Trump Derangement Syndrome has afflicted a great many people over the last seven years, but no one more profoundly than the famous atheist Sam Harris, who recently repeated something he has said before, despite the astonishing intellectual dishonesty and moral myopia it displays. Donald Trump, said the renowned thinker, is “a worse person than Usama bin Laden.”
Fox News reported Wednesday that Harris said this on his popular and ironically titled Making Sense podcast: “I’ve said on several occasions that I think Donald Trump is a worse person than Usama bin Laden. The statement is obviously meant to get your attention. I get that it’s surprising, but it’s not meant to be hyperbolic. I can defend every word of a statement like that. What I can’t defend are people’s misunderstandings and erroneous extrapolations of a statement like that.”
In Sam Harris’ twisted moral universe, the man who masterminded the murder of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, was “a more or less normal human being psychologically.” Yes, indeed, it’s perfectly normal psychologically to plot to take down a couple of skyscrapers full of office workers and murder thousands of innocent people because they lived in a nation one considered to be an enemy of the alleged true religion. Happens every day.
Harris claims that “within the framework of his [bin Laden’s] odious beliefs, he demonstrated many virtues.” That is true. Bin Laden adhered, after all, to a religion with a holy book that thrice commands believers to “kill them,” that is, unbelievers, “wherever you find them,” even in the Twin Towers (Qur’an 2:191, 4:89, cf. 9:5).
To Harris, this makes Osama “a man who certainly seemed to be capable of real self-sacrifice and he was committed to ideals beyond his narrow self-interest. He was by all accounts personally quite courageous. I don’t claim to know that much about him, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was generally a person of real integrity and generosity and compassion in his dealings with his fellow Muslims. None of these things can be said about Donald Trump. Trump is without question one of the least honest and malignantly selfish human beings I have ever come across.” How does Harris know both Osama bin Laden’s and Donald Trump’s innermost thoughts, intentions, and beliefs so comprehensively? He doesn’t deign to explain.
“The seeming paradox,” continues the wizardly Harris, is that if Trump, unlike the saintly Osama, did have any virtues, he would be even worse. “If Trump were a better person he would be worse in many ways. If he were brave and self-sacrificing and idealistic, if he were capable of being strongly committed to something beyond his self-interest, he would be capable of creating much greater harm in the world. But he’s not. He is a child in a man’s body. He lies as freely as he breathes and just as compulsively. He can’t even put the interests of his children above his own, much less commit himself to any ideal that requires real self-sacrifice.”
Harris concluded his dizzyingly insane flight of fancy and irrational hatred by saying: “When I say that wherever you are on earth, you could probably walk 1000 miles in any direction and not meet a less admirable being than Trump, I mean it in the terms I just described. The man is almost completely lacking in personal virtue. If he weren’t funny, and I admit he can be funny, he might actually be the least admirable person on earth.”
Sam Harris said much the same thing back in 2020. Visceral hatred for Trump has robbed him of whatever small reservoir of decency and common sense he may still have had.
Of course, Harris is making a nuanced argument here. He would dismiss as facile an observation that Osama bin Laden engineered the murder of 3,000 people and Trump never engineered anyone’s murder. He is saying that Osama bin Laden lived by a moral code, even though he acknowledges that code as odious, whereas Trump is, he claims, committed to nothing beyond his own self-interest.
Sam Harris should have the sense not to fall for, much less propagate, this odious caricature of Trump, which completely ignores the fact that this billionaire bon vivant never had to enter politics or run for president in the first place. It lost him money, it lost him friends, it lost him his reputation, all because he saw America was going in a negative direction and wanted to turn it around.
Trump actually sacrificed far more to be president than any other modern president and may have to give still more, as he may soon be arrested and could even be imprisoned in this new atmosphere of authoritarianism and the Democrats’ determination to destroy him. But as far as Sam Harris is concerned, that demonstrates no integrity, generosity, or compassion on Trump’s part. He is so committed to his Trump caricature that he can’t even consider for a second what it must be like to be Trump and to find oneself up against the all-powerful and all-encompassing machine that pumps lies around the world before the truth can get on its shoes.
If the criteria are integrity, generosity, and compassion, I’ll take Trump over Sam Harris in a heartbeat. What’s next for Sam Harris? Praise of Hitler and insistence that the Nazi leader was good to his German shepherd, and hence a better person than Trump? Watch for it.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 25 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here.