Friday, October 03, 2008

The Gentlemen’s Agreement of Silence










What I called a
gentlemens agreement to mutual silence in a post a few days ago has nearly reached its absurd climax in a recent posting on Gates of Vienna (GOV) by Baron Bodissey titled Were All Racists Now.

Therein, neither he nor Fjordman (who is quoted in the essay and who adds three comments of his own) mention Robert Spencer, though (Charles) Johnson of LGF is dutifully mentioned (as nearly always in this context) by Fjordman in one of his comments. Were this essay and its comments written by certain other people, Spencer would have formally treated them as guilty until proven innocent (as he has Filip Dewinter, whom GOV and Fjordman both support)
guilty of fascismand racism, of course.

But by the queer pretzel logic of this gentlemen
s agreement behind closed doors to which the rest of us peons and peasants are not privy, the support for Spencer by GOV and Fjordman remains unscathed and Spencer in turn leaves untouched their daring descent into a proudly declared affinity for nationalism and all the racism and fascism which that proud stand is unfairly alleged to entaileven while Spencer would otherwise ostracize them for this, were they somebody else unfortunate enough to be treated as a pariah by him (e.g., Filip Dewinter).

Now I see someone named
Albert Lorenzo posted a comment at Jihad Watch, taking Spencer crudely to task for being a friend and supporter of Baron Bodissey notwithstanding the above-mentioned essay by Bodissey:

So Mr spencer, is this what all this mess is about? White Nationalism?

You have no escape now Mr.Spencer. this is coming from your friend, Baron Bodissey, the one you've just met and drank champagne with last month in Washington DC.

So what is your excuse now? Ooooh, it's his own opinion and I have nothing to do with that and bla bla bla.

Spencer then, in his imitable way, responded to Albert Lorenzo by detailing how he has in fact maintained his fastidiously squeaky-clean ten-foot-pole at arms length from all people he thinks carry the faintest whiff of possible allegations of fascism and racism. I.e., Spencer pretty much said “bla bla bla” as Albert Lorenzo predicted he would.

Spencer doesnt see the irony in the fact that his fascism-and-racism detection meterordinarily cranked up to a setting of extremely acute sensitivityseems curiously oblivious to detecting anything remotely objectionable about Baron Bodissey or Fjordman. And what is amusingly even more perverse is that Baron Bodissey and Fjordman steadfastly refuse to notice this inconsistency.

The choice is clear: Spencer should either stop vilifying Filip Dewinter & Vlaams Belang and the pro-Cologne organization, and apologize to them and their supporters
or he should treat Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna, Fjordman and Diana West the same way he treats Filip Dewinter & Vlaams Belang. His insistent attempts to straddle the non-existent space in the air between these two choices is becoming absurdand that absurdity reaches a climax with the collusion of those erstwhile supporters of Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang and the pro-Cologne movement.

14 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

You may be interested to know that Bostom has criticized Charles Johnson's role in this controversy. See "Confronting a Mendacious Bully" Sept 28 on Bostom's blog. Gates of Vienna also gives some further information re Bostom's article.

Erich said...

Thanks Kab,

I'm not really interested in Charles Johnson. He seems to play the role of, or fulfill the function of, the extremist scapegoat. I.e., it's easy to criticize Charles Johnson. But why is no one criticizing Spencer for the way he treats Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang, and the pro-Cologne movement -- and for what this establishes in the long run for the overall anti-Islam movement and the growing coalition it needs?

Erich said...

P.S.: The pretzel, so to speak, is wound even more curiously in knots when we consider that Spencer still refuses to criticize Charles Johnson!

Erich said...

P.P.S.: When will this pretzel break? On reading the Bostom article you mentioned, I find this -- yet another perverse knot in this ongoing pretzel:

... Johnson’s e-mail threat to another close friend—the brilliant scholar and author Robert Spencer—after Raymond Ibrahim (editor/translator of The Al Qaeda Reader) simply blogged a favorable discussion (subsequently removed by Spencer, pace Johnson’s threat!) of Diana West’s September 18, 2008 Town Hall.com column at the Jihad Watch/Dhimmi Watch website...

This pretzel will only break -- and it needs to be broken -- when all members of the anti-Islam movement get together (either face-to-face or on-line or a combination of both) for a public, thorough and transparent Summit Meeting to air out all these issues surrounding the thorny topic of "fascism".

The goal of the Summit need not be that everyone will become transformed into a "lock-step" (awake's favorite straw man label) agreement, though an agreement of some kind would be nice. The goal should be simply to set out all the differences clearly so that everyone knows where everyone stands. A nice adjunct to that goal would be the formal declaration that criticism of any members for their stand is not only permitted, but encouraged, in the spirit of the healthy growth of a sociopolitical movement that will progress optimally with the cultivation of internal self-criticism (where "internal" means within the perameters of the Movement itself, not some smoke-filled "back-room" from which 99% of the members are excluded).

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

1.
As I understand it, Spencer in one of his posts invited De Winter and/or Vlaams Belang to clarify his or their position(s) regarding these allegations of racism. I have not seen clear, unambiguous statements from them. I have also read through almost all of the material in the links at your site (including JWW) but cannot find any clear unambiguous statements that would settle the issue.

At the same time, I see no clear or sufficient evidence that De Winter or VB are racist. (There is, though, strong clear evidence that they are not anti-Jewish). Also the claim that VB had "allie[d] with" (JW) or "joined" (LGF) the BNP was not substantiated.

What's quite conspicuous to me about this controversy is that there is a lack of clear evidence supporting either of the opposing positions, i.e., for (1) that the accused parties are racist or (2) that the accused parties are not racist. Often when one reads about a controversy like this, both sides are able to cite some strong clear concise "money quotes" in support of their position. In this case, we have instead an endless trail of lengthy quotes that are ambiguous, indecisive, and basically useless in regards to deciding the issue.

That being said, the onus is on (or ought to be on) Johnson and Spencer, et al., to support their accusations with pertinent facts about the current views of the accused. If they cannot do so--and thus far they have not--they should withdraw the accusations. That much is clear.

I should not need to point out that it is a basic rule of argument that the accuser must provide evidence sufficient to support the accusations.

2. I am concerned that, whereas Bostom came out publicly and nobly in defense of D West and others against C Johnson's methods, Spencer did not. Why hasn't Spencer (as yet) come out publicly in support of D West against C Johnson's smears?

Erich said...

Kab,

"That being said, the onus is on (or ought to be on) Johnson and Spencer, et al., to support their accusations with pertinent facts about the current views of the accused."

I agree wholeheartedly, of course. What they are doing is essentially declaring certain people guilty until proven innocent -- which is what their critics do to them, and about which they understandably complain: and this is what makes this a perverse situation.

Spencer essentially says to Filip Dewinter, "It has been said that you might have neo-Nazi and/or Fascist connections. Since I need to keep my hands squeaky clean, you must clear your name before I can associate with you." This is unacceptable. The difference between Spencer and Charles Johnson in this regard is only one of style, not basic position or substance. Johnson is more brash and uncouth, and he also flails around smearing a wider variety of people. So he becomes an easy target.

"If they cannot do so--and thus far they have not--they should withdraw the accusations. That much is clear."

They should do that -- and apologize.

"2. I am concerned that, whereas Bostom came out publicly and nobly in defense of D West and others against C Johnson's methods, Spencer did not. Why hasn't Spencer (as yet) come out publicly in support of D West against C Johnson's smears?"

I think it's pretty clear why Spencer has not: to do so would compromise the careful balance he thinks he is maintaining on his trapeze high-wire, where he doesn't ever have to make a choice about whom he supports and whom he effectively leaves out to dry. It's quite a privileged position he has: he can continue to count Diana West as a friend and supporter and can continue to claim he supports her, while he refrains from defending her from another of his "friends" who is intolerably attacking her. And everyone -- including Bostom and West! -- by this queer Gentlemen's Agreement, lets him get away with it. Remarkable.

awake said...

Do you have specific writings by Spencer critical of Filip DeWinter?

Erich said...

awake,

1) In this JW article (linked below), Spencer declares Vlaams Belang unacceptable until proven innocent of "ties" to Haider and Le Pen -- "ties" which he doesn't substantiate. Vlaams Belang is Filip Dewinter's party. It's a small party, and Dewinter is a major and influential member and supporter. Smearing the party smears Dewinter by extension. In that article, Spencer also goes off on a major tangent about the BNP based on one solitary report that some BNP members had attended the same function as did Vlaams Belang (VB) and Filip Dewinter prominently so as their spokesman.

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019648.php#comments

Scroll down the comments, you will find Spencer claims that in his main article he substantiated the ideological affinity between VB and the BNP, when he did no such thing:

"the VB has not sufficiently dissociated itself from positions that are taken by the BNP, the ones I quoted above, to make it clear that their alliance is one of convenience, agreeing on some issues only but continuing to disagree on others."

Here, he is trying to make more solid the connection between VB and the BNP, claiming he did so substantively, but as it turns out, he didn't. If you read the main article he claims to solidify that connection, it all hinges on the fact that one source reported that some BNP people attended the same conference as did the VB.

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019648.php#c499363

Scrolling down further, we see that Spencer admits he was not vilifying the conference itself -- so what was he vilifying exactly? Vague "ties" the VB might have, according to some unnamed people, with the BNP. Spencer admits that he himself was at the conference! Hey, I have "heard" from some vague "people" that Spencer has "ties" to "fascists". Let me publish a prominent article in as part of my very influential blog informing the world that Spencer must prove himself innocent of these "ties" before we can treat him as one of us! That's essentially what he did to VB and Dewinter.

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019648.php#c499581

2) Three days later, Spencer published an email he received from a representative of Vlaams Belang (VB) in which they most courteously and substantively refuted the innuendo that the BNP had attended the conference:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019678.php

Spencer never formally published an article saying he was wrong, and apologizing to VB and its supporters. In his remarks surrounding the publication of that email, Spencer only said "in the interests of fairness am posting it here". That's it. No analysis of the email (including its reiteration of the VB charter which contrary to Spencer's previous insinuation, does not share objectionable implications imputed to the BNP about neo-nazi goals) either in order to maintain his previous smear of them with an actual argument, or in order to show that he has changed his mind about that smear and now apologizes to VB and its supporters.

In addition, ample evidence to exculpate Filip Dewinter and VB of various smears related to their alleged "fascism" and "neo-nazism" exists published at the 910 Group website which I have linked several times on JWW.

Since that time eight months have gone by and Spencer not only has not changed his mind, he has gone on to treat the courageous pro-Cologne movement in the same McCarthyesque "they're-guilty-of-a-vague-fascist-smell-until-they-prove-themselves-innocent" posture with which he has disrespected VB and Dewinter.

I think there's more that I documented which I may look up later, but this is more than enough for my contention that Spencer is simply wrong about this.

awake said...

That was a long response to "not" say that Spencer has ever criticized or accused DeWinter by name.

Spencer has made his position on VB quite clear and has not passed any final moral judgement. He has perceived some problematic associations with VB by information he has received, with a disclaimer that he can be shown otherwise if proven and encourages the proof to be brought forward.

Your claim is a liberty that you have taken with Spencer's position on DeWinter.

I have problems with the US Congress, but I certainly do not view each congressional leader as identical in my criticism of them.

Filip DeWinter does not speak for all mem2bers of VB and certainly does niot share identical views with them all either.

You seem to imply that Spencer has done an about face on VB, to which I am not sure of, but even if it is so, is still not sufficient for you.

No, you expect a formal apology.

The reality that Fjordman and Boddisey and Spencer can co-exist, yet not be in perfect ideological lock-step is maddening to you, isn't it?

awake said...

Excellent analysis of the whole thing by conservative swede

http://conswede.blogspot.com/2008/10/social-cohesion-of-honest-anti.html

Erich said...

awake,

The first and main JW link I gave you in my answer above features Filip Dewinter prominently in the very same event that Spencer is smearing with a vague fascist/racist smell of being like the BNP:

"The group dubbed "Cities against Islamisation" was presented to the media in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp by Filip Dewinter, head of the far-right Belgian party Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) along with Austrian FPOE leader Heinz-Christian Strace"

I failed to mention this in my previous answer. You failed to read the linked JW article completely, apparently, or you would have seen this.

Erich said...

"You seem to imply that Spencer has done an about face on VB"

No, as far as I know Spencer has remained consistent in his unfair guilty-until-proven-innocent smear of their reputation -- without even informing himself of the evidence that exists out there exculpating VB and Filip Dewinter (who is head of the party), and then at least discussing that evidence.

"The reality that Fjordman and Boddisey and Spencer can co-exist, yet not be in perfect ideological lock-step is maddening to you, isn't it?

Straw man fallacy. You are characterizing the goal of my criticism as Spencer & GOV being in perfect ideological lock-step. You will not be able to find in any of my writings about this issue such a characterization of my goal in this matter.

In fact, what is the actual situation is that Spencer & GOV are maintaining a facade of being in agreement, when they are not. What I'd like to see is simply the interested parties avow their differences, and discuss them and debate them in detail. Then when the dust clears on the debate and the differences are clarified, the interested parties can better decide -- can we work together for our other common goals in spite of our differences in this particular matter, or not?

As long as this entire process is gone through publically, from the initial avowal of positions and differences, through to the ensuing discussion and debate, and finally to the joint decision on ultimate positions vis-a-vis common goals in the context of the Movement of which everyone thinks they are participants -- then I would respect whatever decisions are made either way, as both intellectually sound, procedurally fair, and ethical.

awake said...

"In fact, what is the actual situation is that Spencer & GOV are maintaining a facade of being in agreement, when they are not."

So, all the parties involved are not in agreement and only maintain that facade for the good of the public view?

Hogwash.

The link I provided to ConSwede's posting defines the relationship quite accurately.

The players seem flexible, unlike yourself, who seems to demand an either/or position.

Very few things in this life are that black and white.

Anyway, regarding DeWinter, I still fail to see any explicit criticism of him, unlike LePen for instance, by Spencer.

Let me repeat myself. Spencer has taken a position of wariness about some portion of the VB ideology, but he does not villify VB because he is not sure about all their intentions. And let me also repeat, that Spencer has not deemed DeWinter as guilty until proven innocent, as you put it.

Erich said...

awake,

"In fact, what is the actual situation is that Spencer & GOV are maintaining a facade of being in agreement, when they are not."

So, all the parties involved are not in agreement and only maintain that facade for the good of the public view?

Hogwash.

Of course, I wasn't referring to agreement in general, but agreement with respect to aspects of this particular issue, among which include:

1) formal & public condemnation of Charles Johnson's egregious bullying of those he deems to be "fascists";

2) Closely related to #1, formal & public support for some of CJ's victims, including Diana West and Andrew Bostom (not to mention the very same GOV and Fjordman who are also butts of CJ's bullying!);

3) Formal & public support -- without equivocation -- of Filip Dewinter and the party he heads, Vlaams Belang;

4) Formal & public support -- without equivocation -- of the pro-Cologne movement.

On these four positions, Spencer disagrees with GOV/Fjordman, yet both he and they never mention their disagreement, and when I have brought it up a few times on GOV, my bringing up this fact does not elicit simple avowal of it, but tends to arouse hostility against me.

"The link I provided to ConSwede's posting defines the relationship quite accurately."

I read it. It only delves into one aspect of the relationship: the fault line separating the aggressive stance of CJ from the more nuanced (and therefore supposedly forgiveable) stance of Spencer. ConSwede leaves unexplored the dissonance between Spencer's position of guarded suspicion of VB/pro-Cologne, on the one hand, and the position of himself (ConSwede), GOV, Fjordman, Diana West, Pam Geller, etc. which is of unequivocal support of VB/Pro-Cologne. ConSwede is able to gloss over this dissonance, it seems, by minimizing Spencer's position.

"The players seem flexible, unlike yourself, who seems to demand an either/or position."

I'm not demanding anything. I am calling attention to a situation among members of a Movement who childishly and irrationally refuse to discuss important disagreements. If, after a public and thorough discussion of these disagreements, Spencer continues to maintain his posture (in articulation of it from unguarded and mature dialogue with anyone who has mature questions and criticisms of his posture), and if any individual or group reiterates their position of support for Spencer's posture, that would be fine with me. What I object to is a show of solidarity maintained in the absence of such a public discussion -- and furthermore maintained in what appears to be a resistance to such a public discussion (with a show of a tendency to vilify those who advert to the need of such a public discussin), if not also even perhaps actual attempts at obstructing such a public discussion from taking place.

"Anyway, regarding DeWinter, I still fail to see any explicit criticism of him, unlike LePen for instance, by Spencer."

By depending upon the precise meaning of "explicit", you are being disingenuous here. I already showed you that the event which Spencer was targeting in his JW article (as shown by a quote Spencer reproduced in that same JW article) was directly advertised to the public and to the media by Filip Dewinter, and that the organization Spencer was targeting, VB, is headed by Filip Dewinter.

Furthermore, Spencer makes clear in a comment in the comments field of that same JW article that he intends to include Filip Dewinter in his concern:

Spencer, responding to a reader named "epamonidas", quotes that reader first --

All Dewinter had to do was renounce his former statements on White Europe, and then live that reality in VB.

He failed to execute this, and now we have what is surely an event consonant with that.

His failure to do this is SIGNIFICANT. It has meaning.

It is sad.

-- then Spencer replies:

"Yes. I agree completely."

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019648.php#c500098

Continuing with your comment:

"Let me repeat myself. Spencer has taken a position of wariness about some portion of the VB ideology, but he does not villify VB because he is not sure about all their intentions. And let me also repeat, that Spencer has not deemed DeWinter as guilty until proven innocent, as you put it."

This characterization of what Spencer is doing with respect to VB and Filip Dewinter is minimizing what he is doing. How does Spencer's "wariness" actually translate in terms of concrete policy and actions? I agree that Spencer's "wariness" is less egregious than CJ's bullying. However, his "wariness" is no different than someone publically saying that Spencer "might be a racist" and that Spencer must demonstrate that he is not a "racist" before we can support him.

Then, in this hypothetical situation, if Spencer proceeds to provide demonstration with evidence, we still remain aloof from our support, as though no evidence has been forthcoming. This is how Spencer has been treating VB and Filip Dewinter.

In fact, Christine at the 910 Group has provided sufficient evidence to exculpate Filip Dewinter and his party VB, and also the email Spencer received and published on JW from Wim Van Osselaer (who works in the Flemish parliament for the Vlaams Belang party) clearly set out that Vlaams Belang does not deserve Spencer's stubbornly persistent "wariness".

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/019678.php