15 November 2007

Howlers

A short while ago I posted on an essay in The Nation by Juan Cole called “Combating Muslim Extremism.” Today I received a howler of a response from an anonymous commentator. I thought I would just let the response pass, indeed I deleted it almost immediately, but it is so idiotic that I feel I should exercise my god-given right to ridicule the truly dense. Here is the comment:

“Get an education, Jim. This guy Robert Spencer has an extensive
historical understanding of Islam and tells it like it is.”

It is accompanied by links to a couple of web pages where Mr. Spencer apparently offers his copious outpourings of insight and wisdom. My presumption is that the commentator believes I should read Spencer instead of Cole on matters of Middle East Politics and History. I will contrast the two in as neutral a way as I am able:

Robert Spencer is a toady for notorious fanatic and all around buffoon David Horowitz [1] [2]. He holds an M.A. in Religious Studies (with a thesis not on Islam but on 19th Century Catholicism) and has published a handful of books published by Regnery, well known purveyor of conservative drivel. Spencer is director of Jihad-Watch and he writes regularly for those well-known bastions of solid scholarship Frontpage and Human Events.

Juan Cole is is Richard P. Mitchell Distinguished University Professor at the Unviersity of Michigan. He has a Ph.D. (UCLA, 1984) in Islamic Studies, has published a handful of books with academic presses and a very large number of papers in scholarly journals, speaks several Middle Eastern and South Asisan languages, has served as President of the Middle East Studies Association and as Editor of the Association's Journal ... and so on.

One may not want to believe Dr. Cole and I have only recommended one essay he has written. But as a matter of initial warrant, at least, if I am given the choice between listening to a person whose work is independently assessed and published, who speaks the relevant indigenous languages, and who has been recognized by his peers and listening to an autodidact whose work is published by an ideologically driven press, I know where I place my bets. The problem with right-wingers is that they place their bets wrongly.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous M.Landsberg said...

At least you admit that you're placing a bet and that you really don't know what you're talking about.

16 November, 2007 11:03  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

m.l,

Nice try. Actually your inference is way too quick. I am placing a bet on whom I listen to based on an assessment of the way they place their assertions and beliefs at risk of being challenged. The blind peer-review process as it exists in academic publishing is not perfect, but it generates far more reliable knowledge than the combination of ideology and pomey-making that drives outfits like Regnery or any of the Horowitz inspired outlets.

I am a pragmatist in philosophical terms. That means I treat all sorts of knowledge claims as hypotheses that might turn out to be false. So every claim to belief - even those I hold most confidently - is, in that sense, a "bet." That doesn't mean I know nothing. It means that I treat the thingss I know and believe in a fallible way. There is a considerabale distance between a falliblist view and one that admits to knowing nothing.

Thanks for the comment and for identifying yourself.

16 November, 2007 11:49  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

So, Anon you’re back whining again:

“LOL ... Typical bullshittery from a professional academic. I say again, watch and learn something from what he says: instead of using your constant response against being challenged, which is to ignore the substantive points being made and go off on other vaguely abusive tangents. You said nothing to refute what Spencer says. You cannot. All you do is throw pinko mud pies. Sorry Jim, they're not sticking to anyone.”

I am sorry that you feel I am only “vaguely abusive.” I'd hate to disappoint. Try this. You are a moron. The point that you miss is that neither you nor Spencer give anyone any reason to pay any attention to him whatsoever. It is not that I cannot “refute” him. It is that I won’t waste my time engaging a pure ideologue, a hack writing in an echo chamber.

Having said all that, if you don’t want to hear from a “professional academic” (as opposed to whatever sort of academic?) Please feel free to rant and whine elsewhere. Bye!

17 November, 2007 17:22  

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