Things have been going drastically down hill for Cenk Uygur seeing as he's recently devolved into the position of a common smear merchant. Unfortunately, no one in his immediate surroundings seems to have a level head regarding these matters or knowledge of the subject. As a result, everyone at TYT simply nods at anything coming out of Cenk's gob.
Here's the most recent smear job focused against Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This is a direct result of him being called out regarding his statements referring to Ayaan and Sam Harris as neocons. In Ayaan's case he stated that she's a maniac on top of that. Now anyone who spent enough time looking into the ideology of Islam in order to better understand it has likely come across Ayaan at some point in time. Either she's in a debate, presentation or an interview. Simply looking up her name comes up with myriad results giving a very clear narrative on her thoughts about Islamic religion and its impact on the world, and more specifically, the Muslim world. Most importantly it sets the stage on why it's so important to criticize these matters in the hopes of change through reformation. The one question I kept asking via twitter and was hoping for an answer was, if Ayaan was such a bigoted neocon maniac, why is she looking for reformation in the hopes of helping the very Muslims she supposedly hates? Despite my attempts at getting an answer by Cenk, I found none in this video. All I found unfortunately was oversimplification, quote mining and, ironically, strawmanning of Ayaan.
Lets deal with the first part where Cenk skimmed over the interview of Ayaan by Sam Harris. Right off the bat Cenk tried to diminish the interview because Sam didn't ask Ayaan any "hard" questions. Cenk made reference to the 3 hour interview he did with Sam as an example. At the beginning of the interview, Sam was critical of Cenk's journalistic integrity. Roughly at the 6 minute mark is where Sam makes the point that Reza Aslan and CJ Werleman were basically left a platform to speak unchallenged. The uninformed viewer/reader would have never been aware of what Sam actually said and dismissed him as a genocidal maniac. And even after the 3 hours he spent at TYT clarifying his position, Cenk still managed to misrepresent him and dismiss him as a neocon. Yet in that very interview he said he opposed the Iraq war. This proves precisely why Sam's grievance is a valid one. As for hard questions, what exactly should Sam do when he's asking Ayaan about AEI? Put her in a strangle hold while he's posing the question? Yell at her? All I see here is Sam being civil, paraphrasing answers to make sure there's no confusion and getting a clear narrative of who Ayaan really is. Cenk could learn a lot from him. Note how Sam started his interview by listing the various accomplishments and a short biography on who it was he'd be speaking to. Yeah, I didn't see any of that mentioned in Cenk's video either. So for the casual viewer one would simply think that Ayaan is the most reprehensible human being ever. This is why Cenk's nothing but a smear merchant. Not even the slightest hint or mention regarding any of her work.
One thing I want to establish for this portion is the definition of what it means to straw man. Also the reason why I just had to use this title for my blog. A straw man is when you misrepresent's an opponent's position. Cenk seems to think that it applies to statements like this: "It never ceases to amaze me that when one complains about Muslim theocrats abusing Muslim women and freethinkers, one inevitably gets accused of anti-Muslim bigotry". It doesn't. Here's an example of an actual straw man. Note how you can clearly see an interaction between two people? One person is clearly telling Sam what he said and Sam has to clarify as a result. That's a straw man. Sorry to take you by the hand like that but when grown ass men still can't comprehend this, I'd rather this be crystal clear in stead of redefining the English language. In any event, Cenk's response to the so called "straw man argument": "No one's ever said that, you can't find any examples of that". Well here's one saying "You're a bigot end of story". This is all too commonplace for individuals who are actively criticizing Islam's bad ideas. Just because Cenk never personally experienced it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Cenk barely, barely covers anything revolving around Islam yet the stories I see with ideological motivators are occurring almost daily. The rest of Cenk's presentation is repetition. He reads the quote and says it doesn't happen. Yet when I make any critical statements regarding such events, I either have people flat out call me a bigot or present me with an example of western intervention where people died due to Agent Orange for instance. Hop outside your own little universe and get involved in a conversation outside your own twitter feed and you'll come across it. Like an actual death threat. All in all his analysis of the interview is simplistic, one sided and does nothing to tell you what kind of a person Ayaan actually is. Here's the actual interview. How anyone can summarize that into the oversimplified quote mined turd Cenk presented would get anyone a failing grade in journalistic academia.
In transition, Cenk can't help himself to do a little more quote mining, taking another stab at Sam. Sam: "The faith has no truly moderate wing". This is classic smear merchant nonsense. When read in context an entire conversation is taking place between Sam and Ayaan. What Sam is saying within the paragraph in question is that there seems to be little resistance regarding current questionable practices surrounding Islamic ideology by Muslims. Polls show this. He's not denying moderates exist. Hell he's writing a book with Maajid Nawaz, an ex radical. This is also something I pointed out to Cenk. It's rather peculiar for Cenk to accuse Sam of making so called blanket statements when he's co-authoring a book with a Muslim in the hopes of progressing the discussion. Sam's even mentioned before that the greatest victims of Islamic atrocities are Muslims. But see, that's the problem. The second you look at the entire context of the discussion, the notion that Sam is some malicious hate filled lunatic, just dissolves to any rational human being.
The actual meat and potatoes from Cenk's beef with Ayaan seems to revolve around everyone's go-to-guide in order to show what a despicable human being she actually is. The interview is a fairly lengthy one yet, as always, certain quotes are lifted and presented as abhorrent truth.
And now we add a new fallacy to the mix where Cenk inevitably links Ayaan with AEI. This is called guilt by association. It would be like stating that Cenk is for the marriage of minors because he's from Turkey. What one would need to do is provide evidence of her direct involvement in the questionable matters regarding AEI and its practices, which Cenk fails to do. Working for a specific company isn't an actionable offense. After learning of Enron's questionable practices, they didn't throw every employee there in jail as a result. Stop this nonsense.
Only at 12 minutes in do we get to the heart of the matter. Cenk's position is that she's identifying herself as liberal and her only position is war and bombing. This is yet another fallacy called no true Scotsman. Everything regarding Ayaan's career where she brings focus of women's rights in Islam screams liberal. In fact, this is what the majority of her time, debates and interviews revolve around. She's already responded to these allegations in the past but there's never a mention of it. Neither is there ever a mention of her body of work looking to change the moral landscape of Islam. But that's the thing with blog reading so called journalists today, they don't try to look at past accomplishments nor do they look to what's being said in the present. They simply line up a target, find all supporting evidence for their bias and pull the proverbial trigger. You never see recent pieces where Ayaan is pushing for reform stating "You can't drone bad ideas out of people's heads". Rarely do you get the 5ws, the core of journalism. Here's a woman who was a full fledged practicing Muslim and only after decades of living in that world did she break free and flee towards a more rational alternative. Here's her speaking about her experience so hopefully you can get the full narrative the Young Turks fail to present.
The story could have ended there with Ayaan as a free woman but despite everything that pushed her away, Ayann turned around to confront Islam head on. She started working with women in shelters who were victims of spousal abuse but didn't want to leave their husbands in fear that they would go to hell according to Islamic teachings. She became involved in the political landscape, shared her story and spoke out against the abhorrent practices of Islam. In 2004, after working with Theo van Gogh, the short film Submission was released and both her and Theo received death threats. All they did was report precisely how Islam treated its women and, shortly after, Theo paid for it with his life. Even more unsettling was a letter pinned to Ayaan's colleague repeating the threat against her life. So yeah, maybe 3 years after that event, when the Reason interview took place, she's going to be a little curt when speaking about Islam and not catering to everyone's sensitivities. Even as that interview took place, Salman Rushdie was still living in fear until 2008 due to a fatwa called on his life by Iran. This should give you pause and make you think. Yeah, a leader of a country calls for the death of an author over a god dammed book. That was back in 1989 and was reaffirmed by future administrations there until 2008. That's almost 2 decades of living in isolation. Because of a fucking book.
This is the true problem with Cenk. He has no inclination or interest in representing people for who they are in full. He'll just read one source and run with whatever broken headed notion enters his large oily cranium. He'll also fail completely to provide the context, timeline and reasons for why certain things are being said. He'll just quote mine things, present them as truth and watch the views come in justifying his galactically stupid opinions. This is the how a disingenuous ignorant smear merchant like Cenk operates as well as many others. Unfortunately, I was one of the people who supported him. You'd think for someone who used to have opinions on the right side of the political spectrum like Cenk did, he'd actually have integrity regarding evaluating human beings. But no. As a result I can no longer support the Young Turks. They've devolved into an organization that's simply out to make points using only selective sources regarding world news. And if the world is looking to realistically progress, a professionally constructed account of the facts is necessary, which you won't find with Cenk and other members of the Young Turks. And that's a damn shame.