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Sam Harris and fascism

“New Atheist” messiah Sam Harris is a proud self-proclaimed liberal, but also a fascist apologist who defends many of the same far-right ideas he claims to oppose.

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To his zealous disciples, “New Atheist” messiah Sam Harris can do no wrong. When Harris is accused of racism and Islamophobia – as he so often is, and rightfully so – these fanatical aficionados insist the accusations are made “out of context.”

That Harris makes no secret of his virulent anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Arab racism does not help their case.

Harris is a proud self-proclaimed liberal, but also a fascist apologist who defends many of the same far-right ideas he claims to oppose.

These extreme views reflect the racism and authoritarianism at the heart of the “New Atheist” movement.

Harris is the contemporary equivalent of the liberal intellectuals who steadfastly defended the internment camps Franklin Delano Roosevelt created for Japanese-Americans during World War II, in the name of “defending liberal values.”

Those even vaguely familiar with Harris may not be surprised at accusations of racism and Islamophobia, but fascism? Surely such an extraordinary accusation requires extraordinary evidence?

Let us look at some Sam Harris quotes (completely in context), shall we?

In December 2004:

It is time we admitted that we are not at war with ‘terrorism.’ We are at war with Islam.

In February 2006:

Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, France could be a majority Muslim country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow. Throughout Western Europe, Muslim immigrants show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries, and yet exploit these values to the utmost—demanding tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the genocidal hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques. Political correctness and fears of racism have rendered many secular Europeans incapable of opposing the terrifying religious commitments of the extremists in their midst.

In September 2006:

The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

In September 2006:

Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

In September 2007:

Even a liberal like myself, enamored as I am of my two-footed morality, can readily see that my version of the good life must be safeguarded from the aggressive tribalism of others. When I search my heart, I discover that I want to keep the barbarians beyond the city walls as much as my conservative neighbors do, and I recognize that sacrifices of my own freedom may be warranted for this purpose. I even expect that conservative epiphanies of this sort could well multiply in the coming years.

In October 2008:

And one of the problems we have is that many Muslims, for understandable reasons and some for really deplorable reasons, are playing hide the ball with the articles of faith, and are eager to have the conversations of the sort you have had from a very cynical and manipulative perspective. We’re just going to keep having big families, and eventually it’s going to be Eurabia, and the war will be won. There are people who really think in those terms, and they’re not necessarily just the people in the center of the bull’s-eye of Islamic infatuation.

In August 2010:

[The so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” which neither is a mosque, nor is it at Ground Zero, will be viewed as a] sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice.

In May 2011:

They [Muslims] must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.

In April 2012:

We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

Harris’ intense and irrational anti-Muslim bigotry is eerily reminiscent of the Nazis’ delusional anti-Semitic warnings of the supposed “threat” of Jewish global domination.

So, let’s review. Sam Harris:

  • says that only fascists are talking sense;
  • speaks of “backward” immigrants as “enemies of civilization”;
  • defends racial profiling;
  • advocates torture; and
  • sides with fascists and neoconservatives in their 21st-century imperialism, characterizing the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, that led to the death of 100,000s of civilians, as humanitarian—echoing the “White Man’s Burden” of European colonial forebearers.

Combine these racist, authoritarian tendencies with the fact that Sam Harris has argued that free will basically does not exist (a view harshly condemned by cognitive scientist and fellow “New Atheist” Daniel Dennett), and you have a recipe for techno-fascist disaster.

Harris may not identify as a fascist, but the manner in which one identifies is ultimately not nearly as important as the ideas one espouses.

The ideas Harris espouses are decidedly fascist in nature, even if they are formulated and defended in the name of liberalism.

And, once again, I feel compelled to point out that this is one of the most well-respected (and worshiped) leaders in the US secular movement.

Not all leaders in the contemporary US secular secular movement harbor such racist and frankly fascist beliefs, nevertheless. I close with a final thought:

(This article was originally posted on on November 26, 2014.)

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