Sam Harris is reduced to copying Ann Coulter’s playbook


Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks accurately describes Harris’s disingenuous tactic of using extreme hypotheticals to set up scenarios that justify despicable actions targeted at Muslims while at the same time inserting caveats that enable him to respond to critics by accusing them of either misunderstanding him or acting in bad faith.

When you find yourself accusing every critic of misunderstanding you, you should ask yourself whether the real problem is that you are a rotten writer. When you find yourself accusing every critic of deliberately distorting your message in order to discredit you, you should ask yourself whether the real problem is that you are advocating rotten positions.

I think that Harris’s problem is the same as Ann Coulter’s. There are very few original ideas that any single person can come up with. Public intellectuals who are deep thinkers of the caliber of Noam Chomsky are able to come up with cogent analyses of contemporary events that make them worth reading or listening to decade after decade. But shallow thinkers like Harris and Coulter quickly run out of steam and those like them who crave media attention and/or for whom fame is the source of their main source of income have no choice but to start saying more and more outrageous things just to get noticed. It is no surprise that Harris reserves his real venom for Chomsky who showed him up for the faux intellectual he is.

Harris and Coulter are now troll twins.

Comments

  1. JonnyDex says

    Perhaps this is unfairly personal, but Sam Harris reminds me of myself when I’m going through the trough/comedown phase after the peak “high” in a spiritual practice like meditation. I get super self righteous and seek attention by making increasingly outrageous claims. Then it bottoms out and I see what the practice seems to be aiming for, and I’m quite chill until it starts over. At least I don’t have to be in the public eye during these “bouts”, I feel for you Mr. Harris, but that doesn’t excuse yr tunnel vision.

  2. mnb0 says

    “There are very few original ideas that any single person can come up with. ”
    Maybe I have had one in my entire life – and even that is doubtful.

  3. Shank says

    In Cenk’s three hour long interview with Sam Harris, Harris stated the following:

    “What I was asking people to imagine in those two paragraphs in The End of Faith was for us to consider the horrible possibility (which must be avoided at all costs) that a regime *that is the psychological equivalent of the 19 hijackers*, people who really are willing to hit the wall at 400 miles an hour, acquires long-range nuclear weaponry.”

    Harris said this directly to Cenk’s face so he has no excuse for misunderstanding the stakes of the hypothetical. An Islamist regime which really was the psychological equivalent of the 19 hijackers would have no qualms about launching a first strike as soon as possible because they actually WANT to die. Our striking back is the intended goal. I’d be very interested to see how commenters here would handle that kind of situation. Remember, we can’t destroy the nukes themselves because we don’t know where they are, and we can’t engage them diplomatically because they want to die. What, specifically, would you do if you were POTUS in that specific situation?

    I won’t link to the excerpt because the spam filter will probably hold my post up, but you can find it on YouTube at the 2:15:00 mark. Cenk’s response is to state (and I won’t quote him because he rambles on for ages and talks way too quickly for me to transcribe anyway, but like I said you can listen to his response yourself) that the problem with Harris’ argument is that it increases the likelihood that we would use a nuclear first strike in other situations that the hypothetical doesn’t cover. Obviously, this completely fails to address the point Harris is actually making.

    Also, for the record, if I were POTUS and I knew with 100% certainty that an Islamist group was preparing to launch a missile at Washington DC, and that I knew I had no conventional means of stopping them, I would nuke Tallahassee. In a simple utilitarian calculus, Tallahassee vs Washington DC, Tallahassee loses. Simple as that.

    Of course, the hypothetical Cenk provides isn’t analogous to Harris’s hypothetical because there are more realistic options which I, as POTUS, could use which would be better than a nuclear first strike on Tallahassee. I could, for instance, tell people to get the hell out of DC. It would also be much, much easier to intercept and down a missile fired from within the US from a specific city than a missile fired from outside the US fired from an unknown location in an entire country. But if we were to pretend that those options simply weren’t on the table, I’d nuke Tallahassee.

  4. John Morales says

    Shank, thanks for the simpleton’s perspective:

    Also, for the record, if I were POTUS and I knew with 100% certainty that an Islamist group was preparing to launch a missile at Washington DC, and that I knew I had no conventional means of stopping them, I would nuke Tallahassee. In a simple utilitarian calculus, Tallahassee vs Washington DC, Tallahassee loses. Simple as that.

    If I were a Jihadi commander, I could work with that. Boom!

    Then I’d prepare to launch from another town (boom!), then another (boom!) and so forth.

  5. Shank says

    Harris said this directly to Cenk’s face so he has no excuse for misunderstanding the stakes of the hypothetical. An Islamist regime which really was the psychological equivalent of the 19 hijackers would have no qualms about launching a first strike as soon as possible because they actually WANT to die. Our striking back is the intended goal. I’d be very interested to see how commenters here would handle that kind of situation. Remember, we can’t destroy the nukes themselves because we don’t know where they are, and we can’t engage them diplomatically because they want to die. What, specifically, would you do if you were POTUS in that specific situation?

    How would you answer this question, John?

  6. StevoR says

    @shank :

    Cenk’s response is to state (and I won’t quote him because he rambles on for ages and talks way too quickly for me to transcribe anyway, but like I said you can listen to his response yourself) ..

    Y’know youtube has the little bar thingamajig at the bottom that you can shift back & forth so that you can in fact see and hear things again record what people say yeah? Its like a replay function but you can choose which bits you watch at a time. If you can’t be bothered to do so – better you just say so really.

    Also my quick searching came up with the following youtube clips :

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cenk+uygur+vs+sam+harris

    Please could you narrow down the one you are referring to here – you don’t even need to link it; just cut’n’paste and italicise the title, maybe add the date / poster /channel too and we’ll be able to find the one you’d like us to watch much easier thanks.

  7. John Morales says

    Shank:

    How would you answer this question, John?

    The question you’ve posed me is “What, specifically, would you do if you were POTUS in that specific situation?”, right?

    I would respond with a question seeking clarification; something like “To what specific situation do you refer?”

  8. StevoR says

    @Shank : Incidentally, I can’t answer for John Morales or anyone but me but my answer for your question asked at #7 & #5 would be to say firstly that the question is unrealistic – it just wouldn’t happen like that any more than we’d be attacked by a herd of flying pigs shooting laser beams out their eyes. It’s just not a plausible scenario.

    Secondly, that it presents a false dichotomy excluding other more reasonable options – for instance drone strikes on the terrorists or use of conventional bombs rather than nuclear ones, still admittedly a bad option that will kill innocent people so better to find still more preferable alternatives, stall for time, try to fool them into thinking you’ll meet their demands whilst tracking them down and getting your counter-terrorism team ready and set to go, etc ..

    Thirdly, as a POTUS if you have allowed a situation where the terrorists have gotten to this stage – then you and your intelligence agencies have already failed catastrophically. The hypothetical situation should have been prevented from occurring in the first place.

    Also, I’d suggest you watch the “Nobody Understands Poor Sam Harris” clip in the Opening Post again and contemplate and try to grok what Cenk Uygur is saying here because you seem to have missed the point.

    PS. You can certainly add one link to these blog comments without going into moderation FYI. Perhaps even two or three although I’m not sure how many are permitted before going into moderation.

  9. lanir says

    Basic logic flaw. Also apparently both Shenk and Sam Harris completely misunderstand psychology and sociology. I’m hardly an expert but one of the safe assumptions is that everyone sees themselves as a sympathetic character in their own story. Maybe not a hero. But at least someone you’re supposed to like or at least feel for a bit. The inherent flaw when you get into racist, xenophobic “those people”-ing is that it pretends this is not true. Magically “those people” stop making any sense. “Those people” can then do anything. “Those people” should probably be stopped before they do something bad, because obviously they will. We’ll probably have to do something extreme to stop them so you can’t afford to think of “those people” as human anymore.

    At various stages along the way you can justify taking away their rights, stealing everything they own, raping them, killing them, cooking and eating them, whatever you want to do really. Because see the “not human” bit above. And just FYI, this is what the -isms look like. Whether it’s racism, sexism, whatever. It all starts with a sadly boring little horror story plot and a lot of impossible assumptions treated as facts.

    This is not an original thought and honestly I’m quite glad it isn’t. I’m happy to be unremarkable in my awareness that something is wrong with proposals of mass murder solely justified by terribly bad logic.

  10. Mano Singham says

    Shank,

    The US has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Sam Harris says that he would prefer to place those in the hands of Ben Carson whom he describes as a ‘dangerously deluded religious imbecile’ rather than someone like Noam Chomsky. Do you agree? And doesn’t that strike you as a little, well, strange?

    Given his description of Carson, I wonder how Harris distinguishes Carson from ISIS leaders since presumably he thinks that the description of ‘dangerously deluded religious imbeciles’ applies to them too?

  11. doublereed says

    Shank, you speak of 100% certainty. What if you don’t have that? What’s your minimum level of certainty?

  12. rykart says

    Mano Singham –excellent piece.

    Why would someone claiming to represent atheism, reason and the scientific method approvingly invoke a brain-damaged ball of pus like Ben Carson of all people?

    Because normal, sane individuals don’t spew idiotic anti-Muslim hate speech. That leaves racist, homophobic, Islamophobic dirtballs like Ben Carson and “European fascists” as Harris’ fellow travelers of choice.

    Sure, Harris would LIKE to invoke someone marginally less moronic and offensive than Ben Carson to support his nauseating views, but he can’t.

  13. Reginald Selkirk says

    Why would someone claiming to represent atheism, reason and the scientific method approvingly invoke a brain-damaged ball of pus like Ben Carson of all people?

    Because it wasn’t intended as support for Carson, but as a burn on Noam Chomsky. Harris is like, “Carson is a total retard except for this one issue where we both agree, therefore I would totally vote for him over Chomsky. Because Chomsky made me look bad in our debate.”

  14. deepak shetty says

    But shallow thinkers like Harris and Coulter quickly run out of steam and those like them who crave media attention and/or for whom fame is the source of their main source of income have no choice but to start saying more and more outrageous things just to get noticed.

    That is quite harsh.
    My impression is that Harris is a true believer – He genuinely thinks that Islam (i.e. Muslims) are out to get everyone and I’d think thats partly a result of the company he started keeping (e.g. Hirsi Ali from whom , atleast, some of the hate is understandable). My initial impression of Harris was that he was aware that Christianity posed a larger threat to America rather than any Islamic terrorist but somewhere along the line he lost sight of that – I would guess in part this was also due to some folks refusing to criticise Islam at all – laying all the blame on western imperialism.

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