Gates of Vienna says we must “spread memes” about Islam, not speak the truth about Islam

Calling himself a “propagandist” whose job it is to “oversell memes,” Baron Bodissey of Gates of Vienna says the main meme is that “Islam is not a religion.” He further states that anyone who doesn’t join in spreading the meme, anyone who tries to speak the truth about Islam, is damaging the anti-Islam cause:

Our propaganda is aimed at changing minds at the margin, at affecting the thinking of those whose opinions are not yet fully formed. If we wait until we get every jot and tittle of our message perfect, the scimitar will be at our throats before we change even a single mind.

A commenter, Zenster, expands on his point:


Meaning that to attempt to speak the truth about Islam only divides our side and thus serves the interests of the jihadists. Meaning that everyone on our side is required to speak propaganda. Significantly, Bodissey does not disagree with Zenster.

But then commenter Hesperado says that pushing an untrue and unsustainable statement (“Islam is not a religion”) will not work in the long run:

This strikes me as perhaps effective in the short run, among idiots; but not in the long run, among the most advanced people in the history of the world (caveats aside for human imperfection, & etc.), Westerners.

I guess I have more respect for my fellow Westerners than Baron and others here have. I’m not interested in saving a perpetual Kindergarten of idiots in league with an evil cabal of “Elites”—if that is all the West is to you guys.

Bodissey replies to Hesperado, which is the first time in the long thread of comments that he has replied to any commenter:

It seems you have joined the ranks of Lawrence Auster, Robert Spencer, et alia, who would rather be right than effective. All of you will still be fine-tuning your message to make sure it is exactly, irrefutably correct, with footnotes and everything, t’s crossed and i’s dotted, even as the mujahid with the big knife ties up your hands and pins you down for the slaughter.

As you drown in your own blood, with your last conscious thought you can reassure yourself that, despite the fact that you and your civilization had to die, you at least were never wrong.

So Bodissey mocks any non-propagandist statement about Islam as a statement “with footnotes and everything, t’s crossed and i’s dotted,” as though the truth about Islam can only be captured in impenetrable scholarly works that no one can understand and thus are completely ineffective. Bodissey believes that his untrue or at least highly questionable propaganda line (“Islam is not a religion”) will be easily and effortlessly accepted, and therefore all Islam critics must agree to push this propaganda line, while stating the truth about Islam (e.g., “Islam is partly a religion but is mainly a political movement seeking total power over us”), will never be accepted, and that anyone who does speak the truth about Islam rather than a propaganda meme about Islam is helping the Muslims win. It’s certainly unclear to me why Bodissey’s five-word-long meme about Islam will be accepted so much more readily than the 16-word true statement about Islam that I’ve offered above. Bodissey evidently believes that the citizens of the West are unable to understand any sentence longer than five words.

But then Bodissey oddly changes course. In the same reply to Hesperado, he says:

But I stand by the statement that “Islam is not primarily a religion.” It isn’t, not as I understand the term “religion.”

So now he’s changed his meme from “Islam is not a religion” (which is a highly questionable statement) to “Islam is not primarily a religion” (which is true or at least arguably true and is very close to the 16-word statement I’ve suggested). Bodissey couldn’t stand by his false propagandist meme when it was criticized by someone who pointed out that it was false. He had to modify it. Yet previously he said that his propagandist meme must be used, because only his propagandist meme would be believed by people, while a true statement about Islam would be too complicated and obscure for people to understand.

So Bodissey is very confused. He wants to enforce complete conformity with his “overselling the meme” strategy, but he can’t even decide what his meme is. Throughout his article, he insisted that the meme, “Islam is not a religion,” is essential for counter-jihadist victory. He said that anyone who refuses to use that meme, anyone who uses qualifying language to try to get at a true statement about Islam, is being totally ineffective and thus is helping the enemy. But now Bodissey himself has added crucial qualifying language: “Islam is not primarily a religion.” He’s doing the very thing that he denounced. He couldn’t get away from qualifying his statement so that it would conform better with truth.

By adding the qualifying word “primarily,” Bodissey, without realizing it, throws away the entire point of his article, which is that all anti-jihadists must agree to push the meme, “Islam is not a religion,” and must refuse to add qualifying language that would be true. Yet even as he conforms his language more closely with truth, he continues to insist that propaganda is the only way the West can be saved.

Bodissey is also very confused in that he says that Islam critics who don’t spread propagandist memes are dividing and weakening the anti-Islam cause. Just as with liberal demands for “civility” and “consensus” which are in fact attacks on anyone who doesn’t agree with liberalism, Bodissey is the one who is dividing the anti-Islam cause, by attacking those who don’t speak propaganda about Islam but attempt to make true statements about Islam. In the very act of demanding unity of message among Islam critics, Bodissey is creating division with all Islam critics whose approach is different from his own. He doesn’t seem able to see this.

- end of initial entry -

Karl D. writes:

I could be wrong but I think what we are seeing here on the part of the Baron is pure frustration. Frustration from fighting and writing about Islam on a daily basis, frustration from a largely ineffective and infighting counter-jihad. And frustration with a liberal populace who just don’t get what Islam is all about and what a mortal threat it really is. Not too long ago he along with others at GoV tried to come up with another “meme” type slogan that would stick in the minds of the ordinary Joe. From what I remember it had something to do with the giant rabbit from the film “Harvey.” I remember thinking it was way too esoteric for anyone other then an egghead or well informed counter-jihadist ever to catch on. I like and respect Baron Bodissey but I do disagree with the “Islam is not a religion” meme. Whether we like it or not, Islam is indeed a religion. As Hesperado said it is possible for a religion to be a political system at the same time. What the counter-jihad needs is a good marketing and advertising man. Intellectuals rarely are good at both thinking and selling.

Paul T. writes:

The Baron believes that we’re in a war and that this is therefore no time for definitional quibbling. So he offers us … definitional quibbling! (“Islam is not a religion”).

I would point out that saying “Scientology is not a religion” hasn’t done in Scientology, and saying “Marxism is a religion” hasn’t done in Marxism.

People’s minds will be changed only when they see the adverse consequences of a doctrine for them. Even then they will often be astonishingly slow to respond. Whether Islam is best understood as a religion, a legal system, a hobby or a colour seems an interesting question for common-room debate, but it’s hardly the sort of thing that’s going to “keep the scimitar from our throats.” Your own essays in definition aim to show WHY Islam is a threat. I’m amazed that the Baron doesn’t see this or doesn’t (apparently) grasp its importance. I like a lot of things about his site, but he’s off the rails here.

LA writes:

Gintas directed the below comment to the entry, “The robot reporters of cable news,” and it is posted there. But the comment is even more apropos of this entry, so I am posting it here as well.

Gintas writes:

Bartholomew’s comment is excellent, I think I’ve sometimes slipped into the same thing. Getting away from the Internet for a while altogether is a good thing to practice.

Speaking of the emptiness of our news media, Solzhenitsyn’s 1974 essay “Live Not By Lies,” written just before he was arrested and exiled from the Soviet Union, is applicable.

He offers practical advice for us:

And from that day onward he:

  • Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.

  • Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.

  • Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.

  • Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.

  • Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.

  • Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.

  • Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.

  • Will immediately talk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.

  • Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

The whole essay is worth reading. It’s important to live by the truth; it’s more important to live by the truth than to win. If you look at many blogs where they’re about winning, I think deep down they’re not about truth (for example, Gates of Vienna and the memes thing). If a man is willing to lie to advance his cause, in the end he’s just promoting the kingdom of lies.

LA replies:

Imagine a man who not only declares publicly that he lives by lies, but who demands that everyone live by lies, and who adds that if others strive to live by truth instead of lies they are being divisive! Such is the editor of Gates of Vienna.

Steven L. writes:

I don’t agree with the Baron on this one, but he and Dymphna will continue to get my support for all their meritorious works. Too many to be counted. If it’s not a slip up—and I dare anyone who day in day out looks into the abyss of Islam NOT to wish for an easier solution—then I’ll rethink my position.

I know what he means. Italy—probably like Israel—is the land of details, of piddling differences, of the spice becoming more important than the meat … and that can drive any goal-oriented endeavorist to distraction. So I will not let this disagreement sour me unless it leads to a whole new GOV.

Islam is a mock passive beast. It’s like a natural calamity and so it’s only natural that the discourse shifts from its obvious evil, to the best combat strategies.

Everyone will have to make an effort to rethink himself. The Christians will need to be less Universal, the Jews less tribalistic, the intellectuals will need to accept simplification, the warlike more intellectual, the charitable a bit more stingy, the Atheists appreciative of Jesus and the Christians less forgiving. In other words everyone will have to leave their comfort zone.

That said: memes schmemes! If you have a good one, say it; if you have a 10,000 page book write it, replete with footnotes.

But if you have an ally, hang on to him, drink a glass of wine together, and work it out … ‘cause even if he’s wrong, he’s anyhow 1,000 times better than the vortex of homicidal madness and cultural suicide that is Islam. And if you don’t believe me, just take a quick youtube tour to see a suicide bomber’s mother ululating with glee over the “marriage” of her dead son to the celestial strumpets. Or read about the Muslims stomping on the remains of Copts after the terror attack, while obsessively shouting that the creator of the Universe is grand.

That kind of stuff is Baron and Dymphna’s daily bread … and it’s been so for years. I’ll cut ‘em slack and lots of it, before I write them off for wanting a more effective way of bringing it into world focus.

LA replies:

Why are you saying this to me? I didn’t write anyone off. He’s the one who came along and wrote off everyone who tries to speak the truth about Islam.

So how about sending him an advisory note about not writing people off?

January 23

Steven L. replies:

I apologize for what seems like a letter of complaint. Certainly I didn’t mean it to be my very first comment on your wonderful site which has become one of my most clicked bookmarks. Blessings urbi et orbi on you Mr. Auster and on many of your contributors. On this issue, I’m on your side. As they say “God and the devil are in the details.”

LA replies:

Thank you very much.

January 24

LA writes:

Here’s another response to Baron Bodissey’s odd outreach program, in which he informs the reading public that he is not telling them the truth about Islam, but propaganda, because only propaganda is effective against Islam. Zimri at the blog The House of David writes:

Lawrence Auster has been over to Gates of Vienna.

I need to point out here that, although several sites I visit do, also, visit GoV, I try not to bother with it. So, why don’t I bother?

It seems you have joined the ranks of Lawrence Auster, Robert Spencer, et alia, who would rather be right than effective. All of you will still be fine-tuning your message to make sure it is exactly, irrefutably correct, with footnotes and everything, t’s crossed and i’s dotted, even as the mujahid with the big knife ties up your hands and pins you down for the slaughter.

As you drown in your own blood, with your last conscious thought you can reassure yourself that, despite the fact that you and your civilization had to die, you at least were never wrong.

Er, alrighty then. That’s why I don’t bother.

I don’t go to sites just to fill myself up with hate. I go to sites to get informed. If GoV is going to post any old thing, whether or not it is true, then I cannot have faith in what it reports. Even if I wanted to get informed about the dark side of Islam, and sometimes I do (e.g., history in the 600s AD)—then I’d have to go start my research elsewhere.

I started my site—in 1995, believe it or not—precisely because I wanted to be right about various world religions. If I was wrong, and I found that Islam (say) was the truth, and also the best religion for humanity—then I’d be a Muslim. On the other hand what I’ve found out has led me to rather different conclusions.

As for the 10,000 pages with lots of footnotes also alluded to over there: well, if that’s what it takes to get to the bottom of the matter, then that’s what it takes.

And as for the mujahid’s knife at my throat, that’s between me and my throat. GoV too often has struck me as the sort of place where they’d rather have creepy Europeans with snazzy uniforms holding that knife at my throat. Forgive me if I don’t see the upside.

I suspect that most people agree with me on this last; I mean, if you lose someone as reactionary as Auster, you haven’t a ghost of a chance with the moderates. So how effective is GoV’s outreach programme really, in the end?

[end of Zimri blog entry]

I was about to say that I’ve never seen creepy Europeans in snazzy uniforms holding a knife at my throat at GoV (though the site has posted comments by at least one open anti-Semite who is an American). If Zimri is suggesting that GoV is a neo-Nazi site, that’s obviously not true. However, now that I think about it, GoV has extensively featured and welcomed the comments of one very creepy European, Conservative Swede, who declares that his aim is to destroy Western civilization, along with Christianity, because Western civilization and Christianity are too liberal. (See this and this.) I never understood why Baron Bodissey, whose website, as shown by its name and its masthead, is devoted to defending the traditional, Christian West, gave so much space and respect to a Nietzchean commenter who is against the traditional, Christian West and eagerly looks forward to its destruction. But somehow the Nietzschean message seemed to fit with a discernible drift at GoV toward a cult of power, as seen, for example, in the tendency of some of its commenters (never contradicted, to my knowledge, by the site’s hosts) to speak of Muslims as bugs, vermin, rodents, and insects which must be exterminated en masse, the same kind of language that Lenin used about property owners, and that Hitler used about Jews. I am not saying that such language and such a mindset have been dominant at GoV. If I thought that they were, I would not have repeatedly recommended GoV as the best American site for information about the fight against Islamization in Europe. At the same time, an attraction to the seductions of power for its own sake has been indulged repeatedly at that site. And, it seems to me, a similar attraction can now be seen in Bodissey’s explicit embrace of propaganda over truth, which he embraces because spreading propaganda works, while speaking truth leads to suicide.

By taking this position, Bodissey has provided his own answer to Nietzsche’s profound question in The Gay Science, Sect. 110:

A thinker is now that being in whom the impulse for truth and those life-preserving errors clash for their first fight, after the impulse for truth has proved to also be a life-preserving error. Compared to the significance of this fight, everything else is a matter of indifference…. To what extent can truth endure incorporation? That is the question, that is the experiment.

And Bodissey’s answer to Nietzsche is: truth cannot endure incorporation. Truth cannot be lived. Truth leads to suicide. If you speak the truth about Islam, rather than propaganda about Islam, then, Bodissey warns, you will inevitably end up with a mujahid with a big knife tying up your hands and pinning you down for the slaughter.

John McNeil writes:

You wrote:

“But somehow the Nietzschean message seemed to fit with a discernible drift at GoV toward a cult of power, as seen, for example, in the tendency of some of its commenters (never contradicted, to my knowledge, by the site’s hosts) to speak of Muslims as bugs, vermin, rodents, and insects which must be exterminated en masse, the same kind of language that Lenin used about property owners, and that Hitler used about Jews.”

I also have seen this sentiment expressed on Gates of Vienna and other “Counter-Jihad” sites. You are correct that they are not the norm, but they still concern me. While I do not mean to equate Counter-Jihadists with Anti-Semites, I do notice a parallel, with both groups choosing to focus all of their energy on bashing something, isolating it as some sort of source of all our problems. For the anti-Semite, it’s the Jew that’s responsible for the destruction of the West, whereas Counter-Jihadists see Islam as the only real problem; the West would be fine and dandy if there was no Islamic invasion. While the Counter-Jihadist has a much stronger case than the anti-Semite (Islam is actual threat, unlike Jews), the Counter-Jihadists still fall for the trap of ignoring the real problems that the West face, such as liberalism, an identity crisis, individualism, materialism, etc. If none of these problems were real, then there would be no Islam in the West, as a strong, assertive West would have rejected the need for “cheap labor.” This stubborn refusal to see how the West has brought its problems onto itself was something that made me oppose the anti-Semites early on, as I saw how they virtually ignored gentile liberals and mass consumerism and its eroding effects on America, and white Americans willingness to participate in such a system.

I’ve asked this question before, and I will continue to ask it: what are we defending? I think those who remember the 1950s America have a clear idea, as do patriots who experienced 1950s Europe. But for my generation, that’s a mythical era. We grew up being indoctrinated in multiculturalism, political correctness, extreme individualism, materialism, and other social/economic phenomena that really skyrocketed in the 1990s. I look around and see nothing but avarice, greed, selfishness, pettiness, and shallowness from many of my countrymen. What am I defending?

Unlike the Nietzscheans, I do not see destruction of the West as the solution. While it would be nice to see Muslims destroy things that I hate, I recognize that I would have no place in an Islamic world order. I am of European blood, and I am a product of the West, and so my fate is tied to the West, no matter how ravaged its soul is. I believe in reforming from within. I believe we need to remake the West into something worth fighting for. We need to think about us, who we are, and why we deserve to be preserved as a civilization and people.

The Counter-Jihadists don’t do any of that. Many are so driven by a hatred of Islam that they will champion liberals and homosexuals who realize that Islam is a threat to their utopia. Many sacrifice the cause of fighting for an organic West, treating the West as nothing more than an abstract idea; the EDL being a prime example of this. Say what you will about Muslims, at least they are FOR something. The Koran presents a society and vision for the world, even though it’s one I have no interest in being a part of. The Counter-Jihadists are only driven by one thing: stopping Islam.

You can’t base a movement/cause off of that. You need to have an alternative, something that you are fighting for, else you become so consumed by what it is you are fighting against, that your opposition turns into genuine hatred. This is why the anti-Islamic rhetoric has become more extreme over the years, painting Muslims as two-dimensional demons or orcs, deserving no other fate but slaughter. Again, the majority aren’t at that position, but then again, the majority of anti-Semites aren’t open exterminationists either, even though their rhetoric logically leads to that conclusion: when you are so focused on presenting something as the greatest threat of all, then there is no other logical conclusion but genocide. This is why the promotion of positive identity is so crucial for our future.

LA replies:

An excellent statement.

I might sum up your thesis this way (though this does not capture all of it): the Counter-Jihadists were never conservatives, they have no conservative formation. They are liberals who freaked out after 9/11. That is not sufficient for a political/cultural movement aimed at saving the West.

Also, your analysis of the Counter-Jihadist psychology, which consists only of hating and fearing Islam and has no positive beliefs of its own, fits many conservatives today. These conservatives never seem to enunciate any conservative vision or conservative principles; they just hate liberalism.

January 25

Kilroy M. writes:

There is a legitimate question about the accuracy and truth in assessing the character of the enemy and its threat to us. What the commenters at GOV are doing, some in an admittedly confused and poorly thought-through way, is find a way to market a narrative that will catch on in a pop cultural environment—such narratives by definition will have to be ephemeral. This is fine, but the attempt is undermined by being presented so poorly, hence the contradiction and reversal in the GOV thread, identified here at VFR. Of course, their reference VFR displayed a lack of class, but we cannot expect refinement from everyone. In this struggle, we will have all sorts of people sharing the same and similar concerns with us. Some of these people may be shallow, unfortunately. We will just have to accept this, move on and keep doing what we believe/know to be right.

Nevertheless, I think the only people that get acutely passionate about the details and framework of debate on matters of definition, are the activists themselves. Language becomes exaggerated and that only adds fuel to the flames. The grass-roots of the movement, those that read blogs and occasionally post to them often encounter statements such as “Islam is a political movement and not a religion”, but although we may see some truth to the assertion, we do not hold it to be an unquestionable maxim. We know that it is a form of propagandised truth.

Consider: Islam is indeed, in very large part, a political movement—it is so because under Shariah, the State is the Church (so to speak) and there is ultimately no distinction between secular and religious law (in fact, no such concept as “civil law” even exists). There is Quaranic injunction for Muslims to expand the realm of Islamic society territorially. This evinces a strong political current. Having said that, it would be silly to accept that Islam is not a religion. It is obviously animated by an understanding of the transcendent (even if that understanding is originally a Christian heresy). As a person of religious belief, I understand why Muslim’s (acting out the political dictates of their Prophet) do what they do, and I am not confused by the rhetoric of the imams from Mecca to Tehran to Paris to London. Liberals are bewildered, constantly “shocked” because they are purely rational and “mumbo-jumbo” is surreal to them. Not to me. I get their political agenda because I too am religious—no “cultural miscommunication” here. Anyway, I digress …

So, even though it should not be an unquestionable maxim, if there is an element of truth in it, push the meme so that it spreads across the European “street” and into the homes of ordinary, politically unsophisticated Westerners. That can only be a good thing as it contributes to a mentality of opposition to Islam because it is Islam, for whatever reason. The problem is multi-dimensional, and if one dimension can be easily highlighted in the hearts and minds of our people, this could be a very useful device to create an effective counter-culture. Every political movement has a propaganda and intelligence wing. Both are necessary. There will always be room for deep and accurate analysis. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 22, 2011 11:58 AM | Send

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