Saturday, November 11, 2017
Virtue-Signalling at the Crossroads of the West
There's a kind of two-way virtue-signalling going on in the Counter-Jihad Mainstream. This peculiar virtue-signaller will simultaneously
1) assure the broader Western Mainstream that he's not "racist", nor "bigoted", nor "Islamophobic".
2) assure his own colleagues & followers that his Counter-Jihadiness is tough and no-nonsense and politically incorrect.
Perhaps the most gracefully slippery practitioner of this double-purpose virtue-signalling is Robert Spencer, the émnence grise of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream. He glides between these two poles with grinning aplomb like Fred Astaire tap-dancing on ice. His new book, Confessions of an Islamophobe, is a clever attempt to juggle the balls of this contradiction, proudly affirming & owning that increasingly common epithet by which the broader Western Mainstream tries to vilify those who condemn Islam, while never disavowing his solemn stance that he is "not anti-Islam" and "not anti-Muslim" (see my previous essay, Confessions of an Oxymoron, for details).
Thus Spencer can say (winking at his audience of followers) that he is, proudly, an Islamophobe, whilst telegraphing to the broader audience of Mainstream Westerners that he is not really an Islamophobe at all -- nor (anxiously adding) a "racist" and a "bigot". Spencer thus plays the double game of simultaneously affecting to thumb his nose at the Mainstream West while letting them set the rules of the Conversation. And he's been doing this tight-rope act for years. I've spent hours detailing arguments based on evidence for this over the years on this blog, and my former, now retired, blog "Jihad Watch Watch". Four older essays are a good start for any reader interested in this facet:
...damned if you don't...
...damned if you do...
Still Incoherent After All These Years (cont.)...
Who speaks for us in the Anti-Islam Movement?
As I wrote in the first of the four essays listed above, referring to the various transcripts one can find of Spencer having arguments with readers in comments threads of Jihad Watch about why he refuses to condemn Islam (years ago, when there actually existed a few Jihad Watch readers who had enough balls to question Spencer's coherence):
...such as Transcripts Part 2: Jihad Watch readers politely yet firmly take Robert Spencer to task; and Robert Spencer's Two Hats: Keep Your Day Job... One can see there Spencer insisting doggedly why he is "not anti-Islam". Yes, that's right, a man who has forged a career amassing mountains of data indicating that any sane, decent human on the planet should be anti-Islam, stubbornly insisting he is "not anti-Islam".
At any rate, Spencer recently posted a notice on Jihad Watch, complaining that another member of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream (though far less well-known), John Derbyshire, called him names -- specifically an "Islamophobe" and as someone who "hates" Islam.
I.e., what we have here is one Counter-Jihadist (Derbyshire) anxiously trying to virtue-signal to the Western Mainstream that he's not as bad as a fellow Counter-Jihadist (Spencer); while Spencer, in turn, doubles down his ambiguity masquerading as oh-so-no-nonsense toughness by contrast. In effect, Derbyshire is trying to out-virtue-signal Spencer -- and Spencer, instead of actually proving to his audience that he is more of an authentic Counter-Jihadist than Derbyshire, instead opts for sophistry (and/or incoherence) in order, apparently, to try to preserve his bi-valent paradox by which he can preserve his virtue in the eyes of both Mainstreams.
This isn't the first time this has happened to Spencer. None other than Sam Harris, about a year ago, gave Spencer some of his own medicine he's given in the past to, for example, Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang -- i.e., treating Spencer as though he has bigoted cooties and has to be held at a distance of a 6-foot-pole. For a fuller skinny on this, see my essay, Play It Again, Sam. In this context, Sam's partner-in-counter-jihad-bromance, Maajid Nawaz, did the same thing to Spencer -- and Spencer made the unsurprising mistake of treating Nawaz's attack as an intra-Counter-Jihad problem, because, of course, Spencer won't boldly condemn Nawaz as a stealth jihadist (indeed, Spencer has referred to Nawaz preposterously as a "freedom fighter").
(Sam Harris, incidentally, resembles Spencer in his attempt to be unctuously smooth about playing to both sides; but because Harris is more solidly ensconced in the Western Mainstream, he sort of has the mirror-image opposite problem Spencer has -- playing the same double-game, but from the diametrical angle, so to say, since his audience, being mostly in the Western Mainstream, are about as anti-Islam -- at best -- as Daniel Pipes is.)
To sum up this surreal situation: Luminaries who are "in the Counter-Jihad" (a phrase that continues to be on the verge of incoherence -- the fault of those very same Luminaries and their slavish devotees) have one foot in the Counter-Jihad, one foot in the broader Western Mainstream. Since these two realms contradict each other on certain basic, important points -- like, oh say, the exigency of a full-blooded condemnation of Islam (all of Islam, not just "elements of Islam" as Spencer would have it) -- such a stance will perforce be incoherent and self-contradictory.
Incoherent stances can and do flourish, when they have followings of slavish devotees.
The key to the puzzle