Monday, August 10, 2015
The "No True Scotsman" Fallacy
By now, many out in the breezy sunshine of the mainstream, free of the dark, smelly, racist-cooties-infested corridors of the Counter-Jihad, have heard of the embarrassingly Correct (and, therefore, Multi-Culturalist) speech praising the Golden Age of Islam, given by Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency, Carly Fiorina, She gave that speech back in 2001, practically while the smoke was still clearing from the 911 assault on America, obviously as a spasm of an anxious need to demonstrate her multi-culturalist tolerance.
The Gates of Vienna blog provided a useful service in clarifying that some of the wording of this speech that has been making the rounds on the Internet is a distortion or fabrication, and in providing a link to the bonafide speech Fiorina actually gave. But, as Baron Bodissey of Gates of Vienna pointed out, the actual speech is no better. Indeed, it stinks to high heaven of multi-culturalist treacle, praising medieval Islam to the skies.
Such as, for example (warning: may induce dry heaves and gagging):
There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.
It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.
And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.
This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.
In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness.
I mean, the sheer camelshit she spewed that day just goes on, and on, and on, and on...
Gates of Vienna later published a fine essay by Tabitha Korol that goes a long way toward debunking Fiorina's ridiculous paean to Islam. For years, the Internet has been a good source for correcting the record on the "Myth of Andalus" (aka the Golden Age of Islam). Why hasn't Carly Forina taken the time to educate herself on this most important matter, and get back to us, the American People, with an apology for her embarrassing ignorance? (And lest one dismiss her as insignificant, recall that she was one of the Republican Presidental Candidates this year, before the ephemeral front-runner, Ted Cruz, selected her as his VP nominee.)
By the way, this is only the umpteenth example I have seen over the years demonstrating that, unless one pulls out the No True Scotsman fallacy, the Problem of the Problem (namely, the problem of the West’s persistent myopia to the problem of Islam) is not merely—or even mainly—a “Leftist” phenomenon.
I haven't made this facet of the Problem of the Problem a main priority on my blog, but I have now and then posted essays adverting to it. My series on the Voegelinian Society (academics from around the world dedicated to keeping the study of their mentor, philosopher Eric Voegelin, alive) is a good example: Voegelin was profoundly conservative, as are most of his admirers; and yet, as I documented and analyzed, too many of them, including luminaries (e.g., Fritz Wagner, Barry Cooper, Eugene Webb) lurch in the direction of the PC MC orbit whenever they begin to think about the problem of Islam. In another essay, Us and Dem, I alluded to some choice quotes by such stalwart conservatives as Bush, Giuliani, Rumsfeld, Huckabee, McCain, Romney, Beck, O'Reilly and Hannity—all spouting idiocies about Islam that could just as well have been regurgitated by PC MCs or even Leftists. Then there was the exposé (thatnks to blogger Logan's Warning) on that bastion of Republicanism, General-cum-President Eisenhower, dedicating an Islamic center in Washington, D.C., and once again praising Islam and Muslims to the skies.
Apropos of that, I found this choice nugget in the oeuvre of Daniel Pipes, circa 2005, in his dispute with Lawrence Auster who, though I have some problems with his perspective on Islam, was decidedly robuster than the namby-pamby Pipes. Here, Pipes basically sounds the same notes (though less nauseatingly) as did Fiorina in her 2001 speech:
The Auster view of premodern Islam (“the glories of medieval Islam are largely a myth. It was a parasite civilization whose achievements were mainly the work of its subject peoples such as Byzantines, Jews, and Indians, and it declined when it eventually killed off its host”) is a superficial projection backwards of today’s problems. Indeed, its very premise (“a parasite civilization”) is oxymoronic. There was a true and vital civilization of Islam and (to take a convenient date) in 1005 it represented the best that humans had attained at that time in terms of learning, governance, and general advancement. I suggest that Auster ground himself more in this civilization before dismissing it.
So what does this all have to do with my essay title? I've noticed a curious tendency on the part of many in the Counter-Jihad. Whenever I cite such evidence of non-Leftists whitewashing Islam, or when they see such evidence (as reported, for example, at Jihad Watch), they will have a knee-jerk response: "Why, he's not a real Republican!" or "Eisenhower wasn't a real conservative!"—and so forth. This, however, would be the "No True Scotsman" Fallacy: whenever one encounters anyone ostensibly known to be conservative and/or Republican who also happens to spout whitewashing nonsense about Islam, the robust Counter-Jihad person will pronounce him or her ipso facto "not a true conservative" / "not a true Republican".
One likely motive for this fallacy is the near obsession among many in the Counter Jihad with the all-purpose bête noire, the Dastardly Leftist, to explain the myopia of the entire West to the problem of Islam. If you think the only explanation for myopia and whitewashing must be Leftism or "liberalism", then when you see a putative Republican or conservative behaving like a Leftist or a "liberal" by whitewashing Islam, you will have to reconfigure the data and redefine him as "not a true conservative" or "not a true Republican".
Another likely motive is that if one avoids the fallacy and therefore broadens one's perspective to concede that innumerable conservatives, centrists, and Republicans—real conservatives, centrists, and Republicans, not false ones—whitewash Islam, then the problem of the problem suddenly opens up to become considerably thornier and more complex, with fewer opportunities for satisfyingly simplistic scapegoats.