Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Leadership in the Anti-Islam Movement: Addendum 2 to the Prospectus
In my first essay on the subject of the need to organize the Anti-Islam Movement, which remains too incoherent and disorganized, in order to try to maximize the influence and effectiveness of its goals, and in my first addendum on ostracism, I made frequent mention of “leaders” of that movement and their distinction from general members, without really clarifying what was meant.
The degree of incoherency and lack of structure to the Anti-Islam Movement is reflected in the fact that it has no formal leaders, only individuals who more or less casually assume that role, and/or are perceived by many within and without the movement to be such.
Individuals such as Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Brigitte Gabriel, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders, and—until recently—Charles Johnson, come to mind. What makes these individuals “leaders”?
First, it must be pointed out that not all of them manifest the qualities of “leadership” equally in degree or style. This is to a great extent a function of the movement’s lack of structure and protocol, by which such a definition would be more explicitly determined and implemented.
Aside from evident talents and skills they all possess in varying degrees and flavors, the most general quality that embraces all the names listed above (and others that can be added to that list) is that they have a high degree (relatively speaking) of fame and influence. Using this criterion alone, we can say that leadership is not a simplex category or office held by one homogenous class of individuals, to be contrasted with a second class designated as members who are non-leaders, but rather that there are levels or degrees of “leaders”. I.e., in this scheme, Spencer would exercise more of a leadership role than, say, Nonie Darwish, who in turn would be more of a leader than, say, Jamie Glazov of FrontPage Magazine. As we approach the low end of this spectrum, we shade off into individuals who are somewhat well-known in the Blogosphere (such as Fjordman and Lawrence Auster), and further down the food chain we have individuals who are virtually unknown at all (such as myself) who nevertheless maintain blogs on the issue and/or who otherwise try to engage in some form of activism of various degrees of significance and influence. Below this level, as it were, are innumerable individuals who are as yet passive consumers of the movement, perhaps offering comments here and there on discussion forums and blogs, perhaps writing a letter to the editor or to their Congressman once in a while, but otherwise not actually doing anything. If the movement were crystallized into an organization, this last class, as well as those above them who retain relative degrees of passivity, would be able to be utilized for the movement: this would help the movement, and it would give people who feel they don’t have any role some concrete significance.
This extrapolation of leadership degrees and the plotting of various individuals along its spectrum is not meant to be presented here and now as a definitive science; the placement of many individuals above or below others is to a great extent a subjective process, and people would reasonably disagree here and there. Only the principle is being established, by which some individuals are exercising more of a leadership role than others. The transition of the movement into an organization would clarify the ambiguities and amorphous nature of this, more or less determining degrees of leadership officially, assigning them by majority vote to certain individuals and, through the broader adumbration of a hierarchical and horizontally multifaceted structure of various offices, would assume in itself as organization as a whole many of the functions of leadership heretofore shouldered in rather slapdash fashion by individuals while the movement was still inchoate.
Finally, if and when the movement makes the transition into an organization, the question of ultimate leadership will come up. In my view, a “President” of the organization should not be someone like Spencer, because it would take too much time away from the work he does. The person elected to head the organization as a whole should be able to devote all of his or her time to being the face of the organization—its ultimate spokesperson and representative. Such a “President” should be above all adept at public relations, which would entail the following qualities: he should be charismatic, personable, assertive yet always of an even mellow temperment, a quick thinker on his feet, cleverly politically correct in superficial appearance while of course solidly politically incorrect in substance, and intelligent enough to ground the glib sound bites which he must have at his fingertips in substantive knowledge of all the important talking points revolving around the problem of Islam.
And, of course, as suggested above, this “Presidential” style leadership would not be a dictatorship: much of the substance and form of the leadership of the organization would be spread out among various levels and individuals, both hierarchically and horizontally, through unremarkable mechanisms of more or less democratic processes.