What’s going on in the anti-jihad movement?

Note: My quoting of Hesperado in this entry should not be taken as an expression of approval of him, or as acceptance of his past inappropriate behavior and attacks on me, some of which are referenced and discussed here. Also, the fact that he compliments me in the article and even presents me in part as his standard bearer means nothing to me and is not the reason I quote him. I quote him because he has raised valid and interesting questions about the anti-jihad movement that I myself have had.

Blogger Hesperado (Erich) writes at length about the fact that Bruce Bawer, just weeks after Charles Johnson denounced as fascists and cut all his ties with the anti-jihad movement, wrote an article siding with Johnson’s position and denouncing the anti-jihadists as fascists and as “genuinely evil”; and yet, to Hesperado’s bemusement, none of the prominent anti-jihadists have responded to or even taken note of Bawer’s attack.

Hesperado says that I have been the only person to write about Bawer’s article (which I did, here), but since I am persona non grata in the “official” anti-jihad movement (by which Hesperado means basically Robert Spencer and his circle, leaving out other anti-jihadists who do not regard me as persona non grata), my writing on Bawer does not count as a response by the anti-jihad movement.

Hesperado raises a good question, and I’ll repeat it: Why the silence of the anti-jihadists (other than myself) with regard to Bawer’s attack on them as “genuinely evil”?

As a background to that question, Hesperado speaks at length about what he calls “The Gentleman’s Agreement” within the anti-jihad movement, one aspect of which is the strange arrangements he describes in the below passage (Hesperado throughout misspells Diana West’s name as Diane; I have corrected the spelling):

Another twist of the oddity of this phenomenon involves the strangely selective stances—or stances by default of not taking a stance—concerning various individuals of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement and the strange contortions these selective stances can take. To take one example of many: Diana West can support Vlaams Belang, Robert Spencer can support Diana West while treating Vlaams Belang like a leper colony, Diana West continues to support Robert Spencer, Charles Johnson vilifies Vlaams Belang, Robert Spencer chooses not to notice and comment on Charles Johnson (this was back over eight months ago, before Charles Johnson forced the issue through his brute behavior), Charles Johnson more or less condemns Diana West, Robert Spencer continues to look the other way; etc.

I also have often observed and been puzzled by the strange group dynamics of which Hesperado speaks, for example, how Spencer remained friendly with Johnson even as Johnson was attacking Spencer’s friends Diana West and Andrew Bostom as fascist sympathizers and attaccking his contributor Fjordman as a racist, and how Spencer was never criticized for this; and many equally odd and inappropriate happenings. Yet, as Hesperado points out, when I made criticisms of Spencer that were vastly less serious and damaging than Johnson’s attacks on West, Bostom, and Fjordman, I was treated as a threat to the movement, Fjordman called me “immoral,” and Pamela Geller portrayed me as the equivalent of Charles Johnson—I, who had written many articles exposing Johnson’s false charges against Filip DeWinter, Paul Belien, and Diana West during the very period when Spencer was maintaining his palship with Johnson and calling him “illustrious.” A more recent example was Spencer’s truly odd and inexplicable behavior with regard to his withdrawal from the Pro-Cologne conference, which I’ve discussed here, and at more length here.

Let me add that I write the above not in a spirit of attacking anyone, but in a spirit of trying to understand. The Pro-Cologne business, for example, was a mystery calling out for explanation.

In the last part of the long blog entry, which I quote below in its entirety, Hesperado turns to his main subject, the mystery of the anti-jihadists’ non-response to Bawer’s assault on them:

The only person who has put forth a clear public notice of this Bawer problem and has offered an analysis of it has been Lawrence Auster on his blog, who posted his article about it on May 7, 12:45 p.m. Auster’s analysis is good within the confines of his delimitation of it (though here and there a bit tendentiously veering off onto his not entirely coherent anti-secular bias), but he misses the larger picture of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement of Silence” and its odd contortions. As Auster, however, has become a kind of persona non grata among the informal and unofficial elite leadership of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement, his public mention of this doesn’t really count as evidence that this movement has taken appropriate notice of Bawer.

Ironically, but fitting in with the logical contortions of this problem, that same elite leadership—particularly Robert Spencer—publically ostracized Auster for faults far less serious and far less egregious than what Bawer in one little article has done; and yet they leave Bawer untouched. Auster’s only real crime was to be stubbornly annoying in pressing his differences with Spencer in analytical approach (and, of course, to dare to persistently criticize and differ from the apparently untouchable Spencer in the first place). While Auster may have been annoying at times, he always maintained a mature and intelligent deportment. Bawer in his little article also maintains a mature and ostensibly intelligent deportment, but the substance of his article is the problem: coming down decidedly in Charles Johnson’s favor. [LA comments: This misstates things. Bawer didn’t simply side with Johnson. His article consisted of his own (albeit wrong-headed and hysterical) cri de coeur against the incipient evil he imagines he sees in the anti-jihad movement.], I am not necessarily calling on the elite leadership of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement to summarily declare Bawer anathema. All I am calling on them to do is move the problem out of their smoke-filled back rooms where peons and peasants of the movement are not permitted access, and bring it out into the sunshine of frank discussion.

When yesterday I posted a comment at the Gates of Vienna blog (picking an article there on the pro-Cologne movement as an appropriately on-topic location for this issue), I received a typically snooty and rude response from Baron Bodissey, who seems incapable of maintaining an objectively neutral comportment when responding to questions and/or comments—even questions and comments such as mine that were worded maturely and intelligently.

I reproduce my comment and his response here, as it helps to flesh out some of the points involved:

My comment (posted May 8, 2009, at 5:42 PM):

I wonder why Gates of Vienna and Robert Spencer have been silent about the recent stand of Bruce Bawer in line with Charles Johnson and against fellow anti-Jihadists, with specific regard to European “fascism”.

Lawrence Auster seems to be the only one who noticed this and who applies appropriate analysis to it.


Auster’s analysis, however, misses some of the further perverse wrinkles to this phenomenon reflected by, among other things, the above-mentioned curious silence, as well as by Spencer’s and GOV’s continued support—at least tacitly—of Bawer: Spencer retains Bawer’s blog link on the blog roll of the main page of Jihad Watch; and a cursory Googling of Gates of Vienna articles about, or referencing Bruce Bawer shows no substantive criticism of him. The only mention of Bawer’s recent statement I could find on GOV was buried in a little article by Andrew Bostom as part of the regular “News Feed” feature (this one for the date of 5/7/09) in which, after one scrolls down past other unrelated articles, one finds Bostom mentioning Bawer’s “recent apoplectic posting (www.brucebawer.com/ Thursday, May 6, 2009, 9:28 P.M) ostensibly referring to the same subject matter…” The reader would have had trouble seeing that this little article was in fact about Bawer, as nothing in the title or the vast majority of the text indicated so.

If Bruce Bawer were as insignificant a blogger as I am, I could understand this silence; but he’s not, so I can’t.

Baron Bodissey’s response (on May 8, 2009, at 9:36 PM):

Erich, as I have repeatedly mentioned in the past: you are not privy to all the private correspondence that passes back and forth between the owners of this blog and other parties. My advice to you is, once again, not to bruise yourself jumping to conclusions.

You’ll notice that I have never written about Bruce Bawer in the past. I haven’t found his writings to be helpful to me, although Fjordman has used them—all the previous mentions of Bawer on this blog (except in the news feed) have been by Fjordman. If Fjordman has anything new to say on Bawer, I’m sure he will eventually do so.

The fact that I posted excerpts from Andy’s piece in the news feed shows that I am well aware of what Bawer wrote, because I at least skim every item that appears in the news feed.

Beyond that you would be well-advised to draw no conclusions. I haven’t mentioned the issue because it is not important enough, nor germane to any of the things I have been posting about.

My time these days is very limited, so I have to confine myself to significant topics.

If you find Bawer’s piece compelling, then take heart! That is why God gave you your own blog.

I then posted a comment later, about two hours before I am typing this:


What conclusion did I jump to?

And if you “well advise” me not to draw any conclusions, does that mean there is no conclusion to be drawn?

And why is the still inchoate anti-Islam movement being conducted like a smoke-filled gentlemen’s club from whose secret behind-the-scenes discussions among its aristocratic membership the rest of the people are excluded and those among them who, like me, have the temerity to probe with reasonable questions framed maturely and intelligently are given the bum’s rush?

[end of Hesperado article.]

What to make of all this? First, let’s point out that Hesperado is rather overstating Bodissey’s suppoed rudenss toward him. Bodissey does not strike me as being particularly insulting, he just doesn’t want to tell Hesperado any more than he’s telling him. The issue is not discourtesy, the issue is the substantive behavior which Hesperado wants to know about: why is the movement ignoring Bawer’s attack, instead of exposing it, as they ought to be doing? It’s a legitimate question, And Bodissey refuses to answer, except to declare loftily that he doesn’t write about Bawer because he doesn’t write about him. Which is no answer at all. Which is what gets Hesperado riled up.

. Second, without going into details, because I don’t want to make this mainly a discussion about individuals, and also because I don’t have a full picture of it myself, I think the explanation is something as follows. The main figures in the anti-jihad movement have distinct personal flaws, quirks, and vanities, as all of us do. But these quirks and vanities are exacerbated by what seems to be the “prime directive” that is followed by the main figures of the movement, which is to maintain total, phalanx-like solidarity with each other and never criticize each other’s ideas, or each other. The prime directive may proceed from a system of common and mutual material benefits and favors in which the members (including Bawer) participate; it may proceed from a cult-like status that some of its figures enjoy; it may proceed from a shared sense of “us against the world”; it may proceed from other factors we don’t know about. Whatever the source or sources of the prime directive, its result is that the flaws and egoisms I’ve mentioned not only are never brought to light and criticized, they are entrenched and become the ruling factors in the movement. An example is Bodissey’s lofty response to Hesperado. You’d think that Bodissey actually was a European baron, instead of an American guy writing a blog.

As Hesperado said, some prominent bloggers start to think of themselves a kind of aristocracy, a favored class. I think there’s something to that.

I realize this is vague, even deliberately so. It is an outline without much content. But the outline may be enough to help us begin to explain the odd behaviors, the strange group dynamics, and the secrecy of which Hesperado complains.

* * *

Note: this entry was drafted over a week ago. However, a Google search done just before I posted the entry today does not reveal any newer articles concerning Bawer’s attack on the anti-jihad movement. So the mystery remains. The author of a noted book on the Islam threat in Europe has denounced essentially the entire anti-jihad movement as evil fascists, and there has been no response, except by me, and Hesperado.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 16, 2009 11:30 AM | Send

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