By Jonas Spooner & JB Stubbings
George Orwell, introduced The Ministry of Truth’s colloquially named ‘memory hole’ in the work 1984. His novel described the process where hidden from view the Ministry would destroy records of past realities so as to better reflect the propaganda of the day. Today, two decades post Orwell’s dystopian future, the new atheist ideologue Sam Harris has developed his own memory hole for the digital age; he secretly edits his own published works.
The most recent known case of this unethical practice is the transcript of a discussion Harris had in 2014 with author Andrew Sullivan which was published on Harris’ site. Harris made the following claim in the original: “In fact, there is a doctrine of deception within Islam called Taqiyya, wherein lying to infidels has been decreed a perfectly ethical way of achieving one’s goals”. The current doctored version has been secretly altered. Harris gives no indication to his readers of the transcript’s post hoc edit. His asinine “Taqiyya” slur against Muslims at-large has gone down the memory hole.
This questionable practice is known as “scrubbing” and runs contrary to all universally accepted journalistic codes of conducts. For example, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Conduct states that:
“Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public…Journalists should…Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly”
While Harris’s description conjures up images of swarthy and villainous Arab Muslims guided by their religion to cheat the Jews through Taqiyya, the reality is rather different. Taqiyya is interpreted differently by the various Islamic sects, loonwatch has written several articles on the topic you can read here and here. Its essence is akin to the Jewish George Soros surviving the holocaust through passing himself off as a Christian. The Islamic Dictionary defines it thusly:
“Dissimulation – to conceal, partially conceal or disguise one’s true feelings, beliefs or information when there is threat of death or serious harm and when there is a threat of great evil.”
Harris appears to draw on anti-Muslim extremist Robert Spencer’s erroneous taqiyya definition wherein dastardly Muslims are mandated by their evil religion to deceive the infidel. This would be unsurprising as Harris believes that the man banned from Britain has a “unique role to play in this war of ideas” and Spencer is just one of the many right-wing kooks and bigots that have littered the pages of Breivik’s manifesto that Harris considers fellow-travellers.
This now uncorrected but (unethically) scrubbed error of the dishonest Muslim stereotype is shamelessly used as the basis for Harris towing the Israeli-Right’s line of “no genuine partner for peace” amongst the Palestinians. The reality, even according to pro-Israel American diplomats involved in the negotiations, is that the Palestinians were bending-over-backwards with concessions while the Israelis acted in bad faith throughout and continued to expand their illegal settlements.
Harris’ adoption of the Israeli-Right’s narrative is predictable. Ironically, given his obsession with the lack of honesty in the Muslim world, Harris sanctifies the outed Neocon war propagandist Christopher Hitchens and is a donor to the Israeli-Intelligence linked MEMRI who amongst their other transgressions doctored a Norman Finkelstein interview to portray him as a Holocaust denier.
The Taqiyya incident wasn’t Harris’ first venture into the unethical world of scrubbing. He had previously secretly deleted his demand that American Muslims be “ethnically-profiled”:
- May 25 2011: Sam Harris launches a diatribe against Muslims entitled “Bombing Our Illusions” in which he openly calls for the “ethnic profiling” of Muslims. It is published in The Huffington Post. He calls for no compromise on not only Muslims being ethnically profiled by the State but insists Muslims must also profile their fellow Muslims within their communities.
- 2011-2015: Harris repeatedly speaks out of both sides of his mouth on the issue of racial/ethnic profiling, often contradicting himself. (“Ethnic” profiling is “racial” profiling ). March 12, 2015: Arthur Chu of Salon denigrates Harris for his advancement of “Islamophobic racism”. He attacks Harris for his “racial profiling” advocacy.
- Between March 8th and March 20, 2015: The Web Archive shows that Sam Harris secretly edited his website to remove his call to “ethnically profile” Muslims. No notification is given to his audience of this amendment occurring four years after Bombing Our Illusions was first published.
- March 16, 2016: Harris’ secret editing is spotted by a Twitter user.
- April 2016: Caught red-handed, Harris excuses himself for his lack of transparency. He publishes “his editorial policy”
As a cult-figurehead Sam Harris has profited handsomely from his projection of self as quasi-infallible to his dogmatic and mouth-foaming herd. Harris’ memory hole functions for the same purpose as The Party’s memory hole in Oceania – To preserve the all-knowing status and associated power. His ignorant followers, ill-equipped to see through sophistry, need to be informed by Harris himself if he has mistakenly been spreading anti-Muslim tropes and advocating racist policies.