Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The point

In the recent kerfufflish comments thread at Jihad Watch in which I was featured as an off topic, Robert Spencer quotes a Jihad Watch reader's verdict summing up the rhetorical question that supposedly settles the matter:

"Who gives a fuck what Spencer and Bostom think of one another? In the whole vast configuration of things, it's hardly important."

Then he notes, in emphatic italics:


I agree.

The only problem is, my essays about the Spencer/Bostom affair have not been about what they "think of one another". Cornelius, yet again, is indulging a straw man and a red herring. And Spencer hopes the other Jihad Watch readers are as negligent as Cornelius is.

It's always a good idea, however, to actually read the person you are chiding.

The point of my essays is not what Spencer thinks of Bostom, or what Bostom thinks of Spencer. Nor, obviously, am I preoccupied about some personal matters unrelated to the anti-Islam movement.

The point is that the Spencer/Bostom rift impinges directly on the anti-Islam movement, in several ways.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two: It damages a formerly productive collaboration between two important individuals in that movement. Also, mutual information about each individual is suddenly interdicted for the audience of readers, such as the important compendium edited by Andrew Bostom,
The Legacy of Antisemitism, which Spencer in an unseemly petulance has tried to airbrush out of Jihad Watch existence (indeed, the loyalty he commands is so influential, it moved one long-time reader, "dumbledoresarmy", to actually censor herself and refrain from mentioning the name of Andrew Bostom in connection with that compendium).

Other ways such rifts Spencer has had which can impinge on the anti-Islam movement include the petulant withdrawal of blog links from the Jihad Watch blogroll (and the petulant counter-withdrawal on the part of the blogger in question): Diana West, Gates of Vienna, Andrew Bostom, Michelle Malkin, Debbie Schlussel -- all have been consigned to Jihad Watch blogroll oblivion. Even Hugh Fitzgerald's other blog, The New English Review, has vanished from the Jihad Watch blogroll, ever since Hugh left for reasons still unclear (indeed, Spencer could think of that as a twofer, as Andrew Bostom is also associated with that blog).

You would think that all these people could set aside their personal squabbles and compartmentalize their efforts as separate from their personal disagreements. Or are these merely "personal" squabbles that one could compartmentalize? Or are they even mutual disagreements? Could the one common denominator, Robert Spencer, be the one causing them all? One knows the old saw, when "everybody is out to get me", maybe I should take a look at myself and stop blaming others.

Or, could some of these disagreements be more substantive, directly related to various issues of procedure, methodology, ideology, and/or media personality within the anti-Islam movement? It seems unlikely that Spencer would have rifts with all these different people, all for merely personal reasons unrelated to the anti-Islam movement, though I suppose it's possible that over time he tends to alienate one after another person -- or, by a strange coincidence, all these different people tend to alienate him because, all these rifts must be
their fault, not Spencer's...

We ordinary civilians deserve to know the answers to these questions, insofar as we have a stake in the health and productivity of the anti-Islam movement, and such childish behaviors are affecting that health and productivity.

We will never know the answers, if these Counter-Jihad Celebrities continue to choose to keep us in the dark. And so far, it's working: The vast majority of fans of Jihad Watch have convinced themselves that they must slavishly accept everything Spencer says and does, and to even raise an eyebrow otherwise (or Heaven forbid, to press a point conscientiously) is to "jeopardize" the Counter-Jihad Movement.

I.e., if you criticize Spencer, you are helping the terrorists. That's quite an airtight Catch-22 there. It is unhealthy in the extreme, for it powerfully inhibits criticism of any kind -- at least any kind that is substantive and doesn't back down like a stepnfetchit.


Hesperado said...

I find myself in the curious, and somewhat amusing, situation of engaging in a discussion here, with people from another blog (Jihad Watch).

What makes this situation curious and amusing is that for some reason (other than one rather curt exception from Cornelius), they deign not to address me here, even though they are talking about me over there; whilst I, of course, am prevented by Robert Spencer from engaging their points and questions over there, since I was unfairly banned this past September from commenting at Jihad Watch.

At any rate, now I notice in that peculiar Jihad Watch comments thread the off topic about Hesperado continues.

One long-time Jihad Watch reader and commenter, "Kinana of Khaybar", writes a lengthy comment revolving around one point -- that I should accept Cornelius's apology and also thank him for being instrumental in moving the Jihad Watch reader "dumbledoresarmy" to clarify that I was, in fact, correct in my speculation (namely, that she censored herself out of a sense of duty (and/or intimidation?) to Jihad Watch's priorities (one of them being, apparently, the maintenance of Bostom as pariah and persona non grata).

"Kinana of Khaybar" tries to argue that:

"Hesperado's conspicuous omission of a "thank you" to Cornelius is at least as conspicuous as Dumbledores' initial omission of Bostom's name. Indeed, one could argue that it is more conspicuous, what with this being an argument over precisely the topic of conspicuous omissions."

I would put it this way to "Kinana of Khaybar":

1) Any reader with elementary reading comprehension and who takes the time to read through the thread and my essays will see that Cornelius was instrumental in getting dumbledoresarmy to "confess". My omission then is easily corrected by easily available facts.

2) I am humbled by the great weight of importance "Kinana of Khaybar" places on my shoulders, but I hardly think my omission to thank Cornelius over this sub-point is equivalent to (let alone supersedes!) the virtual excommunication at one major site (JW) of the value of Bostom's work and his collaboration with Spencer.

3) Had Cornelius merely posted notices in JW comments threads saying "Hesperado raises questions about this -- could dumbledoresarmy please help out here?" I would readily thank him. He could even have added a little caveat -- "By the way, I disagree with Hesperado's approach on this" -- and that would have been okay. Instead, he has couched the whole thing in a nmarkedly hostile and insulting manner. Even his "apology" basically says "Ok Hesperado, seeing what dumbledoresarmy said, I guess you're only slightly paranoid now. So Hesperado, will you please shut up now?"

Hesperado said...

I see that "Kinana of Khaybar" has a second point (from the same link above):

"As for Hesperado's other suggestion, i.e., that it was a reasonable possibility that Spencer himself (or Marisol acting on Robert's behalf) went in and deleted the name "Andrew Bostom" from Dumbledores' post, I find to be laugh-out-loud absurd."

To which I respond:

"Kinana of Khaybar" may "find" it to be absurd, but in the presentation of his finding he has utterly ignored the details of my argument from the relevant essays and comments of mine here. Until he marshals an argument with consideration of those details, what he "finds" remains a subjective opinion (not even that: a subjective impression unconnected to any facts -- other than the one datum with which it is impressed -- or to any persuasive logic).

Hesperado said...

This situation could very well be unique: A blogger using one of his own comments fields to engage in a discussion about him with people who don't want to come here and talk to him, but prefer to deposit their turds over there, where I have been banned from participating.

I recall only one other similar experience: a few years ago, I tried to entreat Hugh Fitzgerald to take the bus over to another discussion forum on the Internet Superhighway (a very short and pleasant bus ride, I assured him). Naturally, he refused. The reason I wanted him to engage that other discussion forum was because one particular commenter over there I found to be a frighteningly formidable intellect, and a worthy opponent for Hugh -- and, he tended to defend Islam from criticism.

I don't know what got into me back then, but I basically copied-and-pasted long quotes from the one person, brought them back to Jihad Watch, sat and hoped Hugh would deign to respond (and he did, to my surprise, several times), then when he did, I copied his responses and pasted them over at the other site.

I basically became the middle-man, shuttling back and forth with Hugh's comments and his worthy adversary's comments.

At any rate, I see that "awake" is getting ready to blow again. Marisol better get her "selective" editing whiteout ready...

Hesperado said...

Here we go again:

Kinana of Khaybar writes:

"I've cited Bostom and quoted him at length multiple times since the falling out, and there has been no modification or deletion whatsoever of any of those comments. Hesperado could have researched this more carefully first..."

Had Kinana of Khaybar read me more carefully, he would have seen that the sensitive point about Bostom concerns his book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism. To take one example, a recent Roland Shirk essay directly mentioned the subject of Islamic antisemitism, and mentioned a couple of names in the field, but obviously left Bostom non-existent, with the amusing reference to "other writers". When a person is responsible for one of the most important and singular compendiums on a subject, and when that writer has previously been praised before a major spat occurred between the blog owner and that writer, it doesn't take much to put two and two together.

This again occurred prior to Shirk's notice, when Spencer put up a notice about a major new study on Islamic antisemitism, but with bizarre surrealism left Bostom utterly unmentioned (of course, out of the spite of their continued spat).

These are not the only incidences of this. These are the kinds of things my arguments factor in; but from reading Kinana of Khaybar's characterization of my arguments, one would think I just sat on a rock and shat them out without thinking.

Another fallacious statement by Kinana of Khaybar I noticed was his attempt to argue that one type of editing/cleaning up by Marisol does not establish the other type (redaction of a pariah like Bostom with regard to his contentious book). I never said the one establishes the other. I raised the possibility. Does Kinana of Khaybar think Marisol is a robot, or that Spencer is a robot who has no control over Marisol's duties, and that neither one of them (more likely Spencer) could possibly have decided to redact Bostom's name associated with a work which Spencer apparently thinks Bostom stole from others (though he's been cryptic about what he means in this regard)?

In addition, something nobody has seemed to notice -- and Kinana of Khaybar should be among the first to notice this -- there is the chilling effect of self-censorship on a person as bright, intellectual, supportive and helpful to the JW cause as dumbledoresarmy that she actually hesitated to type Bostom's name to his most important work -- and her hestitation actually won out! What kind of a climate would move someone as principled and otherwise assertive as dumbledoresarmy to censor herself? It's outrageous. And in her subsequent remarks about that, she specifically cites her concern about free speech.

Then notice Spencer leaping in like a shark to remind her that, in essence, "I had nothing to do with your decision to censor yourself", in an unseemly legalistic manner.

And dda responded, essentially, "Yessuh, Massah".

Hesperado said...

It becomes nearly amazing when an otherwise intelligent person spews out logical mush. Consider this statement by Kinana of Khaybar:

"That is, his [Hesperado's] comment was deleted, but he wasn't banned at that point... So the fact that "awake" had a comment or part of a comment deleted and wasn't banned doesn't necessarily indicate favoritism."

How can Kinana of Khaybar be so dense? The favoritism comes in from the frequent banning -- Hesperado banned 4 times, awake banned ZERO times.

A further indication of favoritism comes from an experience I had (which I refer to in a previous essay or comments field) where awake and Spencer himself joined forces to barrage me for a few days with a veritable blitz of emails. They were clearly working in tandem, and both were behaving like junior high school students, both in intellect and demeanor -- mischaracterizing and misreading me incessantly, even after I patiently and calmly reiterated and reformulated my arguments for them. This tandem email blitz indicates some kind of relationship or friendship between them at least closer than your average Joe commenting on JW.

Anonymous said...

Could the one common denominator, Robert Spencer, be the one causing them all?

I've noticed that Spencer's recent falling-outs seem to have coincided with the increasing presence and influence of a certain female collaborator of Spencer's (whom I've jokingly but perhaps unfairly dubbed "the Yoko Ono of the AIM"). I have to admit I've wondered whether that's just a coincidence or if there's more to it.

Nobody said...

^^^I agree w/ Anon above. When Spencer simply had his spats w/ Lawrence Auster & Charles Johnson, I had no issues w/ him, but ever since he became involved w/ her and her questionable campaigns on the behalf of 'Muslim victims of Islam', I started losing my trust in his bona fides as someone interested in taking on Muslim influence in the US. After all, it's a bit much to believe that Diana West, Gates of Vienna, Andrew Bostom, Debbie Schlussel et al are all wrong, while only Robert & Pamela are right. I'd say the Yoko Ono comparison is very apt :-)

As for the spat b/w Hesperado and the JWers, w/o taking sides, I find it curious that Cornelius and others don't choose to come here and argue w/ Hesperado, instead of hijacking a thread that was about RS address to Coptic Church. It would have been far more on topic had they taken this route.

Hesperado said...


Yes, I've also conjectured that Pam Geller is a factor. For one thing, I've heard things about Debbie Schlussel and Geller (Schlussel herself, no wallflower and not afraid to speak her mind so much as said so in a comment once). I can also easily imagine Hugh Fitzgerald becoming increasingly discomfitted by the increasingly influential role of Geller.

Hesperado said...

Yes Nobody -- Cornelius, awake and Kinana of Khaybar should have come here. They obviously know where I am. The only reasonable conclusion is that they fear their presence here will somehow help my blog (which is laughable; my blog is sufficiently microscopic in the grand scheme of things to remain unhelped by a smattering of commenters in one thread).

The main problem I see here is the propensity for slavishly uncritical obeisance for Spencer (and perforce his Siamese Twin, Geller) on the part of Jihad Watchers. When this uncritical obeisance is further bolstered by the logically airtight principle -- "If you criticize Spencer, you are helping the jihadists" -- it becomes downright unhealthy. Only if Spencer were a saint would this not bode ill. There seem to be quite a few indications that, unsurprisingly, he's not a saint.

(Cf. for example these odd comments by Baron Bodissey on my own blog where he refuses to name some personage who would ruin his life if he squealed:

When I asked him why he was "excommunicated" by Robert Spencer, Baron Bodissey wrote:

"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?

"...revealing the details of the whole sordid mess... would likely do great harm to me.

"...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... 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..."

What's up with that? Kinana and dumbledoresarmy, are you guys okay with that? (No need to ask awake -- he's a sufficiently slimy and scurrilous asslicker to probably actually enjoy having someone he deems a Master.) Should this kind of corrupt power and childish behavior-cum-bullying be tolerated? Is it good for the movement? What will you guys not countenance in order to not rock the boat and keep the Counterjihad Machine humming along? And so forth.)

"Power corrupts" even the best of them. That's why a system of checks and balances in a context of official transparency (within reason limited by concerns for personal safety) is needed: an organization where no single personage (or team or clique) is allowed to do anything relevant to the movement uncritically, without any kind of process of review by followers.

Hesperado said...

Yet again, I see this morning that Kinana of Khaybar (KOK) brings me up in that thread's off topic that just won't quit.

Why he and others there continue this discussion about me over there, and not here (knowing that I am banned from participating there) continues to baffle. I had previously conjectured that they don't want to come here for fear of boosting my blog; however, that theory tends to be vitiated by the fact that they are doing far more to boost my blog by holding the discussion over there, where likely thousands of readers may chance upon it -- rather than here, with my pitiful pittance of readers.

At any rate, if KOK is seeking thanks, I do thank him for raising various points of mine -- however couched and tendentiously distorted with infirm logic and misguided concerns they come to be in his hands -- at Jihad Watch where, due to my ban, they otherwise obviously can never see the light of day.

So here's what KOK writes today:

"[Hesperado] is still holding Robert Spencer responsible for Dumbledoresarmy's omission of Andrew Bostom's name when she cited Bostom's book."

Perhaps I should take a leaf from dumbledoresarmy's book (viz., when she speculated that what might explain Hesperado is that he is "OCD") and speculate about KOK's psychological problem with obtuseness (I'd have to peruse the DSM-IV to locate the relevant diagnostic syndrome). My wording about dumbledoresarmy, which KOK quoted, does not accuse Spencer of being responsible in any direct sense; though there are issues of ethical responsibility which could have been cleared up in an instant had Spencer responded in that thread to dumbledoresarmy with something like "I'm sorry you feel as though you had to censor yourself about this matter; I certainly wouldn't want you to feel that you cannot cite the author of any book." Instead, as I noted before, Spencer leapt in like a shark only to make sure it was clear his hands were clean of any responsibility, even ethical.

Indeed, why was Spencer so alacritously anxious to make sure dumbledoresarmy (and bystanding readers) understood that his hands were clean, if it was so obvious they were clean? At any rate, his conscience was in the wrong place at that moment, and dumbledoresarmy should have felt insulted; instead, of course, she dutifully said in effect, "Yes, Massah".

Thus, what KOK in his obtuseness did not see were the following locutions in my phrasing which he quoted:

"...indeed, the loyalty he {Robert Spencer} commands is so influential, it moved one long-time reader, "dumbledoresarmy", to actually censor herself and refrain from mentioning the name of Andrew Bostom in connection with that compendium..."

Only a child or a mentally challenged person would derive from this an assertion of Spencer's direct responsibility. Perhaps my phrasing was too subtle for KOK's mind. When a figurehead "commands loyalty" it doesn't mean he is directly literally issuing orders for loyalty on pain of punishment; it means the reverence for him by his followers is sufficiently great that loyalty to him becomes virtually de rigueur among his followers. A particularly adroit leader in such a circumstance need not do much to "command" such loyalty. Indeed, Spencer has a powerful mechanism on his side:

If you criticize me too much (and I and my attack dogs like "awake" define "too much"), then you are helping the Jihadists.

With a mechanism like that, it's no wonder even a dumbledoresarmy can feel remarkably inhibited.

[continued next comment]

Hesperado said...

[continued from last comment]

In the phrasings of mine which KOK quoted, I also spoke of [a] kind of a climate [that] would move someone as principled and otherwise assertive as dumbledoresarmy to censor herself... This phrasing is not too subtly locating the motivation in dumbledoresarmy's mind.

The point is, however, that dumbledoresarmy is not stupid, nor is she a sheep. Therefore my rhetorical questions and concerns are legitimate: How could someone like dumbledoresarmy come to feel so inhibited she actually censored herself about something so unremarkable as the ascription of an author's name to an important book? KOK apparently doesn't care about the implications of that question, and instead focuses on my fault for faulting Spencer. Again, Spencer could have, and could, clear this up in an instant, if he just stood up like a Mensch (cf. supra) rather than like a slippery lawyer. But Spencer needn't do anything, because he's not technically responsible, and his acolytes unquestioningly support him and have sealed off their minds from the possibility of criticism of him, on grounds that it and any consideration of such criticism will "help the Enemy".