Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The Persian Flu
There’s a new virus going around: it’s the Persian flu.
It is not surprising that the politically correct multi-culturalists would be infected. What is remarkable here is how much the virus has spread among the Anti-Islam population. Among the latter, symptoms include: a starry-eyed fever, a morally noble cough, a runny mind dribbling out the nose, and blurry vision due to seeing Iran through green-colored glasses.
Though not as physically debilitating as the Swine flu, nevertheless the Persian flu has the potential to be much more deadly, in the long run, opening up a well of sympathy and hope in its victim for the plight of millions of Muslims and the supposed “freedom and liberty and justice” for which those Muslims are standing and struggling.
Throughout this whole spasm of Iranian dissidence recently, only two analysts seem to have resisted the Persian flu and have kept their eye on the ball: Diana West and Lawrence Auster. Of the two, West is superior, while Auster’s analysis has some important peripheral flaws that tends to affect its substance. Furthermore and more importantly even, they (more especially West) have forcefully and with clarity stood up for the principle that one would think would be a no-brainer to all people who have chosen to be in the Anti-Islam Movement: namely, that a demonstration or a revolution by a mass of Muslims is never a good thing, much less is it a harbinger of the democratization of millions of Muslims—though it can have limited pragmatic geopolitical functions which the West can exploit if it uses its head.
Neither West or Auster has gone quite as far as I have—namely, to base the condemnation on the skepticism itself in terms of a principle of prejudice against Islam and against all Muslims and not sit anxiously by the daily news awaiting each new development with more and more hope that this mass movement of Muslims, finally, of all mass movements throughout history, is the one that shows substantial massive signs of a true development of “freedom and liberty”. Nevertheless, both (and more especially West) have shown sufficiently strong and healthy skepticism to make their positions, practically speaking, tantamount to mine.
It is this virtue—of standing with forceful clarity to explicitly condemn the Iranian demonstrators along with their oppressors (reserving the pragmatic usefulness of the former to our strategic needs, of course)—where Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has failed in his function of providing pedagogy to his readership and to his admirers in the Anti-Islam Movement. A disturbing number of the latter are showing increasing signs and symptoms of the Persian flu. One wonders what they would do if their unofficial leader took a bold stand like Diana West. I think it would have a salutary effect on them, and provide a much needed splash of cold water on their ridiculously idealistic, fevered brows. As it is, Spencer’s tap-dancing diffidence (at which he has proven himself to be a polished expert on other related issues) on this issue only seems to serve to encourage the Jihad Watchers over whom his influence has become tremendous—and usually deservedly so.
And I notice now that it is only getting worse on Jihad Watch. The Persian flu is spreading, and the symptoms are getting more serious. Just recently, Spencer put up an article headed by a video of more jackbooted oppression from the regime against the demonstrators, and Spencer titled it with righteously aggrieved solemnity: The police vs. the people of Iran. This time, there is, unusually, no commentary at all from Spencer. Just that solemn title, and the still photo from the video. Almost like a grave moment of silence.
And the Jihad Watchers in the comments section are really laying it on thick:
“Czechmade” writes (not entirely coherently, but the reader gets the idea):
Once Irans opens we will get billions of stories supporting our claims and flushing the PV MC speeches and our media. There will be an evidence that islam is unable to rule supreme even in its own lands. There are many fronts opening for our benefit. Think purely in strategic ways and study some Iranica to be able to envolve them maximum in things non-islamic. Already at this stage the whole thing is a heavy blow to islam, to the spread of islam in the West and Obamas silly foreign policy.
“Isabella” manages to be even more ludicrously and romantically rapturous:
To all the praying people out there, please, please pray for the Iranian people, that they will have the strength to overcome and prevail against this evil. I believe in them and I believe in us. Don't think we can't do anything; we most certainly can. I remember my mom telling me a story about when the Communists were driving their tanks down the streets of Chile several decades ago, ready to take over the country and crush anyone who resisted and the mothers grabbed their Rosaries and took to the streets, praying loudly. Inexplicably the Communists turned around and left. Inexplicably. Uh-huh. We can do the same. Right now the Iranian people are free. They are telling the Mullahs and the midget loudly and clearly that they don't want to be ruled at gunpoint anymore. They may be getting their heads bashed in and they may be dying but they are living their lives on their own terms. Please, let's help them to be strong by asking God to keep them safe and help them to overthrow the insanity that has kept them down for 30 years now.
Not sure exactly what I'm seeing, but clearly the bad guys are in black. They have black uniforms, black jackboots, black face masks. They swarm like Nazis on black motorcycles, einsatzgruppen, looking for prey to swoop down on and devour. Weaving in and out of the black motorcyle gangs are the devout Muslims in white shirts brandishing clubs who seem to be moving in concert with them. Puffs of red that could be smoke or blood or both and patches of green for the good guys always moving fast and seemingly on the run. What a sick Orwellian vision. Beyond sick. Morbid.
“Muhammed Bear” writes:
I think the people demonstrating are incredibly brave; having to cope with sniper fire, acid being poured on them and whatever other vile torments that the Mullahs can conceive.
A slightly more sensible comment comes from “the_poetess”—though it is ultimately undermined by her romanticization of the “Persian people”:
...the Persians have resisted for so many years and are still resisting the islamic cancer of cultural annihilation and submission to a lower civilization. The question is, have they become too tied to islam to see that it's the cause of their misery? Do they understand their real enemies are in Qom? That the russians aren't their friends and marxism is not the way out of their suffering? Until they understand these things, the valiant Persians will fight down through history, over and over again, all for naught.
Something is strangely missing from all these romantically Byronesque comments. Can the reader guess? It’s the gigantic elephant—or rather camel—in the room. All these Iranian “people” are Muslims. Suddenly, a mass movement of Muslims has become the object of sympathy and compassion by all these Jihad Watchers who ordinarily demonstrate a healthy (and therefore devastating) degree of skepticism about Islam and Muslims in general. What’s going on here? Why, it’s the Persian flu!
Not only has Spencer failed to step up to the plate here and provide some much needed direction to his Jihad Watchers, he has been curiously silent about the essays Diana West has written about the Iran Crisis. This is curious because in the past, over the span of many years, Spencer has often published articles highlighting a Diana West essay about this, that and the other thing relating to ongoing issues of Islam. And he has always warmly and with high praise introduced her to his readers.
For example, last year about the Sherry Jones novel about Mohammed story, he began his piece introducing West’s article:
Tell-it-like-it-is Diana West puts this story in better context.
Or, when in 2003 he recommended West’s take on the Vatican and Islam, he wrote:
This morning Diana West has a superb column on the Vatican's extraordinary new statement on Islam and dhimmitude...
Or, in his introduction to her article in 2006 on Bush and the war on terror, he wrote:
Here is the continuation of Diana West's superb proposal for recasting the "war on terror." Part I is here. West for President!
Or, in introducing a review by West of Bat Yeor’s Eurabia in 2005, he wrote:
From the superb Diana West in the Washington Times...
Or, in 2004, when he published an article by West on France and the veil, he wrote:
With her usual acuity and perceptiveness, Diana West explains what is really going on in France's ongoing headscarf controversy...
And Googling only yields more and more:
The ever-perceptive Diana West...
The ever-insightful Diana West...
One of the most clear-sighted and brave columnists on the scene today, Diana West...
Diana West has some acute and perceptive insights on Sharia and Iraq...
The inestimable Diana West once again speaks truth to the dhimmis in power.
And so forth.
Her absence in the halls of Jihad Watch during this entire Iran Crisis therefore becomes highly curious. As we noted, Spencer has apparently chosen to take his fastidiously gingerly non-positional position on the question of whether or not the Iranian demonstrators are worth endowing with anything other than the eminently rational distrust that should be accorded any group of Muslims who do anything that seems good. Is he holding back on recommending to his readers “the inestimable” and “superb” and “ever-insightful” Diana West in this case because she, unlike him, is taking a bold stand in condemning the demonstrators, and he doesn’t want that point of view given any air time on his blog? Or have Spencer and West had a falling out that, like most important things that go on with our unofficial and unelected leadership in the Anti-Islam Movement, seems to go on behind the closed doors of its aristocratic Gentlemen’s Club? If it is the latter, it would be most unfortunate for Spencer to translate some personal or moral or and/or ideological discord the two of them may have had into a stance that has the result of depriving his readership of, yes, in this case, the inestimable and superb Diana West.
In one of her articles on the Iran Crisis, she comes down firmly against the pro-Demonstrators in the West, wryly noting:
Ahistorical and illogical things have been been written by many observers of the Iranian election protests who, looking at what the evidence to date suggests is little more than an intra-Islamic power struggle, see a glorious revolution of liberty-loving secularists ready to propel Iran into the heart of the Western world. Maybe it's the blue jeans that confuse them.
She goes on to expose another of the leaders of the Demonstrators, besides the Only One Mentioned, Mousavi—namely, Mohsen Kadivar. And in the process she exposes the ridiculousness of columnist Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal who practically swoons like a teenage girl at Frank Sinatra over Kadivar.
The only fault I would find with West’s essays written to date on this issue is that she locates all blame for this perverse romanticization of the “Iranian people” on the MSM, whereas the Anti-Jihad Blogosphere itself has shown serious signs of the same problem, as I noted above. But in the larger scheme of things, this is a relatively minor flaw in her otherwise superb contributions to the discussion, and thus I would recommend, as Spencer usually does (but in this case has been strangely remiss):
“Read it all...”
In fact, I recommend a thorough reading of all of her essays on her blog about the current Iran crisis.
* * *
Meanwhile, Lawrence Auster has also been good in this regard, though with a couple of flaws. His recent article on his blog on the Iranian exile terrorist group opposed to the current regime, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), is an important addition to this discussion. In addition, his scathing critique of Daniel Pipes for his support of that terrorist group and its leaders, Maryam Rajavi and Massoud Rajavi, is also salutary.
Where Auster missteps involves two tendencies of his that here exert themselves and tend to undercut his value as an analyst and pedagogue in the Anti-Islam Movement:
1) First, as good as his instincts are about Islam, his rather not-up-to-snuff literacy about Islam tends to make him gullible to distracting explanations—as witness his uncritical swallowing, without any skepticism expressed, of a commenter on his blog, one “Ken Hechtman” who makes a string of assertions and rather elaborate inferences without providing a shred of proof: among the most egregious being—
The MEK is a breakaway faction of the old Iranian Communist Party. After the coup of 1953, they figured out Marxism wouldn't sell in Iran without a green coat of paint on it, so they put one on, thin and transparent though it might be. They are no more Muslim than you are. One of the give-aways is how much they hate the Sadrists in Iraq. The Sadrists really are the Marxist-Muslim fusion that the MEK pretends to be.
As a dryly beleaguered William F. Buckley told Phil Donahue after the latter perorated with some elaborate explanation (coincidentally regarding the taking of American hostages by Iranians in 1979) : “It would take a team of philosophers to unscramble that.” Hechtman’s biggest fault here is to assume that any group of zealously political Muslims could ever possibly become so thoroughly un-Islamic that their Islam is just a “green coat of paint” on their real motivations and aspirations. The rest of his assertions are amusingly recherché and, more importantly, unsubstantiated. To call the Sadrists a “Marxist-Muslim fusion”, for example, is preposterous: indeed, the “Marxist” part of their militia group is precisely what is a “coat of paint” (here, a red one) covering their fanatically politico-apocalyptic Islam, and most of the time they don’t even bother to apply new coats when the old one starts showing signs of wearing away. And Hechtman’s implication that the relative Marxism or lack thereof of either the MEK or Sadrists had any relevance to their ongoing mutual animosity is a tendentious attempt to inject Marxism into the facts, when the more reasonable explanation for that animosity was that the MEK wanted to overthrow the post-1979 Iranian regime and allied themselves with Saddam Hussein in order to do so, while the Sadrists had a legacy of being cruelly oppressed by Saddam and as regards the Iranian regime, at worst only had cool relations with them but were not bent on overthrowing them.
2) Secondly, the whole little bundle of factoids wrapped up in that deceptively plausible but unverified intelligence briefing from Ken Hechtman is swallowed uncritically by Auster and given pride of place in his discussion section, and because of Auster’s severe strictures on his discussion section, someone like me, whom Auster has ostracized, can’t penetrate his maximum-security comments section to offer some correctives to Hechtman’s twaddle.
A couple of good articles to start with about these issues would be this one, and this one.
I close out by reproducing a sublime quote—from a Democratic Congressman of all people, Gary Ackerman of New York City—who when asked just a couple of months after 911 about the MEK and the Iranian regime they oppose, put the whole thing in a perfectly concise nutshell:
“I don't give a shit if they are undemocratic,” he told the Voice. “OK, so the [MEK] is a terrorist organization based in Iraq, which is a terrorist state. They are fighting Iran, which is another terrorist state. I say let's help them fight each other as much as they want. Once they all are destroyed, I can celebrate twice over.”
Ackerman for President!
The Persian flu is a persistent bugger