Whitson, Kampeas shootin’ the Horse Manure

Every once in a while one reads an interview that reeks of brown-nosing. Here’s one by Ron Kampeas, who had been sharply critical of HRW for their visit to Saudi Arabia, of the key player here, Sarah Leah Whitson. Fisking and further analysis added throughout.

Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW answers my questions
By Ron Kampeas · August 3, 2009

Sarah Leah Whitson, the senior Human Rights Watch official at the center of the controversy over meetings with potential givers in Saudi Arabia, kindly and conscientiously reached out to me to answer my questions.

She also chided me for not reaching out to her before posting my questions. I had some lame reply about blogging and its immediacy, but she had a point.

In any case, while I still have broader critiques about HRW’s notion of balance — Israel on the one side, the rest of the Middle East on the other — Whitson’s replies directly addressed my questions, and were not in any way evasive.

Here are my questions and her replies (I summarize, but also include direct quotes from our conversation):

* Does/ would HRW solicit funds in Israel?

Whitson first of all made clear these were not fund-raisers in Riyadh (“I wish” was how she put it), but not exactly not fund-raisers: They were friends of HRW making their friends, colleagues and acquaintances aware of its work and mission.

“They are informal dinners hosted by friends and supporters, where they come to ask us questions.”

And yes, there were two similar private events in Tel Aviv recently.

How on earth is this a non-evasive answer? What on earth is “friends of HRW making their friends, colleagues and acquaintances aware of its work and mission” mean? They flew out there – how many? – to shoot the breeze?

How charming of her to jokingly say, “I wish…” What a lovely opening: “And if they had/did offered money, would/did you you accept it?”

* Does/Would it do so through presentations that expose human rights abuses by Palestinian authorities and by Arab governments?

This isn’t the core question. The core question is: “Did you use your anti-Israel agenda to make friends with your Saudi colleagues. Is this a significant part of what you bonded over?

Of course, even here to a less charged question, Whitson’s answer tells us the opposite, with Kampeas seeming not to notice:

It does, because just as the Saudis in Riyadh raised concerns about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, so did Israelis raise concerns about abuses by Hamas, Hezbollah and others in the Arab world.

“The questions tend to be pretty aggressive and critical,” she said.

Questions in Arab capitals tend to be informed by Arab or pro-Arab critics of HRW as overly soft on Israel, and questions in Tel Aviv would be informed by critics there who say NGOs have a bias against Israel. Whitson said interlocutors in Tel Aviv had clearly read critiques of the organization by Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, and those in Arab capitals were familiar with the criticisms of Norman Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani.

This is not only evasive, it contradicts the point of the question, which, if I understand it, and if it is to have any “point” at all, seeks to know if HRW spoke of human rights violations by Palestinians and by other Arab governments to their Saudi audience, or were they mostly there to make friends by bashing Israel.

Whitson’s answer is, essentially, no. When we’re in Riad, we’re being asked why we’re not harsher on Israel. It strikes me as highly unlikely that they respond by saying,

    Listen, we’re plenty rough on Israel, and in comparison to her, your buddies the Palestinians look awful, not only in their efforts to kill Israeli civilians, but in their treatment of their fellow Palestinians…

But Kampeas seems to be a rube to this shell game.

As for putting Gerald Steinberg, whose critiques are based on empirical work, opposite Norman Finkielstein, whose work shows only the most remoter relationship to empirical reality strikes me as a pretty silly version of the classic cop-out: “if we’re being criticized from both sides, we must be doing something right…”

Of course, apparently, Whitson is a big fan of Finkelstein, whose deranged self-hatred (I’ve seen him in action) is awe-inspiring. Notes David Bernstein of Volokh Conspiracy:

Finkelstein’s view of the Arab-Israel conflict manifests itself is such antics as meeting with Hezbollah officials in southern Lebanon and proclaiming “I think that the Hezbollah represents the hope”. His criticism of pro-Israel American Jews tends to be unusually nasty. Thus, he comments that photos of Jewish writers Cynthia Ozick and Ruth Wisse “might induce nightmares.”. He also recklessly or intentionally indulges in rhetoric of the sort that one normally finds on anti-Semitic hate sites like Stormfront. For example, he writes that American Jewish leaders “resemble stereotypes straight out of [Nazi newspaper] Der Sturmer,” and that American “Jewish elites” have “a mindset of Jewish superiority.”

Whitson’s admiration of Finkelstein has survived the fact that he has harshly attacked Human Rights Watch and Whitson when he has deemed them too hard on Israel’s adversaries, or too soft on Israel. By contrast, Whitson has more than once expressed her disdain for HRW’s pro-Israel critics, as when she recently and baselessly accused some of us of racism). The logical conclusion is that Whitson is in broad agreement with Finkelstein’s extremist anti-Israel views, and therefore forgives his occasional hostile outbursts.

Not just forgives them, she greatly appreciates them for two reasons: 1) she can position herself, as she does here as “in the middle,” and 2) she can complain to her co-workers at HRW who might still have scruples, that they’re not being critical enough on Israel.

Back to Kampeas’ interview:

She added (and I wish she had done this in the presentation I addressed in this blog post) that HRW was the first organization, in 2007, to attempt to expose Hezbollah war crimes against Israeli civilians at a Beirut press conference; Hezbollah-intitiated pressures on the hotel management shut the presser down.

“There’s nobody that has done as detailed an investigation of attacks” on Israel by Hezbollah, “targeting their claims that they don’t target civilians, that they target military facilities.”

Bravo, although that’s something of a no-brainer. What’s the moral genius in pointing out that Hizbullah sought to bomb Israeli civilians and that’s a war crime? Does Whitson draw any conclusions about “freedom of the press” in the vast difference between Hizbullah shutting down her press conference, while the Israelis allow HRW unimpeded access to the MSNM in your expensive Press Conferences as the American Colony Hotel (where you positions are very welcome).

But let’s cut to the real chase. What about a study of how Hizbullah (and Hamas) use their own civilians as human shields, something amply documented in the wake of the Lebanon war 2006, with huge implications for the meaning of events like Kafr Qana and the corruption of the media. Or would that diminish your ability to blame Israel’s promiscuous use of violence for every civilian death?

* We get it: The targets were private citizens.

No we don’t.

We also understand that if one is to make representations about abuses, one does so to offficials: “Government officials are, of course, important interlocutors for our advocacy on Saudi human rights policy.”

But why are they in the same room? Are we to seriously believe that the HRW official told the potential givers, “We need your money to fight your government’s abuses” and then turned to the government officials and said “Nu, nu nu?”

HRW did not control the invitation list in Riyadh, Whitson said. In any case, she said, she did not have a problem with the two government officials who attended: One was the deputy head of the Saudi Arabian human rights commission. It is true that such bodies in the Arab world are filled by government appointees; Whitson says that governments bring them into existence to address concerns raised by HRW and other groups and that — in Jordan and Egypt at least — they have proven their independence with critical, tough reports. She suggested that the jury was still out on the Saudi body, but she saw it as positive that the official wanted to hear about HRW’s concerns.

She would, wouldn’t she? Nothing sinister here. We’re so wonderful, why wouldn’t they be interested?

The official from the religious Shura Council, not a body known for its love of liberties, was a wheelchair-bound physician who had just joined the Shura and whose specific interest was disabled access; Whitson says there is virtually no such access in Saudi Arabia, and the Shura official was interested in introducing such reforms. “There are no disability rights, no disabled facilities in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Okay, so we have two selling points for HRW that won’t offend Saudi sensibilities: Wheelchair access and trashing Israel… and (maybe) very discrete allusions to the problems that women have.

One issue I did not get around to addressing — because it had to do with broader conceptial notions and not with the specifics of recent events — is the wisdom of raising the “Israel lobby” in meetings in the Arab world, in terms of showing how HRW gets hit by all sides in fulfilling its mission. Maybe another conversation.

Huh? Isn’t that the main point? What do you mean, another conversation. Because this one was so long?

This is not mere oversight. Kampeas had made this specific issue the point of an earlier critical post in which he characterized this behavior as “odious.”

HRW is under fire, essentially, because a senior staffer not only bashed Israel to fund-raise among Saudis, she invoked odious tropes about Jewish power in order to do so…

If anyone doubts that interpretation, listen to Ken Roth, HRW’s executive director, fielding Goldberg’s direct question, “Did your staff person attempt to raise funds in Saudi Arabia by advertising your organization’s opposition to the pro-Israel lobby?”

    That’s certainly part of the story. We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception. It wasn’t a pitch against the Israel lobby per se. Our standard spiel is to describe our work in the region. Telling the Israel story–part of that pitch–is in part telling about the lies and obfuscation that are inevitably thrown our way.

Elsewhere, Goldberg calls this “tacky.” That’s polite. The generalized and apriori smearing of any criticism as “lies and deception” and “lies and obfuscation” is worthy, I dunno, of the kind of stand up guy who runs Belarus.

This is tough language. It’s all vanished in this newest interview.

Levy, whom I otherwise like and respect, skates over this by noting that — and yes, it’s true, I got the same emails Levy alludes to — much of the criticism of HRW is fueled by a coalition of unhappy campers who will go to any lengths to delegitimate any criticism of Israel.

Much, but not all, and that does not get Sarah Leah Whitson, the HRW staffer who attended this suspect tea party, off the hook. I’m not sure how the refusal to brook legitimate criticism on one side justifies, well, a refusal to brook legitimate criticism on the other. And Whitson’s willingness to slam the Saudis when there are no Saudis present doesn’t make it better.

So if this (remarkably short, even desultory), interview is supposed to clarify these issues, why is it fobbed off in a final comment? Did Sarah Leah charm Kampeas into ceasing to bark? Maybe.

I personally have to wonder that someone who showed himself as critically astute as he had been in his earlier post on this topic, is won over by answers of such unbearable lightness. Has he been dazzled by hanging with top-level mediacrats, by being in the presence of the in-crowd of the big boys and girls? I know neither Whitson nor Kampeas, so I’m not in a position to do more than raise the question. All I know is, it’s not the content of Whitson’s answers that did this trick.

What we can say, however – and Kampeas’ puff piece offers no disconfirmation to this speculation — is that the sessions in Saudi Arabia almost certainly involved a good deal of “feel good” Israel bashing.

After all, this is Whitson’s stock in trade. As Bernstein points out in a new post, Whitson is a long-standing activist for radical anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian causes, a detail that has been scrubbed from her otherwise “professional” vita available at HRW.

What the official bio doesn’t tell you is that Whitson was an active member of the New York chapter of the American-Arab Antidiscrimination Committee. She had served on the Steering Committee (source: ADC Times, Apr 30, 2002). When HRW hired her, she was serving a two-year term on the new Board of Directors, which replaced the Steering Committee (Source: ADC Times, Jan. 31, 2004).

The ADC styles itself as a civil rights organization, but like the Jewish organizations on which it is modeled, it also involves itself in Middle East issues, specifically by supporting the Arab and Palestinian cause against Israel. Local chapters are often more active on foreign policy issues than is the national organization.

And indeed, the New York chapter generally, and Whitson personally, were active in pro-Palestinian politics. The April 30, 2002, ADC Times. published at the height of the Second Intifada, with buses and restaurants being blown up regularly in Israel, reports:

    The crisis in Palestine was the main focus of the New York Chapter’s work over the past two months. This work culminated on April 29 with a meeting for representatives of the ADC with the United Nations Secretary General [Kofi Annan] set up by members of the NY Chapter [and see this press release, noting Whitson’s attendance]. ADC Chapter President Nick Khoury and Steering Committee member Sarah Leah Whitson helped organize this meeting…. ADC NY members’ activism to raise awareness of the situation of Palestinians has taken many forms. On March 30, we chartered a bus to DC so that members could participate in the Land Day Rally at Freedom Plaza. [The New York chapter also held a local rally]…. On April 14, ADC NY organized a silent vigil outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral to draw attention to the fact that Palestinian Christians are also suffering under Israeli occupation….

The Jan. 31, 2004 ADC Times , which noted Whitson’s election to the Board of Trustees, reported that the New York chapter “continued our Palestine activism over the summer.”

In other words, HRW hired a virulently anti-Israel political activist as their Middle East region director. As with a number of other such hires, we’re watching a process of laundering the most vicious hate-mongering from the radical “left” — Electric Intifada — to “halo-protected” NGOs like HRW, to the MSNM.

No wonder we’re going crazy. The Augean Stables do not merely stink, their malodiferous emanations are toxic.

49 Responses to Whitson, Kampeas shootin’ the Horse Manure

  1. […] the Internet, there are also specific skills that are needed to write effective online articles. Whitson, Kampeas shootin’ the Horse Manure – theaugeanstables.com 08/04/2009 Every once in a while one reads an interview that reeks of […]

  2. oao says:

    often when i argue here that a root problem for journos, bloggers, academics, govt officials and pundits is ignorance and inability to reason I get reactions that it’s malice or strong ideological beliefs.

    that those play a part there is no doubt. but they would not be able to play a part if those involved had a minimum of knowledge about the subjects under consideration and were able to reason. moreover, ideology, multi-culti, PC and pandering to editors and audiences would not play a strong part in the absence of ignorane and stupidity. indeed, it is the latter that induce the former.

    i am not much familiar with kampeas work. but it’s clear to me that he has no clue about orgs such as hrw and how they operate, and how shrewd operators like withson is in playing to his sense of “balance”. so much so that kampeas seems to have suspended judgment very easily in his desire to balance his original piece.

  3. oao says:

    by which i mean that if RL could figure it out, anybody with some knowledge and brains could. kampeas as just enough knowledge and smarts to criticize hrw initially, but not enough to engage with her response.

  4. E.G. says:

    Those &ç§#’° filters have a great apetite for links today. On both this and the below thread they swallowed my post, containing a nice link to an article titled “Why Most Journalists Are Democrats: A View from the Soviet Socialist Trenches”.

  5. sshender says:

    rl, Have you contacted Kampeas with your criticism? He looks like a decent bloke, he might appreciate the criticism… and far better – actually respond to it.

  6. oao says:

    maybe, but i betcha his response won’t be the same as his response to hrw.

  7. JD says:

    “He also recklessly or intentionally indulges in rhetoric of the sort that one normally finds on anti-Semitic hate sites like Stormfront. For example, he writes that American Jewish leaders “resemble stereotypes straight out of [Nazi newspaper] Der Sturmer,” and that American “Jewish elites” have “a mindset of Jewish superiority.””

    Actually, this and other rhetoric they use derives from the Soviet’s anti-zionism campaign which Western leftist discourse absorbed, suckled with traditional anti-semitism.

    Pitching anti-Israel hate as a fund raising strategy is probably having less effect in Western Europe given increasing awareness of the Middle East.

    They should be given a name. Call them Zionologists. Natives tagged the belief “zionology.” Calling them “anti-semites” has no jarring effect on them because their conditioning leads them to believe they cannot be racists, while right wing racists have no problem with those feelings in themselves.

  8. oao says:


    and you think this will have any effect?

  9. Lorenz Gude says:

    The relationship between ignorance and stupidity and ideology interests me. I think of ideology as an intellectual weapon – that is a weaponized idea. Like a spear is a weaponized stick – something carefully fashioned for the purpose of exercising power and control. More specifically weaponized ideas are designed to disrupt and destroy established assumptions and ways of thinking – indeed bring down entire cultures and societies. One of their key characteristics is they use simplification to make the ideas more effective. What interests me is that highly intelligent and well educated people regularly mistake this kind of simplified thinking for real thought which engages the full complexity of a particular issue. I am reminded of John Clese playing an ‘ignorant and stupid peasant’ heartily approving of the water test for a witch in which (sorry) if she sinks and drowns she is innocent and if she floats she is guilty and must be burned at the stake. Ho Ho Ho, all us sophisticated and educated chappies know how ignorant and stupid those medieval peasants were. Au contraire, we live in a metaworld of abstractions; the peasant in the concrete world. We are often rendered stupid and ignorant by indoctrination that passes for eduction and a media, particularly TV, that passes for reality. (Pallywood is just the tippy tip tip of the iceberg) People conditioned to this metaworld like Whitson latch onto a weaponized idea – Zionology (why not?) – and make a cause of it. I think activist is a term denoting someone mentally colonized by a weaponized idea. NGO is a term denoting an organized group of activists.

  10. Eliyahu says:

    off topic
    RL & everybody,

    I appointed myself chairman of a committee of one that is called HRW Watch. Others may be considered for membership.


    See link for evidence that the sense of embarassment is getting even to hrw. They just came out with an accusation that Hamas violated int’l law by shooting rockets at Israeli civilians. Ah, the wonders of the marketplace of ideas!! Now, the real problem for the progressive agenda is how to get rid of the Internet so that Real Progress can resume.

  11. Eliyahu says:

    LG, pretty good. But let’s not forget emotions and how emotions get tied to symbols and activated by images and slogans:

    For example:
    1) Four legs good, two legs bad.
    2) Four legs good, two legs better.

    3) All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

    4) Peace, land, bread

    5) Workers of the world unite

    6) Allah is the solution.

    etc etc

    I would say that even intelligent and fairly well informed people can be moved by slogans and images which have become attached to deep emotions.

  12. E.G. says:

    Lorenz Gude,

    And what’s a militant?

  13. oao says:

    I think of ideology as an intellectual weapon – that is a weaponized idea.

    does not have to be, but these days it more often than not is.

    We are often rendered stupid and ignorant by indoctrination that passes for eduction and a media, particularly TV, that passes for reality.

    not just often, but almost always. indeed, there is a generation of “educators” who would not know the distinction between indoctrination and education if it bit them on the ass.

    People conditioned to this metaworld like Whitson latch onto a weaponized idea -Zionology (why not?) – and make a cause of it.

    people delude themselves that they are doing highly moral things to rationalize what are in reality self-interest, popularity contests and quite immoral endeavors. zionology happens to be convenient from all 3 perspectives. you can hardly go wrong bashing jews.

    They just came out with an accusation that Hamas violated int’l law by shooting rockets at Israeli civilians.

    do not know whether to laugh or cry. did you notice the difference in language between the accusations against israel and those against hamas? but let’s see if anybody pays any attention, shall we?

    Now, the real problem for the progressive agenda is how to get rid of the Internet so that Real Progress can resume.

    alibama has already initiated the process. there are several initiatives. just watch.

    I would say that even intelligent and fairly well informed people can be moved by slogans and images which have become attached to deep emotions.

    yes they can, but usually it’s harder than ignorant people, whose intellect has not been developed. a lot of it depends on what is meant by informed and able to reason.

    and where, as lg claims, weaponization is at work, highly informed and intelligent people are manipulating images and slogans to manipulate the emotions of the ignorant and stupid.

  14. oao says:

    scary and an indicator of where the US is headed:

    Taking the Dissident Database Seriously

  15. E.G. says:



    The Administration cannot summon some Pali rep and tell him to get the talking stopped.

  16. oao says:

    i strongly urge everybody to read the following. it indicates one of the consequences of alibama’s policies and where the us is headed in the ME and in the world in general. What do you think the rest of the arabs will do?

    Lebanon’s Reversal of Fortune
    By Barry Rubin

    Do you think the moderates—that is the March 14 bloc—won the Lebanese elections, while Hizballah and its Iranian-Syrian sponsors lost? Well, not so fast. Negotiations have been going on about what the government will look like and it appears that the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian, favorable to Hizballah forces are going to have veto power over government decisions, to say the least.

    Basically, the plan so far is to have three components in the cabinet. There will be 15 for March 14, 10 for the Hizballah-led opposition, and 5 for those chosen by President Michael Suleiman. And Suleiman was—wait for it, as the British army sergeants say in giving an order—the candidate of Syria.

    But there’s more. Now Druze leader and March 14 stalwart Walid Jumblatt has switched sides. Jumblatt, a master politician, was a critical leader in forcing Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Now, however, he says the handwriting on the wall. America is weak; France, Lebanon’s traditional protector, is out to reconcile with Syria and Hizballah; Hizballah has the strongest militia; and the Syrians kill people. In the past, Jumblatt has been content to work with Syria, now he is signaling a return to that strategy…

    It also means that all the U.S. military aid provided to the Lebanese army is practically at the command of Syria and Hizballah, including its participation at least as a supporting force in any future Hizballah-Israel war. Don’t worry about Hizballah stealing the army’s U.S.-made weapons, however, as the militia is so well equipped that it doesn’t need them.

  17. oao says:

    and pls consider my post re fatah seeking strategic alliance with iran in this context.

  18. oao says:

    The Administration cannot summon some Pali rep and tell him to get the talking stopped.

    oh, they sure can, but they know what the response will be, given their experience with saudia, jordan and egypt.

    i am somewhat skeptical of har’el’s stratagem claim, as i am of a similar claim that sharon left ghaza to let the pals kills each other. even if those were the intentions, they always backfire worse than imagined, because the anti-israel stance of the world and the manipulative skills of the goyim/arabs are always able to manipulate and exploit circumstances. i do hope i am wrong.

  19. JD says:

    Yes, OAO, I think labeling this anti-zionism as Zionology, and its adherents Zionologists is helpful.

    It’s not new, but words that developed from within the USSR itself, talking about the phenomenon they engendered.

    It labels the adherents as obsessive, which they are.

    It provides terms for people to understand the conduct they are seeing, like look at the Wiki entries.

    It historicizes and explains.

    It helps distinguish the phenomenon from Arab attitudes, and religious anti-semitism.

    It gives the left wing origin of the phenomenon. Right wing types that hate Jews tend not to care about Israel. On the left, they may interact with Jews domestically with no qualms, their hate is displaced onto Israel.

    It is helpful. I know there are gray areas. For example, the religious concept of collective guilt is pervasive in Zionology. The citation to one Israeli, like the ones mocked here sometimes, who confirms with the Zionologists’ opinion is accorded the power of truth, rather than just being another opinion. This tradition is personified in one paper, Haaretz, reflexively cited as “proof” of everything to find Israel guilty, not diversity of opinion.

    Ironically, older left wing Israelis and Haaretz have taken up international left wing fashions without realizing their anti-semitic blood lines. You see a change in some of their youngest reporters, who are not brain damaged by Cold War discourses and narratives.

  20. oao says:


    my question referred not to the intention behind it — what it is intended to do — but whether it will be effective on zionologists.

    i see nothing wrong with using it but my guess is not.

  21. oao says:

    sorry for posting this in this thread, but given the attention this site gives to honor/shame, it’s just too good to pass up:


    think how many problems would be solved if more men in saudia would defend their honor this way.

  22. Lorenz Gude says:


    Yes, emotions certainly – I agree they are usually at the core of propaganda. In my larger critique of TV I always see it as a form drama therefore primarily structured to operate on the emotions. Your comment connects what I was saying about ideology back around to the problem of our primary information source being by nature a dramatic medium. I have to think about that some more. One obvious consequence of the simplification of thought is that it lends itself well to dramatic forms where there always have to be good guys and bad guys.


    My definition of a militant – an activist fashionably dressed in an exploding waistcoat.

    oao…thanks for the responses…I had a read about ideology over at Wikipedia and can see why you say ideology does not have to be weaponized, but usually is. I think you are spot on about educators. I always understood the distinction, education providing the tools to reach an independent conclusion as opposed to simply teaching the correct conclusions. Even my high school teachers understood this, but now I hear it isn’t permitted until graduate school, if then. I’m thinking of the Duke English Department. ;-)

  23. E.G. says:

    Lorenz Gude,

    Would you mind if I use both your definitions (activist, militant)?
    Even if (unfortunately) I won’t be able to cite you namely as their author?

  24. oao says:

    In my larger critique of TV I always see it as a form drama therefore primarily structured to operate on the emotions.

    has to be, because TV is about selling audiences to advertisers, not selling content to audiences, as most think erroneously. the point is to put you in the mood to feel positively about buying stuff and that requires emotions.

    Even my high school teachers understood this, but now I hear it isn’t permitted until graduate school, if then.

    sadly, not even then.

    for one, it’s much harder to educate than to indocrinate. for another, it’s certainly impossible if you yourself have not been properly educated. so there has always been a scarcity of educators, it’s a rare talent. but the last 10-15 years has seen their almost disappearance.

    i remember distinctly when the indoctrinators were starting to take over from the educators in my department in the early 80’s. i could see where academia was going and i left.

  25. oao says:

    I had a read about ideology over at Wikipedia

    i would avise caution with that source. the risk is too great, part. with respect to the social sciences. you should try more reliable sources first.

  26. oao says:

    aside: i am beginning to understand why alibama has this affinity to iran and does not want to criticize the regime:


    now tell me america is still america.

  27. Lorenz Gude says:


    By all means use my ‘Devil’s dictionary’ style definitions without citation. Nice of you to ask, but I would never have come up with the definition of ‘militant’ without your question. Besides when taking the mickey out of fanaticism, open source is the way to go.

  28. Lorenz Gude says:



    I’d say a great advantage of Wikipedia is that that most of us read it with great suspicion :-) particularly where politics are concerned. I was curious as to why you said of ideology seen as weaponized thought: “does not have to be, but these days it more often than not is.” So I ask you: What did you have in mind when you said it doesn’t have to be. I tend to always think of it that way and I’d like to know what you would see as ideology that is not particularly weaponized.

  29. E.G. says:

    Lorenz Gude,

    Thanks a lot!
    Stealing with permission feels better ;-) and I’ve rarely seen © on blog comments…

    BTW, it’s Devil’s Advocate dictionary – I sense that with Cynic we’re going to compete with the Oxford one!

  30. Lorenz Gude says:


    I don’t know about a Devils Advocate dictionary, but Ambrose Bierce wrote the 1911 Devil’s Dictionary – ie dark and bitter definitions of common terms. One of my favorites:

    The body of a primitive people’s beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.

  31. Eliyahu says:

    LG, thanks for that quote from Bierce. I brought up both Bierce and Mark Twain on this blog not too long ago. What would they have to say about The One? Would they be bitter and sarcastic? Merely ironic? Would they approve? Do you think that either of them could find a well-paying job in American journalism today? It seems to me that today’s America is far from their America in more ways than one.

  32. E.G. says:

    Lorenz Gude,

    Here’s to you for reducing my ignorance.

    So there’s only an update to make. For terms such as narrative, occupation, right (to-/of-), liberation, justice, fairness, colonialism, affirmative action, wall, peace, war, progress, combat, fighter, democracy…

  33. Lorenz Gude says:

    I think both Bierce and Twain would have been bloggers. How could they resist? I don’t think either one would have mistaken Obama for the Deity as have so many contemporary journalists. EG Bierce is silent on all the above terms save for Justice, Peace and War.

    JUSTICE, n.
    A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.

    PEACE, n.
    In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

    WAR, n.
    A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. “In time of peace prepare for war” has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end — that change is the one immutable and eternal law — but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his “stately pleasure dome” — when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu — that he

    heard from afar
    Ancestral voices prophesying war.

    One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of “hands across the sea,” and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.

  34. E.G. says:

    Lorenz Gude,

    Great stuff!
    I think Tolstoi would agree.
    But Justice seems to need a brush up. See: Affirmative Action, Law school, NGO, UN.

  35. Ray in Seattle says:

    Late to this thread I am. Summer is a busy time but one must always feed the mind.

    I would offer the following for anyone interested:

    There is a difference between a belief and an idea. A belief is interpreted by the mind as having some survival value and therefore comes with attached emotions.

    What LG discusses in #10 applies better IMO if “belief” is substituted for “idea” throughout. Ideology is a particularly strong belief – actually a set of interlocking and self-supporting beliefs around a central theme. A strong belief is one with particularly strong emotions supporting it.

    Behavior is the result of emotion. Therefore ideological belief lies behind the most creative and the most destructive of human behavior historically. That’s because great creativity and great destruction both require exceptionally strong emotional motivation.

    When LG discusses stupidity and ignorance he makes a common error – of confusing the process whereby very intelligent minds are subverted by ideology – with low intelligence or lack of education. Actually, in many cases, the more educated and the more intelligent mind is especially susceptible to this subversion because a superior intellect can find more clever justifications in the eyes of others for the beliefs it prefers to hold. Those will always be the beliefs that make it feel good rather than feel bad.

    For example, that’s why intelligent, educated and wealthy conservatives always seem to find theories that prove beyond any doubt that lower taxes, allowing the wealthy to conserve their resources and spend them as they see fit, will benefit the whole economy. And, it’s why intelligent, educated but less wealthy liberals always seem to find theories that prove that higher taxes and distributing that wealth more charitably to the poor will benefit the whole economy.

    These things are not a result of deception. They are the result of emotional forces acting over time, harnessing the intellect to achieve a better emotional state of mind; feeling good.

  36. E.G. says:

    Lorenz Gude,

    Are you familiar with Serge Moscovici’s work on Minority Influence?

  37. oao says:

    In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

    and he didn’t even know about hamas and hizballah.

    Let us have a little less of “hands across the sea,” and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations.

    Looks like islam adopted this but not the west.

    War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.

    i would not say the night, but self-blinding.

  38. oao says:

    Are you familiar with Serge Moscovici’s work on Minority Influence?

    no. is he romanian, french or both?

  39. E.G. says:

    French born in Romania. Not sure it matters – his theory is worth exploring because it’s about (social) innovation, which is usually a minority’s idea, and the means and conditions under which a minority can influence a (usually non-receptive) majority to adopt the innovation/change it promotes.

  40. Ray in Seattle says:

    Anyone doubting the power of emotion over reason in human behavior choice should find this paper interesting.


  41. […] few months ago I posted a comment of Rick Kampeas bizarre post after a conversation with Whitson over the HRW-Saudi fund-raising junket scandal. In it I […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *