Thursday, September 28, 2006

Arts & Letters Daily Watch, pt. 2

I'm sensing a pattern here. It seems that when AL Daily wants to say something tacitly or not-so-tacitly inflammatory about Muslims, its editors turn to...Efraim Karsh. I suppose this article is "relevant" due to its discussions of Popegate, but it takes no pains to hide that it's an outright attack on all Muslims, not just extremist factions. (Karsh's hope, seemingly, is that one day after being fed enough of his propaganda I, too, will no longer make that distinction.)

As in the other article, a review of Karsh's book Islamic Imperialism, Karsh's tactic seems to be to set up a straw man, usually an "inaccurate" historian of Islamic history, quickly dismiss their views and proceed to paint a bigger picture, totally irrelevant to questions of 7th century history, about the "looming threat" we face today.

The sap this time around is Karen Armstrong, who is a "prominent representative" of the view, perpetuated by "Western apologists," that "dismiss[es] the worldwide wave of Islamic terrorism as an excessive reaction by misguided fringe groups to America's arrogant and self-serving foreign policy." In what way does the description "excessive reaction by misguided fringe groups" count as a defense or a dismissal? Even the President of the United States would only change this description to read "against America's freedom and way of life." In fact, only "misguided fringe groups" in America ascribe terrorist violence to all of Islam. Karsh doesn't take the time to list any other "apologists" like Armstrong, probably because hers is the view more or less agreed upon by almost everyone.

As in the other AL Daily-linked-to article, Karsh gives examples of Islamic imperialism from 1300 years ago as if this were pressing on the present, and with absolutely no mention of Western imperialism in the interim.

"Not only was the conquest of Spain, some 2,000 miles from the Arabian homeland, a straightforward act of imperial expansion, it hardly satisfied Islam's territorial ambitions. No sooner had the Muslims established themselves in that country than they invaded France in strength. Had they not been contained in 732 AD at the famous battle of Poitiers in west central France, they might well have swept deep into northern Europe."

Yes, brothers and sisters, we were that close to being assimilated by the swarthy people. Now, considering that this article purports to be perplexed about "Muslim rage" when it's not openly ascribing violence to Islam's "essence," Karsh could benefit from more recent history, specifically the invasion of Iraq by the United States. If the US attacks Iran as well, no army will have "famously" stopped America from "sweeping deep into the Middle East." (I think I can safely say we're already past that point anyway.)

The problem with being a bigot is that your words ring hollow, even when you're telling the truth. So when Karsh, describing instances of Muslim anti-Semitism, says "In these works they [the Jews] are portrayed as a deceitful, evil, and treacherous people who in their insatiable urge for domination would readily betray an ally and swindle a non-Jew," one is unfailingly struck by his blatant hypocrisy: if one simply replaces the word "non-Jew" with "non-Muslim" in the sentence above, you're left with Karsh's own description of the worldwide Muslim community.

"I couldn't agree more [that the Western and Muslim worlds should learn to tolerate and appreciate one another]," says Karsh. "Provided of course this is done in good faith and without rewriting the historical truth, let alone violently suppressing critical minds and dissenting voices." Yes, if we gloss over the entire history of the US's Mid-East foreign policy and the "suppression of dissent" in the form of 100,000 dead Iraqis, we too can start from the same enlightened first principles as this eminent scholar. If we ascribe the acts of stateless terrorists to over 1 billion peaceful religious practitioners, while ignoring the acts of aggression and threats from national governments--which are, in fact, supposed to represent the will of their citizens--we are well on our way to opening up dialogue.

And I still want to know why this chauvinist garbage is on Arts and Letters.


Blogger Robot said...

"I never (heard) any Muslim apologize (to) me (for) conquer(ing) Spain and to maintain a presence in Spain during eight centuries," former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar said last week in response to Muslim calls for the pope to apologize.

What I'm afraid is happening in the world is that this Us vs. You, this Clash of Civilizations, is making the most basic of historical judgments impossible. Yes, the Muslims invaded fucking Spain and stayed there for 8 centuries. But for chrissakes, there were were times during these 8 centuries (other times far from) when Al Andalus was the MOST tolerant, intellectually curious, developed, ... (you've all heard this before) of any other place in Europe.

But still, we do celebrate 1492 don't we? In the same year that the last Muslim kingdom was taken in Granada, Spaniards discovered America, began their far from tolerant policies in the New World, and expelled the Jews from Iberia. Hurray! WE WON! WE DIT IT! WHAT WOULD OUR BETTER-LOOKING WORLD LOOK LIKE TODAY IF WE HADN'T DONE THOSE THINGS!

11:03 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Aznar really is a bastard, huh.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

I agree that this stuff is ridiculous. But I'm not sure why you question its place on ALDaily. How do define a norm for an internet site that simply links to articles with a 10 word paraphrase? Dennis Dutton, the editor, or whoever, never passes judgments on the articles, which means that he always has the Pope Benedict excuse: "I only cited this!".
Indeed, I'm reminded a bit of Strauss' interpretation of Locke, in which he argues that Locke's constant citing of "the judicious Hooker" can only be facetious. Certainly Dutton's linking is not the equal of a real citation, and I doubt that he is so sophisticated--Strauss would probably not identify him as a "wise man". We can say that Dutton has abused his power, but he only has it because we grant it to him. For my part, I can't really condemn him, because I don't really read what I don't want to. None of this means that he is blameless, but since we know very little about what he actually thinks, perhaps it is better to criticize the articles themselves instead of his linking to them.

8:03 PM  
Blogger kushakov said...

The time, my brothers, is nigh. This I propose: If Karsh is to be made tolerant, diverse, intellectually active and well-developed, as Spain was under Muslim control, we ourselves must conquer Efraim Karsh for 800 years.

Yes. We must conquer his body - Corpus Karsh. We will set up perimeters and occupy his palatial sanctum, our Green Zone. Upon his chest will rise a citadel of fortitude. Aerial drones will fly over Karsh at night, like gnattish spies, beaming back pictures to the mothership.

To arms! To the Karsh! Who is with me?

Mind you, this campaign will not be an easy one. Untold sacrifices will be made - our will will be tested; but with a true-false test, and in our case by answering true we will defeat what is false and completely untrue and rid Karsh of the untrueness inside of him, likely put there by hostile propagandists.

To the barricades, my brothers. We must give Karsh no quarter: instead, we will give him a powerful 800-year sedative to keep him from flinching or turning about. If you've read Gulliver's Travels, you know something of what I mean.

To the Karshland! And victory!

11:27 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

I just think it's nice to know your source. AL Daily's not your typical link-dump, either: it adorns itself with all the trappings of academic refinery, higher humanism, etc. It's a 'service of the Chronicle' after all. The funny thing is they never can seem to publish an article on Islam that's anything but negative. Just scanning its horizon here, we've got the Karsh article, a polemic by Anne Applebaum, a blurb with 3 separate links supporting the Pope, about a dozen links to obits for Oriana Fallaci, a woman of 'fiery passion and brutal honesty,' a glowing review of 'Londonistan,' and so on. Looking back it probably was just caffeine-fueled boredom that made me excoriate Karsh (except I might have inspired a brilliant crusade on the part of Kushakov), but I do think that AL Daily aspect is important, in terms of understanding what sorts of messages get tacitly relayed in places we don't expect them.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

Another way of looking at it: when was the last time you saw ALDaily publish anything nice about Christianity? Perhaps most articles that compare Christianity with Islam favor the former, but I tend to agree. Has anyone said anything positive about Islam on this blog?

11:30 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

I suffer from an american education in geography-- Where's Karsh?

5:52 PM  

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