by Walter C. UhlerThis is how it works: The increasingly decadent and profit-driven book publishing business, which is "more concerned with the sensational than the sensible" publishes Dinesh D'Souza's new book. (Quote is from Alan Wolfe's review in the January 21, 2007, New York Times Book Review.) The book provides conclusive evidence, not only that D'Souza is an ignoramus â€” although earlier evidence was already quite persuasive - but also that the Hoover Institution hires hacks, provided they are conservative extremists.
Yet, notwithstanding numerous scathing reviews - for example, Professor Wolfe writes that D'Souza is "a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace." â€” newspaper editors and TV talk show hosts from around the country pimp for the book, as though they were paid advertisers. Alexander Solzhenitsyn called such people "smatterers" (although he was referring to the debased intelligentsia that pimped for the Soviet state).
French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, explained the phenomenon in his book On Television: "Editorial staff spend a good deal of time talking about other newspapers, particularly about 'what they did and we didn't do.'" Thus, "if X talks about a book in Liberation, Y will have to talk about it in Le Monde or Le Nouvel Observateur even if he considers it worthless or unimportant." [p.24] As Bourdieu observes: "this sort of game of mirrors reflecting one another produces a formidable effect of mental closure." [Ibid] In the United States, the most severe form of "mental closure" occurs when the crap from the right-wing echo chamber, including right-wing book publishers, is uncritically propagated by the so-called "liberal" news media.
Thus, on January 18, 2007, the Los Angeles Times pimped for D'Souza by publishing his Op-Ed, "How The Left Led Us Into 9/11." (See my article about it). By publishing such infantile crap, the editors at the LA Times validated Bourdieu's observation that journalists are "dangerousâ€¦since they're not always very educated." Thus, they are prone to "describe as extraordinary something that is totally banal, simply because they don't know any better." [Ibid, p. 43]
Today, the "Currents" section of the Philadelphia Inquirer continued the "mental closure" by publishing an article by D'Souza titled: "Not a clash of religions: Islamic radicals don't hate Christianity, but godlessness." Although that title accurately captures the thrust of D'Souza's claims, he concludes his piece by asserting:
"Secularism, not Christian fundamentalism, is responsible for producing a blowback of Muslim rage."
Unfortunately, D'Souza's piece in the Stinky Inky is a red herring, a straw man, written to introduce his real thesis; the one titled in the LA Times: "How The Left Led Us Into 9/11." He merely substitutes the word "secularism" for "left." And the poor saps at the Stinky Inky fell for it because:
(1) They lack a clear understanding of what actually motivates Osama bin Laden, (2) they have a distorted sense of what constitutes journalistic balance, (3) they continue to give much more Op-Ed space to conservatives, even conservative hacks, than liberals, and (4) they wanted to give D'Souza news hole in order to pimp for his upcoming appearance in Philadelphia.
Yet, readers of Michael F. Scheuer's work know that D'Souza is spouting nonsense. Unlike D'Souza, who possesses virtually no expertise on this subject, Scheuer is a recently retired CIA official with 22 years of experience. He served as the Chief of Alec Station, the Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999, and then as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004.
Writing in Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, Scheuer blows away D'Souza's assertions with the following expert observations:
(1) Bin Laden "and thousands of other non-Afghan Muslims went there [Afghanistan] to fight the Red Army not because the Soviets were atheists and communists - not because of what they were or thought - but rather because they were atheists and communists who had invaded and occupied a Muslim land, had arbitrarily killed more than a million Muslim men, women and children, had driven three-plus million more into exile, and clearly sought to eradicate Islam from the country." [p. 10]
(2) "One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat lies in continuing to believeâ€¦that Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than for what we do. The Islamic world is not so offended by our democratic system of politics, guarantees of personal rights and civil liberties, and separation of church and state that it is willing to wage war against overwhelming odds in order to stop Americans from voting, speaking freely, and praying, OR NOT, as they wish." [Ibid] (my emphasis)
(3) "The United States is hated across the Muslim world because of specific U.S. government policies and actions. The hatred is concrete not abstract, martial not intellectual and will grow for the foreseeable future." [p. 240]
Scheuer also lists six specific U.S. policies that "bin Laden repeatedly refers to as anti-Muslim:"
(1) U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall.
(2) U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.
(3) U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
(4) U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants.
(5) U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.
(6) U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments. [p. 241]
You'll quickly note that neither secularism nor the "left" make the list.
Of course, when one sees that specific U.S. policies, rather than "secularism" or the "left," provoke Islamic blowback, then one also quickly sees that D'Souza and the Stinky Inky do Americans a double disservice. Not only do they they unjustly besmirch liberals or liberal secularism (actually, secularism infects Americans of all political stripes), they also deflect needed attention away from provocative U.S. policies.
But, then, what more should we expect from this incompetent conservative pair?
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).