April 08, 2010

More (de) Wintry Linguistics

In response to my blog entry Defining Down the Dangerous, which was cross-posted at Politically Incorrect (English version), Leon de Winter sent a comment to the PI team that merits further attention. As the incriminated bit (the critique of LdW's article at WSJ) was neither authored by the PI team nor by me, who only quoted it, I passed the comment on to Lawrence Auster who wrote it. He replied:
Leon de Winter denies that he defended Islam in his article on the Wilders trial

Nora Brinker (the Editrix) writes from Germany:

I recently wrote a blog entry about the Dutch writer Leon de Winter, which was triggered by your critique of his article at the Wall Street Journal on the Geert Wilders trial but went beyond it. My blog entry was published by the English section of the biggest of all German blogs (overall, not just the biggest among political blogs) Politically Incorrect, to which I am a regular contributor. Today, the PI-Team forwarded de Winter's reply to me (see below).

I do not communicate out of principle with people who write "r u" when they mean "are you" (isn't it amazing that even supposed intellectual heavyweights resort to "kiddie" Internet jargon?), but I thought the reply might be interesting to you because it was your interpretation to which he objected. I guess the rest of the article went over his head.

De Winter writes interesting novels, I even liked one or two of them. How that man can be quite that bigoted and plainly stupid (he seems to think that PI is a monolithic block) is a revelation for me.

Best regards,
Nora Brinker

Leon de Winter comment at blog PI:

Leon de Winter


I stumbled upon this blog--you are totally incorrect in interpreting my piece as pro-islam--r u nuts? You know my pieces, you know my points of view--so don't try to bend this piece in the WSJ. In my piece I defend the premise that you cannot condemn a historical text like the Koran in a modern court of justice--is that weird, pro-Islam? Grow up! I've written dozens of pieces about the Koran--you know where I stand ...

LA replies:

Thanks for writing and sending this. De Winter is contemptuously dismissive of my charge that his article was defensive of Islam rather than defensive of Geert Wilders, but he fails utterly to respond to what I actually said. So I'll repeat it. In his WSJ piece, dramatically (and misleadingly) titled, "Stop the Trial of Geert Wilders," he said nothing against the tyrannical Dutch hate speech laws, nothing against prosecuting a man for stating an opinion about Islam, nothing against making it a crime for Netherlanders to criticize Islam. Rather, he said that the Wilders trial should be terminated because the trial would put Islam itself on the docket.

And indeed, putting Islam on the docket was and is precisely Wilders's defense. His defense is that the statements he has made about Islam are true. De Winter wants to avoid any public procedure that discusses whether it is true that Islam commands its followers to wage Holy War aimed at subjugating all non-Muslims. The fact remains: de Winter said nothing against the indictment and trial of Wilders. He was only opposed to the trial because the Wilders defense would examine the teachings of Islam.

A person who responds to an article critical of himself, an article that quotes his own statements and shows their meaning, by retorting, "r u nuts?... Grow up!... you know where I stand," is a person who has never thought critically about the meaning of his own statements--and may be unwilling to do so.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 07, 2010 03:06 PM

Lawrence Auster's reply was gentlemanly and fair. But then, he doesn't know the entire background. How can he? It is worse, MUCH worse than just an intellectually dishonest and cowardly interpretation of the Wilders trial and a rude reply to the PI team. So here it is again:
I stumbled [So it is clear that he doesn't read it regularly!] upon this blog - you [Not PI is, I am, quoting Lawrence Auster.] are totally incorrect in interpreting my piece as pro-islam - r u nuts? [What an insufferable, juvenile, sneering, contemptuous tone!] You know my pieces, you know my points of view - so don't try to bend this piece in the WSJ. [The great intellectual considers himself above reproach based on his past merits.] In my piece I defend the premise that you cannot condemn a historical text like the Koran in a modern court of justice - is that weird, pro-Islam? [Well, yes.] Grow up! [Again incredibly rude, juvenile, contemptuous and putting himself above criticism.] I've written dozens of pieces about the Koran - you know where I stand... [He seems to think that he is immune to intellectual inconsistency and that puts him in his own mind above criticism.]
Here is the great master, the serious intellectual, the internationally acclaimed novelist, sneeringly and contemptuously talking down from a great height in Internet jargon to the despised street urchins of "Islam critique". One doesn't play with children from the wrong side of the tracks, to whom serious "Islam critics" usually don't even talk.

You go, PI! You MUST do something right.


Alain Jean-Mairet said...

Winter is right about the Koran in court. You just cannot condemn Islam in court based on the content of the Koran. You have to make the detour via the sharia, i.e. you have to show that a profound knowledge (and acceptance) of the Koran/Sunnah systematically leads to criminal behavior, in a rational, reasonable, collegial sort of way. You have to prove it, not just pretend. If you only pretend, Muslims will probably be able to pretend louder and longer than you. Remember, it is OK to die at it, for (the believers among) them. If you prove, you might get a judgment that will bring more light than heat. And then another, and another, and hundreds of them. And the according publicity, of course. Until you get some calm, resolute and useful consensus against Islam as such. That’s a lot of boring work. But that’s the price of the court’s ticket.

Gudrun said...

This will be a Long Journey Through The Institutions, hein ?

The_Editrix said...

But Wilders doesn't stop at the Koran, he starts there. Sharia is based on the Koran and can not be incriminated without incriminating the Koran as well.

De Winter doesn't accuse Wilders, as you do, of a wrong strategy, he thinks that the Koran is above criticism per se, that's why he describes it as "the Holy Book of Islam".

De Winter: "The three judges ... will now be forced to debate the nature of a religious text, something that should have never been heard in the court of an enlightened society."

Wilders, on the other hand, bases his defense precisely on his claim that the Koran is NOT a religious text.

De Winter: "He insists his focus is on radical Islam and the Quran, which he considers to be not only a religious text but also a political pamphlet encouraging Muslims to discriminate against and, if necessary, kill Jews, Christians, apostates and other unbelievers. That's why Mr. Wilders claims the right to criticize and condemn Islam."

And then he goes on denying Wilders this line of defense. Why? Because it might offend Muslims and because de Winter doesn't seem to like Wilders and his political leanings which he describes as "a libertarian-conservative movement with populist tendencies". In my book, a "populist" (i.e. demagogue) is somebody who tells the people what they want to hear. However, Wilders is somebody who tells the people what they do NOT want to hear, and specifically not the entire European left, including Mr. de Winter.

A bit thin, de Winter's case, don't you think?

Alain Jean-Mairet said...

Hello Gudrun,

Pas vraiment. Or the journey quite probably would be split among many people: Swiss people in Switzerland, German people in Germany, Dutch in Netherland, ... And it can be very fast, once the material is there. What would be long and hard is to prepare it.

Alain Jean-Mairet said...

The_Editrix: Yes. And yes, the Koran is a despicable piece of writing, with hardly any religious inspiration worthy of that name and I don’t remember having read anything Wilders said about it that I wouldn’t second. But you cannot prove it with just excerpts. You can get convinced that way, but a court won’t be satisfied with convictions. We all know already that there are different convictions around.

So if you want to bring a proof, you have to process the whole thing and show that the overall message is foolishly criminal. And for that you have to show that the Sharia (as the most profound and effectively important interpretation of the Koran) is consensual on the most unacceptable elements. Anything less is just fueling an argument based on hot air (historically, there is no Muhammad, the whole thing is a scam) and perpetuating the same old story, full of hatred and bad blood, of the creation of Islam. See: the best of us already are getting personal over details. That's Islam's poison working.

The_Editrix said...

Alain, Gudrun was refering to de Winter's habit to play down aspects of reality he doesn't like by using euphemisms. I have discussed it here.

For example, he mis-translates the German word "Marsch", which has aggressive, martial connotations and which was taken up by the student movement of 1968 to form the term "march through the institutions" with the nondescript, neutral word "journey".

In the other entry I say:

However, what IS [noteworthy], is de Winter's translation of the German word "Marsch" as "long journey". How a child of Holocaust survivors and neighbour to the German people can NOT know what the German word "Marsch" means AND IMPLIES, is beyond me. Besides, "Marsch durch die Institutionen" is an idiomatic term within political science with a defined meaning.

What about this, Mr. de Winter?

"After the violent suppression of the Jewish revolt, the Germans took a long journey into the Warsaw Ghetto."

Or this?

On September 1st, 1939, the German Wehrmacht embarked upon a long journey through Poland."

In the same spirit, he calls the Koran deferentially "the Holy Book of Islam".

The_Editrix said...

Alain, you say: "So if you want to bring a proof, you have to process the whole thing and show that the overall message is foolishly criminal. And for that you have to show that the Sharia (as the most profound and effectively important interpretation of the Koran) is consensual on the most unacceptable elements." But isn't that exactly what Wilders does?

But whatever and granted for argument's sake that Wilders IS following a wrong strategy, I think you seriously misinterpret de Winter's intention. He is NOT criticising Wilder's strategy, but he questions his right to criticise "the Holy Book of Islam".

Then you say: "See: the best of us already are getting personal over details. That's Islam's poison working."

Again: De Winter is not getting personal over details. He states with absolute clarity that "the Holy Book of Islam" ought to be above criticism and if somebody points that out he switches to denial mode and gets insulting.

Alain Jean-Mairet said...

Sorry about the misunderstanding of Marsch / journey. But, please, I don’t care about de Winter, just about his point: you cannot bring quotations of the Koran before a Western court of law as proof of anything. Whether you want to call it a pamphlet or a holy book doesn’t matter there – it is just a historical document. Even if some local law agrees (that you might attack the Koran for its very content), you quite probably will end up with riots in the streets and some political decision to impeach it (as in India in the 80s). And if you want to prove that the Sharia is consensual about the most problematic aspects of Islam, in order to back a refusal of the very religion, you still have a hell of a research, translation and comparison job to do. The sharia is scattered among dozens, hundreds of documents, of several times, several schools of law, and several regions. The proof is in that huge pudding, and probably nowhere else.

As for the rest: long live to Wilders and, again, sorry for the misunderstanding.

The_Editrix said...

Alain, thank you for the clarification. No need to be sorry at all, I enjoyed our exchange.

Keep dropping in,

Lawrence Auster said...

I think Alain Jean-Mairet is greatly overstating the intellectual difficulties raised by Wilders's defense. It's not a matter of reaching some definitive, absolute conclusion on the nature of Islam on which all scholars in the world will agree. It's a matter of showing that Wilders's statements about the Koran are indeed based on the Koran and are reasonable interpretations of what the Koran is about.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but it seems to me that you are putting down Wilders's defense strategy and saying that it shouldn't even be tried. To me, that's wrong and defeatist. Either the court will allow him to pursue his defense (which will lead to the result I mention above), or it will refuse. And if it refuses to allow him to defend himself by demonstrating the truth of his statements, or at least demonstrate his reasonable good faith belief in the truth of his statements, the trial loses any appearance of legitimacy and it will probably be terminated. But it will be terminated, not in order to protect Islam from examination, but because it is incapable of being fair to Wilders.

So please, let's not try to stop Wilders from pursuing his defense. Let's support him in this effort, and see where it goes.

The_Editrix said...

Mr. Auster, maybe I am misunderstanding you now. You say: "Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but it seems to me that you are putting down Wilders's defense strategy and saying that it shouldn't even be tried."

Not at all. I think we are talking about two different matters here. Of course, in a truly free country Wilders wouldn't be tried (you called the Dutch "tyrannical" for it), so, in a way, I AM saying that he shouldn't even be tried. But that is beside the point here. As he IS being tried, I am not putting down his defense strategy at all. Alain Jean-Mairet did that and I defended Wilders. In fact, I am saying that his strategy is the only possible one. Alain Jean-Mairet argues as if Geert Wilders had brought the Koran to trial. Were that the case, his (Alain's) reasoning would have merit. But it is Geert Wilders who is on trial and wants to -- has to -- prove that the Koran is in fact saying what he (Wilders) alleges in his film. So what other strategy could he possibly follow?

Lawrence Auster said...

Careless writing on my part. "You" meant Alain Jean-Mairet I began my comment by speaking of Alain Jean-Mairet in the third person. When I switched to "you," I was still addressing myself to him, continuing the same thought. But I left an ambiguity as to whom I was addressing.

The_Editrix said...

Alain Jean-Mairet was unknown to me before he posted here. He is a Swiss (or Swiss-based) translator. My French isn't all that brilliant, but his web-presence conveys the image of a serious and principled Islam critic. How he comes to argue that Wilder's defense strategy is wrong I don't understand. Again: Weren't Geert Wilders the accused, but had he brought the Koran to trial himself, I could follow his arguing.