Poor Andrew Brown! He got left behind in the salvo of “Islamophobia” accusations leveled by his fellow journalists against the New Atheists. To make up for it, he has an especially nasty post in today’s Guardian, with the headling “Richard Dawkins’ latest anti-Muslim Twitter spat lays bare his hypocrisy” (Subtitle: “The celebrity atheist’s Twitter rant against journalist Mehdi Hasan shows he’s a believer too – in his own mythology.”)
The piece is mercifully short, and about what one would expect from Brown: completely idiotic. Here’s Brown’s opening; notice that it’s strident, militant, and far from humble: all the things that he and his ilk accuse the New Atheists of being:
Richard Dawkins and Twitter make one of the world’s great pairings, like face and custard pie. But whereas more accomplished clowns ram custard pies into the faces of their enemies, Dawkins’ technique is to ram his own face into the custard pie, repeatedly. I suppose it saves time and it’s a lot of fun to watch. On Sunday afternoon he was at it again, wondering why the New Statesman employs an imaginative and believing Muslim:
[Dawkins's tweet}: "Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed [sic] flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”
That seems fair enough to me. It’s not just that Hasan keeps these beliefs private, but makes them in public, which does bring into question his objectivity on certain points. Truly, to believe that Mohamed flew to heaven on a horse is delusional, and to say that in public, in a debate with Dawkins, is downright embarrassing. It’s as if Paul Krugman were to confess that he thought that God had two bears kill 42 children because they made fun of the prophet Elisha’s bald head. Of course it’s bigotry to fire a journalist for being religious, but it’s certainly kosher to criticize an employed journalist and wonder why such a delusional firebrand is gainfully employed at a reputable paper.
Brown, lacking much ammunition, then belabors Dawkins for a perfectly normal exchange of tweets with an MP
For instance, Tom Watson, the MP who pursued Murdoch, tweeted back almost at once: “You really are a gratuitously unpleasant man”. To this Dawkins replied “Actually no. Just frank. You’d ridicule palpably absurd beliefs of any other kind. Why make an exception for religion?”
“You are gratuitously unpleasant; I am just frank” comes straight out of the Yes Minister catechism of irregular verbs.
But it gets better. Dawkins continues: “A believes in fairies. B believes in winged horses. Criticise A and you’re rational. Criticise B and you’re a bigoted racist Islamophobe.” It is of course horribly unfair to call Dawkins a bigoted racist Islamophobe. Anyone who follows him knows he is an equal opportunities bigot who is opposed to Christians of every colour as well.
Richard’s statements all seem quite reasonable to me; he doesn’t respond to Watson in kind, but makes a substantive point: that, unlike other delusions, religious beliefs get a pass in British society. And, once again, the charge of “bigot” is leveled at anyone who dare criticize religious beliefs.
In the end, Brown’s reduced to calling Dawkins a hypocrite, equating Richard’s questioning of Hasan’s stature (in a tweet, for crying out loud!) with Hasan’s delusional beliefs:
. . . us inferior, less rational types can easily suppose that he means what he says, and that therefore he does think that Muslims, especially proselytising ones like Mehdi Hasan, are spreading evil and should not be employed by respectable magazines.
Of course Dawkins would probably deny with complete sincerity that this is what he means – until the next time he says it. This doesn’t make him unusually hypocritical. It just means that he thinks the same way as people who believe stories that are differently ridiculous to his – that the twelfth imam will return, or that Muhammad ascended to heaven on a winged horse.
Leaving aside the false claim that Hasan spreads evil, and that he should be fired by the New Statesman (is criticism the same as a call for firing?), how can Brown possibly equate a passionate but rational tweet with a passionate and completely delusional set of beliefs. “Ridiculous” is not the issue: truth is.
Sometimes I wonder why I waste my time on Andrew Brown, and I always tell myself it’s for the same reason that I smell the milk when I know it’s already gone bad. This is what Brown is reduced to: trolling someone’s Twitter feed.
h/t: SGM, Michael