Told he should stop calling me a liar, Spencer insists I am one
Bostom and another prominent writer on Islam who was included in the e-mail exchange
on Tuesday declined to criticize Robert Spencer for his repeated characterizations of me as a liar, the other recipient of the exchange, who is a well known conservative writer but not in the Islam field, has complained to Spencer about it. She wrote to him on Wednesday, he replied to her, and I comment on his reply below.
The correspondent wrote:
This has become very confusing. I don’t think Auster is calling for you to be silenced. He is trying to push people who understand the ominous threat of fundamentalist Islam to go further, to call for a halt to Muslim immigration and related measures. I don’t think that’s necessary for everyone to do, as I said in a previous email, reprinted below—it is a job in itself to try to raise awareness—but evidently you are leaning in that direction, and that is good, and maybe some of your leaning came from Auster’s prompting, maybe not. Either way, the two of you do sort of agree, as has emerged in these emails, and Auster often cites you in a positive manner. Both of you are engaged in important work necessary for our cultural survival.
I don’t have all the facts at hand but there is no need to call him a liar. That is not right. He is not lying about you, he is interpreting and drawing inferences from what he sees in your work. He sees it as doing a lot of good but also perhaps falling short of the more radical measures he would like to see you propose and perhaps which he sees as logically called forth by what you say. There is no need to bring in the idea of lying, which is an insult to a person of integrity, and means that someone is deliberately engaged in refuting or maligning or obfuscating what he knows definitely and absolutely to be true. In some instances, he may not have been aware of something you said in one venue or another, but that is not lying. Regarding Hirsi Ali, he was not aware of your criticism of her when he blogged about you and her, and now he has corrected it. If you feel that he may be hurting the cause—the cause you both support—by his criticism of you, you can state it as you have below, that in his zeal he may be undermining your approach in a way that is not wise for the good of the cause, or that he is calling for you to support measures that might be too strong for the audience that is otherwise attentive to what you say.
I greatly admire your absolutely invaluable work and I did not know that NR does not welcome your point of view! I feel I have read criticism of fundamentalist Islam there (no?) and I have even posted a couple of short things myself at Phi Beta Cons, the higher ed blog at NRO, so I am mystified. Surely they are on our side on this issue?
> This has become very confusing. I don’t think Auster is calling for you to be silenced.Thank you for your kind note.
Unfortunately, he and his acolytes, particularly “Jeff from England,” have written many times at his site that since I offer no solutions to this present crisis, I should not be speaking at all. This is no different from Dinesh D’Souza’s declaration that books like mine should not be written—a statement that Auster rightly identified as a call for me to be silenced.
> He is trying to push people who understand the ominous threat of fundamentalist Islam to go further, to call for a halt to Muslim immigration and related measures. I don’t think that’s necessary for everyone to do, as I said in a previous email, reprinted below—it is a job in itself to try to raise awareness—but evidently you are leaning in that direction, and that is good, and maybe some of your leaning came from Auster’s prompting, maybe not. Either way, the two of you do sort of agree, as has emerged in these emails, and Auster often cites you in a positive manner. Both of you are engaged in important work necessary for our cultural survival.
I have told him since last summer that I agreed with him that this must be done. Since then he has repeatedly posted assertions that I believe just the opposite. Then today he claims I have an “Auster obsession.” Search for his name at my site (3 posts) and my name at his (hundreds of posts) and see who has the obsession.
> I don’t have all the facts at hand but there is no need to call him a liar.
I have asked him to retract his misstatements of my beliefs. He has repeatedly refused. Indeed, he won’t speak to me because I asked him to clarify his mischaracterization of my reply to Al-Qaeda’s Adam Gadahn, which gave his readers the false impression that I was left-liberal. He didn’t like a word I used in asking him about it, and so instead of discussing matters in a mature fashion, he went away in a huff.
He is also engaged in massive projection, repeatedly demeaning my intelligence, good will, maturity, courage, and more at his site, and then claiming that I am the one who is trying to discredit him, when I am careful not to mention him at all after an incident several years ago when I posted an article of his with approving comments but he didn’t find it to his liking.
The bottom line is: I have nothing against Lawrence Auster. What Lawrence Auster thinks or what he does is not a matter of concern to me. I wish him well. But he has published falsehoods about me at his site repeatedly, brushed aside my requests for correction, and engaged in repeated attacks on my character while claiming that I am doing that to him. I don’t find this to be the behavior of an honest or honorable man. If he would talk to me and answer the substantive points I have raised about his mischaracterizations, and deal with me on the level of principles and ideas, that would be one thing. But since the beginning of our exchanges he has never responded to my substantive points, and then written at his site that I didn’t offer any.
> That is not right. He is not lying about you, he is interpreting and drawing inferences from what he sees in your work.
I’m sorry, but I do not believe that he knows what I think better than I do.
> He sees it as doing a lot of good but also perhaps falling short of the more radical measures he would like to see you propose and perhaps which he sees as logically called forth by what you say. There is no need to bring in the idea of lying, which is an insult to a person of integrity, and means that someone is deliberately engaged in refuting or maligning or obfuscating what he knows definitely and absolutely to be true.
I wrote to him last summer that I opposed Muslim immigration and was working on practical ways to deal with it. He wrote once on his site that I said this, but that it couldn’t be true, and after that several times declared that I was in favor of Muslim immigration on multiculturalist principles, without even bothering to tell his readers that I denied this. In the face of things like this, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable inference that he is engaged in willful deception. And of course he never bothered to explain it to me like a man.
> In some instances, he may not have been aware of something you said in one venue or another, but that is not lying. Regarding Hirsi Ali, he was not aware of your criticism of her when he blogged about you and her, and now he has corrected it. If you feel that he may be hurting the cause—the cause you both support—by his criticism of you, you can state it as you have below, that in his zeal he may be undermining your approach in a way that is not wise for the good of the cause, or that he is calling for you to support measures that might be too strong for the audience that is otherwise attentive to what you say.
I hope I have made my position clear on this point.
> I greatly admire your absolutely invaluable work and I did not know that NR does not welcome your point of view! I feel I have read criticism of fundamentalist Islam there (no?) and I have even posted a couple of short things myself at Phi Beta Cons, the higher ed blog at NRO, so I am mystified. Surely they are on our side on this issue?
With the noble and notable exception of Andrew McCarthy, everyone at NR as far as I know believes it is wrong to discuss the elements of Islam that give rise to violence, which is what I do. After Kathryn Lopez turned down 17 articles in a row from me in 2003, articles that were all published elsewhere, I got the hint. They also don’t carry my latest book in their book club.
Thank you again for writing. I appreciate your kindness in doing so. As I said above, I have nothing against him, never have, and I don’t know why he is carrying on this way. But I do not believe my responses to him have been unjustified, given the circumstances.
While I don’t have time to reply to all of this, I want to look at Spencer’s amazing statement that he only asked me to “explain” my statement that he called a “calumny” and that I refused to explain it.
In fact I’ve explained with textual fullness his “calumny” charge as well as given the entire history of why I stopped speaking with Spencer. I ask readers to read it again, and then compare it with Spencer’s statement:
I have asked him to retract his misstatements of my beliefs. He has repeatedly refused. Indeed, he won’t speak to me because I asked him to clarify his mischaracterization of my reply to Al-Qaeda’s Adam Gadahn, which gave his readers the false impression that I was left-liberal. He didn’t like a word I used in asking him about it, and so instead of discussing matters in a mature fashion, he went away in a huff.
The comment by me that Spencer called a calumny portrayed Spencer as my moderate-liberal pro-Western ally
against the anti-Western radical liberal Ralph Peters who had been attacking Spencer and other Islam critics as genocidal Nazis. All that is self-evident in the passage that Spencer called a calumny, though I explain it further just to be sure everyone gets it. It’s couldn’t have been clearer that I was not calling Spencer a left-liberal. Yet, though I have answered this question as clearly as it could be answered, Spencer keeps claiming, over and over, that I called him a left-liberal, and, further, that he was merely asking
for an explanation of my statement (rather than that he called it a calumny), and that I refused, then and later, to give any explanation.
What do you do with someone to whom you explain things as fully as they can be explained, and who still tells the world that you have refused to explain at all?
Further, even if I had called him a left-liberal, that would not be a calumny but an intellectual criticism that he could have answered by demonstrating that he is not a left-liberal, rather than by charging that I am committing “willful deception” about him. Spencer’s personalization of every intellectual criticism is pathological, and, believe me, it is very disturbing that a person in his prominent position and with his large following keeps saying these vicious things about me, even as, underscoring his pathology, he keeps repeating that he has nothing against me and wishes me well!
Now let’s look further at Spencer’s general indictment of me, repeated to the correspondent, that “I have asked him to retract his misstatements of my beliefs. He has repeatedly refused.” What does this actually mean? It means that Spencer characterizes his own positions in a certain way, and that I don’t agree with that characterization. And because I don’t agree with it, I am “misrepresenting” him. Thus, again, every intellectual criticism and disagreement I have with him is automatically converted by him into the charge that I am deliberately lying about him and that I refuse to retract these lies.
For example, in December Spencer referenced my criticisms of him on immigration and insisted that he has a strong position on Muslim immigration which he then purported to summarize by way of proving that I had misrepresented him. But had I? I replied at VFR:
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.
The example is paradigmatic. In his own mind, Spencer has taken a strong anti-immigration position, and therefore if I say he has not, I am willfully and disgracefully lying about him, a damaging charge he repeats ad infinitum. But in fact, all I’ve done is read, analyze, and draw conclusions about the meaning of his own written statements. And this is what he cannot stand and what leads him to smear me without end.
Ironically, Spencer’s characterization of my disagreements with him as willful deceit is exactly what the Koran says about non-Muslims. In the Koran, there’s no such thing as an innocent or good-faith disagreement with Islam. All non-believers by definition are engaged in the deliberate and malicious denial of the truth, a crime for which they deserve the utmost punishment.
- end of initial entry -
Spencer’s bête noire, Jeff in England, writes:
Wow! Robert Spencer seems pathological at times presenting himself as victim to be silenced as if in a million years I or anyone else other than some Muslims literally meant to silence him. He knows very well that I was telling him to move over in a broad symbolic way. I love Jihad Watch and am very grateful that Robert Spencer has created it. I am also very grateful that he has written some truly insightful books about aspects of Islam. I really admire him and would never want him literally to stop writing and speaking about Islam. But if I had a doctor who only does diagnosis and does not recommend how to go about a cure, I would be frustrated. Yes Spencer claims he does provide solutions (to the problem of Muslims) but it has been a strain for me to find them.
He then looks for some words that if interpreted in some very literal way mean that people are trying to shut him up. I don’t agree with D’Souza on many things (I mostly took Spencer’s side in the debate with D’Souza) but in his debate with Spencer he said he didn’t remotely literally mean for Spencer to be silenced. He pointed out that that he didn’t mean that, yet Spencer in his quest for victimhood carried on asserting that he did. This is a victim complex gone mad.
ANYWAY: Leaving all this aside, especially as the readers of these correspondences must be fed up, I have suggested to Lawrence Auster that there should be a Symposium focusing on ‘WHAT TO DO ABOUT ISLAM IN THE WEST’ in FrontPage Magazine. This would feature the issue of Muslim immigration. I believe that Larry Auster has written to FrontpageMag editor Jamie Glazov to put that into motion. I am asking Robert Spencer to be one of the panelists for the sake of interested readers of both VFR and Jihad Watch and of FrontPageMag as well. I now ask that both Spencer and Auster to put aside their disagreements (though I support Lawrence Auster in this personal argument I, like almost all the readers of these two commentators, want to discuss the issues at hand) and focus on participating in such a Symposium.
Jeremy G. writes:
I don’t know what to make of the unfortunate development between you and Spencer. On one hand, Spencer is very brave to struggle on the front lines against the left and seems to have felt that your comments were undermining his difficult efforts. On the other hand, your criticisms were principled and important and made with the clear intention to be constructive. You have a unique ability to cut a straight path with your thoughts and illuminate the essence of a complex problem. And I acknowledge that it may be somewhat unnerving for someone to find oneself the subject under your dissection microscope. However, if Spencer doesn’t agree with you he has the option of entering into a rational dialogue with you or simply ignoring you. Sending you hostile emails and calling you a liar is very destructive and needs to stop.
Thank you, and thanks for your friendship.
I think you might send a version of this to Spencer. However, we know from his reply to the unnamed correspondent today, that if he is told he should not accuse me of lying, he replies with even more fervor that I am a liar. However, I suppose the more people tell him this, the more chance there is he will stop doing so.
With regard to one of your points, I recognize my own contribution to this in analyzing him so closely, which to someone like Spencer who has not examined his own beliefs, is probably very unnerving. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. Or have done it less often. But it’s like something drives Spencer to make the most amazingly revealing, unconscious statements of where he’s really coming from that contradict where he THINKS he’s coming from, that simply call out for comment, like when he defended Virgil Goode not for Goode’s immigration restriction position, but for Spencer’s own questionnaire position! Or when he insists that he is a strong immigration critic, and it turns out that he simply is not, AND he does not see this.
Given that he is pathological with regard to me, I should probably try to let more things pass that I otherwise would write about it. The problem is, I don’t think that anything other than a complete cessation of my comments about him would get him to stop calling me a liar.
Van Wijk writes:
The unnamed correspondent wrote: “If you feel that he may be hurting the cause—the cause you both support—by his criticism of you, you can state it as you have below, that in his zeal he may be undermining your approach in a way that is not wise for the good of the cause, or that he is calling for you to support measures that might be too strong for the audience that is otherwise attentive to what you say.”
We would all do well to keep in mind that what we do at VFR is about the cause. It is not about any one man.
The latest from Robert Spencer just came into my e-mail, at 10:50 p.m., addressed to Andrew Bostom, myself, and our two unnamed correspondents:
SECOND UPDATE: With an Orwellian talent for inversion of reality, Auster and his acolytes continue to claim that I have declined to meet Auster on the level of ideas, and that instead I have engaged in personal attacks—while calling me “pathological,” claiming I suffer from a “victim complex,” and more. Sure, Larry, no personal attacks from you. Auster claims that he has “given the entire history of why I stopped speaking with Spencer.” He doesn’t mention, however, that he only published this explanation long after he stopped speaking to me, and that in it he never addresses my simple question, which was why he characterized my inviting Gadahn to accept the Bill of Rights as “purely liberal”—an appelation which, provided without explanation, his readers were certain to misunderstand. In a very long explanation he asserts several times that my defense of the West is entirely on liberal grounds, but never explains why the Bill of Rights is a liberal thing. Yet it is I who am not dealing with substantive points.
This is a man who has seized upon words here and there to imagine and magnify slights, while rudely sneering at and brushing aside my kindness toward him: he says that I sent him “e-mails larded with the same expressions of good wishes for my success, health, and happiness.” Oh, horror! Good wishes! What a horrible fellow I am!
That his followers continue to believe that he is only interested in discussing principles in light of things like this, and that I am the one personally insulting him, is testimony to his persuasive powers, but to little else. I would be happy to discuss and debate the issues of immigration at hand with Lawrence Auster or anyone else, but note that in the aftermath of my original post above, he has focused with relish on attacks on my character, with only the scantest attention to the points I have raised.
By Jungian synchronicity, just a few moments after Spencer’s “gift” arrived, this came from Mark P.:
Regarding your latest with Robert Spencer.
1) You really can’t find anything about ending Muslim immigration at Jihad Watch. The only people who seem to write the phrase “end Muslim immigration” are those in the comment lines.
This script in Google proves how little there is about ending immigration at Jihad Watch. Therefore, I don’t understand what Spencer is talking about when he says that he opposes Muslim immigration.
2) You are in the same position with Robert Spencer as Steve Sailer is with Malcolm Gladwell. Sailer basically eviscerates Gladwell’s work, both in Gladwell’s major books and at Gladwell’s blog. The result is that Gladwell throws hissy fits because to be exposed as a light thinker can kill a career where you’re being paid $5 a word and getting $40,000 speaking engagements.
While you don’t destroy Spencer’s work directly and often praise and use his work, your insistence that ending and/or deporting Muslims is the logical consequence of Spencer’s work is as potentially career-killing as what Sailer does to Gladwell. It could easily make Spencer look like a racist and, therefore, discredit everything he writes about Islam.
Of course, I’m not saying you should stop. You shouldn’t. I just don’t think you should worry about what Spencer thinks.
At 12:14 a.m. on February 8th America’s top Islam critic sent me another e-mail:
I see you posted my last.
But still didn’t deal with the substantive points.
Instead, just more personal attacks, and inaccurate insinuations about my motives; my speaking fee is nothing close to $40,000.
Why not engage me on the substance?
What are you afraid of?
Mark P. writes:
I have enormous respect for Robert Spencer’s work. I read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). It is a brilliant book, particularly for the insight about Islam’s “influence“ on the West. For example, Spencer makes the claim that the Renaissance, Columbus’ voyage to America, and the Inquisition all had a Muslim impetus behind it.
First, The Renaissance was made possible because all of the Muslim warfare in the East forced academics, intellectuals, religious people and others to make their way West to avoid the bloodshed. They brought with them the works of the classical world, thus reviving the classicism for which the Renaissance is famous.
Second, Columbus had to find a Western route to the East Indies because all of the Muslim warfare either blocked off the Eastern routes or made them far more dangerous.
Finally, the particularly brutal Spanish Inquisition was designed to deal with Muslim conversos practicing taqqiyah, faking being Christians or Jews so as to avoid expulsion or death from Spain. Those who claimed to be Jews were deported and those who claimed to be Christians were tested by ordeal.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else’s experience, but, to me, standard history textbooks treat The Renaissance, Columbus’ voyage, and the Inquisition as if they were isolated events that “just happened.” Spencer fills in these gaps with an astonishing theory that really does bring these three events together, especially since they occurred … oh … I don’t know … sometime after the fall of Constantinople. Furthermore, I am speaking as someone who took the University of Chicago’s three-quarter Western Civilization sequence for his undergrad requirement and who actually read, several years later and cover to cover, the assigned texts for that course up through the Old Regime and the French Revolution. I can attest that I have found nothing as innovative as Spencer’s argument, even before the recent debasement of the U of C’s history curricula.
Now that I have established my respect for Spencer’s work, I’d like to ask the following questions:
1) Based on what you’ve written, do you, Robert Spencer, believe that, at the very least, Muslim immigration to the United States must end and that, at the very most, America is better off with no Muslims living here? Furthermore, do you believe that this should be a matter of government policy enforced by the state?
2) If you have, as you claim, endorsed the ideas in question (1) above, then would you please provide links to the writings endorsing this agenda? If you have never endorsed such an agenda, as Mr. Auster claims, will you endorse it in the future?
Lawrence Auster is not your enemy. The “acolytes” at this website are not your enemy. Nobody is trying to spread lies about you. The conclusions that people draw at this website are based on your work. Please stop the childish tantrums and treat people here with the respect that a loyal opposition deserves.
I think Mark’s questions to Spencer are a little off. To my knowledge Spencer has never claimed, nor have I said he has claimed, that he believes in a complete cut-off of Muslim immigration. Rather, as he writes here, in his 2003 book Onward Muslim Soldiers he called for “tighter immigration controls,” a phrase that could mean just about anything, and doesn’t even necessarily mean lower absolute numbers. Indeed, in the second paragraph of that same article, as I pointed out here and repeated in the main blog entry above, the only immigration reform he supports is the screening of Muslim immigrants for jihad sympathies, not an actual reduction of Muslim immigration.
It is remarkable and instructive that Mark thinks that Spencer has ever claimed to support a complete cut-off of Muslim immigration. It means that Spencer’s vague comments about “tighter controls” conveyed to Mark that Spencer wanted a complete cut-off, while those vague comments also allowed Spencer to claim, and apparently to believe himself, that he was tough on immigration and therefore that I was lying about him when I said he wasn’t.
Similarly, in Melanie Phillips’s Londonistan, she uses a very similar phrase to Spencer’s in her only reference to immigration policy. She calls for “tough” controls, a phrase that, as in Spencer’s case, could mean anything but certainly does not suggest a complete cut-off. Yet Phillips apparently thought it meant a complete cut-off, as indicated by her astringent reply to me in an exchange at VFR last year:
Once again you misrepresent my views to a startling degree…. I do NOT say mass immigration should continue: on the contrary, I say in terms it should be stopped. I’m afraid you clearly have not understood what I have written.Yet, in the passage in her book that she directed me to in order to back up this claim, all she actually supported was “tough controls” on immigration, which, again, could mean anything or nothing.
So we have discovered a striking pattern in which certain writers use vague language which conveys to readers—and perhaps, insensibly, to the writers themselves—that which they want to hear. And then, if it is pointed out to them that they have not said what they claim they have said, they become very angry and say that they are being misrepresented.
I think this arises when writers write about a subject that they actually have not thought about seriously and do not care about. So if they say they want “tough controls” on immigration, they think they have taken the hardest line position imaginable, even though there is no content to their position. Knowing and caring nothing about the actual issue, they mistake a phrase about the issue for an actual position on the issue. It’s analogous to the way the Bush supporters use the word “democracy,” as an empty container into which they can project anything they like as suits their purposes, without having to take responsibility for any definite meaning of that word in the real world.
Mark P. writes:
Thanks for posting and thanks for the reply.
I’d like to point out that I do not think Spencer does or ever has supported a complete cut-off of Muslim immigration. Neither Spencer nor Melanie Phillips are fooling me with their rightfully empty language about “tight immigration controls” that makes them look serious when they are not. I, and others, am convinced that Spencer does not support any serious attempt to deal with the Muslim situation consistent with his alarming assessment of Islam.
I was, however, being charitable. Rather than debate what Spencer has written, I presented two questions that I feel encapsulate what VFR readers already believe and I gave Spencer an opportunity to affirm or deny the substance of those questions.
Mark J. writes:
I’d like to offer my two cents on this friction between you and Spencer.
I understand how it must be quite frustrating for you to be wrongly impugned by Spencer in the ways you have detailed. I understand your desire to defend yourself. From what I have read on your site, your points seem to be reasonable.
At the same time, as a reader who is interested in the issues and not in personality conflicts, I find it off-putting that periodically there seems to be this several-day interval where you talk about the latest way in which Spencer has wronged you and you post the list of emails going back and forth between you and him and third parties.
I want to say this diplomatically because as I have said before, I value you and your site highly and visit it multiple times per day. But frankly, I don’t think that most of your readers care if Spencer has insulted or impugned you, or what he has written in emails about it or what you have written to him. The whole thing seems unbecoming to both of you. I understand that you want to protect your reputation and that your site is your primary way of getting out the word when your reputation has been besmirched. But it seems like these personality issues take over the site periodically. It’s just too much. And especially this Spencer thing, which has been gone over again and again periodically for a year or so now. I think we get it—you and Spencer don’t get along.
Perhaps you could just put a link on the side of the page referring to this disagreement with Spencer and post your position there and leave the day-to-day flow of the blog to the issues? Just a suggestion. Again, I am sympathetic to your desire to defend yourself and I don’t want to come off like I’m criticizing you for defending yourself.
I wish you and Spencer could just drop the disagreement and the accusations and counter-accusations of who said what, and start over with a basic statement of what you agree on and what you disagree on without getting into all this stuff about who’s a liar and who’s intellectually inconsistent and so on. It’s such a distraction from what should be going on.
Personally I don’t feel that Spencer, Phillips, and the rest are being intellectually dishonest or facile by not spelling out that muslim immigration should be stopped. Yes, it should be. But you have to start by laying the groundwork, by establishing in the public mind that Islam is a serious problem. The prevailing anti-discrimination mentality is so ingrained in our cultures that people are not going to take seriously anyone who proposes expelling muslims until the zeitgeist has been changed enough by warnings about Islam that Western people—who are almost all liberal to some extent—are open to that option. We need Paul Reveres like you to be courageous and say the hard things, but we also need people with large public followings to build the foundation even if that means they only point out the dangers of Islam without explicitly calling for the expulsion of muslims. I don’t think it is constructive to criticize these people in such a way that they feel their integrity has been impugned. You are a passionate and intelligent writer and sometimes your criticisms of them do seem to take on the character of a personal insult. (For instance, the “I wouldn’t share a foxhole with him” comment you made, and then deleted, about another writer recently.)
Jim C. writes:
The Bostom-Spencer debate is incredible—facinating. I think progress is being made.
… You are on a roll now. Keep the pedal to the metal.
Mark A. in England writes:
I can assure you that from reading many of the writers on the subject on the Net you are easily the most clear sighted on the issue of Islam as it affects us in the West. Since I live near Birmingham in England you will understand what a concern it is.
David H. writes:
It would seem that any critique of Mr. Spencer, at least by one on the right, is akin to poking a nest of hornets. Which is a true shame; as Jeff writes, Spencer has done valuable work on the Islam menace and has rendered a great service by chronicling the subtle and not-so-subtle moves of the enemy. But this makes his attitude even more deplorable. The energy, hateful accusations, and absolutely unnecessary emotion devoted to his attempts at branding you a liar are worse than a complete waste; they will alienate the true right—the very persons who not only see the menace (important), but realize what must be done (more important). Men like Spencer, by loudly proclaiming the danger of Islam (which attracts us all to his words) and simultaneously using those “vague terms” that appeal to liberals and even a few leftists, do wield a measure of power (generally described as legitimacy), and have managed to attract a large and rather unlikely audience. But any left-right “alliance” from this audience is a sham; at the first serious hint of illiberal action (mass deportation, aggressive quarantine of the Middle East, religious profiling—which, if I recall correctly, Spencer supports but if ever attempted he would lose the left side of his audience), the house of cards will collapse. [LA interjects: EXACTLY.] In addition, as has been proven in pre-Soviet Russia as well as other nations, leftists make treacherous allies, and are liable to turn on those who once called them “friend”.
One greatly annoying aspect of this whole nasty affair is Spencer’s willingness to include an unrelated truth spoken by Ali immediately after criticizing her for being anti-Catholic, seemingly to blunt his critique or to point out that she still has at least a few good ideas (he subsequently praised her in a more recent entry; I personally have no use for such a virulently anti-Christian individual). And yet when faced with criticism from you, which could have easily been resolved, he replies with anger and accusations (“Liar!” “Calumny!” “He didn’t bother to explain it to me like a man!”).
Your point about vagueness of language is very important. Many use it in order to appear tough on a subject, appealing to the right (who see it incorrectly as strength, and who want solutions), but not specific enough to offend others’, or their own, “liberal sensibilities.” It is exactly about not taking responsibility, not taking a definitive stand that will be assaulted (but, ironically, can be defended from a position of strength). Much of it is about “getting along” and creating “understanding” between left and right to the Islamic menace. How often I have read foolish statements (inevitably on “conservative” sites) such as, “If only liberals and feminists realized that Moslems will kill them first!” But the vast majority never will, and any “alliance” based upon an “unprincipled exception” will melt away when the growing Islamic menace eventually blows up into a firestorm. A weak coalition based upon vague “toughness” is no match for ferocious, dedicated, murderous enemies.
(BTW I don’t ever recall writing, or reading at this site, that Mr. Spencer should stop speaking. We’re not the “allies” of his who want to stifle free speech.)
Acolyte David H. (I’m hoping to make Druid of the First Circle some day…)
Mark J. writes:
“But you have to start by laying the groundwork, by establishing in the public mind that Islam is a serious problem. The prevailing anti-discrimination mentality is so ingrained in our cultures that people are not going to take seriously anyone who proposes expelling muslims until the zeitgeist has been changed enough by warnings about Islam that Western people—who are almost all liberal to some extent—are open to that option. We need Paul Reveres like you to be courageous and say the hard things, but we also need people with large public followings to build the foundation even if that means they only point out the dangers of Islam without explicitly calling for the expulsion of muslims.” Mark has forgotten that I have specifically said, in my article “The Minimum”, that I am not requiring that the Islam critics call for the removal of Muslims. But I do say that the minimum required for logical and practical coherence is that they call for, at least, very substantial reductions in overall Muslim immigration. I respectfully say to Mark that I do not see a call for a cessation or drastic reduction of Muslim immigration as such an extreme position that a mainstream conservative writer cannot take it. My gosh that has to be the thought in the back of many people’s heads. Surely FrontPage Magazine would not stop publishing Spencer for saying that. (Spencer informs us that National Review and NRO will not publish him, so there’s nothing to lose from that near-worthless quarter in any case.)
I repeat that for the Islam critics to speak of Islam the way they do, for example, Phillips’s saying that radical Islam is the dominant form of Islam in our time, and then not to speak a single word about preventing more Muslims from coming, does not just make the Islam critics’ position inadequate, it makes their position absurd, it makes their position Kafkaesque, it makes it an insult to one’s intelligence. Worse, it destroys their readers’ ability to think, by getting them to accept this absurdity (just as accepting the absurd Bushite slogans about Muslim democracy destroyed conservatives’s ability to think). They all come to feel that the way to oppose the Islamization of the West is to talk endlessly about how awful awful awful Islam is. Thus they live in a fantasy world. It is a perfect example of the Cave in Book VII of The Republic. In the Cave, people see mere reflections cast on a wall, and think they are real things. In the same way, the conservatives mistake meaningless slogans for real positions, fancying themselves as brave, cutting-edge souls in a heroic “war against radical Islam” even as they accede to the policies that continue to allow more and more Muslims into the West.
This is totally unacceptable. If conservatives’ ability to think and speak and act rationally about this issue is to be restored, the current thought forms that they accept as normal and correct must be exposed for the falsehoods they are. Unfortunately, virtually no one does this, so it falls on me to do it, which makes me look as if I’m “obsessed,” as if I’m “going after people personally,” and so on, which in turn opens me to very nasty attacks, in which people try to portray me as an egotistical crackpot, a deceiver, as mentally ill or whatever, in order to discredit me as a person. If I am not to be marginalized, if I am to maintain my position on the substantive issue, I cannot reasonably be expected to ignore such attacks on myself. Therefore, as regrettable as it may be, what Mark sees as the irrelevant “personal” disagreements that ought to be put aside, are in fact, at least on occasion, inseparable from the debate on the substantive issue.
Mark J. writes:
You are persuasive in making your points:
(1) Serious critics of Islam should be calling for substantial reduction in Muslim immigration, at least. (2) It is Kafkaesque and obfuscates the critical issues involved for them not to do this. (3) Someone needs to point this out, and because you have taken this on, you have been subject to personal attacks and must respond to these attacks in order to avoid being marginalized.
Having said that, in the several years I have been reading your site, I have noticed that quite a number of conservative or right-liberal commentators have called you names that have a common theme: that you are angry, a “misanthrope,” and over the top in your criticisms. I think the problem lies in the way you criticize them. Some of the language or phrases you use seem harsh, to be honest. My sense is that you are passionate about these ideas and the passion comes out in the way you frame your arguments, and you get impatient with people’s inability to get past the nuance of a few words and see the truth of what you are saying. But I don’t know … I don’t think it’s easy for people to get past language that seems to be not simply a cordial, objective critique of an idea they have put forward but an intimation that there is something wrong with their character.
I’m just speaking from what I have observed, but I will say that with all fondness and goodwill to you, I have not noticed another conservative writer who seems to have made so many enemies among people who are at least sympathetic to the conservative worldview. I don’t think it’s just that you are critiquing their ideas.
It’s true that you often write approvingly of certain ideas of a writer whom you have lambasted in other posts. You have done that recently about Spencer. But that doesn’t really make up for the offense given. You can’t write in one post something complimentary and then in the next something that implies that the person has emotional problems and then be surprised that they don’t take your points in stride. The search functionality on your site doesn’t seem to be working … at least for my search for “Derbyshire,” so I can’t easily scan through your recent postings for specific examples. But consider just this one opening sentence from a recent post:
“Amazingly, Robert Spencer actually responds to my proposals on the substance.” This implies that it is unusual for Spencer to respond to substance. That is an insult. Why not just write “Robert Spencer argues that … “? Why continue to stoke the fire? What if someone wrote, “Amazingly, Lawrence Auster actually responds to my proposals on the substance.” Wouldn’t you see that as just a gratuitous insult and an attempt to marginalize you?
I could go through the whole body of Auster/Spencer materials and pick out a bunch of these types of things, but you get the point. You could argue that he started it, but it doesn’t really matter who started it. And because you’ve had these reactions from Phillips and Derbyshire (that I am aware of), it suggests that the problem may not be Robert Spencer. The result is unconstructive, distracting personal animosity between two people who, when you consider the entire spectrum of ideological thought, are really quite close and who are both crucial to the cause. I suspect that there are similar things in the stuff you’ve written about Phillips and Derbyshire. There certainly was in the stuff about Mark Steyn. I just don’t see the point in personally alienating people who may at some point fully come around to your point of view and be a great and useful ally.
Perhaps what I will do is keep my eyes open for more of these sorts of things and point them out to you. At any rate, don’t be discouraged, and keep up the good fight. I consider you the most insightful commentator out there, and I mean that sincerely.
I do not agree with Mark J.’s characterization of certain things I’ve written. For example, I stand 100 percent behind my critique of Mark Steyn. It may be that the kind of pointed, in-depth critical analysis that I write is not to Mark’s liking. At the same time, Mark’s criticisms of me are not inherently unreasonable and many would agree with him. For the time being I have said enough and will not defend myself further on these points but let others come to their own conclusions.
LA has a further thought:
It just occurred to me that Mark’s criticisms is an example of something analogous to my First Law of Majority-Minority Relations in Liberal Society. The First Law (in one of its several variations) states that the worse any designated minority group behaves, and thus the more negative things that are justly said about that group, the more racist the host society seems, for saying all these negative things.
Now this principle goes beyond majority-minority relations to a feature of liberal, non-judgmental society as such, which is: the more objectively bad a person is, and thus the more criticism he actually deserves, the more “mean,” “nasty,” “personal,” and “obsessed” his critics will appear. For example, in former times someone using the grossly deceitful and treasonously anti-Western arguments of a Mark Steyn (which I have catalogued over and over) would not have gotten away with it, at least among conservatives. Indeed, prior to the counterculture, such a figure as Steyn would not have existed. But because both critical intellect and civilizational patriotism have vanished in our time, no one notices or cares about it and Steyn gets away with it, and, released from all criticism and restraint, he keeps going farther and farther. But if one person sees Steyn’s outrages and criticizes them, not superficially, but fully and justly, he, the critic, will seem like the offender. In liberal society, the worse a person is, the more he is protected.
Now, some conservatives are not going to like what I just said, so here’s an example they may relate to better. President Clinton was an unspeakable outrage as president, and many conservatives were appalled both by Clinton himself and, even more, by the way he got away with it. So they “obsessed” about Clinton and denounced him for the things for which the establishment did not denounce him. As a result, the people who were justly horrified and indignant at this putrescence in the White House, have come to be called “Clinton haters,” and they are cast—even by “conservatives”!—as the moral equivalent of the actually insane and anti-American Bush haters of the present decade. Because our society has eschewed traditional moral judgment, the worse Clinton was, and the more deserving of condemnation, the more his just and patriotic critics have been portrayed as haters.
Again, if the elites and the authoritative institutions of society had still had a moral basis and had condemned (and removed) Clinton as he deserved, it would not have been necessary for individuals to be so obsessed about him. It was the very fact that the society was giving him a pass and excusing him, that made his critics seem shrill and hateful.
In reply to my first reply to Mark J. above, beginning “Mark has forgotten,” Jeff in England writes:
Well put and I agree with you 100 percent. This “obsession” with NOT naming Islam as the enemy (calling it Radical Islam or IslamoFascism etc) and NOT even mentioning severe immigration restriction is the REAL “OBSESSION.” An “obsession” to avoid what needs to be confronted. An “extreme” position in fact. It has to highlighted and taken apart as a “rational” argument because it isn’t one. So if Lawrence Auster or others have to bang on about it over and over then so be it.
Imagine if we had only fought Hitler’s top Nazis and not all of Germany.
This is an absurd state of affairs based on white guilt fueled denial of the highest order. I am again asking Robert Spencer and other similar Islamic “analysts” and “commentators” to agree to come together and debate (FrontPage?) with Lawrence Auster in a Symposium on this “restricted immigration” issue.
Jeff is exactly right on what is the real “extreme” position here. The extreme position is not the commonsensical statement that Islamiziation is a threat to the West and therefore Islamic immigration should stop. The extreme position is to say that Islamization is a threat to the West and that nothing must ever be said about reducing, let along stopping, Muslim immigration. Robert Spencer’s explanation, in his recent reply to me at Jihad Watch, of why we cannot stop Muslim immigration was pathetic. He said we can’t do it because how would we know which immigration applicants were Muslim? This—from the same person who proposes that every Muslim immigrant applicant be examined for his beliefs!
Jim F. writes (2/15/07):
It is indeed sickening to see two extremely bright and informed men on the subject of Islam spiral down into a back alley cat fight. The issue of how to manage our way out of the Islamic threat is far too important for sidebar cat fights, and postings ad nauseam that do not move the problem along. Call a truce between you, and work with words to define what you each agree to and disagree with, then call it quits. Agree to disagree and move on!
Someone has to define the threat, and support it deeply and noisily. Someone has to work on how to move toward a solution to the threat, and champion it loudly. That the two someones here might disagree on some aspects of the threat and the solution is hardly unusual. That two people such as yourselves have great pride in your work and image is also not unusual. My opinion is that finding common ground here would benefit the cause far more than continuing the snarling.
While I am butting into this argument, I will state my views on the matter. Islam, in toto, is a deadly threat to all Judeo-Christian nations. Islam must be reined in, stopped, and not allowed to propagate further, but rather, to be rolled back and quarantined. Oil in the Islamic states must be freely available on the world market at a fair market price. Muslims who turn away from violence and seek peace should be allowed to prosper and to develop livable conditions in their nations. Unfortunately, even these peaceful Muslims must be monitored effectively for recidivism for their entire lives.
So, I ask the collective brainpower here to define a workable solution, especially one that could conceivably be implemented over the next three or four years.
I’ve already dealt with both the Spencer controversy and with people’s complaints about the Spencer controversy at great length, so why are you bringing it up again now?
I also resent your characterization of it: I do not believe I’ve been behaving like someone in a back alley cat fight. I think I’ve been maintaining a position in an honorable way, I’ve been attacked and repeatedly smeared as a liar and worse for my position, by a person far more prominent than I, and it was necessary to defend myself. Go back and read this blog entry [i.e. the current blog entry] where I answer every question.
The controversy has quieted down for the last several days, so, once again, why are you bringing it up again now?
Just in the last two days I posted a major statement about what to do about Islam that did not mention Spencer at all. So, if you’re concerned about the issue and don’t want to read about personal controversies, why didn’t you write to me about my draft statement on Islam, instead of writing to me telling me I’m acting like a thug in an alley? [Note: Jim F. had sent a comment for that discussion as well, but I did’t get it; he had since resent it and I’ve posted it.]
P.S. To underscore my point: if you think personal attacks and insults to another man’s character are so unacceptable, why do you indulge in them yourself?
Jim F. replies:
You have, of course, every right to conduct your blog as you see fit. Perhaps I was too strong in my objections to reading about the controversy. At the point in time I wrote my response, it appeared to me that the controversy would go on and on. In any event, I am glad you feel it is over. I am not so certain that Spencer feels it is over. Time will tell.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 08, 2007 12:27 AM | Send
Let me state that in my opinion your integrity shines forth in your work, which makes defending it from Spencer somewhat irrevalent. I can understand your desire to defend yourself from someone as well-known as Spencer, but your best defense is on your blog for all to see.