Monday, December 26, 2011
Spencer and Auster: It's more complicated
Robert Spencer and Lawrence Auster, among many others in the (still inchoate) Anti-Islam Movement, persist in having a simplex, if not simple-minded, grasp of the Western paradigm by which the problem of Islam remains largely unrecognized.
Today's example -- on his blog, Auster writes:
"I will adopt Robert Spencer’s ironic device of referring to jihadists and sharia followers as “misunderstanders of Islam.” The label conveys that fact that according to all Western liberals and mainstream conservatives, true Islam is moderate and peaceful Islam, while those Muslims who, from the rightly guided caliphs of the seventh century to our own day, follow Allah’s and Muhammad’s instructions to wage war on, terrorize, subjugate, enslave, and kill non-Muslims do not understand true Islam. Instead, they have hijacked Islam and perverted the religion of peace into a religion of war and terror. According to Western liberals and mainstream conservatives, the people who correctly understand Islam are the Western liberals and mainstream conservatives themselves, not the actual Muslim leaders, authorities, imams and clerics for the last 1,389 years. Indeed, according to these Western experts on Islam, the worst misunderstander of Islam who has ever lived was its founder."
Spencer has repeated his detection of this "liberal" trope or meme of the "misunderstanders of Islam" a gazillion times. And a closely related one is his oft-repeated ironic retort that some fanatically bellicose Muslim du jour in the news "must be an Islamophobe" (a particular meme or trope I addressed in my recent essay here, An Anti-Islam Manual -- "Never Leave Home Without It").
The problem with the detection of this trope or meme is the premature ejaculation implied in its crowers. One gets the distinct impression from Spencer or Auster (and from their followers who parrot what they crow) that this phenomenon they are describing sums up the problem of the general Western "liberal" misapprehension of the problem of Islam. This, in turn, would imply that all we have to do is somehow communicate the facts about how mainstream Islam is in fact itself fanatical, extremist, supremacist, violently expansionist and anti-human rights and -- voila! -- the "liberals" will see the light and we as a society in the West can get on, in relatively unanimous agreement, with doing something pragmatic about the problem of Islam.
If only things were that simple and easy. In fact, the PC MC paradigm has far more up its sleeve than one mere meme or trope -- or a pair of relatively synonymous memes or tropes. Furthermore, the PC MC mentality has the added bonus of not requiring consistency or coherence, in case any of its multiple memes or tropes collide logically with each other and don't make collective sense.
Thus, whenever and wheresoever we in the (still inchoate) Anti-Islam Movement try to refute the "Misunderstanders of Islam" meme or trope with the copious evidence we have at our disposal showing that in fact the violent supremacist expansionist Muslims around the world are understanding mainstream Islam with unremarkable and traditional accuracy, the PC MC person -- after, that is, he has wasted our time dancing around the issue with elaborate hemming and hawing and a dizzying kaleidoscope of red herrings and straw men and ego quoques and any other logical fallacies he's brought along in his kit-bag -- remains blithely unfazed: for he has a fall-back position.
The fall-back position is ingenious, albeit incoherent on closer inspection (though, again, incoherence is water off the PC MC duck's back): "Why," so the PC MC person says, unruffled as he stands with his back against the corner we have forced him into by the sheer bulk of the data we have marshalled, "most Muslims aren't following Islam fully anyway: Most Muslims are just like most Christians, who just go about their lives with ordinary worldly concerns and aren't fanatical about their religion -- and besides, most Muslims don't even really know their own Islam anway. So these violent Muslims you keep pointing out -- they just reflect a relatively small minority among the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world, you see? There! Now, may I go? I have a triple-decaf frappaccino to get to..."
I.e., after the PC MC person can no longer dance around with his "Misunderstanders of Islam" meme or trope and the related "Islamophobe" meme or trope, he whips out his handy-dandy "Tiny Minority of Extremists" meme or trope -- in this case, easily adapted to imply that the "Extremists" we have to worry about are in fact following, not "hijacking", Islam.
"So, go ahead and worry about Islam, if you must," says the PC MC person who has even gotten that far only after the exhausting Dance Marathon he has put us through, "just don't worry about most Muslims, since they're just lax and ignorant like most everybody else is these days. Hold on -- my Android is vibrating...gotta get this... let's do brunch sometime...!"
And, unfortunately, this latter meme or trope is more like jelly in terms of refutation. How can we possibly demonstrate that the majority (let alone the vast majority) of 1.5 billion people spread out in a world-wide diaspora of different societies and cultures are all dangerously extremist? Obviously, we can't. We can compellingly infer it, from the ever-burgeoning mountain of data pullulating out of the Muslim world in our time, and throughout history. But, alas, there remains enough of wiggle room and fudge factor there for the PC MC people to exploit; which they do, all day long.
And even were we to refute this latter meme or trope, the PC MC person would have others to pull out of his kit-bag.
As I explained in my above-linked essay, nothing less than an Anti-Islam Manual will suffice to enable us consistently to refute at every corner and turn the many-splendored paradigm of the PC MCs and begin the process of their sociopolitical defeat as their precious paradigm comes undone and is slowly but surely deconstructed. But no one of influence in the (still inchoate) Anti-Islam Movement seems to care enough about this problem to help jump-start it. In fact, in certain ways, they continue to benefit from our ongoing co-dependent Dance with the PC MCs (and their Muslim apologists).
As long as a Spencer or an Auster persist in implying that the myopia of the "liberals" is a simple matter, they continue to imply that the problem is one of mere "stupidity" or, for the conspiratorially inclined, "evil". While Spencer has recently shown signs of finally coming up to speed, more or less, on one specific cog of the PC MC mechanism, its anti-racist device (here, and here), overall his analyses remain saddled -- as do those of Auster and nearly everyone else in the (still inchoate) Anti-Islam Movement -- with an overly simplistic comprehension of the PC MC paradigm.
Sans an appreciation for the complexity of the Quantum Ignorance of that paradigm, we will tend to perpetuate our relative impotence in the pedagogy necessary to wake up our fellow Westerners -- that is, when we have not already edged over into the darker conspiracy theory by which millions of our fellow Westerners, being "evil liberals", are seen as beyond hope and must be battled in an armchair Civil War to be followed logically by an actually bloody Civil War.