Sunday, October 02, 2016
The Two Mainstreams continue to talk past each other...
Colin Powell, a staunchly solid part of the broader Western Mainstream (and a solid Republican conservative, pace the "no true Scotsman" demurrers), voices his anxiety:
“We should not isolate and single out just Muslims as being bad.”
Of course, there is a comical interpretation of Powell's remark: “So, Mr. Powell, are you saying we should isolate and single out other groups too, as being bad...?” But we know he didn't mean that. He meant we should not single out Muslims as being bad people, per se, in the sense of generalizing and "painting with a broad brush".
The response from the Other Mainstream (the Counter-Jihad Mainstream), came from one of its éminences grises, Robert Spencer:
Who is even doing that? Powell’s bizarre statement is yet another sally in the never-ending battle to establish Muslims as victims and smear every opposition to jihad terror as “bigotry” and “Islamophobia.” These endless straw men have the effect of fooling people into thinking that any opposition to jihad terror, any proposal designed to stop it or limit it, is victimizing innocent Muslims and must therefore be opposed.
Spencer's error here is in perceiving Powell's statement as "bizarre". It's not bizarre at all; and, ironically, in fact flows, in part, from Spencer's own logic.
Spencer's own logic may be gleaned from statements he has made about Muslims:
There are indeed peaceful Muslims, and there are indeed some among those who aren't interested in waging any kind of jihad.
They [these "peaceful Muslims"] either don't know or don't care about the imperative to struggle against unbelievers. They may have what they consider to be better things to do.
And even more problematic (as I documented in my recent essay Robert Spencer on the problem of Muslims):
"...to say that the Qur’an is the Mein Kampf of the jihad movement is not to deny the reality that many, if not most, people who identify themselves as Muslims are primarily interested in living ordinary lives, making a living, providing for their families, etc." [bolded emphasis added]
Notice Spencer's "many if not most".
For some reason, those in the Counter-Jihad Mainstream, like Spencer and many, if not most of his uncritical fans, seem unable to follow the logic of their own rhetoric, and how that logic actually intertwines with the logic of the broader Mainstream. And yet representatives of each Mainstream keep on insisting they oppose each other, when in fact, on one important level they agree. On what level do they agree? On this level, in terms of Spencer's formulation:
"...the reality that many, if not most, people who identify themselves as Muslims are primarily interested in living ordinary lives, making a living, providing for their families, etc."
Spencer here, by the way, anticipated the infamous ejaculation of Ben Affleck when, pounding his fist in anger at the temerity of Bill Maher and Sam Harris when, on a roundtable discussion they were having on Maher's Real Time show, they dared to inch perilously close to criticizing Muslims in general, he vehemently asserted that:
“How about the more than a billion people [Muslims], who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who wanna go to school, have some sandwiches, pray five times a day, and don’t do any of the things you’re saying of all Muslims. It’s stereotyping.”
Interestingly, by the way -- but unsurprisingly -- Raymond Ibrahim, another solid Counter-Jihad Mainstream analyst, when discussing Affleck's tortured argument, agrees with Affleck as much as he disagrees with him; just as Spencer does. Ibrahim headlines that part of his essay with the title: "Conflating Muslim Teachings with Muslim People" -- with the clear implication that the Counter-Jihad is not against Muslim People per se, only against the Muslim Teachings. Similarly, he writes that "this conflation of Islam with Muslims is an all too common approach used to shield the former from criticism."
Ibrahim apparently fails to see why the broader Mainstream anxiously "conflates" Islam with Muslims -- and this failure on Ibrahim's part is curious, since the broader Mainstream's conflation is based on the principle they share with Ibrahim (and Spencer): namely, that most Muslims "just wanna have a sandwich" (or in Spencer's equivalent, "are primarily interested in living ordinary lives, making a living, providing for their families, etc.").
The broader Mainstream is worried that criticizing mainstream Islam too much, pointing out its apparent evil and sedition, will impact all these Muslims which they -- and the Counter-Jihad Mainstream -- agree are harmless nice people who just wanna have a sandwich. On one level, it's a reasonable anxiety the broader Mainstream has. It does no good -- and it actually muddies the waters -- when Spencer and others in the Counter-Jihad Mainstream react in bafflement to this anxiety. It seems that the Counter-Jihad Mainstream is trying to have its cake and eat it too: Out of one side of its mouth claiming that it is not against Muslims per se, while out the other side of its mouth daily shining a harsh light on the mainstream Islam that is the most important existential value for all those very same Muslims.
The broader Mainstream can smell a rat here, though it is too compromised by its own PC MC irrationality to be able to analyze it properly and discuss it. The Counter-Jihad Mainstream needs to make their message more coherent. One good way to begin that would be to put two and two together: If the mainstream Islam of all Muslims is evil and seditious, and if that same mainstream Islam is the most important facet of the meaning of life for Muslims, and if we know that taqiyya deception is an integral part of Islamic culture -- then we must regard all Muslims with suspicion. I.e., the problem of Muslims -- How systemic is the evil & sedition among Muslims? and Which Muslims are not Islamic? -- needs to be held under a light, not evaded with specious sophistry.
If the Counter-Jihad Mainstream can be more honest and reasonable about their message, then we can have a more realistic Conversation with the broader Mainstream, where we are not wasting time talking past each other, pretending to agree where we don't, and pretending to disagree where we don't.
Another way to put it: Once the Counter-Jihad Mainstream clarifies its platform into coherence, we can contrast it better with the incoherence of the broader Mainstream. Currrently (pun intended), the two Mainstreams are muddying the waters of their essential confluence and as a consequence, obscuring the essential point where they diverge.