Recently Jihad Watch has been embroiled in controversy over the comments field. Not only did CAIR try to trump up a case against me using not my words, but those of unmoderated commenters here, but also I have been receiving a series of emails complaining about various commenters who have been banned and various comments that have been erased, and others that have not been — with the complaint made that we favor one side of an alleged debate.
That is, of course, false. Comments, as I have said many times, are unmoderated. Anyone is free to take whatever side and to disagree with or criticize me or Hugh, as anyone who reads the comments for an extended period can attest. One can easily find in the archives many, many dissenters from our positions and even apologists for violent jihad. And, pace CAIR, I have also said many times that comments that are abusive, genocidal, paint all Muslims with a broad brush, etc., are unwelcome. Off-topic rants, politically motivated baiting, etc., are unwelcome also.
However, as I actually spend my days tracking jihad activity and writing about it, I don’t have time to monitor the comments. I remove posts that are brought to my attention. Since I don’t see most comments and this is an unmoderated forum, no fair-minded person can draw any conclusions about what I believe from those that remain — although I am aware that there are many people with agendas reading the site (Hi, Hussam! Hi, Ibrahim!).
Do we ban people with whom we disagree? As Hugh wrote to me this morning, “Then we’d have to ban everyone in the world, and then you’d have to ban me, and I’d have to ban you, and the page would be blank, blank, blank, beneath the blaze of noon.”
Why do we continue to allow comments at all? Because we believe that the antidote to bad speech is more speech, and that a free and open discussion of issues relating to Islamic terrorism is needed now more than ever, and is increasingly difficult to come by.
Anyway, Hugh recently had an encounter with a commenter who represented himself as a Roman Catholic and parroted many lines, as longtime readers can see, of apologists for Islamic terror. Of course, he doubtless was who he said he was, as there are useful idiots in every camp, but in any case, after receiving many substantive replies, he responded indignantly that he thought this was a place for the free exchange of ideas, and stalked away. Hugh asked me to post his rejoinder as an article, and I am happy to oblige:
“I somehow mistakenly believed that this was a forum for trading ideas/facts/arguments back and forth.”
— from a posting by a wounded and disillusioned poster here
You were mistaken. This is in the main a pedagogic site, with occasional time out for paronomastic play and musings on language. Postings cannot be patrolled, though egregious examples of a lack of decorum will be removed when brought to the attention of the bouncer in the back, the one chatting up the hat-check girl. That some choose to trade insults with one another, to crudely or rudely emote, or to bite at the proferred bait of those trolling invitingly for unwary fish in McElligot’s Pool, is not part of the site’s intent, is not encouraged, is actively discouraged. And not only by the bouncer and that fetching hat-check girl.
There are many sites where people can “trade,” as you put it, “ideas/facts/arguments” — in short, all that Internet equivalent of the late-night discussion of such fascinating freshman dorm-room topics as “Is there a God?” and “Free Will and Determinism” and “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” and “Why Good Things Happen to Bad People,” and “Whether Pigs Have Wings.” These are sites where no one really rises beyond a certain level. The cretins come to dominate, because they have the most stamina, while the intelligent, if they ever showed up in the first place, often drop out dismayed. True equality in the Great Democracy of the Internet is as much to be deplored as Democracy and Equality in any school or classroom, from that of the first-grade teacher in the hopelessly progressive school who has his charges vote on whether the next unit should be on dinosaurs or on Greek mythology, to the college teacher who glows as he tells you about how his students acquire the “Learning Experience” and complacently assures you that “I don’t teach my students — my students teach me. I learn so much from them.”
Give me the sober atmosphere of the series of lectures on “Our Debt to Antiquity,” delivered in 1903 by Dr. Zielinski of the University of St. Petersburg to the highest classes of that city’s secondary schools, or Professor Nikolai Trubetzkoy in 1934 delivering lectures on Slavic phonology at the University of Vienna, or Dr. Yuri Lotman in 1977, in his Tartu exile, speaking on “Literature and Literariness in Pushkin” to rapt listeners who had arrived by train from Moscow and even Siberia in order to hear him speak. In each case, however passionately divine the icy intellect, human warmth heaved behind the glinting glasses. And a perfect internal thermostat, to be adjusted as needed, between that human and that divine. No nonsense, no sentimental “democracy in the classroom” or “learning” through trading of “ideas/facts/arguments,” no voting by students as to whether they’d like to build models of a Triceratops this month or would prefer to draw pictures of Hercules killing the Erymanthian Boar. Spare us, please, all that yearning for earnest freshman-year exchanges of “ideas” and “arguments” — as you optimistically call them.
There are many websites where you can engage, ad libitum, in those Yankee-swapmeets of “ideas/facts/arguments” in which you express such an interest. Your own postings offered little in the way of fact, or cogent argument, so one wonders. Exaggerated attention was given to such matters as the religious affiliation of your best friend, and the ethnic and religious identification of those to whom you are related by marriage, and you took great care to identify yourself (who cares?), more than once, as a “Roman Catholic.” All of these inconsequential details — conservative Jewish best friend, Lebanese Christian in-laws, Roman Catholic faith — are apparently supposed to place your youth-wants-to-know disingenuous apologetics for Islam, no matter how lame or inane, as beyond criticism, because of that best friend who davens, that sister-in-law who cooks such fabulous kibbeh, and your own unforgettable if largely forgotten memorizing of the Baltimore Catechism when you were a kid and what you really wanted was to watch the Baltimore Colts on television. You have been semaphoring that not only are you most definitely not a Muslim (who cares?) but that you are surrounded by those who are most definitely not Muslims either, and that it must follow, therefore… — therefore, what must follow?
At those thousands of sites where you can trade “ideas/facts/arguments” with the like-minded or unlike-minded, the kind of thing you have offered by way of ex-ungue-leonem sample would fit right in. And at the same sites, at no extra charge, you may exchange thoughts and feelings with others about what you think and especially what you feel, to your heart’s content.
This site is not one of them.