Have I misrepresented Spencer’s position?

“OK, you’re not a liar…But you’re not a liar! Oh no! Perish the thought!”
— Robert Spencer to LA, July 7, 2008

Some VFR readers hate the Spencer-Auster dispute, seeing it as, at best, a useless and degrading distraction from the traditionalist themes and the critique of liberalism to which this website is devoted. I hate the dispute too. Unfortunately for readers, and even more so for me, I still need to write more on the subject before I can drop it. I am currently preparing an article aimed at putting this whole controversy in perspective, and, I hope, behind us. But in order to put it behind us, we need to arrive at some closure on the factual issues that are at the core of the dispute: namely Spencer’s position on Muslim immigration, and his repeated charge that I have been misrepresenting and deliberately ignoring what he says is his real position.

In effect, there are two distinct areas that need to be addressed if we are to bring closure to this unpleasant situation.

First, as just mentioned, there are the factual questions: 1. Has Spencer been inconsistent and contradictory regarding his position on Muslim immigration? 2. Have I been lying about or misrepresenting him when I’ve said that he’s been inconsistent? 3. Have I been pursuing a personal vendetta against him, in which I have concealed and ignored statements by Spencer that were favorable to him from an immigration restrictionist standpoint, in order to make him look bad and enable myself continue my vendetta against him?

Second, apart from the question of factual truth, there is the question of the manner in which I have stated my criticisms of Spencer, whether it has unnecessarily sparked this unfortunate conflict, and what I plan to do about that.

Since it will take me a while longer to complete the full article in which I will address the above questions in full, what follows is one section of the article, in which I address, in part, the first two factual questions. Even in the absence of the longer treatment, this shorter version should bring closure to those questions in a manner that I believe will be satisfying to any reasonable person.

Yesterday, reader MP wrote to me:

Although I do not share most of your views, I’ve also grown tired with Mr. Spencer’s inconsistency.

He wrote on January 18, 2006 at Jihad Watch:

“I personally am not in favor of ending Muslim immigration.”

In the rest of the linked post, Spencer makes a strong statement that people who want to live under sharia should not be allowed to immigrate into the U.S., and should be made to leave the U.S. if it is determined that they are sharia believers. Nevertheless, when Spencer last Monday posted his list of his previous statements on Muslim immigration, the point he was claiming to prove was that, going all the way back to his book Onward Muslim Soldiers in 2003, he has favored the end of Muslim immigration. This “fact”—as Spencer and Mike Slumber kept shouting at me in a flood of attack e-mails they began sending me within minutes of Spencer’s sending me the list—showed that I was a liar and a misrepresenter after all, and they told me that I had to admit it right then and there or be condemned before the world as an unregenerate prevaricator and character assassin. Thus Spencer’s sending of the list to me was not an invitation to a calm re-evaluation of his record in the light of newly revealed facts; it was a demand for instant surrender.

However, as clearly indicated by Spencer’s January 2006 comment, the truth is that he has taken a variety of positions on Muslim immigration during the 2003 to 2008 period. Sometimes he has said he is in favor of ending Muslims immigration. Sometimes he has said that he is not in favor of ending Muslim immigration.

This alone should be enough to settle the first factual point. Spencer’s position on Muslim immigration has indeed been inconsistent and contradictory, just as I have said all along.

Another criticism I have made of Spencer is that notwithstanding his insistence that he supports the end of Muslim immigration (and notwithstanding his further insistence that I am a liar and character assassin for saying otherwise), he has remained stunningly silent on the subject of immigration on numerous occasions when one would think that it was highly appropriate, indeed imperative, for him to mention it. These have included his weekly articles at FrontPage Magazine over the last two years, where he has never once discussed Muslim immigration, let alone called for a reduction or cessation of it; his appearances in several FrontPage symposia on the Islam problem, where he has never once discussed Muslim immigration, let alone called for a reduction or cessation of it; and his speeches at various conservative and anti-jihad conferences, where, on at least one two or three occasions that I have been told about, he never once mentioned Muslim immigration, let alone called for a reduction or cessation of it.

Indeed, on July 11, 2008, just two days ago, in a symposium at FrontPage Magazine entitled “Confronting the Islamization of the West,” Spencer did not once mention immigration. Now if Spencer were sincere in his occasional comments that he supports the end of Muslims immigration as an indispensable means of protecting the West from Islam, wouldn’t he want to emphasize or at least mention that point in a major symposium on the subject? But he did not.

But it’s even worse than Spencer’s simply failing to mention immigration restriction. In the symposium, he expresses support for a policy that falls well short of the immigration policy that he insists that he supports.

In this discussion—in which Spencer shows his exceptional knowledge and clarity of exposition on the ineluctable jihadist core of Islam that make him America’s most valuable explicator of Islam—Abul Kasem, an ex-Muslim, recommends an eight point program to stop the Islamization of the West. The first point is:

[1] Adopt tough policies on the entry of Islamists to non-Islamic countries. However, we must make a distinction between the large number of in-name-only Muslims and the diehard, jihad-infused, conniving, pan-Islamists….

Spencer then says:

… I believe that depending on [the moderate Muslims] is to lean on a weak reed, and that we need to take strong and decisive steps, such as Abul Kasem outlines, to protect ourselves. [Italics added.]

So Spencer has endorsed Kasem’s eight point plan, including Kasem’s proposal for “tough policies on the entry of Islamists [into] non-Islamic countries.” But what are these “tough policies”? Kasem doesn’t say. It could mean preventing people’s entry; it could mean giving them a closer going over before admitting them. “Tough policies” is a term of indeterminate meaning. Furthermore, Kasem says that these “tough policies,” whatever they are, “will only be applied to “diehard, jihad-infused, conniving, pan-Islamists,” not to “the large number of in-name-only Muslims.” So Kasem proposes, not the prohibition of the entry of all prospective Muslim immigrants into the West, but only undefined “tough policies” on the entry of Muslims into the West, to be applied only to diehard jihadists, not to the vast majority of Muslims.

And Spencer endorses Kasem’s plan. What has happened to Spencer’s position—which he has furiously avowed is his real position—that he wants the cessation of the immigration of ALL Muslims into the West.? Gone with the symposium. And this was just two days ago.

As I have shown many times, Spencer endlessly shifts from one position on Muslim immigration to another, as the situation or his mood decides. He has no consistent policy on the subject, and, it appears, no consistent thoughts on it either.

I have thus been correct in my statements about Spencer’s record on immigration. I have not misrepresented or lied about it.

Of course, Spencer’s increasingly frequent advocacy of stopping Muslim immigration—even if only in passing, parenthetical, and rhetorical comments which are contradicted by other comments—is greatly to be welcomed. Given his importance and stature as the West’s top scholarly Islam critic, his saying these things may convey to the “Usual Suspects”—those writers and intellectuals who incessantly and hysterically warn that Islam is a lethal threat to the West, but who, in Kafkaesque manner, never utter a single peep about restricting or stopping Muslim immigration—that the subject of immigration restrictions is not verboten after all. So Spencer’s increasing rhetorical references to restricting or stopping Muslim immigration is a very good thing.

The fact remains, however, that my assertions about Spencer’s inconsistent and contradictory record on this issue have been correct.

- end of initial entry -

For comments on this entry, go here.

* * *

A the end of a long, “on the one hand, on the other hand” comment in the blog entry, “VFR readers comment on the recent posts about the Spencer dispute,” I reached a conclusion that also belongs here:

Based on my observations of his modus operandi for the last several years, I am convinced that Spencer, notwithstanding his magnificent, crystalline clarity on the question of the nature of Islam, will, on the question of what to do about Islam, always be shifting back and forth, always be playing games, always be messing up our minds. Therefore, so long as Spencer is the person whose positions on Islam we must all defer to and not challenge, we will never get to the point of truly defending the West from Islam.

And here is another comment by me from that thread that is also relevant here:

Spencer saying that he’s for the end of Muslim immigration is like George W. Bush saying that he’s for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Bush has made occasional, coldly pro-forma statements in favor of the amendment, thus putting himself technically on the right side, but he has never actually exerted himself to advance its cause. Furthermore, in a situation unprecedented in U.S. politics, Bush has allowed his vice president to state publicly and repeatedly that he opposes the amendment that Bush supports, thus signaling that he, Bush, does not really support amendment at all.

When Spencer insists that he supports the end of Muslim immigration, and then turns around and agrees with Abul Kasem’s proposal for letting non-jihadist Muslims enter America, he’s making it plain as day that he’s not really for the end of Muslim immigration. Either he lacks any clearly formed thoughts on the subject, and so drifts from one formulation of it to another without realizing he’s doing so, or he’s deliberately playing political games.

* * *

VFR reader Kidist Paulos Asrat wrote to Robert Spencer over the weekend and asked him about his comments in the FrontPage Magazine symposium on how to stop the Islamization of the West that was published last Friday. They had a polite back-and-forth exchange, which she has posted with his permission at her blog, Camera Lucida. In the interview, Spencer explains his responses to Abul Kasem’s eight point plan for stopping Islamization, and he tells Miss Asrat that his major focus is awareness not strategy.

Here I just want to focus on his response to Abul Kasem’s point number one on Muslim immigration, which I discussed in the initial entry above. Point number one reads as follows:

“[1] Adopt tough policies on the entry of Islamists to non-Islamic countries. However, we must make a distinction between the large number of in-name-only Muslims and the diehard, jihad-infused, conniving, pan-Islamists.”

Spencer tells Miss Asrat:

I have taken a stronger position on this than Abul Kasem, given the impossibility of distinguishing Muslims-in-name-only from jihadists: end Muslim immigration. Mr. Auster grasps at straws in claiming that I don’t mean this since I have only stated it at my blog. Well, I mean what I say at my blog.

So, Spencer means what he says at his blog. Ok. Does Spencer also mean what he says at FrontPage Magazine?

At FrontPage Magazine, in response to Kasem’s plan, he said:

I believe that depending on [the moderate Muslims] is to lean on a weak reed, and that we need to take strong and decisive steps, such as Abul Kasem outlines, to protect ourselves. [Italics added.]

He did not qualify Kasem’s steps or say that they were too weak or that his own position on immigration was stronger. He unqualifiedly endorsed Kasem’s proposals, calling them “strong and decisive steps.” He said nothing about ending about Muslim immigration.

But, in an e-mail to Kidist Paulos Asrat of Toronto, instead of calling Kasem’s immigration position strong, he says that his own position is stronger than Kasem’s, and that he wants to end Muslim immigration!

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays Spencer wants to end Muslim immigration. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, he wants to do something else, like adopt Kasem’s plan of admitting non-jihadist Muslims into the West.

Or, to be more precise, in occasional passing and parenthetical comments at his blog, and in e-mails with non-prominent individuals such as VFR reader Kidist Asrat, he says he wants to end Muslim immigration. But where it really counts, in his articles and symposia at FrontPage Magazine (100,000 readers), in his speeches at big name conservative and anti-jihad conferences, and in his interviews on C-Span, he either remains studiously silent about immigration, or he positively supports policies markedly different from ending Muslim immigration.

Spencer is inconsistent, contradictory, and unreliable on the Muslim immigration issue, just as I have said all along.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 13, 2008 03:20 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):