Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hugh Fitzgerald: another fleeting glimmer of the hallowed interiors of the Gentlemen's Club












As a continuing reader of Jihad Watch (even though Marisol, in her capacity as editor for Jihad Watch, not too long ago
unfairly banned me from commenting there), I'd been wondering what happened to Hugh Fitzgerald. While in times past, Fitzgerald would occasionally take a break from publishing essays at Jihad Watch, those breaks as far as I recall never lasted more than about a month at the most. It is now getting close to December, and a few days ago I combed through the Jihad Watch archives and saw that his last essay was on September 14 -- over two months ago (and his output for that month was well below average, at only three essays out of approximately 350 articles total, which is a typical month at Jihad Watch).

Not only has Fitzgerald failed to publish any essays on Jihad Watch in the last couple of months -- apparently he also has failed to post any comments in any comments threads (as far as I know, as I go through most of the comments threads on Jihad Watch several times a day). Regular readers of Jihad Watch will know that in times past, the comments thread to at least every third article would have at least one or two comments by Fitzgerald -- and oftentimes those comments would be lengthy and dense. (Indeed, I had long noticed that not infrequently what turned out to be an official essay by him had begun, in the week or so preceding, as a lengthy comment -- indicating that he used the comments fields as a way to stoke and spark his inspiration.)

Well, it's official. Today, in a long comment thread to a Jihad Watch article on NBC's plans to award Sharif El-Gamal as "Man of the Year", a couple of Jihad Watch readers noted Fitzgerald's absence, and Robert Spencer replied to them:

Hugh is no longer with Jihad Watch -- and he is certainly missed.

Fitzgerald has been with Jihad Watch for several years, since 2004
officially distinguished there as "Vice-President of the Jihad Watch Board of Directors", and since then penning regular essays of distinctive, even singular, erudition and wit. And Jihad Watch readers have to find out -- after asking, mind you -- from an inscrutably terse comment in a comments thread? Why hasn't Spencer marked this major occasion with a formal essay? Why didn't Spencer invite Fitzgerald to pen one last essay, as a valedictory, before he moved on to, if not greener, at least other pastures?

One is tempted to conclude that something occurred in their relationship behind the closed doors of the "Gentlemen's Club" -- just as seems to have occurred with Spencer's longtime friend and colleague Andrew Bostom, and before that, with Baron Bodissey and Dymphna of the Gates of Vienna blog, and before that, with Diana West (see Baron Bodissey's comments below for a different timeline -- probably more accurate than mine). At some point in the sordid process a serious rift also developed, apparently, between Debbie Schlussel and Pam Geller -- and thus, inexorably, with the apparently joined-at-the-hip-to-Geller Spencer. As usual, Spencer deigns to keep all this hidden from his loyal readership and fans. In the past, when I have pressed this point (specifically, with the case of Bostom), Spencer has responded in typically prickly and brusque fashion to the effect that he has no obligation to reveal details of his personal life -- as though such major rifts among prominent, popular and influential individuals in the (still inchoate) anti-Islam movement can be deemed to be merely, and strictly, "personal"! On the contrary, insofar as they impinge upon and affect that movement, they ought to be of concern to all who have a stake in the ongoing problem of Islam and its closely related problem, Western myopia to it.

And, in keeping with Spencer's apparent modus operandi in circumstances like this -- to wit, after he has burned a bridge with a former friend and associate -- he has unceremoniously removed Fitzgerald's blog (The Iconoclast, a subsidiary of the New English Review, a blog Fitzgerald has shared with other writers for years now) from the Jihad Watch blogroll. Today, the New English Review is not on the Jihad Watch blogroll; however, using the Wayback Machine, I confirmed that approximately a year ago, in October of 2009, the New English Review was indeed on the Jihad Watch blogroll. If Fitzgerald is so "certainly missed" at Jihad Watch, why did Spencer remove his blog from Jihad Watch?

Incidentally, one of the contributors, along with Hugh Fitzgerald, to the New English Review I recently noticed is none other than Andrew Bostom -- yet another reason, perhaps, for Spencer to exercise his petty blog-removing penchant. (Spencer has left the link "Articles by Hugh Fitzgerald" in its prominent place at the top left of Jihad Watch; however, as that link merely directs the reader to a list of Fitzgerald articles that are already in Jihad Watch archives, it would be pointless to remove that link, unless Spencer had plans to remove all those essays from his own archives -- and anyway, were Spencer to remove that prominent link, it would be noticed by many readers, whereas his removal of the New English Review from the blogroll likely caused nary an eyelash to be batted.)

Further Reading:

Nagging Questions

Healthy Disagreement

Hugh Fitzgerald: Man of Mystery

25 comments:

Baron Bodissey said...

Actually, your sequencing is a bit off. Spencer cast me and Dymphna into the Outer Darkness first, in May 2009. Next was Andy Bostom in about December 2009, with Diana West following shortly thereafter, early in 2010.

Baron Bodissey said...

P.S. Andy's excommunication may have been in November; I can't remember exactly.

Hesperado said...

Baron Bodissey,

Thanks for that correction. I'll add a parenthetical remark adverting to your comment.

On Diana West, are you marking the beginning of Spencer's rift with her from the point she published a defense of Bostom's "plagiarism" episode and Spencer's subsequent characterization of that sober and mature defense as an "attack" on him? If so, it seemed to me that Spencer had been frosty toward her for many months prior to that -- a stark contrast to the way he was praising her to the skies frequently before that time.

-- Hesperado

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado --

I think the "frostiness" came on gradually. The public break occurred when Diana was removed from the JW blogroll. That's like an official papal bull of excommunication, just as it had been with us.

When someone gets cast into the Outer Darkness, anyone else who continues to associate with that person becomes suspect. I think this tends to create the frostiness you describe.

We went first, so I'm guessing that our known associates then became objects of closer scrutiny.

Hesperado said...

Baron Bodissey,

Yes, that sounds right. One question that remains is why Spencer saw fit to "excommunicate" you and Diana West (let alone the others). My theory is that your and West's "excommunication" revolved more around the support both of you showed for certain European groups (e.g., Vlaams Belang) Spencer was, without sufficient data to justify it, afraid to show any association with -- highly ironic, of course, since Spencer has made such a big deal so many times about the unfair smears various people have levelled against those who show the slightest sign of being associated with allegedly "fascist" or "racist" groups.

With Bostom and Hugh, I suspect the reasons are at least in part different.

At any rate, such speculations would be unnecessary if Spencer (and those he has "excommunicated") would discuss these matters out in the sunshine like mature adults, instead of skulking around (see my linked essay "Healthy Disagreement" plus its internal links to other essays for my arguments supporting this).

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado --

Unfortunately, for me to explain what caused my excommunication would require the exposure of private emails, which I’m not willing to do. I will say, however, that the reason had nothing to do with Vlaams Belang or anything similar — if only this issues had been so reasonable and content-based!

No, the trouble was over something completely irrational and nonsensical, and for that reason the injured party could never be placated.

Andy was cast out for reasons he has discussed publicly — you can check his blog (or JW, for that matter) to learn the details. Hugh, however, I know nothing about.

At any rate, such speculations would be unnecessary if Spencer (and those he has “excommunicated”) would discuss these matters out in the sunshine like mature adults…

Yes, you’ve been banging this same drum for years, and I’ve never had any success in convincing you of the absurdity of your demand.

Why should I risk libel suits and trouble from any number of quarters, with all the accompanying damage to my mission, just to assuage your thirst to know the whole truth? What do I gain from it? What does the movement gain from it? Nothing!

The fact is, if I thought that revealing the details of the whole sordid mess would aid the cause of the Counterjihad — and not damage me personally too much — I would do it in a heartbeat. But it wouldn’t help the cause, and it would likely do great harm to me, so I won’t do it. You can’t give me a convincing reason why I should.

The details are actually ridiculous, petty, stupid, and do not involve matters of any substance whatsoever. That’s what makes this entire mess so sad, frustrating, and pointless.

But I can’t do anything about it. I tried my best, and failed. We just have to live with it the way it is.

islam exposed said...

The interludes thread which was started by Hugh Fitzgerald is also missing from JihadWatch homepage. I wonder what happened.

Nobody said...

Hesperado

Add Debbie Sclussel to your list of anti-Islamic activists, who used to feature on JW blogroll, but no longer do. Debbie has by now officially broken w/ Spencer/Geller - it's no longer a Lady's & Gentlemen's club.

About Hugh, my own suspicion is that he was disillusioned w/ Spencer being more interested in taking part in Geller's activism for Muslim victims, and in the process ignoring their more devout associates, like Sarah & Amina's mom. This was the reason Debbie broke w/ them - there was a time when Debbie & Pamela were good allies, but this thing, and some car loan fraud caused this rift b/w them

Nobody said...

Another thing: when somebody says in a correspondence that

" ______ is no longer w/ _____ (our org)"

It's just another way of saying that he's been dismissed. If the parting of ways was @ the initiative of the person leaving, then usually, it's of the type "We regret that..." or "It's w/ great sadness that I must inform you that ..."

These differences in statements, while subtle, tell a great deal about whether a person left, or was pushed. Which is what leads me to believe what I wrote in the previous post

Hesperado said...

Baron Bodissey,

"Why should I risk libel suits and trouble from any number of quarters, with all the accompanying damage to my mission, just to assuage your thirst to know the whole truth? What do I gain from it? What does the movement gain from it? Nothing!"

I hadn't considered the libel suit angle -- which only makes the problem even worse and unfortunate, though one-sided if you are to be believed. While it may sound like I am calling for some single individual involved to risk their neck as a "whistle-blower", what I am more broadly appealing for is a kind of procedural mechanism in place for transparency, where all individuals are obligated as part of their membership to be transparent about issues that relate to the Movement -- thus not burdening any single individual with the responsibility to risk his neck by coming forward. Part of the reason why there is no such mechanism in place is because the Movement is still inchoate; and that's precisely why the Movement needs to crystallize into an Organization. Needless to say, such crystallization has to proceed as democratically as possible (so that we don't have a perpetuation of the situation we have now, where Spencer & Geller unofficially begin to commandeer the Movement with proto-organizational entities). An Internet town meeting of sorts, in which the hoi polloi participate and can see the goings-on, would be necessary for this.

"The details are actually ridiculous, petty, stupid, and do not involve matters of any substance whatsoever. That’s what makes this entire mess so sad, frustrating, and pointless."

I find it hard to believe they had nothing to do with ideological/procedural content. When you say they did "not involve matters of any substance" you may be using hyperbole to denote the immaturity of the dispute; but surely it must have had some roots in something related to the problem of Islam, even if only tangentially. Surely you're not trying to tell me that Spencer broke off relations with you over a parking ticket, or over your refusal to pick up the tab at a restaurant, or over his suspicion that you have been cheating at some round of golf you two had, or over an argument the two of you had over which actor is the best James Bond -- or over some other equally trivial matter utterly unrelated to issues revolving around the problem of Islam...?

Hesperado said...

islam exposed,

On Hugh's Interludes, I checked the latest old Jihad Watch page available on the Wayback Machine -- Oct. 27, 2009, and there was no link on the main page for Hugh's Interludes. However, within the "Articles by Hugh Fitzgerald" link that is on the main page, the interludes are still there.

Are you saying there was a distinct link on the main page exclusively for the interludes?

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado --

…what I am more broadly appealing for is a kind of procedural mechanism in place for transparency, where all individuals are obligated as part of their membership to be transparent about issues that relate to the Movement -- thus not burdening any single individual with the responsibility to risk his neck by coming forward.

Yes, this would be the ideal. Unfortunately, there are two factors which prevent its being fully realized for the foreseeable future.

The first is that certain individuals or groups within the Counterjihad wield a lot of power, whether we peons like it or not. Charles Johnson, until he self-destructed, was an example of an unscrupulous wielder of destructive power. No one who relied on non-profit funding could afford to be fully candid in public, at the risk of facing his wrath and losing their donors.

He is now gone from the scene, but there are others who wield the same amount of power, display the same general personality traits, and can do just as much damage when aroused. You must forgive me for not naming any names — I have no interest in starting yet another mud-slinging fest — but you can probably guess a few of them.

Secondly, the nature of our work requires that certain things never be made public. People who do what we do, especially our European colleagues, can have their careers ruined, be prosecuted, or even lose their lives if their identities and activities become known. So some information must always remain private.

Part of the reason why there is no such mechanism in place is because the Movement is still inchoate; and that's precisely why the Movement needs to crystallize into an Organization. Needless to say, such crystallization has to proceed as democratically as possible (so that we don't have a perpetuation of the situation we have now, where Spencer & Geller unofficially begin to commandeer the Movement with proto-organizational entities).

This is already going on to a certain extent in the European networks. If you don’t spend much time hanging out at European sites, you may not realize it. The European Counterjihad is much less fratricidal than its American counterpart, probably because it is so much closer to the precipice.

I find it hard to believe they had nothing to do with ideological/procedural content. When you say they did "not involve matters of any substance" you may be using hyperbole to denote the immaturity of the dispute; but surely it must have had some roots in something related to the problem of Islam, even if only tangentially.

No, I am not being hyperbolic. Not at all. The issue that caused the rift had nothing whatsoever to do with Islam; that’s part of what makes all the subsequent nastiness so stupid and meaningless. Not to put too fine a point on it, the issue in question was entirely imaginary. And that is not an exaggeration, but the exact truth. A rudimentary instinct for self-preservation prevents me from elaborating any further.

The only reason I am willing to talk about this at all is that Charles and his successor caudillos in the movement have already unleashed as much destruction on me as they can. There is nothing more that can be done to hurt me, provided I remain circumspect in my public utterances, and thereby avoid the attention of lawyers.

[to be continued...]

Baron Bodissey said...

[continued...]

If you ever learned all the details of what goes on at the rarefied higher levels of the Counterjihad, you would not find them particularly elevating. The higher you go in this business — the more famous you are, the more money you make, and the larger the organization you command — the more petty, trivial, and self-centered the behavior becomes. I’ve had to watch it up close, and believe me, it’s appalling and disgusting and disheartening to behold.

And the issues are never important. Quarrels are never about substantive issues. They are always about preserving funding, saving face, retaining exclusive rights, holding onto turf, winning petty power struggles, and taking resources away from one another.

When they aren’t entirely imaginary, that is.

Hesperado said...

Nobody,

Thanks for reminding me about Schlussel. I just confirmed that Schlussel was on the Jihad Watch blogroll in October of 2009 (but of course is not there now).

An interesting point about Spencer's wording. Spencer seems to be much shrewder than people give him credit for -- which bodes well for his tangles with Islam apologists, but unfortunately seems to be spilling over deleteriously into his cooperation with fellow anti-Islam activists and analysts.

Hesperado said...

Baron Bodissey,

You make good points about the procedural aspects of this issue; and though I could have surmised the degree of pettiness, immature recriminations, and mercenary motivations which you allege affects the upper reaches of the anti-Islam movement, it's still disquieting. Of course, the problem with such a characterization is that, absent a neutral and objective perspective (let alone investigation), one cannot be sure how accurate it is both generally speaking and in terms of particulars. At this juncture, not really knowing you from Adam, I tentatively accept in broad strokes your characterization.

As for the individuals to whom you cryptically advert as wielding inordinate, and deleterious, influence in the Movement, aside from the more obvious candidates most onlookers could guess, I have been wondering for quite a while whether one particular "FOB" (Google "FOB" and Pres. Clinton, then think of an informal nickname for "Robert", for a clue as to what I mean by that) who in former years seemed incapable of controlling her neurosis-bordering-on-psychosis might still be in play. This person who shall remain nameless seems to fit a couple of phrases in your description in a prior comment -- personality traits that somehow ill-suit Spencer (though granted I don't know him all that well):

...the trouble was over something completely irrational and nonsensical, and for that reason the injured party could never be placated.

The details are actually ridiculous, petty, stupid, and do not involve matters of any substance whatsoever. That’s what makes this entire mess so sad, frustrating, and pointless.

The reason I say this is that I had a bewildering tussle with an FOB (whom I have since assumed, because of her virtually complete absence in subsequent years from the JW scene, had become an ex-FOB) a few years ago whose penchant for irrational pique, delusional hostility, and rabid litigiousness bordered on the pyschotic.

Other than this hypothesis, however, the other major players I'm confident merely indulge in more ordinary, only mildly neurotic -- i.e., unfortunately all-too human -- pettiness.

Baron Bodissey said...

Of course, the problem with such a characterization is that, absent a neutral and objective perspective (let alone investigation), one cannot be sure how accurate it is both generally speaking and in terms of particulars.

Yes, there’s the rub: you have no way of knowing that what I say is true. And, unfortunately, I can’t do anything to change that.

If I were in a court of law, I could prove the exact truth of what I’m saying. But I’m not in a court of law, and my production of such proof except by subpoena might well be against the law. In any case, if I did so, I would be leaving myself wide open to civil litigation. So I won’t do it.

We’re stuck; you either believe me or you don’t. And it doesn’t particularly matter to me; my whole point in being so long-winded about all this is finally to convince you that I can’t disclose what you want to know. Not without risking personal ruin, which I have tentatively decided to avoid.

Other than this hypothesis, however, the other major players I'm confident merely indulge in more ordinary, only mildly neurotic -- i.e., unfortunately all-too human -- pettiness.

There’s a lot of variety. Some of the people in the stratospheric zone are fine, decent, honorable people — Diana West comes to mind as one of the best — but most are to varying degrees petty and egotistical at best, and deranged narcissists at the worst.

Needless to say, I won’t be assigning any particular person to any of those categories. Since I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not qualified to diagnose them, anyway.

islam exposed said...

Are you saying there was a distinct link on the main page exclusively for the interludes?

Yes there was a link of interludes as far as I can remember on the homepage, which is missing. Maybe something is fishy here.

Apart from that Hugh had done some brilliant commentary on Jihadwatch which I am sure must have increased the viewership of Jihadwatch. Anyways best of luck to him.

Westward Ho said...

Jihadwatch has already really lost much of the flavor that made it special some years ago. With Hugh's departure, while it still serves a utilitarian function, it has less enjoyableness. Hugh had a big influence on the comment discussion tone, and I expect the commenter quality level to decline noticeably. Many of the best commenters might never have become involved but for Hugh's excellence.

Hesperado said...

Westward Ho,

I've always had the impression that Spencer did not appreciate the comments threads on his site: What he failed to appreciate was the community that forms there, a community that has a life of its own, changing over time, growing, learning; a community of many different types of individual finding a place to bounce ideas back and forth and try to make sense of their growing awareness of this monster call Islam, and of their growing incredulity at the myopia of their own fellow citizens around them who can't see the monster -- or even worse, mock or vilify those who call attention to that monster.

It is both an intellectual community and an emotional community, serving not only to nourish our ongoing pedagogy in this most important issue of our time, but also to provide a haven of comfort where we may not feel so alone or even freakish for having our profound concerns. The anti-Islam person is not a stereotypical ultra-right-wing redneck or fascist; with the exception of a small subminority of tea party types, often the he or she is indistinguishable from the ordinary liberal modern Westerner around them, whose liberalness is not so much a crystallized political position but just a casual and amorphous worldview which may even contain a few "conservative" elements.

But beyond these types of community Jihad Watch comments provides, Spencer also fails to appreciate a more practical dimension, insofar as this community can serve as the nucleus for the anti-Islam movement which remains unorganized.

When I say Spencer "fails to appreciate" I don't necessarily mean that he is oblivious to these facets and potentials: I mean that his actions -- or inactivity in this regard -- over the years show a lack of appreciation. It's almost as though he just sees the comments threads as unremarkable appendages to the main articles, and is indeed blind to the qualities I've discussed above. Or if he's not blind to them, he sure is demonstrating an oddly passive and negligent perspicacity.

Westward Ho said...

How well put. I felt the first 2 years JW/DW had an extraordinarily rich intellectual community. And it was such a meeting place of people of disparate backgrounds, openly discovering a mutually relevant matter of disorientingly large importance to our world. In a way, the articles were just catalysts for discovery, much of which happened in the comments. This is a community-building process, when people undergo the discoveries involved.

I think to have allowed that to weaken - let alone lose - its momentum and magic, is a costly mismanagement. But as it wasn't planned to start with - I think the whole "blog" thing was very experimental, just "try it and see what happens," especially back in 2003 - it was not so readily "manageable" a process.

Also, there is the glaring lack of an answer to the question "What's the next step?" You imply this when you say "still inchoate," etc. The activated community attention needed to be translated into a wider awareness that becomes real policy (public and private both) to protect our society. When that is delayed too long, the initial community awareness that was incubating becomes overripe, tired, repetitive. Someone tried to start a political party called the Loyalist Party around 2005 or so, but it was a wacky fringe to most Americans (and it was much too narrowly focused for anything but merely creating some discussion by virtue of its existence).

And at the same time, wait long enough, and most leaders inevitably get distracted by their own egos, just as we need to change politicians regularly who began clean because they became dirty. Things tarnish if left unproductive. Without progress, entropy overwhelms.

I think the problem is that most people can't feel the danger in the direction things are moving. But Western Europe, being more advanced, may not be so able to keep heads in sand. So instead of fizzling out, the Euro AJ movement may be forming a solid foundation. Because jihad resistance there is stimulating a bonafide political organization that participates in parliaments, etc. Because Europeans are really looking down the muzzle of a forseeable civil war, and it can really be smelled, PCMC just doesn't fool all of the people all of the time.

Westward Ho said...
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Hesperado said...

Westward Ho,

Strange -- I had added a rather extensive comment, but returned here to see it never appeared.

I may incorporate it into a new essay soon; for now, I'll just include one of the observations I had: that many of the more visible and active anti-Islam individuals seem to be exploiting the inchoate nature of the AIM (Anti-Islam Movement) -- whether only incidentally as a by-product, or cleverly knowing what they are doing, it does seem as though the inchoate state of the AIM, with its lack of organization and centrality, conduces opportunistically to certain individuals who surf-ride its disorganized yet dynamic waves to jet-set around the world participating in debates & colloquia; to attach themselves to events that become controversial public spectacles; and to write and sell their books.

They are -- whether knowingly or simply de facto functionally -- taking advantage of the more or less confused energy generated by the general and amorphous discontent and impatience of a growing number of people around the world, and so far their main focus is outwardly-directed analysis of the problem of Islam and the secondary problem of dhimmitude, but hardly any inwardly-directed analysis of the procedural, methodological and ideological nature and structure of the AIM itself. This activism can become self-perpetuating, in that the activities of the activism serve to sustain those energies of disorganization which in turn serve to resist organization. At the very least, prominent AIM individuals are passively obstructing the process that would lead to the AIM crystallizing into an organization.

The problem with sub-organizations like SIOE is that they are sub-organizations: it's like setting up new Churches to establish a unity of Christianity: the new Churches only tend to increase the fragmentation of Christianity, notwithstanding the intent of each one of them who might try to claim that "all of Christianity is unified".

There has to occur a movement toward setting up a single overarching organization that represents everyone who is anti-Islam. Under that general umbrella, then, the SIOE can continue to function in the form of a chapter. But the SIOE as it currenty stands is no substitute for what is needed: a universal and unique organization that has no competition, but is all-inclusive.

Of course, the development of such an organization requires a process of thought and discussion, and in turn a process of democratically pursued compromises and rules of exclusion and inclusion. But so far, it seems that no prominent AIM individual or group seems the slightest bit interested in such a process -- or even the slightest bit aware of its need.