Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hughperbole, or Hughbris?

No one in the Western world before the Second World War had any misunderstandings about Islam.

So declaims Hugh Fitzgerald today on Jihad Watch.

Previously on this blog, I have documented and analyzed three scholars who had significant misunderstandings about Islam, in 1942, and 1917, and 1849. (If Hugh were to quibble about the 1942 date as not being before the Second World War, he would be on thin ice.)

These scholars I found more or less by a random browsing among scholarly journalswhich indicates that more like them exist.

Furthermore, we have other voices from the past, such as Rousseau and Montaigne (or Sir Walter Scott, for that matter), who have written things around the subject of Islam too close to PC MC for comfort. And even Voltaire, who wrote a play much bandied as an anti-Mohammed play, intended that play more as a vehicle by which to pillory Western Christendomhis bête noire above all others.

s hyperbole here reflects a misunderstanding of the nature and dimensions of PC MCa misunderstanding he manifests in other ways as well, most egregiously in his reductive Esdrujulist explanation that actually only describes, but does not explain, the problem as one of mass stupidity, cupidity, rigidity; thus begging the question.


Westward Ho said...

Hi Hesp,

I thought you might appreciate Hugh's choice of phrasing in a comment today:

"That provides, at this point, a way to asymptotically approach the truth that our present leaders appear reluctant of stating directly. Very well, then: By indirections, find directions out."

At this article:

Don't think you get ignored. I'm certain many find your thinking helpful, even if not noted for endless patience with them.

Erich said...

Thanks Westward Ho,

Actually, however, I noted here as far back as June of 2006 that Hugh had used the word "asymptotic": in fact, that was the original impetus for me to develop the concept.

I wrote then:

I use it [the term "asymptotic"] because it has been used a few times by the remarkably erudite and perceptive co-contributor at Jihad Watch, Hugh Fitzgerald... It is not so much Mr. Fitzgerald’s mere use of the word asymptotic that is significant; it is the precise context of his use of it. What is asymptotic, according to Mr. Fitzgerald, is the learning curve of mainstream analysts and commentators when they regard the problem of Islam. The best of the lot, Mr. Fitzgerald has noticed, keep seeming to come closer and closer to seeing that the problem is Islam, and not some detachable part leaves Islam blameless. But even the best of the lot never quite get to the logical conclusion.

But here comes the rub -- which was the seed for my later project of critically analyzing both Spencer and Fitzgerald on my now retired "Jhad Watch Watch" blog:

I find it odd, therefore, that Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Spencer have shown themselves to be guilty of this very same asymptote: in statements they have made within one or another essay—as well as in interchanges they have condescended to have with a couple of members of the hoi polloi in the general population of the ‘town meeting’—they have made clear that they do not wish to condemn Islam qua Islam.

In the years since then, I have noticed that Hugh has gotten closer and closer to the holistic position, yet still remains not quite there: above all other analysts, Hugh most epitomizes the exact meaning of my term "asymptotic", which means, in my rather loose rendering, "getting closer and closer but never quite arriving." In recent times, Hugh seems to hover about a razor's edge away from crossing over to the holistic position. Such a phenomenon is almost more curious than the ones who are further, and more comfortably back in the middle zone of asymptotic analysis, and makes one wonder even more pressingly why he doesn't just make the leap -- which in his case should be a rather casual step that shouldn't strain any muscles or break a sweat.