Atlas hurls a stink bomb

There is a triple attack on me at the Atlas Shrugs website, with a piece of incoherent idiocy by Pamela Geller saying that my criticisms of Robert Spencer are the same as Charles Johnson’s smears of the anti-jihad movement, and a more rational though still wrongheaded article by Fjordman in which he defends me from Geller’s unhinged statements while declaring that that my own criticisms of Spencer have been nothing less than “immoral” and “unethical.” The Geller article discredits itself, the Fjordman article requires a reply, though I probably won’t have the time to get to it this afternoon.

However, to get the full breath of the anti-Auster campaign, read the comment that Conservative Swede has posted following Fjordman’s article. I’ve copied it below. Conservative Swede, of course, is the person who posted regularly at VFR for a couple of years and was very friendly to me, and then, on the basis of single point I made about Islam that he didn’t like, suddenly became personally hostile to me and began launching a series of deranged attacks which started last summer and are still going on today, culminating in the below comment, which he concludes by calling me an egomaniacal cult leader and wishing for my intellectual extinction.

Here is Conservative Swede’s comment from the Atlas Shrugs site:

Fjordman wrote:
In such a situation, I can definitely see the value in having a website such as Auster’s, which is contrarian as a matter of principle and leaves no ideological stone unturned.

This is simply not true. Try to turn the stones of his own ideological platform, and see what happens. I did, and this forever changed my impression of Auster. He’s no different from the rest. He likes to turn the stones of other’s ideology, but fiercely protects his own, even in the most stupid sort of ways (including the well know liberal rhetorical tricks and a flabbergasting Islam apologism). It’s just because his ideological base is so minuscule—so-called traditionalist conservatism—that he will appear to be willing to turn every stone (and turn against everyone else). But he’s not. He’s just like the rest.

Quite as Charles Johnson he is exploiting the situation of a deranged world, and many people being worried, for his own aggrandizement. I’d say they are both best understood as cult leaders. And while their respective skills and modus operandi are indeed very different, they both have a lot in common. E.g. how they are prepared to go to any length (neither of them have any shame or any limits in how deeply they will degenerate into dirty games) in defending their cult and their cultish status among their acolytes. They both regularly attack any and all other anti-Jihadist of importance. They are both destroying for the movement (each in their different way and from different directions), and thereby isolating themselves. OK, Johnson still accepts Spencer, and Auster still accepts Fjordman, but let’s see for how long. In the end they can only accept themselves as the only prophet. They each have their respective sort of purism that by the end of the day will make them fall out with everybody. And they are equally prepared to tear down a former colleague for the pettiest of reasons.

But the overzealous productiveness of people like Auster and Johnson have led to many good things. They have both been rightfully admired for brilliant efforts. This is what this unique sort of people are able to do. But every phenomenon will turn out and react differently depending on the context its put in (different projections, of the same force, under different configurations provide different results). It’s like my criticism of liberalism and Christianity. In spite of my strong criticism of them both, I have always said that there has been times when they have been in the right element and led to good results.

But in both cases the main achievements of Auster and Johnson have been in the past. The unique value they once produced is rapidly becoming insignificant, since the world is changing around them. And in the process, their true egomaniac agendas has come up nakedly into the open, for everyone to see. So thank you fellows for our brave efforts in the past, but I don’t think we need either of you any more.

Posted by: Conservative Swede | Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 02:12 PM

- end of initial entry -

Before the current entry was posted, I had sent Kristor a link to Brussels Journal where his amazing VFR post [whoops, sorry for the sycophancy] on the “The deeper meaning of the Auster-Spencer dispute” was being discussed, and he wrote:

Interesting. I just went over there, and read the comments. Geza at Conservative Swede’s site commented that he had analyzed my essay at Swede’s site, so I went there, and he makes some interesting points of disagreement with me, most of which I can clear up in a paragraph or two. I will perhaps be able to get to that tonight. There was also, I was dismayed to see, a lot of disparagement of you at the site, as being unforgivably soft on Islam. That rather blew me away. I don’t spend much time at conservative sites, because I don’t have much time to spend. I regularly check out only VFR and Gates of Vienna. So I was taken by surprise at Swede’s site, which I had never visited. Why do you think there is so much vitriol out there? I mean, it’s just … horrible. The main rhetorical instrument seems to be mutual excommunication. The ratio of heat to light—i.e., of noise to signal, chaos to information—in the conservative blogosphere seems awfully, awfully high. It’s pretty discouraging. Reminds me of intra-European squabbling while Constantinople fell.

After I posted the current entry, with the link to Conservative Swede’s “schism” from VFR, Kristor wrote:

In that item lamenting Swede’s implosion—with which I am completely unfamiliar, apart from the item itself—you write:

However, it’s a pattern with which I am now unhappily familiar. Someone discovers this site, develops a friendly correspondence with me, then makes too big a deal of me and overpraises me [Kristor’s italics], and then, by some psychological reaction against the previous excessive praise, suddenly turns on me. I’m getting a little exhausted and burned out with this repeated experience by now, but I don’t know how to avoid it, other than not having correspondence with people.

See, Lawrence, it’s all about the sycophancy. The true sycophants may be the ones who end up turning on you. So all the joshing about sycophancy among the regular commenters at VFR may be a sign of health among that population. If one can joke about being a sycophant, one obviously isn’t taking either Lawrence Auster or oneself too seriously. So that gets me wondering how you can forestall the ugly pattern you have noticed. I’m stumped.

LA replies:

It’s not pleasant, but there’s nothing to be done about it. When and if it happens, it happens. It comes with the territory.

But Swede is the most extreme case by far. Other situations were not ongoing. Swede has been in psycho mode about me now for a whole year, and no one gainsays him.

I find it spectacularly ironic that a group that consists of unhinged ranters like Pamela Geller and madmen like Swede is attacking me for my improper behavior.

LA continues:

Also, I wouldn’t say (though obviously I’m not the one to judge) that Swede was sycophantic, not at all. He and I had a very cordial correspondence and there was a friendliness and, I would say, an intellectual equality between us. He had a unique, fresh angle on things and his contributions at VFR were treated with unusual respect.

I mention the phenomenon of overpraise because about a year ago, in an e-mail, he said there were just two people who were sound on everything: Winston Churchill and me. About two weeks after that, his whole personality suddenly changed and he turned against me and became my enemy—so much so, that he now describes me as a washed up cult leader who has become intellectually irrelevant and should disappear from the scene.

John D. writes:

Your criticisms of Spencer are indeed warranted. He has written volumes on the problem of Islam, but as you say, his solutions come very recent and in small and infrequent doses.

These people are cliquey. When someone criticizes one of them in their insufficiencies, they seem to become like a pack of wolves ready to devour.

Know in your heart what is true and dismiss the rest. There’s not another website out there that defines “the cause” with the intellect of VFR. If there is such a site, it is well hidden.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

LA replies:

I’m not down. This anti-Auster wave is a phenomenon that is at least 90 percent intensely irrational—a classic, or rather an extreme, instance of mob psychology in action. Not an edifying or a hopeful sight, especially for what it tells us about the quality of the people in the conservative and anti-jihad Web. At the same time, while my criticisms of Spencer have been valid, I can be fairly criticized for criticizing him so often that it has set off this explosion.

Jim Farrar writes:

There must be a reason that you continue to fire away at detractors. Is it that a slur unmet is a slur that sticks? By now, I would think that your readership is quite aware of your virtues and vices, and thus do not need your extra comments on some tiff or feud that interests few.

You have far more to offer the public than such feuding. Is it at all possible to rise above such pettiness, and return to the subjects we come to your site to read? Transcendentalism, for instance?

LA replies:

I wonder what planet you’re living on, that you would call the things being said about me a “tiff”? What is it with people today, that drives them to reduce all conflicts to the level of a meaningless quarrel or “squabble,” so that anyone who defends himself from an attack is deprived of any dignity, since he’s merely “squabbling”? And why do you accuse me of feuding, and not the entire crowd of individuals and websites that are speaking of me as though I were a monster that must be banished from society? Actually my response has been incredibly restrained compared to the things being said about me. And I’ve only looked at and mentioned a tiny fraction of it. Yet you accuse me of pettiness.

Please tell me what you think I should do? Act as though it weren’t happening? Not defend myself at all? Not quote the things that were being said about me?

Please tell me. Share your wisdom.

[Note (July 14): Jim Farrar’s extremely interesting reply and my further reply to him are posted here.]

Shrewsbury writes:

Sometimes the Web reminds Shrewsbury of the old sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet, in which the advanced alien race the Krell had developed the power to control reality with their thoughts, but at the same time thus reified the monsters of their subconscious, which destroyed them all in a single night—“Monsters of the id!” as Dr. Morbius realizes in dismay.

May we imagine, then, Robert Spencer, et al., one day lamenting in despair, “My own evil self is at the door, and I am powerless to stop it!”?

As ever, in the vilest sycophancy,
yr. mindless cult follower,

Bill Carpenter writes:

Unfortunately, Conservative Swede took Brussels Journal’s posting of Kristor’s excellent remarks as an occasion to lambaste you in the comments section of Brussels Journal, where he does not often post. It is a little like the LGF practice of pursuing the object of disdain in every redoubt. I hope people will not encourage him by responding.

Dostoevsky, and Rene Girard’s analysis of mimetic desire in Dostoevsky and elsewhere, gets the closest to incorporating such vendettas into a general anthropology. I recommend Girard as a near neighbor to Eric Gans, whose anthropology also is based on mimetic desire. Mimetic desire operates in a triangle: one person imitates the desire of the other (his model) for the object of desire. When the object is transcendent, the structures of culture defer the rivalry between desirers. When the transcendence of the object is lost, and the being of the model himself becomes the object of desire, then the model becomes both a pathway and an obstacle to the attainment of the modeled desire. The triangle collapses. The hero is treated as a monster. “Deceit, Desire and the Novel,” “Dostoevsky, Violence and the Sacred,” and “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of The World apply” these insights to an ever wider sphere. Girard is a devout Catholic and believes his theories are consistent with Christian orthodoxy.

Gans, as I have said, is very promising on the subject of transcendence and the possibility of using the minimal transcendence of language to coax Darwinian reductionists out of their anti-religiosity. He has a theory of the origin of consciousness that is also the origin of language and the sacred (i.e. the divine). Thinkers like you and Kristor would find the theories useful, despite potential objections.

PS. Robert DeNiro’s King of Comedy is an outstanding example of mimetic desire gone awry. He is a would be comedian who idolizes Jerry Lewis, who is great in this Scorsese film. But he turns on him and kidnaps him. All About Eve is another outstanding example of the genre. Dostoevsky’s Eternal Husband (?) is Girard’s favorite example.

Posted July 12:

Zachary W. writes:

Seeing as you’re being ganged up against ;) Thought I’d take a moment to tell you how much I enjoy your site and to keep up the great work. You’re totally in the right in this Spencer affair. It’s great fun to see how childish grown men become when you offend their vanity and expose their secret bad conscience. Your integrity as always is beyond reproach—which is what makes reading you such an exalting pleasure, even when I disagree with you.

James W. writes:

Swede’s attack, like Spencer’s recently, is so careless it inclines the sober reader to examine the messenger as carefully as the message. I am easily warned because it is difficult to imagine a blog less inclined to the cult than this one. Frankly, Lawrence, you are too prickly and too exacting to have or keep a cult; and no man has shown less inclination to such a status, as universal as it may be to others. Charles Johnson’s train, for example, is enormous, and cultivated.

Swede is correct in thinking even brilliant efforts will have unintended consequences—and especially brilliant efforts probably more so. I would think in such cases a man’s virtues and vices are so close together that we cannot remove the one without obliterating the other. That makes it safe to say you are not without fault. But it is Swede, burned at your flame, who keeps circling it in fascination.

LA replies:

But he and I were on perfectly good terms, notwithstanding philosophical disagreements stemming from his atheism. He turned instantly from liking and admiring me to hating me and seeking to destroy me. There is at least a reason for Spencer’s hatred of me, my tough criticisms of him. With Swede, there is no reason. It seems like motiveless malignancy. (That phrase comes from Coleridge’s famous discussion of Iago.)

Erich writes:

Kristor wrote recently on your site about the whole Spencer mess:

“it seems to me that the main problem here is simply that very few people seem to be reading what others have written very carefully”

Not only are they not carefully reading, they are contenting themselves with swallowing what others claim and then offering their own rabble-rousing comments—thereby exacerbating this sorry, pathetic situation—without taking the trouble to investigate for themselves what the facts might be. Spencer may not be solely responsible for fostering this anti-intellectual atmosphere, but his hands are certainly dirty in this regard, and he seems to be rubbing those dirty hands together in glee rather than trying to wash them clean. As for Pam Geller, she has a slightly higher position than a mere commenter on a forum, and her behavior in this regard was unacceptable. But then, she has always been mainly a front-line trooper, not an analyst. It would be helpful if she would keep her mouth shut when it comes to analysis, and do what she does best—man the front-line sandbags.

James S. writes:

It all boils down to whether or not and to what extent Spencer made public his position that we should stop Muslim immigration prior to the confrontation with you that started it all. Many of the examples, which he claims show that he did, actually don’t. Anyone can see this by just clicking on the links and reading. My estimate would be that he said it plainly about three times previous to when you first really confronted him on it. Three times in a lot of years. Can someone with better eyes than me get an actual count on this? I’ll start reading his blog instead of yours if he said it more than once a year or ten times total.

And everyone should stop and consider how absolutely central cessation of immigration is to the fight.

Anyway it’s got to be that some Jihad Watch readers sense this and they’ll slowly realize it in time. I hardly ever win arguments the day I have them and I don’t think it’s because I’m just wrong.

Gotta go, window’s open, smells like Summer.

Roger G. writes:

In a very recent Jamie Glazov symposium at FrontPage Magazine, Spencer writes brilliantly on Islam, but I don’t believe that he ever calls for stopping Muslim immigration to, or removing them from, the West—although I think this would have been the ideal forum for those recommendations.

Dimitri writes:

In this dramatic moment, when all broadly known (in the narrow circle of their fans) bloggers turned against you, I feel it necessary to show you my support. I am not sure that you are always right, but your opinion is usually well-argued, original and has the right to exist. What many commenters (at Atlas Something) do not understand is that behind personal conflict there is a conflict of principles.

I would sum your opinion as follow: a liberal is absolutely useless, because he cannot defend even liberalism, and whatever he does, he produces only more liberalism. That applies to many popular bloggers. Sometimes, I feel that it applies to me, too. It is hard to admit and it hurts one very personally. Unfortunately, it is likely to be true.

That principle (in my interpretation) resembles the law of energy conservation: no matter how you design your engine, it will never produce energy of nothing. 200 years ago it seemed ridiculous. You invented your principle too early for general public to comprehend. They all are nice people, but that is irrelevant.

LA replies:

Thanks, Dimitri. You should write sometimes about the things you disagree with me on, which, as far as I recall at the moment, you haven’t done.

Thanks everyone.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 11, 2008 03:10 PM | Send

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