Islamic Extremism, Curt Schilling's Professional Demise, and the Waning Value of Truth

Legendary hurler Curt Schilling was recently suspended by ESPN for posting the following tweet:

Naturally, some people lost their minds and tweeted furious disapproval.  Having understood the transgression against politically correct sensibilities that he committed, Schilling quickly removed the post and began to do all the self-pillorying required of those who speak the harsh truths that contradict the pleasant lies we're meant to believe.  But to no avail – there are no signs that reinstatement to his analyst duties is on the horizon.

Jon Greenberg of Politifact was among those admonishing Schilling, calling his tweet a "wild pitch" that faces some "logical stumbling blocks."  He offers this reasoning:

Muslim extremists are non-state actors, while German Nazis were fighting for the German nation. And as Vox pointed out, Muslim extremists primarily kill other Muslims, while Germans signed on to subjugate of kill non-Germans, Jews, gays, and political opponents of any stripe.  These are not insignificant differences.

In a practical sense, these are most certainly insignificant differences.  Greenberg's argument is as ludicrous as suggesting that Hitler's bombing of London, which killed tens of thousands of British civilians, was somehow less atrocious because it was just Christians killing other Christians.

Greenberg's argument is also wrong in an even more fundamental way.  The fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), for example, would certainly argue that they are not "non-state actors," and they would disagree with any assertion that they lack a defined political or social identity.  Additionally, the fighters of ISIS did, in fact, sign on to kill Jews, execute gays, and to destroy political opponents of any stripe in an effort to conquer and subjugate their enemies.  Anyone who would argue otherwise is a fool and/or a liar.  The same is true for the fighters of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezb'allah, et al. 

So the question becomes – what about Schilling's tweet was actually wrong?  The post doesn't say anything to compare all Muslims to Nazis.  It only compares "extremist Muslims" to Nazis.  And that's a perfectly appropriate analogy.

So perhaps the real problem in Schilling's tweet is in the numbers, and what the numbers might imply? 

First, let's tackle the actual number of Muslim extremists claimed in Schilling's tweet.

When leftist apologists argue that Islamic extremists are just a tiny minority in the context of global Islam, rarely are any numbers offered to substantiate the claim. 

The defenses usually go something like Ben Affleck's rebuttal to Bill Maher and his guest Sam Harris.  Maher had the audacity to suggest that fundamental liberal touchstones, like free speech and equal rights, are "lacking" in the Muslim world, and Harris suggested that the practice of conflating any criticism of Islam with "bigotry against Muslims as people" is "intellectually ridiculous."

Affleck couldn't stand for that.  So he did what all Islamic apologists do when backed into a corner with relentless logic, and that is to accuse Maher and Harris of bigotry and racism.

To be fair, Affleck did cite that there are roughly 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.  But that's not the number that counts.  The one that counts is the number of Muslim extremists, which seems to all too often go conveniently unaddressed.

If you want to know why those peddling the notion that Muslim extremists are a fringe group never talk about this number, it's because no amount of spin or PC whitewashing can change the fact that the actual number of Muslim extremists, though admittedly difficult to define, is absolutely staggering in any honest estimation.  To illustrate the point, let's return to Jon Greenberg at Politifact.

Last November, Greenberg took Ben Shapiro to task for a video that uses a 15-nation sample to argue that the majority of Muslims in the world are indeed "radicals." 

Shapiro uses "a broad definition of radical," Greenberg asserts, leading to Shapiro's conclusion that more than 800 million of the Earth's roughly 1.6 billion Muslims are radical.  Shapiro's criteria include support for suicide bombing, support for violence in defense of Islam, and a desire for sharia law.

So Greenberg tightened to the screws on Shapiro's loose methodology by defining "radicals" as only those who would support suicide bombing – except in three curious exceptions.  For France, he uses Shapiro's same litmus test.  For Great Britain, he uses support for terrorism as the measure of a radical.  And for some odd reason, he cites the percentage of those who would abolish the morality police as the measure of radicals in Iran.  The inclusion of the last seems to make absolutely no sense in this context, considering that the morality police in Iran enforce strict sharia codes, thus making those opposed to the morality police less radical than their counterparts.

But even after limiting the criteria defining extremism, Greenberg's methodology finds that there are 181.76 million Muslim extremists, which is 19% of the population sampled.  Using just this conclusion, while forgoing consideration to extremist Muslims in other countries and assuming as Shapiro does that there are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, this amounts to 11.76% of the global Muslim population. 

Shapiro then offers that, of course, this suggests not that there are actually 181 million Muslim extremists in the world, but rather that his example merely serves to illustrate how "by applying different but reasonable criteria to the same data, you can reach a vastly different result." 

Make no mistake: Greenberg's number is far lower than Shapiro's for a calculated reason, which is to "rate the claim false," as Greenberg's article concludes.  But for kicks, let's take Greenberg's strategy a step farther.  Take Iran out of the equation altogether, given that his rationale doesn't appear sensible as written.  (Though there are certainly many millions of Iranians who are Islamic extremists, let's just ignore that population for the moment, even though it would strengthen my argument.)  This leaves 146.56 million radicals in the 14 countries sampled.  This figure calculates to 16.81% of the populations sampled, and 9.16% of the assumed 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.

Greenberg certainly proves that the numbers can be skewed.  After all, he skewed the numbers from Shapiro's argument by applying limited (yet, as he admits, very reasonable) criteria to show a much lower number of Muslim extremists in the world.  And even in my example above, which omits a large nation comprising millions of extremists, the number still falls on the high end of the estimation tweeted by Schilling.  Both conclusions are much lower than Shapiro's estimation, but in no way does either negate the point of Schilling's tweet.

And that's because there's a far more troubling aspect of Schilling's tweet than the actual numbers – and that is what the numbers imply. 

The facts show that only a small percentage of Nazis were actual extremists in their actions, in the sense that they were dedicated party members, or among the Gestapo stocking and securing the ghettoes, or dropping Zyklon pellets in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.  This realization nonetheless convincingly yields the conclusion that the other Germans in the broad majority were little more than passive accomplices enabling the ultimate evil wrought by the Nazis.

Just as the Germans who passively supported Nazism are implicated in the Nazi crimes, those who support the actions and ideology of Muslim extremists are culpable for the evils wrought by Muslim extremism.  And even in the unreasonably generous estimation that I offer above, at least 9.16% of Muslims worldwide fall into the category of being, at the very least, supportive of murder in the name of Islam.

And also like the Nazis, those who sit silently by, despite their supposed disagreement with the ideology of Muslim extremists, are implicated in the crimes.  And curiously, the most vocal elements shouting down critics of Islamic extremism are remarkably quiet about condemning it, at least when you consider those condemnations in the context of the passionate attacks against the stalwart critics of Islamic extremism. 

This, in essence, implicates the Western left as having fostered any successes that Islamic extremists may achieve.  And that is the primary beef that the media and our PC criers have with arguments like the one made in Schilling's tweet. 

But just because they don't like that fact, that does not make the fact any less true. 

The response to Schilling's tweet, as well as his professional fate, has proven yet again that in this country, telling the truth about the threat of Islamic extremism is entirely verboten

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

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