Monday, February 13, 2012
My problem with Jihad Watchers
From being a part of the amorphous community of commenters in the comments fields of Jihad Watch over the years (until I was unceremoniously banned in September of 2010), I became increasingly dismayed by a seemingly dominant consensus on there: namely, the consensus that the movement should not be against Muslims per se, but only against Islam.
The Jihad Watchers who affect a tougher, more no-nonsense approach, and thus may use language about "Muslims" being the problem, nevertheless tend to qualify that whenever they get the merest whiff of the dreaded "all" word. And so, their formula seems to differ from the PC MC TMOE mantra (the problem is only a "Tiny Minority of Extremists") only by degree, not by kind.
A few years ago, I developed the term PC MC (Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism), which I used (though did not technically coin) to describe the strange -- but alas, all too real -- sociopolitical phenomenon of Westerners on all points of the political spectrum -- Left, Center, and Right -- tending to persist in denial about the danger of Islam and often even going the extra mile to spasm into Islamopologist mode to defend Islam and Muslims whenever they might be criticized. I.e., I developed the term PC MC chiefly to explain why so many people in the West outside of the Leftist sphere remained myopic to the danger of Islam and even persisted in defending Islam (George Bush being the gold standard of this phenomenon with his nauseatingly repeated mantra that "Islam is a great religion of peace").
An additional sociopolitical phenomenon needed explaining, however.
Slowly, I began noticing that many people within the small and continually beleaguered anti-Islam community -- analysts & representatives as well as civilians alike -- were showing signs and symptoms of being infected with PC MC. I could not conclude, however, that they themselves were PC MC. Somehow, I needed an explanatory model that recognized and accounted for the retention of a certain degree of PC MC with regard to Islam, yet which did not succeed (as it does with actual PC MCs) in substantially hindering these people from criticizing Islam and Muslims (let alone condemning them). Thus was born my term asymptotic.
This term, as I have analyzed on this blog before, means in a nutshell:
The retention of PC MC, to one degree or another, in the heart and mind of an otherwise anti-Islam person.
And, alas, it seems from my experience of regularly dipping in to read various comments fields on Jihad Watch over the years right into the present, that the majority of Jihad Watchers are asymptotic.
(Speaking of the present, last week I decided, on a whim, to go back into Jihad Watch comments under a new pseudonym, LemonLime. Since I have long been averse to trying to not be myself just to please other people, I was not going to skulk back in and "tone down" my Hesperadish self. I was just going to calls it as a sees it. My readers can see the amusing results here, here and here -- amusing in just how much bafflingly irrational prickly ire I manage to arouse among the vast majority of Jihad Watch readers who responded to me, just by being myself. I merely posted comments that are unremarkably mature in manner and intelligent in content, with only modest shakes here and there of a bit of salt and pepper to spice things up, but -- outside of one extremely rare lapse that was begging to be indulged -- no offensive language and no juvenile language; and with a mere smattering now and again of vaguely ad hominemish insinuations wryly wrapped in diffidently and elliptically smartass locutions. And the fireworks inexplicably, but amusingly, flew.)
To get back to the main thing that bugs me about Jihad Watchers, their tendency to be asymptotic:
Perhaps the most common form of asymptotic retention of PC MC in the otherwise un-PC MC person is in the belief that innumerable Muslims exist out there who are decent and harmless. While the precise number of these innumerable decent and harmless Muslims is never pinned down (and how could it be?), that indeterminate number's function, in the asymptotic view, is to be sufficient to make a difference. I.e., "I don't know how many of these decent and harmless Muslims exist," says the asymptotic person, "but I know they must exist in huge numbers and that they are our hope."
Hope for what, exactly? There are two forms of asymptotic hope in this regard:
1) a hope for Islamic reform, to render Islam as benign and secular-friendly as all other religions have become
2) a hope in the eventual disappearance of Islam, when a sufficient critical mass of Muslims apostasize.
On what basis, then, does the asymptotic person believe in the existence of this hopeful demographic among world Muslims? The most common theory is a combination of the factors of ignorance and insouciance. I.e., the idea is that there exist large numbers of Muslims who don't really know their own Islam and thus don't know that the ideology which they are enabling -- if only by the sheer fact of continuing to identify themselves as Muslim -- is evil and dangerous.
And this idea is combined with a distinct yet related hypothesis: that there exist large numbers of Muslims who are so relaxed in their religiosity they are tantamount to being nominal Muslims who are not really following Islam.
Now, the asymptotic does not have actual proof of these hypotheses. The evidentiary basis for believing them seems to reside in a combination of anecdotal evidence ("I know some nice Muslims") and wishful thinking based upon an inference in turn resting on the conviction that Muslims are human.
Homo Occidentalis: The Humanity of Muslims
We now touch on a subject too complex for this particular essay -- the philosophical and historical symbolism of humanity.
(For now, I will simply state bald axioms which constitute a conclusion to a more detailed argument explored in another analysis of this subject: Four phases of Western universalism, and the humanity of Muslims.)
The PC MC defines "human" according to a measure based on Homo Occidentalis. I.e., "human" is to be Western.
Needless to say, this is an acutely ironic definition for PC MC, since PC MC is otherwise so anti-Western. This irony is easily explained as part of the general incoherence of PC MC.
But PC MC didn't fabricate this definition out of thin air. It was in fact developed in the pre-PC MC West. I.e., humanity and related concepts ("being human" and "Mankind") are Western inventions. More precisely, they are symbolizations that express the singular, if not unique, capacity of Western civilization to transcend tribalism toward universalism.
What was, in the pre-PC MC West, a paradox, has become transmuted, under the regime of PC MC, into an incoherent irony.
What was, in the pre-PC MC West, an expansionism predicated upon a self-understanding of superiority over the Third World, has become transmuted, under the regime of PC MC, into an expansionism predicated upon an incoherent equivalencism resting on the unstable foundation of toxic shame.
What was, in the pre-PC MC West, a project of saving the world by Westernizing it under the straightforward assumption that Westernization is superior to all other forms of sociopolitical organization, has become transmuted, under the regime of PC MC, into an incoherent and ultimately self-defeating project to save the West from itself by Third-Worldizing it -- in a word, Wilsonianism.
Post-911, neo-Wilsonianism has become a project of Islamicizing the West under the delusion that the West can save Muslims from Islam by simultaneously Westernizing Muslims and Islamifying the West.
From Wilsonianism to "Wildersianism"
It is of course from Geert Wilders' name that I have coined Wildersianism. We may say that just as asymptotic represents the retention, to one degree or another, of PC MC in the heart and mind of the anti-Islam critic, so too Wildersianism represents the retention of Wilsonianism in the heart and mind of the Western defender of the West.
Consider this sentiment that sits as a jewel or fulcrum in the center of Geert Wilders' address in Berlin last year:
Before I continue, and in order to avoid any misunderstandings, I want to emphasize that I am talking about Islam, not about Muslims. I always make a clear distinction between the people and the ideology, between Muslims and Islam. There are many moderate Muslims, but the political ideology of Islam is not moderate and has global ambitions. It aims to impose Islamic law or Sharia upon the whole world. The way to achieve this is through jihad. The good news is that millions of Muslims around the world - including many in Germany and the Netherlands - do not follow the directives of Sharia, let alone engage in jihad. The bad news, however, is that those who do are prepared to use all available means to achieve their ideological, revolutionary goal.
If the logic of PC MC is incoherent, the logic of the asymptotic mind is further infolded upon itself like a pretzel of hyper-incoherency, for it is simultaneously moving away from PC MC even as it retains PC MC -- and it is a measure of this augmented incoherency that Wilders articulated that fulcrum of a sentiment quoted above after -- and before -- a litany of reasons about Islam that should move any reasonable mind to make the elementary connection between Islam and Muslims, and to oppose the latter no less than the former.
The Wildersian distinction between Muslims and Islam is, in a further twist of transmutation, the PC MC distinction between the Noble Savage and his Culture. The latter distinction suffers under the incoherency of simultaneously
1) revering the Noble Savage together with his Culture
2) trying to save the Noble Savage (post-911, the Muslim) from his Culture by civilizing (i.e., Westernizing) him.
The Wildersian distinction is a twist on this incoherency: it simultaneously
1) opposes the Islam of Muslims
while it takes pains to clarify that it
2) does not oppose the Muslims of Islam.
The Wildersian is able to perform this feat of mental gymnastics by retaining, while sort of inverting, the PC MC incoherency regarding the Culture of the Noble Savage: the PC MC simultaneously reveres the Culture of the Noble Savage, and wants to save the Noble Savage from that Culture. The Wildersian simultaneously condemns the Islam of the Muslim, and wants to save Western Man from condemning Muslims by saving Muslims from Islam. This project of self-salvation depends upon the project of extricating Muslims from Islam, and this project, in turn, depends upon the theoretical distinction between Muslims and Islam.
But the Wildersian is not a Wilsonian, nor a PC MC (let alone, God forbid, a Leftist) -- so why would he be concerned about "saving Western Man"? And from what would he be saving "Western Man"? We know what the PC MC and Leftist want to save Western Man from: his "shame" of how he mistreated non-Westerners for so long; a sin that becomes tantamount to an original sin, a part of his evil nature, an ever-present propensity against which he needs, continually, to be constrained through various forms of political policy and social engineering. Now, while the Wildersian is not PC MC per se, he is asymptotic -- and recall that being asymptotic is, precisely, to retain vestiges and residues of the PC MC virus in one's bloodstream, as it were. Vestiges and residues against which, apparently, the requisite antibodies of the holistic epiphany have not yet been activated.
So: in this specific context (as articulated in the paragraph preceding the one immediately above), the Wildersian wants to save Western Man from having to succumb to the slippery slope of "becoming like them" -- like the Muslims. I.e., he wants to prevent Western Man from going down the slippery slope of crimes of humanity (the gold standard of such crimes which haunt the modern Western Man being genocide); and he, like the PC MC, knows deep down (even if he doesn't fully acknowledge it) that the metastatically deadly intentions and behaviors of Muslims worldwide are increasingly forcing us to take measures of self-defense that are not merely tough -- but drastically tough, as befits the appallingly dreadful emergency they appear to portend. In order to stave off the only reaction Western Man can adopt -- genocide -- the Wildersian looks desperately around for a way out of this dilemma, and becomes thereby convinced that somehow, the key to preventing us from that unacceptable backlash against hundreds of millions of innocent Brown People will be for Muslims to reform.
Again, this asymptotic posture differs from the PC MC mindset and policy only in degree, not in kind. And, similarly, the irrational handwringing anxiety that Western Man is incapable of handling the problem of Muslims other than through eventual genocide is another thing the asymptotic shares with the PC MC. Neither is able to consider a perfectly reasonable alternative: mass deportation of the Muslims within the West back to their own lands, where they may be as Muslim as they wish, to their heart's content. And both misconstrue, irrationally, such an alternative as tantamount to genocide, and therefore recoil from it as an arachnophobe might spastically shudder at the sudden apparition of a spider.
Wildersianism, then, depends on the hope that Muslims can be separated from their Islam, even if that hope rests incoherently on the tacit concession that Muslims are in fact enmeshed with their Islam, else there would be no need to separate them from it: To regain coherence, the asymptotic who notices this problem of incoherence then attempts elaborate theoretical gymnastics by which to try to argue that this geoculturally broad and psychoculturally deep enmeshment is not all that broad and deep. Neither side, of course, can point to smoking gun evidence for their position; though the ones claiming that Muslims and Islam are inseparable do have a massive mountain of evidence looming just over the left shoulder of the asymptotic -- a mountain whose existence and contents the asymptotic knows well enough to make his gymnastics in avoiding its implications all the more flexibly torturous.
If the reader will recall from above, this distinction for the asymptotic mind is achieved through the flimsy bases of anecdotal evidence + wishful thinking -- with the latter in turn resting upon the axiomatic assumption that Muslims are human (human meaning having the capacity for Western values); and that therefore a sufficient number of them are either a) reformable, or b) not really Islamic anyway, or c) both a and b.
Since the Wildersian distinction tries to oppose an abstract Ism ("Islam") while simultaneously embracing concrete Muslims assumed to be un-Islamically human, it leads to preposterous formulations where the abstract Ism is personified -- for the human agent that is our enemy has to be acknowledged on some level, and so is diverted away from the actual Muslim agents who hate us and are trying to kill us if they cannot dominate us, and onto the ideology that motivates them.
Thus, Geert Wilders approvingly cites Mark Alexander's adumbration of characteristics of Islam which he compares with other "totalitarian ideologies", Communism and Nazism:
* They use political purges to "cleanse" society of what they considere undesirable;
* They tolerate only a single political party. Where Islam allows more parties, it insists that all parties be Islamic ones;
* They coerce the people along the road that it must follow;
* They obliterate the liberal distinction between areas of private judgment and of public control;
* They turn the educational system into an apparatus for the purpose of universal indoctrination;
* They lay down rules for art, for literature, for science and for religion;
* They subdue people who are given second class status;
* They induce a frame of mind akin to fanaticism. Adjustment takes place by struggle and dominance;
* They are abusive to their opponents and regard any concession on their own part as a temporary expedient and on a rival's part as a sign of weakness;
* They regard politics as an expression of power;
* They are anti-Semitic.
But who is this "They" which Alexander and Wilders refer to? Some of the sentences may arguably have a locution amenable to the abstraction of an "ideology" -- but some become comical when that square peg of abstraction is crammed into the round hole of moral and even physical agency: e.g., "They are abusive to their opponents..." Alexander and Wilders seem to really think that ideologies can "be abusive to their opponents". No: it is the followers of those ideologies who are, properly speaking, abusive to their opponents.
This preposterous endowment of human agency to Islam is being done by Wilders, I repeat, because
1) as an anti-Islam analyst, he cannot help noticing the agency of Muslims and cannot help condemn its evil and dangerous nature;
2) as an asymptotic anti-Islam analyst, his PC MC ethics forbid him from ascribing that agency to Muslims themselves, and so therefore he must relocate it onto the abstraction Islam.
(A typical Jihad Watcher comment with regard to this may be found in the response of a commenter named "Buraq" to the well-formulated (and so far on that thread, unique) misgivings expressed by the commenter named "Denise".)
After an impassioned defense of Western superiority in general, framed by a critique of the excessive self-criticism cultivated by PC MC, Wilders then caps it off by borrowing the mantra of PC MC:
...there is no such thing as collective guilt. Free individuals are free moral agents who are responsible for their own deeds only.
The "collective guilt" Wilders is rejecting here is the Western guilt cultivated by PC MC, but unfortunately it curves back around as a double-edged sword: for this absence of "collective guilt" is not merely a feature of Western Man, but of all Mankind; and since Muslims are human, we cannot impute guilt -- or any negative quality -- upon them collectively.
The "Inner Westerner" inside every Muslim
The paradox is that the West is in fact unique among all cultures and civilizations in history in having transcended tribalism and differentiating the epiphany of universalism, expressed by such symbolisms as Man, Human, Human Being, Human Nature, Mankind.
With acute conciseness, the paradox may be rendered thusly:
The West transcended tribalism through endowing all other tribes with a common essence they themselves, through their continual tribalism, reject.
We can thus locate in the classical Western formulation -- pre-PC MC -- the seeds of the incoherence in PC MC and in asymptotic thinking (to the degree that asymptotic thinking retains PC MC).
What distinguished the classical Western formulation, however, was a more straightforward recognition, and public avowal, of the superiority of Western Man, and thus a more pragmatic, and logical, project of Civilizing i.e. Westernizing i.e. Humanizing Non-Western Man (even if we may agree now, in retrospect, such a project is in certain respects impracticable, given the refractory if not incorrigible nature of many Non-Westerners).
The idea at the heart of this project is that in every person there is an "inner Westerner" -- even if that person is a headhunter from the jungles of Borneo. If only that headhunter could get in touch with his "inner Westerner" he would stop hunting heads, is the idea.
And it is thus our mission -- our White Man's Burden (to recall Kipling) -- to help all these non-Westerners around the world to Westernize. (The Leftist and to a lesser extent his decaffeinated cousin the PC MC seem incapable of recognizing the supreme irony in that in their anti-Western attitude and project, they are perpetuating the condescending paternalism of Western Colonialism with regard to the non-Westerners of the world.)
As Wilsonianism has it (which continues with full force in our time in the neo-Wilsonian projects to secularize and "democratize" our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan who hate us), it's a win-win endeavor: Westernizing is not only good for them, it's also good for us! It's good for the whole world!
The PC MC continuation of classical Westernization, through Wilsonianism, has been hobbled by a bizarre self-contradiction, whose strange pith may be expressed thusly:
We want to help the Muslim discover his "inner Westerner" and yet we are ashamed of our own West.
As I have articulated before, PC MC is not synonymous with "Leftism": PC MC is "Leftism Lite" -- it is Leftism sufficiently softened and sweetened to have become palatable to the majority of Centrists and Conservatives. PC MC would never have been able to succeed in becoming dominant and mainstream throughout the West -- as it has over the past half century -- had it not been able to win over the hearts and minds of the majority of non-Leftists throughout the West. The reason I raise this point at this juncture is to point out that Leftism is less incoherent than PC MC, and the more extreme the Leftism is, the more coherent it becomes -- to the degree that Leftism does not try to harmonize a pro-Western implication with an anti-Western assumption. In this regard, the Leftist achieves perfect coherence through reaching his apogee of extremism, in violent Revolution against the West in order to destroy it and replace it with Utopia. Needless to say, this would be a Pyrrhic coherence.
PC MC has inherited and continues to promote the Western complex of symbolisms regarding humanity, even while incoherently perpetuating its own anti-Western prejudices which it inherited from Leftism -- and in that spirit, in our time audaciously employing this Western complex of symbolisms for the purpose of enabling the most virulent enemy of the West today (not to mention its actual brazenly military enemy for the millennium spanning the 7th and 17th centuries): Islam.
And so, the Asymptotics, the Jihad Watchers...
Let us recall that the asymptotics of the anti-Islam movement are retaining degrees of PC MC in their minds and hearts. This includes the PC MC idea that because Muslims are human, many of them (or even most of them?) must be as relatively harmless and as amenable to secularism as are Jews and Christians, because humans are amenable to secularism, because secularism is the apogee of humanity, you see: Homo Occidentalis is the Natural State of Man. And since Muslims are humans, too (even if they themselves divide humanity into two virtual races -- Homo Islamicus and Homo Kuffaricus), then it stands to reason that most of them don't subscribe to that medieval nonsense which only a "tiny minority of extremists" among them do -- you know, just like the David Koreshes or Jerry Falwells among us, right?
Asymptotics, of course, don't go as far as the PC MCs do -- that is the whole point of the term asymptotic. But they do resemble PC MCs in kind, if not in degree. Let us not make the elementary logical mistake of confusing kind and degree.
At any rate, when the PC MC looks out at the sea of Muslims around the world (and pouring into our own Western world as we speak), he sees a mass of human potential -- with the potential to Westernize, if only they are encouraged by things we can do to help. Since coherence is not a concern for the PC MC, he will not see the contradiction between
1) his "respect" for the Islamic culture of Muslims
2) his expectation that most Muslims have an "inner Westerner" just waiting to get out, if only the right circumstances can be created for them.
And so, I have noticed that it seems as though most Jihad Watchers are asymptotic on this issue. In their minds, apparently, most Muslims are "ignorant" of their own Islam and/or most Muslims are really "relaxed" in a secularist (i.e., Western) state of mind which according to Wilsonianists is the Natural State of Man (including all Muslims). As for all the bad Muslims out there causing so much trouble around the world, the asymptotic Jihad Watchers have carried over the PC MC assumption that the bad Muslims get radicalized to go against their "inner Westerner" through being persuaded or strong-armed by a tiny elite of imams and other self-styled Muslim experts of Islam. So the answer to the problem, of course, is more Wilsonianism -- now in its new and improved form: Wildersianism!
Wildersianism may be a little tougher on Muslims than Wilsonianism is (restrictions on immigration, perhaps heightened surveillance on "radical" mosques and imams, and, of course, lots and lots of verbal critiques of Islam), but broadly speaking it perpetuates the same unfounded assumption that many (or most?) Muslims are really "just moms and pops like the rest of us". These asymptotic Jihad Watchers may try to distinguish themselves from PC MCs by insisting that they understand that it is Islam itself which is the problem -- but they retain a vestige of PC MC in their equally insistent distinction between Islam and Muslims, and in the hope (or wishful thinking) which this distinction provides them.
This becomes particularly odd given the daily diet of data these Jihad Watchers absorb on Jihad Watch documenting the dangerous fanaticism of Muslims all over the world, as well as frequent indications that "moderate" Muslims do not exist, or that at the very least, if they do, we cannot tell who they really are, given Islamic taqiyya.
Thus, even their unofficial leader, Robert Spencer, who helms Jihad Watch, routinely educates them in the impossibility of telling the difference between the dangerous Muslim and the harmless Muslim.
Here is one example of his pedagogy:
First, Spencer quotes from an article on a project in the UK calculated to decrease "radicalization" of Muslims:
The Preventing Violent Extremism scheme has supported efforts to strengthen the role of moderate imams and women in mosques.
Spencer then asks his incisively rhetorical question:
"How does one determine who they are?"
He again quotes from the article:
...the report says that prevention work should be "solely focused on people with the intent to act or who are being targeted by recruiters".
And asks again:
"How does one determine who they are?"
Excellent questions. Unlike Spencer, however, apparently many, if not most, Jihad Watch readers must have answers for these questions -- else their stubborn defense of the viability of Muslim humanity and the hope of its usefulness in sufficient numbers for us in the face of the dangers Muslims present to us make no sense.
Or perhaps they believe in a sort of vague Wildersian expectation that if we continue to try to smother amorphous blankets of secularism in the general direction of Muslims, they will soften up and their "inner Westerner" will flower. This would be the sense to restore coherence to this "I'm against Islam but not against Muslims" stance: For, according to these New Wilsonians called Wildersians, secularism is the Natural State of Man -- including all Muslims potentially -- and so there exists an "inner Westerner" in every Muslim just screaming to get out, and it needs our help! And, to boot, it is the only (or the best, or the most "humane") solution to the problem Muslims are causing the rest of the world.
I would only caution these Jihad-Watching Wildersians that this is a very delicate operation: when trying to extract that "inner Westerner" from any given Muslim, be very careful, for the slightest wrong move could detonate the explosives therein.