Thursday, April 11, 2013

Harris vs Greenwald and Hussain

Sam Harris has written an extremely long commentary in response to recent criticism he's endured from the left from Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain of Al Jazeera.  I offer some commentary below.

Harris is pretty upset by some of the charges levied against him.  It's understandable.  He's right that when a charge of racism is levied against you, even if there's no truth to it at all, it's still successfully smears you.  Some people, even if they side with Harris, they'll think in the back of their minds that maybe there's some truth to the charge.  And so Harris has already lost on this, no matter the facts.  I'm sympathetic to his plight on this.

But then, this doesn't mean he's not a bigot either.  His defense seems to be that he's really not a bigot because when he says Islam is unusually wicked his claim is actually true.  But then that's a point of debate.  The old racists might say "I'm not really a racist because my claim that blacks are inferior is actually true."  Does that really change our judgment?  It's not obvious to me that Islam is especially more violent than Christianity or Judaism.  Harris likes to point out that in the Hadith it's death for apostates.  OK.  In the Bible it's death for anyone that would even attempt to persuade you of another faith (Dt 13).  But Christians don't practice that and Muslims do, says Harris.  Yeah, but they did practice it in the past.  Today they exegete it away just as many Muslim scholars exegete that Hadith away.  Maybe the difference in behavior has more to do with the fact that suffering (they have been attacked and subject to dictators for many years) leads people into a more radical form of religion.  Maybe the problem isn't Islam itself.  So if the inferiority of Islam isn't obvious, people are going to question Harris' motives.  Perhaps he is a bigot.

Harris misrepresents the Hussain article right at the start.  He replies to an argument he puts in the mouth of Murtaza Hussain from Al Jazeera. "How can he claim that I ADMIRE fascists."  The article didn't say you ADMIRE fascists.  It said (correctly) that Harris says it is the fascists speaking most sensibly about Islam.  The context he offers doesn't change it.  As Greenwald pointed out, even Hitchens thought Harris was being ridiculous on that one.  He should either stand by it or apologize for it.  Nothing he's saying overturns the accurate quote in Al Jazeera.  He says "I was not praising fascists."  Who claimed you praised fascists?  Nobody.  He's boxing with shadows here.

Harris focuses on the semantics of the word "Islamophobia" but I don't think the distinctions he makes are important.  "But Islam is not a race, so it's different from anti-Semitism."  Yeah, that's true.  I don't think anybody is saying Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are exactly alike.  What matters is, is Harris guilty of Islamophobia as Greenwald defines it?  I think so.

Harris clearly doesn't understand the point of Chomsky's quote about how we should first look in the mirror before criticizing others.  In fact somehow he gets it backwards.  He says "Afghan girls won't be benefited by reading Chomsky's books."  Yeah, that's Chomsky's point.  You should focus on what happens in your own backyard. So if you were an Afghan you would be right to focus on the errors within Islam instead of US crimes.  He's not asking them to read his books and focus on the sins of Americans.  He's telling us all to look in the mirror.  This is not complicated and Harris is not stupid, but I don't think he can grasp it.  I find that a bit strange.

And then he launches into a tirade about how Muslims attack people that draw cartoons, revealing very clearly that he still doesn't get the point from Chomsky.  Maybe 100's of people are dead as a result of the cartoon related violence (a lot of it I think was just protests where opposing groups came in contact with each other and just started fighting, so most of the death was not the result of targeting, though some was).  Nobody in this debate supports that, but we also don't support the crimes of Genghis Khan, and us bitching about it probably does an equal amount of good.  Dick Cheney is responsible for the death of more than a million if you go through the Middle East and Latin America.  That's not the focus for Harris.  Instead maybe in Somalia a bunch of illiterate peasants clashed in response to the cartoons.  That's where we should focus our energy for Harris.  Chomsky and Greenwald say no.  And this is where the suspicion of bigotry comes in.  When you focus on the much smaller crimes of the "others" and focus very little on the crimes you are responsible for and can control (that is the stuff that occurs right under your nose) what motivates that mentality?  It may be bigotry.

His challenge to Greenwald to draw anti-Islam cartoons once again betrays his inability to recognize the point from Chomsky.  I mean, if you go to China and criticize the government, maybe you'll go to jail.  I don't approve, but I don't talk about it much because there's not much I can do about it.  I should talk about things that I can effect.  Harris' response to that point would be "Oh I see, so in that case why not go to China and criticize the government."  What the hell are you talking about, I'm not saying they aren't terrible in much of what they do.  I'm saying it's not where I should focus my energy because I can't change it.

For Harris we are not occupiers of Saudi Arabia because the violent dictatorship we prop up and support in their repression of their own people has granted us "permission."  That's pretty incredible and I think needs no refutation.

Regarding profiling, Harris should consider that the threat posed by Islamic terrorism is a threat that is much smaller than the threat posed by your own bathtub.  You may drown in it.  You may get hit by a falling coconut.  A few Americans die every year from it.  Over the last few years these threats are greater than Islamic terrorism.  I think it's fair to say that really there is no Islamic terrorist threat for Americans.  This is why the FBI actually concocts their own terrorist schemes and finds a dupe to go along, who they then arrest and pretend they saved us.  It's such a remote threat that they must concoct their own terrorists.  This fearful response where we are prepared to make life difficult for Muslims and those that look like a Muslim isn't gaining us much.  So again, what is motivating people to do this?  Bigotry?

His description of the crazed nuclear armed Muslim who cares not for death is nothing new.  "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner...We value life and human dignity. They don't care about life and human dignity."  That's General William Westmoreland during the Vietnam War.  Similar sentiments applied to Native Americans, Communists, whichever group happens to be the target of US violence.  The "civilized world" needs to come to terms with this.  You know, the West.  The ones responsible for far more invasions, death, and environmental destruction than any other group.  The good people.  This is an old strategy and will be seen for what it is in the future, just like we can see the racism of Westmoreland for what it is.

Iraq war supporter and renowned Israel firster Charles Schumer, who's never seen an act of aggression from Israel that was over the line is supposedly a "liberal" Senator, so apparently Harris' pro-torture views are mitigated by the fact that this so called liberal agrees.  I wonder what the word "liberal" means any more.  Maybe if you are a Democrat?  Pro-choice, pro-gay marriage but well to the right of the population on everything else?

Abu Graib was bad, for Harris.  But Abu Graib was the least of it.  What about beating people to death routinely?  What about cramming trucks full of farmers (or Taliban if you prefer) into cargo trucks and letting them bake in the sun to death as they bite each other to get fluids?  Pretty bad, right?  Probably Harris' has never heard of it.  But he did hear about those bad Muslims that were upset by a cartoon.  Why does he notice that and fail to notice the stuff perpetuated by the "civilized world"?

Orwell said "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."  This is where the underlying bigotry suspicion finds a root.  Who's atrocities is he able to see?  What does he discuss?  We all agree that violence in response to cartoons was wrong.  But in truth it's kind of small potatoes compared to what the "civilized world" has done.  Even if it weren't we still should be talking about ourselves first.  We should talk about what we are responsible for.  What we can control.  Harris prefers to focus on the crimes of others that we can't control.  And for the neocons and those that seek hegemony this is a useful function.


Anonymous said...

I think what offends Westerners about Islam isn't the sins of the state so much as the practice of Islamic law within their culture--in other words, the way they treat one another. The ignorance of the ordinary Westerner to the misdeeds of his or her government is a sort of evil, but the day to day oppression and barbarism (not to mention the disproportional role religion plays day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute) is something reasonable to oppose and not racist in the least. It's also not unreasonable to note that ultra-religious Saudi Arabia gave birth to most of the 9/11 hijackers. In spite of our ignorance of the sins of our state, our culture as best practiced is much less oppressive than anywhere with a Muslim majority. Western liberals should defend their values and quit apologizing for religious fanaticism.

Unknown said...

Harris is a bigot, no doubt. His bait-and-switch atheism is deplorable, and his refusal to address criticism in an intellectually honest manner is legendary. There's a reason for that: He's said many deeply deplorable things, and when faced with the evidence he can only retreat by smearing critics and claiming he's misquoted. It's a tired and dishonest strategy, and it's time atheists clean up their kitchen -- starting with Harris. The credibility of atheism depends on it.

Michael Stephenson said...

I have been looking for an article that put's the case in such a way that even a staunch Harris supporter might actually get it, and I think this is the one.

Great work, this sums up exactly how I have felt about the subject since long before this blew up, but have never been able to put into words so effectively.

Patrick said...

Nice post. Nice site. You should probably update your Greenwald link. It's still pointing to Salon, even though he's been at The Guardian for many months now... ;-)

Reece said...

Have you actually read Sam Harris's blog? About 20% has to do with Islam, and 80% with meditation, free will, gun control, Christianity, etc. It doesn't seem like Sam Harris has glommed onto criticizing Islam as much as you've glommed onto Sam Harris's criticism of Islam. Which is David Frum's point.

You make the good point that we should generally direct our energies where they do the most good. But that's not necessarily in our geographical "backyard." For example, it's well-known that charitable donations do far more good per dollar by, say, providing mosquito netting in the third-world than in one's local community. So that point is simply empirically wrong.

Right after you make that point that we should focus on the here and now, in order to effect change, you criticize Sam Harris for not currently taking on Dick Cheney. You know Dick Cheney stopped being VP in January 2009, right? Have you taken a look at the hard-hitting topics covered by The Guardian, the prestigious publication that employs Greenwald and Hussain? A current front-page article covers the important issue of exactly how outrageous it is that Justin Bieber opined that Anne Frank, if they had hypothetically lived contemporaneously, would have been a "Belieber."

Good stuff. I dare say Sam Harris's blog consistently discusses far more serious and relevant topics.

Brian said...

I agree that it can be dangerous to focus too much on your favorite examples to illustrate your points, and I think their may be some merit to the argument that suggests that Sam Harris has been guilty of focusing too much on Islam. However, this article just blithely paints Harris as a likely bigot seemingly to "win" a larger ideological argument, which, from what I can tell, is that much more suffering is perpetrated against innocents by "the civilized world" than Islam will ever perpetrate against anyone, and that Harris ignores these "greater" evils.

This is a poor argument because it unfairly compares Harris' writings about specific, documented beliefs and misdeeds of Muslims with every bad act committed by anyone who happens to be associated with the West. The analogy breaks down immediately when you consider that individuals and groups belonging to Western countries invariably commit atrocities only in perpendicular contradiction to the core values championed by the West (human rights, equality, freedom from oppression, expression), while Muslim individuals and groups very often commit atrocities in perfect harmony with their core values (vengeance, inferiority of women, severe punishment/death for holding certain beliefs).

And if that is not enough to demonstrate how absurd the "Islam does evil vs. West does evil" analogy is, just consider another of its implications. If the West does evil (which it clearly does), you must also admit that it is responsible for immeasurable amounts of good. Now consider Islam. Its teachings clearly sometimes motivate people to commit evil acts. Harris would argue that this is a serious issue, while others seem to believe this is small potatoes. But what good is Islam responsible for? Saving souls? Inner peace? If Islam suddenly were smitten out of existence, would it really be so hard to find its replacement?

Reece said...

Greenwald suffers from grayscale-blindness. He sees things in binary. It's the same disease George W. Bush suffered from.

For example, one of Greenwald's latest tweets:

Awkward: US postpones ICBM missile test lest it look a tad hypocritical while denouncing N Korea's

Let's leave aside UN resolutions prohibiting North Korea from acquiring ICBMs, and not the U.S. from possessing them. Does Greenwald seriously think that the net effect on the well-being of humanity is the same between North Korea possessing ICBMs and the U.S. possessing the same?

Greenwald/Hussain make the same mistake on religion. Once you accept that "religion" is nothing more than ideological/doctrinal attachment (just like Communism, conservatism, liberalism, supply-side economics, only much more tightly held and violently defended), and the substance of the doctrine matters, then it's obvious that not all religions are equally harmful. For every religion like Buddhism that's better than the median, there must be a religion that's worse. Unfortunately it happens to be that the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) are probably worse than average, and while Christianity and Judaism have gone through an Enlightenment period forced onto them by Aristotelian thinking and the developments of science and European philosophy, Islam is currently still in the adolescent stage that characterized Christianity and Judaism centuries ago.

Unknown said...

Harris started of so well with The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, but since then has proven himself seriously muddleheaded.

In the opening sentence of his essay opposing the "9/11 mosque", he effectively equates all of Islam with the actions of the 9/11 hijackers. That's straight-up bigotry, and that's when I stopped paying attention to him.

In The End of Faith, Harris says that moderate Christianity, by making Christianity "normal", provides a cover for extremist Christianity. I can certainly see that applying to the cultural dynamics of the U.S. But Harris is gravely in error if he thinks that moderate Islam presents a similar problem. The jump from fundamentalist Islam to atheism is too far of a leap; moderate Islam is needed and should be encouraged.

Jon said...

Buford, what you say is a common caricature. You say Western liberals should quit apologizing for religious fanaticism. We're not apologizing for it. We don't condone it. We just don't think focusing on the sins of others makes sense. Look in the mirror first.

As far as our culture being "much less oppressive," that's debatable. Do you think they agree with that in places where US support retains an oppressive Arab regime in power? Iraq, Afghanistan? How about Nicaragua, Vietnam, Haiti, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia? Have these nations been oppressed by Muslim states?

Reece, I think focusing on Cheney is still relevant. He's doing interviews, influencing policy. If we don't punish him for his crimes then others that assume his position will assume they are above the law as well, so we can expect more crimes from them.

I don't know why you expect me to try and defend all of the contents of the Guardian.

Brian, you say that Islamic violence is in accord with Islamic teaching whereas western violence is more perpendicular to their stated values. I think this is very much debatable, and probably hard to know. I think the principle of looking in the mirror first holds in any case. Set the speculative questions about motives aside and take a look at the actual corpse tally of Muslim states. Whatever our values, we're just killing a lot more people. Even if that weren't true we should look in the mirror first, but given that it is true I think all this digging through the hadith that Harris does is doubly irresponsible. And by the way Muslims I know barely know Islamic teaching, just like most Christians really don't know what is in the Bible.

Reece you are wise to leave aside N Korea's UN resolution violations because the US is likewise in gross violation of various resolutions as is Israel.

I suppose you think it's wrong of them to do ICBM tests because they are bad and OK for us because we are good. If you can step into the shoes of others you may find that they would think neither of us are good.

You say Christianity and Judaism are through the enlightenment and hence we are civilized, whereas Islam is still backwards and is in the dark ages. Take a look at the corpse tally I provide above. If they are so backwards why do we have so much more blood on our hands?

Reece said...

Nicaragua, Vietnam, Bolivia? Jon, you're talking about things that happened in the 1970s and 1980s. You might as well bring up the decimation of the Native Americans. It's simply disingenuous to compare the worst acts of the United States throughout its 200-year history to the day-to-day oppression of women, non-Muslims, freethinkers, and others in Muslim-majority states.

I'm not interested in playing the morality-by-body-count game. If the goal were to avoid body counts at any given time and at the expense of everything else, then the Civil War was the biggest mistake in U.S. history. I presume you don't think Abraham Lincoln was a war criminal, like some on the right do.

Reece said...

I agree with you and Greenwald that our Israel policy is egregious, our support of the Saudi regime is troubling, Guanatanamo is problematic, and a couple of other things. But we've got to be comparing apples to apples, and talking about the same timeline.

I think it's rather irrelevant when people argue that Greenwald supported the Iraq War a few years ago, but then you have to grant me that a fortiori it's totally irrelevant what the U.S. did in the 1970s and 1980s under administrations whose members are mostly deceased and that have little continuity to U.S. foreign policy today. We have to be on the same timeline. Sam Harris and others are focused on the damage that certain ideologies are doing NOW. If you want to talk about what's happening now, then Israel is an atrocity but as far as Vietnam today we're a net force for good. Let's get the timeline straight.

Examinator said...

I tend to go for the complexity of differences in individual biology argument. That defines the expression (intensity) of our individual survival instincts aka threat assessment instinct. Is it like me then it’s good…not necessarily a threat. If not then be wary until it becomes familiar and NOT a threat
If you observe any breed of say dog you'll notice that some individuals as naturally timid and other not.

Some Dogs bark or get aggressive with that which is new ( in their minds ) is it a threat (curiosity) ? Should I Fight or Flee? etc. Given that we have the same instincts (albeit perhaps more nuanced or sophisticated if you like) the distribution of attitudes/responses is logically analogous/consistent (both logic and coincidentally evolution.

Stick with it a bit longer it’ll become clear. Like desensitizing a dog one must discover what about the action/ item specifically that is concerning that particular DOG (novelty, noise, color, size, competitor, or predator et al).

Because human instincts (emotions are essentially sophisticated expressions of the same) are way more complex and as such if we are trying to change those emotional responses (opinions) we need to be clear on both the individual’s instincts we want to appeal to, the lower on the instinctual hierarchy the better.
For this reason the most effective advertising is those that appeal to emotions not logic bypassing reason (objectivity) usually based generalized stereotyping.

Political and religious are full of this bypassing of objective logic. In the case of political advertising the targets fear of the unfamiliar, threat warnings …belonging to (one of you) familiar (nationalism, white, black, single, gay, Christian ad nauseum are subsets there of. The primary point is abusing/ridiculing or even logic merely entrenches/polarizes the sides into combative opponents [competitors for dominance/survival])

The trick is to emphasize what is shared and negotiate on a win, win basis.
And avoid stereo typing and their associated spurious/ problematic assumptions.
e.g. You’re either one of us or you’re a total threat. In truth the Christian religiosity as killed/maimed more people directly or indirectly than any other. This is second only to Islam despite their similarities. In short Americans in particular
conservative Christians simply see it as a competitor (ergo threat)

Jon said...

Reece, I'm content to talk about more recent crimes. I think the argument you make is really tough whether you start 50 years back or 10. Wars, torture. These drone strikes target children, funeral processions, and we also implement the double tap strikes that hit a target and subsequent rescuers. In Gaza in 2008 you had the so called "Gaza War" which wasn't really a war. There were no battles. Just the IDF with US weapons bombing defenseless people. I'm pretty sure Israel lost more to friendly fire than in retaliation. You had the Arab Spring, an effort to achieve democracy, beaten back with tear gas cannisters made in the USA. The US is working very hard to prevent any effective climate change agreements, which has already lead to much suffering and will lead to much more. How do the atrocities coming from the Muslim world compare? I'm not exactly sure, though my suspicion is the suffering we have inflicted is greater. But to tell you the truth it doesn't matter much to me. I don't pay super close attention to their crimes for reasons explained by Chomsky and Greenwald. I'm not responsible for them and I can't do much about them. If they are worse and we are justly regarded as "civilized" and they are more backwards, that's an interesting discussion. But it doesn't change much about where we should be focusing our energy right now. It shoudln't be on cartoons, as it is for Harris.

Reece said...

I've just finished agreeing with you that Israel policy is egregious. I contact my representatives with my opposition to our Israel policy, just as I do about those imprisoned or killed for blasphemy or apostasy in Muslim-majority countries. So I don't know why you keep bringing it up, except as a misleading rhetorical device.

You're doing precisely what many others do when they caricature Sam Harris, which is a rapid strafing that superficially touches on several topics without actually being rigorous or correct on any of them. It achieves an excellent muddying of the waters, which then requires orders of magnitude more work for someone like Robbie Bensinger to clean up issue-by-issue.

Out of expediency, I'm going to focus on your primary point, which is about how to focus our energy. First, you're creating a false choice. As I said, I contact my representatives about my opposition to our Israel policy, erosion of 4th Amendment rights and habeas corpus, Guantanamo, etc., just as I do about those imprisoned or killed for blasphemy or apostasy in Muslim-majority countries. Most fans of Sam Harris are similarly "liberal" on most or all of these issues. If anything, the issue where my efforts are probably least likely to effect change is Israel policy, largely because of AIPAC -- opposing AIPAC is like throwing Nerf darts at a steel wall. Our two political parties climb over each other to see who can be most AIPAC-compliant, to the point where, as Greenwald pointed out, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) recently introduced a totally ridiculous AIPAC-sponsored bill that would discriminate against Arab- and Muslim-Americans. So if I followed your method, I would actually take energy away from focusing on Israel and instead focus on State Department efforts to help the atheists bloggers imprisoned for speech in Bangladesh, where something could realistically be achieved.

Second, you assume the fallacy that our energy is best focused in our geographical backyard. That's obviously not the case every instance, and may not even usually be the case. For example, Stanford has some of the world's leading physicians who specialize on Moyamoya syndrome. Since Japanese people are by far the most commonly afflicted by it, they can do the most good by projecting their energies toward the Japanese population, most of which lives in Japan. This Greenwald model of "the backyard" is simply nonsense in a globalized, internet-connected world. The utilitarian ethical model is that you're "responsible" for anything you change, not just your own government. That's why Bill Gates, a fairly intelligent guy, has calculated that he can have the most impact per dollar in Africa and Asia.

Now to this canard the Sam Harris misdirects his energy toward cartoons, where it is wasted. First, Sam Harris is an expert in comparative religion and neuroscience. So he directs his energies toward those topics (as I mentioned, most of his energies aren't directed toward Islam per se). Glenn Greenwald's domain (he's not so much an "expert") is constitutional law and national security issues, so he directs his energies toward those topics. Second, Sam Harris isn't concerned with "cartoons," but rather with freedom of speech and helping those who would be imprisoned or executed for speech or reasons of conscience. Greenwald has quite eloquently described the centrality of freedom of speech among our corpus of rights, so you can even read him on that topic.

Examinator said...

amen, you put your point well.As I said in the intro to my last missive.(the bit that got missed in the transfer from the WP.(bugger!) Also missed was the bit that made the point that Harris, Greenwald et al as opposed to Chomsky are looking at issues on a superficial QAD (Quick and Dirty)way. Their focus is to infotain, rather than fully inform, analyse and work through to any real form of solution or negotiating position. They are . as you say charactertures. As you touch on Americans can/t expect to neutralise the current state of hostilities with the middle east (Muslims) without a massive change in its (hegemonic)foreign policy. To do that US Citizens need a change of mind set i.e. that they are inherently better than anywhere/anyone else.(as justified by *institutionalised* Christianity. This has enabled the the seekers of *personal* wealth/power space to deliberately avoid the long term reasoning parts of the brain to appeal directly to the emotions/instincts.(As in the the part that made it.

As the Mining Executive said about Mining (any) Corporation...." Their job is to make a profit and if it means destroying the world so be it" long term world health isn't their problem.
In context, this is exactly what the Military manufacturing Complex is doing. They're selling fear to get a bigger market, Part of their strategy is to ensure free range weapons (desensitises) violence. the other part is JOBS. Those who depend on them for employment or "inculcated" pleasure are going to defend their production regardless of the logical probable (IMO inevitable) consequences.

Jon said...

I brought up Israel not because I don't think you agree it is an atrocity that we are responsible for, but because I'm addressing your claim that on net the US is a force for good, at least more so than the Muslim world, so I'm listing some of our recent atrocities and expecting you to list comparable Muslim atrocities. You didn't want to go all the way back to Vietnam and I think that's fine. Go ahead and pick the starting point. I suggested 10 years, so I talked about Israel, but again, pick whatever starting point you like.

I agree with your point that our energy should be focused in our own backyard not geographically but metaphorically. Focus on what we can influence. I think we can influence Israel policy in the US so I focus energy there as apparently you do, so this is a point of agreement, even if you think it's hopeless.

As far as Harris being concerned with freedom of speech, watch his commentary here regarding Julian Assange, a person who brought the world more relevant information and exposed more lies from the powerful than about anybody (see here for a sample of some of the relevant stories). For Harris Assange is a "creepy bastard" that needs to shut up because "certain secrets" need to be retained because they keep people safe. He then goes on to make excuses for the soldiers involved in the "Collateral Murder" video and say that yes, Americans and the rest of the world should have been prevented from seeing and learning about this.

This is the kind of thing that exposes Harris as the religionist people like Chomsky say he is. His religion is state power. He's all ready to condemn violations of freedom of speech when it is due to enemies of the state and is useful for the agenda of empire. When we're talking about much more substantial revelations that undermine state power (his favored religion) now he objects. This is why he focuses only on the sins of others, never on the sins of our government. He is a tool in service to state power.

Robby Bensinger said...

Hullo! Murtaza and I have been talking about your blog post above, and you may have stuff you want to say in response. You can find our conversation here:

Jon said...

Thanks for letting me know, Robby, I'll check it out.

Julian De Medeiros said...

I'd missed Harris' response to Greenwald's accusations.. And yes, it is very long. Interesting though.

John said...

I'm years late to the party, but just thought I'd offer a few comments: (1) You "level" criticism at someone, not "levy." (2) There are a ton of other typos in this article... makes me wonder how carefully the author thought through the ideas since the writing was not done carefully.

More to the substance, Harris's main problem is that he speaks with precision about delicate topics and it makes it easy for people to claim he said something different. For example, he says something like "a vast number of Muslims are dangerous religious fanatics." Then someone like Cenk Uygur quotes him as saying "Sam Harris claims that ALL Muslims are suicide bombers!" Reza Aslan is guilty of the same thing and really should know better.

Greenwald is an embarrassment to journalism, if he were a journalist. And Hussain was this week quoted as calling Sam's coauthor (Maajid Nawaz) a "porch monkey". This is an employee of Greenwald's at The Intercept. This passes for "journalism" in 2015 I guess.

Jon said...

There are a ton of other typos in this article.

Fair enough.

More to the substance

I don't see that what you wrote on substance has anything to do with the substance of what I wrote. I agree that Cenk misrepresented Harris. Whether Greenwald is an embarrassment to journalism also isn't relevant to what I wrote. A silly claim when you survey the various sycophants that pass for journalists these days, but regardless, this doesn't change anything about Harris' bad arguments.