Instead of writing my book, I’ve been spending a good part of this afternoon in an illuminating email exchange with Scott Shane of the New York Times, who has written two articles blaming me for the Norway mass murders. In my response to the second one, I wrote: “How many times do you think Scott Shane is going to smear me in the New York Times (my comment on the first time is here) without bothering to even try to create the appearance of journalism by contacting me for comment?” That precipitated his first email:
1. Scott Shane to Robert Spencer:
Hi Mr. Spencer — Just saw your recent post about being upset that I didn’t reach you for comment. In fact, I tried on deadline and failed — couldn’t find contact info on your site, and looked for you via Nexis in Sherman Oaks, CA and left some messages for “Robert Spencer” there, though I gather now that I may not have been looking in the right place. I was glad to find that you had addressed the Breivik manifesto issue on your site, and I quoted that and recycled the comment when I mentioned you in the second article. I got this email address from a colleague and I hope it reaches you.
I’m not planning more articles mentioning you at the moment, but please feel free to call or email with any additional thoughts beyond what you posted. And in any case, I’d appreciate your sending any other relevant contact info in case you or your site do arise in another breaking story.
By the way, you have numerous and enthusiastic defenders who have taken the trouble to write to me with their thoughts. Plenty of abusive email, but I’m used to that, as I’m sure you are, too.
Thanks and again, sorry I didn’t manage to reach you earlier.
2. Robert Spencer to Scott Shane:
Dear Mr. Shane.
Thanks for writing.
There is a “Contact Us” box on the right side of the Jihad Watch front page that goes right to me. [Actually, it’s on the left side. Sorry, Scott. — RS]
In any case, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and office number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.
As long as I have you, may I ask why you thought it relevant to bring up Breivik and me in connection with a story about the government not wanting to tar all Muslims with suspicion for terror activity? Can you actually produce a single quote from me, out of 10 books, hundreds of articles, and 25,000+ blog posts in which I have actually done that? I can send you plenty in which I have explicitly denied that all Muslims were terrorist or pro-terror.
As for abusive emails, obviously I told no one to write to you, abusively or no, and yes, I get death threats and abuse in my email on a more or less daily basis. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the one who is supposed to be the “hater” is the object of so much more “hate” than I could conceivably have had the energy to dish out (not to say that I accept the appellation)?
3. Scott Shane to Robert Spencer:
Thanks. I stupidly missed the contact link.
On the other point, that part of the article was about the Obama administration’s promise to create a collection of vetted material for teaching law enforcement and other officials the basics of Islam and related topics. I think very few Muslims would accept your books, which frankly do come across to most people as hostile to Islam, as fair and appropriate material to teach about their religion. The FBI was clearly embarrassed by this particular PowerPoint and said it is no longer used.
I’m sure it must have been unpleasant to discover that you were cited so frequently in Breivik’s manifesto. But it was also, in my view, clearly newsworthy that your work and that of other American “counter-jihad” bloggers and writers appear to have influenced him so significantly.
4. Robert Spencer to Scott Shane:
Thanks for your reply.
Are you aware of the OIC campaign to brand any and all examination of the ideology of Islamic terrorists as “hostile to Islam,” and to criminalize it accordingly? My work shows what Islamic jihadists point to in Islamic texts and teachings in order to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. Can you substantiate the charge that I display any hostility to Islam as such from anything that I have written? Hostility to the hatred of and persecution of non-Muslims, sure. Hostility to the oppression of women, sure. Hostility to the denial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, sure. Shouldn’t any person who values human rights have such hostility? Shouldn’t you? And if I report how such outrages of human rights are justified in Islamic texts by Islamic theologians, as they are on a daily basis, does that make me “hostile to Islam”? Is it wrong for law enforcement officials to have knowledge of the ideology that motivates people who are working to commit terror attacks in the U.S.?
In reality, I did not influence Breivik at all. Read his manifesto, and you will find that he was plotting violence in the 1990s, before I had published anything about Islam. A useful video exposing his real agenda and showing how I could not possibly have influenced him is here:
I invite you to take 8 minutes and watch it, and tell me your impressions.
Also, Breivik cited many, many people. He cited Obama approvingly. He cited the New York Times. He cited Locke, Jefferson, Darwin, etc. He said he thought that his ilk should make common cause with the jihadists. Why did you not report on these aspects of his manifesto?
5. Scott Shane to Robert Spencer:
Thanks, interesting video, though the smirking tone doesn’t appeal to me. I do think a fair reading of Breivik’s manifesto shows that he had embraced the view of Islam as a menace, or potential menace, to Western values that you and many others have also embraced. Obama, Locke, Jefferson and Darwin were cited, of course, but not nearly as often or as centrally as your work.
Trust me, if I had found dozens of approving citations of Al Sharpton or Glenn Greenwald or Karl Marx, I would have reported that.
6. Robert Spencer to Scott Shane:
Smirking tone is well deserved, no? The biased mainstream media reporter didn’t ring any bells with you? I guess the old adage about we’re the last people to see our own faults holds true in this case. Anyway, your response is just counter-assertion, not reply. Wood demonstrated definitively that what motivated him was not my work, but other things altogether. Just saying “He was motivated by your work” is no refutation of the evidence he marshaled.
Also, Scott, if I have never advocated violence or anything but legal action, and some madman commits murder and cites me, what responsibility do I thereby incur? Martin Luther King consistently preached nonviolence. Yet the KKK blamed him for the Watts riots, saying that the rioters agreed with his philosophy and he had inspired them. Was he thus discredited? Would you say that no one should criticize anything, because some nut might mistake the criticism as a call to violence?
7. Scott Shane to Robert Spencer:
Well, those are good questions. Did Anwar al Awlaki incite violence 2002-2008, when he didn’t call for violence, condemned 9/11 but also asserted that the US was at war with Islam? A lot of your fans would say yes, I suspect. Some also parse the words of CAIR leaders from some years ago for evidence of ill intent, but maybe that’s as unfair as blaming you for Breivik!
8. Robert Spencer to Scott Shane:
Anwar Awlaki didn’t call for violence from 2002 to 2008? He didn’t to the New York Times, which praised him as a moderate, but he praised Palestinian suicide bombers in 2002, exhorted his hearers to Islamic martyrdom (i.e., killing unbelievers and getting killed in the process) in London in Dec. 2002 and Jan. 2003, was arrested in 2006 for kidnapping a Shi’ite and holding him for ransom, and sent a message to the Somali jihadists al-Shabaab in 2008, praising them.
If you’re comparing me to Awlaki, please specify where I ever justified violence of any kind by anyone in any way analogous to any of that.
As for CAIR, I am not sure what you mean by “ill intent.” I have never said they’re inciting to violence. Their record is clear: Ibrahim Hooper said that he’d like to see the US Government become Islamic, but not through violence. And I am convinced on the basis of his consistent actions that he is pursuing that goal, but not through violence. Hooper believes in Sharia, I believe Sharia is oppressive. He fights for it, I fight against it. Neither of us are violent. If I am responsible for Breivik, he is responsible for Bassam Khafagi and the other CAIR officials who have found their way into violent jihad plots. But I have never asserted that, and don’t believe it.
9. Scott Shane to Robert Spencer:
10. Robert Spencer to Scott Shane:
Great. Thanks. I look forward to your New York Times article defending and exonerating me.