Version 2.3 (April 7, 2013)
A few of the subjects I explore in my work have inspired an unusual amount of controversy. Some of this results from real differences of opinion or honest confusion, but much of it is due to the fact that certain of my detractors deliberately misrepresent my views. The purpose of this article is to address the most consequential of these distortions.
A general point about the mechanics of defamation: It is impossible to effectively defend oneself against unethical critics. If nothing else, the law of entropy is on their side, because it will always be easier to make a mess than to clean it up. It is, for instance, easier to call a person a “racist,” a “bigot,” a “misogynist,” etc. than it is for one’s target to prove that he isn’t any of these things. In fact, the very act of defending himself against such accusations quickly becomes debasing. Whether or not the original charges can be made to stick, the victim immediately seems thin-skinned and overly concerned about his reputation. And, rebutted or not, the original charges will be repeated in blogs and comment threads, and many readers will assume that where there’s smoke, there must be fire.
Such defamation is made all the easier if one writes and speaks on extremely controversial topics and with a philosopher’s penchant for describing the corner cases—the ticking time bomb, the perfect weapon, the magic wand, the mind-reading machine, etc.—in search of conceptual clarity. It literally becomes child’s play to find quotations that make the author look morally suspect, even depraved.
Whenever I respond to unscrupulous attacks on my work, I inevitably hear from hundreds of smart, supportive readers who say that I needn’t have bothered. In fact, many write to say that any response is counterproductive, because it only draws more attention to the original attack and sullies me by association. These readers think that I should be above caring about, or even noticing, treatment of this kind. Perhaps. I actually do take this line, sometimes for months or years, if for no other reason than that it allows me to get on with more interesting work. But there are now whole websites—Salon, The Guardian, Alternet, etc.—that seem to have made it a policy to maliciously distort my views. I have commented before on the general futility of responding to attacks of this kind. Nevertheless, the purpose of this article is to address the most important misunderstandings of my work. (Parts of these responses have been previously published.) I encourage readers to direct people to this page whenever these issues surface in blog posts and comment threads. And if you come across any charge that you think I really must answer, feel free to let me know through the contact form on this website.
Read the rest here.
Problem with Harris and any of his defenses of his islamophobia is his utter ignoring of the, by far, most violent, sexist and bigoted of the three Egyptian desert religions. He constantly cites the Quran for savage beliefs but even a casual comparison between it and the Torah, or old testament, reveals that the Judaic traditions are several times worse than Muslim. Whilst repeatedly pummeling Muslims for misdeeds, and even sometimes Christianity as well, Harris conveniently omits any mention of the root cause for violence in the Middle East. Zionism is an ethno-centric ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep, inherent inclination towards segregation. Harris utterly ignores this fact in all of his writings & lectures.
When the political and religious leader of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, preaches, on national Israeli TV, that the sole reason for the existence of gentiles is to "perform menial services for Jews: after that, their usefulness is at an end" and that gentiles are merely "snakes, monkeys, and other lesser creations" - and is applauded - you got a serious racial supremacy problem there, Sammy-boy. And it's much worse than any Muslim one.
Finally, I would LUVs me to see Harris take a look at this recent video & respond:
Soccer fans, arguably the most fanatic in all sports, boo and walk out on a winning goal because of a player's culture?
will check out that video - thanks
Reply to Stephen McMahon
Do any specific recent acts of violence exist that you can prove were fueled by Judaism or "Zionism"? While I'm sure that throughout history you can find examples, contemporary dangers are far less present.
Personally I cannot compare the Bible and the Quran (or other Islamic texts) because I haven't fully read the Quran, though I am reading it now and hope to finish it soon. You may well be right in your claims regarding the comparison of the Torah and the Quran. But as Harris says early in his article, "My criticism of faith-based religion focuses on what I consider to be bad ideas, held for bad reasons, leading to bad behavior." Even if your comparison is accurate, the Torah doesn't lead to "bad behavior" to the degree that the Quran does. I'm not saying that the Torah wouldn't lead to horrific behavior if followed directly and fully: I'm saying it doesn't have that effect on its followers today, and it hasn't for quite some time.
While perhaps Harris would ethically have more problems with the Torah than the Quran (or perhaps he wouldn't), Judaism-motivated terrorists, suicide bombers, and public death threats are virtually (entirely?) nonexistent, while Islam has by far the largest worldwide presence in each of those arenas. While Harris doubtless opposes Judaism, the practical threat from it -- not from Israel to other Middle East countries, but from Judaism specifically -- is practically nil, so actively opposing and deconstructing it yields few benefits for most people, which is not true of Islam. He's fighting where the current stakes are highest, where the current need is greatest.
Yes, Judaism leads to suppression of women's rights, free speech, and many other tremendously important human rights. This must be opposed and corrected whenever possible. But Islam is leading to worse. The fact that Harris focuses on Islam over Judaism is probably because its influence is felt in far more lives and locations than Judaism, and its influence is typically worse than the influence of Judaism. It's a question of helping where help is needed most. Even if the religious ideas behind Judaism are worse than those behind Islam, they're not being carried out in that manner now. They're not leading to suicide bombings, oppressive regimes, and the unforgivable murder of children. Islam is causing that, even now, as you read this sentence.
If you think I'm wrong or have misunderstood, please correct me. I don't agree with Sam Harris on everything, but I think his focus on contemporary dangers from Islam rather than from other religions is entirely justified.
Do any specific recent acts of violence exist that you can prove were fueled by Judaism or "Zionism"?
Well ... let's see. How about starting with the 1967 6-Day war. A sneak-attack, not, repeat NOT, in response to ANY aggression by the Arab countries in spite of the lies Israel broadcast at the time. Proof? How about Prime Minister of the country at the time Levi Eshkol's admission (on national Israeli radio) of that - that the war was unprovoked and was an opportunity for Israelis to steal land & water.
See U.N. Security Council Resolution 262:
Then you have the El Arish massacre of Egyptian POWs and the USS Liberty massacre in which 34 American sailors were murdered and 172 wounded in international waters.
Then there is the Lavon affair, the Gaza slaughters, Lebanon ... the list of Israeli terrorist massacres & atrocities of innocent people is long and horrible. I suggest you take off your American Zionist blinders and just do a tiny little bit of research. The murder-ratio of Israeli atrocities & terrorist acts to Arab ones is probably about 400-to-1, in favor of Israel. But you actually have to do a little more research than watching American TV & reading the NY Times where Israeli atrocities are never, ever reported.
If you'd like an unvarnished history here's a good start, Stephen Green's "Taking Sides":
The root cause of our current terrorism started on July 22, 1946 with Israel and the King David Hotel bombing and the assassination, by a terrorist named David Ben-Gurion, of the American Consul General at the time, Thomas Wasson (shot in-the-back, BTW):
Of course an American Consul General is murdered, on the street, during the day, in cold blood and NOTHING was done about it. Nothing. It was swept under-the-rug by by the zionist media, just like the atrocities I listed above (especially the USS Liberty).
And please - think. The Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, creating an apartheid state where Arabs are without human rights has been going on since 1967. That's 46-years of continuous apartheid terrorism & violence. How can you say there have been no recent acts of violence fueled by Judaism or "Zionism"? Can you see what an absolutely ridiculous statement that is?
Would you like a recent example of Judaic terrorism? How 'bout this:
Israeli settlers pump raw sewage into Palestinian farmlands, ruin crops and destroy the land. Palestinians endure rocks smashing their windows, midnight arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, and daily Israeli military aggression. And what can they do about it? Nothing. Mr. Skaggs, please, ask yourself this question: if your life consisted of daily attacks and indignities - all designed to make your life miserable - and you could not report this behavior to the police or, if you did, the police did nothing or, even worse, they arrested YOU for 'troublemaking'; if this behavior was constant and unrelenting with the sole purpose being so that you would abandon your home so that it could be grabbed by "the government" and handed over to the people who were constantly intimidating you - Mr. Skaggs, how would you feel about that?
Sam Harris has not ever, and will not ever, acknowledge Judaic terrorism even though it is much more constant, relentless and horrific than Arab terrorism. But just try to ask Sam Harris about THAT. Why wouldn't he answer? Perhaps his publisher and agent have something to do with that? Hmmmm?
Great article! Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed hearing from Harris on these points.