Ben Norton writes that Sam Harris, the self-styled ‘centrist liberal’, moves further and further into the warm embrace of the xenophobes.
In language eerily reminiscent of the rhetoric of the fascist far right, New Atheist pundit Sam Harris has called for reducing the number of Muslims in society, warning on the January episode of his popular podcast, “You can’t have too many Muslims in your culture if you want it to remain enlightened.”
Harris made these remarks in an interview with the British ex-Muslim pundit and self-styled “counter-extremism campaigner” Maajid Nawaz. As AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal and Nafeez Ahmed have documented, Nawaz concocted significant portions of his memoir and falsely branded members of his own family as Islamic extremists.
Harris and Nawaz also bashed the left and called for more Western military intervention in the Middle East, despite it being the primary force driving Salafi-jihadist violence and the refugee crisis.
Sam Harris, who identifies as a liberal centrist, has previously said that the “people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.” He has a long history of anti-Muslim extremism, going so far as to claim “we are at war with Islam.”
The January episode of Harris’ podcast is not the first time he has flirted with racist talking points. It was soon followed by another episode in April, in which Harris advanced rhetoric that resembles the pseudoscientific “race realism” of white supremacists. Harris maintained that “average IQ differs across races and ethnic groups,” implying that people of African descent have lower IQs, while people of European descent are smarter.
Harris, who has also harshly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement as “irrational,” staunchly maintains he is not racist, and has gone out of his way to condemn white supremacists. His IQ comments, however, were applauded by white nationalists and the rebranded fascist movement that calls itself the alt-right.
I must admit that I gagged when I read Norton describe Harris as the “popular leader of the so-called New Atheists” because I consider myself to be a ‘new atheist’ and want to have no association with him even though, before the full extent of his awful political views became apparent to me, I signed on to a rationalist group started by him. It was quite some time ago. I never did anything with the group and now cannot remember even its name because I would withdraw my name if it still existed and I could. Harris’s website has no mention of it that I could find.
This is not the first time that Harries has tried to defend the indefensible and Noam Chomsky called him out on some aspects of it. If past patterns hold up, Norton’s article on Harris will be responded to by many Harris supporters defending him and Harris himself saying that his words were taken out of context or deliberately distorted by his enemies, the famous Harris two-step to avoid taking full responsibility for the actions he advocates. Either Harris is the most misunderstood or unjustly maligned writer in the world or, as Robert Wright argues, he is a muddled thinker or a muddled writer.