Sunday, March 19, 2017
Third piece of the puzzle...
See part 2 of this series, examining Robert Spencer's response to pseudo-reformer Zuhdi Jasser (where you will also find a link to Part 1).
Another piece of the puzzle -- another quote from Spencer as he unravels Jasser's rant:
The difference between him [Jasser] and those whom he smears as “alt-jihadists” is apparently, in his view, that we see him as non-Muslim and say that there is no chance for Islamic reform. As far as I am concerned, that is a false charge (and none of the other people on his enemies list think these things either, as far as I know).
Spencer might want to revise that last part, when it comes to Diana West -- one of the names on Jasser's Enemies List -- (though since Spencer long ago burned his bridges with Diana, "as far as he knows" doesn't include "a bridge too far").
At any rate, more to the meat of the matter:
I’d love to see Islamic reform succeed. I’m just not willing to kid myself or others about its prospects, or pretend that it has a greater standing in Islamic doctrine or tradition than it does. But for this, as far as Jasser is concerned, I am now as much of a jihadist as the caliph al-Baghdadi. The idea that because someone recognizes the ideological roots of a movement, he must support that movement, is of course absurd. Did Churchill support Nazism because he recognized that Nazi German society was a valid expression of Nazi beliefs as Hitler had articulated them?
Let's back up a bit:
I’d love to see Islamic reform succeed.
Of course, the R.S.S.S. (Robert Spencer Sycophants Society) would try to argue that he only meant this rhetorically. But years of him saying this, or formulations similar, indicate otherwise. And when he is on record saying that he is "not 'anti-iIslam' " (and of course that he is "not 'anti-Muslim' "), and that he is only against "elements of Islam" not Islam per se, we are thick into Counter-Jihad Mainstream (CJM) territory. I.e., Spencer can't even be anti-Islam for Allah's sake -- forget about him ever making the paradigm shift past anti-Islam into anti-Muslim.
I’d love to see Islamic reform succeed.
Why would anyone who knows as much as Spencer does about Islam say such a thing? It would be like saying, "I'd love to see toxic excrement turn magically into gold." I.e., given what Islam actually is, such a formulation can't even be salvaged as a rhetorical device (at least not for the argument Spencer is trying to make here).
I just stumbled upon one old remark by Spencer (among dozens one could find) that's revealing in this regard. This was in the context of a long, drawn-out disagreement he was having with Lawrence Auster back in 2006:
Larry doesn't seem to understand that what tempered radical Christianity is what will ultimately temper radical Islam: post-Enlightenment secularism. When Islamists have lost all/most of the arguments, and when they start changing their doctrine accordingly, then we'll see the beginnings of a true Islamic Reformation.
What's going on here (as with other CJM pundits & analysts) has really less to do with Islam directly than it does with an underlying, semi-conscious anxiety about Muslims -- more specifically, about what our growing awareness of the horrors of Islam might mean for the multitudes of Muslims out there who are decent moms and pops like the rest of us, just trying to get through the day and have a sandwich, as we adjust our policies with regard to Muslims in light of our need to defend our societies from them. And, perhaps more importantly than what it might mean for those multitudes of ostensibly innocent Muslims, is what it means for our ethical narcissism. We don't want to be a horrible, bigoted racist who would genocide "all Muslims", do we? But that's where all this anti-Islam rhetoric might lead us, if we don't put the brakes on it well before it gets to that point. Enter Robert Spencer and his studied vagueness about what exactly he is against. Not Islam, not Muslims. Then what? Oh, yes, "Jihadists".
But what's the difference between a "Jihadist" and a "Muslim"? I asked just this question in an essay back in September of 2016 (and another essay I published that same month, "Robert Spencer and the Problem of Muslims", is also quite apposite here). Spencer never gets around to articulating this most exigent question, whose answer is an agnostic position -- that we must reasonably assume there is no difference. And once we attain that realization, we stop prevaricating around it, pretending as though that horrible realization isn't the disastrous case, consequent upon our putting together two things: 1) our growing awareness of what Islam is, plus 2) our need to protect our societies from those who put Islam into practice. And then, finally, our analyses of this metastasizing problem that poses an eventual threat to our civilization will begin to achieve coherence.
Speaking of lucidity based on coherence (or the lack thereof), let's continue with Spencer's words:
I’m just not willing to kid myself or others about its prospects, or pretend that it has a greater standing in Islamic doctrine or tradition than it does.
Again with the rhetoric about the prospects of shit turning into gold. Let's unpack this. What could "pretend that beneficent reform of Islam has a greater standing in Islamic doctrine or tradition than it does" possibly mean, when we know (or should know, by now, after educating ourselves for years on the subject -- including the mountains of data and interpretation amassed by Spencer himself over the years!) that there is zero "standing" in Islamic doctrine or tradition for such a goal? Not only does it not have "greater standing" -- it has NO STANDING. Spencer, apparently, is afraid to just speak plainly -- or he actually believes Islam isn't that disastrously, thoroughly pernicious and rotten to the core. Or he's playing some game with sophistry. Any way you slice it, it bodes ill for the R.S.S.S. -- particularly the ones who, by their multitudes of comments over the years on Spencer's Jihad Watch, apparently disagree with him on this (but are themselves too timid, or too sycophantic, or both, to say so).
As for Spencer's Nazi Germany analogy --
Did Churchill support Nazism because he recognized that Nazi German society was a valid expression of Nazi beliefs as Hitler had articulated them?
-- we've already visited that years ago, when Spencer had more time to dip into comments on his website and get into lengthy arguments with readers -- and when there actually existed a few readers who weren't sycophants deathly afraid of publicly disagreeing with him about anything.
Among the important points on which those few readers disagreed with Spencer was the suitability of the Nazi analogy. Spencer stubbornly insisted that it's a bad idea to compare Islam with Nazism:
Islam is more multifaceted than Nazism, and involves many beliefs, some good, some bad. You are comparing a huge 1400-year-old tradition over many nations with 12 years of Germany. If you met a Nazi in 1938, you would know what he thinks. But the fact is that when you meet a Muslim today you can have no certainty about what he thinks or knows.
(Unfortunately, whether by design or technical process, links to old Jihad Watch posts no longer contain the comments fields, and one has to take added time and labor to track them down with the "Wayback Machine", an archive of old websites -- which I did just now to find the link to Spencer's comment I quote above. If the reader clicks on that link, he will be taken to an old Jihad Watch posting called "On assertions without evidence", from May of 2006, and he would have to dip way down into the many comments to find it, or just search the page for any word or phrase. Incidentally, I count some 16 comments Spencer posted in that one thread, in various responses to other commenters. That was rather common for him back then; for several years now, Spencer only very rarely might pop into a comments thread to lodge some tiny clarification.)
The perceptive reader will note that, with a bit of sophistry emollient, Spencer could (and no doubt would) easily squeak by with both his Nazi analogies; i.e., that his affirmation of the seemingly robust one he used against Jasser recently, and his refusal to affirm the even more robust one over 10 years ago, do not contradict each other -- since the recent one against Jasser (unlike the latter he used against civilian Counter-Jihadists over 10 years ago) isn't necessarily referring to Islam in toto. I mean, Heaven forbid Spencer should be condemning Islam in toto... We wouldn't want to have that, eh?
(Amusingly, a couple of years ago, one of the Jihad Watch regulars in the comments fields, one "Mirren" (also a member of the "Rabbit Pack", that high-school-clique-cum-lynch-mob-of-hall-monitors that patrols the comments fields there to enforce a strict adherence to the Robert Spencer Sycophants Society by-laws), had a flutter of anxiety when Spencer had a wardrobe malfunction about Islam, and when I stepped in to inform her of Spencer's prevarications about Islam, I was of course lynched by the aforementioned "Rabbit Pack". See my essay recounting this sordid episode: "Who's Watching the Jihad Watchers?".)