Monday, May 19, 2008

Strike two: Spencer swings, misses mark

Continuing from my previous essay Strike one: Spencer swings, misses mark, I note the second mark Robert Spencer misses:

I can’t fathom why someone would spend all his time hunting up contradictions in my work—contradictions which would dissolve quickly in a good-faith discussion, but obviously he is not willing to have that—rather than just doing the job better if he thinks it can be done better.

Although there are strictly speaking a couple of somewhat distinct marks (or swings) in the above quote, I’ll deal with them together as one, as they are packed together so compactly in one sentence and are so closely intertwined.

First, just because one person “can’t fathom” why a second person is spending their time doing something, this does not suffice to even begin to demonstrate why the product of that second persons time is worthless or even counterproductive. (A little further on, he underscores this with “[i]nstead of sniping, I suggest their time would be better spent actually fighting the battles they claim I am not fighting”). An actual counter-argument would have to be mustered to move this beyond the simple and tendentiously supercilious condemnation it is; based, of course, on a careful reading of the second person’s positions. Which brings us to the second swing: Spencer may or may not be right that the contradictions I find in some of his writings would “dissolve quickly” in the context of a “good-faith discussion”; however, my own experience with a few “discussions” I have had with Spencer in comments threads of Jihad Watch along with my observation of his “discussions” with other readers in comments threads of Jihad Watch (which I have reproduced verbatim in two essays here) has not encouraged me that Spencer is interested in a good-faith discussionat least not with the hoi polloi of unwashed readers who have the temerity to find any fault in him. For, in those past “discussions”, he has 1) routinely ignored key points that are important while cherry-picking others; 2) deftly danced like a combination of Fred Astaire and some weaselly lawyer around critical points of contention from his interlocutors; and 3) tended to quickly adopt a prickly defensiveness sometimes bordering on paranoia combined with an arrogant snottiness, leading to a “discussion” in which the atmosphere is crackling with threats of banning unless his interlocutors “behave” even when his interlocutors are manifestly comporting themselves in a mature and intelligent manner and their only fault is pressing the issue because Spencer himself is dancing around and around the crucial points of the debate, “refusing to be maneuvered” as he has put it so oddlyas though a clearer, calmer, and less defensive articulation of his position that is rationally more attentive to his interlocutor’s challenges rather than at every turn bristling with suspicious prickliness would somehow force him into adopting a position he does not hold.

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