Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Robert Spencer’s Two Hats: Keep Your Day Job
Robert Spencer wears two hats: the hat of the Reporter, and the hat of the Analyst.
His Reporter’s hat pertains to his “day job”—amassing the ever-growing mountain of Islamic garbage for all to see (which, of course, includes not only Muslims in the news, but also the religious texts that inspire their garbage).
His Analyst’s hat, on the other hand, pertains to his frequent editorial comments with which he frames any given day’s Islamic garbage that he puts out on the sidewalk.
Sometimes his editorial comments are merely nice touches of acerbic icing, laced with his characteristic dry wit, with a sprinkle or two of literary allusions or obscure references to pop culture. Other times, however, these comments rise to the level of analytical assertions concerning key features of the problem of Islam, and the closely related problem of the West’s continuing inability to rationally come to grips with the Problem of Islam.
When Spencer dons his Reporter’s hat, he is doing a superb and singular job, vital for our ongoing and still impoverished War of Ideas against Islam. When, however, Spencer dons his Analyst’s hat atop his Reporter’s hat (or deftly switches one for the other, and then back again), more often than not he commits crucial errors, which we have examined in several recent essays on this blog.
Today, we examine his analysis of the alleged Koran-shooting incident that led to the grievously inane and abjectly suicidal Koran-kissing apology by American General Hammond in Afghanistan (and later to President Bush adding more insult and injury, by apologizing “on behalf of the American people” to the Prime Minister of Iraq).
Before we get there, let us review Spencer’s general analytical errors:
1) his misapprehension of the full nature and dimensions of the sociopolitical process called Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC);
2) the contradiction between his implicitly ostensible condemnation of Islam, and his refusal to explicitly condemn Islam;
3) the contradiction between his ostensible acknowledgment that the practice of taqiyya logically renders all Muslims equally suspect, and his assertion that there exist millions and millions of peaceful Muslims as though that were an actually meaningful and useful fact for the puposes of our self-defense, compounded by his leitmotif of calling on Muslims to join us by reforming Islam;
4) his tendency toward excessively gingerly weaselling—and then compounding this by employing sophistical gymnastics when he’s called on it—when it comes to analyzing certain key events that deal with the menace of Islam and the West’s inept and suicidal irrationality in the face of that menace.
Today’s essay deals mostly with #4, though it should be readily apparent to my reader that all four points are intimately—yea, inextricably—dovetailed together.
What follows is Spencer’s analysis of the Koran-kissing incident, interspersed with my comments:
1. While the President and the military brass are anxious to deny that the War On Terror has anything to do with Islam, many rank-and-file soldiers can't help but notice that the fiercest enemies they encounter are also the most devout in their Islam, and that the jihad terrorists quote the Qur'an copiously to justify their acts of violence.
So far so good. But then, it’s often this way with a person who contradicts himself, as Spencer does: half of what he says is spot-on. It’s the other half that becomes problematic.
2. That noticing things like this may have led one soldier to use a Qur'an as target practice is unfortunate.
Ah, we begin to see a glimpse of some of that there gold of our payload—and so soon into the analysis! Why is it “unfortunate” for one of our soldiers to use the Koran as target practice? Because the Koran is not all bad? Because the Koran has a rich, complex and vetust history and is revered by a wonderfully diverse mosaic of peoples all over the world? None of these reasons would suffice, of course, when we consider the sufficient evil, injustice and menace to the world firmly embedded, and easily read, in the Koran. We have been through essentially this same argument before in previous essays where we reproduced some of the comments of readers of Jihad Watch who raised the Nazi Germany / Islam comparison—with Spencer decidedly asserting that the comparison is invalid; for example:
Islam is more multifaceted than Nazism, and involves many beliefs, some good, some bad. You are comparing a huge 1400-year-old tradition over many nations with 12 years of Germany. If you met a Nazi in 1938, you would know what he thinks. But the fact is that when you meet a Muslim today you can have no certainty about what he thinks or knows.
Readers challenged this view:
. . .there is a difference between him simply presenting the evidence without comment -- a persuasive exercise [what I have called his Reporter’s hat], vs. contradicting any assertions about Islam being dangerous and violent [his Analyst’s hat] -- something that howls for a contradiction. And the depth of its history, in contrast with Nazism, doesn't justify the halo around it: ask the millions of Copts, Maronites, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists et al persecuted by them whether they agree.
And another reader:
. . .indeed, Islam is worse than German Nazism -- unless Robert thinks the attempted genocide by Muslims against Hindus of over 60 million (just to pick out of a turban one of several examples from the evil history of Islam) was not centrally motivated by Islam. If he does agree that the Hindu genocide (and all the other Muslim atrocities of history and the present) was centrally motivated by Islam, how in the world does the vetust richness and diversity of Islam let it off the hook of condemnation!?
Yet another reader of Jihad Watch from the comments field of another Jihad Watch thread:
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 violent, 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.
Spencer responded thusly to the commenter above (as well as to another commenter who also commented in the other thread which we quoted above) by writing in that same comments field:
Retail and SomethingAboutIslam: Yeah, I'm a liberal. I have fangs too. I will not be maneuvered into making a statement that would be simplistic and misleading. Islam is more multifaceted than Nazism, and involves many beliefs, some good, some bad. You are comparing a huge 1400-year-old tradition over many nations with 12 years of Germany. If you met a Nazi in 1938, you would know what he thinks. But the fact is that when you meet a Muslim today you can have no certainty about what he thinks or knows. This does not mean that I think there is some sect of Islam that teaches indefinite peaceful coexistence as equals with non-Muslims; there isn't. But Islam has meant many things to many people at different times. There are Muslims that know nothing of what I am saying here. This is a fact that must be reckoned with.
One wonders about that last sentence of Spencer’s: “reckoned with” exactly how? In such a way as to temper our policy with respect to the exigencies of our self-defense? If not, then why even mention it? Would “reckoning with” all those multitudes of peaceful Muslims that exist out there somehow help our self-defense? Exactly how? If not, then why even mention it?
Let us continue with Spencer’s analysis of the unofficial Koran-shooting incident that was meant to be assuaged by the official Koran-kissing apology:
If he knew what the book was, the soldier was stupid, because even if it is true that the Qur'an contains mandates for violence against unbelievers, and it is true, doing something like this will only turn into enemies some people who might otherwise not be your enemies.
So I guess this time at least it’s not only about the diversity & complexity & historically lengthy nature of Islam (and, by extension, the Koran that helps enormously to make Islam what it is) , but mainly about the imprudent inflammation of apparently harmless Muslims which will turn them into dangerous Muslims.
A reader commented about this in the comments field of that thread superbly, and I quote:
“Anyone who shows himself as our enemy as a result of someone shooting at the Qur'an is already our enemy, as that person in effect has demanded of us to respect the scriptures of his so-called religion, or else. Our failure to comply merely makes the person reveal himself as our enemy. Thus, the Qur'an shooting should be a good thing, as it will provoke our enemies to reveal themselves.” [emphasis in the original]
To which it needs to be added (as many other commenters indeed did more or less attest in that comments field, in de facto oblique criticism of Spencer’s position, whether they realized it or not):
1. The Koran is the war manual of our enemy;
2. The Koran is an evil, unjust and mortally dangerous book, and the evil, injustice and menace therein is sufficient to render irrelevant any innocuous or seemingly benign contents it might have;
3. Any Muslim who reveres the Koran is already our enemy, because he reveres the Koran (see #1 and #2) and because by being a Muslim he enables Islam which is the culture of the Koran (see #1 and #2);
4. The diversity and complexity of Islam does not vitiate #1 or #2 or #3;
5. The diversity and complexity of the sociology of Muslims is rendered useless because of taqiyya, which acquires additional dangers because of its contextual function in the warp and woof of other Islamic features such as the unique trans-national cohesion of Muslims, the Islamic mentality of dividing the world into superior Muslims and inferior & inimical non-Muslims, and the singular sociological structure of the trans-national Umma as a diverse Army embracing millions of otherwise seemingly passive and harmless Muslims who nevertheless in a variety of ways enable the supremacism of Islam.
Spencer goes on to argue that opposing (and one presumes forbidding as much as possible) the shooting of a Koran is:
. . .avoiding unnecessary provocation that will require you to fight battles that you otherwise would not have to fight.
Tactically and casuistically—in the context of the politically correct limitations on our ability to rationally engage the war Islam has declared on us—, Spencer might have a point. But in the larger picture, we need to expand our aggressiveness, ruthlessness and rational enmity of our enemy as we did during WW2 when we did not flinch from mocking and hating the Japs and Krauts. Imagine an American soldier during WW2 shooting a copy of Mein Kampf. The only reaction from his commanding officers would either be a yawn, or buying him a beer. There would be no abject apologies to the “German people”, nor would any anti-Nazi analysts be spending one iota of time presenting arguments as to why what that soldier did was “stupid” because it might “provoke” more Germans who might otherwise not fight us, into fighting us. There are tactical and casuistic reasons why the analogy does not quite fit today—but they have nothing to do with the marvelously diverse tapestry and mosaic that is world-wide Islam, and everything to do with our own inept policies guided by politically correct multi-culturalism whose paradigm consistently decouples Islam itself and the vast majority of Muslims from the Enemy.
3. The reactions of Major General Hammond and his staff were understandable, but excessive. They don't want to alienate people they believe they have won over, or whom they hope to win over, in Baghdad. They had to disavow this soldier's action.
Again, only in the tactical, casuistic, and comic-tragically limited context we articulated above. It would be nice to see some more soldiers and officers showing some balls for a change. As another reader of Jihad Watch said, actually shooting the Koran without apology would probably induce respect from Muslims for the serious resolve of their enemy. We know from experience (and Spencer knows too, as he writes in this same essay we are quoting) that Muslims treat any signs of apology as signs of military weakness in the “Long War”.
Furthermore, Muslims don’t need actual incidents of provocation to set them off in murderous rampages, as the rumors of an accidental spray of urine landing on a Koran in Afghanistan a couple of years ago show, among other similar incidents—let alone incidents that should not provoke anybody of a sane mind (cartoons, etc.).
Major General Hammond is anxious to show that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. Fine.
Not fine by me. We have to graduate to the position that demonstrates we are at war with Islam, and put all the burden of proving that wrong on the Muslims by showing us with substantive shows of good faith, in speech and action, how we are wrong.
4. "Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, in a speech on behalf of all tribal sheiks of Radhwaniya, called the incident 'aggression against the entire Islamic world.'" This is simply hysterical. It was a boorish, stupid act, but it was a boorish, stupid act by one individual soldier.
We need more boorish, stupid acts from soldiers like this.
But I am not necessarily calling for Spencer to proclaim this. If he cannot proclaim this, however, he should keep silent. Because there is no alternative that will not in some way be asymptotic. And asymptotic analysis is counter-productive to our War of Ideas. If an analyst cannot matriculate beyond the asymptotic learning curve, then he best refrain from offering analysis.
Spencer, keep your day job.