Monday, November 24, 2008
Addendum to the Prospectus: A mechanism for appropriate ostracism
At this late date—three weeks after that bloated green Godzilla, Charles Johnson, lashed out against Robert Spencer after having already similarly attacked and vilified Diana West, Andrew Bostom, Gates of Vienna, Fjordman, and others—frontpage.com links a story from his site, Little Green Footballs.
The news story frontpage links is ultimately from Reuters. Frontpage should have just put the link to Reuters, and ignored Charles Johnson.
For a massive glimpse of the full ugliness of Charles Johnson’s berserk rampage, see these two articles. (The full catastrophe of this bloated green monster, this Godzilla of the Blogosphere, Charles Johnson, is more fully impressed upon the reader by wading through the hundreds of comments to the articles linked above—quite a few of the comments are by Robert Spencer himself.)
As some readers may know, I myself have criticized Spencer extensively—devoting over 130 articles on my now retired second blog, Jihad Watch Watch, to various facets of that criticism. There is a difference, obviously, between Charles Johnson’s bridge-burning blitzkrieg denunciations, on the one hand, and on the other hand, criticism that is for the most part (with minor exceptions of understandable lapses in patience) maturely expressed, intelligently attempted, and guided by the spirit of constructive criticism.
Which brings to mind one particular, important feature of the Anti-Islam Movement once it has become an organization: it should have a mechanism for ostracization. Why should it have this mechanism? Simply because there are times within any sociopolitical movement when individuals, or groups of individuals, go against the ideals and/or the policies of the overall movement to a degree that becomes injurious to the movement as a whole.
Such a mechanism, of course, should try to balance the baseline ability to ostracize when it has to, with the virtue of inhibiting the tendency to ostracize too easily.
We can see signs of a failure to exercise this balance in, on the side, Charles Johnson’s berserk ostracization of Spencer, et al., and, on the other side, frontpage.com continuing to link Charles Johnson at this late date. In the context of a sound mechanism in place, frontpage.com would have gotten the memo, and would have agreed to its principle—or, at least, the principle of agreeing to certain guiding rules of the organization as a whole—and would as a matter of course have withheld the hat-tipping link to Charles Johnson’s site.
As to whether a putative, future organization of the Anti-Islam Movement should ostracize someone like Lawrence Auster, that is questionable. My view on this is that Auster has not behaved sufficiently egregiously to warrant being ostracized. The aforementioned balance should try to err on the side of embracing within the fold individuals and groups who represent a healthy internal criticism of the movement, since this is conducive to the classical Western virtue by which self-criticism promotes strength, while the injudicious avoidance of self-criticism, while seeming to strengthen on the surface, actually tends to undermine cohesion and growth. Simply put, Auster has not crossed the line as has Charles Johnson. At the very least, the Anti-Islam Movement should suffer Auster’s presence as a cantankerous, prickly, curmudgeonly eccentric sitting over at the end of the table or off in the corner as the rest of the members get on with the business at hand; but we should not expel him from the room. Somewhat similarly, I would not wish to ostracize Spencer for the degree of harm he continues to exert against Vlaams Belang, et al.—in effect, ostracizing them by keeping them in an indefinite state of suspended virtual ostracism with regard to whether, or not, they are guilty of “fascism” and “racism”—because this conduct, as objectionable as I find it, is nevertheless well within that same line that Charles Johnson, with his gargantuan, pimpled green feet of a Godzilla, has trampled over.
I would even forgive Spencer’s intemperate ostracization of me, magnanimously chalking it up to a momentary lapse in elementary intelligence in the heat of the moment. Rather than lashing back in kind with a Counter-Anathema, I would agree to overlook it, in the spirit of the virtue mentioned above, and, by extension, in the spirit of the good of the movement as a whole.