Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Noah Webster (Peace Be Upon Him), and these "defining days"...


“These are defining days,” says Robert Spencer, with regard to how Charlie Hebdo recently supposedly punished a staff-member with suspension because of her criticism of Islam (even though it turns out that her peccadillo may have been more a financial disagreement than a matter of ideological conscience).

Spencer is right, of course, with regard to the broader issue.  But it's more complicated.

For instance, Spencer in the same breath writes:

I didn’t co-sponsor the show to insult Islam and embarrass the Church by being uncharitable.

Which leads a healthy Islamophobe to ask:  Why not insult Islam?  

Let's consult Noah Webster about that word, just to be sure what we may be so fastidiously eschewing:

Insult—“Gross abuse offered to another, either by word or act; an act or speech of insolence or contempt; an affront; an indignity”

Let's unpack that further:

Gross—“great, palpable, serious”

Abuse—“Vituperative words; coarse, insulting speech; abusive language; virulent condemnation; reviling”

Vituperative—“Uttering or writing censure; containing, or characterized by, abuse; scolding”

Meanwhile, if we recall the latter part of the original definition of Insult—“an act or speech of insolence or contempt; an affront; an indignity”—we can continue to unravel the meaning:

Insolence—“The quality of being insolent; pride or haughtiness manifested in contemptuous and overbearing treatment of others; arrogant contempt; brutal imprudence”

Contempt —“…the feeling with which one regards that which is esteemed mean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn”

Affront—“Contemptuous or rude treatment which excites … resentment; marked disrespect; a purposed indignity”

Which leads us finally (though we could go on all day, as the detailed analysis of dictionary definitions interestingly lends itself to seemingly circuitous, if not circular, garden paths of one word leading to the next):

Indignity—“Any action toward another which manifests contempt for him; an offense against personal dignity; unmerited contemptuous treatment; contumely; incivility or injury, accompanied with insult”


Other than most of Insolence and parts of Indignity (viz., “an offense against personal dignity; unmerited contemptuous treatment”), everything else that flows lexically and semantically from the primary word and act which Robert Spencer loftily eschewed—Insult—I have no problem with, and I think the Counter-Jihad should have no problem with, and should be as much a matter of principle in defending for our freedom to do it as is the more mature and dignified behavior of the Garland event.

But naturally, the mainstream has been treating that restrained event as though it were pretty much evincing all the negative connotations from all the definitions of Insult detailed above; bringing up the related question I have asked many times over the years of the Counter-Jihad: you know, the old “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” question—a question rendered particularly acute given that “doing”—i.e. insulting Islam—in this case is so richly deserved.  Not that all members of the Counter-Jihad should feel they have to insult Islam all the time; but as a matter of principle, our freedom to do it any time any one of us damn well pleases should be upheld as staunchly and as explicitly as the more rarified and dignified comportment evinced by the Garland event has been.

Which in turn brings me to my main point here. Robert Spencer wrote:

And particularly for those Christians out there who are sitting in their armchairs and tut-tutting at us for being so lacking in civility and respect that we would actually insult Muhammad and Islam, hear this: I didn’t co-sponsor the show to insult Islam and embarrass the Church by being uncharitable

Again:  Given what we know about Islam, and after digesting the definition of the word “insult”, one reasonably wonders, why is Spencer making such a point about how he and his Garland colleagues avoided insulting Islam?  Does he think the Mainstream will dislike him any less if he anxiously assures them of this?

And again, more pointedly:  Why not insult Islam? In fact, we should insult Islam—for two reasons:

1) Islam is eminently, richly, massively deserving of insult (with the minor caveats I noted above aside).

2) The free speech issue which Spencer and Geller have been defending before, during—and particularly after (in light of the mainstream criticisms of them)—the Garland event, would still apply to an insult of Islam.

Once again, Spencer and Geller are, for the umpteenth time over the years, comporting themselves in an impeccably restrained manner—and the mainstream behaves as though they were pigs splashing around in mud.

Andrew Bostom, in his recent interview on the Audrey Russo radio show, emphasized several times how the Garland event was not stooping to crass behavior or insult, but was "a rather staid event... which was really emphasizing the history of images of Muhammad, why it was important not to succumb to sharia blasphemy law..."  Furthermore, he added that it did not indulge in the "juvenalia" apparently typified by the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, who, Bostom noted, had included one image of the 1950s sexpot actress Brigitte Bardot featuring her prominently sexy rear end, with Muhammad's head superimposed on her body, and the accompanying caption in French saying: "Do you like my tush?"  As Bostom keeps insisting on this, however, the listener begins to wonder what his point is: he almost sounds like he's saying that free speech is only okay if it's dignified rather than crass—which, of course, was precisely a viewpoint which he, Spencer and Geller were all otherwise vehemently repudiating.

The point is, as Bostom reiterates (but oddly doesn't seem to fully digest himself), it obviously doesn't matter to the Mainstream how well-behaved the satirists of Muhammad comport themselves.  If it’s clear after years that the name of the game is Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I say let’s stop anxiously worrying over what the mainstream thinks of us and take the gloves off—and subject Islam to the criticism, condemnation, and contumely it so richly deserves.

What’s that you say? Contumely…?

Contumely—“Rudeness compounded of haughtiness and contempt; scornful insolence; despiteful treatment; disdain; contemptuousness in act or speech…”

For, as the great Edmund Burke (PBUH) wrote:

“Nothing aggravates tyranny so much as contumely.”


Speaking of the Andrew Bostom radio interview, he also mentioned how certain conservative pundits, including Bill O'Reilly and Jeanine Pirro of FOX News, disparaged the Garland event as a "dumb move".  Bostom rightly added that this is precisely missing the point of this most important exercise in freedom of speech.

Then I remembered something Robert Spencer had argued, way back when.  In a report on Jihad Watch in 2008, consequent upon an incident in Afghanistan where an American soldier allegedly used a Koran for target practice (apparently the soldier claimed he didn't know it was a Koran); then naturally the U.S. Military (and by extension the U.S. Government and America itself) apologized to any and all Muslims who may have felt "insulted" (a local Sheikh called the incident "aggression against the entire Islamic world") -- then, to add insult to insult, the U.S. Military groveled in a most pitifully abject manner:

“I come before you here seeking your forgiveness,” [Maj. Gen. Jeffery] Hammond said to tribal leaders and others at the apology ceremony. “In the most humble manner I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers.” 

Another military official kissed a Quran and presented is as “a humble gift” to the tribal leaders...

In the comments section, an interesting conversation came up, when an astute reader named anonymous took issue with Spencer's editorial remarks.  First anonymousquoted Spencer:

If he knew what the book was, the soldier was stupid, because even if it is true that the Qur'an contains mandates for violence against unbelievers, and it is true, doing something like this will only turn into enemies some people who might otherwise not be your enemies.

Hm.  This sounds virtually identical in substance and spirit to the complaints voiced by Spencer's (and Geller's) detractors...

Now, after quoting Spencer, “anonymous writes:

Anyone who shows himself as our enemy as a result of someone shooting at the Qur'an is already our enemy, as that person in effect has demanded of us to respect the scriptures of his so-called religion, or else. Our failure to comply merely makes the person reveal himself as our enemy. Thus, the Qur'an shooting should be a good thing, as it will provoke our enemies to reveal themselves. I'm surprised that Spencer considers this Qur'an shooting incident an "unnecessary provocation", since it is no more an "unnecessary provocation" than the Danish Mohammad cartoons were, and Spencer apparently has no problems with posting these on his site.

At that point, he quoted Spencer again:

[Dinesh] D'Souza in that is asking us to ignore and deny the truth, which is never an effective strategy in wartime or peacetime.

Then he commented:
I'm glad to hear that Spencer has now realized that ignoring and denying the truth is never an effective strategy. Since Spencer's repeated challenges to Muslims to work for Islamic reform have in fact been expressions of Spencer himself outwardly ignoring and denying the truth, as they have suggested that Islamic reform is possible when in reality this is not the case (something Spencer himself undoubtedly realizes), his recent epiphany suggests that the nonsensical challenge is now a thing of the past, at least if Spencer will practice what he preaches and not merely continue to ignore and deny the truth against his own better judgement.
At this point, the conversation gets sidetracked by some quasi-personal history between Spencer and anonymous, as the two evidently knew each other and had a way of getting under each other's skin.  Nevertheless, this anonymous” essentially had the upper hand, in my estimation.  To the charge anonymous brought up about the seemingly self-contradictory incoherence of Spencer's stand on Islamic reformation, Spencer referred him to a link from a former essay. 

We pick up where
anonymous” responds after having read that essay:

Spencer provides me with a link in which he quotes himself saying the following:

"Many strange things have happened in history and I would never say that Islamic reform is absolutely impossible" (my emphasis).
Here, Spencer explicitly admits that he would never say that Islamic reform is impossible, meaning that he does claim it could be possible, even as he admits that it is not likely. For the record, I don't actually believe that Spencer himself personally has any hopes for Islamic reform to occur - on the contrary, someone with as much knowledge of Islam as Spencer necessarily has to know that Islamic reform is impossible. Which begs the question why Spencer is so reluctant to actually admit that this is true. Instead, rather than stating in unambiguous language that Islamic reform is impossible, and that no matter what they say or do, so-called Islamic reformers will necessarily leave us disappointed since as Spencer undoubtedly know there is no potential for reform in Islam, Spencer first informs us of the unlikelihood of Islamic reform, but then all of a sudden challenges Muslims to work for Islamic reform, thereby suggesting that however unlikely it may be, Islamic reform is possible! Ultimately, the issue is not about whether or not Spencer believes that Islamic reform is possible, but about why Spencer insists on challenging Muslims to work for Islamic reform when the challenge itself implies that Islamic reform is possible or else would be meaningless, and why Spencer persists in doing so even after he has been made aware of these implications.

More directly pertinent to our main topic, anonymous” then quotes another commenter, a regular Jihad Watch reader named “Darcy”, who had piped up to help Spencer out:

Hey al-"anonymous." I've bought a little paperback Koran. And I can do ANYTHING I want with it! So, I'm your enemy! Good! COME AND GET ME!

And then
anonymous continues:

Darcy seems to have misunderstood my message completely. What I was trying to convey was that I believe that Spencer is wrong when he claims that the Qur'an shooting will "turn into enemies some people who might otherwise not be your enemies". The way I see it, anyone who starts behaving as our enemy as a result of our failure to show respect for the Qur'an was already our enemy, and only revealed himself as an enemy when we faildc [sic] to act in accordance with his implicit demands. Bravo Mohammed cartoons! MORE Mohammed cartoons! Because: They tell the Truth about evil Islam. I agree.

At this juncture, Spencer begins getting rather subtle, addressing
anonymous” for the latest round:
Evidently, you, like your friends, do not know the meaning of the phrase "calling a bluff." ...

Then anonymous responded, quoting Spencer:

Evidently, you, like your friends, do not know the meaning of the phrase "calling a bluff."

And I have tried to explain to Spencer that whatever the intent of his challenges, they have the unfortunate effect of suggesting that Islamic reform is possible. If Spencer does not in fact intend to suggest such a thing, he should consider rephrasing his frequent challenges so that they no longer contain this suggestion...

... if we are to take Spencer at his word that he "would never say that Islamic reform is absolutely impossible", then it would be immensely interesting to hear from Spencer himself exactly what it is about Islam that makes him unwilling to rule out the possibility of Islamic reform altogether. (Since the weekend is over and I don't really have much time to participate in this discussion, I think this'll have to be it for me for now.)


Perhaps it is because Spencer hedges his bets about Islam, and about Islamic reform, that he is so chary of "insulting" Islam.  


Egghead said...

So I finally had a chance to read the whole piece and this is my question/comment? Namely, WHO is Spencer trying to reach by challenging Muslims to reform Islam which anyone remotely familiar with Islam knows is impossible?

To wit, is Spencer trying to reach Muslims who DO NOT read him nor care about his ideas - OR is Spencer trying to reach infidels who will surely be confused and misled about the impossibility of the reform of Islam?

Egghead said...

This falls under the idea that a speaker should know his audience....

Egghead said...

It REALLY bothers me that Spencer talked of 'calling a bluff' because, if true, it appears that Spencer believes that his message is directed to Muslims.

Naive infidels are unaware of taqiyya and related Islamic ideas which form the source of the 'bluff' of Islam.

Which brings us to the question of 'What is the 'bluff' of Islam?' Surely, the 'bluff' of Islam is that Islam is peaceful.

It is clear that it is NOT the 'bluff' of Islam that Islam is open to reform! If Islam is peaceful, why would Islam need to reform?

Spencer should be informing naive infidels about taqiyya and related ideas instead of adding to the very effective confusion created by Muslims.

In trying to be coy about Muslims to Muslims, Spencer is actively confusing naive infidels - which is a grave mistake.

Hesperado said...

Thanks Egghead.

Well, with regard to that "bluff", your rhetorical question on the face of it is apt:

"If Islam is peaceful, why would Islam need to reform?"

It's possibl3e (though apparently we'll never know, since Spencer is so chary about explaining himself, his vision of the problem, his motives, his strategy) that Spencer's "bluff" is supposed to be smoking out just that contradiction you articulate.

However, as Lawrence Auster pointed out -- and pointing this out in various thinkers and policies was one thing Auster particularly excelled at -- intent is sometimes less important than effect. What is the effect of Spencer's repeatedly implied expectation of reform from Muslims? I think you're right:

"In trying to be coy about Muslims to Muslims, Spencer is actively confusing naive infidels - which is a grave mistake."

And among those masses of naive infidels are quite a few, unfortunately, within the Counter-Jihad.

Egghead said...

The road to hell is paved with good intentions....

Anonymous said...

Spencer is a academic, not a firebrand. He played it safe in the hopes of attracting the political establishment to his side along with a bunch of fencer sitters by playing Mr. Moderate. Problem is, it didn't work. He wasn't accepted by the GOP establishment and Geller was vilified after Garland.

And yes he gave the impression that Islam was reformable, not a toxic and utterly un-reformable religion/political movement.

But no one can publicly say that without being labeled a xenophobe and kook by the MSM including Fox. Ayaan Hirsi made some comments about Islam like that and was called on the carpet by Meygan Kelly who grilled her, she quickly back tracked. It's clear that that saying it, crosses a red-line even with Conservatives.

The problem with the Conservative movement is that they are trying to play big tent politics hoping to bring in all kinds of minority voters and are now terrified of offending anyone.

Call a Conservative a "racist" and watch most of them wilt and grovel.