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Following completes my notes on the Glenn Greenwald-Kyle Kulinski discussion that was a response to the above points raised by Kyle. Indented paragraphs are direct transcripts; the remainder is generally paraphrase.
I’ve copied the video link again at the end of this post.
The minutes/seconds markers are approximate.
Glenn G refers to the New Atheist’s toxic way of talking about the world. Harris is not just saying Islam is bad but that it is “the worst of all”.
No such thing as an “atheist agenda”?
GG: New Atheists may say that as atheists they have “no beliefs” as such and therefore plead that they have no “atheist agenda” but someone like Sam Harris clearly does have an identifiable and well-thought out agenda on a whole range of topics, including political ones.
Very serious radical fundamental differences in world views
There is this quote from Sam Harris that to me illustrates the crux of the disagreement. He said, Look, liberals think Dick Cheney is a really bad person who did a lot of really bad things, and that’s fine, you can think that. But what liberals need to understand in order for them to be rational is that there are tens of millions of Muslims in the world who are “far scarier than Dick Cheney”. — That world view is very familiar and very common. It is essentially saying, Yes, the United States maybe does some bad things in the world, but they don’t really rise to the level of evil; if you want to know true evil look to the adversaries of the United States — which is not just al Qaeda, which is not just ISIS, but “tens of millions” of human beings who identify as Muslims.
And in the recent exchange Sam Harris had with Noam Chomsky he identified the United States as what he called a “well-intentioned giant” [9:30]. And he said very much the same thing about Israel before. — (saying in effect:) Yes the United States and Israel might do some bad things but we’re morally superior to the adversaries of the United States and Israel.
So when I look at Sam Harris what I see is a person who is an American, who is a Westerner, who is a self-identified Jew, who runs around making the argument that the United States and Israel are morally superior to its adversaries. And to me this is kind of pure primitive tribalism. It’s the nub of what has driven the “war on terror” the last fifteen years. — the idea that sure, we do some bad acts but we do it by accident, we do it because we’re really well intentioned, but the true evil “is them”.
I think the reason it’s gotten so much negative attention is because unlike, say, Bill Crystal or Dick Cheney or actual hardcore neocons who you can look at and know exactly what they are and what they think — The way that this particular set of beliefs is lending support to this agenda is much more subtle and insidious and kind of disguised. — And I think therefore it is more pernicious, it is more deserving of attention.
Whatever else is true I think there are very serious radical fundamental differences in world views that this debate has largely been about.