Monday, July 04, 2011
Whatever happened to healthy disagreement?
The blogger "Jewish Odysseus" recently wrote a well-reasoned defense of refraining from the (by now Counterjihad-in-the-Blogospherically infamous) "Open Letter", on the grounds (to summarize somewhat simplistically) that bringing this out into the open is divisive, and therefore deleterious, for the Anti-Islam Movement.
I disagreed with him, and articulated it thusly:
"If you intend to be including in your argument an appeal for all potentially disagreeing individuals within the anti-Islam movement to refrain from disagreement as a general principle, on the basis that any kind of disagreement can undermine solidarity, I must respectfully and strenuously... disagree.
"Most people who eschew disagreement as a general principle (rather than on a case-by-case basis) I find have a simplistic monolithic view of disagreement. They seem to think it must always be bad, and cannot ever be good or constructive (at least, they consistently seem to recoil from it in aversion every time it comes up in a substantial way).
"I think, however, that there are two kinds of disagreement: healthy and unhealthy. There's no need to run to the hills or shrink timidly back into a hole of a show of anxiously maintained unanimity any time disagreement, or circumstances that portend it, pop up.
"If disagreement is pursued in a healthy manner, there's no need to squelch it or sweep it under the rug, for fear that it might morph into some dangerously divisive force. Since disagreement is inevitable (as Dymphna of Gates of Vienna has rightly said more than once), and if there is a form of doing it that is healthy and mature, then we have no choice, sometimes (not necessarily any and every time), but to "let it all hang out" -- and in doing so, try to do that in a healthy and mature way.
"This particular case (the Pam Geller-EDL Affair) I believe warrants the expression of disagreement out in the open sunshine and breezy air of open discussion. "The introduction to, and the content of, the Open Letter (as well as Lawrence Auster's analysis included in this ancillary post (also useful) which Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna put up more recently), altogether present the case for it well enough, and I have nothing to add."
And I added, finally:
"If Westerners are that frail, that they cannot sustain healthy, yet vigorous, disagreement when it's called for, then I'm not sure they'll be up for the broader more daunting task of fighting Islam in the decades ahead."
Just because individuals on one side of a dispute demonstrate an inability to be rational (let alone fair and mature) as the disagreement unfolds, does not ipso facto support the suppression of any and all disagreements. Sometimes -- as with the Pam Geller-EDL Affair -- it is salutary for a movement to have such unfairness and irrationality exposed. Do we really want people in quasi-leadership positions (as Pam Geller and Robert Spencer undeniably are, even if to a degree perhaps less substantial than, say, Geert Wilders or... Tommy Robinson) to possess potentially damaging, or self-destructive, flaws?
Let's let this out into the sunshine of vigorous, respectful discussion.
If not for the principle of this issue (= "Don't accuse a valiant anti-Islam group of serious charges unless you have and show evidence"), then at least for the flaws it reveals in people in whom we would put our trust to guide and manage various aspects of the anti-Islam cause in which we all -- superstar bloggers, "independent" bloggers, peon bloggers, and non-bloggers whose lives are too full (of the joys and mundane frustrations of life) to blog -- all have a stake.
More clarification in response to the argumentation of Jewish Odysseus.