From Anti-Defamation to Intellectual Meritocracy
This post is not in any way meant as a disparagement toward the Anti-Defamation League, nor as an accusing finger against that organization, which has been engaged in sacred work, born out of brotherly love, ever since its founding. My purpose is only to draw attention to the changed situation of today in which the ADL’s traditional way of operating is no longer suitable, and then to suggest a new way, one that will both be more productive for the goal of ADL and similar organizations and enable the non-Muslim world as a whole to respond to the ideological onslaught of the Left-Islam alliance effectively.
The traditional way of anti-defamation involves finding out ideological threats to the group in question, and then contacting the originators of the threats and asking them to back down from them. In case the request is not heeded, the anti-defamation organization brings out legal charges against the offenders, which at the very least could deter others from committing the same offense.
This model has served well the Jewish interest of combating anti-Semitism, and later the interests of other minorities in countering similar threats. However, today we can see that it has all but been subverted to the nefarious ends of those who would chip away at our freedoms. The Left applies the label, “Hate Speech” to any opinions not in agreement with their own, and the Muslims, headed by groups such as CAIR (in the USA) and MCB (in Britain), have ripped out numerous leaves out of the ADL handbook, styling themselves “The New Jews” and employing the term, “Islamophobia” as their counterpart to “anti-Semitism”, as well as using the accusation of “racism” to silence criticism of their religion, a subject I have already covered in at least two posts.
In this age, in which every group rushes to get its degree in Applied Victimology, “anti-defamation” is more often than not a euphemism for perversion of justice and for shutting down all intellectual discourse. This is not because the way of anti-defamation is inherently bad, but because the Leftoxicated “dialectic” of our age is fully given to the injustice of tilting toward the underdog a priori, without further probation. It is just as laws against sexual harassment are not unjust in and of themselves, but when coupled to the stipulation that women’s complaints are to be taken without checking, merely out of the fact that they are in the position of weakness, become open to abuse by any would-be score-settler. All such “corrective treatments” end up being just as bad as the former diseases, if not more so, for they go against the imperative to weight all evidence before reaching a verdict (an imperative given by, among others, G-d the Creator; see also my excursus on Exodus 23:3).
We have seen, from the Papal Quote Riots to the statement of MPACUK’s spokeswoman that Jack Straw should not voice any opinion on the subject of veiling women, and from the thugs at Columbia University violently turning away anti-immigration activists to the administration of said university stalling attendance to a conference with ex-terrorist Walid Shoebat, that there is nothing the Muslim and Leftists fear more than the free exchange of ideas. An armed response, rather than the expected dhimmitude or “participation in the progressive dialectic”, is certainly outrageous in their eyes, but absolutely insufferable for them is that the other side should have the freedom to assault them intellectually, for their armed revolutionary actions are just offshoots of an ideology that is independent of any person or time. Resistance to their weapons is bad enough, but it is only a cutting of one or some heads of the hydra, while ideological counterattack threatens to bring the end of the hydra itself, and then no heads could regenerate. No wonder, then, that they use every means to suppress freedom of intellect, including using the precepts of the West, and including disguising it under the mask of “anti-defamation”.
Today we need more than ever a climate of free discourse. Not “breaking every taboo for the sake of breaking every taboo” as the stupid kids of the 1960’s had it, but the freedom to entertain any thought and then subject it to rigorous intellectual examination. We need to depart from both the anti-defamation viewpoint that some ideas are not allowed to be expressed and from the postmodern viewpoint that all ideas are of equal worth, and form in their stead an intellectual meritocracy, where every idea is allowed but is weighed for evidential support and logical consistency and, if found wanting, is chucked out as not worth anyone’s time. Those ideas that are sound in those respects would not be hurt by such an intellectual regime; the other ideas—well, now you see why the Left-Islam alliance isn’t enamored with the vision of an intellectual meritocracy.
There are objections, of course. Would it really be wise to give a free platform for every Holocaust denier and 9/11 conspiracist? My first answer is that the Internet, the same Internet used by wakeful people such as Robert Spencer and Charles Johnson and Baron Bodissey to try to circumvent the PC stranglehold of our traditional OrwellMedia, allows those revisionist and conspiracist kooks to post their stuff as well. As with anti-defamation, any attempt to shut down the one and not the other would come at an eventual price to the other. My second answer, more to the point, is an operative suggestion: in order to both sustain intellectual freedom and to combat bias, intellectually honest sources, especially those constituting mass communications, should present a view and the response from its opponents side by side. There is no greater intellectual honesty than letting people make up their minds upon reading both sides of the debate. If this leads to a ricochet of rebuttals and rejoinders, so much the better—that’s what free intellectual discourse is about. All within the rules of truthful debate, of course (that means, among other things: no reutered photographs).
To that, an objection may be that that idea smacks of the “equal time” for pseudoscientific theories in schools. There is an important difference, however: schools are places for humans who, if past the age of impressionability and lack of rigorous judgment, are non-experts in the subjects they learn; only experts can allow themselves to engage non-mainstream theories when it comes to subjects requiring long years of study. In contrast, the marketplace of ideas and intellectual debates, rather than expertise-demanding professions, is a free-for-all, the more people discussing them the better. Were it not so, neither Athenian democracy nor the American one would ever have materialized.
Even if the information load is great and the sifting of erroneous arguments and kooky ideas a daunting task, the gain is much greater than the loss: the gain is a climate in which all people have to accept a regime in which an ideological “offense” to them is answered not by shutting down the source but by offering an equal intellectual response. The more this “culture of response” is nurtured, the more problems could be worked out through the process of filtering by intellectual merit rather than by intimidation or violence. Remembering that the Left of today calls itself the “peace camp”, yet stalls many a peaceful solution by letting grievances fester under the cover of “respect” rather than be worked out by intellectual discourse, there is yet another irony here.
Going back to organizations like the ADL: they may object that such a change of regime would rob them of their main tool of countering the very real—not for a moment do I deny that—threat of anti-Semitism. I reply that most of the overt, virulent anti-Semitism today is outside of our control, originating in Muslim states. I also reply that the appeal to past Jewish victimhood—without, of course, any intention of minimizing its reality, a reality which a Jew can neither forgive nor forget—has lost its force after a few decades. The Muslims either deny the Holocaust or say they shouldn’t be paying for what others did to us, and the Leftists are all too eager to invert the facts such that the Muslims are the new Jews and we are the new Nazis, and justify every “Palestinian” terrorist attack with the accusation, “listim atem”—“You are robbers”, the accusation of unrighteous Gentiles upon the Jews, of stealing the lands of other nations (read in the very first commentary of Rashi to the Torah).
That last point in itself, inscribed in the timeless word of G-d Himself, should be enough to form an argument for leaving the efforts of anti-defamation and appeal to past wrongs, and substituting diligent, factual counter-arguments to the enemy’s lies and appealing to our rights to all our lands. And from the general non-Muslim point of view, the utmost of efforts should be made to secure a climate of free debate that will force Islam to either reform to a “live and let live” religion or to go down in history as a failed ideology, together with Communism.
For those pragmatists who pin their hopes on the “moderate Muslims”: they will not come out, much less form a movement for Islamic reformation, when they see that even the non-Muslims of the world hold their tongues and cap their pens in the shadow of fear. Fear is in opposition to reason—and there is no lasting peace without reason, that inseparable part of G-d’s image in all of us.