Readers comment on the Spencer dispute

Instead of distributing comments among each of the three new Spencer entries that were posted this afternoon, for easier reading I’m posting them all in this entry.

Terry Morris writes:

The “CORDIAL” signoff in the first to Erich had me laughing out loud. My God!, this guy’s got issues, serious Islam critic or no.

LA replies

He does that all the time, he pours belittling insults on you, then signs, “Cordially, Robert Spencer.” Passive aggressiveness means that a person is aggressive yet denies that he’s aggressive, which makes it difficult for the target of the aggression to respond. If the target says, “How dare you insult me like this!”, the passive aggressor replies, “I’m not insulting you, look how polite I’m being to you,” leaving the target sputtering in helpless rage. Thus the passive aggressor has it both ways. He gets to belittle another person, while escaping any consequences of having done so.

Evariste writes:

Just read today’s blockbuster set of posts. Well done!

I had the insight while reading him calling Erich “my boy” and you “Sonny” that the man is in fact a careening, erratic bully, and so is that Mike S. guy. All his behavior reflects is an outraged bully who isn’t getting his way.

I particularly want to commend the post in which you delineate the specific points of contention in order to knock them down one by one. This is a powerful counter to his slippery tactic of leaping from charge to charge and untruth to distortion.

You’re doing the right thing to move past this in defending yourself against all the misrepresentations rationally and methodically. He’s not conducting himself in good faith, and an apology by you would have only become a weapon to be used against you.

LA replies:

Thank you very much, particularly for what you said about the need for me to defend myself from the false charges, prior to making any “peace” gestures.

Janne K. writes:

I think you are again being too hard towards Mr. Spencer who in his books and JihadWatch postings tends to concentrate on Islamic Jihad and its connection to the teachings of various schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Mr Spencer is highlighting the problem in an excellent way. [LA replies: I’ve never said he wasn’t. I’ve said about a thousand times that Spencer is invaluable as an explicator of the jihadist core of Islam. Perhaps you feel that because he does useful and important work, his person is sacred.]

However, in the JihadWatch website, it is not Mr Spencer but Hugh Fitzgerald who provides the solutions and reasons why Western Civilization should be saved from Islamic menace. This has traditionally been called division of labour.

Your former sycophant and current critic Conservative Swede is currently trying to point out this fact to you but you don’t seem to be listening. Instead, you try to portrait Conservative Swede as a former sycophant turned against you for one reason or another. [LA replies: Calling Swede merely my “critic” is like calling the leader of Hamas a “critic” of Israel.]

Conservative Swede has, IMHO, criticized you for putting your defense of so called Traditional Conservatism above the fight against jihad and accusing liberalism for making this all possible. Conservative Swede states that the problem is far bigger than mere liberalism that can be characterized as merely a symptom of Western false sense of superiority and lack of fighting spirit. Modern liberalism is part of Western Culture whether you like it or not and it is by no means the sole culprit of our current predicament.

CS has also criticized your solution to the problem meaning isolationism towards Islam. He has argued that it is not enough to isolate Western countries from Islam but you need to weaken Islam in other ways too meaning reducing the dependency on oil and using propaganda to advocate apostasy from Islam. The overall goal is to minimize the political influence of Islam to the World affairs. These methods are necessary to weaken Islam internally the same way Radio Free Europe and VOA were necessary to weaken the Communist Bloc during the Cold War. [LA replies: I’ve said over and over that by “separation” I mean, not that we separate ourselves from Islam, but that we separate Islam from the rest of the world, quarantining Muslims within their own historic lands, using military force to deprive them of any ability to “break out,” and so forth. The whole point of my policy is to deprive Islam of any power to harm us or affect us in any way. Unlike some, I have not called for the nuclear obliteration of the Islamic world, and perhaps this is what Swede means when he says my policy is too soft. Anyone who says my position is simply passive isolation from Islam is either lying or has not read any of my numerous and boringly repetitive writings on the subject. Since you say below that you like my site, and since you seem to follow these issues, it is distressing that you turn into its opposite a position I’ve spelled out ad nauseam.]

CS is also right in pointing out that most Westerners lack the adequate understanding of Islam (even the ones that claim to fight against radical Islam) and that the toughest fighters against Islam can be found among former Muslims who know what Islam is from the inside.

And finally, it is Hugh Fitzgerald that proves your criticism of Mr Spencer obsolete. Spencer’s JihadWatch website provides a platform for Mr Fitzgerald to assert the importance of preserving Western Civilization in Europe and fighting Islamic menace to the best ways possible. If you want to criticize Mr Spencer, do it by pointing out the errors in his interpretation of Islamic doctrine. If you don’t think JihadWatch website does not provide adequate means to counter Islamic menace, you should include all contributions to the site in your criticism and not just Mr Spencer’s. [First, the subject here is Robert Spencer, not Hugh Fitzgerald. Second, when in my article “Separationism” I highly praised Hugh Fitzgerald for his original positions on what to do about Islam, he wrote a hysterical, nasty piece attacking me as an intellectual thug who had misappropriated and degraded his ideas. With the Spencer-Fitzgerald faction, if you criticize them, they hate you, and if you praise them, they hate you.]

P.S. I enjoy reading your thought-provoking blog immensely.

[Thank you very much. May I request that you read my articles on separationism? Here is a Google results page listing all the references to that subject at VFR.]

Jon W. writes:

I quite agree the Spencer-Auster thing is a drag. What can I say about the distraction? I’ve bought and read his books and watched him on TV and I’m disappointed seeing his denials, accusations, and descent into ad hominem.

Terry Morris writes:

Judging by all that you’ve revealed about Spencer’s character—his childish insulting bullying behavior and so forth—over the last few days, I think you’ve shown amazing restraint to this point in limiting your criticisms of him only to his inconsistencies with regard to solving the Islam problem.

Morgan (a.k.a. Sir Henry Morgan) from Wigan, England writes:

I’m sure I’m not the only reader who finds the Auster/Spencer dispute distressing. Some of us hold you both in high regard. I could almost liken it to a child watching his parents having an ongoing dispute that he can make no sense of—and in many ways you are both acting like a married couple in a state of constant bickering.

Can’t you just agree to differ, shake on it—metaphorically if necessary, physically if possible; and publicly (that’s important)—and get back to the common cause? You have more important things to spend your time and effort on, and so does he.

(I like Hugh too—I just wish he’d stop pretending to be a Pakistani woman on the website)

So can’t you both just put it behind you? There doesn’t have to be a “winner” in this particular dispute.

Personally, I support the separationism approach … but … whatever. Just get back to the real job that needs doing. We haven’t yet reached the point where the differences between you, if there really are any, are important; and it’ll be a long haul yet before we do reach that point. When we get there, then that will be the time to get back to the differences between you because it’ll mean we will have won, and the only question will be the terms we impose on Islam in the West. That’s the time for you to have your argument. You and/or he may find any reasons for it have evaporated away by then.

Charles Johnson on the other hand …

Take care

LA replies:

I never understand people who, not being involved in a particular dispute, act as though the dispute were nothing but meaningless “bickering,” a “squabble,” a relativistic conflict between equally false positions, and therefore should be immediately dropped.

It’s one thing to say that this latest storm is unfortunate and didn’t have to happen. For example, if I had not discussed Spencer’s latest comment about Muslim immigration in my very brief and mildly phrased post of July 7, where I said that I was glad for his comment but still doubted that he was dependable on the issue, he would not have gone ballistic and this war wouldn’t have started. Or, even if I had posted that entry, Spencer might have ignored it, as he has ignored numerous other posts by me about him. But I did post my entry, and he did go ballistic, and now we have to deal with it. Saying that the quarrel should just go away by snapping our fingers is not realistic.

I’ll just repeat what I said at the beginning of my article today, “Have I misrepresented Spencer’s position?”:

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.

So, to repeat, when a screaming mob has falsely accused a man of lying, misrepresentation, character assassination, pursuing a personal vendetta, ignoring evidence because he’s not interested in facts but rather is driven by unsavory, dishonest, or sick personal motives to demonize another person for the sake of demonizing him, to conclude that these accusations are nothing more than meaningless “bickering” and that the man should ignore it all and say, “peace, peace,” is not realistic.

Sebastian writes (July 11, posted July 13):

I have enjoyed VFR for a few years now and consider it, as I said in my first communique to you, the best site of applied political philosophy on the web. However, I find this ongoing debate with Robert Spencer counter-productive to your goals of awakening people to the dangers of continued Muslim immigration—if such are your goals.

Whether or not Spencer makes overt pronouncements on immigration is completely irrelevant. In fact, I would argue his work is more effective by his remaining silent. [LA replies: But Spencer has NOT remained silent on the issue. He has pronounced on it, but, as I point out, he gives with one hand and takes back with the other, while he insists that he’s completely consistent. That’s what the dispute is about.] His site is invaluable, literally the single-best source documenting Islamic evil and liberal acquiescence on the web. I have personally seen changes in my liberal friends’ attitudes toward Islam (and consequently Muslim immigration) after I alert them to Jihad Watch, especially Dhimmi Watch. I learned of Bat Ye’or and Andrew Bostom through Spencer’s site. [I have repeatedly said that Spencer’s work is invaluable. There is no one like him in mastery of this key issue of our time, what is the relationship between jihadism and Islam?]

By remaining silent on immigration, I think Spencer is being politically and socially smart. He is not alienating people who can be brought to see the dangers Islam possess to their lives, whether conservative or liberal, and he is not conflating the battle against Islam with difficult and unpopular political positions like your own—or mine for that matter. I think Spencer’s position is all the more powerful by letting readers draw their own conclusions regarding immigration. If one looks at Spencer’s life-work, the only plausible conclusion is to limit Muslim immigration. His silence strikes me as wise: he just presents evidence; he is not claiming to be a serious political thinker.

I have never found a contradiction between reading your site for a philosophical perspective on the passing scene and looking over Dhimmi Watch for news items I occasionally forward to liberal friends. You serve two different functions within a larger struggle; you need not agree on every single point. Why highlight the differences when there is such strength in numbers? What would Spencer gain by wielding a sledgehammer of ugly truths when a more subtle approach works? “You can catch more flies with honey…” I fail to see why you would seek to make enemies in a landscape already bereft of potential friends. Philosophical purity is a dead-end.

LA replied (July 11, posted July 13):

First, it is remarkable and revealing that you, as a regular reader of Jihad Watch, have the impression that Spencer has been silent on immigration. That indeed is the impression entertained by most people who read the site, but don’t carefully read every single word published there, because Spencer’s statements calling for some kind of immigration restrictions have been so few and so brief, that he probably hasn’t written more than 500 words on the subject over five years.

Second, I know the situation is damaging, or seems damaging in the moment. But when you call it a “debate” that is not true. I never sought to banish anyone. I never sought to destroy a person’s reputation and make the whole world reject him. I’ve criticized Spencer’s position on immigration. And as a result of doing so, I have become the object of a lynch mob. Have you read the things said about me?

I have thought of trying to settle this situation through some kind of conciliatory gesture. But for the moment I’m the object of an attack coming from many directions aimed at discrediting and isolating me, and I need to defend myself.

Sebastian replies:

Fair enough. Truth is I have not read everything being said about you. I cannot even get myself to link to that shrill Atlas Shrugged website for instance. Look, I’ve never been a public person, so you would know how to deal with this best.

LA replies:

Your reaction is not uncommon. On one hand, you understandably are distressed and put off that I’m spending time criticizing and responding to other people in this “low” dispute. On the other hand, you admit that the things being said about me are so awful you can’t stand to look at them, meaning that you haven’t taken in the reality of what I’m actually dealing with and having to defend myself from.

Hannon writes:

I dread the idea of writing to say anything on this subject but wanted to share a few thoughts. Firstly, that recent link to Hugh Fitzgerald’s response, from May 2007, brought a memory blast since this was the very time I first came upon your site, give or take a few days. I don’t remember the link to VFR but it was something about your Muslim restrictionist idea and for me this provided a much-needed push beyond the daily monotony of anti-jihadist offerings on JW and other sites. One needs an alternative to the feelings of helpless exasperation in contemplating the threat of Islam besides visualizing bombing raids. More importantly, the discovery of your site marked the beginning of a rewarding transition to broad-spectrum political philosophy after some six months of almost exclusively focusing on Islam.

Before this discovery and expansion period, when Jihad Watch was often my first reading choice on most days, it never occurred to me that potential solutions to the central problem existed and were effectively not on offer at that site nor on others. If they were present they were present as occasional footnotes or incidental asides.

After reading nearly all of the current imbroglio, the thought that occurs to me is that Spencer deserves criticism for one tactic in particular. When someone says, “All you have to do is look at what I have written in the past if you want to know my views on such-and-such,” this is as infuriating as it is infantile and there can be little doubt that the person who presents such a taunt is fully aware that it will infuriate the recipient. Perhaps people who employ this method feel it is appropriate, since they feel like they have been asked to repeat themselves only a short time after they have expounded on some subject. This is strictly a matter of ego defense, methinks. And here we have a case where Spencer could have addressed his position on the Muslim immigration issue clearly and succinctly in two or three sentences, whether it was a reiteration of previous writings or not. Not as a service to Lawrence Auster but to his general readership. Good grief.

It seems so strange that someone of his intellectual calibre and ability to produce excellent, complex argumentation would reject a plea for clarification when he makes unclear or contradictory statements on a narrow subject. But don’t these disputes always revolve around the most precise matters of difference?

LA replies:

Thanks for this. It means so much that my writings had that effect for you. In fact, you were exactly the kind of person I have been thinking of, when I have obsessed about how the constant warnings of the danger of Islam, accompanied by no serious proposal for what to do about this danger, would only make people feel MORE helpless about Islam. That’s why it infuriated me that this organized production of collective helplessness in the face of a mortal enemy was considered “conservative.” The “Islamo-critical” movement struck me as this huge psychological basket case consisting of people constantly saying, “Islam is horrible, it’s coming to get us, Islam is really horrible, it’s coming to get us, oh, Islam is REALLY REALLY horrible, and it’s coming to get us,” with these people thinking that this constant onanistic recreation of the sensation of ever-intensifying alarm at the thought of Islam constituted a significant anti-Islamization activity.

Or, rather, as you point out, the only self-defensive action they could imagine was massive bombing attacks on Islamic countries, even the nuclear genocide of much of the Muslim world.

As I pointed out, people could only escape this deadly trap, in which they indulged either in helpless alarm at Islamization or in fantasies of Muslim genocide, by going beyond their liberal presuppositions. Modern liberalism forbids our viewing any distinct unassimilable or unregenerately hostile; and therefore it prohibits discrimination against and exclusion of any distinct group. But once we reject the rule of modern liberalism, i.e., once we return to ordinary rationality, the truth of the matter becomes obvious. Muslims in significant numbers do not belong in any Western (or non-Islamic) country, period. And once that fundamental principle is grasped, sensible, practicable, and, in many cases, civilized solutions can be readily found, at least in countries in which the Muslim population is still relatively small.

Hannon replies:

Well, you do give indications here and there that your motivation is to help people, contrary to what some would have us believe. You wrote somewhere recently that the analysis or opinions are not personal, but I disagree. They are not only personal but personality-based, and these subjective yet real aspects have everything to do with the love-or-hate reaction many apparently have to VFR. You are a champion of recognizing and delineating the particular, and for me this was a valuable insight, not just philosophically but in my profession. The personal, then, cannot be far behind the particular, and the near-total absence of both is one of the primary reasons the mainstream media are a major contributor to the problems of the modern age.

As to your last paragraph: Yes, and it takes a catalyst to coax or allow the breakthrough on an individual basis. People, smart, savvy and otherwise will rarely think of the constraints liberalism imposes on them and on society. I know I didn’t. Thanks for being that caralyst in my case.

LA replies:

Yes, everything that a human being values, everything he does, is filtered through and is an expression of his particular personality and sense of life. And by the way this truth is expressed at the highest level in Christianity, since Christ came to earth in the form of a particular man, among a particular people, in a particular time and place, not just as the incarnation of a universal idea, say, the universal idea of democracy, which is probably the way the Catholic neocons understand Jesus. (Joke.) Not only Jesus, but, in the Pentateuch, God, the Creator of the universe, has the most vivid and particular personality, an amazing fact that, along with the revelation of Jesus Christ, is the greatest revelation ever given to man.

So there is the universal truth, but this universal truth can only be known through and expressed by particular personalities and particular cultures. That is the fundamental duality and tension in existence. And, ultimately, in Christianity, that tension is harmonized through the individual’s relationship with Jesus Christ as his guide and companion, his second self, in which the individual finds the true fulfillment and expression of his particular personality.

But coming back to earth and Hannon’s idea, everything we know, feel, and believe is inseparable from our particular personality. But at the same time, when we seek to understand truth, when we express our ideas publicly on political matters, we need to conform ourselves and appeal to principles of common rationality. In the most advanced, terminal liberalism, i.e. the whited sepulcher of the EU, personality is drained away under an all-controlling regime of technocratic and managerial “reason.” In a healthy society, there is a dynamic, creative tension between the individual and the whole.

LA writes:

I just picked this up this e-mail in my Deleted Items folder:

From: Mike Slumber
To: Robert Spencer
Cc: Lawrence Auster
Sent: Monday, July 14, 2008 12:34.a.m.
Subject: the end of this charade

Robert, I was away, but I read Auster’s “latest” exchange and his fresh posting of new comments about the whole matter.

Hannon writes:
“I dread the idea of writing to say anything on this subject but wanted to share a few thoughts.”

Nonsense, Hannon is vetted and has already commented on this exchange. Typical Auster framing.

I say, ignore him, for every contemporary professional has chastised him for his sophomoric behavior and attitude towards you.

He is inconsequential, a mere stone in your shoe, and not worthy of further commentary.

Just an observation.

So Mike Slumber thinks that everything that happens at VFR is a set-up! Because VFR is not automatically open to all comments, Slumber thinks that everything at VFR is fake and controlled. Auster is manufacturing and orchestrating all comments from behind the scenes. Nothing that is said by VFR commenters can be genuine or sincere. It’s all a complicated (yet somehow also sophomoric) plot to bring down Robert Spencer. And remember, Spencer is on intimate terms with Slumber. They are a team, sharing an endless number of e-mails together (55 sent to me in three days last week and about an equal number to Erich), and agreeing with each other on every aspect of the affair.

Thus in the July 7 Jihad Watch thread where this whole dispute started, “Honor killing in Clayton County, Georgia,” in a comment directed at “anonymous,” who both “awake” (Mike Slumber) and Spencer believed was Erich, awake wrote:

You can respond to Robert’s supporting evidence as soon as you finish collecting your teeth off the floor.

We’ll be waiting, patiently.

Posted by: awake at July 7, 2008 2:49 PM

Seven minutes later, Spencer wrote to “awake:


I doubt we will hear from Erich again, but maybe he will surprise us with some integrity.

Robert Spencer
Posted by: jihadwatch at July 7, 2008 2:56 PM

So Spencer not only had no problem with a commenter at his website using such brutal violent language against another commenter, but he rushed to express solidarity with Slumber in their common cause against the evil Erich. Erich deserved (metaphorically) to have his teeth kicked out, because, by Slumber and Spencer’s lights, he lacked “integrity.” The Slumber-Spencer team, reinforced in their common endeavor, then proceeded to bombard me with abusive and bullying e-mails, in one of which Spencer called me “the lowest form of character assassin.”

In another point related to Slumber’s e-mail about Hannon, it’s amazing how people have the notion that VFR is a “closed” weblog and that I exclude all people who don’t agree with me, whereas, in reality, I post comments from anyone making an interesting, coherent, readable point in a civilized manner. Perhaps the style of anger and abuse is so common in the conservative Web today, and the people who are able and willing to express serious disagreements with a seriously heterodox thinker in a non-insulting way are so few and far between, that I don’t hear from such people extremely often. But anyone who reads VFR knows that when a commenter challenges me on a point, even on the most fundamental points, in a reasonably polite way, I strive to answer him in full.

Harry Horse writes:

I’d wager most readers feel that once RS went to the personal level, it took a whole new meaning. To me, that represented confirmation of Kristor’s thesis of RS experiencing liberal cognitive dissonance (what a wonderful exposé). When a liberal is confronted with truth, often we see self-affirming, social qualities such as honor, politeness, etc. are jettisoned to allow room for the feral instinct to survive the destruction of one’s faulty worldview.

Liberalism is the ultimate in self-fulfilling prophecy: Since it denies the existence of the vertical, bloodsport like this is even turned into a spectator sport, is celebrated, and ultimately disseminated. If you doubt me, turn on a television.

I would say, contrary to most feedback you receive, you actually have no choice but to see this regretful situation through to the end, and continue to take the “narrow path.” No gentleman would choose this fight, but we recognize that the decision really isn’t our own, is it?

In the July 11 thread, “Atlas hurls a stink bomb,” Jim Farrar had expressed strong displeasure with me (wait—how is that possible? Am I not such a petty, thin-skinned tyrant that I refuse to post anyone who disagrees with me?) for getting into personal “tiffs.” I replied, given the attacks on me, what should I do? Nothing? “Please tell me,” I wrote to him. “Share your wisdom.” Now a couple of days later he replies, and I post his reply here.

Jim Farrar writes:

I will gladly share what little wisdom I have with you on this matter for what it is worth. Let me first say that despite our past differences, I have been a regular reader of yours, because I find your viewpoints refreshingly direct and acceptable, and unfailingly sound intellectually. Secondly, because of this appreciation, any detraction from your explorations into the world of ideas, and those of your excellent contributors, is immediately felt by me, and, I am sure, by your other avid readers. This is not overdone praise to make a point; it is my honest assessment.

I have read a few of your detractors’ criticisms, and have formed several thoughts about both their opinions and their conflicting ideas. Any Leftist would feel compelled to attack you from every slight nuance, and every great idea that they hold dear. Since they usually cannot stand to debate you, they resort to ad hominem attacks to tear you down as publicly as they can. Your desire to refute their attacks where possible is quite understandable, but to do so is a losing game, in my opinion. You are being flamed, and the only answer is to ignore them.

It is obvious that I do not fully understand Spencer’s views, nor his attacks, except that he is fighting to maintain the idea that not all Muslims are at fault for jihadism, whereas your consistent view has been that all Muslims must be painted with the same brush ultimately, and that something must be done now to rid us of their threat—en masse. My respect for his knowledge of Islam has suffered a serious blow as a result.

Yet it is Spencer who has the bigger megaphone in the world of Islamic ideas, at the moment, and with that, the need to defend his territory against what to him may be a radical idea—your idea of purging Muslims. He must try to put you down somehow, I believe. It is almost as if Spencer deep down knows that you are right about this, but he cannot change his views, he has a vested interest in his position—it would be an admission of great consequence to him. So he tries to marginalize you.

Here is my suggestion: carefully focus on the differences of opinion between you and Spencer—and any others, too, and publish everywhere you can your analysis and your conclusions—again and again, from variations in point of view. Do not engage in petty arguments or invective , and do not make your papers obviously anti-Spencer or anyone else, as that mars your position of being above such trifles and a searcher for the truth. Stand by your well-developed positions, repeat them, and refine them as needed, and let any of your detractors have to come to you to debate the issues. But I say again, to try to snuff out or merely to put the truth before their multiple sites’ audiences is simply a losing battle.

Fight back with superior ideas.

LA replies:

Well, I’m impressed. You have a definite, thought-out idea, I’ll grant you that.

What you’re saying is: from the start, I should have ignored the attacks on me for my supposed campaign to distort and destroy Spencer etc., and, instead of downplaying my relentless criticisms of him over the Islam issue (which I’ve admitted may have been too repetitive and insistent) and thus trying to reduce the ideological conflict within the anti-jihad camp, I should have played up my substantive criticisms of him even more and turned this into an all-out ideological war. I should have said,

“Spencer and his allies are attacking me on this false charge of misrepresenting Spencer, because they are trying to destroy me and my ideas which threaten their false, Spencerian position. What’s really going on here is that they don’t want to recognize the radically hostile nature of Islam, because that would require them to support the exclusion of Muslims from the West, while I do recognize it and do call for such exclusions.”

However, the problem with taking such a position is that the Spencer camp does by and large recognize the radically dangerous nature of Islam. They may not be at the point where I’m at regarding what to do about this threat, but they are getting there. Therefore for me to continue attacking Spencer and his allies for not having precisely my position on the issue, when the differences between us are not that great, would amount to my trying to force them to adopt my position: “I won’t accept anything less than you-all adopting exactly my position.” This would seem terribly egotistical of me and destructive to the anti-jihad cause. Then I would really seem to be the wannabe Austerian dictator of the West that Spencer has accused me of being.

LA continues:

However, on further thought, let’s imagine a scenario in which we—Jim Farrar and I—became convinced that the Spencer camp would never reach the needed point, but would always be sticking their toes in the water and running away. This would mean that, by their seeming to oppose the Islamization of the West, but actually and permanently refusing to oppose it truly, they were producing a false image of opposing Islamization (and thus making conservatives feel that the West was being defended) while actually permitting it to continue. Which would make them, not good guys who haven’t yet gotten the whole picture, but bad guys whose weakness and delusion were actively helping the Muslims. And that fact would justify waging the ideological war against them that Mr. Farrar calls for.

Indeed, that has been more or less my attitude. That’s why I have unrelentingly exposed and attacked the “Usual Suspects,” the people who warn incessantly about Islam but refuse to call for policies that would do anything about it. But Spencer is different from the Usual Suspects in that he does call (occasionally though not strongly and consistently) for ending Muslim immigration and other strong measures that would reduce the power of Islam in the West. So, while unrelenting criticism of the Usual Suspects is justified, the same is not true of Spencer. But then we arrive back at the unresolved question that is the crux of my conflict with Spencer: has he truly ceased being a Usual Suspect (which I said in June 2007 had happened), or is he a Usual Suspect pretending not to be one, so as to dampen down the criticisms of himself? His maddeningly inconsistent and contradictory handling of the Muslim immigraton issue since June 2007, culminating in his comment in the July 11 FrontPage symposium supporting Abul Kesam’s policy of keeping out only the “jihadists,” while letting all other Muslims in, has left that question open in my mind.

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.

LA writes:

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.

Terry Morris writes:

You wrote:

“Either [Spencer] 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.”

Larry, sweetie, honey, m’boy, you must have ADD or something. Spencer has told you time and time again that he doesn’t lack clearly formed thoughts on the subject in spite of his drifting from one formulation of it to another, and that he’s not deliberately playing political games. How could he possibly state it more clearly, more forcefully, more often?

Cordially, respectfully, admiringly, and etc…

Hannon writes:

So is vetted a step above sycophant, as corporal to private? Oops, there goes my ego again. I wish people would stop feeding it!

Algirdas writes:

Keep your spirits up. I am with you, and I thank you for the vision on the world you helped me to discover.

Jim Farrar writes:

Spencer, by not fully joining the fight against Islam, or by not joining it rapidly enough, leaves a notional gap in our minds through which the American Muslims can pour their false peaceful ideology, disguising their true intentions until they are ready for the active stage of their penetration of our nation. The full example of this insidious penetration is being played out before us in the UK. Are we to sit back and permit this to occur in the U.S.? Do we want to live under Sharia? It should be noted that the idea of peaceful takeover of a hostile nation has been anticipated in Islamic documents, notably the Hadith, where the behavior of resident Muslims in the foreign land during the process of investiture is spelled out.

One question that bothers me is the exact number of Muslims now residing in the U.S. CAIR states that the number is around two million. The U.S. Census claims that Muslims constitute 2.1 percent of the population, or on the order of six million, as of 2006. It seems that deliberate obfuscation of the number of Muslims running around our nation is taking place. Why?

The Muslim population in the U.S. is on track to reach about 10 percent of the total population in 20 to 30 years, or at least by 2050. This will allow Islam to becomes a significant force in American politics. Do we want this to happen? Can we prevent it? How? I see only one way—deportation and prevention of entry. To achieve that through Congress and the Administration would require a revolution in thought about Islam and its American variety, yet we can see the creeping peril ever more clearly year by year. We need all of the like-minded people we can get to sign up for the cause, starting with Spencer.

Erich writes:

You wrote:

“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.”

I agree with this conclusion. As I have said before on my Jihad Watch Watch site, if Spencer cannot avoid coming off as ineffectual and inconsistent whenever he analyzes the prospective solutions to the problem of Islam, then he should stop offering prescriptions altogether and go back to his “day job”—as Reporter of Islamic and Dhimmi pathology in the news, and as Expositor of Islamic pathology in texts and tradition. One would think that the activities of his “day job” would be more than enough work for one man. And for the most part (excepting a couple of deficiencies here and there) he does it excellently.

Thus, Spencer should leave all discussion of possible solutions to the problem of Islam to other people.

This would have two advantages:

1. By simply being silent about solutions and policy recommendations, he could continue to affect the non-radical posture about Islam he has been so careful to cultivate over the years—clearly a posture he thinks is of vital importance so as not to “alienate” people who, due to effects of political correctness on their brains, get easily turned off by extreme-sounding statements about Islam (whether it is “Islam itself is evil” or “we should deport Muslims,” etc.).

2. By being silent about solutions and policy recommendations, Spencer could avoid weaving webs of positions and quasi-positions that tend to end up in tangles of inconsistencies (inconsistencies I think generated by the tension between his personally radical views about Islam and his conviction that he cannot for politic reasons take a public stand on those radical positions) which he then has to try to disentangle—with the entanglements becoming unduly exacerbated due to his personal inability to remain mature in the face of his critics who point out the inconsistencies.

When Jim Farrar wrote:

“Spencer, by not fully joining the fight against Islam, or by not joining it rapidly enough, leaves a notional gap in our minds through which the American Muslims can pour their false peaceful ideology, disguising their true intentions until they are ready for the active stage of their penetration of our nation.”


“We need all of the like-minded people we can get to sign up for the cause, starting with Spencer.”

I would only respond that it is highly unlikely Spencer would sign up for the cause. The best we could hope for is my suggestion, that Spencer simply stop offering solutions to the problem of Islam.

Spencer should also stop offering general analyses about the nature of the problem (i.e., anything so broad it broaches upon questions of whether Islam itself is evil, or only “parts” of Islam are evil), and just stick to what he does best: Expose what the Islamic texts and traditions themselves say, and expose the unjust, dangerous and evil things that Muslims are doing today in ostensible fidelity to those texts and traditions.

Of course, even my suggestion is unlikely to be adopted. But I think it is beneficial for us at least to point out:

“Spencer does an excellent job doing X, but a poor and counter-productive job doing Y.”

LA replies:

Well, perhaps this was my, or our, fault. We criticized him relentlessly for his silence, so he began speaking, and he only created more confusion.

Lesson: You can lead a Usual Suspect to Muslim immigration restriction, but you can’t make him adopt it seriously.

Erich writes:

You write:

“Well, perhaps this was my, or our, fault. We criticized him relentlessly for his silence, so he began speaking, and he only created more confusion.”

I don’t agree. He hasn’t been silent all along. He has made frequent remarks and allusions over the years here and there that step outside the bounds of his competence. We may have exacerbated the situtation by doggedly shining a light on the inconsistencies, but those inconsistencies were there already.

And he and his supporters (especially Mike Slumber) have their share of responsibility for the exacerbation as well, in two key ways:

1. By digging in their heels and pretending (or absurdly and obstinately claiming) that there are no inconsistencies; and

2. by unfairly, ludicrously, and—in the end, unethically—vilifying their critics as being unethical, inimical, and even positively dangerous.

I thanked MP for sending me the January 2006 Spencer quote that I used in my article, “Have I misrepreented Spencer’s position?” He replies:

It was actually very easy because, as you know, Spencer constantly contradicts himself, depending on his audience. I used to read Jihad Watch and grew amused by his contradictions, so I started cataloging them. I first came to know about your blog during the separationist controversy and remember your honest confusion during the incident, which made it clear to me that despite our differences of opinion (I do not believe Islam to be an existential threat), you have chosen to be honest and forthright on how to deal with what you perceive to be a clear and present danger.

By the way, I think the title, “Ok, we know the truth about Islam—now what?”, which I saw at your site a few weeks ago, is one of your most effective (and hilarious) responses to the whole Spencer nonsense.

LA to MP:

Which “honest confusions” of mine are you speaking of?

MP replies:

I meant your Response to Hugh Fitzgerald, where you wrote:

Fitzgerald’s own writings make it clear that he wants (1) to stop all Muslim immigration into the West and (2) to prepare the ground to start removing Muslims from the West. By contemporary liberal standards, that is indeed a radical position no matter how you label it. If he feels separationism is not a good term for this policy, and if he doesn’t want me calling him a separationist, he’s free to do what he’s doing now, eschew the label and say why he disagrees. But again, he doesn’t actually do that, because he never comes clean about his actual ideas that I summarized in my article.

Basically, “separationism” is EXACTLY the position advocated by Hugh Fitzgerald (and Jihadwatch, since as Robert has stated, both he and Hugh speak for Jihadwatch). As for immigration, I think Hugh has made it abundantly clear that he wants to end ALL Muslim immigration and immediately deport all muslim non-citizens.

LA replies:

Yes. Fitzgerald furiously denied that his own ideas had any similiarity to separationism, a word that he said would be used to “give off a whiff of Verwoerd.”

Brett A. writes:

I agree completely with Hannon’s comment:

“One needs an alternative to the feelings of helpless exasperation in contemplating the threat of Islam besides visualizing bombing raids. More importantly, the discovery of your site marked the beginning of a rewarding transition to broad-spectrum political philosophy after some six months of almost exclusively focusing on Islam.”

Before discovering VFR I had the same feelings Hannon describes, when as a daily reader of LGF I always felt both angry and helpless. You were the first person who articulated a clear and calmly rational means to defend ourselves from Islamization. After discovering your site and looking back, I feel that LGF was doing nothing more than rabble-rousing with constant vitriolic posts describing the latest muslim outrage, but providing no means to deal with the never-ending outrages Muslims commit. Stirring the emotions with no logical means of release. I can’t comment on Spencer because I never even heard of Jihad Watch until you mentioned it. I now prefer reading VFR and GoV, both of which are websites that do more than just whine and complain about Muslims by actually suggesting reasonable ways to deal with the problem. Plus VFR has a lot more variety than just Islam, with all the different topics you discuss it is always interesting and quite often enlightening.

LA replies:

Thank you.

You write:

“[A]s a daily reader of LGF I always felt both angry and helpless.”

Your experience is the proof of what I’ve been saying for years about the mainstream-conservative Islam critics—Spencer, Phillips, McKinstrey, P. Hitchens, Bill Warner, Horowitz, and on and on and on. .

John C. writes (July 15):

Robert Spencer is one of the leading experts on Islam and his site an invaluable resource to access any manner of information about Islam. It seems to me that the topic of Muslim immigration into the West is of paramount importance. If Muslims are allowed to continue their immigration into the West, and roam freely in the West, the danger to non-Muslims is great. If they were barred from the West, and separated from the West as much as is possible, the danger to the West and Westerners is greatly lessened. Why would one of the foremost and vociferous experts on the issue not make that plain whenever appropriate? To avoid the Separation issue is to avoid a possible, satisfactory solution to the Islam problem for the West and to continue just giving information of how terrible it is, without any way to end it, is difficult to understand.

John C. continues:
In my mind, you are 100 percent correct in this matter, and, in my opinion, you have been unjustly attacked for merely asking Spencer to state clearly where he stands on the important issue of Muslim immigration into the West.

In response to the term, frequently used in this debate, “anti-jihad movement,” Paul Mulshine of the Newark Star Ledger writes (July 15):

I’ve been a little skeptical about this “jihadist” term. It seems to be as flawed as “Islamofascist.” “Islamic fundamentalist” is much better, e.g. is the Pakistani government “jihadist” when it imposes capital punishment on apostates? Not at all. The “jihadist” designation creates a false impression that the only problem is with a handful of extremists, when in reality mainstream Islamic governments support killing converts, blasphemers, etc.

LA replies

I entirely agree. Disclosure: I myself, about three years ago, when criticizing the terms “Islamist” and so forth, wrote that jihadist was an acceptable term. But then I realized, and have frequently written, that sharia is the real problem. Jihad (like terrorism itself), is only a means to an end, which is sharia, and, as the mainstream-conservative Islam critics keep telling us, you can’t have a war against a technique.

Also, to give Robert Spencer credit, he has written that the problem is sharia and has even supported Hugh Fitzgerald’s idea that people who believe in sharia (or at least people who are “sharia supremacists,” which may mean something different in Spencer’s and Fitzgerald’s minds) should be expelled from the West. However, when people are looking for a public, umbrella term to encompass many people and groups with varying beliefs, it seems to me that an approximate rather than a precise term is not invidious.

It’s only been in the last year or so that mainstream writers on Islam, even Daniel Pipes, have started to grasp that the problem is sharia—which, as I keep pointing out, is the same as saying that the problem is Islam, since for all practical purposes Islam is sharia. Pipes, of course, is still very far from acknowledging that fact.

Adela G. writes (July 18):

I’ve been a bit under the weather lately. It’s been frustrating for me not to be up to commenting on the situation with Spencer.

I can’t help thinking that the modern liberal mind-set has played a large part in this whole hideous fandango. Liberalism dictates that we must all be constantly awash in feelings—if not our own, then someone else’s. And liberalism has substituted emotional appeal for reasonable argument as the primary mode of persuasion.

This confluence allows Robert Spencer to post ongoing proof of the harm Islam does the West and yet never draw the obvious conclusion from the evidence he himself has presented. His evidence is factual yet because the conclusion reasonably drawn from it is too emotionally charged to be permissible, he does not permit himself to publish it. [LA replies: But, at least more recently, he has made increasingly frequent if desultory comments about steps that need to be taken. The problem now is not complete silence; but the lack of a consistent and serious approach to the problem.]

And the unceasing emphasis on one’s feelings causes him to respond with vehement emotion to your reasoned and impersonal criticism of his position regarding Islam with typically skewed liberal “logic”:

1) Auster attacked Spencer’s failure to draw the logical conclusion from evidence that he, Spencer, presented.

2) Auster and Spencer are both persons.

3) Therefore, Auster’s attack on Spencer was personal.

In other words, Spencer is a typical liberal who, like Charles Johnson, just happens to have a glimmer of understanding about the nature of Islam and its threat to the West. But liberalism has robbed these two of the ability to use their observations about Islam in any meaningful way because it doesn’t allow people to admit openly that if Islam is a threat, then its followers must be, too. That would undermine the whole contradictory liberal notion of how we’re all alike yet at the same time, we must respect our differences and celebrate diversity.

Similarly, when Spencer’s position on Islam is criticized, he cannot view such criticism except as a personal attack. His focus is persons and personal feelings, not facts and logic. I doubt it ever occurred to Spencer that you might not mean your criticism of his position on Islam as an attack on him personally. So of course, being a good liberal, he went into full attack mode.

This is just another way liberalism has stifled genuine discourse—by insisting on the primacy of emotion so that disagreements based on differences in thought and opinion quickly devolve into heated accusations and distortions.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 13, 2008 06:12 PM | Send

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