Saturday, December 19, 2015
Everybody Loves Raymond
Raymond Ibrahim, that is (not Romano). Back in 2009, I drafted a long post with the cheeky title "Not Everybody Loves Raymond", in which I went into detail about one important flaw in Raymond Ibrahim's methodology. I never published it, because it remains unfinished, but for those who wish to look at it, I've put it up in my companion blog (Resource for The Hesperado -- see Not Everybody Loves Raymond). The flaw I noted is his tendency to be remiss in providing adequate citations for claims he and/or Middle Eastern Christians make about Islamic texts. While that may seem to be a relatively circumscribed fault, I think (and I argue in the introduction to that piece) it's quite important, particularly in a context where perhaps the most pivotal point of our protracted life-and-death struggle with Islam turns on the quality (and, thus, effectiveness) of our war of ideas.
In the meantime, it seems that Raymond in subsequent years has been focusing less time on Islamic texts, per se, and more on Islamic news, particularly in the Middle East, with special emphasis on Egypt. His frequent dispatches on Egypt over the past year or so published at Jihad Watch, revealing that the supposedly "secular" rule of the Counter-Jihad's Great Brown Hope (al-Sisi) isn't the bed of Cairo Roses it's been touted to be, have been enormously appreciated (one hopes by more than just moi-même, even though in Jihad Watch comments, I was the only person ever to point out how Ibrahim's reports exposed the Same-Old-Same-Old Islam in al-Sisi's regime -- and twice when I did so, I was pestered & mocked by Angemon and JayBoo, respectively, and of course the Peanut Gallery (gravenimage, Mirren, Wellington, et al.), pretended not to notice).
Then, when just the other day a friend emailed me a link to one of Raymond's latest essays (Islamic Jihad: Symptom of a Western Cause), in which he uncharacteristically expands upon a broader theme -- beyond the primary Problem (Islam) to the secondary Problem (the West's ongoing myopia & denial about the primary Problem) -- I braced myself before plunging in to read it, my left eye twitching like Chief Inspector Dreyfus's from years of weary, jaded assaults on my intelligence by sundry Counter-Jihad leadership whenever they botch this most important theme of the Problem of the Problem.... and I nearly fell off my chair, in the process almost lopping off my thumb (again) in my cigar-chopping miniature guillotine: I was pleasantly surprised, for a bloody change.
While Raymond doesn't always get it right, and misses the mark a couple of times, overall he emphasizes perhaps the most apposite point of all, a point that has been desperately absent from the analyses of others in the Counter-Jihad leadership (and among their straggling, jostling, noisy sheep in various Comments Fields) -- to wit: that, if there is (and oh boy is there ever) a problem of PC MC myopia to the problem of Islam in the mainstream purveyed by our "elites" in government, news media, academe, and arts & entertainment, these various elites only enjoy the broad sociopolitical traction they do in fact possess by virtue of a broader demographic of Ordinary People who more or less in their hearts & minds share the same point of view, if not the same Weltanschauung.
Or, as Raymond says at one point about that bête noire of the Counter-Jihad, President Obama:
...the facilitation of jihadi terror is less a top down imposition and more a grass root product of decades of erroneous, but unquestioned, thinking. (Those who believe America’s problems begin and end with Obama would do well to remember that he did not come to power through a coup but that he was voted in—twice. This indicates that Obama and the majority of voting Americans have a shared, and erroneous, worldview. He may be cynically exploiting this worldview, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s because this warped worldview is mainstream that he can exploit it in the first place.)
Whether Raymond is capable of drawing reasonable inferences from this in terms of a broader analysis of the Problem of the Problem, is another matter. But this is a good start. What's remarkable is that no one else in the entire Counter-Jihad leadership, to my knowledge, has ever even gone this far. Most seem stuck on a level of decrying "those damn Leftists", with vague tiltings of their quixotic lance at "political correctness", without attempting any understanding on a more sophisticated level.
Raymond's essay isn't perfect. His title -- Islamic Jihad: Symptom of a Western Cause -- makes one uneasy (at least one who doesn't glibly regurgitate recklessly conspiracy-theorish remarks at the drop of a Jihad Watch baseball cap). It readily connotes the notion that the problem of Islam has actually been caused by the West, thus indiscriminately confusing "causing" with "enabling".
Then, in the body of the article itself, he occasionally veers and lurches wrongward. For example, while he adverts to the paradox of so-called relativism in the modern Western worldview, which would consider all cultures to be equal while at the same time judging the West inferior to non-Western cultures, he doesn't seem to wonder why this is nor how it came about. A more careful diagnosis of this paradox would reveal that it's not a paradox at all, and that the modern Western worldview does not, in fact, promote a leveling relativism, but rather an absolutism that absolutely considers the white West guilty, evil, and worse than all non-white non-Western cultures. The locutions of relativism one detects in PC MC rhetoric about this are only tools & weapons used in order to pry traditional Western superiority off its pedestal and relegate it to the bin of shame. There does remain a paradox, but it's located slightly off to the left, more of a psychological mechanism of denial, couched in incoherence, insofar as the modern Westerners who indulge this particular meme continue to enjoy and utilize the very same Western superiority they are otherwise attacking and rejecting.
Another unfortunate claim Raymond makes is that:
Western people are bombarded with these aforementioned “truths” from the cradle to the grave—from kindergarten to university, from Hollywood to the news rooms, and now even in churches—so that they are unable to accept and act on a simple truism that their ancestors well knew: Islam is an inherently violent and intolerant creed that cannot coexist with non-Islam (except insincerely, in times of weakness).
I don't deny that this bombardment he describes is real; but the way he puts it, it sounds like The People are hapless victims of some nefarious campaign of propaganda, and that thus their general acquiescence to it must be because they are all just strangely dense and passive Sheeple. While there is some truth to these things, one doesn't want to exaggerate these sociopolitical phenomena -- all the more so precisely because they do contain kernels of truth. For, this characterization reinforces the tendency all too prevalent in the Counter-Jihad, that The People have no role to play in the ongoing perpetuation of PC MC, that they are not in fact co-dependent enablers themselves. And, furthermore, that The People are some monolithic bloc, either all Sheeple -- or (incoherently and inconsistently, depending on the mood of the Counter-Jihadist at the moment) have all become Born Again Jihad-Watch-style, and all hate the Gubmint, and the only beings remaining on this bleak, pre-apocalyptic landscape, are Evil Elites with horns and tails.
In fact, the Problem of the Problem is not so simplistic, nor so Manichean: those who perpetuate the PC MC that is the main reason why the West remains myopic to the problem of Islam are not merely the Dastardly Elites, but also the majority of ordinary civilians throughout the West. Furthermore, there isn't a medieval division of Two Classes -- Elites and Peasants -- but rather a broad and rich spectrum of gradations in between. And finally, those civilians who do their part to keep the fashionable worldview of PC MC going are not all stamped of one mold -- the Hopeless Leftard -- but rather are quite diverse, with the full-blown Leftist only a minority among them.
Will Raymond's salutary contribution be noticed in the Counter Jihad? That's another matter. It's up to the more influential stars of the movement -- Robert Spencer, Pam Geller, Daniel Pipes, Sam Harris, Geert Wilders, and others -- to get on board and assist Raymond's meme. Will they? Apparently, they have more important things to do, and won't get around to it any time soon...