Monday, May 28, 2007

Derbyshire, Separationism, and Jihad Watch

(Just posted a second update to this text, at the end)

Regarding my description, in my previous post, of John Derbyshire's behaviour--his leftist shaming tactic--in the Separationism/JihadWatch affair, all created by Derbyshire, Lawrence Auster had doubts "Well, it hadn't occurred to me that Derbyshire was up to something deliberately mischievous...". To which I answered "I cannot think of any other explanation for Derbyshire's behaviour."

Read the whole exchange between me and Auster, posted at VFR, here:

Derbyshire, Separationism, and Jihad Watch: Conservative Swede's theory

And here follows my latest answer to Lawrence:

Lawrence Auster wrote:

Calling him a "commissar" is wrong and exaggerated, but he is not on our side on the Islam issue, and it is a reasonable guess, though personally I doubt it, that he was trying to smoke out Fitzgerald as an Islamophobe.
My answer:

I said he used a tactic worthy of a leftist commissar. and I stand by that.

But I do not mean that Derbyshire was aiming for Fitzgerald. He couldn't have predicted that any more than al Qaida could have predicted that the WTC buildings would fall to the ground. No, he was aiming for Robert Spencer and Jihad Watch as a site. And more specifically at the discrepancy between Spencer's position and Fitzgerald's position, which has been pointed out by you many times. I have defended Spencer's strategy in front of you many times, as a strategy that makes sense in the current political climate [Up until a certain point; which might have been reached now. More about that in a future comment.], but it has this glaring weakness. A weakness that can be exploited by the shaming tactic of a leftist hit artist. Compare it with the case of Horowitz, who also held a stance that made a lot of sense in the current political climate. But also that one with such a weakness, that could easily be abused by a leftist hit artist. In the Horowitz case, the Undercover Black Man, in Spencer/Fitzgerald's case John Derbyshire. If you had denounced your "racism", as Fitzgerald is now denouncing his "separationism", I'm sure you would have been able to stay at Frontpagemag.

If Derbyshire had aimed specifically for Fitzgerald he would also have linked specifically to the Hugh Fitzgerald section of Jihad Watch. But that would have thwarted the whole purpose. Compare it to: i) Undercover Black Man linking specifically to your site calling you a "racist", or ii) Undercover Black Man involving Horowitz in the affair. In the first case the weakness of the dicrepancy is not exploited, and nothing will happen. In the second case, the weakness is exploited, and the shaming tactic will have great effect. But the exact effects cannot be predicted, no more than when a kid throws a rock into an ants' nest.

A VFR reader wrote:
I think CS has it wrong. John was simply linking to what he thought of as the hard core anti-Islam folks.
Maybe Derbyshire is also under the illusion that Frontpagemag is the hard core anti-PC folks, and next time he will link the word "racists" to the main page of Frontpagemag?

If Derbyshire did the linking in all honesty, out of ignorance, how come then that he could pull Auster's ur-text on Sperationism out of his sleeve in less than two hours? Anyone having read that text would be fully informed of all positions of the people at hand. And having read this text, this would have been the only honest place to link the word "separationists" to, right?

If Derbyshire would have done this in honesty and out of ignorance or sloppiness, wouldn't his answer to Spencer have been one acknowledging his mistake? A mistake as big as linking the word "racists" to the main page of Frontpagemag. But maybe Derbyshire was not at all acting disingenuously. He's an honest man, and not at all a leftist hit artist. But his great flaw is that he cannot admit a mistake. He rather goes on, pretending that it's raining. He browse the web fervidly, and within two hours he find Auster's text about separtionism, which he had never read before. Read it and find the link to Jihad Watch in Fitzgerald. Relieved, he can now post something without having to admit a mistake. This is a really strained hypothesis. Anyone who believes in it?

No. His behaviour, in ever single step, fits the one of a leftist hit artist, Undercover Black Man school. Auster's ur-text on Separationism was of course known beforehand by Derbyshire. And he knew well the positions of all people involved: Spencer, Fitzgerald, Auster. And he decided to exploit that, using shaming tactic. Throwing a rock into the ants' nest, by juxtaposing "separationists" with Robert Spencer's site. The kind of juxtaposition that must be the oldest leftist shaming tactic in history.


To this Lawrence Auster answered:
Very interesting. I'm impressed by your argumentation. But I'm still not sure what I think of this myself.
My answer:

Compare it to your own article The revolution eats its children. The typical behaviour of a right-winger is to have an apologetic, as well as defensive, position towards the people to the left of him, while denouncing the people to the right of him as something evil. Derbyshire fits this pattern.

Derbyshire also fits the pattern of nonchalant conservative poseurs, such as Mark Steyn or Spengler at Asia Times. Spengler has written:

"Gathering dust half-read on my desk are a number of books recounting the supposed evils of Islam - by Ba'at Yeor, Oriana Fallaci, Serge Trifkovic, and many others. There is not a speck of theological insight in the stack of them."

Thereby distancing himself from serious Islam critiques in a nonchalant way. He also characterized Robert Spencer as a sort of inverted Karen Armstrong. So Robert Spencer gets hit by these kind of guys all the time. But while Spengler's perspective is a ridiculous von-oben, up in the clouds, I'm-not-gonna-get-my-hands-dirty perspective, he never used any dirty shaming tactic as Derbyshire did.

2nd update:

Lawrence Auster e-mailed me:
I now simply disagree with you on this. I don't think any "shaming" tactic happened. See my comment in the thread.
Spencer had a button to be pushed, and it was pushed by Derbyshire. And indeed it didn't take much effort, that's true. A more neutral perspective--without taking any sides--would be to compare Undercover Black Man and Derbyshire to arbitrages, flattening out imbalances of the "opinion markets".

Indeed in our exchange has focused too much on the actions and intentions of Derbyshire. Equally important, or more, are the reactions of Spencer and Fitzgerald. In their receiving end, what they were hit by was typical leftist shaming tactic. It triggered their fear center, fear of being stigmatized and excluded from the community. It's because of this effect that I refer to it as leftist shaming tactic. And Derbyshire was the guy who put himself in those shoes. Maybe intentionally, maybe unintentionally. Anyway, the major point of my original paragraph about this was to describe the kind of societal climate, which is prevalent in the West.

Derbyshire made his link in a sneaky way, well-informed and seemingly with the intention to push this button of Spencer's. Then it will of course be a matter of taste whether this will be considered as good behaviour or bad behaviour. What is interesting with the whole though, is that you, Lawrence, have been hitting on this button for long, exposing this discrepancy between Spencer and Fitzgerald. You did it in a fully honest and intellectual substantive way. But with no effect. Then comes Derbyshire, from an establishment position at NRO, pushing the same button, while dismissing the idea of Separartionism (with a nonchalant poseur-style reference to the Nation of Islam). And Derbyshire's problem with Spencer doesn't seem to be that Spencer speaks too little truth, but too much. The interesting thing is that now, when the blow comes from such a direction, it fully works as a shaming tactic. Spencer starts writing silly things about never having heard of anyone advocating the "bribing" idea. Fitzgerald backs off with the tail between his legs.

This is the political climate we have today in the West. Intellectually honest debate, as you've done visavi Spencer, has very small effect compared to striking at their fear center, which was what Derbyshire did (disregarding any speculation on whether he did it fully intentionally or not). Of course, if your pushing would have worked, rather than Derbyshire's, it would have taken Spencer/Fitzgerald into the completely opposite direction. But this is not the direction in which things gravitate in our society, since fear dominates logic.


xlbrl said...

Spengler is an interesting fellow. His insights are occasionally profound as well as prescient. But, and I give him credit, he leaves his ideas over the years up in his Forum, where we will see his opinion bend through the ravages of emotion and frustration over time. That tells us he is not the cold-eyed observer he would wish to be. He was rooting for the good guys--America-- and when we flattened out he took to cracking his knuckles and cackling with the false cynics of Asian philosophies. Perhaps he has tea with them regularly.
I find it tiring myself to be an American, considering the impressive lack of support we get in Europe. But, in revenge, I'm going to pull up a chair myself, cackle, and enjoy the show in the old country coming up. Mama says, don't get mad, get even. Christian Bovee says, it is some compensation for great evil that they enforce great lessons. I think the next turn is yours.

Mr. Spog said...

"The typical behaviour of a right-winger is to have an apologetic, as well as defensive, position towards the people to the left of him, while denouncing the people to the right of him as something evil. Derbyshire fits this pattern."

My impression is that you are doing Derbyshire an injustice here. Isn't he about the only mainstream (white) conservative prepared to risk participating in the same forum as Jared Taylor?

Conservative Swede said...


I agree that Spengler is interesting. I will come back to things that he has written in my blog.

Mr. Spog,

You are absolutely right that I did Derbyshire injustice in that formulation. I saw it afterwards, but didn't change it since I had also sent it to Auster (and he might have posted it).

What I'm getting at is a more general phenomenon of the right here. And Derbyshire is not typical, of course. It's the phenomenon of the asymmetry between left and right -- leftist being the highest developed form of Christianity, with everything gravitating towards it.

Derbyshire has a think skin, and his defense against this gravity mainly consists of being detached and disinterested. But even so, Derbyshire is also affected by this gravity. As the other guys at NRO he can flirt with cultural leftism without reservation, while being sooner to distance himself or ridicule opinions to the right of his.