A reader wrote to us today (via anonymized email) to take us to task for the exposé of Maajid Nawaz, my follow-up about “moderate” Muslims in response to Oren, and Dymphna’s comments. I’ll post his entire message, but first here is my emailed reply:
There’s a lot that could be said about your message, but it’s Christmas Eve and I don’t have much time. I find it ironic that you criticize me for “hid[ing] behind a fictitious name” when you yourself felt it necessary to anonymize your email to us. To lay the irony on even thicker, I am not anonymous. I have been public for five and a half years; that is, half the time I’ve been blogging. I retained my pseudonym because that was one of the two names under which Gates of Vienna had been “branded” since 2004. However, I used my real name (with the publicly acknowledged connection to the Baron) when publishing at Big Peace and FrontPage, and when speaking in public at the OSCE and the conference in Brussels in 2012.
I’m not “hiding”, and if you had actually read more than a superficial selection of what’s posted at Gates of Vienna, you would know that.
I’ll post your critique, and let readers judge it on the merits. All reasonable points of view deserve a public airing.
a.k.a. “Baron Bodissey”
For the record, our critic is apparently unaware of the context of the scriptural reference I used when I wrote “Get thee hence, Satan”. It is a quote from Matthew 4:10 (in the King James Version):
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Jesus said these words when He was tempted by Satan, to indicate that He would not succumb to temptation. He repeated them later to Peter (Matthew 16:23) for a similar reason: Peter wanted to persuade Him that He did not have to follow the path laid out for Him that ended on the cross.
I used this reference because the idea of the “moderate” Muslim is very tempting to us as Westerners. It offers us hope that we might be able to get out of this mess without a civilizational war. But such hopes are illusory; we must put them aside.
Also for the record: I had no idea who “Oren” was when I wrote my first response; he was just another commenter. But even if I had known he was the Michael Oren, it would have made no difference. I judge arguments on their merits, not by the curriculum vitae of the person who formulates them.
Below is our reader’s rebuttal. You all may judge it on the merits, and are welcome take me to task if you agree with him:
Dear Gates of Vienna,
I never engage in writing comments on blogs nor participate in any form of social media. In fact I never even read the comments to articles. Yesterday I made an exception by reading the comments to the piece, “Maajid Nawaz: Stealth Jihadist Exposed.”
Baron Bodissey launched a vicious, ad hominem attack on one of your readers, Oren, who posed a question. If the Baron’s utterly unnecessary attempt at humiliating Oren was not sufficient, he then followed it up later with a piece in which he clearly could not resist re-posting his attack in the body of a regular post for all to see and read.
There are several annoying and pitiful ironies in his attack. First, the Baron uses Oren’s question to prove that Oren himself has been hypnotized by stealth jihad and as a consequence Oren is now himself part of the problem; an unwitting agent as it were of stealth jihad. The irony here is that the Baron’s attack argues much more strongly that the Baron himself has become the unwitting agent. The goal of stealth jihad and other subversions is to get the “enemy” to imprison himself and turn against himself, saving the aggressor the trouble of having to wage all out, overt war. The clear sign of success of this type of subversion is when we become so paranoid that we turn against those who are on our side. Oren is clearly on our side. It certainly may be the case that Oren is somewhat naive, or that he doesn’t possess the intellectual faculties capable of incisively analyzing an admittedly complex and subtle process (subversion) at the same level as the Baron. However it is clearly the Baron who, even with his superior knowledge, has fallen victim to this subversion. His paranoid, excoriating recrimination of Oren – calling him an agent of stealth jihad – is unequivocal evidence. He turned on an ally.
Not for nothing, but should someone have happened upon Gates of Vienna yesterday for the first time, he would have the impression from multiple examples that for you, no one other than yourselves is beyond reproach. I refer in this case to the aspersions made on Douglas Murray by Chatterjee and then further, the nauseatingly “holier-than-thou” schadenfreude-tinged sermon by Dymphna in her piece (or comment section) of “Enemy of State.” There, Douglas Murray is criticized for not being sufficiently “folkish;” Hirsi Ali, although personally injured, possesses inferior knowledge of Islam; Geert Wilders, well, he’s just a politician. Putting aside the utter arrogance, what are you doing? How can you deny that you are alienating allies at the very time when those allies are scarce and our enemies formidable?
Returning to the Baron, had he paused for just a moment to learn about Oren before pulling out his knife, with one click he would have been brought to Oren’s website. Although in Hebrew, Google translate would have done just fine. The Baron would have discovered several things. First that Oren – in his free time – populates his blog with thoughtful articles on a number of topics in which Oren tries to expose hypocrisy and darkness. Even a cursory review of his writings would have further proven that he is on our side. Second, on his “About” page, one learns that Oren is no is no lightweight in terms of intellect and integrity. He is a graduate of the Technion and then served in the IDF for six years – three years beyond his compulsory service precisely because of his desire to be a guardian at the Gates of Israel. He does not hide behind a fictitious name and he is clearly ready to sacrifice something far more precious. I do not know Oren – have never had any communication with him. However I call your attention to overwhelmingly convincing evidence that he is an ally and not a deserving target of humiliation and accusations.
The second tragic irony is to be found in the Baron’s patronizing plea to Oren: “Go thee hence, Satan.” I certainly hope you see the nasty, subversive insult. The Baron, using a dishonest device characteristic of subversive campaigns, is calling Oren, Satan. He so much as explicates this accusation in his comment. But the irony resides in the meaning of this sentence. Even as a Jew, I understand the wisdom here. From an empowered place, through unwavering conviction, one can “banish” evil. There is an obvious element in this statement concerning the adoption of a stance of indifference; in fact this indifferent stance is not only exigent to success in this regard, but also is a sign that one has achieved this elevated level of conviction.
In that the Baron is clearly guilty of not abiding by his own advice, he is certainly not “indifferent” either to Oren nor to the “Satan” that the Baron accuses him of being. How could anyone be blind to the Baron’s utter lack of indifference? In the very beginning of his comment, we learn that although he doesn’t have the time to respond thoroughly, he certainly has the time to attack. A little further in the comment, we learn of the Baron’s “bitter” journey over the last ten years – the subtle plea for sympathy does not go unnoticed. And then the act of regurgitating his attack in a brand new blog entry to further expound upon his exasperation. And the pièce de résistance: “This is why people like Vlad and me are on short rations while devotees of “moderate Islam” rake in millions in foundation money.”
The sum total of his comments and writings wreaks of self-righteous indignation that is periodically dressed in self-pity. He deserves his indignation and self-pity; he also deserves to keep it to himself. His fiery outrage feels like a ticking bomb vigilantly seeking a target to justify detonation. This is neither indifference nor passion; it is pure, egocentric emotionality and it has no place in a respectable blog. In all his wisdom, the Baron has yet to learn that his feelings are interesting to no one but himself. This device in which individuals, regardless of their intellect, exploit their access to the public in order to vent their “issues” has two consequences. The first and less severe one is that they themselves come across as shallow, exploitative fools and thus they are not taken seriously. The far more destructive consequence is the undermining of the integrity of respectable platforms such as Gates of Vienna. Should you want another example of this phenomenon, find the recent comment by Dymphna in which she pitifully burdens all your readers with her past, personal involvement with a malignant narcissist/psychopath. She conjures up this written regurgitation with the clear intent of establishing the superior nature of her opinions on the basis of her personal war scars. Her personal history has no place in this blog.
I am infinitely sensitive to the terribly difficult task of helping others to emerge from their sleep in order to see the horrible truths about Islam and what is occurring in our world. Of those who can potentially be reached, they are on a continuum. One cannot “jar” them into reality. Thus all allusions to or prognostications about doomsday scenarios are counter-effective. If you do your job right, every reasonably rational person will come to this conclusion on his own. This type of enlightenment requires sensitivity and finesse. Frankly, it requires that indifferent, empowering stance and not a hysterical, aggressive one. Clearly the Baron does not possess this finesse and thus I would suggest that he stay away from writing about subversion or stealth jihad lest he further alienate your readers. He has formidable knowledge and when disciplined, his contributions are extremely valuable. However we all must know our limitations.
Previously I provided you with some information about Oren in the hope that it gives writers pause before shooting from the hip. The Baron could also have considered the following – something which I hope you will keep in mind. Chatterjee’s piece was very weak. The examples he used were inconclusive and unconvincing. It read as a piece of persuasion by innuendo. I, and many others are convinced that Nawaz is a deceptive phony – how dangerous he is remains to be seen. However with all your collective knowledge about subversion and stealth jihad, you are obviously aware of the fact that its hypnotic effect is frequently ineffable. In most cases, it is only long after the fact that one can retrospectively find concrete, indisputable evidence to support what everyone can feel in their gut. But in real time, there is a danger in portraying partial, inconclusive evidence as overwhelming proof of subversion. It creates the impression that you – and not your subject – are not rigorous and that you are using facts spuriously to back up a narrative. The slew of empty, cheer-leading accolades from the bleachers that populate your comments section further undermine your credibility when you present shaky data to support a claim of subversion.
I bother to make the previous point because Oren, like me, may have had the same impression. His question, admittedly a doubting one, may have reflected doubts that arose as a result of Chatterjee’s piece. As I said, I have never communicated with Oren and do not know what was going through his mind. However the Baron could have considered this possibility and given him the benefit of the doubt (no pun intended). This would have been a more responsible and more generous route.
It is certainly my hope that you or the Baron remove his attacks on Oren and that the Baron send him, privately, an apology. On a more important level, I hope you will contemplate – calmly – what I have written here. Our world is becoming more unstable by the minute and it is exigent that those of us who see the reality acknowledge and take into consideration the overwhelming fear in those who don’t yet have a clearer understanding of what’s going on. They need reliable, trustworthy places to go to clear their confusion and it is your responsibility, should you wish to serve as such a bedrock of clarity, to ensure that you do not on the one hand insult or intimidate your readers, and on the other hand, maintain the integrity of your blog. If your comments are mediated, you could easily have merely not posted Oren’s reply if it seemed too egregious at the time. However it is my impression that you should have a mechanism that picks up on and blocks inappropriate and/or “non-indifferent” and thus non-empowering entries, either in the blogs pieces or in the comments section. Your editorial oversight and comments monitoring should not be performed by the person writing the piece – as you very well know. We turn to sites like Gates of Vienna precisely because we believe it to lack the pithy stench rampant in social media, in the left and Islamist dreck, et.al.
As our unfortunate world situation heats up, and as more and more people become confused, emotional and irrational, you are going to have to become even more self-monitoring so as to maintain an empowered, “indifferent” stance to the evil you wish to counter. All of your contributors should be reminded of such.
I shall remain anonymous in the spirit of staying on point and not getting personal.