Friday, September 26, 2008
Asymptote vs. Asymptote: The New York Times vs. Brigitte Gabriel
My critique of B. Gabriel is not meant as a blanket condemnation of her and her work. It reflects, rather, a deep frustration I have with many analysts in the Anti-Islam Movement (AIM) who analyze the problem essentially on the basis of what I have called asymptotic analysis.
My essay today is apropos of an article B. Gabriel wrote for frontpage.com, published today, in which she articulates her own frustration at the New York Times for smearing her as a “radical Islamophobe”.
The asymptotic analyst looks at the problem of Islam and concludes that the problem is not Islam itself, but rather some truncation of Islam, which they call by various terms, such as “extremism”or “Wahhabism” or “Salafism” or, as in B. Gabriel's case, “radical Islam”.
What is ironic here is that the New York Times and the types of people they represent—those who are thoroughly convinced of the truth of the paradigm of Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC)—are not qualitatively different from the asymptotic analysts of the problem of Islam. The difference between the NYT et al. and B. Gabriel is one of degree, not quality. Encumbering that initial irony is a second irony: the NYT et al. consider analysts like B. Gabriel as having crossed a line beyond the politically correct analysis into a qualitatively unacceptable area which I call holistic analysis—namely, they accuse analysts like her of demonizing Islam itself and all of Islam, and by extension all Muslims. No matter how often and strenuously asymptotic analysts like B. Gabriel, Daniel Pipes or Robert Spencer try to make clear that they are not in fact holistic analysts, it seems to do no good to the PC MC crowd.
So what is going on here? Clearly, there must be some substantive difference between the two types of analysts—the PC MC type, and the asymptotic type represented by B. Gabriel, Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer (and others). The main difference is that the latter have indeed crossed a line—they are not afraid to use words like “Islamic” and “Muslim” and “Jihad” and “Mohammed” and “Koran” in their critiques, even if they continue to truncate the overall problem, which of necessity creates a new problem that is untidy if not incoherent—namely, the implication that there is in fact a “good Islam” and “good Muslims” upon which we can rely and whom we can trust in our concerns for our safety from attacks and sabotage.
The former type, however, is afraid to use such words as “Islamic” and “Muslim” and “Jihad” and “Mohammed” and “Koran” in their analyses, because according to the PC MC paradigm which they follow, such usage will lead inexorably to the holistic analysis—a demonization of all of Islam and of all Muslims, which is not only in their minds unacceptably “bigoted” and “racist”, but also represents but a short step to the edge of the “slippery slope” to “genocide”. In all seriousness & sincerity, then, the PC MC analysts are, in their minds, doing their part to prevent another Holocaust—this time not of Jews, but of another “ethnic” minority (indeed a more “ethnic” minority, privileged to be browner than all other designated ethnic minorities; and thus, by virtue of the overarching dogma of the PC MC paradigm—Reverse Racism—deserving of more of our “respect” and solicitousness than Jews or any other ethnic minority are).
While I am glad that the analysts represented by B. Gabriel and others of the still incoherent Counter-Jihad are indeed stronger in their analyses than the PC MC crowd is, the problem is that they -- B. Gabriel and other asymptotic analysts -- are serving to reinforce the PC MC paradigm, by virtue of their retention of the asymptote. They are unwittingly complicit in perpetuating the very same paradigm that they are otherwise expending so much work, energy and frustration in opposing. I suppose it could be argued that by rather gently pushing the envelope of the asymptote, the B. Gabriels of the world are in fact serving to contribute to a subtle but ultimately beneficial reconfiguration of the public psyche with regard to the PC MC paradigm that is currently dominant and mainstream.
This theoretical defense is not necessarily to be dismissed out of hand, but it remains conjectural, and my penchant is for the alternative theory that only by more and more analysts and people in the AIM pushing the envelope of the more aggressive and visionary counter-paradigm of holistic analysis, will the progress of that reconfiguration occur. Initially, there would be pushback and recoil; but over time, such blunter and more aggressive rhetoric would take their toll by chipping away at the outer crust of the PC MC defenses (for one thing, PC MC is an untenable paradigm, holding itself up by nothing more than psychological anxiety about bigotry and held together by the Krazy Glue of incoherent axioms and assumptions; and so repeated frontal assault may well have an effect over time that is not apparent right now). Often in movements of sociopolitical progress, more aggressive measures need to be taken. The Women's Suffragette movement of the late 19th century, for example, in many respects was spearheaded by women who took bolder actions and spoke their minds in what was then considered shocking ways. It can be persuasively argued that the the “soft subversion” tactics (yet still illegal) of the Suffragette movement, where ordinary women in Britain went around in the early morning hours stuffing marmalade down mail-boxes in protest helped the movement as much as did the nobler rhetoric of the politicians and artists who supported their cause. Another example is the Abolitionist movement of the 18th century which persevered into the 19th century, which required the contribution of some gutsy and strident activists, along with the more intelligent analysts and orators, all in different ways, in different places, at different times acting to chip away at the enormous resistance their societies represented against their goal (though I would not countenance the extreme measures taken by abolitionist John Brown in that regard—murdering people in the middle of the night).
With the Anti-Islam Movement, I think, at the least, we need to adopt a concerted and hopefully growing front of people—ordinary people and influential spokesmen—who have formulated a holistic and robust condemnation of Islam and of all Muslims, and who present that analysis in intelligent but no-nonsense terms. This doesn't mean that the leadership of the Counter-Jihad needs to stand on rooftops with bullhorns screaming that "All Muslims are dangerous!" There are ways to express it more subtly & intellectually, without anxiously offering apologies that amount to saying the opposite -- as for example Robert Spencer has a bad habit of doing. Occasionally, this overall strategy can be punctuated by an individual here, an individual there, expressing a more robust formulation (as Donald Trump did this week) -- the subtler majority gently massaging the mainstream and softening them up; the blunter & bolder spokesmen occasionally punching below the belt when they least expect it, calculated not for an immediate surrender, but for a longer-term disorientation and deterioration of their untenable paradigm. By pursuing this overall strategy, and by persisting over the years (if not decades) in doing so, I maintain we will be doing our part to more effectively push and prod the reigning PC MC paradigm into increasing defensiveness and, ultimately, toward a reconfiguration that will be its dismantling, in favor of a restoration of the common sense that prevailed throughout the West from the first major encounter with hostile Muslims in the 8th century clear through to the early 20th century.
As I noted above, it doesn’t seem to be doing B. Gabriel and others of her type any good to retain their asymptotic analysis: the PC MC crowd stubbornly persists in vilifying them as holistic analysts anyway, so all their effort in carefully distinguishing Islam from a “radical Islam”, and distinguishing “good Muslims” from “radical Muslims” is not doing them any good. They might as well cross the line fully and join us holistic analysts.
And they need not be afraid that, by taking the plunge into holistic analysis, they will have edged perilously close to the precipice of that “slippery slope” to “racism” which is a hop, skip and jump from “genocide”. Holistic analysis is not based upon demonizing all Muslims. It is based simply on the rational conclusion derived from the fact that we cannot sufficiently distinguish between harmless Muslims and dangerous Muslims to make any such distinction pragmatically useful for our self-defense. And it is also based upon the reasonable judgment that, no matter how many benign parts one could tease out of the tapestry that is Islam (nice passages in the Koran, nice aspects here and there of Islamic culture & history, etc.), Islam is a unified system that overall is evil, unjust and dangerous, and therefore it must be condemned and outlawed in its entirety, and all Muslims should be classified as supporters if not passive enablers of Islam—and therefore as potentially seditious and dangerous. Other malign systems (e.g., Nazism, Communism) have good parts one could find in them, but would anyone conclude from those good parts that the system as a whole is okay and not to be opposed with all our might? Of course not. And would anyone during World War II have concluded that we only needed to fight “Nazism” or “Nazi Germany” and not Germany itself and Germans, or that we only needed to fight the supremacist-expansionist ideology of Japan and not Japan itself and the Japanese? Of course not.
As for the “slippery slope” to “genocide”, the asymptotic analysts in the AIM need not wring their hands in anxiety that they will start sliding down that ramp: there are plenty of other recourses to rational action we can take to protect ourselves, other than “killing all Muslims”—such as blanket condemnation of Islam, membership of it and dissemination of its seditious ideology—which condemnation would then carry legal penalties consequent upon any acts of infringement of our condemnation as codified into law. There are then more robust measures, such as internment camps: The greatest liberal President of the 20th century, FDR, interned Japanese-American citizens as well as Italian-Americans and German-Americans, and this entirely rational measure (a popular measure at the time when the majority of the American public were not infected with the disease of PC MC, as they are now) has never been deemed un-Constitutional by the US Supreme Court—even though the unofficial Court of Political Correctness has deemed it a “shameful chapter” in our history. More robust even than internment would be total deportation of Muslims from the West. It would be, of course, a gargantuan project, and would likely entail some physical violence to enforce (since it is hard to imagine that Muslims would go willingly and peacefully). But none of these proposals are unethical, given the nature and dimensions of the threat we face and given the good that we are defending. And none need be connected by some bond of necessity to “genocide”.
These measures, logically consequent upon a holistic analysis of the problem, are simply rationally proportional to the threat we face from innumerable Muslims who are beholden to a trans-national ideology of violent supremacism and cleverly deceitful sabotage in support of an evil, unjust and globally dangerous ideology.