Esmay and Sullivan: A Party of Two

posted at 9:13 pm on February 28, 2007 by Bryan

Dean Esmay and Andrew Sullivan want different things, but neither has the credibility to make any of the demands either makes, so they might as well get together and form their own party.

First, Sullivan, who thinks he can tell the “religious right” (but not the “religious left,” of course) what Jesus would do. Hold on, religious righties, because Sullivan’s just going to rock your world with his unassailable logic. In a post about “dirty bomb” suspect Jose Padilla:

The latest. The question seems to be whether his inability to answer questions is a function of allegedly reading an al Qaeda training manual (no evidence has been brought that connects him to one), or whether he has been so traumatized by imprisonment that he cannot speak. This may not even be evidence of torture. It may be the consequence of years in a blacked-out isolation cell with no confidence that he would ever see a day in court. This is not merely a function of the sadism at Gitmo. It is a real problem across the U.S. prison system – a system that cries out for reform. Memo to the religious right: if you want to improve your reputation and follow Jesus, campaign for prison reform. It’s what Jesus really would do.

The funny thing is, we have a record of Jesus did do. It’s called the Gospels, which form part of the New Testament, a series of books that Sullivan claims allegiance to even while he openly rejects a great deal of it. And according to the record we have, prison reform, while laudable, must have come in a distant second to, you know, reconciling mankind with God. But hey, maybe Sullivan is right. Maybe it was on the divine to-do list. Right after getting the Roman senate to adopt Kyoto.

The Party of Two’s next charter member is Dean Esmay. When he isn’t busy launching ill conceived attacks on fellow bloggers, he’s busy launching ill conceived attacks on the entire conservative movement. Of which he isn’t and has never been a member. But you’re just supposed to forget that and see him as the second coming of William F. Buckley:

Back in the 1950s William F. Buckley Jr. conducted a purge in the ranks of his young publication, The National Review. He was running a conservative publication at a time when conservative publications were not respected and were thus by nature low-circulation. In those circumstances it would be hard to stand on principal and refuse to associate with certain parties who might provide short-term gain.

Buckley refused to align his publication with elements on the right that were excessively hateful, rabidly racist, or just plain nuts. The whole thing came to a head when Buckley one day drew a line in the sand:

You could either be a John Birch Society supporter, or you could write for the National Review.

Esmay moves from there to a classic leftist tactic, the ideological purge. Only, he’s trying to purge that part of the conservative movement that sees in Islam elements that are incompatible with the Western notions of life. Like, you know, not rioting over a bunch of cartoons. And not threatening writers with execution for blasphemy. So he drafts a set of bullet points with which you must agree or…I guess, stop reading his lousy blog.

Simply put, you must agree withto all of the following assertionsassumptions:

1) Islam does not represent the forces of Satan or the Anti-Christ bent on destruction of the Christian world.

2) There is no 1,400 year old “war with the West/Christianity” being waged by Muslims or anyone else.

3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

4) Medieval, anachronistic, obscure terms like “dhimmitude” or “taqiyya” are suitable for polite intellectual discussion. They are not and never will be appropriate to slap in the face of everyday Muslims or their friends.

5) Muslims have no more need to prove that they can be good Americans, loyal citizens, decent people, or enemies of terrorism than anyone else does.

Is this a test of “ideological purity?”

Why yes. Yes it is.

Actually, it’s more a test of ideological assininity than anything else. Take point 1, for example. Name a credible conservative blog that runs around claiming anything like that. That point is made of straw. Take point 2. He really ought to ask Osama bin Laden, who pines for Andalusia in his screeds against us. Or he could study the spread of Islam across the Middle East. Or just look at what’s happening to Christians right now in the Palestinian territories, the Sudan, Pakistan, even Somalia before the Ethiopians moved in and crushed the Islamists who were running that show. Asking bloggers to swear fealty to that point without engaging the possibility that there is in fact such a war going on is just aiming at the wrong target. Point 3 is, to put it mildly, based on ignorance of the latter half of the Koran. It’s based on wishful thinking. It’s also based on the assumption that religions even want to be “compatible with modernity,” an ever-shifting standard that is in fact no standard at all. Religions seek to be compatible with their understanding of God, not Dean Esmay’s notions of what’s cool this week. To the extent that modernity influences Islam, it’s to cause friction and an Islamic reformation that looks nothing like the Protestant Reformation, because the Koran’s second half reads nothing like the New Testament, and because the jihadis have the credible threat of violence against everyone else working for them. Esmay should read up on Sayyid Qutb some time. Point 4…what? You can use those terms but you can’t use them? You can use them when Dean says it’s ok, but when he doesn’t, you’d better watch out pal or that self-described liberal will write you out of the conservative movement a second time! Or even a third! Point 5, well, when Tulsa mosques chase out a guy for speaking out against terrorism, when groups like CAIR have been connected by convictions to Hamas, and when we all remember images of everyday Muslims dancing in the streets on 9-11, well, it wouldn’t hurt for a few Muslims to go the extra mile and at least stop trying to use our courts to get captured terrorists freed from Gitmo. Doncha think?

Here’s the thing, Dean. William F. Buckley had the credibility to write the Birchers out of the conservative movement for two reasons. First, he was right and they were wrong, on the facts. Second, he was William F. Buckley, a man of letters who was a real, bona fide leader of a movement on the move. Dean, you’re just a mid-level blogger. You don’t lead anything. You’re not a conservative. And you’re wrong on the facts and blind to how wrong you are. So you won’t be reading anyone out of any movement any time soon. Though you do seem to have read a couple of writers off your blog.

Oh, back to Andrew for a moment. Jose Padilla has been found competent to stand trial. I just thought you’d want to know.

Sullivan and Esmay, party of two. Your table is ready.

More: To be clear, Esmay obviously has the right to read people off his blog if that’s what he wants to do. But comparing himself to Buckley in doing so is assinine. Buckley made an important contribution to the national discourse by reading the cranks out of conservatism. Liberalism could benefit from a Buckley today, incidentally. Dean is actually reading people off his blog (not a great political movement, just a blog) who probably have a greater understanding of the issues at hand than he does. And his bullet points are full of, well, holes. It’s just his usual Islamophobia extremism, in which he battles gigantic straw windmills and can’t back up the charges he hurls at other bloggers.


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3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

If you say so.

aengus on February 28, 2007 at 9:38 PM

3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

The best thing you have going for you is your willingness to humiliate yourself.

Stephen M on February 28, 2007 at 9:45 PM

Andrew Sullivan is to torture as Dean Esmay is to Islamophobia.

It’s good to have checks on extremism, but it doesn’t help to become an extremist yourself. I hope things turn out well, though, because I like his blog. I’ve given up on Sullivan’s.

frankj on February 28, 2007 at 9:53 PM

you must agree or…I guess, stop reading his lousy blog.

Okay, Bryan, I have the Obvious Answer:

STOP READING HIS LOUSY BLOG

Janos Hunyadi on February 28, 2007 at 10:03 PM

I have made the point elsewhere but it bears repeating here (and wherever the unpleasant spectre of Esmay pokes its head up): Esmay’s post some years ago that supposedly unassailably “proved” that HIV is not the proximate cause of AIDS (implying that AIDS derives from some other, probably more sinister source) should have flensed him of all credibility until the end of days. He is simply a crackpot, a crank, and a pugnacious twit who likes picking fights with bloggers who have bigger audiences than he does.

His positively moronic donnybrooks with Robert Spencer prove all these points, and on a regular basis.

Il Padrino on February 28, 2007 at 10:05 PM

Why try to reason with “ideological purity”?

elpresidente on February 28, 2007 at 10:24 PM

To address these 2 idiots, we actually have 2 books. The Bible describes the life of Jesus and says NOTHING about reforming prisons. This is because the prisons were run by ROMANS, not Jews, and Jesus was talking primarily to Jews. But He never said anything about it.
Book 2, the Koran, claims to be the words of Allah given to Mohammed, and is the sole Holy Scripture of that religion. In that book, Allah told Mohammed that Jews were pigs and baboons, and to kill them. Allah told Mohammed to kill or enslave Christians. Allah told Mohammed to build armies and wage war on his neighors until they became followers of Allah, then to continue this paterrn until the entire world was Muslim.
What the Koran did not tell Mohammed was to take an 8 year-old girl, marry her, and have sex with her as if she was an adult. Mohammed must have thought that one up on his one.

old_dawg on February 28, 2007 at 10:43 PM

Just because someone will ask, I did read the Koran in an English version provided by a Mosque in Saudi Arabia. I have the book at my office in case any co-workers express such asinine thoughts. Also a Bible, for the same reason.

old_dawg on February 28, 2007 at 10:46 PM

When these terrorists and their supporters say they’re waging a holy war against the west and bring up stuff than happened a thousand years ago, they’re being sarcastic. Americans just don’t get irony!

Jim Treacher on February 28, 2007 at 10:53 PM

Dean Esmay and Andrew Sullivan

I’m sorry, who are these guys again?

PinkyBigglesworth on February 28, 2007 at 11:14 PM

“Sullivan and Esmay, party of two. Your table Absolute Moral Authority is ready.”

There, fixed that for you.

eeyore on February 28, 2007 at 11:29 PM

Most of the large evangelical churches have prison ministries, and a number of other churches do, as well. Andrew is just an idiot.

Stormy70 on February 28, 2007 at 11:50 PM

Ahh, history has been very kind to a lot of what the John Birch Society averred oh so many years ago. Our government is/was rancid with communists and foreign agents. And the UN is a Hellmouth into which we shovel good money after bad. In the way things go, the Birchers were amazingly prescient.

thegreatbeast on March 1, 2007 at 12:43 AM

Oh yeah, calling Eisenhower a “dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” certainly was prescient, wasn’t it.

Ken McCracken on March 1, 2007 at 5:44 AM

4) Medieval, anachronistic, obscure terms like “dhimmitude” or “taqiyya” are suitable for polite intellectual discussion. They are not and never will be appropriate to slap in the face of everyday Muslims or their friends.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali used the term “dhimmi” on Bill Maher’s show in reference to the prevailing Muslim doctrine & practice toward unbelievers (even stretching into modern times). That face-slapper…

RD on March 1, 2007 at 7:44 AM

Nice takedown Bryan.

nailinmyeye on March 1, 2007 at 8:34 AM

the New Testament, a series of books that Sullivan claims allegiance to even while he openly rejects a great deal of it. And according to the record we have, prison reform, while laudable, must have come in a distant second to, you know, reconciling mankind with God.

How does the post recommend prison reform before salvation? The basic premise is that Jesus was merciful, even to the wrongdoers, and as such we should follow his example. To be fair, there is a lot wrong with our prison system that could be fixed. What’s wrong with that? I agree Andrew can get preachy from time to time, but I think that’s a stretch.

SouthernDem on March 1, 2007 at 8:58 AM

“Islamophobia” – the fear of people who want to kill you.

Hilts on March 1, 2007 at 9:01 AM

Memo to Sullivan:

Analysis of your writing skills puts you at the 4th grade level.

Spache Readability Formula for This Passage =
(0.141 * 12.18 Avg. Number of Words Per Sentence)+ (0.086 * 25.37 Percent of Words in Sample Not Found on Spache Revised Word List) + 0.839 = 4.73 Grade Equivalent

Centurion68 on March 1, 2007 at 9:21 AM

Outstanding post, Bryan. There’s a reason you’re my favorite here.

People like Esmay terrify me – because they’re like beacons of self-induced stupidity, singing a siren song to the millions who’d prefer to live in a make believe world, rather than face reality.

And in this case, the reality Esmay is avoiding represents a threat to civilization … and the threat is multiplied exponentially if we simply pretend it isn’t there.

The point isn’t that Esmay’s five bullet points are wrong: the point is that suggesting they are so clearly indisputable runs directly contrary to objective evidence.

Maybe he’s right on every point. But silencing discussion of those points is “inherantly” (sic) dangerous. And his logic is laughably bad.

By his logic, NO group, of ANY kind, can ever be “inherantly” (sic) better or worse than any other group. Ever. He has unthinkingly embraced the moral relativism of our age, in which nothing and nobody is ever objectively “bad.”

By his logic, you could’t claim the KKK was “inherantly” (sic) antithetical to racial equality. You couldn’t claim that Nazism was “inherantly” (sic) anti-freedom or anti-Semitic. According to Esmay, those judgments can’t be made … because after all, not every Nazi wanted to kill Jews, not every Klan member enjoyed lynchings … and theoretically, both organizations could have been reformed. Right, Dean?

That kind of thinking is so devoid of logic it’s scary. And that ANYBODY could swallow such blanket moral relativism in regards to Islam, at this point in history, is nothing short of insanity.

The boy has literally brainwashed himself into believing what he wants to believe. He ignores his eyes and ears, forgets everything he reads and observes, and insists the world is how he wants it to be.

And then tries to insist his co-bloggers swallow his delusions? Yikes.

Is Islam “more inherantly” (sic) incompatiable with modernism than other religions? I don’t know. But, damn, man – open your eyes. There is at least enough objective evidence of that to suggest that we might want to admit the possibility, and continue the dialogue.

The only thing I know for certain is the logical point: by logical necessity, there MUST be one religion that IS “inherantly” (sic) more incompatible with modernity, women’s rights, etc., than most other religions. There must. It is logically inescapable. (And that Dean doesn’t recognize this point says a great deal about his intellect.)

And if you understand that logically one religion *must* be the least tolerant of modernity, equality, etc. …. then you MUST admit that, based on the objective reality of the world today, Islam is a very, very good candidate.

People like Dean are dangerous because his delusions are appealing to many. And the self-deluded will never see the objective truth, until it’s far too late.

Professor Blather on March 1, 2007 at 10:02 AM

That’s going to leave a mark. Great post, Bryan

(By the way Jose Padilla was previously held at the Charleston Navel Brig, not Gitmo)

KelliD on March 1, 2007 at 10:37 AM

What is with the expression “reading someone out”?
I never heard it before.

Babs on March 1, 2007 at 11:03 AM

Seems as if we know where at least one of the missing al Qaeda training manuals might be, and it’s getting a thorough workout. Much of this writing seems plagiarized.

Dean, give the criminal his book back.

shooter on March 1, 2007 at 11:15 AM

3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

If you declare that Islam is more inherently incompatible with modernity, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most other religions, then you have essentially stated that Islam is by far worse than most other religions on this score.

A question for Dean Esmay, his supporters, and anyone who cares to answer.

Are there any religions (including Islam) where you’d fear for the safety of yourself and/or your family if you wrote a mocking cartoon about the religion?

Lets say you wrote a book that pointed out flaws and issues with a religion? Is there a religion (including Islam) where you’d fear for a price being put on your head? How many religons, and which ones?

Now, presuming you answered honestly, and with some minor shred of understanding, you’ve now forced yourself to be banned from Dean Esmay’s blog due to your dirty awful Islamophobia. How dare you presecute these lovely people due simply to the obvious fact that they seem to be the sole remaining religion that reacts violently to any possible perceived threat, mockery, or criticism… not all of them; but as a religion it’s quite dangerous to criticise them.

If you answered in a way that Dean Esmay would not call you a hateful Islamophobe who should be banned from communicating from enlightened souls such as himself; then you’re so incapable of identifying a threat that you shouldn’t be allowed outside without a keeper. Seriously I’d stay clear of matches, sharp objects, and anything with corners at that point. And try to stay off hard surfaces, maybe thick carpet and rounded corners would be better.

gekkobear on March 1, 2007 at 1:39 PM

Oh yeah, calling Eisenhower a “dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” certainly was prescient, wasn’t it.

McCracken, I didn’t proclaim the Birchers to be recipients of God’s word or anything, just that they had a good fix on a few developments that were later proven true. And they were painted as the utter fringe of American thought back in the day.

thegreatbeast on March 1, 2007 at 3:12 PM

He doesn’t always pick fights with bigger guys.

He picked a fight with me once. I get 200 – 400 hits a day depending on the week and Instapundit links.

I was looking for moderate Muslims. I blogged about it any way without Deans help.

Surpisingly the piece got picked up by the Muslim Brotherhood. Freaked me out. Michael Totten said I had nothing to worry about. The Brotherhood was just tring to soften their image.

MSimon on March 1, 2007 at 9:25 PM

The Birchers were right about the UN.

MSimon on March 1, 2007 at 9:27 PM

Ugh well, I have met some Birchers. They were supremely weird, in my opinion.

Ken McCracken on March 1, 2007 at 9:42 PM

Esmay has about as much authority to “purge” the conservative movement as the chair of the Berkely University Campus Democrat Club.

Or for that matter, a 19-lb penguin lost in the Azores.

Merovign on March 2, 2007 at 4:13 AM