Monday, September 13, 2004


Glenn Reynolds recently attacked me today as a way of taking a swipe at Eric Muller:
ERIC MULLER continues his unrelenting critique of Michelle Malkin. Frankly, I might find Muller more persuasive if he didn't rely so heavily on David Neiwert, whose tendency to hurl unsubstantiated charges of racism at anyone he doesn't like has cost him rather a lot of credibility in my eyes.

This is precious, really.

Longtime readers will recall that the last time I addressed Reynolds directly (though I have blogged about his other posts since) was when I called upon him to stop hurling unsubstantiated charges of racism:
If, as seems to be the case, Reynolds believes that MEChA comprises "fascist hatemongers" and is a racist organization, he especially needs to explain just why this is so.

I say this as someone who has over the years examined several hundred various organizations -- right, left, and anywhere else -- to try to ascertain whether or not they are genuinely racist in nature. The majority of these have been right-wing "Patriot" groups, many of whom lurk on the fringes of the racist right, and many others who wander fully into that territory. Sorting out just who is racist and who is not entails applying appropriate, considered and accurate criteria, and applying them with both care and discretion.

I know that Glenn Reynolds has partaken of this work as well. He was, I believe, one of the original subscribers to the Militia Watchdog listserv when Mark Pitcavage started it up (in 1996, I think) and has over the years been a valuable contributor to its work -- which is primarily in trying to track various forms of right-wing extremism. So this turn of events has been, I must say, personally quite baffling.

Let me emphasize again: Accusing anyone, particularly a national civil-rights organization that enjoys broad mainstream participation, of being racist is an extremely serious charge. Its ramifications are widespread and can be devastating for any group on whom the label is placed. Misusing it cheaply, especially for scoring easy political points, is beneath contempt.

If Reynolds is going to accuse MEChA of racism, and continue to demand that Cruz Bustamante "denounce" them, he needs to explain to his readers:

--What are his criteria for defining a racist organization?

--What are the behavioral traits of racist organizations -- historically and otherwise?

-- How does MEChA fit those criteria?

As I have explained at length, it is clear by the criteria used not only by myself but most other monitors of hate groups that MEChA is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a genuinely racist organization. Some of its early rhetoric is indeed annoyingly militant, and is at best shrill if not divisive by today's standards. Reynolds put it this way a few posts ago: "It's not 1964 anymore." Of course not -- but then, the rhetoric that seems to have their shorts in a bunch dates back to 1969.

I also, of course, had earlier chided Reynolds for participating in the smear against MEChA. He merely dismissed the criticism as "frantic." (If he's hearing my posts as being written in a frantic voice, well, let me just suggest that those are voices in his head.) I can't say I'm surprised that I've "lost credibility" with Reynolds: It's easier, on both a personal and public level, to simply dismiss your critics, after all, than to admit their charges have substance.

Let me be clear: One of the things I frequently charge liberals with is hurling terms like "racist" and "fascist" willy nilly, which not only undermines their case, it seriously dilutes the ability of those of us who deal with genuine racists and fascists to do so effectively. The terms have lost their weight because of their absurd overuse, and liberals, as I've said often, are among the worst offenders.

I have always, in fact, tried to be extremely scrupulous about using terms like "racist," "fascist," "white supremacist" and "right-wing extremist" with great care; I simply do not apply them without substantial cause, and I don't believe I've ever used them here without in fact substantiating it.

So let me issue a challenge to Glenn: Find a post anywhere on this blog -- and archives date back to January 2003 -- in which I have "hurled unsubstantiated charges of racism". Please. If you can, I'll apologize in public.

If not, you owe me an apology.

UPDATE: Reynolds has responded:
Neiwert takes exception to this post and says that if I can find an unsubstantiated accusation of racism on his blog he'll apologize. Well, there's this one: "the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals."

Leaving aside the subject-verb disagreement, Neiwert's use of "dark-skinned" seems like an imputation of racism to me. He's smart enough to know that Muslims aren't all dark-skinned, and that I don't exactly obsess over skin color, or say negative things about Islam, beyond the wacky terror-inspiring varieties (see, for example, this post). Nor does he offer any substantiation in terms of links, or examples that might buttress his case. It's a cheap shot, and he repeats it in this interview. That's why I don't find him especially credible when he's charging people with racism.

But I await the promised apology.

Well, if you read the whole post, or just the larger passage from which it's drawn, it couldn't be more clearer I stop well short of accusing Reynolds of racism. The larger point is about Reynolds' flagrant indulgence in useless and ethnically shaded stereotypes that obscure the nature of terrorism itself when we're discussing the "war on terror." Here's the paragraph in question:
Perhaps this is why Reynolds, somewhat predictably, uses the story to springboard into his two favorite themes when it comes to right-wing extremists: A) they might form an alliance with Islamist extresmists! and B) they might form an alliance with left-wing extremists! These are his two favorite themes, of course, because the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals. Associating right-wing extremists with these two factions is much easier for someone like Glenn than associating them with a perhaps more logical faction, like, for instance, right-wingers. Ah well.

I responded to Glenn via e-mail:
I say nothing in the post about you having a "generalized prejudice" about Muslims or anyone else. What I do say is that you wave the twin stereotypes in a way intended to associate liberals with our national enemies (speaking of cheap shots). I agree that "dark-skinned" was gratuitous, but it clearly refers to the stereotype which I felt you were using in both cases.

You know, Glenn, I have a relatively narrow definition of what constitutes a "racist" or "racism", and I wouldn't have even argued that the kind of dabbling in stereotypes that I found objectionable comes close to fitting the definition. Maybe you would. Maybe that's why you thought MEChA was racist and I didn't.

If you felt it was a cheap shot, fine. I felt your constant suggestions of fifth-column-type collusion between war critics (I was one) and Islamist radicals (not to mention your reference to MEChA as "fascist hatemongers") was a cheap shot too, and I no doubt wrote it in that spirit. However, it still doesn't comes close, in my estimation, to accusing you of racism.

The note about "generalized prejudice" was in reference to Reynolds' e-mailed response to me, in which he said:
You're not dumb enough to think that all Muslims are dark-skinned, or that I think that, or that I have a generalized prejudice against Muslims beyond the terroristically-inclined ones.

That was a cheap shot. And I remember it.

Ooh, he carries a grudge. Well, good. I'm glad. I normally tend to regret taking shots like that -- it was a little over the top, but it was about making a point regarding the nature of the stereotypes he was engaging in -- but I definitely don't have any sympathy for his whining about "cheap shots." Reynolds is a past master.

A couple of supplementary points:

-- I didn't "repeat" anything. The interview quoted my blog, as you can see.

-- Glenn says I didn't provide anything in the way of substantiation, but that's simply not true, as anyone clicking on the link can see. I linked directly to this post, which contains the following passage:
One thing that's troubling is the potential for cooperation between Arab terrorists and domestic extremists.

"Arab terrorist" is, of course, an ethnic description, and a stereotype. "Dark-skinned Muslims" was (I thought) a fairly obvious reference to Reynolds' use of it.

I'm still wondering, of course, whether Reynolds will even bother to acknowledge the chief point of the post: When it comes to flinging about accusations of racism without substantiation, he is himself a proven offender, and on a fairly substantial scale. I've obviously given up on an apology.

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