A sensational cartoon

He knows he's goofing

As much as I respect Professor Lewis’s historical works, their quality has been on the decline as he has become increasingly engaged in the political process (his analysis of modern terrorist networks and movements is also rather medieval). This video clip illustrates the manner in which his relations with the political right have degraded the quality of his analysis and presentation.

As with scholars from all facets of area studies, Lewis attempts to make his region out to be the most politically relevant one (the “survival of our civilization” is at stake, after all), regardless as to the actual proportion of the threat emanating from the region in the global context (in terms of the numbers of armed conflicts, death tolls, and so on). This gives him the ear of many wealthy and influential people, and finances his smashing ties and comfortable lifestyle. Such is the case with other public intellectuals. The struggle for relevance is a special tactic in the area studies end of the struggle for recognition.

A conspiratorial take: Most Americans seem to perceive “Islamic terrorism” as being the greatest threat to national security at this point in history — regardless of other issues and actors entirely unrelated to Islamic this or that. Rather than being seen as a consequence or reaction to wider world trends, terrorism is seen — or at least treated — as a force in and of itself, rather than a tactic. “Islamic terrorism” is different from other forms of sectarian terrorism because violence and universalism are seen as “natural” components of Islam. This makes it an “existential threat,” bent on “world domination.” It presents an alternative world view to Western universalism and therefore must be directly challenged as a force in and of itself (like communism or fascism). It is unrelated to other trends on the plant and acts independently of such changes. The West, therefore, does not need to engage in any self-criticism which might erode the absolute universalism or its moral and political-economic system, indeed it is the Muslims alone who need to engage in such “soul searching,” even at a time when Western dominance in the moral, economic, and political fronts is increasingly questioned and challenged around the globe (one is told that this is because the West has not been firm enough in its traditional values). This allows for public intellectuals and policy makers to avoid the larger structural problems facing the international community and makes for superior campaign chatter (on both the right and left; to hear them tell it, the right will be the best at preventing another 9/11; the left understands the Islamic threat more clearly). It is an easy distraction from more complex and pressing matters globally.

I would like to see some reader reactions to the clip itself.

8 thoughts on “A sensational cartoon

  1. I don’t know if i have a concrete opinion on this matter. Some of what they say is true, in regards to many, many Muslims. On the other hand, i think it is dangerous to generalize “All Muslims are…”, when your fight is against EXTREME fundamentalists. Not all Christians view life, politics, or the world the same way. Maybe this is a rally cry to to promote full opposition to Islam, than say “Relevance” as you state Nouri.

    I love this, “For those of you who don’t have any faith, let me tell ya…What they’re gonna do to ya, will be more horrible than anything that you can imagine…some more BS about “Freedom” and “slavery”.

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t have a sound card working here so can’t hear the sound. But on your summary, I’d like to add my two cents: “one is told that this is because the West has not been firm enough in its traditional values”. In my opinion, the strength and weakness of the West all together is that it is permanently questioning its “traditional values” (I hate this word which means nothing, sorry) or rather its traditional references. It is the paradigm of modernity, the constant renewal of its own corpus of ideas and concepts that actually creates Western thought school. I am actually a big fan of Edgar Morin’s ideas on this (see “Penser l’Europe” for those who can speak French, but there are also decent English translations). Not that I agree on everything he says, but his point about culture and civilization and about particularism and universalism is a perfect answer, in my opinion, to what Lewi is saying.

  3. I must convince all of you that Islam is not a threat. Muslim is not terrorist. Do we have any proof which can prove who are the actor behind 9/11? We do need an open jurisdiction about this matter.

  4. To be honest, it’s all a mess.

    No-one condones terrorists, whatever their ideology, or those who train and enourage them; but our actions in the west have contributed as well: the complete mess that is Israel/Palestine, Guantanamo Bay, the quite probable use of torture on suspects, the support of oppressive regimes due to their stance on Islamic terrorism (reminiscent of the Cold War) and, of course, Iraq. Certainly young men who choose to detonate themselves for their god are wrong, but the cock-ups of the Western World have, frankly, lead to most of it.

    The Middle East has become one of the main factors of the world largely from our own doing. You cannot expect to invade a country only just to the north (Afghanistan), one in the centre (Iraq) and threaten to attack another nearby (Iran) and not expect retaliation.

    In short, while I despise the Islamic fundamentalism of Al-Qaeda and oppressive regimes such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, I would agree with you that we in the West really need to accept responsibility for our actions, and stop piling all the blame on Islam (which isn’t inherently any more violent than Christianity or Judaism).

  5. “… Lewis attempts to make his region out to be the most politically relevant one (the “survival of our civilization” is at stake, after all) …”

    That was pretty much it for me too. I don’t really see the use in exciting the white Christian hand-wringing set, but I know I’m pretty skeptical of those who constantly beat the alarmist drum of some vague kind of West/East showdown on the horizon.

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