Prof. Terry wrote this on October 1st as a Comment to my posting of September 23 2013 titled: “A Religion of Peace and Silence.” Prof. Terry is a habitual liberal critic of this blog. His contributions are precious because they light up a little lamp into the fog that is the liberal thought process.
Oh great. In short order we’ll have Jacques ranting about the ‘conspiracy of silence’ by Buddhists. Why aren’t Buddhists around the world denouncing this violence?! Why hasn’t the Dalai Lama condemned this outrage?! (Follows a link about a Buddhist Leader calling for the expulsion of a certain Muslim minority from Myanmar. JD)
Those who read my blogs know that I rarely “rant.” I present reasoned arguments informed by facts. If my facts are wrong, that ‘s still not ranting. It’s error, it’s sloppiness, it’s laziness, it’s not ranting. I prize rationality. Of course, I have opinions. If I did not, I would not bother to keep a blog. My opinions seldom rise to the level of the kind of passion that seems to underlie “ranting.”
What causes my detractors to accuse me of ranting is that they rarely see or hear aloud the kind of argument I make frequently on my blog. They tend to live in a world frozen by political correctness. They react to my straightforward and plain statements as an old nun would who accidentally caught a glimpse of a naked man: the horror! I despise political correctness, this contemporary form of censorship. I do my best to ignore it dramatically. Think about it: Ignoring anything dramatically is a tough job. This candid way of acting is shocking to liberals; they run out of words to describe it; they sometime choke on their own spittle when they encounter political incorrectness. I am sorry about this; I don’t wish death upon them, only a severe, well-placed rash!
Prof. Terry uses the word “conspiracy ” to make me sound like a nut. The attempt is so silly it does not even make me angry. For possible new readers, including readers outside the US, and especially for Muslim readers, let me explain how others may use the concept of “conspiracy” to try and annihilate me intellectually. The concept appears in two ways in my discussions.
I do not believe that there are five or six guys in mask with guns in their back pockets deciding what will be said next in the US about violent jihadism, Islamist terrorism, or anything else. I do not believe that a bunch of guys with green eye shades, plus a token mannish woman, determine what the nature of the public discourse will be. Rather, there is a left culture in this country, the United States today that punishes those who say what they see in certain areas. For example, it punishes one for saying anything negative about most groups other than non-immigrant older white males: African-Americans, Hispanics, women, and since 9/11, Muslims. There are other “protected” categories. This left culture gos back to about 1965. The people who were my buddies (“comrades?”) when I was a leftist myself, now hold many levers of American power. They are in control of most universities, for example.* They also dominate powerfully the written press (but not radio). The written press is sinking fast in coverage and in heft but it’s still influential. In fact, its decline makes the printed press all the more mean. The universities and the printed press are the ones who impose political correctness day-to-day on the nation. It’s an above-board “conspiracy,” a visible conspiracy. It’s quite public. In that sense, it’s not much of a conspiracy. It’s a cultural movement with major self-reference. Thus it’s enough for Prof. Terry that I don’t sound like what he normally hears in the faculty club to try to make me pass for a nut. He has no other explanation for our many divergences except that I might just be ignorant or of low intelligence. He knows me enough to avoid using those explanations. I am toward the end of a long and fairly productive life in areas that he, himself, prizes. My record speaks for itself. Logically, either I am a nut or, I am right. Terrible thought!
Who is a nut? (Lexicographic note for readers whose first language is not English: “Nut” means crazy. In French: “cinglé” with an acute accent on the e.)
The first liberal “conspiracy” that I think exists relative to my discussion of violent jihadism consists in trying to eliminate certain concepts from public thinking. It’s been amazingly successful. Thus, when an Army major with a Muslim first name and a Muslim last name, who frequents a local mosque itself frequented by extremists, assassinates fellow soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” his superiors, Pentagon bureaucrats, describe the event as a workplace incident. The description remains even after an examination of the assassin’s computer shows a high level of preoccupation with jihad (the violent kind of jihad).
People like Prof Terry here would deny that the mass assassination to which I refer has anything to do with Islam. In this, he has candy-assed companions among libertarian unconditional pacifists, unfortunately.
There is another kind of conspiracy that matters to any discussion of violent jihadism. It’s the worldwide “conspiracy” of the violent jihadists themselves. One of their ambitions is to kill Americans and to undermine American life. They have succeeded to a large extent in the latter. The society in which I live is perceptibly different than that of 2,000 in ways that can easily be traced to 9/11. Mostly, violent jihadists have slaughtered large numbers of Muslims under atrocious circumstances such as exploding bombs in funeral crowds including children and widows already grieving for a loved one. (As I have said, no one else does that, only violent jihadists, people who claim to be Muslims.)
The violent jihadist “conspiracy” is successful as a violent movement but it’s not much of a conspiracy in the usual meaning of the term. The word “conspiracy” implies a high degree of organization. In spite of claims to the contrary, Islamist terrorists do not seem to be well organized. “Al Quaida,” “The base,” is not much of an operational center; it was not even before the regretted loss at sea of its founder, Osama. Rather, it seems to me, a high level of frustration in several mainly Muslim societies gave rise to terrorist movements. Those terrorist movements have no constructive programs. They lash out like rabid dogs at infidels, at non-Muslims and even more, at Muslims who are not exactly the kind of Muslims they approve of. I know I am repeating myself but they are more successful at ruining the quality of life among Muslims than among non-Muslims. Their own claim to constitute a conspiracy is only a marketing device. It’s a way (partly successful, I think) to appear bigger, more dangerous, more threatening, than they actually are. Violent jihadists are a “conspiracy” the way the old Ku Klux Klan used to be a conspiracy in the US: We are everywhere, they say; we can get at you and hurt you wherever you are. There is no place for you to hide! And this kind of noise serves to amplify the fear generated by small numbers of successful acts of terror mostly against the defenseless such as marathon runners. Reliance on this marketing device to amplify the paralyzing effect of a few acts of violence also explains the movement’s many pathetic failures. (Just think of the panty bomber who could not get his underwear on fire.)
The various branches of this non-existent tree of violent jihad do look a little bit alike whether they are in the Philippines, in Yemen, or in the US. Two reasons for this superficial similarity. First, much criminality in general is of the copy-cat kind: Each bank robber does not take it to heart to invent another, original way to to banks. If blowing up car bombs in one place achieves the desired results, it ‘s well worth trying it in another place. There is a similarity of techniques that comes from simple imitation.
Secondly, there is a similarity of inspiration between violent jihadist acts. It has two main sub- features. The first feature is the belief that an inability to persuade others of the legitimacy of one’s viewpoint justifies the massive slaughter of the same others and of by-standers. This is enough to explain why the victims of violent jihadists are predominantly Muslim. This accounts also for the fact that attempted violence against non-Muslims (in America, for example) does not subside as the same non-Muslims vacate traditionally Muslim lands such as Afghanistan, following Iraq. Violence perpetrated against others does not depend on what those others do but on who they are. (There is a public declaration of the head of Hamas in Gaza saying clearly that Hamas will fight Israel irrespective of the hardness or comparative humanity of Israeli policies.)
The second inspirational feature of violent jihad is the practice of suicide bombing. I am told by people I trust that suicide is forbidden by Islam, just forbidden, period. Yet, contemporary violent jihadists have invented a new form of martyrdom that appears to inspire the demented fringe of Muslims, including some who live in modern, developed societies. I don’t know to what extent the practice of suicide bombing results from or is associated with a conspiracy. I can imagine that some Muslim clerics have come together to justify the practice. I don’t know this to be true. I would welcome serious information about this.
Every time I write about violent jihadism, I have to to state the same facts that run contrary to Prof. Terry’s statement that I “rant.” I have no emotional investment in this analysis. I just call them I as I see them. I do it largely because those who should be doing it don’t because they are frozen by political correctness. A big part of me hopes I will be shown to be wrong. There are people dear to me, Muslims, this analysis implicitly condemns for their complacency, for their silent complicity, possibly for their cowardice. If I were shown to be wrong, they would instantly become innocent of these implicit charges. I would be happier.
This, then is the feeble extent to which I rely on the idea of conspiracy when I discuss violent jihad.
* Political correctness reigns unchallenged in North American universities. The mechanisms of this supremacy are not mysterious. At any one time, in any university, most of the faculty is subjected to the threat of job loss. The very large and growing number of adjunct faculty have no job security, of course. (That’s what “adjunct” means, “fireable at will.”) They tend to be hired quarter-to-quarter or semester-to-semester. In the university business school where I taught last, half the classes are delivered by adjuncts. I don’t know what percentage of actual faculty that it but it must be of the same order of magnitude: Depart aloud from the party line and lose your livelihood. Regular faculty bucking for tenure can be stopped by a liberal minority at any one of four levels of selection: department, school committee, university committee, President’s Office. In a business school or in an Economics Department, brave dissenting candidates have a fighting chance. In an English department, for example, the price of non-submission is exclusion. Those who fail to earn tenure have to find another job, sometimes at the other end of the country, sometimes abroad. Some liberal arts associations are veritable houses of “Progressive” madness. One of my last academic acts was to present a paper at a meeting of the American Modern Languages Association. There,a female presenter told me loudly the following: The cultural pressures on young American girls to dress in a sexually provocative manner constitutes exactly (“exactly,” she said) as much oppression as the imposition of the chador on women in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I asked the woman if American girls who wore knee-length dresses and blouses closed at the neck risked jail. I was booed by the surrounding crowd for my lack of sophistication. You learn a lot from this sort of incident!