Friday, December 26, 2008

Frontpage dragged down by a PC MC undertow







I used to support Frontpage without reservation. Over the past few months, however, I have been increasingly dismayed by its tendency to show signs of PC MC
mostly in terms of the Great Brown Hopei.e., the hope that a sufficient number of Muslims around the world will become (or already are) reformists and, as such, will help to save us from the problem of Islam. The list of Muslim reformers displayed on the lower left of the front page of Frontpage is just one example of this tendency, about which I have written before, here and here.

One of the major problems with Frontpage lies with the opinions of its main editor, Jamie Glazov. More evidence of this I noticed was supplied in a Jihad Watch comments thread by a reader, Wild Jew.

Basically, I see this phenomenon as exhibiting a specific dynamic of asymptotic analysis, what in my title I refer to as the undertow. Asymptotic analysis inhabits an unstable field bounded at both ends, so to speaktop and bottomby two vectors. The upper vector draws the asymptotic analyst toward the holistic position. The lower vector exerts a drag that not only tends to prevent him from graduating to the holistic position, but also tends to pull him down into the field belowthat of PC MC. Most asymptotic analysts seem to resist the pull of both vectors, maintaining a kind of limbo in between (which many of them seem to interpret as a kind of realistic centrism or an actually ethical stance short of the dreadful slippery slopeor sometimes a more or less incoherent mishmash of both realism and ethics). Most often, the asymptotic analysts are not occupying the same exact coordinate on the asymptotic spectrum, but rather seem to be apportioned out, some relatively closer to the holistic position, some relatively closer to PC MC.

Daniel Pipes is rather on the low end, sometimes accruing an aura of being asymptotic only by virtue of the opprobrium he earns from the PC MC crowd. Both he and Frontpage, I tentatively conclude, in effect have succumbed to the undertow and, at best, their legs are being pulled under into the PC MC depthif they have not entirely acclimated themselves to that murky, subaquatic environment already, swimming with the sharks, the Muslim reformers, whom they deem to be harmless fish or perhaps charming dolphins, but whose ravenous menace is all the more dangerous for their sirenic allure of an incredible mermaid that would draw the reckless to shipwreck.

At any rate, I have seen one too many disquieting remark or essay on Frontpage, and for what its worth (probably just a symbolic gesture, but principled nonetheless), I can no longer in good conscience support them, since I must take a stand for what in my estimation is not pulling our civilization down but what must be done to keep it afloat out of the water, on board the H.M.S. Hesperado, avoiding the titanic mistake of trusting any Muslim at all. And in that spirit I have hereby eliminated my link to Frontpage (which I had named “alternative news”) from my blogroll here.

What this portends for Robert Spencer
with his close relationship to David Horowitz who captains the helm of Frontpage (and, for that matter, for Horowitz and Jamie Glazov too)—is unclear at the moment, during which, suspended as we in the anti-Islamic movement are in relatively inchoate incoherence, it is difficult to tell just where the Gentlemen's Agreement of silence begins, and where a useful line in the sand ends.

Update:

For more analysis on the Pipes Dream variant of Glazovianism, see my comment to the reader
Anonymous” in the comments section below.

To read part 2, click here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of the major problems with Frontpage lies with the opinions of its main editor, Jamie Glazov.

This is in my opinion particularly evident in the article "Sued For Terror Watching" from October last year, in which Glazov gives the usual PC responses to the remarkably no-nonsense remarks about Islam made by Bruce Tefft, the Director of CRA's Threat Assessment Center.

Erich said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for that link. It contains many juicy morsels clearly showing that Glazov has indeed succumbed to the "undertow" as described in my essay. The essay also reminds me of Bruce Tefft, whose name had slipped my mind lately, and who may well be an actual holistic analyst (surpassing that apparently pseudo-holist, Bill Warner).

Here are some of the comments by Glazov set off in italics, interspersed with my remarks:

there are elements of Islam itself that inspire terror and that Islamic terror therefore is an outgrowth of Islam and cannot be washed away without a re-haul of Islam itself.

So far, this resembles asymptotic analysis (and we can see an echo of Spencer's "elements of Islam are the problem", not Islam itself).

At the same time, when facing our enemy, surely it is crucial to use terms such as "Islamofascism" or "radical Islam" to understand and confront the enemy because what we are facing is also a political movement and definitely not an entire religion or every Muslim.

Here, Glazov demonstrates an ignorance of the unique fusion of politics and religion in Islam, making his distinction worthless. He is superimposing a Western model upon the Muslim world, and categorizing the Muslims who are doing mischief as "political" Muslims, and the Muslims who are apparently doing no mischief as "religious" and therefore as probably harmless (if not, indeed, our viable allies against the "political" Muslims). In fact, this distinction of Glazov is not really worthless -- it is positively harmful to us. Again, though, unfortunately, this could still be asymptotic, on the low end of the scale.

Let us remember that millions of Muslims were and are victims, just like we are, of the radicals and fanatics in their midst. Many of them want to defeat the Islamo-fascists just as much as we do and it would be crazy and self-destructive for us not to ally ourselves with them.

This in my view crosses the line, or descends too far, from asymptotic to PC MC. Glazov has moved from merely categorizing the apparently harmless multitudes of Muslims with a superimposition of the Western model, to endowing these multitudes with a status of victimhood (which they would share with us Infidels, the main targets of jihad), and beyond that further to conferring upon these "millions" the function and honor of being our allies in solving the horrendous problem of Islam.

Glazov then goes off on a pointless tangent about the derivation of the term “Islamo-fascism”:

Let’s also keep in mind that the term “Islamo-fascism” was created by moderate Algerian Muslims who were being terrorized by Islamic fanatics who sought to impose Sharia law in Algeria.

Here, as elsewhere, Glazov commits the elementary and simplistic error of assuming that if a sociopolitically diseased population has internal victims, those internal victims must not be part of the dysfunctional nourishment of the disease. And Glazov goes further, as noted above, in elevating these co-dependent victims of the disease into our allies. This is flawed even absent the other major problem: our inability to sufficiently distinguish the genuinely harmless Muslim from the deceptively harmless but really (in one degree or another) dangerous Muslim; an inability due not solely to the Islamic culture of deception, but also due to uniquely complex sociological features of Islamic culture whereby there subsists a co-dependence among passive Muslims and more actively dangerous Muslims -- a co-dependence on various levels, from the psychological, to the sociological, to the more concrete levels of communications networks, propaganda, and facilitation in a variety of ways of different forms of jihad operations.

Glazov continues:

And the term is historically based – since radical Islam is linked to fascism. After all, Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (from which today’s radical Muslim groups descend) was an open admirer and supporter of Adolf Hitler -- as was the principal theorist of the modern jihad, Sayyid Qutb.

Glazov here is implying that our problem with Islam is modern because infused with inspiration from Western fascism and Nazism, and thus is not essential to Islam itself, but somehow a historical accident. This too would make easier our project of finding "millions" of allies from the ocean of Islam -- allies who are true "religious" Muslims as opposed to those who are twisting Islam to suit their "political" goals.

Then Glazov incoherently lurches in another direction by which we can exculpate and avail ourselves of these "millions" of potential Muslim allies. He iterates the Spencer template for articulating the problem with those "elements" of Islam that cut deep into its center (but somehow strangely manage, in the perspective of both Glazov and Spencer, at least sometimes when they advert to this problem, to leave Islam itself unscathed):

In any case, without doubt there is a serious problem with the theological roots of Islam, since the instruction for all believers to wage war against all unbelievers in found in the Qur'an in Suras such as 9:29 and 9:5. All the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the umma to subjugate the non-Muslim world through jihad. And yes, Islam rejects the separation of Church and State. So definitely, as you suggest, Islam itself and what it teaches is a serious problem."

So if now "Islam itself" is the problem, then our Muslim salvation will be Muslims who are less Islamic!

But much of our hope lies in those Muslims who want -- and practice -- a relaxation of their theological beliefs and who seek to lead some kind of reformation in their religion and cancel out the calls for violent jihad in their religious texts etc.

This tends to contradict his previous paradigm by which it was only the politicized Muslims who were the problem, not the "religious" Muslims. Now Glazov is superimposing another Western model upon Muslims, closely related to the previously mentioned superimposition: that religion undergoes progress of reform and through that reform becomes more and more secularized and "relaxed". Glazov has no evidence for the validity of such a superimposition: at best, we simply have the evidence of multitudes of Muslims currently not doing any mischief. Worse than that, we have a tiny minority of Muslims expressing sentiments that sound to us more or less vaguely reformist (and sound like music to the ears of the naive among us like Glazov); but which on closer inspection turn out to be strangely incoherent, due either to some form of psychopathy, or to deception on their part, or perhaps a combination of the two.

Whether or not this can be done remains the painful and agonizing question, seeing erasing large segments of Islamic teaching, and overturning 1,400 years of history, is by no means an easy task.

More important than whether this fantastic process of Muslims sufficiently reforming Islam so that they can help us solve the problem of their own Islam is "painful" and "agonizing", is whether it is realistic or not, and whether even holding it out as a viable hope is not rather to be perilously counter-productive to our primary concern for safety in the decades ahead.

Tefft then interposes some common sense:

I understand what you say, and I've heard this argument before: "radical" Muslims kill and terrorize other Muslims as well so they must be different from the "moderates" that they are terrorizing. I don't think so. As with any group of human beings, there are factions in Islam and personal ambitions and petty egos of various leaders which will them to power. So there are conflicts between Muslims as well as between Muslims and everyone else. However, those Muslims killing other Muslims (which is forbidden in the Koran) do not view the "others" as true Muslims but rather as 'takfir' or apostates, thus not true Muslims and therefore subject to the same killing as the rest of us.

Like Nazism, Islam is an ideology one chooses to adhere to. Were there "good" or "moderate" Nazis? If not, then no one can claim that there are good or moderate Muslims as they are voluntarily subscribing to an ideology that advocates murder, torture and jihad and does not permit its follower to cherry-pick which parts they believe in. The requirement to accept the Koran as the literal word of God also carries with it the obligation to accept it all. And as you say, the Koran instructs all Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims and all schools of Islamic thought instruct the subjugation of the non-Muslim world through jihad. Therefore, I do not believe it wise to attempt to create artificial distinctions between Muslims that don't really [exist?] as far as their attitudes towards non-Muslims is concerned.

As the prime minister of Turkey recently said: There is no radical nor moderate Islam. That is an insult to Muslims. There is only Islam.

We may wish to give Muslims the benefit of doubt, due to our humanistic and liberalized Western way of thinking. But treating the enemy as we wish they were, than as they are, will only lead to our ultimate defeat.

I would slightly massage Tefft's last statement thusly:

"But treating the enemy as we wish they were, rather than as what our limitations in knowledge force us to conceive, will only lead to our ultimate defeat."

Glazov responds this time with recourse to the Pipes template:

Well sir, again, it is not Muslims that are the problem. Islam is the problem. There are many Muslims who want a modernized and democratic Islam – Salim Mansur, Thomas Haidon, Kamal Nawash and Mustafa Akyol are among them.

Not only is this template flawed, but every time a pitiful handful of Muslims are trotted out as poster children for the "reformist" who is not only "not the problem" but represents our salvation from that problem, the names offered do not stand up to scrutiny. The names Glazov offers here present various combinations of the following problems:

1) they represent a pathetically small sub-minority among Muslims (cf. Kamal Nawash's attempt at a reformist Muslim rally in Washington, D.C., that resulted in a only a few people showing up, mostly non-Muslims).

2) the Islam they articulate bears no resemblance to the Islam that is massively the problem now, and which has been a problem for all its geopolitical neighbors for 1400 years right back to Mohammed. In effect, as Hugh Fitzgerald has put it, they concoct their "own private Islam", which will have negligible traction among the vast majority of Muslims, insufficient for the role Glazov, in his painful and agonizing hope, confers upon it.

3) These Muslims continue, in one way or another, to revere the Koran and Mohammed, which makes them either psychopathic or deceivers (the third exculpatory explanation, that they are ignorant of the Koran and Mohammed, won't fly) -- neither one a good basis on which to build a workable alliance. And the ones who try to gymnastically contort themselves into a simultaneous reverence for the Koran and cherrypicking of its bad parts (the group Muslims Against Sharia) are even more preposterous and useless.

4) And sometimes a little scratching on the moderate patina of a given Muslim proferred as our hope yields sinister darkness beneath, as with one of the Muslims on Glazov's little list -- Mustafa Akyol (as with his unabashed and enthusiastic support for Fethullah Gulen whose statements in prior years, about how the Muslim seeking to conquer the world needs to pretend to be moderate in order to deceive so that the jihad project may be facilitated, have never been repudiated (not that repudiating them would really make a difference anyway)).

And these reformers and moderates oppose the extremists in their religion just as much as any one us.

Perhaps "just as much", but certainly not in the same way as we do -- and that is key, as articulated in points 1-4 above.

...yes, there is a big question if the Islam with Islam taken out of it can remain an Islam at all. But there is a verse in the Qur’an (2:256) which states: "There is no compulsion in religion." As Daniel Pipes has pointed out, this verse, though very complicated in the many interpretations surrounding it, can serve as a foundation to a more enlightened Islam.

Again, Glazov and Pipes are superimposing the Western model of religious progress onto Islam, with no justification other than their anxious hope that it can, and/or must, be true.

Pipes profoundly notes that Islam can be what its believers make it, they “can decide afresh what jihad signifies, what rights women have, what role government should play, what forms of interest on money should be banned, plus much else.”

Pipes can "profoundly note" this, but all he is "profoundly noting" is what Islam "can be" -- not what it is likely to be. We do not have the luxury of sitting around waiting and hoping for what Muslims "can do" like the little engine that could. Too much is at stake. Our safety is our primary concern, and there are many ways in which concretizing the Pipes Dream will be positively reckless and dangerous for our safety.