Goldberg and the Daniels: Of Sewage Pipes, Lethal Narratives, and DuraJournalism

A recent spat in the blogosphere raises issues worth considering. After Jeffrey Goldberg informed his ample readership that President Obama believed that Israel did not understand its own best interests – a belief that I think it’s safe to say he shares – Lori Lowenthal Marcus quoted Dan Senor tweeting that two American officials had admitted that Obama, via Goldberg, was trying to influence the elections in Israel. In other words, the “Israel” that doesn’t know its own best interests was a reference to Bibi, whom Obama specifically dissed in Goldberg’s account, and reportedly Obama makes these kinds of remarks frequently to those around him.

Senor’s tweet drew response tweets, among others from both Goldberg and Beinart, while Dan Friedman at The Israeli Front Line, posted a far more aggressive comment in introduction to Marcus’ article about Goldberg, chiding Marcus for her too-subdued a depiction of the journalist who reported Obama’s thoughts to the public.

In her Jewish Press piece today Lori Lowenthal Marcus asks a legitimate question: Will Congress Investigate Obama’s Attempt to Derail Bibi? First, the answer is no. But Marcus yaws way off-course when she gives short shrift to Goldberg, describing him as “a centrist liberal Jewish writer.” Indeed that’s his “cover” and an image Goldberg carefully cultivates, but it is no accident that he’s one of the few errand boys Obama uses to get his poison delivered to Israel and the USA Jewish community. The plain truth is Jeffrey Goldberg is a Jewish sewer pipe for Obama. And he’s loving every minute of it because, like T. Friedman, Beinhart and the J Street crowd, he wants to “punish” Israel.  - Dan Friedman

This apparently got up Goldberg’s nose, and he responded in kind:

We here at the Goldblog glass-enclosed nerve center have been called many things by extreme leftists and rightists, but this one, from a website calld “Israeli Frontline,” which I’m guessing is part of the Jewish right wing love-Israel-to-death crowd, stands out for its unknowing echo of a familiar Nazi trope:

The plain truth is Jeffrey Goldberg is a Jewish sewer pipe for Obama. And he’s loving every minute of it because, like T. Friedman, Beinhart and the J Street crowd, he wants to “punish” Israel.”

… I would like to offer a defense, not of myself, but of sewer pipes. Civilization could not exist as we know it without sewer pipes. They make our cities and towns livable, aesthetically pleasant and healthful places. (I would also note that Israel, a country those at “Israeli Frontline” ostensibly love, also utilizes sewer pipes.)

For whatever reason, the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike, despise sewer pipes. When I read this post above (it was motivated, obviously, by my recent column noting that President Obama, according to my sources, believes that Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are), I was struck by its use of the sewer pipe metaphor, which is so often used by anti-Semites, rather than Semites, to describe the perfidious role Jews play in debasing Christian society. One of my regular Nazi interlocutors recently e-mailed me this gem of writing, apparently lifted from some sort of fascist website: “Drive these trash cockroaches out of your community in any way you possibly can. Above all CANCEL YOUR CABLE TV, and get the jewish sewer pipe of pornography and kikesickness out of your life completely. Boycott businesses owned by trash jews, like Home Depot, a kike-owned company that loves to promote homosexuality to children. Shop at Lowe’s instead.”

Now that is something close to breathtaking. First of all, no one that I know of has a hang-up on sewer pipes, and the Nazis never used the image of Jews as sewer pipes (as rats coming out of the sewers perhaps, but not as sewer pipes. The statement “For whatever reason, the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike, despise sewer pipes” should go down in the history of polemic as one of the sillier things anyone has ever claimed (certainly – and I’ll bet on this one – without doing any research whatsoever). I dare you, read it again with a straight face: despise sewer pipes?

It’s right up there with Hillary’s:

What difference — at this point — does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

Not surprisingly, Goldberg’s “prooftext” for the Nazi quality of “despising sewer pipes” makes no mention of sewage, much less its piping.

None of this stops Goldberg from invoking his invented Nazi proclivity for sewage pipe hatred to attack a pro-Israel critic with the Nazi-Jewish meme: “the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike.” Thus, the “love Israel to death” crowd unknowingly echoes a “familiar [sic] Nazi trope.”

Daniel Greenfield pointed out two aspects of Goldberg’s comments deserving note.

First, one might better apply the expression “love Israel to death crowd,” to Goldberg and his friends, who have the luxury – unlike the Israeli voter – of misunderstanding the situation. (As a Jewish Jerusalem-based correspondent for a major US newspaper put it to me: “It’s really too bad that suicide bombing pushed Israel to the right.”)  The folks who think ”the settlements are the problem, and the 67 border is the solution,” folks like Goldberg and Beinart and Friedman and Sarkozy and Walt and Mearsheimer and J-Street and my journalist interlocutor and so many others of his guild (and, Goldberg now informs us, the POTUS), believe that those “right-wing” Israelis who refuse to make the necessary concessions, are actually hurting – nay, killing! - the country they claim to love.

But there are those, like the two Daniels above and so many others who pay attention to the way Palestinian attitudes and refusals to make concessions are far more belligerent and worrisome, who have come to the conclusion that if the US were to force Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians, it would bring not peace but war. And these folks – however they feel about the settlements – have every right to point out that the J-Street crowd, even as it loudly proclaims its love for Israel, is the real “loving Israel to death crowd.”

Second, Greenberg noted that Goldberg completely missed the point about sewage pipes. Their job is to carry sewage away from human habitation not dump the sewage into the lap of the civilization it serves:

Oh I think most people like sewer pipes. The problem is broken sewer pipes. A working sewer pipe carries waste away. A broken sewer pipe carries it to.

A civilization depends on working sewer pipes. But when the media goes into “sewer pipe revolutionist” mode and begins carrying its own waste into civilization, instead of away from it, then civilization is endangered and needs to replace the broken sewer pipelines with sewer pipes that carry away waste, instead of manufacturing it and spreading it.

I think this gets to the heart of the problem, the DuraJournalism that systematically pumps into the public sphere poisonous lethal narratives as if they were news. (I might prefer the metaphor of the MSNM as a kidney or dialysis machine that filters out the poisonous, war-mongering narratives from the information circulation system of peace-oriented democracies, but for the sake of following Goldberg’s lead, I’ll stick with sewage pipes.)

Indeed this controversy takes place at the same time as, from a number of sources, the public sphere in the West was filled with the rhetoric of Jihadi Jew-hatred, or, to use the current metaphor, sewage being dumped in our midst.

Most obviously the revelation that in 2010 the hopefully moderate president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, made remarks so heinous that, with Goldberg’s notable encouragement, eventually even the NYT found it “fit to print” (including an op-ed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali about the pervasiveness of these attitudes in the Muslim world).

No reasonable person can expect any progress on this track [negotiations]. Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war. This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know – these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.

Morsi’s response was to double down and blame the Jew-dominated media for distorting his really unoffensive remarks.

But International Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday (January 27) brought out lethal narratives from Western sources, indeed from prominent, seemingly mainstream sources. LibDem MP David Ward compared Israeli behavior to the Palestinians to Nazi behavior towards the Jews, apparently a bit put off that anyone objected to such an obvious comparison. (Rather, he compared his willingness to speak out against inhumanity with that of the Holocaust survivor Eli Weisel.) And the Sunday Times of London ran a political cartoon – again on Holocaust Memorial Day – that depicted a Sharon-anti-Christ-like Bibi Netanyahu building a massive wall using blood for mortar, in which he immured Palestinian victims of his malevolence.

Bibi's Wall

 

Now, both Ward’s words and this image (brought to us, alas, by Gerald Scarfe, who did the cover drawing for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” 1979), represent the grand Palestinian lethal narrative: innocent Palestinians ground to death by Israeli malevolence which is, itself, part of the substitution theology in which Israelis are the new Nazis.

hartford_courant

All of this illustrates the lethal narrative frame that DuraJournalists have adopted, and to which they adopt their evidence. Don’t let Palestinian genocidal hatreds and depraved attacks on Israeli civilians get in your way of blaming Israel for not making the “necessary concessions for peace.” And just hope that no one notices the profound prejudice against all Semites – Jews and Arabs – embedded in your combination of hysterical moral accusations against Jews and mulish silence about Palestinian sins. Since this is a terrible conflict – who made it that? – and there must be a good guy and a bad guy, let Israel stand accused of the sins the Palestinians wish fervently they could commit.

I’d say Goldberg qualifies for an honorable mention in DuraJournalism, not because, as Dan Friedman puts it, he’s Obama’s sewage pipe into the Jewish community (a bit over-stated), and not because he partakes of the more unhinged variety put forward by Ward and Scarfe (which he notably opposes), but because he feels so strongly that he (and Obama and so many others) know what’s best for Israel, that he can use statements in which Nazis and “right-wing” Jews mingle effortlessly to smear his “right-wing” critics.

He may oppose some of the more outrageous cases of sewage in journalism, but in this case, unwittingly or not, he participated. Indeed, his intemperate resort to this easy combo is a minor, but striking example of how, since al Durah, the patron saint of substitution theology, it’s become acceptable to compare Israelis (or “right wing Jews”) to the Nazis.

ghetto boy blog

As Melanie Phillips points out, Ward’s comments echo widely held beliefs among the British intelligentsia, and had he only spoken of Israel and not “the Jews,” there would  have been little uproar. As a result few are aware of how truly grotesque these comments were, even if only directed at Israelis:

For the really terrible thing here is not the grotesque misuse of the Holocaust, nor the vicious suggestion that ‘the Jews’ are guilty of behaviour that is somehow analogous to the Nazi genocide inflicted upon them, nor even the sickening insult that they have to ‘learn the lessons’ of their own suffering. [All of which is pretty terrible - RL.]

No, the true venom of these remarks is the way they reverse the position of today’s Jewish victims – the Israeli survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren — and their currentwould-be exterminators – the descendants of Hitler’s Nazi collaborators in Palestine during the Holocaust.

These are not healthy signs. Inversion of reality with the necessary auto-stupefaction involved, aggressively dished out by public sphere bullies, is not the way progressive values will prevail in the coming generation.

39 Responses to Goldberg and the Daniels: Of Sewage Pipes, Lethal Narratives, and DuraJournalism

  1. mika says:

    What bothers me, Richard, is that an intelligent and perceptive person as yourself speaks of these “journalists” as though they have some kind of independence. This is seriously misleading as it has ZERO correlation with reality. The reality of the situation is that there are no journalists. All there is are propaganda outlets, in which little propagandists (aka, “journalists”) follow the directive of the big propagandists (aka, “editors”), where the party line is set forward by their masters. If you don’t follow the party line you don’t get hired or promoted.

    I know you don’t like to hear this, Richard, but those who control the party line are those who own the banks and the corporations and control the secret agencies of the world. It’s a global mafia. You really need to see past the contrived theater and understand that they pretty much have full spectrum dominance. They control virtually all sides of the dialectic. Heck, they invented and conjured up the dialectic — already ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Why do you waste your time criticizing Jeffrey Goldberg, who spends a great deal of his energy and journalistic capital highlighting exactly the same anti-Zionist pathologies in the Western media that you do? As just one example, he did a good deal to bring the Morsi comments to light by citing the Forbes article and MEMRI clips, and make the issue something the NY Times could no longer afford to ignore. To toss him into the same pile as Beinart is to reject the prominent and widely listened-to journalist in America covering the phenomenon of anti-Israel hatred and its Western enablers.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/egyptian-president-calls-jews-sons-of-apes-and-pigs-world-yawns/267131/
    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/11/the-strange-obsession-with-proportional-body-counts/265472/
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/10/answering-andrew-sullivan-on-helen-thomas/64986/

    • Ben says:

      I think Landes explains it pretty clearly with: “I’d say Goldberg qualifies for an honorable mention in DuraJournalism … because he feels so strongly that he (and Obama and so many others) know what’s best for Israel, that he can use statements in which Nazis and “right-wing” Jews mingle effortlessly to smear his “right-wing” critics.” That Goldberg often writes (very well) about anti-Zionist pathologies in the west should not spare him from criticism for his inane invocation of a supposedly “familiar Nazi trope.” However bright a light he claims to shine on anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism, Goldberg’s gratuitous comparison of “far right Jews” and Nazis is repugnant. If he were half the mensch he fancies himself, he should repudiate those comments. Let him be hurt or aggravated or pissed or amused in response to criticisms of his writing. Let him lash out with all of his considerable varbal skill. But why let him get away with this kind of false over-the-top reprehensible crap?

    • Ms Rebecca said:

      “Why do you waste your time criticizing Jeffrey Goldberg, who spends a great deal of his energy and journalistic capital highlighting exactly the same anti-Zionist pathologies in the Western media that you do?”

      Ms Rebecca, Dr Landes has answered this question in the piece which you are criticizing him for. I quote him:

      “I’d say Goldberg qualifies for an honorable mention in DuraJournalism,… because he feels so strongly that he (and Obama and so many others) know what’s best for Israel, that he can use statements in which Nazis and “right-wing” Jews mingle effortlessly to smear his “right-wing” critics. It’s one of the more striking examples of how, since al Durah, the patron saint of substitution theology, it’s become acceptable to compare Israel to the Nazis”.

      If Jews acquiesce or, worse, use Nazi analogies to criticize Israelis, then the analogies gain legitimacy. People who are anti-Israel will feel morally exculpated to use them: “Hey, even Jews talk like that, there is nothing repugnant in it”.

      Very recently i found heavy opposition in online arguing for even the minimalist thesis that, at least, Germans should not use such analogies. The Nazi-talk gains ground.

      And there is nothing more delegitimizing than those analogies. If Israelis are perceived as Nazis, anything that might happen to them, even annihilation, will be construed as poetic justice.

      “As just one example, he did a good deal to bring the Morsi comments to light by citing the Forbes article and MEMRI clips, and make the issue something the NY Times could no longer afford to ignore.”

      Dr Landes acknowledged this contribution of Mr Goldberg. I quote Dr Landes:

      “Most obviously the revelation that in 2010 the hopefully moderate president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, made remarks so heinous that, with Goldberg’s notable encouragement, eventually even the NYT found it “fit to print” (including an op-ed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali about the pervasiveness of these attitudes in the Muslim world)”.

      • mika says:

        Actually, the more one learns about Labor Zionism the more the connection and comparison with the Nazis absolutely becomes valid:

        These are Israeli documentaries. They are in Hebrew with subtitles:

        1/ http://youtu.be/LKaIeEWTUqw
        2/ http://youtu.be/8nsOpLcSDFo

        There’s also quite a bit of evidence that the Nazis and Zionists were twins so to speak, and that both worked together towards mutual goals.

        • Mika, the Nazi analogies are not targeting WW2 Zionists. They target present-day Israelis.

          • mika says:

            Yes, but who is it that does the targeting? It is the same Vatican/Rothschild/Nazi/LaborZionist mafia that controls Israel.

            Israelis are constantly and incessantly victimized, tortured, and murdered by “their” government, because it is not their government. Israelis are NOT represented by their government, or government institutions. That is a very important point to understand, and very difficult to emotionally take in. As long as Israelis and Jews (and people in general) are ignorant and emotionally blindsided by this reality, the murderous nonsense will continue.

          • SerJew says:

            Oh, my, Mika Meshugannah is back with the Vatican/Templars/Illuminatti/Freemanson/RotaryClub/Scientologists conspiracy scenario…

          • mika says:

            DM, let me ask you this:

            Do you think that the NWO stooges installed as US Presidents, or US Congressman, or US judge, etc., represents the people of the US? Do you think that the NWO stooges installed throughout the EU gov bureaucracy represent the people of the EU?

            Why do you think that the situation in Israel is any different? Why do you think that the NWO stooges installed throughout the Israeli beaurocracy are any different? How many times does one need to learn the same lesson? The evidence is staring us in face, but we refuse to see it.

            Go and look up what organizations the NWO stooges belong to. See if you can find a common denominator, I certainly can. But that subject is forbotten here on this blog, like it is on the rest of the controlled media.

  3. Richard Landes says:

    i added those remarks thanks to Rebecca. thanks for your defense, but she has a point (Goldberg’s not that bad and occasionally good), which i tried to address.

  4. Martin J. Malliet says:

    Richard Landes: “These are not healthy signs. Inversion of reality with the necessary auto-stupefaction involved, aggressively dished out by public sphere bullies, is not the way progressive values will prevail in the coming generation.”

    Hypothesis: The ‘public sphere bullies’ still adhere to their youthful self-image of ‘progressives’.

    The ‘inversion of reality’ can then be explained as the result of the projection into present day reality of their opponents’ image as they remember them from their youthful ‘struggle against oppression’.

    I can’t find it anymore, but somewhere on this blog Richard Landes has improvised on the well-known saying that “when at 30 you don’t have your heart on the left, you have no heart; when at 40 you don’t have your mind/brain on the right, you have no mind/brain” by adding “and when at 50 you haven’t found a way to put your heart and your mind together in the right spot, you’re lazy”.

    Most people are indeed lazy, they do not want to do the work it takes to deconstruct and reconstruct their hearts and minds (and it is difficult work, not something to be underestimated).

    • Martin J. Malliet says:

      There’s also the strange fact that the ‘youthful strugglers against oppression’ have become the social-democratic elites and ‘public sphere bullies’ without quite knowing what has happened to them. In their youth they were very critical of bourgeois society and in opposition to their authoritarian elders. Remember the marxist theory of state capitalism in the seventies? Reagan and Thatcher then surprised them by doing the exact opposite of what state capitalists were supposed to do. Since then the critical left has become the defender of the social-democratic consensus, favouring the state as the promoter of ‘social justice’ (or ‘equal opportunity’, etc, etc) against ‘free for all’ capitalism (in France: la loi de la jungle, le droit du plus fort). While still remembering their youthful impulses to side with the ‘oppressed’. They’re not going to give up that self-image easily, and whoever questions it is perceived as the authoritarian ‘right wing’ opponent of their youth.

  5. Martin J. Malliet says:

    Zionists-are-Nazis-talk

    I don’t think Melanie Phillips is wrong in explaining the meaning of the Nazi-projection on Zionists by British intellectuals. But I wonder whether there isn’t more to say about the deficient understanding of the Nazi-part of the projection, i.e. the deficient understanding of what Eric Voegelin calls the ‘pneumopathology’ (spiritual disease) of German society. Which would then lead to the conclusion that what Melanie Phillips calls “Britain’s national sickness” is, well, a very similar ‘pneumopathology’. (To be sure, the ‘pneumopathology’ alone didn’t cause the Shoah, it also took Hitler, the German police state, and anti-immigration policies in other states to bring it about.)

    (Voegelins 1964 lectures on “Hitler and the Germans” are available online in English at:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/51878419/Collected-Works-of-Eric-Voegelin-Hitler-and-the-Germans.)

    I have been called a Nazi (not a Zionist) on this very blog by Ger Cox:

    http://www.theaugeanstables.com/multiple-part-essays/open-letter-to-jostein-gaarder-fisking-crypto-supersessionism/#comment-608168

    My German mother (°1929) remembered the following about the Kristallnacht (actually the morning of 1938-11-10): the 12 Jewish people (of the initial total of 30) who were still living in the little town were led by SA-men through the streets with the public announcer’s bell and a banner saying “Herschel Grünspan is von unsere Leit”; when her mother wanted to say a few words to the Jewish butcher’s wife, the latter ushered her away: “Gehen Sie doch, Sie bekommen sonst noch Schwierigkeiten”.

    (From a 1994 booklet on the Jews of the little town I took the following: population 2543 in 1933; election results on 1933-03-05: 616 Zentrumpartei, 554 SPD, 213 KPD, and 180 NSDAP; the synagogue was put on fire by SA, but the fire was extinguished by neighbours who feared for their houses; the Thora roles were then burnt separately in the town square (by SA); windows were smashed and possessions thrown into the street; most people were shocked and looked on shamefully from behind their windows, but nobody dared to protest.)

    Now, my mother also has called Zionists Nazis when the pictures in the ‘news’ of forceful Israeli defensive oppressors were particularly disturbing (such as the ‘Breaking Palestinian Bones Icon’ of the First Intifada). Simply: “Nazis!” In German, of course, because we speak German. And believe me, when my mother says “Nazis!”, she spits it out with disgust as if she had to do with the real variety, the dangerous and overpowering rabble she has learned to know as a child. But there is no trace in it of compensatory Schadenfreude out of shame for the Nazi-past of Germany, not at all. Anti-semitism isn’t a part of my German family history as far as I can tell, nor are Nazi-sympathies. As a girl she had Jewish neighbours, and on Saturday some regular duties to help them with lighting the fire or whatever it was they needed help with.

    Does my mother not think? Not enough apparently. TV pictures are not very conducive to thinking. When you ask her whether she really believes that the Israelis are doing the same as the Nazis, she will of course see the difference in scale. That Israel is not a police state as Nazi Germany was she will also acknowledge when you ask her. But the pictures remain. And what is my most fundamental suspicion: the origin of the conflict is never clearly factored in, because it is not clearly understood (the ‘intractable conflict’ formula doing a lot of harm). Consequently, my mother sees the battered Palestinians as she has seen the Nazi victims of her childhood. It’s as simple as that.

    And that is because the MSNM never show the criminals. If she got to see only one or two of those hatemongering Hamas rallies you can see on MEMRITV, she would recognise the Nazis alright.

    • dcdoc says:

      It’s a tad ironic that you have previously referenced the thinking Jostein Gaarder for generalized ethical propositions, but said nothing about Gaarder’s odious attack on both the Jewish self-notion of being The Chosen People and Israel as the Jewish state.

      • Martin J. Malliet says:

        I don’t exactly understand what you mean. I used a Jostein Gaarder quote as a starting point for deconstructing the widespread and confused notion of ‘altruistic ethics’. I further thought (and still believe) that Jostein Gaarder would be an interesting partner for a dialogue, a dialogue in which he shows himself willing to self-criticise and move his position away from the “odious attack” to which you refer, and for which he already has admitted to feel ashamed. I tried to persuade Richard Landes of the value of such more personalised ‘cognitive warfare’ operations (as opposed to simple broadcasting operations in the blogospere). Norwegians at least would take notice of Jostein Gaarder’s learning process. And that could then lead to more interesting things. I wrote myself to Jostein Gaarder (through his publisher), but got no reply (and in my email I assured him that my intention was not to harass him). Richard Landes could try to get Gaarder’s Israeli publisher interested, and work from there to persuade Gaarder himself. I still see it as a book project.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          PS: Provision title for the book – “Jostein’s Choice”.

        • Richard Landes says:

          Martin, please post the evidence that Gaarder feels ashamed for what he wrote. that is interesting and i don’t recall your mentioning it in our conversation about him. as i remember his regret was more “theoretical”.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          It’s no more than circumstantial evidence: his attempt to clarify in 2006 at the time of the controversy, and his 2011 expression of regret, I both read as the reaction of a man who feels shame or guilt without quite knowing where it comes from. In other words, the dialogue is still necessary, the book isn’t written yet.

          I haven’t read “Sophie’s World”, but what I’ve read about it makes me think that he is quite capable of dialogue. And this would be a dialogue with a real world purpose.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God's_chosen_people_(Jostein_Gaarder_op-ed)
          http://www.israelwhat.com/2011/04/20/jostein-gaarder-regrets-infamous-2006-op-ed-gods-chosen-people/

          http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/sophie

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          Here is what I wrote to him:

          mailto:epost@aschehoug.no

          To Mr Jostein Gaarder – Jostein Gaarder controversy (on Israel) – a suggestion

          Dear Mr Gaarder

          I have great difficulties to find the right beginning for this letter. Therefore I start by saying: please believe me, I do not want to pressure you. Because my suggestion is principally about an opportunity, an opportunity that only you have and nobody else, to step out of this debate and into a dialogue that achieves some real progress in this matter. So again, please take your time, this is like a book project, and it should take the time it needs.

          My suggestion is contained in my reply to Richard Landes’s “Open Letter to Jostein Gaarder” (a reply I only posted recently, because I discovered both his blog and the controversy only recently):

          http://www.theaugeanstables.com/multiple-part-essays/open-letter-to-jostein-gaarder-fisking-crypto-supersessionism/#comment-587263

          The two books by Eric Voegelin that I mention in my suggestion are also very helpful to understand the larger question of how the positivist destruction of science (in the humanities), as it manifests itself in our Western political discourse and institutionalised thought (from universities to media), undermines our civil society (a theme also very prominent in Richard Landes’s writings).

          I’m not going to say much more, because I must admit that I do not know your books. I’ve only skimmed through some ‘Jostein Gaarder quotes’ one can find on the internet, and they let me think that you will be receptive for my suggestion. Or as I wrote to another private correspondent: “Jostein Gaarder must be an independent man, not a hardnosed publicist. So he has the means to break through ‘institutionalised’ thought.”

          Maybe just one more thing: I really believe this is all much more about thinking than about morals. (Well, this is probably a simplistic way of saying it, as you must know from Socrates.) But simply accusing someone in the conventional way of having a blind spot doesn’t make sense, because having a blind spot is exactly what prevents him from understanding the accusation. With anti-semitism this is even more true, as there may be anti-semitism of type A and anti-semitism of type B, and when someone accuses you of anti-semitism (thinking of type B), as an anti-semite of type B you may have even more difficulties to understand the accusation, as you can quite rightly believe that you’re not an anti-semite (thinking of type A). I would even say that anti-semitism of type B is not anti-semitism, but something deeper, which manifests itself also in other things, such as anti-liberalism in social-democratic institutionalised thought. But as the same fallacy or blind spot manifests itself also in thoughts about Israel, and as Israel is the State of the Jews, it’s also not wrong to call this manifestation anti-semitism.

          Best wishes.

          • SerJew says:

            Care to explain what does “the positivistic destruction of science” mean? For what I can see, there has been, since around the 1960′s a *post-modernistic* attempt to destroy science, which was particularly successful in the humanities, but a dismal failure in the hard-sciences.

          • Martin J. Malliet says:

            My explanation may not be good enough, so you should go to Eric Voegelin’s “The New Science of Politics” where the quote comes from. Frank Van Dun’s “Economics and the Limits of Value Free Science” discusses the same problem in a way that may be more appealing to an exact scientist (as yourself?), because he is more direct and grounded in logic.

            “The positivist destruction of science” (in the humanities) is about the denial of the possibility of rational knowledge for essential parts of human reality as a consequence of the “subordination of theoretical relevance to the method of the natural sciences”, which is a “perversion of the meaning of science”. “Science is a search for truth concerning the nature of the various realms of being. Relevant in science is whatever contributes to the success of this search. Facts are relevant in so far as their knowledge contributes to the study of essence, while methods are adequate in so far as they can be effectively used as a means for this end. Different objects require different methods. (…) If the adequacy or a method is not measured by its usefulness to the purpose of science, if on the contrary the use of a method is made the criterion of science, then the meaning of science as a truthful account of the structure of reality, as the theoretical orientation of man in his world, and as the great instrument for man’s understanding of his own position in the universe is lost.”

            Voegelin is very keen on correcting our conventional understanding of Plato (“idealism”), who coined the term ‘philosophy’ to contrast it with ‘philodoxy’, i.e. unfounded opinions and sophistry, which modern positivists then called mere “philosophy” as opposed to “hard science”.

            The Pope’s “Regensburg lecture” was about the same question of rationality, and the reactions both by Western commentators and Muslim politicians only proved how destructive this denial of rationality has become.

            “Economics and the Limits of Value Free Science”, Reason Papers 11 (1986), p. 17 – 32
            http://users.ugent.be/~frvandun/Texts/Articles/LimitsValuefreeScience.pdf

            “Can We Be Free If Reason Is the Slave of the Passions?”, The Freeman, october 2007, p. 31 – 38

            http://rothbard.be/bestanden/frvandun/Texts/Articles/SR-Hume.pdf

      • Martin J. Malliet says:

        The point I’m trying to make is this: it’s about hearts and minds, and about putting them together in the right spot (as I said earlier). One can be too argumentative. And we are too argumentative: simply condemning Jostein Gaarder for his “odious attack” is not good enough. Being too argumentative furthermore, I believe, is part of the ‘pneumopathology’. Our human soul is something we have right under our noses, I said somewhere else. We tend to forget that.

        • SerJew says:

          It’s nice to know that Voegelin was concerned with truth, which is exactly was science is about. Positivism was misleading, though a somewhat understandable reaction to the unbridled flights of fancy of metaphysicians of the type of Hegel, who proclaimed all types of non-sense with no reality-checks. This uncontrolled fantasy-making ended up in pure charlatinism à la Heidegger and his postmodernist followers who are unable to understand science and, having been wounded in their pride, decided to declare there’s no truth at all, that everything is a social construct, from fashion to celestial mechanics. They failed miserably in infecting the “hard” sciences (including Biology) but were very successful in destroying much of the humanities, in a veritable counter-revolution of irrationality.

          Of course, positivism was misleading, for instance, behaviorism was almost dogmatic in avoiding dealing with the mind and it stiffled the development of scientific psychology for decades. In any case, everyone agrees that metaphysics is fundamental (and every science pressuposes it), but only when steeped in reality and informed by the best science available. Otherwise it’s irrelevant, barren and boring. So, for instance, if one intends to discuss nowadays such notions as “consciousness”, “thinking”, “soul” and even “ethics” one has to be informed of the breathtaking discoveries and advances in brain science: neurology, cognitive psychology, neuroanatomy, psychoneuropharmacology, brain imaging, neurochemistry, etc. Isolated babblings about the “soul” or “spirit” without this backing in reality are idle babblings indeed.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          “Isolated babblings about the “soul” or “spirit” without this backing in reality are idle babblings indeed.”

          That is a statement of positivism, isn’t it? “Backing in reality”, or “controlling for charlatanism”, are questions of method, but “different objects require different methods”, and that’s not such an easy question to solve, just as “reality” is not easy to “define”. Hegel and Heidegger aren’t all charlatanism. I don’t think Voegelin would agree with your idea of positivism being an understandable reaction to metaphysical charlatanism. He would rather say that it was itself a manifestation of charlatanism, having its root in the same “loss of reality” as the other manifestations.

          Frank Van Dun tries to refute your second last sentence, and I think he succeeds (in his article on David Hume, of which the following is no more than a quote – against which he warns in the title, but as this is no more than a blog discussion, and as I don’t have his talent to explain it better …):

          “If the gap between is and ought goes overboard then so goes the idea that science can only be science if it confines itself to Humean empiricism assisted by a purely formal logic of is-statements. That idea, together with the distinction between facts and values, is the basis for the notion that there can only be a science of ethics if ethical statements are re-interpreted as empirical statements – say, about psychological phenomena. Values (‘what is desirable’) must be reduced to facts (‘what is actually desired’); ethical truths must be reduced to subjective opinions – otherwise, or so it is alleged, science would not be ‘value-free’ and then it would not be science at all. However, that notion clearly is incoherent. Yes, science should be value-free in the sense that it should proceed without prejudice from well-established facts to any conclusion it can reach by means of welltested methods of fact-finding and logical reasoning. However, it should not be valuefree, if being value-free means representing values as something other than values, or an ‘ought’ as a twisted ‘is’, or if it means disregarding the validity of norms that no one logically can deny merely because they are norms.”

          http://rothbard.be/bestanden/frvandun/Texts/Articles/SR-Hume.pdf

          I’m not a trained philosopher, and more importantly, I know I don’t have the talent of someone like Frank Van Dun or Eric Voegelin, so I’m more interested in ‘applications’ of what I think I understand from them.

          Some time ago I read an op-ed in De Morgen (by the chief editor, who is a very influential leftist opinion maker) on how he lost his “faith in religion” after attending a Richard Dawkins performance: using his outspread arms to signify the duration of the history of the universe, his fingernail for the duration of the history of humankind, Dawkins then drew the conclusion that Genesis is an unscientific religious fairy tale.

          That’s unscientific nonsense, isn’t it? Philosophical illiteracy, as Voegelin calls it. Who wasn’t particularly interested in being “nice” when attacking the “positivistic destruction of science”. “In every visage of a positivistic professor or liberal pastor I see the visage of the SS-murderer that he causes.” That’s more like him. He was lucky in 1938, when the Gestapo was waiting for him at his home: his wife managed to warn him and he took the train to Switzerland, his wife did the same a few days later. Only to come back in 1958. When he left again in 1969, he declared the following: “Zwischen den sitzengebliebenen Dummköpfen der Tradition und den apokalyptischen Dummköpfen der Revolution ist es in Deutschland schwer, geistig frei zu arbeiten.”

          When I then find out what Frank Van Dun has to say about Genesis, I want to draw attention to it. Which I’m going to do again:

          http://rothbard.be/bestanden/frvandun/Texts/Articles/PerfectLawofFreedom.pdf

          • SerJew says:

            “That is a statement of positivism, isn’t it?
            “Backing in reality”, or “controlling for charlatanism”, are questions of method, but “different objects require different methods”, and that’s not such an easy question to solve, just as “reality” is not easy to “define”. ”

            Well, if there’s no backing in reality, how can you have a clue of what are you talking about? How can you search for truth with no method or control? You end up with flights of fancy and charlatanism. And putting reality under scare-quotes you are one step into postmodern relativism, which is a complete betrayal of science. Science begins with the hypothesis (a metaphysical or ontological one) that there’s a reality out there (not “reality”) which is extremely complex but which can be known (epistemological hypothesis), at least in a piecemeal way, always in incomplete & fallible fashion, always in need of review by confronting/testing ideas against that reality, but that can be improved with hard work and disciplined imagination. That’s the source of the amazing success of the “hard-sciences”. Yes, reality is complex and has many levels; one need not delve in atomic physics to understand natural selection, for instance. But the scientific method, which broadly (and simplifying a lot) consists in framing hypothesis (preferably within a theory), deriving consequences and testing them against reality, is universal.

            “Hegel and Heidegger aren’t all charlatanism. I don’t think Voegelin would agree with your idea of positivism being an understandable reaction to metaphysical charlatanism. He would rather say that it was itself a manifestation of charlatanism, having its root in the same “loss of reality” as the other manifestations. ”

            Well, too bad for Voegelin. Positivism was misleading, but at least it
            dismissed a lot of empty babblings and intentionally obscure non-sense, the type you can find in Heidegger and his postmodern fraudsters. Also, how could talk about “loss of reality”, if not in a roundabout metaphorical sense? Was he a gnostic, with a privileged access to that “reality” (here with scare-quotes, yes)?

            As for religions, yes, they are unscientific fairy tales, but some contain valuable ethical ideas, beautiful stories, historical clues, cultural information, etc. They also contain lots of falsehood, prejudices and sheer non-sense. What’s the big deal?

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          The scare-quotes were meant to warn against the reduction possibly implied in your phrase “backing in reality”, reduction which explains what Voegelin calls the “loss of reality”. He wasn’t a gnostic, quite to the contrary, his main concern was exactly that the “loss of reality” worked in favour of gnosticism and similar untruths. To keep things a bit under control, I wanted to concentrate on your second last sentence about ethics and brain science, where this loss of reality appears more clearly: are norms understood as norms, or values understood as values, in other words ethics, part of that reality that can be known scientifically, or are they not?

          I referred to Frank Van Dun’s article on David Hume, because it contains a better explanation than I could give. And because I don’t think it is sensible to summarise other people’s thoughts, only to see them dismissed on the basis of what may have been lost in the summary.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          Some religious unscientific fairy tales contain “valuable ethical ideas”, you say. But we can’t make them out “with no method or control” (as you correctly said before), can we?

          • SerJew says:

            Lots of things that humans think are valuable are non-scientific, such as well-being, play, laughter, rituals, religion and art (though high forms of art have a lot of rigorous methods, though not necessarily scientific). Now, if you want to investigate *why* humans consider those things valuable, then the best way is to conduct a scientific research, which will be extremely difficult (as in all human sciences), involving many disciplines: history, archeology, psychology, evolution theory, anthropology and… brain science. It’s not that ethics will be reduced to neurons firing around, but fact is that there are no disembodied minds and minds (for all we know) are brain states; moreover, current neuroscientific research has shown that even subtle moral behaviors/feelings are sharply correlated with specific activity of very circunscribed brain circuits. Also, brains are the result of the process of evolution and development, so input from these fields can be relevant too. In sum, all these infos and a robust multilevel/multidisciplinary approach are important if one hopes to attain some reliable/truthful understanding of (at least some aspects) of the difficult subjects of ethics and morality. At least they are much reliable than arm-chair unbridled speculation (though some *disciplined* speculation is obviously important in framing hypothesis).

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          On the question whether ethics are part of the reality that can be known scientifically

          What I did learn from Frank Van Dun is that natural law (or rights) isn’t about values, norms and rules, as is conventionally assumed. It is first and foremost about facts: the factual distinctions between human persons, and the factual order of conviviality. If there is a normative question it is simply this: “Ought we to respect the law (the facts)?”

          And the answer to that normative meta-question is given by ‘argumentative ethics’: “yes, we ought to respect the law, because argueing rationally to the contrary involves us in a contradiction”.

          Which in the end means simply putting faith in reason. And that’s indeed the end. There is no answer our reason can comprehend to the further question “why should we put our faith in reason?” We furthermore know that we will never find an answer to that ultimate question, and that is exactly the meaning of the word ‘faith’, believing without the possibility of knowing with certainty.

          Natural law also isn’t about determinism, like in the ‘laws of nature’. People have been quite capable of disrespecting the law, it’s even a rather common occurrence. Just as they have had no problem with treating other people as cockroaches, although there is a very rational answer to the question why we ought not to treat people as cockroaches. One may surmise that the success of positivistic attempts at excluding that rational answer from rationnality itself have played a part in that massive disrespect of the law (and continues to do so).

          Example: Little Thomas in the kitchen tells his mother that “Evelyn broke the vase”. Evelyn in the adjacent room overhears him and shouts: “You liar, you broke it yourself!” – Is that because she has internalised the rule ‘you should not lie’? I doubt it very much. She understands the order of facts and her brother’s misrepresentation of the facts before she learns how to derive a rule from it. She will also learn that misrepresentation of the facts may sometimes suit her. And that when it suits her, it typically will be at the expense of somebody else, who has thus a motive for not letting her get away with it. So that she will have to learn about the proof of facts and the burden of proof. Etc, etc. It was not called natural law for nothing. And at the time it was thought to be science. Although legal positivism has put an end to that.

          • SerJew says:

            Well, you use many terms that need explanation to even make sense, like for instance, the concept of “natural law” as applied to ethics & morality. As for the link of positivism with “massive disrespect of the law”, I really don’t know what you are talking about.

            Also, you have far too much faith in reason regarding human morality: that’s linked to what neuroscientist Antonio Damasio called “Descarte’s error”. You ignore or dismiss therecent findings of psychology and brain science that shows that basically all our decisions (particularly moral and ethical ones) are soaked in emotional/affective clues that help us make choices according with our visceral feelings, which are part innate and part learned from experience, culture and upbringing. Moreover, psychopaths are usually very rational people and they will give you quite rational justification for acting the way they do, e.g., self-interest.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          “Many terms need explanation?” What did you expect? That I was going to explain the world to you in a blog discussion? I can’t and I won’t. I give a few selective references and citations, of which I know that you will not easily find them elsewhere. Only to be accused of being “deferent to authority” by one, or “too long on citations” by another. But I’m going to continue my approach and say to you: if you really want to know about the link between positivism and the “massive disrespect of the law”, try Eric Voegelin’s 1964 lectures on “Hitler and the Germans”. And I’m going to annoy you with another citation, from p. 127-128:

          “For example, Haeckel speaks—this will give the law students among you a laugh—about the education of law students: It should be “purely formal, not real.” Please notice the contrasting of “formal” and “real.” Completely meaningless words.

          «Our law students come to know only superficially the actual principal object of their activity, the human organism and its most important function, the soul. [Note the same metaphysical problematic as with Hitler.] Most law students would not dream of studying anthropology, psychology, and the history of evolution as the first preconditions for a correct judgment of the human being. . . . So they are without that basic knowledge of human nature, which can only be obtained through comparative anthropology and monistic psychology— without that knowledge of social conditions, whose organic models are made available to us by comparative zoology and the history of evolution, cytology and the study of protists.» [Haeckel, Die Welträtsel]

          So, there you have a program for what a law student should study: cytology, protists and more of such things, biology, so that he can come to know the organism accurately, for all functions of the soul are only functions of this organism. And how could one dispense justice if one did not understand the organism that has these functions of the soul?”

          • SerJew says:

            It seems that you try to impress people with them while not bringing much substance to a debate. When pressed you accuse others of being “repetitive” and…bring more boring citations.

            As for Haeckel, good grief, biology made some advances since the XIXth centur! But you are stuck with the words of philosophers who are totally ignorant of modern science that they convenietly dismiss as “positivism”, which is just hogwash and deflaction. I understand, science is hard and it’s safer to stick to pompous citations.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          Let’s do this differently, because the conversation we’re having is actually proof of the destructiveness of positivism.

          The psychopath (or a mentally sane criminal – there is no difference) reasons: “If I murder SerJew and take his car, I have found an easier way (in my self-interest) to get a car, than if I have to save for one.”

          SerJew says (solemnly): “I do not want to be murdered, and incidentally I also want to keep my car, because these are my natural rights, which everybody ought to respect.”

          The ‘faith in reason’ I meant is the ultimate foundation on which rests the validity of SerJew’s normative statement that the psychopath ought to respect SerJew’s right just like everybody else.

          When you say that “I put too much faith in reason” you’re meaning a very different thing, namely that “I put my faith in the self-interested reasoning of a psychopath (or a mentally sane criminal)”.

          I never meant such a thing, and when confronting a psychopath (or a mentally sane criminal ) I do not recommend starting an argument about natural law. I recommend using whatever violence it takes to defend your right against the outlaw. I not only recommend it, it can be rationally argued that it is lawful to use violence against an outlaw, and even that it is a duty for every law respecting person (and not only for the victim) to use violence to defend the law against outlaws.

          But I do share Voegelin’s diagnosis of ‘pneumopathology’ for a society that is populated by too many people who do not understand anymore (with their capacity for reason) what the sharp difference is between rights and interests (e.g. when they simply equate social inequality with social injustice). And I’m afraid that no findings of psychology or brain science will make the slightest difference. That’s not because I dismiss them, that’s because they are irrelevant for the problem under discussion.

          The findings of psychology or brain science are only relevant for those who want to use them. And that use can be either lawful or unlawful, without the findings themselves (or the scicentists that produced them) having any say in it.

          Aldous Huxley’s “1984″ was a tale of ‘pneumopathology’, one of many possible tales of what the world could become if the understanding of the law (the difference between rights and interests) were to disappear.

          • SerJew says:

            “But I do share Voegelin’s diagnosis of ‘pneumopathology’ for a society that is populated by too many people who do not understand anymore (with their capacity for reason) what the sharp difference is between rights and interests (e.g. when they simply equate social inequality with social injustice). And I’m afraid that no findings of psychology or brain science will make the slightest difference. That’s not because I dismiss them, that’s because they are irrelevant for the problem under discussion.”

            Good lord. Do you read something beyond Voegelin? Maybe you are contributing to that “pneumapathoescoliosis” by avoiding the many relevant discoveries in the real world, prefering to stick to philosophers that claim to be interested in truth but are happily ignorant of major scientific discoveries. Go figure.

            “The findings of psychology or brain science are only relevant for those who want to use them. And that use can be either lawful or unlawful, without the findings themselves (or the scicentists that produced them) having any say in it.”

            They are totally releavant, but it’s your choice to remain ignorant. Just don’t complain later of the lack of understanding: you are contributing to it yourself.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          So the trouble with positivistic Nazi-Germany was simply that psychology and brain science weren’t advanced enough? You must be kidding! I’m sticking with Voegelin because I believe that his diagnosis is still valid despite the progress of the exact sciences, not because I’m not aware of it. (And don’t point out that the trouble with Nazi-German was more than merely positivism, because that is obviously true.)

          But I would like to end it here, this exchange on the destructiveness of positivism. I would be interested, though, to know the opinion of the owner of this blog.

        • Martin J. Malliet says:

          I’m still wondering where this discussion went astray.

          “But you are stuck with the words of philosophers who are totally ignorant of modern science that they convenietly dismiss as “positivism”, which is just hogwash and deflection. I understand, science is hard and it’s safer to stick to pompous citations.”

          There is at least one clear mistake in that interpretation: the critics of positivism (such as Voegelin) do not “dismiss modern science”, whether they are ignorant of it or not; they try to restore to rationality those objects of reality that have been dismissed from science by the positivists.

          Frank Van Dun in particular (and Voegelin as well, I think) believes that especially the science of natural law needs to be recovered from the abyss of legal positivism.

  6. Dr Landes said:

    “Inversion of reality with the necessary auto-stupefaction involved, aggressively dished out [emphasis mine] by public sphere bullies, is not the way progressive values will prevail in the coming generation.”

    dishinformation

    Anyway, we know what bull(ie)s leave in their trail, namely, BS!

    • mika says:

      “What’s the big deal?”
      ==

      The big deal is god. There’s no arguing with a god fanatic. (That was the point in creating god). And there are too many god fanatics out there busy exercising thievery, lust for power, and pure bloodlust.

  7. Cynic says:

    Goldberg’s defense of sewer pipes:
    … I would like to offer a defense, not of myself, but of sewer pipes. Civilization could not exist as we know it without sewer pipes. They make our cities and towns livable, aesthetically pleasant and healthful places. (I would also note that Israel, a country those at “Israeli Frontline” ostensibly love, also utilizes sewer pipes.)

    should take into account that Israelis luv sewer pipes when correctly used but hate and detest them when used to carry the venemous material exploding in their houses, schools and surrounds (ooh, Hamas so luvs used sewer pipes for making rockets) and demagoguery meddling in their voting process.

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