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David Weinberger

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Yale student dismantles Newt Gingrich’s anti-mosque pseudo-history

Yale grad student blogger Carl Pyrdum dismantles Newt Gingrich’s flame-fanning about the mosque proposed to be built near Ground Zero. Newt says the name of the mosque — “Cordoba — is understood by every Muslim to celebrate an Islamic conquest of Christianity.” In fact, Carl shows that it refers to a golden period during which all three major religions lived together peacefully and prosperously.

That factual error aside, Newt’s post commits the Fallacy of The They. He writes:

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

So, those who are for religious tolerance are hypocrites if they don’t condemn intolerance within their own group? Ok. But who are the “they”? Not all of the “apologists” who support the right of Moslems to build the Cordoba mosque (e.g., me) support Saudi Arabian intolerance. The “they” implies otherwise.

The language Newt uses throughout also skews the discussion in a dangerous direction. “Islamists” instead of “Moslems”? “Apologists” instead of supporters? He says “arrogantly dishonest” to portray supporters as schemers. The post overall is intended to get us to see Moslems as crafty, devious, intolerant, and already too present in our culture (“more than 100 mosques”). Moslems, implies the post, are at war with Christianity (“No surrender”) and want to tear down our churches so they can put up grandiose mosques. Newt confines this to supporters of the mosque, but the language overall, the use of the lazy “they,” and the reference to what “every Muslim” understands reinforce broad existing stereotypes. I have enough respect for Newt to think that he must know what he’s doing.

Then, at the end of the piece, he ludicrously puffs the issue up with false bravado. “No surrender,” he writes. “The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue. ” Oh, yes, let’s inflate this with all the macho jingoism we can muster. Imagine Winston Churchill giving one of his wonderful blood-and-sacrifice speeches — “We shall fight on the beaches…We shall fight in the fields” — about some group proposing to build a church. Please, Newt, you just look ridiculous.

Allowing a mosque to be built within proximity of Ground Zero would be America at its best — a lesson to the world in tolerance and maturity.

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David is the author of JOHO the blog (www.hyperorg.com/blogger). He is an independent marketing consultant and a frequent speaker at various conferences. "All I can promise is that I will be honest with you and never write something I don't believe in because someone is paying me as part of a relationship you don't know about. Put differently: All I'll hide are the irrelevancies."