Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Source Analysis: "Scientific Racism, Militarism and the New Atheists"

Murtaza Hussain published a rambling piece on the Al Jazeera website that is one big exercise in bald assertions, misrepresentation and argument from analogy.  The whole point of the piece is to discredit the "New Atheists."  To his credit, he links out to lots of sources.  Let's have a look at them:
Hussain uses this entry to establish that atheism has a history of "scientific racism."  However, the entry doesn't support that; it merely states that phrenology was "accused" of promoting atheism.  No real connection.
These are also intended to establish his premise, but they don't even mention atheism or atheists at all.  So still nothing.
Hussain cites these two sources but then immediately backs off on them, saying they're not representative.  Okay, then his inclusion of them is dishonest; it's an obvious attempt to provoke a reaction.  This isn't a rational argument Hussain is making; it's anti-atheist propaganda.
Now we get into the only areas of potential legitimate criticism of one of the New Atheists, Sam Harris.  Great.  So how do these things tie back in with his earlier points?  Does the author refute what Harris is saying?  No, he doesn't; he simply tosses them out there as if to say "See? Bad!"  Hussain's refusal to engage, refute or address the quotes he's providing actually supports Harris's claims about dishonesty among Muslims, at least with regard to its activists. 
Here Hussain references peaceful protests by Muslims to refute the idea that all Muslims are evil.  However, he has failed to establish that the New Atheists believe that, rendering this a red herring.
Here's the only actual parallel we've seen Hussain try to draw so far, saying that Harris's ideas are an "echo" of George Fitzhugh's.  However, Fitzhugh is not an atheist, at least not that Hussain establishes.  Given that he was a 19th-century Southerner, my money's on his being a Christian.  Do Hussain can't even hit the target when he does finally decide to shoot at it.
From this source, Hussain pulls a quote from Harris stating that Muslim outrage tends to be on theological grounds.  He then fails to refute that idea, and moves on.
This is thrown in for sheer shock value, never bothering to establish the percentage of those deaths that came at the hands of atheists.
Here's a link to a book about South Africa; we have no idea why.
This is quote-mining, since Harris is lamenting the fact that only fascists seem to have sensible policies, not supporting it.
Here's a link that says "recent murders" but documents only a single murder; the article never mentions atheists or atheism.
References to atheism in either of these?  None.

So what Hussain has done is said, "Here's a bunch of bad stuff.  Here's a bunch of bad stuff.  Therefore, atheists are bad."  No connections drawn, no refutations of the points criticized; he's just throwing against the wall and hoping enough sticks to outrage his readers.

And look at the sources he's using!  Christian Post, for fuck's sake?  This piece would get laughed out of any serious intellectual discourse.

But that's okay with Hussain.  Critical thinking and analysis is not the point here; this is pure, unadulterated propaganda.  This is designed to provoke an "Atheists bad!" gut-level, emotional response.  It's irresponsible and shameful.

Hussain ends with this gem:
"Just as it is incumbent upon Muslims to marginalize their own violent extremists, mainstream atheists must work to disavow those such as Harris who would tarnish their movement by associating it with a virulently racist, violent and exploitative worldview."

Okay, yeah.  You go talk to those Muslim terrorists, I'll go talk to Sam Harris, and we'll see who commits the next suicide bombing.

1 comment:

  1. Best ever commentary on the Hussain article: