Oh, Sam Harris. Do Shut Up Now.

Oh, Sam Harris. Do Shut Up Now. November 25, 2015

It has reached the point where I just cringe every time Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins say almost anything about any subject. Harris has now come out and said that he would vote for a Ben Carson or Ted Cruz over Noam Chomsky for president because, even though he knows those people are highly dishonest and unqualified, he thinks they do take the real threat of reactionary Muslims seriously.

In his podcast interview with author Douglas Murray, Harris lamented the “demagoguery on both sides” by the political parties, while accusing President Barack Obama of being “politically stupid” in the way he addresses the threat of Islamic fanaticism. Harris did have kind words for Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, despite admitting that he is a “religious maniac.’

“The Republicans are right to be completely outraged by this — and they’re completely crazy,” Harris explained.”This is a terrible situation to be in politically.”

“Take the personalities of the people on the right out of the equation. Is it crazy to express, as Ted Cruz did, a preference for Christians over Muslims in this process?” Harris asked. “Of course not. What percentage of Christians will be jihadists or want to live under Sharia law? Zero. And this is a massive, in fact the only, concern when talking about security. We know that some percentage of Muslims will be jihadists inevitably… So it is not mere bigotry or mere xenophobia to express that preference. I hope you understand that I am expressing no sympathy at all with Ted Cruz’s politics or with Ted Cruz. But it is totally unhelpful to treat him — though he actually is a religious maniac — like a bigot on this point. This is a quite reasonable concern to voice.”

There is just so much wrong here. Bear in mind that this entire conversation was talking about the Syrian refugees, who are victims of ISIS and other reactionary Muslims (like Assad, who is just a different brand of Muslim terrorist, Shiite rather than Sunni). Also bear in mind that we’re talking about all of 10,000 people, not massive hordes of people. And that they will be carefully screened over a two-year period before being allowed in. And that preference will be given to women with children, not the type of people who are likely to commit terrorism. And that the length and strength of the screening process makes it totally useless as a means of smuggling in members of ISIS — if they had the ability to get in that way with fake credentials and everything, they could get in much easier and faster by getting a guest visa and going through a single customs check at the airport.

So let’s start with a realistic risk calculus, given all those facts. The odds that one of those 10,000 refugees is going to become a terrorist once they’re here is, I’m quite certain, a whole lot lower than the risk that one or more of them will be victims of bigotry and prejudice in this country by some tobacco-chewing, heavily-armed American “patriot.” Given all of that, yes it is absolutely absurd for Cruz to claim that we should let Muslims in and not Christians. It’s pure bigotry with no basis in reality. And no, his concern is not the least bit “reasonable” — nor is Harris’ argument.

“Given a choice between Noam Chomsky and Ben Carson, in terms of the totality of their understanding of what’s happening now in the world, I’d vote for Ben Carson every time,” Harris stated. “Ben Carson is a dangerously deluded religious imbecile, Ben Carson does not…the fact that he is a candidate for president is a scandal…but at the very least he can be counted on to sort of get this one right. He understands that jihadists are the enemy.”

Now that’s an interesting spin. He justifies all of this because Carson understands that “jihadists are the real enemy.” And he’s right about that, they are, in fact, the real enemy, and one that must be taken seriously (and frankly, I wouldn’t vote for Chomsky either, but I might if Carson was the only other choice). But that has nothing to do with the Syrian refugees. Like every right-wing crank in the world, Harris is simply substituting “Islamic jihadist” for “Syrian refugee” as if they were an overlapping Venn diagram. This is beneath anyone who claims to be a serious thinker.

Now bring on all the Harris fanboys who will tell me how unfair I’m being to him and have some special esoteric reading of what he said that makes it all so rational.

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