Sunday, May 31, 2009
Jihad Watch and Jihad Watch Watch: One Year Later
A little over a year ago, on May 22 of 2008, I retired my other blog, Jihad Watch Watch.
That date itself marked a little over a year since the inception of that blog on May 15, 2007. All told, I wrote 136 essays during that year, the vast majority of them devoted to the effort of analytical critiques of various defects in the methodology, rhetoric and analysis of Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald, the two principal writers on Jihad Watch. A summary of these defects plus a list of links to various Jihad Watch Watch essays pertinent to them was adumbrated in this essay, Overview of my critiques of Jihad Watch (written on March 17, 2008).
In the last year since I retired that blog, I may have had occasion once in a blue moon on my main blog here, The Hesperado, to take pot shots at various features of Jihad Watch, but rarely as concerted and detailed as my critiques were when I devoted more time and effort to them. This is not, unfortunately, because Jihad Watch has in the intervening time amended the faults I noticed and analyzed.
Jihad Watch continues to be the best website for exposing and documenting the ever-growing mountain of fanaticism and atrocity that flows out of the Muslim world into our own like lava. Its increasing influence—and the increasing influence of Robert Spencer in terms of his presence in colloquiums, symposiums, and various media interviews—have made it one of the most important, if not the most important, communications center for the still inchoate anti-Islam movement. It is in the spirit of constructive criticism that I write this essay today, the same spirit in which I wrote all those essays at Jihad Watch Watch.
The “Overview” linked above contains a list of problematic characteristics of Jihad Watch. I here boil them down, omitting some while smoothing over some of the overlap, and introducing one or two I had not seen fit to focus on before:
1. Christian humanist agenda
A bias in favor of Christian neo-pacificism and/or Christian humanism in dealing with Islam.
This particular problem, however, remains rather minor on Jihad Watch, and one cannot discern much influence emanating out of Jihad Watch articles and editorial remarks that might serve to sway, or reinforce, this tendency among those in its readership predisposed to it (who seem to be a sizeable minority among the anti-Islam movement at large).
The major exception to this was the recent series on the Coptic priest, Father Zakaria Botros of Egypt, whose life’s work involves two things: exposing the evil and folly of Islam; and proselytizing to Muslims to try to save their souls for Christ. It is when the latter project becomes intertwined with our broader efforts of self-defense against Muslims that problems potentially arise, insofar as the Christian humanism involved would tend to soften the ruthlessness we need to cultivate on a collective scale. I have noticed this same penchant in Ali Sina, though from a secular atheist point of view, and more generally I have noticed this from various Arab Christians and Arab ex-Muslims. And of course Raymond Ibrahim is Egyptian: does he agree with Father Botros in this regard? He certainly never indicated he disagreed when he introduced each of the several parts of the series. It’s almost like it’s in their blood to want to protect Muslims on some level. Many white Christians who are not even corrupted by PC MC tend to think this way too.
But again, Jihad Watch thankfully has not been pushing this line very much, and it remains rather minor there.
2. Misunderstanding stealth jihad
A tendency to ignore the intrinsic and necessary symbiosis between violent jihad and stealth jihad.
This tendency has continued to manifest itself on Jihad Watch this past year. However, this tendency, while more frequent than #1 above and more important, is still relatively a minor occurrence there. (I did notice one good formulation in an editorial remark by Spencer about this, on July 15, 2008, but never before or since that time.)
3. Misunderstanding PC MC
A misapprehension of the nature and dimensions of PC MC, with a consequently simplistic understanding of PC MC.
This remains an important defect at Jihad Watch. As I have argued in dozens of essays here and on Jihad Watch Watch, since PC MC is the single most important and influential reason why the West continues to remain irrationally inept about the problem of Islam, it behooves us to try to understand the nature and dimensions of this phenomenon, the better to work toward changing it in the years, or decades, ahead.
One important feature of PC MC is its premier axiom of Reverse Racism—the single most important and influential reason why the West persists in whitewashing a monstrous and dangerous Islam along with its enablers, Muslims. This feature remains consistently misunderstood—when it is not ignored—at Jihad Watch.
4. Myopia to the Racial Component
Flowing from the last paragraph under #3 concerning Reverse Racism, the Jihad Watch leadership and its readership continue to purvey the “Islam is not a race” mantra which, while of course true on an abstract level, ignores two overwhelming facts that exert considerable force sociopolitically:
a) the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are non-whites and non-Westerners, and this triggers in the PC MC mind the appearance of racism whenever Muslims and their Islam are criticized (let alone condemned);
b) the fact that Reverse Racism is the single most important dynamic of the PC MC paradigm, thus explaining the irrational deference to Muslims on the part of PC MCs coupled with their irrational hostility to critics of Muslims.
5. Exaggeration of the Power and Influence of “Elites”
One major result of this misunderstanding of PC MC is the persistent penchant at Jihad Watch to exaggerate the power and influence of “Elites” in the West and consequently to minimize the problem of ordinary people who participate in the general illiteracy of Islam and who enable, both actively and passively, the whitewashing of Islam. This exaggeration of the power and influence of “Elites” in the West depends upon a caricature of evil Macchiavellians pulling the strings; and therefore all too readily invites notions of conspiracy theory of one flavor or another which, in turn, reflects a strangely impoverished appreciation for Western democracy. This major result seems quite popular among the readership at Jihad Watch, and therefore it would be helpful for Spencer & Co. to try to counteract it with a more sophisticated and intelligent awareness of the complexities of PC MC; but, of course, they cannot do this as long as they too are beholden to it.
6. Failure to support our European “fascists”
Spencer’s unfair treatment of certain European individuals and groups deemed to be “fascists” (e.g., Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang, and the pro-Cologne group).
The also remains an important defect at Jihad Watch. While the grotesque behavior of Charles Johnson recently provoked Spencer to moderate his non-positional position on Vlaams Belang and pro-Cologne, Spencer did not actually take a clear stand in favor of them (even though most of his friends and colleagues in the anti-jihad movement seem to have no problem doing so), and compounded this by not attending a pro-Cologne event in Europe after he had announced he was contemplating doing so, and then did not give a satisfactory explanation for why he decided at the last minute against doing so. He added insult to injury by failing at that time to propound clear and bold support for them. The people of the pro-Cologne group are risking their lives and their reputations by fighting the spread of Islam in their part of Europe, and they deserve unflinching and bold support, not gingerly tap-dancing around such support, as Spencer continues to do.
7. Lack of interest in organizing
Lack of concern for the development of an anti-Islam movement in terms of organization and transparency reflecting the virtue of democratic health.
I have written about this in terms of a curious “Gentleman’s Agreement” by which influential members who occupy a kind of unofficial role of de facto leadership of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement selectively censure some people (like Lawrence Auster) but not others (like Bruce Bawer, whose fault was far graver than Auster’s) but prefer to adjudicate the issues of appropriate internal criticism and clarification and operation of the parameters of a Manifesto or working ideology of the movement behind closed doors out of the view of the ordinary people of the movement, as though the latter were peasants, while they themselves are a small cadre of aristocrats, deserving the power to determine the scope and direction of the movement without much, if any, input from the ordinary members, and with virtually no transparency. (And when someone adverts to this problem, as I have done, they tend to be met with various irrational responses ranging from paranoia to arrogant derision.)
This lack of interest in organizing the still inchoate anti-Islam movement serves to retard the evolution of this most exigent sociopolitical phenomenon, and thus serves to retard the development of increased efficiency and influence for the movement. Many subsidiary projects of utmost importance remain unaddressed and undone because of this lack of organization—including the production of a definitive anti-Islam Apologetics Booklet.
8. Spencer’s continuing failure to condemn Islam and continued expectation of Muslims to change
Spencer continues to reiterate various forms of expectation from Muslims—expecting them to do what, exactly...? To start behaving in a civilized way after 1400 years of zealously doing otherwise?
And this in turn is connected to Spencer’s belief in the viability of the harmless Muslim. Since, as he agrees, there is no way for us to tell, with sufficient reliability, the difference between the dangerous Muslim and the harmless Muslim, the latter becomes worthless and therefore pragmatically non-existent for our purposes of self-defense. And yet Spencer continues to tap-dance in mid-air from an untenable position of simultaneously acknowledging our quandary of not being able to tell the difference between the dangerous Muslim and the harmless Muslim, while continuing to factor the existence of the latter into our calculations and continuing to voice helpful expectations from them.
A bold condemnation of Islam—despite whatever sugar & honey ingredients it might contain and despite how much “diversity” it manifests—combined with following the logic of our quandary of not being able to tell the difference between the dangerous Muslim and the harmless Muslim—should lead Spencer at the very least to stop formulating ridiculous editorial remarks that, to the degree they are influential, only serve to muddy the waters when we need more clarity.
This is probably the most important defect on the list. Toward the end of my now retired Jihad Watch Watch blog, it occupied most of my time and effort. The last 15 to 20 essays there delve into various features of this problem in meticulous and massive detail. Its latest manifestation on Jihad Watch, only yesterday, is what pushed me over the edge to decide to publish this essay here. I had been unsure whether I wanted to revisit my criticisms of Jihad Watch in this overview at all, but seeing that particular editorial remark by Spencer—only the latest in many over the months—was the sufficient, proverbial straw. The article in question concerns some “moderate Muslims” in the UK who recently took their more “extremist” brethren to task for supposedly misinterpreting the just and peaceful nature of Islam.
Spencer’s introductory editorial remark was a succinct masterpiece of incoherent self-contradiction:
This is good to see, and it is the sort of thing we should have been seeing much, much more of all over the Western world if the conventional wisdom about Islamic terrorism being the result of the hijacking of the religion by a Tiny Minority of Extremists™ really were true.
The first two clauses express the reward of the expectation from Muslims to do the right thing: what these “moderate Muslims” in this instance have done is “good to see”. And being “good to see”, it is what “we should have been seeing much, more of”—obviously implying that seeing it would have been “good” for us and our goal of trying to manage the problem of Islam. Thus the expectation that Muslims can do something—indeed, something “good”—to help us solve the problem their Islam is causing us. Of course, Muslims can do nothing to help us, since anything they do, no matter how coated with sugar & honey, is fatally vitiated by the problem of Islamic deception and our inability to tell with sufficient reliability when they are not trying to deceive us. And this isn’t merely an abstract rule to govern our ongoing attitude, or a mere extrapolation from medieval Islamic texts: it is regularly substantiated as part of the mountain of damning evidence about Muslims in the news which Jihad Watch publishes daily—which mountain is, in fact, the raison d’être of Jihad Watch.
Now notice, to get back to Spencer’s formulation, how after the first two clauses, from the point of the pivotal “if” forward, we have Spencer effectively undermining his own first two clauses:
...if the conventional wisdom about Islamic terrorism being the result of the hijacking of the religion by a Tiny Minority of Extremists™ really were true.
This third and final clause by Spencer unequivocably implies that it is not true that Islamic terrorism is the result of the hijacking of Islam by a tiny minority of extremists. If it is not true, then that means that Islamic terrorism is the result of Islam itself. Spencer, however, remains unwilling to condemn Islam itself as dangerously violent. He thus remains committed to an incoherent position that simultaneously damns Islam implicitly, while officially refusing to damn Islam explicitly. The third and final clause by Spencer, then, effectively vitiates his first two clauses that finds this demonstration by these “moderate Muslims” to be a “good” thing—good enough, furthermore, that we should be looking for it from Muslims at large.
This is only one example out of innumerable similar ones I have noticed over the past year, but for the most part have bitten my tongue and refrained from calling attention to them on my blog. For example, another recent article on Jihad Watch contained this editorial remark from Spencer, in which he is making this observation about Muslim groups who condemned the recent terror plot in the Bronx of New York City:
It would be more reassuring if they were unequivocally condemning attempts to impose Sharia, whether by terrorism or other means, onto non-Muslim countries, and declaring that they believed in living with non-believers as equals in a secular society on an indefinite basis.
Obviously, if one thinks it would be “more reassuring” if Muslims refined the sweet nothings of their taqiyya to say what we want to hear, one is lending credibility to such taqiyya. If Spencer were called on this, he would undoubtedly try to talk his way out of the corner he has painted himself into. The only logical position for us Infidels is that there is nothing Muslims can say that will ever “reassure” us—much less be “more reassuring”.
And just today, Spencer editorialized, with reference to an impending book to be published about the oppression of women in Islam and a feared backlash of “outrage” by Muslims over the book:
And the response Muslim women deserve is not outrage at the book, but reform...
Muslim women deserve reform!? Aside from the glaring problem that this little slip of Spencer’s implies a belief in the viability of Islamic “reform”, there is another closely related and no less unacceptable problem with his editorial remark: As far as we Infidels are concerned, the only rational view of Muslim women is that they are our implacably fanatical enemy, even if the fanaticism of many of them is only in the mode of passively co-dependent enabling of the dangerous disease of Islam. As for that indeterminable number of Muslim women who might be genuinely harmless victims, unfortunately, the same iron rule applies to them as applies to all Muslims: we cannot tell with sufficient reliability the difference. It appears that Spencer still doesn’t get the logical conclusion of this rule, even though otherwise, in that special mid-air place where he tap-dances like Fred Astaire, he agrees with it.
I continue to respect Jihad Watch enormously as the single best expositor of the Mountain of Dangerous Shit™ being produced daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and throughout the centuries by Muslims all over the world.
I continue to fault Jihad Watch, however, for failing to extrapolate certain important logical conclusions from this Mountain of Dangerous Shit™.