Features, Politics, Religion
comments 122

Bad Faith: Sam Harris, Omer Aziz, and Islam

In a recent post covering a discussion between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz at the JW3 in London, I wrote the following regarding their critics:

Allegations — often nothing more than insinuations — have been made that Hirsi Ali and Nawaz have lied about who they are, that they don’t mean what they say, and that they are either greedy and self-serving or greedy and self-hating or both. A paradigmatic example of what the late Christopher Hitchens called “the pseudo-Left new style, whereby if your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one.”

Hitchens offered this remark, not just as a matter of observation, but from personal experience. He had set out the moral arguments in favor of the removal of Saddam Hussein at abundant length and with a rare passion and clarity. Salient to his advocacy was the Iraqi regime’s mass-murder of Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and the torments suffered by Iraqis more generally at the hands of a despotism of uncommon paranoia and cruelty. The removal of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, he argued, would be a deliverance, and the nobility of the project to help build a democracy in its place ought to be self-evident.

But when his erstwhile colleagues on the political Left asked themselves what might lead a former Marxist, anti-Imperialist, and friend and admirer of Edward Said to support a Republican administration’s wars, they preferred to ignore the case he actually made and defended. Instead, they ascribed to him the most sinister and ignoble motives they could come up with. Hitchens, they claimed, was in fact driven by a desire for the personal enrichment that came with Establishment approval, by racism, by “bloodlust”, by a newfound worship of American power or, more often than not, by a combination of all the above. There was a general eagerness to convict him of treachery and greed and to explain that what really animated him was, at best, a wicked indifference to seeing lifeless Muslim bodies drawn from rubble.

The only time I have ever seen Hitchens caught off-guard by a question was towards the end of his debate with the former Labour Party parliamentarian George Galloway. The question pertained to Hitchens’s integrity but it came, not from Galloway himself, but from the debate’s moderator, Amy Goodman. “As you’ve changed your views over time,” she asked, “do you feel that the media is friendlier to you?” An uncomfortable pause followed, broken by a smattering of audience snickering and applause. “Um….” Hitchens started uncertainly, “I’m just…trying to…think…” Galloway took the opportunity to contribute a derisive laugh of his own. “No…” Hitchens continued:

I have…I have…I was a columnist for…say, Vanity Fair which is where I think most of my readers follow my stuff, uh, before I, erm, resigned from the Nation, for example. And I still…I didn’t get that job by quitting the Nation. I have a feeling I know the, uh, imputation of what you’re saying. But I think I probably wouldn’t be the best judge in my own cause. I can see the editor of the Nation magazine sitting in the front row. I feel fairly confident that if you asked him he would not say that I left the Nation in order to improve my salary prospects. And I frankly think that’s a bit of a waste of a question. But if the impression I give is of someone mercenary and as bad at handling money as that it’s an impression I wouldn’t be able to correct by denying it.

Well, quite. “That’s a bit of a waste of an answer,” Galloway interjected with obvious satisfaction. But what other answer could Hitchens have provided under the circumstances? He immediately understood that whatever he said was likely to sound self-serving and possibly self-righteous, and that he was only going to be able to sidestep that trap by declining to offer a robust answer in his own defense.

* * *

A few weeks ago, Sam Harris invited a writer and law student named Omer Aziz onto his podcast to discuss the latter’s scathing review of Harris’s recent book, a collaboration with former Islamist Maajid Nawaz entitled Islam and the Future of Tolerance. Aziz began by protesting, “I don’t care about your motives. For me, it’s about what the book says”. If that were true, listeners would have been spared the podcast’s tortuous first hour, and what followed it might have been more constructive.

But it is hard to accept Aziz’s professed indifference to Nawaz and Harris’s motives when he had decided to open his review with this:

There are few get-rich-quick schemes left in modern publishing, but one that persists could be called Project Islamic Reformation. Writing a book that fits in this category is actually quite easy. First, label yourself a reformist. Never mind the congratulatory self-coronation the tag implies; it is necessary to segregate oneself from all the non-reformists out there. Second, make your agenda clear at the outset by criticizing what is ailing Islam and Muslims. The Qur’an is a good place to start because Muslims, especially in the Middle East, surely treat their holy book more like a military instruction manual than anything else. Third, propose a few solutions. Lest you be accused of nuance, the more vague and generic these are, the better. Fourth, soak up the inevitable publicity that awaits, and with it, your hard-earned cash. Voilà!

Aziz not only ascribes explicitly avaricious and self-aggrandizing motives to Harris and Nawaz, but he front-loads his review with an entire paragraph devoted to this accusation, for which he appears to have no persuasive evidence outside of his own suspicions.

Harris seemed to be under the impression that this could be dealt with fairly quickly. Unlike Hitchens, he had come pre-prepared with what he thought was an unanswerable rebuttal. Aziz was, after all, claiming that the authors’ cynical and true intentions contradicted their stated goals. Absent anything actually substantiating their duplicity, how could he possibly know this?

Harris pointed out — inter alia — that slim volumes published by Harvard University Press were hardly a lucrative way to make a living; that most of what Harris described as his core audience had limited interest in the topic of radical Islam; that the reputational and security costs associated with writing critically about Islam were enough to dissuade others interested in the topic from touching it; and he pointed out that he and Nawaz had been offered no advance on the book and that he had no idea how well it was selling.

Aziz was having none of this. If Harris and Nawaz had wanted their motives to remain untainted by suspicions of self-enrichment, he declared, then they ought to have made it available for nothing. He demanded to know how much money Harris had made from the book (something he really should have taken the trouble to discover before accusing Harris of being motivated by nothing else). Wearily Harris agreed that, yes, they will have made some money from sales although he didn’t know how much and, in any case, that really wasn’t the point. That led to this exchange:

AZIZ: You have just admitted you made money out of this, number one. Number two, it was originally supposed to be a blogpost. And number three…would you deny that Project Islamic Reformation books demanding reformation are not in vogue now? That articles calling for reformation don’t go viral every two days? Would you deny this? That there is a great market and a great readership and a great listenership for these kinds of ideas?

HARRIS: Yes. I would deny it. It is the least lucrative and most costly thing I could be doing. And I’m informing you about this. I don’t expect you to know this. But what I’m saying is true. And your reluctance to step back at all from your “get-rich-quick scheme” claim says a lot about you. You’re getting your JD at Yale. What could you possibly hope to do as a lawyer if you’re showing this little concern, not only for the truth, but for the perception of your commitment to the truth?

AZIZ: My commitment to the truth is completely independent from and I think should not factor in financial profit of any kind. I think it’s a corrupting motive, number one and number two…

HARRIS: Jesus Christ. Omer—

AZIZ: …as an attorney, someone who is actually interested in reforming many communities and inducing cultural liberalism, I want to work with these communities, which is apparently what Maajid wants to do, and here-here-here’s something: I’ll tell you, this book is going to influence and change precisely very few opinions in the Muslim world.

HARRIS: Again, you’re changing the subject, Omer. The truth I’m talking about here is that you made a claim about our motives that is demonstrably false. I’ve given you several reasons why you should recognize—

AZIZ: You just admitted you made money off of it!

Presumably Aziz is paid for the articles he has published in Salon, The New Republic, the New York Times and elsewhere. Is it therefore legitimate to conclude that his only interest as a writer is in filling his own pockets? Will his work as a lawyer be undertaken pro bono to preserve the integrity and nobility of motives that would otherwise necessarily be suspect? His review then went on to ascribe the same mercenary motives to Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the basis that “publishers love a good Reformist”, but again without troubling to actually substantiate his claim.

Amidst the general atmosphere of exasperation the conversation produced, the most important question got lost which was why? Why had Aziz found it necessary to get into the matter of motives at all, especially since he claimed that what really concerned him was the substance of the book itself? What, in other words, were his motives for deciding to open his review with such a gratuitously ungenerous and mean-spirited paragraph, which then echoed across every substantive criticism that followed?

Aziz was quick to insist that he held no personal animus towards either Harris or Nawaz. “I don’t hate you and I don’t hate Maajid,” he announced. “I find some of your ideas repugnant and I was responding to those. I didn’t call you a racist. I didn’t call you a bigot at all. I didn’t call you any names. I merely contending and responding to the ideas that I read in your book. So that was my intention at least.”

But this is also hard to reconcile with the experience of actually reading what Aziz had written. Contempt and bitter resentment roll out of his review in waves, and there is a point beyond which strident criticism simply lapses into invective. He had claimed that Harris is historically illiterate, ignorant, morally callous, an undisciplined pseudo-intellectual, that anti-Muslim bigotry is unworthy of his sympathies or concern, and that he and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are “considered prejudiced, dishonest interlocutors at best”.

As for the specific accusation of racism, what are we supposed to infer from the claim that Harris is indifferent to Muslim suffering? In an article published following their exchange on the podcast, Aziz was more explicit. During a section expressing outrage that Harris should use the euphemism “collateral damage” to distinguish between the intended (Ba’athist and jihadist) and unintended (civilian) casualties of coalition violence during the Iraq war, Aziz wrote:

Harris repeats [this euphemism] quicker than even the most hawkish conservatives do. He does so, I believe, because the Muslim-looking or brown-skinned body is of no human value to him…he dehumanized thousands of victims and sanitized the victimizers.

Does Aziz realise what an inflammatory accusation this is to make on the basis of a mere belief? A belief justified by the alacrity with which someone is perceived to use a perfectly legitimate term, no less? Asked by Harris whether or not he thinks Saddam Hussein ought to have been left in power in 2003, Aziz replied that he would have preferred it if the Americans had removed him in 1991 (an evasion of the actual question, characteristic of Aziz’s debating style). Any action taken to remove Saddam Hussein in 1991 would almost certainly have had to be undertaken without UN authorisation. And it would certainly have resulted in Iraqi civilian casualties.

Would it be fair to conclude from this that the Muslim-looking or brown-skinned body is of no human value to Aziz either? To support any war, no matter how just its objective is to accept the inevitability of unintended civilian deaths. It is neither “sanitising victimisers” (the US military) nor “dehumanising victims” to make a distinction between intended and unintended deaths. As Harris tried to explain (again, without noticeable success), this distinction is central to a discussion of an army’s ethics. If, on the other hand, Aziz’s only objection was to the commonplace euphemism Harris used to describe the latter, he could simply suggested a more palatable alternative for the purposes of discussion.

Most puzzling of all is that, for all the derision Aziz empties over Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, his own preferred solutions to the manifest problems facing the Muslim-majority world do not seem to be all that different from theirs. He wants to see Muslim democrats and progressives and minorities supported; he wants to see backward and intolerant and illiberal attitudes discredited and superseded by pluralistic and liberal alternatives; and he wants to encourage a process of scholarly reinterpretation of Islamic texts that places the problematic passages in their proper historical context and that uses the more benign passages to discredit the theological arguments of fanatics.

Harris was mystified. But then why the hostility to Maajid Nawaz, he asked, who is making these same arguments and who, as an activist, seeks precisely the kind of theological, cultural, and political reforms Aziz prescribes? “Perceptions,” Aziz replied, “are very important. Historically, left-wingers and progressives and reformists who were bank-rolled by or associated with right-wingers, or what we would today call neoconservatives, have basically been co-opted.”

And here we find, if not the nub of the problem, then at least a big part of it. Omer Aziz self-identifies on the political Left. He gives every impression throughout his review, his discussion with Harris, and his subsequent articles, of presuming that the Left is synonymous with progress, democracy, and virtue and that those on the Right have neither a legitimate moral basis for their own views, nor anything to contribute to a discussion about Islam that cannot be safely identified as bigoted in some way.

It should not be necessary to point out that, as a matter of historical record, the political Left is just as steeped in totalitarianism, terror, death squads, and mass murder as the political Right. During the Cold War, Western governments made accommodations with a series of right-wing dictatorships and excused their depredations in the name of containing Communism. But the New Left were no less willing to ignore and justify the grotesque human rights records of the various Marxist insurgencies and revolutionary regimes – from Latin America to South-East Asia – to whom they offered their allegiance. And since 9/11, vast portions of the Western Left have disgraced themselves by their failure to acknowledge the threats posed to security and social cohesion by radical and fundamentalist Islam, and a craven willingness to align with Islamists in opposition to American foreign policy.

Entangled in an obscurantist web of moral relativity, postcolonial theory, identity politics, anti-Zionism, and general moral confusion, they have instead elected to attack anyone who seeks to criticize members of protected minority groups. When apostates and dissidents from the Muslim-majority world find themselves repeatedly denigrated by people whose idea of progressive politics is endorsing Israeli Apartheid Week and World Hijab Day, it ought to be no surprise to find that they accept instead the solidarity offered by those on the Right who defend liberal democracy without apology. As I am sure Aziz knows, Hirsi Ali’s political journey from Left to Right occurred for precisely this reason.

I wonder also if Aziz realizes that his own brief paean to these values, during which he speaks of encouraging a “liberal and democratic and constitutional revolution across the Middle East” and supporting the “progressive opposition” and ending Western support for “domestic and religious tyrants” in the Muslim-majority world and beyond, would be heartily endorsed by neoconservatives who share in his analysis.

The Obama administration, on the other hand, explicitly turned its back on the democracy promotion agenda of the Bush years. It closed down the democracy directorate at the NSC and weakened the Human Rights Bureau in the State Department. It said nothing as Green movement protestors were murdered on Iranian streets in 2009, following the stolen election. It has been neoconservatives and liberal interventionists — those frequently derided by the Left as ‘right-wing militarists’ — who have been pleading for a No Fly Zone in Syria to help mitigate the slaughter there, and for America to show support for Iranian democrats.

Whether Obama or his neoconservative critics got these judgment calls right ought to be something about which reasonable people of goodwill are able to disagree. Given the region’s volatility and complexity, the foreign policy dilemmas faced by the West are not remotely straightforward. But a constructive debate can only begin once the good faith of one’s opponents has been acknowledged. As the American foreign policy analyst Aaron David Miller is fond of pointing out, the most important divide in politics is not between Left and Right but between good ideas and dumb ones. And there are enough dumb ideas to be found across the political spectrum to preclude an assumption by either Left or Right that they have a monopoly on wisdom or virtue.

Contrary to Aziz’s claim that all he really cares about is ideas, what seemed to preoccupy him during the debate was political positioning. One of the criticisms he had made of Maajid Nawaz in his review was that Nawaz had not gone out of his way to antagonize Harris, and had thereby allowed himself to be tainted by association. In his determination to avoid making the same mistake, Aziz was always careful to position himself in stubborn opposition to Harris. If perceptions are important to Aziz, then the perceptions of the Salon-reading Left seem to be of particular concern.

Aziz is smart enough to realize that had he been foolish enough to engage in an agreeable and fair-minded discussion with Harris, he would have been subject to precisely the kind of reputational cost Harris had described at the start of their exchange. A cost that would have been extracted by the same people who had gleefully circulated his review, and that he was in no mood to pay. So instead he labored to put as much political distance between himself and Harris as possible, apparently untroubled by the intellectually dishonesty this required. He sought disagreement and conflict for their own sake to ensure that he would remain untouched by the same accusations of chauvinism, racism, and bigotry that he has helped attach to Harris. Listening to someone maneuver in this way for over three hours was, in its own way, illuminating. It was also profoundly dispiriting.

 

Jamie Palmer is a writer and film-maker. Read more of his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @jacobinism

Photo by Steve Jurvetson.

Latest posts by Jamie Palmer (see all)

122 Comments

  1. jiiri says

    I felt much the same way after slogging through that podcast. Whether or not I agree with Harris on every point, I take his motives to be honest, and actually find his intellectual honesty shines through his work. One doesn’t have to be correct on every bit of minutiae to be taken seriously. I don’t know how substantive debates over contentious subjects can ever happen if we don’t first apply charity to our opponent’s motives, and then to their best arguments. If what we want is to believe things more likely to be true, it’s a prerequisite for engaging in the realm of ideas.

    • Kevin says

      No doubt. I remember hearing Sam, at the beginning of one of his recent podcasts, saying that a google analyst (or developer, maybe?) had basically blown away several of his analogies and examples, and it was clear that Sam’s thinking on the Apple vs. FBI situation was evolving. Even if I disagreed with everything Sam has ever written or said, I would respect him so much for his intellectual honesty. Can you imagine someone like Aziz or Greenwald speaking like that? Never in a million years….

      • Anne Bossy says

        I agree Kevin. I respect Sam Harris for admitting when he’s wrong and for his capacity to evolve.

  2. Samuel Mills says

    This is such an eloquent summation of the podcast. Great work.

  3. willtickel says

    It does seem like if someone on the Right said “Triangles have three sides” those on the Far-Left would i) firstly assume that they must be wrong and ii) criticise them for generalising about triangles.

    I think Sam’s encounter with Maryam Namazie was hamstringed for much the same reason; people on the far-left seem, in principle, unable to concede a single point that happens to be made by those on the right.

    The result is a debate starved of nuance between the far-right bigots and far-left nutcases.

    Great Article.

    • JOHNNY VANCE says

      Willtickel, very true in my experience. I have a friend on the far left who refused to back down from positions supporting censoring “bad speech” and from saying that there are no bad ideologies. I hit him with some solid arguments and analogies but he shut down the conversation immediately because it would involve him “conceding an inch.”

      He couldn’t bring himself to change one thing at all – even when shown the folly of his hard position – because in his mind he’d be conceding ground.

    • What point was Maryam supposed to concede?

      She must have said ten times in the discussion “we disagree and that’s okay”

      Let’s be honest, you guys don’t want to find common ground, you want her to specifically agree with your worldview without you having to move it at all. As I mentioned below, it stems from the continuous Dave Rubin / Sam Harris / Joe Rogan circle jerk loop of reinforcement that has clouded them from seeing that shit, someone might also hate Islam but have a different approach.

      Sam sees 1 million refugees in Germany and he considers that chance that 1% of them might be potential Islamists to be a alarming number. Maryam sees 1 million refugees and doesn’t give a shit about their politics – she sees them as human lives fleeing a terrible condition and in desperate need of help. It is possible for both conditions to exist!! Maryam should not have to dismiss her beliefs just Sam is forwarding his!

      Where int he discussion did Sam even bother to ask what the experiences of the refugees has been like? Or to ask her to recount stories she has heard from them? Or what even made them pack up and leave in the first place? He simply doesn’t give a shit about them as humans. He has not once demonstrated that he does. And that’s fine, but its clear that Maryam is sensitive to their plight (as a refugee herself) and THATS OKAY. Maybe she thinks that its more important to save 1 million lives and try to find political solutions to Islamist thoughts within the group rather than fear the Islamists and do nothing with the 1 million. Is it possible to have a different perspective? God forbid she seems something differently.

      • willtickel says

        You hit the nail on the head. THAT was the point she couldn’t concede. There were multiple occasions were Sam didn’t disagree with what she was saying and she refused to acknowledge it. As just one example where Maryam was saying that it is just as important to fight Racism and Bigotry as it is to fight Islamism. Sam says “Of course it is, but you’re acting like I disagree with you.” and She replies “I don’t know whether you disagree” and then goes onto berate him for interrupting her.

        He tells her unequivocally that he agrees and yet she is still unwilling to acknowledge this agreement. Whenever he interrupts her it’s because she’s arguing against positions he does not hold. She appears to have assumed all of Sam’s positions beforehand and refuses to be corrected by the only person who actually knows Sam’s views with any authority, namely Sam Harris.

        While you are of course correct that concern for Islamism and concern for the welfare of refugees are not mutually exclusive, in making this statement you appear to have made the assumption that Sam is only concerned with Islamism concluding that “He doesn’t give a shit about them [refugees] as humans”. Despite the fact that he has expressed concern for their welfare on many occasions. Perhaps this doesn’t meet your standard of ‘demonstrating that he does [give a shit about refugees as humans]’? Even if he hadn’t, your argument that: I personally haven’t seen him demonstrate any concern for refugees therefore he doesn’t see refugees lives as worthy of concern, doesn’t follow anyway.

        He does, as it happens, talk to Maryam (albeit very briefly) about the circumstances under which she left Iran, but they don’t go into great detail. I still fail to see why you consider Maryam’s past as a particularly salient factor to the discussion her and Sam were having. Perhaps you thought more should have been said about the suffering that refugees were experiencing?

        While it natural and desirable for there to be different perspectives and disagreement, what is both dishonest and counter-productive is to use the methods that many, including Maryam Namazie, have employed when dealing with those they disagree with: straw-manning and ad hominum attacks.

        • As just one example where Maryam was saying that it is just as important to fight Racism and Bigotry as it is to fight Islamism. Sam says “Of course it is, but you’re acting like I disagree with you.” and She replies “I don’t know whether you disagree” and then goes onto berate him for interrupting her.

          She pointed on multiple occasions to the team-up between the anti-Islamists and Tommy Robinson. Sam’s response was always “I don’t know anything about Tommy Robinson other than that interview with Dave Rubin.” Well, go fucking read and learn more about him. He has a checkered, bigoted past and his history with the EDL is open to anyone to see. Maryam does not want to partner with Tommy Robinson. Sam Harris agrees that we should fight the Far-Right narrative as well, while at the same time defending Tommy Robinson because he has only seen one interview. Is Sam incapable of searching google?

          ““He doesn’t give a shit about them [refugees] as humans”. Despite the fact that he has expressed concern for their welfare on many occasions. Perhaps this doesn’t meet your standard of ‘demonstrating that he does [give a shit about refugees as humans]’? Even if he hadn’t, your argument that: I personally haven’t seen him demonstrate any concern for refugees therefore he doesn’t see refugees lives as worthy of concern, doesn’t follow anyway.”

          Sorry, but yes there is a logical following. Let’s say that there are five terrorist attacks. If every time a terrorist attack comes up and I say “of course terrorism is bad” and then go on to talk about how statistically we need to curtail drunk drinking in this country, after every single incident, have I given any indication that I have put serious thought into these events?

          He has given no thought to the humanity of the refugees. He has glossed over their plight. Simply acknowledging that a refugee situation exists before moving onto to discuss the chances of a refugee being an Islamist reveal this. His thoughts on the issue completely revolves around statistics and the impact on Europe. Which, I will reiterate, is fine. That can be your perspective But if you are someone who cares passionately about refugee rights, you will disagree. We can accept Sam for his views and positions, but you know what, we don’t have to accept that he’s a really nice guy. Maybe in my opinion he’s not.

          “He does, as it happens, talk to Maryam (albeit very briefly) about the circumstances under which she left Iran, but they don’t go into great detail. I still fail to see why you consider Maryam’s past as a particularly salient factor to the discussion her and Sam were having. Perhaps you thought more should have been said about the suffering that refugees were experiencing?”

          I didn’t say anything asking about her past. He can ask her what she is seeing right now. And yes, perhaps more should have been said. Perhaps Sam could have asked and it might have changed his view. The point is he did not. When discussing the refugees, he never does.

          “While it natural and desirable for there to be different perspectives and disagreement, what is both dishonest and counter-productive is to use the methods that many, including Maryam Namazie, have employed when dealing with those they disagree with: straw-manning and ad hominum attacks.”

          Which strawmen? Which ad hominem attacks?

          • “Which strawmen? Which ad hominem attacks?!” Well, her retweeting posts that claim Harris to be a white supremacist would sure qualify as such, in my view. If I started retweeting a post that asserted that Maryam strangled puppies as a means of sexual gratification, I wouldn’t be as dishonest as to claim that I was making no observations about her character whatsoever; that I was just posting an article; that it in no way indicated that I agreed with it.

          • “Is Sam incapable of searching google?”

            No, but it would be rude to do it while having a discussion.

          • SandyA says

            Okay, E aw, I’m just going to concentrate on taking issue with one paragraph in your post:

            “She pointed on multiple occasions to the team-up between the anti-Islamists and Tommy Robinson. Sam’s response was always “I don’t know anything about Tommy Robinson other than that interview with Dave Rubin.” Well, go fucking read and learn more about him. He has a checkered, bigoted past and his history with the EDL is open to anyone to see. Maryam does not want to partner with Tommy Robinson. Sam Harris agrees that we should fight the Far-Right narrative as well, while at the same time defending Tommy Robinson because he has only seen one interview. Is Sam incapable of searching google?”

            “Sam’s response was always “I don’t know anything about Tommy Robinson other than that interview with Dave Rubin.” Well, go fucking read and learn more about him.”

            You do realise don’t you that the context is a conversation? Maryam mentions someone Sam’s not very familiar with and Sam says “I don’t know much about him”, which is very likely to be true. But your criticism implies that at that point he should have stopped recording, asked Maryam to wait, and then gone and researched Tommy Robinson’s complete back history rather than just saying “Sorry, I don’t know much about him”.

            Three sentences later, you’ve now interpreted the “I don’t know much about him” statement as a defence of Tommy Robinson – “while at the same time defending Tommy Robinson”. Huh … where did that come from? You really do need to learn to reign in your imagination and try just sticking to the evidence before you rather than leaping to unjustified conclusions.

        • Anne of Thieves says

          I listened to that podcast and it was painful. I don’t agree with Harris entirely, but you have nailed this description of her apparent stone-eared refusal to either really listen to anything Harris had to offer and her maddening, passive/aggressive blaming of Harris for positions he did not take. He was so patient my head nearly exploded.

          • Gerald Washington says

            Excellent summary of the “dust up” between Harris& Aziz.I second the comments in regard to Harris’. s intellectual integrity.His insights on various topics that concern the welfare of humanity have always been fair& well researched .I picked up some very useful info on meditation by listening to one of Harris’s debates. (That was a pleasant surprise)

          • Sandhya,

            In the interview, he does not end the conversation with just saying “I don’t know anything about him” . . . he continues to insist that he sounds very reasonable in that one interview and continued to defend him solely on one interview he read.

            Maryam made the point that she does not support Tommy Robinson, and does not want to be associated with him in her fight against Islam. Sam Harris hedged, just as he has hedged on other “culture warrior” types.

            At the very least, you would figure Sam would know something beyond one softball interview’s worth on a man who is associated with the person he co-wrote his fucking book with.

      • Mark Hewitson says

        Yet, you did not notice the common ground Harris found with Nawaz?

      • Jas says

        The annoying thing about Maryam and Omer wasn’t that they disagreed, it was precisely that they actually seemed to agree w/ Sam about most everything but they just keep arguing to argue and brand him as insensitive. And on the rare occassion they disagree about something they do a very bad job of explaining it. You mention that Mayram doesn’t care about refugee’s politics or whether a few or a lot of terrorists are let in along with the rest of the refugees. That’s FINE for her to think that, but in that podcast it took about an hour of her evasive dialogue for me to figure out that that is actually what she believes. She spent so much time accusing Sam of being incompassionate and generalizing about muslims that she didn’t actually say what her positions were so I couldn’t even tell if they actually disagreed.

        And Omer basically showed up with the claim that if you earn any quantity of money greater than zero your intentions are automatically and necessarily pure evil. Obviously he doesn’t actually believe that, but he just wanted to argue. And he basically said if I’m Suni and you’re Shia that’s a political difference not religious one…. it’s crazy there’s no way he really thinks that he just wanted to fight. But I don’t think they actually disagreed about ANY actual policies in that entire 3 hour podcast.

      • Never forget her end game is a Bolshevik Communist state, she is a member of a Maoist revolutionary communist party, so her crocodile tears over refugees are fake, she’d sell them out and atheists too if it would bring her beloved full Communism.

        “As editor for the Worker-communist Review, Maryam Namazie is a Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. She advocates ideas inspired by Workerist Communism, especially those of the Iranian theorist Mansoor Hekmat.[39”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maryam_Namazie

        • Hard to believe someone who was a refugee and spent 20 years of her life dedicated to helping refugees is shedding “crocodile tears.” Nonsense.

        • penn penn says

          How Ironic that you deny Namazie could be a genuinely compassionate person given the content of the article. Give it another read and have a think,

  4. Aziz was certainly an articulate voice but I’m not sure how deep one can assume his intellect goes. He seemed, many times, to simply not understand the thrust of Harris’ argument (eg: when Harris stated that he (Harris) understood a muslim terrorist better than Aziz understood Harris) One might presume sometimes that he was deviously evading a straight answer to the points Harris made. But it seemed (to this listener at least) that oftentimes he simply didn’t follow or understand the thread. (This is not to mitigate the times he was consciously mendacious in his answers which happened a lot too.)

    • I think it was mendacity and obfuscation as much as anything, and it was all across the spectrum of Omer’s responses. I wouldn’t even characterize his responses as rebuttals or criticisms; he was simply equivocating and slip-sliding all around the issues Harris was trying to establish as reference points for the conversation

      I don’t think Omer is all that intelligent, but he’s clearly well-read, quick-witted and suited to debate. He is, however, clearly smart enough to know that if he conceded more than a token point that Harris was trying to make it would cause his entire house of cards to collapse.

      In a lot of ways, this was one of my favorite Sam Harris podcasts (even though I had to break listening to it into four sessions). Hearing Sam hit, pass, recover to, and then again launch past his social/cordiality limits during the conversation was really telling about how important he thought the dialogue could have been. It was impressive seeing him try so hard for so long while his opponent (who should have been his partner) stubbornly refused to even attempt to find common ground.

    • Dan says

      I think Aziz showed a vast intellect but every utterance came from a sense of political/ lawyerly gamesmanship. I think Harris underestimated how strongly Aziz’s ego was tied to his position which made him immoveable.

    • Yes, now that you mention it, I recall thinking that. He was ARTICULATE, yet didnt seem to track the sublties of the exchanges very well.

  5. JUSTICE! We’ve all found ourselves in conversations with people like this and I couldn’t be more thankful that Sam not only had this conversation, but decided to release it. It gives those of us who can relate to Sam’s position a little bit of vindication that some people really are just that blockheaded and that just because someone gets upset in a conversation with you, it doesnt mean youre wrong!

  6. Adrian Malinowski says

    I have tried to articulate some kind of summary on the podcast but I don’t think I could have ever provided a more clear and accurate analysis of the “conversation” Mr. Palmer has. I think in the end say it was “dispiriting” may be an understatement. It is becoming more and more frustrating having to wade through such dishonest debate tactics; in the intellectual arena and in ones daily life

  7. Nam says

    Great article.

    The Hitchens and Miller quotes you included really identify a major failing of the far-left and political discourse in general. There needs to be an intellectual backlash against these sorts of tactics such that anyone using it will be easily seen as dishonest and dismissed as such.

  8. Very well stated. Thanks for writing this. It’s baffling how otherwise intelligent and reasonable people can abandon said traits when the subject of Islamism comes up.

  9. Andrew McKenzie says

    Exactly. I have just finished Julian Barnes’s latest book, ‘The Noise of Time’, which is really a meditation on Soviet communism, and couldn’t help noticing the parallel approach to facts that Aziz and the Soviets had/have. Thank God we’ve moved past that.

  10. raznor87 says

    Yesterday I was watching a House of Cards episode where Claire (one of the main characters of the show) gets a hearing because she wants to become the US ambassador in the UN. She gets into a heated dialogue with a senator, that goes something like this:

    Senator: As a vocal proponent of the Sexual Assault Bill [concerning sexual assault in the military] last session, are you concerned about your relationship with the US military? What if there were a peacekeeping mission in, say, Burma to quell civil unrest, and the UN asked us to contribute troops…

    Claire: If you’re using Myanmar as a hypothetical, I think we’re a long way from that, but as Ambassador-

    Senator: My question concerns the use of US military.

    Claire: The US military is irrelevant, the current situation-

    Senator: Excuse me, Mrs. Underwood. “The US military is irrelevant?”

    And then he goes on and on about how that single sentence means Claire doesn’t respect the men and women in the army who put their lives on the line for the country.

    I was instantly reminded of the conversation between Sam and Omer. Taking statements out of context, insinuating reprehensible motives out of the blue, mischaracterizing someones views. It was all there. Beautiful.

  11. Kearney says

    I didn’t find the Hitchens lead in consistent with the appraisal of Harris’s defense. I don’t agree Hitch was in a rhetorical trap and even if he were it’s his option to identify it as such. As for Sam I think the length of the conversation, his frustration the general banality of it and his willingness to make it public against his better judgement constitute a very robust defense. That said I freely confess to finding Hitchens (rip) and Galloway the equivalent to Laurel and Hardy of ideas (actually laurel and Hardy were funny so they would be superior and Galloway licking toes is gross but funny, Hitch was just a terribly bitter individual.)

    I’m glad Sam released the interview and this piece is a good run down of it. If I had doubts about the decay of the Western mind when it comes to Islam I no longer do. It really is astounding.

    • Louis says

      Ad hominem. Your irrelevant comment exhibits the inability to address the issues discussed rationally.

  12. Carlos says

    That’s gross, that’s racist.

    I’m kidding, of course. Fantastic article – eloquent, convincing and (most importantly) true. Thank you.

  13. A great article, thanks.

    Further indication of Aziz’s intellectual stature were the tautologies he occasionally came out with, seemingly without noticing — the most glaring example being that Nawaz is not taken seriously in Muslim circles, because he doesn’t have “standing” in them.

    Harris suggested that as a law student at Yale, perhaps Aziz should be arguing more honestly, but couldn’t we be seeing exactly what he is being taught there? Our good old adversarial system, where the object is to “win” at any cost?

  14. Pingback: Journalism vs. Wisdom, part I | itsadabsurdum

  15. Eric says

    This is a great write-up. As a fan of Harris, I have wondered how reasonable voices can support his position without mere side-taking.

    One question that I had about motives and intentions, though, had to do with why Harris invited Aziz onto his podcast in the first place. My mapping is that he wanted to clear his name, to prove himself worthy, to get Aziz to admit that he had made a mistake in his characterization of his book. Harris vaguely denies this to be so, but I can’t really think of any other reason he would engage given the nature of the original review. It became clear pretty quickly that Aziz was not about to give Harris what he seemed to want and it would have been impressive if Harris had recognized this sooner and decided to wrap up the podcast early. Instead, he seemed to masochistically subject himself to Aziz’s withholding of approval. For me, this was a very painful aspect of listening to the podcast. The seeming delight that Aziz got from withholding was difficult to watch from somebody who ascribes values of social justice to himself. I wish Harris had not played along with this.

    • I think the reason Harris went through with this podcast all the way to the bitter end is because he has identified a disease within the Left’s intelligentsia. I’ll admit that I didn’t even know who Harris was (I’d seen him as a talking head a few times, but I’d never bothered to dig deeper into his background or works) until reading about his dust-up with Noam Chomsky sometime last year. Since then I’ve devoured Harris’ work and, while I don’t agree with everything he puts out there, he’s more open to revision than anyone else I’ve come across in the spheres he travels.

      The conversation with Omer *appears* to be an extension of that failed interaction with Chomsky, who might as well have sired the disease within Leftist intelligentsia that Harris *appears* to be attempting to treat in his unique way. I see Omer and Chomsky as coming from largely the same place, and even in the podcast I think Omer tacitly defended Chomsky–which seemed, when I first heard it, to be an attempt to bait Harris into some ‘gotcha!’ moments.

      It’s entirely possible you’re right about Harris looking for some cheap heat and/or approval/consensus with Omer. I just didn’t get that vibe, personally.

      • Eric says

        Thanks for your response, misterjonez. I particularly appreciate your sharing the context about Chomsky–and the fact that his willingness to endure with Chomsky had the impact that you (and presumably others) started to tune into his ideas. And I also appreciate your sharing that your vibe differed from mine. It’s good calibration. For what it’s worth, I felt that the intention with Maryam in the prior podcast was also about seeking validation and was similar to my read on the Aziz case. I’d be curious to hear what you thought of that one as well. Again, I appreciate the interaction!

    • penn penn says

      Harris makes everything too personal. It’s embarrassing to watch.

  16. JOHNNY VANCE says

    I think Sam Harris should take a lesson out of the Ben Shapiro handbook.

    On the Rubin Report Shapiro said the you should not reply to false accusations – such as the ones Sam is victimless to – because when you invite someone into a discussion with you who has spread baseless nonsense, what you are in effect doing is saying, “You’re a rational fellow, let’s discuss your accusations about me.” Ben argues that by doing this, you’re granting the liar credibility by assuming that they’re rational. The proper response – according to Shapiro – is, “No, you’re an asshole. I’ve said and done nothing of the sort, you’re lying, and you’re an asshole.”

    • Ben Shapiro is someone who would by all measures be considered a “dishonest actor” by Dave Rubin / Sam Harris / the gang if he were on the left, . He has lied about Chuck Hagel, he has lied about Planned Parenthood, and he has lied about Stephen Colbert. His accusations against Colbert were so completely Salon-ish that it was impossible for me to read through it without laughing.

      Anyway, that being said, it’s telling that these guys have no problem having “conversations” with dishonest actors on the right like Shapiro but easily dismiss the Reza Aslans (and I admit, maybe should be dismissed!) as bad actors whose opinions are not worthy of being considered.

      This demonstrated to me that Rubin is more in it for the shock value and trying to build up his platform. But because its more important for our tribe to fight against the evil Regressive Left monster (we won’t have any conversations with them though!) Dave is more than willing to put aside his principles.

  17. Surprisingly that this podcast, which Harris considered to have very little substantive content, is proving more helpful than he could’ve imagined. This article does a great job describing the uphill battle Harris (and others) has with convincing other liberals. I specifically appreciated the paragraph about how any ties to “right-wing” values are a sign not to align with someone. I think this is a phenomena that is becoming more prevalent as Millennials get older. Omer is the perfect example of that.

    Harris, or someone, needs to address the Left’s false vision of themselves that they are “the good guys,” and anyone who they disagree with must be “a bad guy.”

  18. This analysis completely disregards the fact that Sam was also present in the “debate” and acted just as much, if not more in bad faith.

    Harris demonstrates a high level of sensitivity and insecurity. It was clear to me that his intention was not to discuss ideas with Omer but specifically that piece in Salon and specifically Sam the person. Like the Maryam Namazie interview, he displayed almost no interest in understanding, much less respecting her views, but simply could not deal with the fact that god forbid somebody does not agree with him.

    Let’s be honest here – Maryam has done far more to advance human rights and combat Islamism that Sam or any of his internet acoloytes have. When discussing refugees, she actually has experience on the ground talking to these people. It also seems as though Omer has much ore experience dealing with Muslims around the world. Omer made a good point that Sam often sounds as though the only Muslim he knows is Maajid.

    Part of the problem is that Sam, Dave Rubin, Gad Saad, Milo have created a favorable circle-jerk for themselves, where the will have “interviews” with each other and agree 100% of the time. They celebrate themselves as heroes for posting selfie videos on youtube, or making podcasts about the regressive left, or Islamists. I mean it’s nice I guess but . . . so what? What exactly is impressive about “owning” some dumbass college students who haven’t grown up yet? They have created an environment where anybody who happens disagree with them is a regressive leftie or Islamist sympathizer. It gets old. These guys pick out random tweets from random idiots and use that to highlight some huge challenge they are up against.

    Omer again, wrote in the very same Salon article in discussion that there is nothing of additional value that Sam has added to the conversation on tackling radical islam. Yes he is a clear speaker, and has a platform to get his opinions across which gives him great influence, but the point is – has Sam displayed any intention of getting to know Muslims? Has Sam displayed anything more than a few short statements expressing sympathy for the refugees? He sees them as a monolithic block of statistics without any consideration to what they have gone through. He’s nothing more than a pointy haired ivory tower professor. Again, what value is he adding? Can you really argue that Sam has done more for Muslims and Ex-Muslims than Maryam has?

    And the worst part is that this environment has prevented them from engaging in any sort of introspection or self-reflection. Why is it so outlandish to think that maybe Sam could be wrong about something? Why can’t we criticize his views on racial profiling? Why can’t we disagree with Sam? Really, you think in a 4 hour interview that Sam did nothing wrong, said nothing wrong at all?

    • Beto laser says

      Your whole criticism is an argument for “they haven’t lived it, they can’t have a real opinion on it.”, which is emotional blackmail from a leftist perspective and means nothing. I wasn’t in Germany in 1939 and I can discuss nazism. The end.

      • Christ.

        No one is discounting Sam’s opinions. He is entitled to his opinions and they are just as valid.

        There are others who offer different perspectives. Sam could take the opportunity to learn. He choose not too.

        • You keep making this claim, but offer no demonstration of its correctness. Of course Harris is open to new ideas (drones, recent iphone debacle, etc.), that’s the foundation of his whole way of thinking. Maryam is an emotionalist thinker and she couldn’t see past anything other than her appeal to emotion regarding refugees. That essentially shut down the entire conversation. This was the basic format:

          Maryam: These are people, Sam. They are families!

          SH: Yes, I know. But we should still be concerned about security, right?

          Maryam: These are peeeople, Sam.

          The fact is she doesn’t want to and never does talk about security. I think she means well, but she’s not a rigorous thinker. For proof: listen to the podcast, see her heinous re-tweets after the fact. (I was personally disgusted with her treatment on twitter after the fact, and said as much there. There’s an adolescent, sniveling garbage heap of 14 year old atheists on twitter making the rest of us look bad). I think she’s an advocate, not a reasoned public intellectual. Really an oil and water kind of situation. And it’s of course a real shame – they could’ve had a very productive conversation and I’m sure she could’ve brought great material to the conversation. Unfortunately, she blew a gasket out of the gate.

          Omer, on the other hand, is a weird immature liar, as demonstrated by him telling one whopper after another and then changing the subject when called on it. That said, of course, you’ve been exposed to the same amount of information we have. Yet you still side with the dummies, so it’s likely a hopeless errand. We can at least agree that the Rubin-Saad-Atheist-whatever group has become circle-jerky. But. That doesn’t make them incorrect. And leave Milo out of it. Sometimes he’s right about stuff, but he’s largely a professional troll, a label I doubt he would reject himself.

          • Okay – Maryam could not get beyond her sympathy to refugees and Sam was incapable of demonstrating any significant sympathy for them. They are completely talking past each other.

            Again, with the security thing – let’s assume that there is a security concern. Draw a logical conclusion. Expressing concern accomplishes nothing. What’s the solution? Does Sam have one? Does he have a perspective? At least we can respect Milo for having the courage to take a stand and say no to refugees. Does Sam want to say no to refugees? What does he want? Should we not trust them? Should we vet them? (as if we don’t already) What knowledge exactly has Sam enlightened us with?

            (I was personally disgusted with her treatment on twitter after the fact, and said as much there. There’s an adolescent, sniveling garbage heap of 14 year old atheists on twitter making the rest of us look bad).

            Oh please. Just fucking own it man. There are a lot of Sam Harris acolytes who treat him as a God and treat any criticism of him as blasphemy (sound familiar?) and get their highs off disparaging his critics on twitter. Maryam has retweeted them, its obvious and you’ve seen it. Even Sam had to make a personal plea for it to stop. Please don’t blame “14 year old atheists” – Sam and Dave Rubin have courageously gone after teenagers and college students for political correctness, so if those 18 year olds can represent the “regressive left” than your 14 year old atheists (sure they are) can represent YOU. It’s only fair right? Those guys make it a point to criticize some lefty who says something dumb and PC on twitter, but we’re just supposed to dismiss the bigots and internet thugs (admit it, there are many) on twitter coming while holding the gospel of Sam and Dave as just a bunch of 14th year olds? Oh please.

            We can at least agree that the Rubin-Saad-Atheist-whatever group has become circle-jerky. But. That doesn’t make them incorrect. And leave Milo out of it. Sometimes he’s right about stuff, but he’s largely a professional troll, a label I doubt he would reject himself.

            Confirmation Bias.

            Milo is basically a douche, and if he was a lefty, Dave Rubin wouldn’t have given him the time of day. If Milo was a lefty douche we would be hearing about how he is ruining discourse in America, emboldening the Islamists, etc. I am beginning to see less and less principle stance and more and more flat out tribalism.

    • Jason says

      Hear, hear. Harris and co. don’t even know what racism is (or, if one must, a radical left concept of it), let alone its historical development or how it functions in the West, particularly as a key driver of imperialism. Their rhetoric doesn’t just pave the way for that, they are consistently, and enthusiastically, providing intellectual cover for explicitly fascist movements in the West (which are growing at an alarming rate). As an activist who follows the issue, I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard confirmed Nazis, in their propaganda and at their rallies, regurgitate arguments and rhetorical flourishes that are either identical to or variations on things Harris has written and said on numerous occasions, indeed has become famous for saying.

      So, to any of Sam’s fanboys reading this, understand that you’re perpetuating an ideological trend that has extremely serious consequences for people who you don’t see selling books, giving ted talks, or being given talking-head spots in the mainstream, bought media. Try getting your information from elsewhere for awhile (and stop yourself getting excited when you hear things you’ve been trained to hate).

      Harris describes Chomsky as a ‘masochist’ for describing the US state as one of the world’s greatest evils. But Chomsky’s position can only be understood if one understands that, as an anarchist (and absolutely not a liberal), his allegiances lie with the world’s poor and working classes, not with the US state. Harris’s reflexively identifies as a member of the US nation (the tribe), and, as for the world’s poor and working classes, they’re not even concepts for Harris. That’s what it is to be a ‘state-worshipper.’

      • FrankenFuss says

        “But Chomsky’s position can only be understood if one understands that, as an anarchist (and absolutely not a liberal), his allegiances lie with the world’s poor and working classes, not with the US state….”

        Really? Chomsky had written a book about the Khmer Rouge where he attempted to downplay their atrocities. He even went so far as to disparage other works that CORRECTLY uncovered the scope of the atrocities being committed. Below is a short exerpt from Wikipedia on the subject:

        “By contrast, Chomsky portrayed Porter and Hildebrand’s book as “a carefully documented study of the destructive American impact on Cambodia and the success of the Cambodian revolutionaries in overcoming it, giving a very favorable picture of their programs and policies, based on a wide range of sources.” Refuting Chomsky on the question of documentation, researcher Bruce Sharp found that 33 out of 50 citations in one chapter of Porter and Hildebrand’s book derived from the Khmer Rouge government and six from China, the Khmer Rouge’s principal supporter.[15]

        Chomsky and Herman dismissed reports by the “mass media” of extensive Khmer Rouge atrocities and instead cited “analyses by highly qualified specialists…who have concluded that executions [by the Khmer Rouge] have numbered at most in the thousands.” They cited the “extreme unreliability of refugee reports.”[12]

        Veteran Cambodia correspondent Nate Thayer said of Chomsky and Herman’s Nation article that they “denied the credibility of information leaking out of Cambodia of a bloodbath underway and viciously attacked the authors of reportage suggesting many were suffering under the Khmer Rouge.”[16]”

        Chomsky is a Marxist ideologue who acted as a useful idiot. He even went so far as to write letters of disparagement to newspaper editors to discredit the opposing views. It wasn’t until the documentary “Manufacturing Descent” that Chomsky admitted to the atrocities but still defended himself saying that his conclusion was based on the information available at the time. Funny, other people got the correct story. Maybe they were more influenced by telling the truth rather than buttressing their ideologies. And it’s always nice to hear that the man who “works” for the world’s poor and working classes, so easily dismissed the reports from refugees as “unreliable”.

        If Sam Harris had done what Chomsky did, you’d never hear the end of it…and rightfully so.

          • Jason says

            Frankenfuss (re: 31st), It is a right wing dismissal job because it’s a line of argument designed to dismiss (that happens to be based on some facts, a couple of lies, and more than a few lies of omission). The fact that I’ve had to explain even show that you’re critical faculties are really not all there or you’re arguing in bad faith, so forgive me if I don’t reply to your next one.

            Maybe you see the argument as tortured ’cause it doesn’t suit you. I defended him in response to the lies you’re attempting to spread. I also said he was wrong. I’m happy to say he messed up very badly.

            The idea that Chomsky would have any interest in “playing down” (let alone actually do so) the Khmer Rouge’s crimes isn’t just a filthy lie, it’s ridiculous—ideally, you’d be ashamed for spreading it. As is the idea that they simply dismissed refugee accounts. As an academic (arguably the most respected in the world), his concern is with getting things right (but, again, problematically, he’s idea of this is too much a matter of strict empiricism).

            Mate, if you want facts other than what I’ve already given, then go look ’em up. I’ve looked at the issue before. I’m not going to do work that you should’ve done yourself. However (three things), I note what you wrote is all on wikipedia—was this your source? If so, you should’ve said. If you’re sincerely interested, you should read slackbastard’s ‘Chomsky on Cambodia’ blog entry.

            And, to return with a demand of my own: refute this…

            Chomsky: ‘What I wrote was, and I don’t have any apologies for it because it was accurate, I took the position that Pol Pot was a brutal monster, from the beginning was carrying out hideous atrocities, but the West, for propaganda purposes, was creating and inventing immense fabrications for its own political goals and not out of interest for the people of Cambodia. And my colleague and I with whom I wrote all this stuff simply ran through the list of fanatic lies that were being told and we took the most credible sources, which happened to be US intelligence, who knew more than anyone else. And we said US intelligence is probably accurate. In retrospect, that turns out to be correct, US intelligence was probably accurate. I think we were the only ones who quoted it. The fabrications were fabrications and should be eliminated. In fact, we also discussed, and I noticed nobody ever talks about this, we discussed fabrications against the US. For example a standard claim in the major works was that the US bombings had killed 600,000 people in 1973. We looked at the data and decided it was probably 200,000. So we said let’s tell the truth about it. It’s a crime, but it’s not like anything you said. It’s interesting that nobody ever objects to that. When we criticize fabrications about US crimes, that’s fine, when we criticize and in fact expose much worse fabrications about some official enemy, that’s horrible, it becomes apologetics. We should learn something about ourselves. If you’re interested in the truth, which you ought to be, tell the truth about yourself and tell the truth about others. These fabrications had an obvious political purpose. Incidentally, we continually criticize the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese invasion. After the Vietnamese invasion, which finally threw them out thankfully, the US and Britain immediately turned to support Pol Pot. Well, we criticized that, too, we said, no, you shouldn’t be supporting this monster. So yes, our position was consistent throughout. There’s been a huge literature trying to show that there was something wrong in what we said. To my knowledge, nobody’s even found a comma that’s misplaced. And therefore what you have is immense gossip. My guess is that the person who just wrote this in has never seen anything we wrote, but has heard a lot of gossip about it.’

          • FrankenFuss says

            Jason, you are obviously a Chomsky acolyte so, of course, you will take the position that any criticism of your hero is, how do you say…”a right wing dismissal job” or “some facts with a couple of lies…” You are as blinded by the cult of Chomsky as Chomsky is by his marxist beliefs. It’s so painfully obvious that I think you must have his picture in your apartment with votive candles surrounding it.

            Your assertion that Chomsky having an interest in “playing down(let alone actually do so) the Khmer Rouge’s crimes isn’t just a filthy lie, it’s ridiculous” tells me that you are divorcing yourself from facts. The newspaper editors still have his letters. His analyses are still there for everyone to read. And, I will say it again, his ideology led him to conclude that refugees flowing out of Cambodia, who were telling the truth…were to be thought of as “unreliable”. And, you say he was concerned about getting things right but he clearly got it so wrong when others, clearly, got it so right. He deliberately chose sources that would cast the Western powers in a negative light (which is the crux of his whole ideology). And I think it’s hilarious that, for evidence, you offer Chomsky doing his best tap dance to justify his negligent behavior in this matter.

            And speaking of dodges, several commenters and I have asked you to supply proof that Sam Harris is not interested in the poor or workers, that he supports the state, etc. Nothing. Nada. Zip! You spewed that out like a four year old having a tantrum but when we asked you to back it up, you ran out of the room. It’s so obvious that you’ve spent your life reading blogs and websites that feed your confirmation bias that you have no time for reflection or true analysis. I don’t much care for intellectual cowards like you. So go ahead and keep throwing your toys out of the pram…I’m sure your mommy will pick them up and make you feel all better.

          • Jason says

            (Frankenfuss) Lol. Projection much? ‘Cause that last one didn’t come across as a dummy-spit at all. I gave enough to show you were wrong, and not, being able to find answers to it on wikipedia, you’ve repeated the lie and hurled some insults. You’re done.

        • Jason says

          FrankenFuss, Yeah, good on ya for regurgitating the right-wing dismissal job on Chomsky’s work. (People should read about the controversy for themselves.) If you’re a fan of down-the-line, no-nonsense skepticism and rationality, you’d sympathise with Chomsky’s mistake there. He and his co-author messed up by having standards of evidence that were too strict and narrow. What they failed to do was make an assessment based on something other than media reports and “the data,” i.e. look at the ideological underpinnings and the red-flags present in its structure and conduct. But that the state department, mainstream media, and other loyal servants of power had conclusions that ended up being confirmed is not impressive. People can subscribe to views that turn out to be correct while making terrible arguments based on dubious sources of information. So, yeah, “really.”

          • FrankenFuss says

            But Jason, it’s not a “right-wing” dismissal job, it’s the facts. Now, if you want to be a Chomsky apologist, that’s your prerogative. You make a rather tortured argument (really, just excuse-making) for Noam when the simple fact is he let his rigid ideology override any facts that came to light, even dismissing the claims of refugees that, ostensibly, he should be supporting.

            So, don’t whitewash this, particularly when you make claims against Harris that he doesn’t know racism, he supports “the state” (Harris was against the Iraq war and is against the Israeli Occupation so if that makes him a “state” supporter, he’s not doing a great job) and that he doesn’t align with the poor or working class.

            At least I provided facts for my argument against Noam. Maybe you should do the same.

      • Casgrave says

        “Harris’s reflexively identifies as a member of the US nation (the tribe), and, as for the world’s poor and working classes, they’re not even concepts for Harris. That’s what it is to be a ‘state-worshipper.’ ”

        Being a mind reader must be awesome at times. Isn’t Sam born there?
        I’ve read most of his stuff and I don’t remember him disparaging the world’s poor. Can you bring us up to speed?

    • Prashanth says

      “– has Sam displayed any intention of getting to know Muslims?”

      He literally wrote a book with Maajid looool

    • Hobbes says

      Sam harris is the only reason we are even discussing helping to promote liberalism in muslim majority countries. It is ironic that the people who hate sam harris the most are the ones who agree with him the most. In 2010 it was considered racist by the far left to criticise a burka. Now the far left concedes burkas are bad… But they are certain it wasnt harris views that changed their minds! Same with promoting secular muslims. This was racist talk at first, then harris kept talking about it and now not only did the far left change to harris pov, they act like it was their idea the whole time! Harris is the biggest player in the game right now this is why he is the biggest target.

  19. John says

    IMHO Sam’s problem is that he strikes the reasoned middle ground so perfectly that he incurs the wrath of both polarities. Everyone has egos and personal agendas but, to me, Sam appears to do his sincere utmost to put this aside to the best of his ability. For me, this is his key……his personal integrity added to his insight. Omer reeked of personal agenda that cluttered up his objectivity. I you don’t like someone then just say so and save us all the tortuous and failed attempts by Sam to simply get past this first base. As to Sam, I would have bailed out a whole lot earlier in the face of such clear insincere personal energies. I can add “honourable persistence in the face of egregious disrespect” as another quality I respect. Sensational article by Mr. Palmer.

    • Jason says

      John, You should be concerned about their ideas whether they seem to have integrity or come across like an arrogant dickhead. Assess them as people by all means but there’s no straightforward correlation between sincerity and the truth. I think Sam is sincere. But he’s also dumb. He behaves inconsistently with his professed principles, he’s arrogant, racist, and a rabid ideologue (in service of power structures that he remains in enthusiastic ignorance of)… but, nonetheless, sincere.

      • Jason, all you have to do is name one instance of racism. Just one. As long as you and Omer (if you aren’t the same person) continue to skirt the issue, you have no credibility. Use your ideas, make syllogisms, support your claims. Give it a try. We’re evidence-based people and we need more than just the claim.

        • Jason says

          Let’s get one thing straight. Racist intellectuals know they can no longer just SAY explicitly racist things. So their racism manifests in a variety of other ways.

          If you want off-the-top-of-my-head examples: 1. His persistent use of “collateral damage” to describe Iraqis and Palestinians (and others). 2. The way he cites Muslim opinion surveys à la white supremacists cite black community crime statistics (i.e. misleadingly). 3. His omission of the context for Dutch cartoon protests and murders. 4. He’s described US crimes and atrocities (that’ve resulted in the deaths and misery of millions of non-whites) as mere ‘missteps’ several times. 5. The way he says his concerned with the ideas of Islam knowing that he’s criticising Muslims by extension (and providing intellectual cover to more rabid racists). 6. The way he emphasises the dangers of giving people refuge over the urgent need to provide them refuge. 7. His expressed concerns about Muslim birthrates and the destruction or comprise of Western culture (i.e. white culture, values, just don’t say ‘race’). 8. On Rogan’s podcast he expressed concern that animosity towards the US’s murderous police force was insufficiently sensitive to how tough police have it (without expressing any outrage or concern for the black community, let alone solidarity).

          It’s also in what he doesn’t say. The main thing: he has to know that his writings against Islam and Muslims are, regardless of his intentions, contributing to an atmosphere that’s resulting in Muslims in the West being discriminated against and violently attacked on the street, and Muslims in the Middle East being bombed and oppressed by his government, and its allies and proxies. If he was concerned with not being racist, his critical writing would go to some lengths to mitigate any such effects, and disparage or make impossible the appropriation of his work for those conscious seeking to exacerbate the situation.

          Racism, at its base, should be understood as a power relation (where races, by various means, dominate one another). This is why there’s a concept of white supremacy as a structural reality (as opposed to the popular concept of it being a consciously-held ideology). Race is absolutely not a simple matter of biological determinism but social construct generated by processes of racialisation. Muslims (which are mostly non-white) have been racialised in the West. Harris, in his work, has clearly contributed to this.

          Further reading: http://rightnow.org.au/writing-cat/islamophobia-is-racism/

          And if you’re really keen, apparently Edward Said’s book Orientalism goes into how the development of the Western imaginary of the people of “The East.” (Haven’t read but was reliably recommended to me.)

          • one says

            Let’s get one thing straight. Racist intellectuals know they can no longer just SAY explicitly racist things. So their racism manifests in a variety of other ways.

            Islam is not a race

            If you want off-the-top-of-my-head examples: 1. His persistent use of “collateral damage” to describe Iraqis and Palestinians (and others).

            The term is used to describe “unintended casualties of war”. Do you have a better word or phrase in common use that expresses this idea?

            2. The way he cites Muslim opinion surveys à la white supremacists cite black community crime statistics (i.e. misleadingly).

            Which opinion survey was cited misleadingly?

            3. His omission of the context for Dutch cartoon protests and murders.

            Please give the context that would make the Dutch cartoon protests and murders more acceptable.

            4. He’s described US crimes and atrocities (that’ve resulted in the deaths and misery of millions of non-whites) as mere ‘missteps’ several times.

            Maybe they were missteps. Or do you think that U.S policy over the past 20 or so years is to deliberately cause death and misery to millions of people?

            5. The way he says his concerned with the ideas of Islam knowing that he’s criticising Muslims by extension (and providing intellectual cover to more rabid racists).

            Shouldn’t he be concerned about the ideas of Islam? Shouldn’t we all be concerned about it today? There is a distinction between people and ideas. It seems that you refuse to acknowledge this distinction. Is it possible to criticize the ideas of Christianity without criticizing Italians? Lots of them are Catholics and the Vatican City is right in Rome.

            6. The way he emphasises the dangers of giving people refuge over the urgent need to provide them refuge.

            How is it racist to express security concerns?

            7. His expressed concerns about Muslim birthrates and the destruction or comprise of Western culture (i.e. white culture, values, just don’t say ‘race’).

            Maybe what you consider as “white culture values” should be considered as universal. If those Muslims want to restrict values like free expression then it is right to be concerned.

            8. On Rogan’s podcast he expressed concern that animosity towards the US’s murderous police force was insufficiently sensitive to how tough police have it (without expressing any outrage or concern for the black community, let alone solidarity).

            What exactly did he say about the police that you thought was racist?

            It’s also in what he doesn’t say. The main thing: he has to know that his writings against Islam and Muslims are, regardless of his intentions, contributing to an atmosphere that’s resulting in Muslims in the West being discriminated against and violently attacked on the street, and Muslims in the Middle East being bombed and oppressed by his government, and its allies and proxies. If he was concerned with not being racist, his critical writing would go to some lengths to mitigate any such effects, and disparage or make impossible the appropriation of his work for those conscious seeking to exacerbate the situation.

  20. Interesting that those who side with Aziz have left comments attacking Sam personally. They stoop to insults such as “stupid”…There seems to be little understanding of Sam’s points, and so they resort to poo flinging. IMO, that is the most revealing and damning truth about the “new” left.

    • CTRL+F reveals one hit for the word “stupid” and it is not even describing Sam Harris.

      Well we can add one more to it because I’ll go ahead and make it one more – you obviously must be pretty stupid to quote the word “stupid” as an example of a personal attack and are incapabale of running a simple ctrl+f to see if anyone used the word. I certainly have not attacked Sam personally. I don’t think he’s stupid at all, he’s quite intelligent, I enjoy his podcasts and he’s a good speaker.

      But for Christ’s sake, we can call him out if we think he says or believes stupid things! What is with this hero worship of Sam? Even most diehard supporters of politicians are willing to admit when their candidate errs. Isn’t this the whole point? Ideas can be criticized?

  21. Will Kaiser says

    The Harris brand of Cracker Jack sells well because its packaged with controversy. Inside each package you’ll find copious amounts of smugness and haughtiness. Why is it that everything that tastes good is bad for you? Omer caught Sam with his pants down, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

    Better luck next time, Sam.

    • Andy M. says

      Will clearly has not read the article or any of the responses above.
      Put your pants back on Will & maybe consider keeping the cliché soundbites to yourself in future!

      • Will Kaiser says

        I’m really sorry if I offended you with my free speech. I’m sorry for posting a comment here and beg you not to call the free speech cops.

        My pants are back on. So don’t get any ideas. Even if you beg me on your knees to take them off again, I won’t do it. You’ll just have to find someone new.

  22. Powell says

    Hitchens’ defensive, evasive, and most importantly dishonest answer to Amy Goodman just illustrates his moral decay as he shifted to the right. It would have cost him nothing (and been entirely consistent with his past) to admit that yes, of course supporting a war had led to greater “friendliness” from the media, greater exposure and so on; instead, he opted to put his own perceived self-interest ahead of honesty.

    Palmer would have been better off just getting to the point of his article by discussing Harris and Aziz. As it is, featuring the Hitchens anecdote, and especially featuring it with the spin that was attached to it, made it clear that he had an axe to grind.

    • Andy M. says

      Hitchens’ ‘moral decal’?!
      Does Aziz write articles for free?
      ….And so on & so forth
      You may have missed the entire point of this article, for which the axe was ground!

  23. E Aw writes: “What point was Maryam supposed to concede?”

    Well, for one thing, she was supposed to at least answer the question Sam put to her repeatedly: whether she worries about the possibility that a significant chunk of the vast number of people coming to Europe hold some values fundamentally inconsistent with important Western ideas about free speech, gender, and religious freedom.

    Maryam continually deflected this question by repeating a different point: that she refuses to place collective blame.

    She didn’t seem to grasp that “placing collective blame” is distinct from having legitimate concerns about the effects of mass immigration based on actual polling data.

    It’s perhaps as much Sam’s fault as hers that this distinction never got clarified, and this lack of clarity stalled the conversation.

    So I don’t know if that qualifies as something Maryam ought to have “conceded,” but it is an area where she seemed to refuse to answer a question and instead tread the same irrelevant water over and over again.

    • I agree she dodged on that question.

      Let’s agree that a chunk of them don’t have compatible values.

      What do we do with the refugees now?

      I think Maryam still wants to take them in. Would not let the bad apples spoil the whole lot. That is what collective blame does. Individuals fleeing Islamism may see the value in democratic values, modern values.

      Has Sam ever discussed what to do with the refugees? What’s his solution? All he does is express concern and . . . that’s all. There is also a lot of vicious chatter going around about the refugees. Has Sam expressed any concern about that? You know, the fact is anyone can look at the pictures of Syria and see exactly what they are escaping from. There are many collective view of the refugees that they are al barbarians, uncivilized, and unworthy of human rights. When Tommy Robinson or that weirdo Milo say “Refugees, you are not welcome here, we don’t want you here” – that is placing collective guilt. We can criticize them for that. We don’t always have to rush to agree with everything they say.

      And it would be nice if Sam called out his friends on some of the batshit stupid things they say instead of always protecting his own.

      • George Millo says

        The vast majority of “refugees” currently arriving in Europe are not from Syria.

  24. “But what other answer could Hitchens have provided under the circumstances? ”

    He could have answered that “media” is a plural noun, not singular, and that it’s not a monolith. Then he could have added that some elements in the media were friendlier to him as a result, and some were far more hostile. It was a mix.

    This answer would have been short, to the point, and hard to argue against.

  25. HNB says

    As an atheist (former Muslim) still living in a Muslim country and leading a double life, I can tell you that no one apart from Sam understands better the predicaments of former Muslims who still have to live in a Muslim country, people like Omer or Maryam don’t even come close. What these pseudo liberals fail to realize (willingly or due to their sheer ignorance) that Sam makes a clear distinction between ideas and people, when i first starting reading him, the thought never occurred to me that Sam hates all followers of one particular religion, to me the distinction between ideas and people is as clear as daylight. Lets put it this way, Sam hates and is ‘bigoted’ against a particular set of ideas, does that mean he hates all people associated (nominally or otherwise) with those set of ideas? does that mean he hates my parents (who are Muslims)? does that mean I hate my parents as well, as i share 100% his dislike for those ideas?

    Sam’s writings and intellect have been a source of inspiration for people like me (and guess what, there are many like me in the Muslim world). I can say with confidence Sam understands the realities of Islam/religion better than any of these pseudos. It’s so easy to criticize someone from a position of privilege without realizing how the non-privileged feel. So, Sam’s haters – enjoy your privilege, Sam will continue doing his stuff and making real difference in the lives of people like me.

    • Sorry, but Maryam is an ex-Muslim who left an oppressive Islamic regime with her family. She has spent time in hellholes like Sudan fighting for the rights of those fighting Islamism. Sorry, but she understands the predicaments better than Sam does because she has experienced them and has dedicated the last twenty years of her life fighting for people like you.

      If you don’t like her views, just say you don’t like her views. But you’re a head-in-the-sand fuckwad if you think a western secular Jew knows atheist former Muslims better than an atheist former Muslim. You’re just an idiot.

      • HNB says

        E aw…..Wow.. offcourse i am an idiot for replying to idiotic comments….. aren’t you too quick to be calling the other person names…..
        You have an amazing nerve, even when a person.. actual real person.. who come from the community Sam Harris talks about, who has experienced/is experiencing issues Harris describes… even when this person verifies that whatever Harris says.. it actually really is that way… even that is not able to convince a ‘head-in-the-sand fuckwad’ (thnx for increasing my vocabulary) like you.
        Deluded people like Maryam continue selling this mantra of ‘liberal’ interpretation if Islam when there is none unlike Harris who calls it as it is, Islam is Islam. And unlike a regressive like you I am willing to concede that both Maryam and Harris are right, however someone is more right than the other.
        And thanks also for somehow bringing in ‘Jew’ in the discussion, though I fail to see any connection..maybe my idiocy is to blame.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till says

          Good stuff mr Aw, you certainly made short work of that whining, presumptuous ex-Muslim. Besides, ‘fuckwad’ is a western term of affection for persecuted minorities – that one went right over his head!
          You showed him not to expect too much from us liberals – and that’s a good thing. He won’t come around here whining about blasphemy laws and death penalties for apostates any more. Truly, Maryam Namazie would be proud of the way you dealt with someone apparently in the same precarious position she was. Call ’em a ‘dumbfuck'(not ‘dumb fuck’ for some reason) and send them on their way.

        • HNB says

          No point in engaging with a potty mouth. You really have made short work of me.

          @Saul – Thanks 🙂

        • Good stuff mr Aw, you certainly made short work of that whining, presumptuous ex-Muslim.

          Who said anything about whining or presumptious? I said he’s an idiot for making an obviously falsifiable statement.

          e won’t come around here whining about blasphemy laws and death penalties for apostates any more.

          Who said anything about blasphemy laws and death penalties? He made the obviously false statement that Maryam promotes a “liberal” interpretation of Islam. The fact is she hates Islam. These are her own words. So he’s obviously confused as to what Maryam really believes and I helped him understand. What’s the problem?

          Call ’em a ‘dumbfuck'(not ‘dumb fuck’ for some reason) and send them on their way.

          Do we need to find you a safe space? i have a feeling that living in a world where apostates are punished, he will survive being called a dumbfuck by a random internet poster.

  26. Great commentary.
    It is good to have the truth of Hitchen’s position on Iraq revisited for quite a while. It is good to hear. I thought it had been forgotten.

  27. Gray McMann says

    Excellent summary, the podcast is difficult but valuable listening. Aziz is a shining example of a smart, well spoken and energetic individual yet highly lacking in intellectual honesty, integrity and consistency.

  28. Pluto Animus says

    Terrific piece, Jamie.
    Hitchens clearly wanted to avoid admitting that he was now on friendlier ground with the media as a result of supporting the Iraq War. Why not just admit it? My guess is that he anticipated what Goodman’s follow-up question would be:
    “Does the fact that the media are friendlier because you have been a cheerleader for this war not indicate that media themselves have been supporting it themselves, rather than reporting on it objectively?”
    He would have had to answer yes, and this would have completely undercut his position.

  29. LMT says

    Wow, Wow, Wow …. (sorry for the three Wow’s) I have been on a quest to understand the disagreement and dissenting voices to what has appeared (to me) to be Sam Harris’s clear intellect and his willingness to share it. I have listened to his podcasts, read his books, and read as many comments and opinions of his views that I can find. I have to now come to the conclusion and admit it – I’m a fanboy and would go so far as to borrow from Carl Sagan’s words and say he is “A Candle in the Dark”. Over and over I find he drives right down the middle of the metaphorical road of clear thinking while those in the ditches on either side of the road scratch and claw to try and get a piece of him.
    Thank you Palmer for this commentary and clear analysis — it reminded me of my similar views developed while enduring the long and strange discussion with the clearly dishonest Aziz.
    …some will call that confirmation bias — so be it.

  30. Kudos to Sam Harris for stepping into the sewer opened up by anyone like Aziz. His dispassion and truthfulness stay unblemeshed as he struggles to extract some honesty or truthfulness from a discussion that had more to do with Aziz’s ego than anything else.

    In regard to Hitchens, his integrity had a lot to do with his willingness to examine facts on the ground. Much of American imperialism had gone into decline after the Cold War. It became clear that the biggest thereat to freedom was coming from Serbian nationalism, Islamism and Baathism.

    Chomsky and the rest of the regressive left never moved on to this new world. Their manichaen oedipalism , a world view in which all evil comes from Daddy (the West) has turned them into a major force of moral bankruptcy.

    John Coelho

  31. Sam Harris, what a fucking cry baby. The cantankerous blowhard wouldn’t hardly let Aziz get a word in and constantly whined and babbled over the the top and interrupted Aziz. Harris’s xenophobia and racism has turned his puny brain into imbecilic mush.

  32. Pingback: Bad Faith: Sam Harris, Omer Aziz, and Islam –

  33. Excellent, illuminating article–I especially appreciated the historical contextualism of this alarming trend (you know, the one in which we have to interpret people as obtusely and negatively as possible through a contrived belief that people like Sam Harris are alpha bastards).

    If I were to have advice for the Harrises of the world, it is to avoid people who interpret everything as negatively as possible to dredge up conflict among erstwhile allies. Maryam and Omer have built their careers on this faux conflict and the passion it inevitably generates. Let them play in their sandboxes of misplaced rage.

    (Feedback for the website: I shouldn’t have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the comments to reply. It might also make sense to auto-load comments as we scroll down so as to avoid unnecessary data consumption. And threads with several replies are a bit difficult to follow (hard to tell who is replying to whom). Other than that, I appreciate the simplicity manifest here.)

  34. Josh Zaris says

    “What could you possibly hope to do as a lawyer if you’re showing this little concern, not only for the truth, but for the perception of your commitment to the truth?” – if only Omer would truely ponder this question.

  35. Lucy JV says

    We can’t just call a spade a spade. That would be generalizing – and indicative of spadophobia. Right?

  36. Patrick S. says

    I have to say this. As I read this article the same thought kept repeating in my head throughout…”Holy FUCK this is good”. Your analysis and critique of this horribly frustrating and labored exchange is equal parts thorough and incisive throughout. Great job. I can’t wait to check out the rest of your work!

    • Sean R says

      PZ Myers calling someone else an “arrogant ass” is the height of irony. Keep in mind this is the man who without merit, evidence or reason accused Michael Shermer of rape multiple times. He is a zealot of identity politics, he is wholly representative of the regressive left and you quoting his idiotic blog does nothing but link us to the least informed, least responsible voice in the atheist community. The fact that he is part of the atheist community makes me want to start looking for a church.

      Also I would like everyone who can to please click that link. Look at Myers “argument” or rather, lack thereof. He fully buys into the notion that using the phrase “collateral damage” inherently means you are dehumanizing the victims of this damage rather than using a well-known and well-respected term in military parlance. Omer makes the same idiotic mistake, trying to tie the use of an accepted military term to “not caring about the poor brown bodies torn apart by American shrapnel” in the sickeningly purple prose that Aziz insists on writing in (and Salon insists on publishing as “journalism”).

  37. Not Racist, Just Hate Theocracy says

    I have been an unabashed Liberal my entire adult life and proudly allied myself with 90% or so with the beliefs traditionally held and fought for by those on the political left. To think I would ever see a day when a large group of so called “liberals” would consider the works of Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens as being neo conservative! What the hell is wrong with these people who claim to be standing up for human rights, but are really providing cover and aid to the biggest enemies of those rights? Anyone who listened to this podcast and thought Aziz came off well should really recalibrate their brains or use them on the issue of Islamism instead of their asses.

  38. Franncois says

    I just slogged through the Harris/Aziz ‘conversation myself and I fully understand why Sam first junked it. Totally off the rails. I’d rather be water-boarded than listen again.

    Aziz was often incapable of making distinctions with a real difference and he should heed the line between fact an opinion. He is too blinded by his own smug self-righteousness. This law student flirts with defamation and slander. With first very opening paragraph they discussed he self-righteously slandered Sam’s intention and motives and displayed ‘bad faith’ and ‘actual malice’ – a reckless disregard for truth or falsity. Throughout the conversation he consistently and smugly misrepresented Sam in an astoundingly arrogant and patronizing manner. He’s a bright guy but simply incapable of just getting off it. A truly righteous mind. No one is more impressed with Omer Aziz than Omer Aziz. I was truly shocked by his dis-ingenuousness and lack of intellectual integrity.

    Like so many of Harris’ critics it appears he attacks Sam merely as a device to win himself notoriety. He is PC run amok. He consistently did everything he could to change the subject. He will do well in law! His is not a search for Truth but quest for righteousness. He behaved like a soiled and spiteful child at times.

    I admire Sam for his gracious patience. Omer doesn’t know the difference between argument and just being plain argumentative. I practiced law for decades and Aziz’ tactics are precisely the reason I could no longer practice law. At times his lack of intellectual integrity made my skin crawl. His tactic of smart-ass deliberate misrepresentation and mis-characterization were revolting. I’d never accuse this precocious kid of authenticity.

Leave a Reply