Spencer turns Kristor’s profound essay on Islam and liberalism into an attack on himself

And Kristor, again, brings out the deeper meaning of this.

Kristor writes:

I just followed the link from VFR’s main page over to Atlas Shrugged, and then a link on that page over to Jihad Watch, where Robert Spencer wrote:

Now [Auster] is comparing our conflict, such as it is, to the Council of Nicaea, and to the free West’s struggle against relativist and standardless liberalism, which I apparently now personify. The absurdities multiply.

This is informative. It indicates to me that there really is, quite literally, a high ratio of noise to signal in the conservative blogosphere. It’s like a gigantic, many-dimensional game of telephone. As I read over the comments to the article in which this appeared at Jihad Watch, and read over Fjordman’s (quite respectful) criticism of your conduct in the dispute with Spencer, and look back at Geza’s analysis (for which I thank him, very much) of my piece on Arius, 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—bearing in mind also that it can be difficult to interpret what a writer has written (mea culpa, both as writer and reader).

To wit:

It was not you that drew the association between Auster vs. Spencer and Athanasius vs. Arius, but I. As a joke. The essay that followed your request for clarification was a recondite speculative exploration, not an artillery shell aimed at Spencer.

In my essay, I lumped Spencer and myself in with all other modern Americans as dyed in the wool liberals. I was not singling out Spencer. I was making the point that recognizing the nature of the Islamic enemy is difficult, is painful, for all Americans, partly because we are all dyed in the wool liberals. We all grew up in a more or less liberal society. We were all dyed in the wool, starting in kindergarten. That makes climbing out of the liberal paradigm difficult, tricky.

So I was not saying that Spencer personifies relativist and standardless liberalism. Actually, the way he wrote that sentence is exactly what I think of him: I think he personifies the free West’s struggle against relativist and standardless liberalism. He is at the forefront of that struggle, at no small danger to his own person. I admire his courage, energy and perspicacity tremendously. That said, he ain’t infallible; and I am skeptical that any modern American has fully understood his own chthonic liberalism. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of VFR is watching the VFR community, including Lawrence, peel away the layers of their own liberalism. It’s like a Marxist re-education camp, in reverse.

Entirely speculative diagnosis: Spencer is busy, and was reacting to what a correspondent told him about the Arius essay, rather than having read it himself.

In Geza’s analysis of my essay on Arius, he says, “[Kristor fails] to realize [that] Auster’s Separationism itself is only a starting point because he only vaguely states what we would do to weaken Islam such as a few surgical strikes here and there i.e. more rubble, less trouble.” But in fact, you have often stated that separation is the de minimis requirement of our predicament. And, for the war policies I have suggested at VFR, I have been compared by you to a “Mongol general coolly prepared to wipe out millions of people” (high praise, indeed!). Come to think of it, in the very essay Geza analyzes, I make a great big point of saying that our policies must be shaped to destroy our enemy.

Entirely speculative diagnosis: Geza is busy, is reading too fast, and has not kept up with VFR postings.

Geza says: “Kristor then goes on to blame liberalism for our problems with Islam. Liberalism does prevent us from defending ourselves from Islam.” Almost the whole essay was driving home the second statement. The first statement is mistaken. I blame Islam for our problems with Islam. I blame us only for not responding to Islam as forcefully as Geza and I could both have wished. Muslims are responsible for what they do, we for what we do. To think that we are responsible for what they do is the height of arrogant superciliousness, is thus to unman them in our eyes, and has the effect of misguiding us about the true magnitude of their threat. It is a characteristic reflex of unreflective liberals.

Entirely speculative diagnosis: Geza is busy, and is reading too fast.

Notice the pattern? I noted the same thing in Fjordman’s reproof of you, posted at Atlas Shrugs. Everyone is reading too fast, or going on hearsay, or not reading enough, and then drawing hasty conclusions in print. Feelings are hurt, and then it’s war. I say “everyone” advisedly, Lawrence. Busy as you are, and human as you are, I much doubt that you are immune. While I’m at it: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Who can tell how often he offends? Geza, Spencer, Swede, Lawrence, & al: I’m sorry if I have misread you—I’m doing my best not to. And, Spencer, if I irritated you by lumping you in with myself and all other Americans as a dyed in the wool liberal, hey, sorry. Didn’t mean it as an insult, but as an insight. It’s the latter I’m after. In another instance of Jungian synchronicity, I heard a great Jewish aphorism last night: “rush makes violence.” It’s a corollary of “haste makes waste.” Peculiarly apropos, no?

LA replies:

In the same entry at Jihad Watch, which was posted at 8 a.m. this morning, Spencer, who does not name me (he periodically goes back and forth between naming me and not naming me), says that, catching up on the recent posts at VFR, he sees that I have been “savaging” him. I would like to see an example of this “savaging.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 11, 2008 07:40 PM | Send

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