Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A typical problem of Lawrence Auster: mischaracterization, straw man

Lawrence Auster in this recent notice adverts to a blogger's discovery of a recent apparent rift between Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer,  In the course of Auster's notice, he notes that that blogger, one Richard Bartholomew, had linked to an article of mine here at Hesperado.

Now here comes a typical Auster mischaracterization that amounts to a straw man:

Bartholomew also links to the blogger Hesperado's article some months ago suggesting that there had been a rupture between Spencer on one side and his former friends Diana West and Andrew Bostom on the other. Hesperado includes me in the list of persons recently "expelled" by Spencer, but of course that is incorrect, as I have never been a friend of Spencer's and there had been an intermittent war between Spencer and me for several years...

The key word Auster uses here is "expelled".  Nowhere in my article which Auster and Bartholomew linked do I use the word "expelled" nor even a synonym of it in specific relation to Auster.

What I did write about Auster in that article is this:

Speaking of that notice, I am reminded, from reading it, in which he links to this article here, that Auster has not merely been ignored by Spencer for many months, he was publicly condemned by Spencer in the pages of Jihad Watch some time ago (I believe about two years ago) -- thus breaking the Rule of the Gentlemen's Agreement by which tensions and animosities within the anti-Islam movement are usually swept under the rug and not aired out in the sunshine of public discussion and debate. Apparently for the "Gentlemen" involved, it's okay to publicly condemn a Charles Johnson or a Lawrence Auster (even though Auster is not guilty of the sins of Johnson), but one must hide behind closed doors when negotiating the differences -- or perhaps serious ruptures -- with other erstwhile colleagues, such as Bruce Bawer, Diana West, Andrew Bostom, and perhaps now also the Baron from the Gates of Vienna blog (which interestingly no longer appears on the Jihad Watch blogroll, and whose copious and valuable coverage of the Geert Wilders trial has been utterly ignored by Spencer).

 Notice that the word I use is "publicly condemned", not "expelled".  This is not merely quibbling -- Auster is making up a word I never used out of whole cloth and imputing it to me, then he runs with it, also implying that I was inaccurate when I never used the word (or any word like it) to substantiate any possible inaccuracy on this account.  Later in my paragraph quoted above, I use the word "ruptures", which would imply a preceding alliance (from which one would thereby be "expelled" through the "rupture"); however, my use of "ruptures" is qualified by the "or perhaps" that distinguishes it from "differences", the latter of which need not in any way imply a preceding alliance.  Secondly, when I offer examples of individuals who have putatively suffered Spencerian "ruptures", I list Bruce Bawer, Diana West, Andrew Bostom, and the Baron from the Gates of Vienna blog -- I do not list Lawrence Auster.

And this is not merely a problem with this one part of one notice by Auster -- it is typical of his discursive behavior.  Time and time again, in my many email exchanges with him over a relatively long period of time, he would mischaracterize what I said then run with the straw man he had created, and I would have to patiently try to set him straight.  Toward the end of that email relationship, when he was chasing after one particular mischaracterization of mine that I found simply too exasperating to untease out of its bundle of misapprehensions, I didn't even bother to try to disabuse him of his tangle of thought.  And at some point at that juncture, he withdrew from our email relationship abuptly, citing a nodus based yet again upon a mischaracterization of what I had said and meant.

While I still read his blog on a regular basis and find certain observations and analyses he makes helpful and cogent, I cannot help but wonder -- every time he sharply criticizes one or another person or position of which I may happen to be unfamiliar and don't have the time to investigate to verify to my satisfaction -- whether Auster is actually presenting a cogent counter-position or counter-argument, or whether he is tilting at yet another straw man of his own inept devising.

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