Andy Kindler Doesn’t Know What (Or Who) He’s Talking About
I wouldn’t know the name ‘Andy Kindler’ had I not noticed his bizarre Twitter obsession with Ricky Gervais some time ago. It appears Andy has a problem with vocal critics of religion and is unable to separate dislike of ideas from bigotry towards actual people. He’s also a comedian, I’m told.
It seems Sam Harris has also been on the receiving end of the same sort of treatment for quite some time too:
As you can see from the linked twitter search results above, ‘a lot of energy’ may be an understatement.
Podcast host Josh Zepps, having previously hosted both Sam Harris and Andy Kindler on his show separately, extended an invitation to both men to discuss this ‘spat’ together on his show. Neither men were interested in this endeavour, but Kindler was available to appear solo to outline his ‘criticism’ of Sam Harris. You can listen to the full episode here:
As you can hear, this was a master class in confusion and ignorance from Andy Kindler and would almost be unlistenable were it not for the likeable nature and valiant attempts of Josh Zepps to make sense of the situation.
It would take far more time than I’m willing to waste in order to highlight every misguided utterance from Kindler, so I’ll just make one or two quick observations from my listen through. It’s also possible a few of Kindler’s comments may have been in reference to me personally, but before I get to that:
Kindler attempts an appeal to authority in the form of Reza Aslan a number of times in this discussion. Kindler says: “Reza Aslan knows way more, he’s an actual religious scholar. I would see him before I see a white neuroscientist atheist [Sam Harris]”.
Is Reza Aslan a ‘religious scholar’ in the sense he would like you to believe though? Aslan is well known for talking up his credentials when challenged, but those stated credentials have come under serious challenge themselves, as you can see below:
Kindler also cites Reza Aslan’s comments on Female Genital Mutilation to declare that the issue is “about countries” rather than Islam.
Also, I’d be very keen to hear Kindler explain how it’s ‘bigotry’ to say “FGM is an Islamic problem” but it’s all well and good to declare “FGM is an African problem”, as Aslan does.
At one point in the conversation, Kindler actually says ”I don’t know enough about these [things] to make arguments with people”. Quite.
Asra ‘Romani’ and Maajid Nawaz
Kindler bemoans that “some white guy [Harris] is going to interpret the Qur’an for you” then proceeds to throw non-white Muslims Maajid Nawaz and Asra ‘Romani’ (he means Nomani) under the bus in the very next moment for attempting to champion a more liberal interpretation of Islam.
And why does Kindler dislike Asra Nomani so much exactly?
“You have this Asra Romani [Nomani], who basically voted for Trump. If at the end of the day you’re going to vote for Trump, you are the enemy to me. She Hates Obama. Why does she hate Obama so much?”
Kindler then offers up “hidden racism” as an answer to his own question (of course).
I’ve interviewed Asra Nomani myself. She may be one of the most gentle and compassionate people I’ve ever spoken to. Asra has explained at length in the Washington Post why she voted for Trump. If these are the words of an enemy to you, then your battles are ones of comfort.
I completely disagree with Asra’s decision to vote for Donald Trump, but it’s clear to any thinking person that racism and bigotry were not the motivating factors for her decision.
What Kindler fails to realise is that it’s his brand of bigoteering on the topic of Islam that has played a significant role in the election of Donald Trump.
Kindler (falsely) accuses Bill Maher of making “blanket generalisations about people” then goes on to label 62 million Trump voters as “the enemy”.
In the above Tweet, liberal Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz let’s Kindler know that his inflammatory hyperbole makes the job of Muslim reformers like his much more difficult.
It seems Kindler doesn’t care for the opinions of non-white Muslims either:
I’ve no idea what Kindler understands the word ‘reform’ to mean, or why he considers such a process to be unconstitutional.
When pressed by Zepps for an explanation for his dislike of Muslim reformers, Kindler answers: “that’s the smell I get from these people, that’s the stink I get”.
I suppose this remarkable insight can be directly linked to the following declaration from Kindler on this episode:
“I’m not a historian, I’m not an expert on anything except, what I believe in – I believe in very strongly”.
Completely Oblivious To The Problem Of Islamic Extremism
Kindler proclaims “..there’s not one person I know who is a fan of al-Qaida, who doesn’t hate terrorists”.
Thankfully, Zepps is able to provide an explanation for that: “Andy, the reason you don’t know anyone who supports sharia law and who supports jihadists is because you’re a Jew who lives in Los Angeles. Trust me, there are lots of people around the world who do”.
And Zepps is correct. Extreme and deeply conservative, illiberal beliefs are not in short supply in the Muslim world, as the data will attest.
These deeply illiberal beliefs are precisely the things Maher, Harris, Nomani and Nawaz are standing in opposition to. They do this whilst all the while being careful to distinguish between different types of Muslims as not to tar them all with the same brush. They do this at great personal risk to themselves and their loved ones.
On Bill Maher
“Bill Maher is a fundamentalist atheist. He’s as bad as anyone else”. – As bad as anyone ‘who’ exactly? Can anyone point to an increase in armed security and road blocks in response to the threat of ‘atheist fundamentalism’?
Sam Harris describes Kindler’s comments about him as ‘defamatory’, which of course they are. Kindler cannot see beyond the legal use of this word and continually accuses Harris of “threatening people” for using the word ‘defamatory’ to note that he is being defamed.
“Stop threatening people. Claiming they are defaming you. I’ve listened to you speak, I’ve read what you’ve said. You are a bigot!”
“He’s also saying he’s [being] defamed. This idea that he threatens. Sue me Sam Harris! You are racist! Well… I don’t know if you are racist but you are a bigot. That’s my opinion of you”.
The slip of the term ‘racist’ coupled with the instant retraction goes to show how freely and unconsciously that term flows from the mouths of people like Kindler.
Other arguments from Kindler include: “Dear Sam, Blow me”.
This accusation of bigotry against Harris, as far as I can see, appears to stem solely from his comments on the Bill Maher Show where Harris describes Islam as “the mother lode of bad ideas”. If you can’t tell if someone is talking about people or ideas, when the person in question actually uses the word ‘ideas’, I’m not sure what else can be done. Ideas cannot be subjected to bigotry.
As you can see, Kindler has not actually read any of Harris’s work either:
A few people have have told me they think the following exchange during the conversation is in reference to me:
Kindler: “I’ve never seen more disgusting people in my life than the people who follow Sam Harris. The people people who follow Sam Harris and Trump and Dawkins, the guy who…this hideous guy who’s like uh…I can’t even think of his name…he’s like uh…’God’ something or other”
Josh Zepps: “Gad Saad?”
Kindler: “No, it’s like a God….umm….he was actually banned off of Twitter once, but these people are so hateful”.
I am the Godless Spellchecker I suppose, and it is true that Twitter has (unjustly) banned me before. But I cannot be certain he is talking about me and since I’m blocked by Kindler on Twitter, I’m unlikely to receive confirmation.
Speaking of Twitter, during this conversation Kindler states that he dislikes the social media platform because people often ask “can you please supply your evidence?”
I honestly do not know how to respond to that.
Please chime in with your thoughts in the comments