Saturday, May 09, 2009
The "Gentlemen's Agreement of Silence" Redux
Beginning a little over eight months ago, I published a series of essays here on a curious phenomenon I began to notice in the still inchoate anti-Islam movement, at least among its aristocratic members who seem to constitute a kind of informal and unofficial elite leadership.
That phenomenon which I noticed involved what I termed a “Gentlemen’s Agreement of Silence”—whereby when the thorny issue reared its ugly head of whether or not certain European anti-jihad movements are, or are not, “fascist” as some people alleged, these elite leaders meet, so to speak, behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room, out of sight of the rest of us peons and peasants, to decide what to do and how to publically respond.
As part of the oddity of this behavior among this elite leadership, their back-room discussions in their smoke-filled room never seem to result in a public expression of what they decided: they remain silent about this important aspect of this thorny issue—the aspect being, a clear and public avowal of where everybody stands with respect to the alleged “fascism” of certain European anti-jihad groups, followed by a frank public continuation of the discussion in public by which disagreements can be clarified, persuasion can be attempted, and differences can become crystallized for all to see. Without the discussion enjoying the open air and sunshine of free debate, the intellectual health and growth of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement will suffer.
Another twist of the oddity of this phenomenon involves the strangely selective stances—or stances by default of not taking a stance—concerning various individuals of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement and the strange contortions these selective stances can take. To take one example of many: Diana West can support Vlaams Belang, Robert Spencer can support Diana West while treating Vlaams Belang like a leper colony, Diana West continues to support Robert Spencer, Charles Johnson vilifies Vlaams Belang, Robert Spencer chooses not to notice and comment on Charles Johnson (this was back over eight months ago, before Charles Johnson forced the issue through his brute behavior), Charles Johnson more or less condemns Diana West, Robert Spencer continues to look the other way; etc.
About all these facets of the phenomenon as it stood eight months ago (and structurally the phenomenon remains as odd today as it was then) I wrote several essays:
One quick splash of Cologne...
What a tangled cobweb we weave: Let the sun shine in
The Gentlemen’s Agreement of Silence
We’re all racists—except when we’re not
I do not intend today to reprise the analyses in those essays.
Today I only note the latest permutation of the oddity of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement of Silence”.
It involves the fact that Bruce Bawer, a respected member over the years of the informal and unofficial elite leadership of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement, published an essay on May 6 on his blog which came down in support of Charles Johnson, which Charles Johnson immediately published on his Little Green Footballs blog.
The context of this support of Charles Johnson by Bawer could not be more vividly trenchant, as it comes so soon on the heels of Charles Johnson’s monstrous rupture with the anti-jihad movement only a few weeks ago that crashed and burned in melodramatically sputtering green flames like a dying Godzilla amid the high-rise edifices and circling planes of that movement. Thus, we are not merely talking about a minor disagreement, and a modestly polite posture of solidarity concerning some tangential and relatively less important point of contention about some subsidiary issue. We are talking about a major player in the movement publically expressing his support of another major player after the latter became grotesquely divisive.
And, beyond the context, we have the substance: the position of Charles Johnson with which Bawer is so recklessly expressing solidarity is the position of a paranoid Orwellian misuse of the term “fascist” by which to smear and vilify valiant members of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement in Europe who are risking their lives and reputations as they fight, virtually alone among their dhimmified fellow Europeans, the growing infiltration of Islam in Europe.
Now, concerning the strangely selective silence of this “Gentlemen’s Agreement”, we have frank and public discussions about Charles Johnson a few weeks ago, when he forced the issue by publishing brutely candid vilifications and smears of “fascist” support of all those who not only clearly support those supposedly “fascist” European groups (particularly Vlaams Belang and pro-Cologne), but also and with equal ferocity those who show the slightest hint of possibly supporting them. Charles Johnson brutely lumped Robert Spencer—who always has tried to remain fastidiously aloof from the fray by affecting a non-positional position with regard to those “fascist” European groups—in with those who more clearly support them, such as Diana West, Gates of Vienna, Fjordman, and Michelle Malkin, among others. Thus, Spencer’s careful and gingerly approach—of irresponsible skepticism and indefinite suspension of the responsibility of taking a stand either for or against those supposedly “fascist” European groups—did him no good in the end: Charles Johnson didn’t care how gingerly Spencer was: in Charles Johnson’s brutely simplistic mind, Spencer was equally guilty of supporting “fascism” as the others are.
All this concerning Charles Johnson was aired publically and frankly and with timely alacrity over the last few weeks, and with lots of discussion and analysis. Often almost immediately after every Charles Johnson missive went out, Spencer would have a response on Jihad Watch. Gates of Vienna also participated in this public discussion, as did Fjordman, Andrew Bostom, Diana West, and others (although Michelle Malkin and Daniel Pipes, for example, seem to have remained curiously aloof).
Now comes along Bruce Bawer, publishing an essay two days ago (May 6) essentially in support of Charles Johnson on this issue, and there is mostly only silence from the elite leadership. Spencer has had nothing about it, yet continues to provide a link on the blogroll on the main page of Jihad Watch to Bawer’s blog. Meanwhile, Gates of Vienna had a brief elliptical mention of Bawer enfolded in a larger seemingly distracting context by Andrew Bostom buried in their “News Feed” feature, reproduced verbatim from Bostom’s own blog.
A Google search of “bruce bawer” specifying the Gates of Vienna URL yields many essays published on Gates of Vienna that use Bawer’s observations and analyses in an approving manner. A small sampling includes essays such as here, here, here (rather apt in the context of my essay today seeing as how it involves Bawer’s support of Geert Wilders), here, here, here (again a piquant context where Fjordman is citing Bawer in terms of a larger discussion of Charles Johnson already back at the time in November of 2007 beginning to smear people such as Paul Belien with insinuations of charges of “fascism”), here (where Bodissey writes of “Hizbullah supporter Andreas Malm write brain-dead articles on the “Rise of Islamophobia” in Europe caused by Bat Ye’or, Mark Steyn and Bruce Bawer, among others…”), here (an interview with the Danish historian Lars Hedegaard who puts Bawer in the same company as “Ibn Warraq, Bat Ye’or, Kurt Westergaard, Daniel Pipes, Roy Brown, Chahdortt Djavann, Shabana Rehman, Samia Labidi, Bruce Bawer, Henryk Broder, and anyone who is in fear for his or her life" and who adds that "Copenhagen gives them a hearty welcome”), and here (where Fjordman in an article praising Lars Hedegaard approvingly quotes at length from Bawer’s meeting with Hedegaard). These only scratch the surface of Gates of Vienna mentions of Bawer, none of which seem to be critical at all, and most of which presume him to be a useful member of the anti-jihad movement.
It is particularly egregiously disingenuous of Baron Bodissey to try, in his curt response to me (see below), to distance himself from Fjordman in the context of trying to convey the impression that Gates of Vienna has been affecting a Spencerianly neutral, if not diffident, posture with regard to Bruce Bawer, as though Fjordman doesn’t speak for Gates of Vienna, when Gates of Vienna has prominently featured many Fjordman essays over the years, and when Baron Bodissey himself wrote in November of 2007:
Fjordman is one of the finest minds of the Counterjihad, and possibly the single best synthesizer of jihad-related information that we have. It has been a great honor to be able to present his writings here, and we will continue to post whatever he sends us.
The only person who has put forth a clear public notice of this Bawer problem and has offered an analysis of it has been Lawrence Auster on his blog, who posted his article about it on May 7, 12:45 p.m. Auster’s analysis is good within the confines of his delimitation of it (though here and there a bit tendentiously veering off onto his not entirely coherent anti-secular bias), but he misses the larger picture of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement of Silence” and its odd contortions. As Auster, however, has become a kind of persona non grata among the informal and unofficial elite leadership of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement, his public mention of this doesn’t really count as evidence that this movement has taken appropriate notice of Bawer.
Ironically, but fitting in with the logical contortions of this problem, that same elite leadership—particularly Robert Spencer—publically ostracized Auster for faults far less serious and far less egregious than what Bawer in one little article has done; and yet they leave Bawer untouched. Auster’s only real crime was to be stubbornly annoying in pressing his differences with Spencer in analytical approach (and, of course, to dare to persistently criticize and differ from the apparently untouchable Spencer in the first place). While Auster may have been annoying at times, he always maintained a mature and intelligent deportment. Bawer in his little article also maintains a mature and ostensibly intelligent deportment, but the substance of his article is the problem: coming down decidedly in Charles Johnson’s favor. I am not necessarily calling on the elite leadership of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement to summarily declare Bawer anathema. All I am calling on them to do is move the problem out of their smoke-filled back rooms where peons and peasants of the movement are not permitted access, and bring it out into the sunshine of frank discussion.
When yesterday I posted a comment at the Gates of Vienna blog (picking an article there on the pro-Cologne movement as an appropriately on-topic location for this issue), I received a typically snooty and rude response from Baron Bodissey, who seems incapable of maintaining an objectively neutral comportment when responding to questions and/or comments—even questions and comments such as mine that were worded maturely and intelligently.
I reproduce my comment and his response here, as it helps to flesh out some of the points involved:
My comment (posted May 8, 2009, at 5:42 PM):
I wonder why Gates of Vienna and Robert Spencer have been silent about the recent stand of Bruce Bawer in line with Charles Johnson and against fellow anti-Jihadists, with specific regard to European “fascism”.
Lawrence Auster seems to be the only one who noticed this and who applies appropriate analysis to it.
Auster's analysis, however, misses some of the further perverse wrinkles to this phenomenon reflected by, among other things, the above-mentioned curious silence, as well as by Spencer's and GOV's continued support—at least tacitly—of Bawer: Spencer retains Bawer's blog link on the blog roll of the main page of Jihad Watch; and a cursory Googling of Gates of Vienna articles about, or referencing Bruce Bawer shows no substantive cricitism of him. The only mention of Bawer's recent statement I could find on GOV was buried in a little article by Andrew Bostom as part of the regular “News Feed” feature (this one for the date of 5/7/09) in which, after one scrolls down past other unrelated articles, one finds Bostom mentioning Bawer's “recent apoplectic posting (www.brucebawer.com/ Thursday, May 6, 2009, 9:28 P.M) ostensibly referring to the same subject matter...” The reader would have had trouble seeing that this little article was in fact about Bawer, as nothing in the title or the vast majority of the text indicated so.
If Bruce Bawer were as insignificant a blogger as I am, I could understand this silence; but he's not, so I can't.
Baron Bodissey’s response (on May 8, 2009, at 9:36 PM):
Erich, as I have repeatedly mentioned in the past: you are not privy to all the private correspondence that passes back and forth between the owners of this blog and other parties. My advice to you is, once again, not to bruise yourself jumping to conclusions.
You'll notice that I have never written about Bruce Bawer in the past. I haven't found his writings to be helpful to me, although Fjordman has used them—all the previous mentions of Bawer on this blog (except in the news feed) have been by Fjordman. If Fjordman has anything new to say on Bawer, I'm sure he will eventually do so.
The fact that I posted excerpts from Andy's piece in the news feed shows that I am well aware of what Bawer wrote, because I at least skim every item that appears in the news feed.
Beyond that you would be well-advised to draw no conclusions. I haven't mentioned the issue because it is not important enough, nor germane to any of the things I have been posting about.
My time these days is very limited, so I have to confine myself to significant topics.
If you find Bawer's piece compelling, then take heart! That is why God gave you your own blog.
I then posted a comment later, about two hours before I am typing this:
What conclusion did I jump to?
And if you “well advise” me not to draw any conclusions, does that mean there is no conclusion to be drawn?
And why is the still inchoate anti-Islam movement being conducted like a smoke-filled gentlemen's club from whose secret behind-the-scenes discussions among its aristocratic membership the rest of the people are excluded and those among them who, like me, have the temerity to probe with reasonable questions framed maturely and intelligently are given the bum's rush?
There are two problematic things about the still inchoate anti-Islam movement that come into relief from this latest episode:
1) It is being run informally and unofficially like a loose dictatorship, where a council of elite leaders of indeterminate number decides important matters behind closed doors.
The ostensible fact that the vast majority of ordinary members don’t seem to care about this state of affairs does not excuse it nor make it any more healthy as a way to run the business of the movement than it is.
Because, however, the movement is still inchoate, it suffers from a high degree of a lack of organization. This may partially explain why there are these back-room meetings deciding certain important issues: they may reflect as much an expedient, given the lack of any organizational apparatus by which to adjudicate problems, as they reflect opportunities to exploit by certain individuals out of personal ego, or simply irresponsible disregard for the opinions of their followers.
This deficiency of organization, however, is not a matter of an unavoidable natural formation: it is the result of conscious inaction for which persons are responsible, and thus the result of carelessness by all members of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement. And, because the unofficial and informal elite leadership has more influence and resources, they should bear more of the responsibility for their apparent lack of concern about organizing the movement. (Seeing how they have been comporting themselves, however, with their smoke-filled back-room decision-making, I’m not so sure they would be a reliable nucleus around which to begin to crystallize the movement into the structures of an organization—at least not until they come clean and demonstrate their willingness to operate democratically rather than dictatorially.)
2) Secondly, and closely related to the first problem, the still inchoate movement continues to pursue procedural behaviors that are unhealthy for a sociopolitical movement—particularly the tendency to suppress important issues and have them decided in smoke-filled back rooms by a small elite who are not accountable, rather than bringing these important issues out into the air and sunshine of public debate. This tendency may give the temporary illusion of proferring more control, and therefore strength, to those few elites who are privileged to exert that control; but in the end, as with all dictatorships, what seems to be strength is really an Achilles heel that (pardon the mix of metaphors) sooner or later will come home to roost.