Tuesday, September 23, 2008
One quick splash of Cologne is no substitute for a clean shower—but don't worry, we won't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
I’ve become a regular reader of the fine anti-Islam blog Gates of Vienna (GOV) over the past few months.
Their coverage over the past week of the recent political tragedy in Cologne, Germany, has been very good, including not only excerpts from European media (both mainstream and maverick) as well as many different dispatches from eyewitness participants, but also some insightful analyses, from the blogger Fjordman and others.
Today, I am only noting the irrational suspension, on the part of both the GOV staff and Fjordman (as well as what appears to be the majority of their supporters), of any critical faculties with regard to Robert Spencer’s culpable stance on Cologne and, closely related to that, on Filip Dewinter and the Flemish political party Vlaams Belang. (It goes without saying that the vast majority of Jihad Watch readers will be stubbornly irrational defenders of Spencer from any and all substantive criticism.)
I wasn’t necessarily planning on writing about this, but an essay by Fjordman the other day at GOV was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The torturous oddity of the GOV/Fjordman stance on this unfolds from the following:
1) The judgement that Robert Spencer is so valuable to the anti-Islam cause, he is beyond substantive criticism.
2) Closely related to #1, the implication that any substantive criticism of Spencer would either undermine his otherwise stellar work, or would signify that his critics would, by their substantive criticism, have effectively ostracized him (or tried to ostracize him) from the anti-Islam community.
3) The fact that Spencer has consistently insinuated that Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang and now the pro-Cologne movement are guilty, until proven innocent, of “fascism” (though Spencer never stipulates exactly how they could completely wash away their “fascist” smear and exonerate themselves sufficiently for his moral purity such that he would unabashedly support them).
4) The fact that Spencer has consistently praised and supported Oriana Fallaci, Bat Ye’or, Diana West and Fjordman.
5) The fact that Filip Dewinter recently received an honorary award from an Oriana Fallaci organization, and shared the podium with Bat Ye’or—a fact that is strangely dissonant with facts #3 and #4 above, which I pointed out in at least two comments at GOV, only to be received with stony silence (save for one reader I have never seen before, who supported my stance).
6) The fact that Charles Johnson has
a) condemned Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang and Diana West
b) for practical purposes ostracized Fjordman
c) took down a formal tribute to Oriana Fallaci that had been on his site, apparently in response to the fact that Filip Dewinter received the above-mentioned Oriana Fallaci award, and has also maintained silence about that award event in general, in which Bat Ye’or also participated
d) maintained an apparent blackout on coverage of the Cologne debacle.
7) The fact that Spencer continues to maintain amicable relations with Charles Johnson and, of course, tends to avoid discussing these sensitive, but most pertinent, issues with him.
8) The fact that Spencer has also maintained a virtual blackout on the Cologne debacle, only once posting an article about it, and embellishing it ornately with a long introductory commentary that maintained his fastidiously gingerly moral purity above the fray of the impurity of possible (but not proven) “fascist” “connections”.
9) Finally, the fact that GOV/Fjordman regularly criticize Charles Johnson, but have carefully avoided criticizing Spencer (and rise to his defense whenever any peon, like me, dares to do so or, more often, just ignore me)—even knowing the facts under #3 through #8.
I have several times left comments at GOV pointing out these things in one way or another, particularly on stories relating to Filip Dewinter and the Cologne event, and I have only received one supportive comment from someone I do not know, while I received a couple of comments disagreeing with me from Fjordman, Baron Bodissey, and Conservative Swede. Otherwise, there has been silence on this.
Nobody should be above criticism, not even Robert Spencer. For fellow members of the anti-Islam community to subject one or more of his positions to substantive criticism will not hurt him, nor will it undermine his work. Nor does criticizing Spencer mean that one is severing ties with him or banishing him from the anti-Islam community. It is childish and preposterous to continue nursing these crotchets. In fact, substantive criticism is more likely to be productive at best, or have negligible effect at worst.
Of course, Charles Johnson’s culpability on this is far more egregious than is Robert Spencer’s; but that is not an argument by which to let Spencer off the hook.
In sum, the tendency toward self-censorship in this regard among the Jihad Watch community and the GOV community just doesn’t smell right. Only a generous dose of Cologne, slapped on Spencer’s cheeks and dousing his three-piece suit, will cure it.