Slurring Robert Spencer

Taking the side of Rep. Virgil Goode who has been attacked by CAIR for advocating restrictions on Muslim immigration, Robert Spencer insists that he himself has a strong position on Muslim immigration, and he protests the unfair treatment he’s been receiving from a certain unnamed “writer of some prominence,” who Spencer says has been misrepresenting Spencer’s immigration views. Spencer complains of how the unnamed writer, who is myself, has responded to Spencer’s “courtesies” only with discourtesy. Spencer even repeats the charge that I have published “numerous personal slurs” of him. It would be interesting for Spencer to provide some examples of these “slurs.” Since the worst of these “slurs,” which he described as a “calumny” (a charge I several times demanded that he retract, which he several times refused to do), consisted of a descriptive statement of his definition of Western civilization, in a passage in which I was portraying Spencer as my pro-Western civilization ally against Ralph Peters (see full explanation here), we can imagine how terrible my other “slurs” of Spencer were.

The remarkable thing is, last month Spencer wrote me a bunch of e-mails complaining again of my supposed smears of him and said that if my answer was less than satisfactory, he had in his possession all the information to prove me wrong and would post it at his site. Well, I published a detailed reply exposing the absurdity of his charges, and he never replied to it. I hopefully concluded that he had finally seen how ridiculous his charges were and had retired from the field. I thought with relief that his silence meant he was finally allowing me the right to engage in intellectual criticism of him without having to be constantly attacked for “smearing” him. But I was wrong. Spencer can’t give it a rest. On one hand, he has no arguments to prove his “smear” charge. On the other hand he cannot bear my legitimate intellectual criticisms of him. So he keeps coming out with content-free attacks on me, as in his blog entry of today.

Spencer doesn’t even notice that just one week ago I praised him for writing a non-liberal defense of Western identity. If I was motivated by the mean personal motives he accuses me of, would I have done that? Also, as I’ve previously pointed out, notwithstanding Spencer’s claims of discourtesy and mistreatment, the fact is that I regularly discuss Spencer and have approvingly quoted him and praised him as one of the most significant Islam critics of our time, even while I am treated as a non-person at his website, with none of my writings and ideas about Islam ever being mentioned. Now he carries the de-personalization and marginalization further, by discussing me without using my name.

As for Spencer’s position on immigration, restated in the second paragraph of his blog entry, beyond his proposal that we screen Muslims for pro-jihad sentiments (which, as I have shown, is an inadequate response to the Muslim challenge), the rest of the paragraph consists of vague general language telling us that Spencer has “written about the problem,” that he’s given “numerous addresses to audiences all over the United States,” that he’s called for an unspecified “restoration of sanity in our immigration policies” toward Muslims, and that he favors unspecified measures “that can be reasonably be instituted given the current political situation.”

In other words, Spencer’s immigration policies are exactly as I’ve characterized them, consisting of a call for the screening of prospective Muslim immigrants for jihadist allegiances, and of not much else.

But gosh, there I go again, slurring Robert Spencer.

* * *

This discussion returns us to a question that I have addressed many times but will do so again now. Why do I so strongly criticize worthy people such as Spencer, Melanie Phillips, and Dennis Prager? Am I doing it to put them down as people? Am I doing it (as one commenter today at Jihad Watch says) in order to delegitimize all other conservatives and glorify myself? I’m doing it because those writers are caught in a contradiction that typifies liberal society and makes it unable to defend itself. That is, they decry Islam as utterly incompatible with Western society, even as a mortal threat to our way of life, while at the same time they refuse to say that the Muslim immigration that has brought Islam into the West is a mistake and ought to be stopped. As a result, they are constantly jacking up their audience’s anxieties about how terrible Islamization is and what a desperate fix we are in, while giving them no explanation of why this problem exists, and no way to solve the problem. This leaves conservatives alternating between despair about the advancing power of Islam and aimless hyper-aggression toward Islam, the braggadocio of Bush-era conservatism. It fuels an irrationality and escapism in the only group in our population that has the potential of saving the West, and therefore needs clear thinking above all. Prager thinks that Islam is so horrible that a Muslim elected official should be forbidden from taking his oath of office on the Koran, yet Prager also believes that all religions including Islam have equal rights in America, and that America is the land of immigration, including Muslim immigration, and that to criticize immigration is racist. Is that being intellectually serious? Spencer says that Islam aims at our enslavement and destruction, yet his questionnaire would continue to allow a mass immigration of Muslims into the West. Is that being intellectually serious—and is that the solution? Melanie Phillips, who in the first chapter of her book says that Muslim immigration into Britain was a fatal mistake, has one sentence in the last chapter of her book calling for undefined “tough controls” on immigration in general. Is that being intellectually serious—and is that the solution?

It’s ironic that Spencer refers to me today as a “writer of some prominence,” given that he and Phillips and others are orders of magnitude better known than I am. Their very prominence means that their confused and inconsistent approach to Islam damages the West’s ability to grapple with it. Therefore, as long as these prominent writers continue their florid contradictions on the Muslim problem, I will continue to take them to task for it, no matter how many times Robert Spencer cries that I’m “slurring” him.

- end of initial entry -

Jeremy G. writes:

Keeping conservatives on the righteous path must be tough and unrewording work and I salute you. Someone (I would love to see more than one person) has got to do this. Anyone who believes we should only support and never criticize conservatives should take a look at the left, where criticism of conservatives and moderate liberals is incessant and has been hugely successful in pulling America to the left. You are re-establishing strong traditionalist principles that can anchor the right and help us start pulling America back towards us. But these principles are worthless if they are not enforced. If conservatives get a free pass from the right, they will continue to disregard whichever conservative principle they find too difficult to express publicly.

LA replies:
Jeremy, thank you very much for that. Your reminder of what this is about is exactly what I needed to hear.

In a second reply to Jeremy, LA wrote:

That’s me, the enforcer. ;-)


I was thinking the same thing when I re-read my email on your web site yesterday :)

…and you’re the best man for the job.


Yeah, the man whose job it is to make lots of other people hate him. Something I’m naturally good at, it seems. :-)


I haven’t read the Christian Scriptures, but my Christian friends relate that Jesus often had stones thrown at him. So it appears to me you are walking in a well established Christian tradition.


Well, let’s not go too far. :-)

From “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” (1965):

The man said, “Get out of here,
I’ll tear you limb from limb.”
I said, “You know, they refused Jesus, too.”
He said, “You’re not him.”

Stephen F. writes:

I join Jeremy G. in his expression of gratitude for your critique of contemporary conservatism. Funny, isn’t it, how the writers at the National Review are putting you down as being too…conservative (as Derb calls it, “paleocon”). Actually, of course, VFR is hardly a medieval, dogmatic advocate of social control. The site is rich in humor and in nuanced consideration of issues from a contemporary perspective. It is a testimony to your work that the people who have “fallen out” with you keep going back to peek at VFR.

Ben writes:

Your insight about how he demands all this respect from you while he won’t even acknowledge your name at his site was key. Also, for the umpteenth time, how can you be misrepresenting someone if you quote him word for word.

He likes to talk about misrepresenting and respect and such while he shut off all discussion with you because he said in essence you were a racist and he doesn’t have discussions with racists. It’s only human that after that day there is going to be a major rift between you two, but at least you have been man enough to keep quoting Spencer and approving when he is right and also saying when he is wrong. You didn’t use the typical tactic that Spencer and most of the mainstream conservative movement engage in, which is totally to ignore the person and act like he doesn’t exist.

The one truism that never ends with the mainstream conservative movement is that they are always screaming that the American people and the American left wake up to the threats we face while never explaining to us what waking up really means and what they would do if the American people and the left actually did wake up. Instead they like to imagine that the left is the only reason we are in trouble and if only they would “wake up” order would be instantly restored in America without any effort on our part to educate and have real ideas. Of course this goes back to their idea that nothing is really wrong with America, it’s all the left’s fault, the American people actually know what is going on. In my opinion it is going to take a total rejection of liberalism and a re-education of America before we will survive.

KPA, an Ethiopian by birth, writes from Canada:

There are many, many things to be praying about during these holy days. The irony of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy, announced right around Christmas time, along with her name is on top of the list.

Your attempt to convince Robert Spencer about the limitations of his argument regarding Islam, which he still doesn’t see, and still takes personally, is really serious. From my understanding, his grandparents left Turkey after given the choice of converting to Islam (they are Melkite Greek Catholics, as is Spencer) or leaving. It is ironic that his family had to leave for America because their presence was incompatible with the Muslim country, and yet Spencer continues to make mild suggestions about the presence (and acceptance) of Muslims in America (and in many ways the West—including Canada), who repeatedly demonstrate that they cannot live alongside non-Muslims.

I wonder how he would feel about his if his American grandchildren were given the exact same choice as his grandparents? Only in this case, there would be no country willing to accept them.

Again, his experience with the harshness of Islam is so close, I cannot understand his leniency. In my country of origin, Ethiopia, in the same “liberal” tolerant mindset—if there was such a position 700 years ago—one Ethiopian Emperor of the 14th century who fought hard against the Muslims uttered the words “I am the Emperor of all Muslims in the land of Ethiopia.” At least they were both reconciliatory and precautionary words. But, it really came back to haunt Ethiopia in the 16th century, since Muslims remained Muslims, and even had the sanction of the Emperors to live alongside other fellow Ethiopians.

This two century of “tolerance”—although in modern terms it would hardly be that—gave the Muslims ample time to plan their deluge. 1531 started the worst—even worse than the communist regime of the 1970-90s—destruction of the country. Churches, monasteries, religious art and of course people became the wrath of Islam. The country barely survived, and only with the help of the Portuguese.

So, Spencer’s total misunderstanding of the patience and perseverance, over centuries, of Muslims is perplexing. I have probably as much association with Ethiopia as he does with Turkey. Yet, I think I get the magnitude of this situation.

I believe you are one of the few Americans who understands this, without the benefit of having a personal, historical context on which to base your insights.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

LA replies:

Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you.

But what specifically do you see as the limitations of Spencer’s argument re Islam? After all, he’s pretty hard line, he uncompromisingly speaks the harsh truth about the core doctrines and nature of Islam. My only problem with him is that he doesn’t have any serious proposals for what we ought to do about Islam. You seem to be saying that he denies Islam’s dangerous nature. Are you saying that his willingness to allow so-called moderate Muslims into the West, just as Ethiopa allowed “assimilated” Muslims to live in Ethiopia, over time would allow those moderate Muslims or their descendants to turn into jihadists, as happened in Ethiopa?

KPA replies:

Yes, that is what I’m saying. I think perhaps Spencer thinks we can contain the Muslims if we know what they’re up to. But, they had shown incredible resilience in essentially a Muslim-hostile Christian country. The Emperor Amda Seyoun fought constantly with the Muslims, defeated them continuously, and even after his famous quote, never trusted them completely. I think he was just doing his Christian and nationalistic duty when he allowed them to stay. The Muslims “behaved” themselves for two centuries!

Also, the idea of kicking people out of a country, where they declare nationality, doesn’t sit well with Spencer, perhaps since he may also be thinking in conciliatory, Christian and nationalistic terms.

I’m sorry to say, I don’t think Muslims think this way at all. Their thought processes and modus operandi are very different. They will have no mercy on their adversary when the time comes.

Also, there is nothing wrong with journalists and intellectuals making suggestions to the problems they see. That could also be the role that Spencer is trying to avoid, saying that it is not his to take. In fact, he may have a duty to take that extra step.

LA replies:

Very interesting. I’ll have to read more about this. However, I would not expect someone of Spencer’s visibility to propose the expulsion of all Muslims from America. That’s too extreme a position at this point and would just get him relegated to the sidelines. But there’s no reason he could not call for essentially all Muslim immigration to stop. I think his description of the nature of Islam and the threat is poses logically requires it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 21, 2006 01:43 PM | Send

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