More Logic Lessons from my Favorite Teacher
I have often thought that if, by some miracle, IU decided to include argumentative logic in its core requirements, and if, by a further miracle, they asked me to teach it, I would simply use the IDS Opinion Page in place of a textbook. It's a cornucopia - YES, a COR-U-COPIA - of lessons in "what not to do if you want to make a coherent argument." And today's staff editorial is like the classic example of a false dichotomy.
So apparently it's Islamofascism Awareness Week. This is all the brainchild of David "Affirmative Action is OK when it's for Conservatives" Horowitz and Ann "Gayboy" Coulter - which are two immediate and pressing reasons to consider opposing it, I admit. But an idea is not responsible for the people who hold it, and I don't mind going on record saying that a week devoted to denouncing professors who apologize for Islamic fascism isn't necessarily a bad idea.
Of course, since it's not necessarily a bad idea, IDS could only be in favor of it by accident - and I guess no one spun three lemons today, so they're not.
That isn't to say there aren't good reasons for opposing it, of course. The most obvious one that springs to mind is that anything headed by David Horowitz is a witchhunt waiting to happen. It's like joining the Red Army to fight the Nazis, really: fun while it lasts, but once it's all over you have to go home to the Soviet Union. Oops!
But of course the IDS isn't opposing it because it might turn into a witchhunt. They're against it because ... wait for it ... it targets professors rather than actually fighting islamic terrorists.
You get how this works. "You can either fight Islamofascism, or you can fight college professors, but you can't do both." Hmmm....
What hasn't occurred to IDS is that you can do both. You can even do both at the same time. And that's largely because there are professors like Ward Churchill, Julio Pino, and Nicholas de Genova mucking about. Part of fighting Islamofascism involves arguing against the people who support it, and to the extent that there are people who support it here in the US on our college campuses, we can and do fight it when we denounce these people.
Of course "denounce" should not mean (as Horowitz no doubt intends it to mean) "strip of tenure" and/or "censor." As I said, the good reason I can think of to be wary about an "Islamofascism Awareness Week" - at least, one with Horowitz at the helm - is that we don't need a revival of McCarthyism. But here in Reality(tm), we know that's unlikely to happen. Indeed, any "Islamofascism Awareness Week" as can be scraped together by a ragtag band of long-suffering College Republicans groups on our campuses is more likely than anything to amount to exactly what IDS wants to see "instead:"
...[having] actual scholars (not conservative pundits) teach about how terrorist groups work, familiarize students with the political and cultural context that gave rise to these groups, sponsor debates on how to counter them and otherwise do things that are actually educational.
I fail to see how calling attention to the ideas of professors the Right thinks are enabling Islamofascist ideas would be anything other than "educational." The sponsoring groups are a very very long way from the level of influence that would allow them to burn books in public and/or actually get anyone banned or censored. The Second Coming of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution ... won't. And so the only effect I can really see this having is that a handful of thoughtful people will actually go out and read some of the references conservatives offer as evidence (assuming they've bothered to dig any up - and I'm optimistic here). To the extent that those references really are pro-Islamofascist, the protetst will have opened some eyes. To the extent that the protestors are exaggerating, people will smirk at them and go about their business.
What I don't see happening in any possible universe is that resources that would've otherwise been devoted to "countering these [Islamofascist] groups" will now be taken up denouncing professors instead. The IDS Editorial board should come clean: what have they really done in the struggle against global jihad lately?
Most of us just don't think about it. And another thing I don't mind going on record saying is that I think that's OK too. I find it really bizarre, to tell the truth, that anyone pays much attention to Islam at all. Like Christianity and all religions, it's a silly superstition. Its only distinguishing characteristic, really, is that it's a lot bloodthirstier than most religions, which just makes it, in my humble opinion, the worst major religion on the planet. We hardly NEED to argue against it - the material prosperity of the West has already won that little battle.
Communism was a real intellectual threat. People believed in it. Astonishingly, some even still do. I don't think anyone with half a brain believes in Islam - or if they do, they're highly unlikely to believe in the brand of it that wants to bomb everyone back into the Stone Age. It just isn't really that scary, and I don't think there's much students can do, have to do, or even should do to help fight it; it will go away on its own in time. The Conservatives can do us all a favor by calling attention to just how many apologies have been made for the styled "Religion of Peace," but it isn't a very big favor. And it's not a very convincing favor either coming from people who mostly believe in Jesus. But if they want to do it for us anyway, why not let them? I don't mind looking at their evidence, and IDS shouldn't either.
What's silly is saying that somehow the energy that goes into mounting this protest could've been better spent fighting Islam in other ways. How, I wonder?
But here is IDS' opinion of the people behind this in black and white for all to read:
“Never mind those with the bombs,” they seem to think. “It’s academics who criticize U.S. foreign policy and society, who are reticent about military force, who keep repeating that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims aren’t terrorists and that Westerners need to better understand their cultures, and who fret about global warming who are the real enemy.” This is a load of rubbish.
No, the idea that anyone in the real world actually fits this strawman description is rubbish. Horowitz et al are very much concerned about "those with the bombs." This is why they support the War in Iraq. Leaving aside whether this war will actually do anything to stop the people with bombs, the point is that Horowitz and most conservatives support it for that reason. Denouncing (they would say "exposing") college profs here in the States who support radical Islam is but one front in their greater war. It's all part and parcel of the same fight - to them.
And so this is a classic false dichotomy. It's easily swatted away in a realtime debate. What concerns me, actually, is that this kind of shoddy argument makes the press in college newspapers. It the core curriculum were worth its salt, it wouldn't.