3 JWW essays; and I have been drafting a long essay for Hesperado for months now that is very tedious to research and put together, as it involves the very complicated stupidity of a typical analyst of Islam who is part of the American military and academic establishment, Jerrold Post).

champ said...

Hi erich,

LOL! I would never say that you have a screw loose, although it certainly was good for a laugh. You're obviously an intelligent guy with a PASSION for keeping us safe against this Islamic threat, so who am I to slow down your convictions; nor would I want to. And if I don't like what you're writing on JWW, then I can always switch to another channel, right?

And to be perfectly honest, I have never even read the Hesperado, so thank you for pointing it out to me. I see that you address the Islamic threat and it's corrupt and evil baggage more on that blog, so my apologies for overlooking the important work you do on there.

I have tremendous respect for Robert's work, but I also respect your right to question or even challenge his positions. I don't always agree with Robert, and I don't always agree with you, but because we're all on the same team, which is why I prefer to beat-up the enemy and encourage my team mates instead.

Sometimes your comments about JW are very discouraging, even to me, and you never even say anything about me; so I can only imagine it's impact on those you do criticize who are your allie.

You're passion for fighting this evil enemy is very important, but at what cost to your allies? Robert isn't perfect and he isn't the enemy, which is why I would ask that you consider the cost and whether or not your insights and comments are worth undermining the good will efforts of both Robert and Hugh; who don't claim to be perfect, nor do they claim to have all the answers. So is it worth undermining the efforts of your team mate?

Do you see your observations of JW as undermining? Because maybe you don't. Please just think about what I'm saying.

Take care.

Erich said...

champ,

Every movement and every person leading or participating in a movement should be open to constructive criticism.

Every time anybody broaches any criticism of Spencer, he and his followers react like his critics are enemies "undermining" him. That is not reasonable.

Erich said...

champ,

P.S.: Sometimes, some critics of Spencer ARE trying to undermine him, like that flake "Jim Sutter" as well as most (if not all) of his Muslim critics.

But Spencer treats EVERYbody who finds fault in him with paranoid suspicion. I have the transcripts. He treated me like that, and I always behave maturely and intelligently with him. My only fault was to persist with my points. A mature intelligent person persisting may be annoying, but he is not on the level of an "enemy" for God's sake!

And the transcripts I have provided in two recent essays show two other JW readers patiently, maturely and intelligently challenging Spencer, and Spencer coming back at them arrogantly not addressing their points and just characterizing them as wrong without any substantiation. And now he says his critics refuse to have any "good-faith discussion"!

The transferrence is mind-boggling!

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

You write [quote]

"Well, others such as awake and Kinana and Kab have voiced the same opinion. No matter how nicely it is framed (let alone snippily, as when Spencer frames it), it amounts to someone saying: "Hey, what you are doing is worthless or worse. Why don't you stop doing it."

And if I persist in doing it, the implication then is that I have a screw loose, because why otherwise would I keep doing something so obviously wrong?

It's an arrogant and insulting attitude to take with someone who disagrees with you. Of course, my critics have a right to disagree with my viewpoints, but that doesn't mean I have to bow down and do what they say, does it?"

[end of quote]

I don't think your criticism of Spencer is a complete waste, and I certainly don't think you ought to bow down to what either I or anyone else says. I think that you're spending too much time on it [analysis of Spencer and his claims], relative to (a) the amount of criticism you direct toward popular-and-influential Islam apologists of various sorts, and (b) the results in terms of actually getting Spencer to do/say what you think he ought to be doing/saying.

(Of course, you could level a similar criticism toward me for making this criticism of what you are doing).

Alas, I am resigned to 'agreeing to disagree' with you on this. That's not intended as an insult or to suggest that you have a screw loose(!); just that two reasonable individuals can come to an impasse at which no further progress can be made unless some other information or arguments are introduced.

Awake is another matter. I can't speak for him, but, based on what I've read so far, I don't think his views can be lumped in with mine. For example, I don't think it is wrong to criticise Spencer at all. Indeed, I've criticized Spencer (i.e., his statements) several times, sometimes directly, othertimes indirectly by simply posting a differing view. I just don't see the advantage in making a project out of it. Nor do I think Robert's time would be best spent arguing with various posters (except mainly for Islam apologists who need to be corrected).

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

p.s. though Spencer does sometimes need to devote some time to clearing up misunderstandings, which he has done.

awake said...

"This is my opinion. I could be wrong. But I don’t think I am, and I have a right to voice it."

You sure do. It is apparent that you have no problem with Spencer's analysis of and commentary on the Islamic texts, though you go out of your way to declare him a good reporter but a lousy analyst.

You should practice what you preach.

Spencer. like yourself is entitled to a different opinion or approach, if you will.

Your personal bias is apparent and has been for some time. This blog is a living testimonial to it.

It is also counterproductive, in my opinion.

Nobody said...

Awake

Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when someone, like Spencer, makes an assertion that's contradicted by all the work that they have been doing to date (namely, that Islam itself is not evil, or that shooting at a Quran has a damaging effect beyond putting the soldier in question at greater risk while on combat duty in Iraq), people have a right to refute him. Of course, he too has every right to ignore such assertions, as he has done, or explain why the contradictions in question aren't contradictions.

Unlike Erich, however, I do recognize that it's not something worth obsessing over once we've been over that, so I've been pretty happy to move on. But that doesn't mean that Spencer's assertions - that there are no contradictions - is correct.

That said, I do prefer the Hesperado blog to this one, since a larger analysis of PC is far more interesting than a psychoanalysis of Robert, Hugh and even the larger JW readership.

Erich said...

awake,

I may not be able to convince you that I and my methods are different from Spencer's, and maybe for the most part I am behaving like him -- but there is one thing that makes Spencer different from me and two other critics of his that I document in two previous essays ("somethingaboutislam" and "neverpayretail").

All three of us -- myself, "somethingaboutislam" and "neverpayretail" -- have tried to engage Spencer in discussions about key points (mostly to do with why he refuses to condemn Islam). In every case except for one (which I'll mention in a minute), we three comported ourselves in mature and intelligent fashion and attentively read Spencer's replies and we offered detailed counter-arguments that showed we took everything he wrote into consideration.

Spencer, on the other hand, did not do us the same courtesy at all. He remained aloof, cherry-picking our comments, ignoring key points we brought up, and often just proclaiming we were wrong (and even gravely counterproductive) without offering a shred of substantiation. That is the mark of an arrogant and unfair discussion partner.

The exception I mentioned earlier regarded one particular discussion I had with Spencer (also documented in those previous essays here), where Spencer was trying to do the unfair and arrogant tactics I described above, but slowly there seemed to be signs that he was grudgingly opening up a little. It was like pulling teeth from a stubborn mule. During the discussion however, the air was crackling with threats from him that if I don't "behave" I would get banned. I was consistently posting mature and intelligent comments -- the only fault was that I was sticking to my guns and not backing down. I guess that is not "behaving" in Spencer's house. Anyway, with that kind of threatening atmosphere, I decided I had had it, and left. It made me too uncomfortable to stick around. After I left, I did not realize until 2 years later (!) that Spencer's follow-up comment to me indicated he wanted me to explain a certain key point. Well, too bad. I just don't like having a discussion with a gun pointed to my head. "Good-faith discussion" my ass.

Erich said...

P.S.: the two prior essays here that have transcripts I referred to are:

http://jihadswatch.blogspot.com/2008/04/robert-spencer-pussycat-or-lion-having_21.html

http://jihadswatch.blogspot.com/2008/05/transcripts-part-2-jihad-watch-readers.html

Erich said...

awake,

P.S.#2

When I wrote:

"In every case except for one (which I'll mention in a minute), we three comported ourselves in mature and intelligent fashion and attentively read Spencer's replies and we offered detailed counter-arguments that showed we took everything he wrote into consideration."

I didn't mean to imply that the "exception" manifested a case of myself comporting myself in IMmature and UNintelligent fashion: as my comment shows in the last paragraphs, the "exception" pertained to Spencer finally showing a slight hint of a glimmer of a sign of interest in my opinion, rather than issuing paranoid condemnations from on high.

Erich said...

awake, one final point:

I wrote in my first comment to you (4 comments up):

"the only fault was that I was sticking to my guns and not backing down. I guess that is not "behaving" in Spencer's house."

I neglected to mention that this is the precise difference between me and Spencer. If Spencer or anybody else comes in here and challenges me, I will engage them in a detailed discussion, reading them carefully and demonstrating that I am reading them carefully in the way I present counter-arguments. I will not stand on my mountaintop like Spencer and intone downwards "you are wrong" without showing how and why I think they are wrong. Nor would I make snippy remarks about them, or imply paranoid things about their ulterior motives as Spencer repeatedly did with me without cause.

(The only exceptions to my attentive response to any challengers (who demonstrate maturity and intelligence, like me, "somethingaboutislam", "neverpayretail", and the more recent "anonymous") who came here would be if I don't have time to engage in a discussion, if for some reason I am busy with other work, which I would indicate to my interlocutor and ask him to be patient and wait for my responses.)