Saturday, January 14, 2012
No publicity is bad publicity
Some trenchant counter-examples to my title and little photo gallery come to mind, of course -- Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, and that gold standard for famous Hindenburg disasters, Gary Hart, to name a few -- but let's not spoil the fun, shall we?
Anyway, just last month in December of 2011, Robert Spencer began promoting a new blog by a Muslim female who had decided to take the big step of leaving Islam after 35 years of living in the hell on Earth a Muslim (particularly a Muslim female) usually must endure -- even if most endure it quite happily.
Spencer has been featuring a lengthy excerpt of every latest blog entry on his own blog, Jihad Watch, with a link leading the reader to "read the whole thing" over at her blog, entitled aptly enough, "Liberated".
As the reader began reading her entries, beginning with the first one, it soon became clear that her title is tinged with a bitter irony; for she still remains in a Muslim country, and as yet has found no way to escape to the free world. She is "liberated" only in interiority, in her mind and heart; not in public. Nor does she feel unambivalent about such a major decision, as otherwise, materially, she leads a relatively comfortable life with a passably good job, a nice car, and other amenities. The one thing she does not have is the basic dignity all humans deserve -- the freedom to choose what meaning of life (if any) she wants to subscribe to publically, without fear of public opprobrium, social and legal ostracization, or -- too often in Muslim milieus, the punishment of death for apostasy.
As a Muslim apostate living in a Muslim country (she dare not reveal which one), she is living in the Gulag Ummapelago -- worse than the Siberian Gulag of Solzhenitzyn's famous novel, for this is no far-off region to which dissidents are sent; it is simply daily life in any given Muslim country (with variations from country to country, reflecting the wonderful "tapestry" of "diversity" that makes Islam "not a monolith" -- but still unconscionably violating socially, legally, politically and spiritually the spirit and letter of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights).
At any rate, soon after "Liberated" began penning her blog essays, people began to voice hints of suspicions about whether she was a real person, or perhaps just a fictitious concoction, perhaps created by Spencer himself. Among other alleged clues, her English seemed too polished for a female Muslim who had never been to the West, had spent her childhood in Pakistan, then moved to some other Muslim hellhole. These suspicions were not merely voiced by the usual trolls and Muslim sprites and demons that haunt Internet forums and chat rooms; they began to be broached by some loyal readers of Jihad Watch. Therefore, "Liberated" began addressing these concerns formally in her blog essays. The situation became serious enough at a certain point that Robert Spencer himself wrote an essay published on her blog trying to allay those concerns and to assure the readers that "Liberated" is a real Muslim apostate and that her sad story is all too real. (Indeed, in two comments on her blog, I recently re-opened this issue (which by now has pretty much subsided on her blog) in the comments field of her most recent essay delving into why at age 35 she remains unmarried, and obliquely addressing the concern of some readers wondering how this is possible in the Muslim milieu she claims to have grown up in, where female daughters are, we are supposed to believe, routinely forced into marriage at a young age -- though no one seriously responded to me or seems to have noticed what I was getting at.)
Along with these suspicions of her reality were indiscriminately mingled (or mangled) the related, but distinct, issue of whether Spencer and the other man active in the promotion of "Liberated", her very close friend and mentor Ali Sina (an ex-Muslim himself, who subscribes to the "millions of Muslims are leaving Islam every day" mantra that is supposed to proffer hope for a dubiously quick solution to the problem Muslims are causing the world), have not perhaps been duped by a clever Muslim pretending to be an apostate. Certainly, Spencer and Sina are smart individuals who know a great deal about Muslim shenanigans and tactics, and probably are able to vet the potential infiltrator. However, they are not a perfect dynamic duo, like Superman and Batman, and one should therefore always reserve a healthy dose of skepticism in the back of one's mind, even as one goes ahead guardedly to support "Liberated" in her new venture.
All this flack about her sincerity, her reality and the possibility of some kind of elaborate ruse which her blog could represent have generated a remarkable amount of traffic on her new blog. I don't know how many blogs within a mere few weeks of their creation garner so many comments for each and every essay, but I dare say it's rather rare. Let's take a look at the stats for the seven essays for her first month, December: Her first essay of December 22, 86 comments. Her second essay, 91 comments, Third essay, 98. Fourth essay, 160. Fifth essay, 110. Sixth essay, 173. Seventh essay, 197.
Then there's our current month, January: So far, we have: First essay, 72 comments. Second essay, 168. Third essay, 157. Fourth essay, 161. Fifth essay, 185. Sixth and latest essay, 102. And apparently the buzz about her blog has reached far and wide in the Blogosphere as well. Also, it's garnered 151 followers (and counting) in the span of less than a month's time, which is a lot on Blogspot (though it may seem insignificant compared with juggernauts like Facebook).
It's safe to say that if there hadn't been the initial controversy about her identity, the blog would not have made the splash it did, and it may well have foundered into relative obscurity, with at best only a handful of polite, boring and mostly insubstantial comments per essay -- you know, like my blog. As it is, along with the usual dreck that every blog and discussion forum cannot avoid, there have accrued on Liberated quite a few interesting and substantive comments appended to all her essays (and, to toot my own horn, many of them from moi), and it promises to become a major blog in the still inchoate anti-Islam movement. In addition, unlike some anti-Islam blogs, its owners don't seem to indulge in that curious penchant for discouraging interesting meanderings into off-topic, or reasonably provocative, subject matter; and indeed, there seems to be no censorship to speak of at all. This too is a good sign, conducive to a thriving discussion community (albeit one that inevitably will attract the usual requisite trolls and the dreck that comes in their wake, which one always hopes will be kept to a tolerable minimum.)
In sum: The "bad publicity" of her initially dubious bonafides, then, has turned to a felicitous start for a blogging career, so far. No need to turn one's nose at that!