Saturday, October 08, 2016

Hedges et. al. versus Harris

By Mathew Goldstein

Journalist Chris Hedges slams Sam Harris, claiming that the latter advocates for a nuclear attack against Islamic countries in his book End of Faith.  Donald McCarthy recently wrote an article that was then promoted on this blog.  That article reiterates what Hedges keeps claiming about Harris and further implies that Harris is dishonest because Harris denies what Hedges asserts about him.

An honest reading of what Harris says in his book is that he is worried about the larger implications of the apocalyptic ideology of pro-suicide Islamic extremists, who think it is a strength and virtue that "we love death more than you love life".  In particular, Harris argues that the religious beliefs adopted by Islamic extremists undermines the viability of Mutually Assured Destruction that has successfully prevented a nuclear conflict since the end of World War II.  Harris devotes only one paragraph to this topic in his book.  He says that if such Islamic extremists obtained nuclear weapons then the risk of nuclear conflict increases, an outcome which he clearly asserts he does not want.

Harris ended that paragraph in his book with "... men who are every bit as zealous to die as the nineteen hijackers may one day get their hands on long-range nuclear weaponry. The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it."  Now, if Chris Hedges, or Donald McCarthy, or anyone else, disagrees with that argument then they can make a counter-argument.  They are not doing that here.  Instead, they are misrepresenting his argument, emphasizing a single sentence, out of context, as evidence for what he is allegedly advocating.  Harris is guilty of using provocative "first strike" language, but not of advocating for that outcome.  Some criticisms of some of what Harris argues are constructive, and I like to see that, but some of it is not.

1 comment:

Don Wharton said...

Well said Mathew! I have increasingly found more reasons to not be fond of Sam Harris. However, this particular issue is not one a reason to disrespect Harris.