Its character and potential. One of the founding conflicts of the Intellectual Dark Web which begs the question...is Hitch laughing in heaven?
A general point about the mechanics of defamation: It is impossible to effectively defend oneself against unethical critics. If nothing else, the law of entropy is on their side, because it will always be easier to make a mess than to clean it up. It is, for instance, easier to call a person a "racist," a "bigot," a "misogynist," etc. than it is for one's target to prove that he isn't any of these things.
Here are the quotes highlighted by Mehdi Hasan on twitter that lit the fire. Warm yourselves in flames of provocative prose tempered by rigid scientific pursuit.
"It is time we admitted that we are not at war with 'terrorism'. We are at war with Islam." - Sam Harris, 2004 https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/dec/1/20041201-090801-2582r/
This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran.
"Muslim immigrants often show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries...demanding tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their anti-Semitism..." - Sam Harris, 2004 https://samharris.org/the-reality-of-islam/
...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.
"Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death." - Sam Harris, 2004 https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_End_of_Faith
"The gravity of Jewish suffering over the ages, culminating in the Holocaust, makes it almost impossible to entertain any suggestion that Jews might have brought their troubles upon themselves. This is, however, in a rather narrow sense, the truth"- Harris, End Of Faith, 2004
"The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists." - Sam Harris, 2006 https://samharris.org/the-end-of-liberalism/
To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.
"Liberals ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we & the Israelis...seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields & this accounts for much of the collateral damage we & the Israelis cause." -Sam Harris, 2006, End Of Liberalism
"If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion." - Sam Harris, 2006 https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/369/the-temple-of-reason
I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology.
"I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror." - Sam Harris, 'In Defense of Torture', 2006 https://samharris.org/in-defense-of-torture/
In the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, this is not a comfortable position to have publicly adopted. There is no question that Abu Ghraib was a travesty, and there is no question that it has done our country lasting harm.
Notice this jump of almost 6 years...
"We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it." - Sam Harris, 2012 https://samharris.org/in-defense-of-profiling/
But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and TSA screeners can know this at a glance.
"Given a choice between Noam Chomsky and Ben Carson, in terms of the totality of their understanding of what's happening now in the world, I'd vote for Ben Carson every time... He understands that jihadists are the enemy." - Sam Harris, 2015 https://samharris.org/podcasts/on-the-maintenance-of-civilization/
Sam's current views on Islam can be found in the short book he wrote with Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance (Harvard University Press, 2015)
A final exchange of values.
"Dear everyone else on Twitter, if you care about 1) Islamophobia 2) Antisemitism 3) Holding people to account for hypocrisy and/or bigotry... ... then pls do feel free to retweet this entire thread, from top to bottom, and share it widely :-)" - Mehdi Hasan, 2019 https://twitter.com/mehdirhasan/status/1114917098957025281
There's a deep irony in good people doing bad things to win. Sometimes interests don't align and there's no way to reconcile amicably. Some things require that one side win over another. No holds barred. Lesser of two evils. Means to an end. Those who stare into the abyss...
...face the market test. Not all ideas can work in the real world. One side smears and the other retaliates. So frustrating badgering down to the truth with so much mud flying. We need to employ better ways of verifying information. I don't like seeing so much conflict between good people.