Robert Spencer’s manufactured dispute with Sam Harris

spencer-harrisRobert Spencer of Jihad Watch claims that Sam Harris has “lost his nerve” and is no longer opposed to Islamic supremacism in any meaningful way. This is frankly bullshit, and Harris has responded appropriately, to which Spencer replied in turn. Read the interchange here.

Spencer is not impressed by Harris’s association with Maajid Nawaz (in the photo to the right), which is unfortunate since Nawaz is just what we need today: a Muslim believer who has been pushing for reform in the Islamic world. But the part I want to focus on is the presidential election. Spencer grounds much of his grievance in Harris’ support for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. This despite the fact that Harris (as  mentioned in his reply to Spencer) has called out Hillary for her (and Obama’s) woefully inadequate policies which enable jihad.

But it’s worse than that. Not only does Sam Harris agree more than disagree with Robert Spencer on the subject of Hillary Clinton, Robert Spencer agrees more than disagrees with Sam Harris on the subject of Donald Trump. Or at least he used to. In the past he has excoriated Trump as strongly as Harris has. This, for example, is what he said last December:

“I will never support Trump for President, even were he to knock on my door, get on one knee, and ask for my vote. I could never support a candidate who advocates kowtowing to violent intimidation and submitting to the Islamic supremacist war against the freedom of speech, as he did after the jihad attack on our event in Garland, Texas.” (Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch.)

Here’s another:

“Donald Trump shows here that he is a very, very frightening candidate: he would restrict the freedom of speech as part of some attempt to deal with the jihad threat: in other words, he would have us give up our freedom in exchange for security… Trump is just the sort of shoot-from-the-hip blowhard demagogue who could administer the coup de grace to a system of freedom that is already staggering under body blows given to it for nearly seven years by Barack Obama.” (Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch)

Please note that I’m not faulting Spencer for changing his mind and voting for Trump. Anyone can change their mind. I changed my mind. I had intended to vote third party, but in the week before the election made a Facebook call advising everyone to vote for Hillary Clinton, given how close Trump was closing in on the polls. Anyone can change their mind, and that’s fine. Again: I am not criticizing Spencer for changing his mind.

My point is rather that for someone who said only last year that he would “never support Trump for President, even were he to knock on my door, get on one knee, and ask for my vote”, and then now decides to make a big issue over Sam Harris’s decision to not vote for Donald Trump (as Spencer himself said he wouldn’t) — that’s a fucking hypocrisy way off the scales.

It’s even worse than that. Not only has Harris called out Hillary Clinton (and Obama) repeatedly for their inadequacies, he went so far as to say that he could have conceivably voted for Donald Trump, if essentially he were a single-issue voter. This is what he said in an interview on the Rubin Report:

“If I was just concerned about terrorism, and then I saw Clinton and Obama not making any sense in the aftermath of something like Orlando, and then defending that obscurantism with a sanctimonious and bullying speech [Obama’s speech, in which he refused to acknowledge Islam as the major factor which drove the Orlando shooter]… If I just had that to go on, then I could see voting for Trump.” (Sam Harris, “Liberals have made Trump possible”, (3:53-5:17))

So not only do we have (a) Robert Spencer swearing he will never vote for Trump, but then does, we have (b) Sam Harris admitting that if he screened out all other issues he weighs in assessing presidential candidates, and just focused on Islam and the problem of global jihad, he could conceivably vote for Trump. The difference is that Sam Harris (like me) isn’t a single-issue voter. Robert Spencer is.

It’s clear that Spencer has manufactured a dispute with Harris, and they are far more alike than different. It’s bad enough that we have to move mountains in order to convince leftists how wrong they are on this subject. Fabricating disagreements like this doesn’t help. Harris’ reply to Spencer is bang-on. At the same time, I commend both Robert Spencer and Sam Harris equally for debating cordially with each other. This is how discussions should proceed between the right and left.


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