Author Archives: Richard Landes

The Low Countries at their lowest: Dutch Lethal Own-goal Journalism

I only now have become aware (thanks to Twitter) of Hans Moll‘s book (2011) on Holland’s most presitigious paper (only in Dutch alas) and Bruce Bawer’s review of it for Frontpage in English. Here I reproduce Bawer’s with comments.

The Low Countries at their lowest

A Dutch journalist exposes the systematic left-wing slant of his country’s most respected newspaper

Bruce Bawer, Frontpage, December 1, 2011

NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands. Hans Moll was for many an editor there. He is not an editor there any more. In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.

Not just “less than objective” – PoMo-PoCo’s insist that’s that’s not possible anyway – but a self-defeating view of the world, utterly disorienting for those who are the target of Jihadi Caliphaters. The important point here is the link between the way the media portray “reality” – or, in their terms, bear witness to their time – in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, and the way the portray Islam, both in the Middle East and at home. a

In other words, disoriented about Israel’s conflict has a direct link to disorientated about Muslim (im)migrants in the democracies these journalist allegedly inform. Mistaking the players in one place, means mistaking them at home, where one can less afford being wrong about an enemy. For an excellent discussion of how the Netherlands went from a paragon of democracy to a besieged nation in the course of the aughts (’00s) read Abigail Esman Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (2010). Bruce Bawer has at least two books dealing with this issue: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2006) and Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009).

Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer. Like many other “newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.

In the wake of the media debacle of the 2016 elections, one former NYT editor, Michael Cieply, offered some thoughts on how “narrative driven” much of their coverage (not published by the NYT). In a sense the media has long been a vehicle for redemptive action, and in its role as critic, it plays a crucial role in making democracy work. But now, we have journalists as a pack, seized with a consensus that held: a) Israelis do terrible things which we cover in intense detail; and b) Muslims rarely do terrible things, which we dramatically undercover.

Bibliography of Articles on the MSNM’s Trumpfail

The unanticipated victory of Trump has left the MSNM in something of a quandary. Their scarcely concealed advocacy for Clinton, and contempt for Trump, for his supporters, even for pundits expressed the heretical speculation that he “might” win, have combined to produce the  spectacular shift from 85% odds in favor of Clinton (NYT) to 95% in favor of Trump in little more than 2 hours, once real returns started coming in Tuesday night.

In addition to the immense consternation Trump’s victory has caused, it has also produced some interesting introspection and self-criticism on the part of at least some journalists. Below is a preliminary collection of the articles that engage in this auto-critique. I welcome other suggestions, and annotations/comments on the articles themselves. Eventually, I’d like to compare the media failure with reporting the US Elections to their failure with reporting the Middle East conflict: the same “liberal” advocacy, narrative-driven reporting that ignored realities on the ground.

Brian Beutly, “Shame on Us, the American Press,” The New Republic, November 8, 2016.

Michael Cieply, “Stunned By Trump, The New York Times Finds Time For Some Soul-Searching,” Deadline Hollywood, November 10, 2016. Cieply worked for the NYT and has interesting things about the culture at the Times:

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

Will Rahn, “Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press,” CBS News, November 10, 2016.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more importantly, we also missed the story, after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.

Tiffany Gabbay, “A Rebuke to the Media From Joe Scarborough,” Truth Revolt, November 11, 2016

When Mark Halperin suggested that there was a pathway for Donald Trump as president of the United States, I won’t name names because so many of them are my friends and there’s no need to name names now because the time for recrimination is over. But reporters at some of the best newspapers in the world, anchors at some of the best networks in the world, mocked and ridiculed — Mark Halperin, I want you to think about this. They mocked and ridiculed him not for saying that Donald Trump is going to be elected president of the United States. They mocked and ridiculed him for saying there was a slight chance that Donald Trump could be elected president of the United States.

Michael Goodman, “New York Times: We Blew it on Trump,”  NY Daily News, November 11, 2016

Had the paper actually been fair to both candidates, it wouldn’t need to rededicate itself to honest reporting. And it wouldn’t have been totally blindsided by Trump’s victory.

Instead, because it demonized Trump from start to finish, it failed to realize he was onto something. And because the paper decided that Trump’s supporters were a rabble of racist rednecks and homophobes, it didn’t have a clue about what was happening in the lives of the Americans who elected the new president…

As media columnist Jim Rutenberg put it in August, most Times reporters saw Trump “as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate” and thus couldn’t be even-handed.

That wasn’t one reporter talking — it was policy. The standards, developed over decades to force reporters and editors to be fair and to build public trust, were effectively eliminated as too restrictive for the Trump phenomenon.

The man responsible for that rash decision, top editor Dean Baquet, later said the Rutenberg piece “nailed” his thinking, and went on to insist that Trump “challenged our language” and that, “He will have changed journalism.”

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Dean Baquet, “To Our Readers, From the Publisher and Executive Editor,” NYT, November 13, 2016

Jim Rutenberg, “News Outlets Wonder Where the Predictions Went Wrong,” November 13, 2016

How the Mainstream Media Missed Trump’s Momentum, PBS, November 13, 2016

Some earlier reflections when Trump won the nomination:

Nate Cohen, “What I got wrong about Donald Trump,” New York Times, May 4, 2016

Sean Trende, “The Value of Data Journalism,” May 12, 2016

Nate Silver, “How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump,” Fivethirtyeight, May 18, 2016.

 

Slogan on the Wall Behind Al Durahs

One of the slogans of the Second Intifada (aka “Al Aqsa intifada,” aka Oslo Jihad) is “What was taken by force must be retaken by force.” It’s a classic motto of zero-sum honor-shame cultures in which a blackened face must be washed in blood, and in which negotiations (like Oslo) are evidence of cowardice and humiliating to those who follow the honor code.

We find this slogan written on the wall behind Muhammad al Durah and his father.

Segment 5 of 7 Raw Al Durah Footage: Muhammad Down and his Father Swaying from Al Durah Project on Vimeo.

Best view at 11 seconds.

Here’s a still with the beginning clear on the left.

take5

 

Also on a mural of Al Durah:

al-durah-mural

Few slogans better illustrate why the Oslo “Peace Process” was doomed from the start because the Israelis and Americans did not pay attention to the pervasive signs that for the Palestinians, Arafat in particular, this was about honor and not “the peace of the brave.”

Spencer Pack to ConnColl Faculty on Harassing Jewish Faculty

Spencer Pack, who invited me to speak at ConnColl about the Pessin Case, has written to the faculty about their President, Katherine Bergeron’s response to claims of harassment of Jewish members of the community. He has sent me the note and given me permission to post it.

Reflections on the new Connecticut College Tradition of Harassing Jewish Members of the Community

For the third semester in a row now, Jewish members of the Connecticut College community have been harassed by other members of the community. On February 4, 2016, I wrote on this listserv that “in my opinion, this harassment of Jews on campus in the name of fighting for social justice should end, immediately”.  Partly in response to this posting, President Katherine Bergeron wrote in a March 28, 2016 email to the members of the Connecticut College Community that she had “been troubled to receive a number of emails and calls from alumni and parents about recent allegations of anti-Semitism on our campus”.  She then baldly assured us that she found “the charges entirely unfounded…”.

I find this response pathetic.

Either I was completely clued out and totally ignorant of what was happening on campus; or President Bergeron was. Unfortunately, the events of the past semester help demonstrate who was correct on this issue.

In my opinion, the posting of the mock eviction notices throughout the dorms at the end of the last semester by the “Connecticut Students in Solidarity with Palestine” is clearly a continuation of the new Connecticut College tradition begun Spring 2015, of harassing Jewish professors and students in the name of fighting for social justice. Containing lies and half-truths at best, these posters were not meant for discussion or debate.  They were not put up in public venues such as the student union, the library, or academic buildings. No; they were posted only in the dorms, and at the very end of the semester when students were preparing for their final exams. Thus, the goal was not reasoned discussion or education. Rather, for the second semester in a row, posters in support of the BDS movement were meant to distract Jewish students from their studies; from preparing for their final exams; to harass Jewish students.

Subsequently, someone had the excellent sense to file a bias complaint over these scores of posters put up throughout the dorms on campus – and that person is to be applauded. This bias complaint compelled the administration to follow due process and carefully investigate whether this was indeed a bias incident, as held by the college’s criteria for bias. Thereupon, some of our student activists were so incensed with this mere filing of a bias complaint, and the subsequent necessity for the administration to follow due process and investigate said complaint –  that they felt compelled to occupy offices in Fanning in protest.   Moreover, in this inanity, the occupation of first David Canton’s, and then President Bergeron’s office, these “student activists” had the support and encouragement of some of our colleagues.

Introduction to Dexter Van Zile’s Submitted Under Protest

Dexter Van Zile’s book, Submitted Under Protest: Essays Written in Defense of Western Freedom has just been published. Reviewed by Ardie Geldman at The New English Review.

I wrote an Preface, which I post here:

Preface

Richard Landes, Medieval Historian, Critic of 21st Century News Media

In years to come, when historians begin to sort out the massive moral and cognitive disorientation of the progressive left in the first decade of the 21st century, they will want to read these pages carefully. The year 2000, best known for disappointing believers in the Y2K scare, also proved a dramatic turning point for global Jihad. In the Fall of the year 2000, the balances shifted dramatically in the war between global Jihad and the West. Quite suddenly, the vastly weaker side militarily, launched a cognitive war campaign on multiple fronts, aimed at paralyzing the West’s defenses and inciting true believers to take up Jihad. Jihadis gained the upper hand without most in the West even noticing. For some pessimists who did pay attention, while Europe slept, the unthinkable became the inevitable – a Muslim Europe.

In Europe more than any other democratic zone, a civil-society Maginot Line collapsed: widespread hostility to Jews, fueled among Muslims by paranoid apocalyptic preachers, and among everyone by lethal journalists reporting what amounted to blood libels against the Jews as “news”, led to increasingly violent public demonstrations, to schools overrun with anti-Semitic bullies, to unrestrained hatred of sovereign Jews. Jihadis participated energetically in all aspects of the attack, especially at the protests where, shouting “Death to Jews,” they fomented riots targeting initially Jews, but really, all infidels. The situation today, unimaginable two decades ago, has Europe, with an already restive and violently anti-Jewish/anti-infidel Muslim population, now further hit by waves of aggressive refugees from a radically dysfunctional Muslim world in the throes of merciless religious wars they blame on the West and bring with them to the West.

One of the key elements in the stunning reversal of fortunes in favor of Jihadis fighting the West was their ability to find allies in the Western pubic sphere, who shared their narrative of world redemption through the elimination of Israel, “our global misfortune.” FOR WORLD PEACE ISRAEL MUST BE DESTROYED!

For-World-Peace-Israel-Must-Be-Destroyed

Sharing this Zionist enemy brought progressives and Jihadis together in a catastrophic “anti-imperialist” alliance sanctioned by no less than the pacifist (!) Judith Butler, foremost proponent of post-modern critical theory, who in 2006, welcomed Hamas and Hizbullah as members of the “global progressive left” on the basis of their “anti-imperialism.”

Not only did this astonishing statement ignore the moral chasm that separates progressives from Jihadis on virtually every value Butler says she holds dear, but it is based on a fundamental error of reasoning. Espousing anti-American imperialism hardly makes one anti-imperialist. On the contrary, it can, and in the case of Jihadis, does arise from imperialist rivalry. Thus did Judith Butler, and more broadly, the PoMo-PoCo progressive “Left,” take the most regressive religious imperialism on the planet into the bosom of their global movement because of a shared hatred of US and Israel.

Suicide Bombing, Western Disorientations and (Partial) Realizations

JP. O’Mally writes a review in the Times of Israel of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East:

LONDON — In the closing sentence of  Patrick Cockburn gives a chilling warning to his readers.

“The demons released by this age of chaos and war in the Middle East have become an unstoppable force.”

Amidst the larger analysis, Cockburn identifies suicide terror as a key factor in making Jihadi warfare unstoppable.

While the Middle East has been far from stable in the 100 years since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Cockburn argues that the territory has now entered into an unprecedented phase: civil wars across the region where Sunni fundamentalist jihadis play a leading role.

“What people often miss about [Sunni] jihadism is that if you have a suicide bomber it allows you to organize with great military precision a very powerful weapon,” says Cockburn. “That’s one of the reasons why IS (Islamic State) dominate the opposition in Syria and Iraq — because they are all lead by suicide bombers. They are fighting people who have air power and sophisticated equipment. But suicide bombing is the lethal precision that allows them to break through.

Cockburn, like many who now acknowledge the danger to the West of this apocalyptic weapon, lays much of the responsibility at the feet of the West, led by Bush, for the impact of their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for our misunderstanding and wrong-headed meddling in situations we don’t understand, interventions that worsened matters in the Arab world so badly, that by the “Arab Spring,” the blow to the political system that should have brought on democracy, instead led to the collapse of many, if not all Arab political structures in the face of this ferocious Jihad.

Review of James Palmer, Apocalyptic in the Early Middle Ages

 

The Medieval Review 16.10.19

Palmer, James T. The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. pp. 274. $29.99 (hardback). ISBN: 978-1-107-44909-1 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Richard Landes

CIC, Bar Ilan University

[email protected]

I once asked a great medievalist, who had written on Raoul Glaber and the heresies and paradigmatic cognitive shifts that emerged suddenly in the early new century/millennium, why he never looked at the issue of the apocalyptic year 1000. “You know, as a graduate student I wanted to, but my advisor told me, don’t open that can of worms.” He might better have said, that hornet’s nest, because if one pokes around in there, one meets, as Michelet did from Ferdinand Lot, and I did from Sylvain Gouguenheim and Dominique Barthélemy, with vigorous, indignant, hard-hitting denial, roundly applauded by colleagues. [1]

Apparently, it violates some hard-wired medievalist conviction to suggest that the denizens of an entire generation of Western culture acted as if they were participants in the End-Time drama–whether they believed that this apocalyptic transformation would lead to the millennial kingdom on earth, or the End of the world entirely. No, it seems, leaders of the past (clerical and secular) kept their sangfroid in the face of (what to those of future, hindsight-endowed generations appeared to be) ludicrous prophecy. Augustine, historians have assured us, was the “true conscience of Christianity,” who guided his generation through “the dangerous thinking” at the time of the fall of Rome, and established the dominant orthodoxy in which neither apocalyptic beliefs nor millennial ones had a significant place. Up until a generation ago, most historians thought there was no millennialism between Augustine and Joachim of Fiore, and up until two generations ago, most medievalists thought Joachim was an insignificant thinker who would harm the reputation of any scholar foolish enough to consecrate her time to his study.

So when James Palmer set out to write a book on The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages, which would cover the period from the fall of Rome up to Y1K as he calls it, he was, at the very least, opening several cans of worms, in particular the two other “millennial” dates that preceded 1000 in Christian traditions of dating the apocalyptic advent of the messianic kingdom of the saints–das tausandjähriger Reich–to the end of the sixth millennium since creation. According to chronologies that variously calculated the number of years from creation, the year 6000 came twice within this book’s purview, in 500 (Y6K I), and in 801(Y6K II). While a few historians have made much of this tradition of millennial calculation, [2] no medievalist has yet to give a book-length treatment to the range of these dates, and no historian of either the “Fall” of Rome or the Carolingian imperial experiment has integrated this into their analyses.

Palmer does his best to strengthen the anti-apocalyptic (Augustinian) reading of history. For him the changes in calculation of the age of the world derive not from a desire to avoid facing an apocalyptic year 6000, but rather from “scholarly concerns.”

But…the roots of changes in chronological systems lay not in an aversion or attachment to their apocalyptic implications, but rather in debates about computistical orthodoxy… The results, I will argue, muddied the water for understanding the passing of the world’s 6,000th year considerably, which makes it harder to determine if the silence of the sources is quite as deliberate as it might at first sight seem [italics mine]. (141)

Unpacked, this question mal posée–as if the scholarly drive and apocalyptic agenda were mutually exclusive [3] –sufficiently muddies the waters so that if historians wish to continue writing the biographies of men like Theodosius and Clovis, or Charlemagne and Alcuin, or Otto III, Aethelred, and Robert, with no reference to the possibility that they lived in an apocalyptic generation, they can do so comfortably.

Ironically, but consistently, experts in computus and chronology tend to promote the most non-apocalyptic/a-millennial versions of their subject. [4] Hence if one might consider Palmer’s knowledge of both chronology and computus as one of his great strengths, his understanding of apocalyptic dynamics, including their relationship to chronological discussions, constitutes one of his weaknesses. He discusses Augustinian eschatology as a regnant norm: commentaries on Revelation produced a perception of eschatology in which “it did not matter if the end was imminent or not.” The expanded role of this de-apocalypticized spirituality (apocalypse here meaning sense of imminence), produced a “politicized apocalyptic discourse in the direction of reform and combatting heresy.” (105)

Alternatively, Palmer emphasizes the predominance of a sense of “‘psychological imminence’ rather than ‘chronological imminence'” [italics mine], that favors penitential attitudes, and institutionally acceptable forms of apocalyptic reform. He ends up with so spiritualized a notion of apocalyptic, however, that he can lump personal sense of Judgment together with collective forms. “The difference,” he notes, “between what would happen to an individual if they [sic] died the very next day, and what would happen to them if the world ended in a non-millenarian scenario, is quite minimal: they would be judged.” (14-15)

On this abstract and solipsistic plane, perhaps there is no difference; but the magic of apocalyptic moments is the collective anticipation of simultaneous public Judgment for all mankind–the quick and the dead! The final reckoning takes place “before the eyes of all living creatures.” Apocalyptic moments, in this context, differ drastically from individual, solitary experiences of imminent Judgment. Indeed, far more unites apocalyptic believers whether they are part of a “purely” millennial movement (messianic era to begin now), or “purely” eschatological one (Last Judgment at End of the World). All those swept up in apocalyptic time, share the sense that history hangs on the hinge of salvation, and “we” are the generation chosen to live at that cosmic culmination and turning point.

Lethal, Own-Goal Journalism creates Caliphater BDS: Definitions

The following is a set of definitions I will be using in a talk I’m giving on Sunday. They are, I think, critical terms in understanding what has happened in the 21st century, and why we’re losing a war of the minds with triumphalist imperialist zealots. I will post the talk after I deliver it.

Definitions for Talk (* = my terms)

Journalism

Lethal Narrative (Nidra Poller): a story designed to create hatred and a desire for revenge, like accusing someone of deliberately harming innocents. Most lethal narratives are false.

War Propaganda: False lethal narratives stand at the center of war propaganda produced by a belligerent force about their targeted enemy. A form of hate speech.

Lethal Journalism (Yossi Kuperwasser): The war correspondent’s first task is to filter out malevolent war propaganda, even on his own side. Lethal journalists, however, pass on lethal narratives of one side as news; they act as propagandists in someone else’s war.

Patriotic (tribal) war journalism: reporting “our” side’s propaganda as news. Widespread practice in early national journalism, today a major ethical challenge.

Own-goal War Journalism*: reporting your own side’s enemy’s war propaganda as news. Sinon, Laocoön and the Trojan Horse; Abu Rahmah, Enderlin and al Durah.

Religion

Triumphalism: dominion proves truth of one’s religion; to be right, “our” religion must rule. “I’m right cause I’m on top.” One God (ours), one king. Hierarchical.

Supersessionism: passive aggressive monotheist triumphalism; the conviction that one’s own value system completely replaces – erases and replaces – previous ones. Christianity supersedes Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, secular progressive left, all monotheisms… but especially Judaism.

Demotic religiosity*: dignity of manual labor, egalitarian relations of autonomous moral agents; positive-sum chosenness. No king but God.

Own Goal FBI Cogwar: Post from Doyle Quiggle

I’m delighted to publish here the thoughts and arguments of Doyle Quiggle, PhD., whose writing speaks for itself. This is a masterful combination of cogwar and honor-shame analysis that lays out the way in which the FBI unknowingly recruits for ISIS. But then, should not the FBI (just like all the other own-goalers like journalists, philanthropists, politicians, academics) become aware of this? 

FBI Recruiting for ISIS?

Hallal-Haram, Disgust, and Triggering Honor-Shame Emotions

Three months after Omar Mateen massacred fifty patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando, the FBI have still not revised that part of their counter-terrorism methodology wherein their low-level agents troll the internet looking for potential ISIS recruits.

We know now that Mateen chose a gay nightclub specifically because he wanted to cleanse his sullied Islamic identity from his own experiments with homosexuality. Mateen’s massacre was motivated in large part by self-revulsion. But what and who provoked this lethal self-revulsion in him?  We know that both his wife and his Mullah made him feel violently disgusted by his prior bodily commingling with Kuffir. We know that his coreligionists — inspired by and in contact with ISIS — encouraged him to cleanse himself of the haram contaminants of homosexuality by shedding the blood of gay Kuffir.

Now, we are also beginning to understand exactly what role the FBI played in exacerbating Mateen’s sense of shame about having allowed his hallal Islamic identity to be sullied with the body fluids of gay Kuffir. We know that the FBI troll the internet for ISIS sympathizers. Working under tremendous pressure from higher echelons in the Justice Department to zipcuff homeland terrorists, lower level FBI aggressively seek out contact with Muslims in social media who fit the profile of a potential extremist, which is basically any Muslim male under the age of 40.

These FBI agents then engage their target as if they themselves are ISIS recruiters. They deliberately push psychological buttons that pretty much all Muslims possess by virtue of being Muslims, like the fear of becoming contaminated in their Islamic identity by too-close contact with the haram realm of Kuffir. In some operations, the FBI have even helped these targets acquire weapons and explosive material. Harkening back to the era of Al Capone, the FBI call these operations “stings.” Civil rights lawyers call them “entrapment.” No matter what you call the FBI operation that involved Mateen, it did NOT prevent fifty US citizens from being murdered in cold blood by an American-born Muslim.  I call that a major FBI goatope, a colossal failure to serve and protect US citizens. 

When the FBI troll social media looking for extremist recruits, they are playing a potentially deadly game, especially when they do not fully understand how Muslims have been primed by the symbolism of their religion to respond to honor, shame, and disgust triggers. Seeking out the extremist tendencies of their target, the FBI deliberately push the shame and disgust buttons of their Muslim targets. Then they evaluate the target’s response to this “extremist” language. What the FBI do not understand is that ALL Muslims adhere to varying degrees to an identity forming narrative that tells adherents what it is “safe” to eat, to wear, to do, and which thoughts are safe to think and which identities are safe to develop. This identity-forming narrative his hallal/haram.

Excerpts from 9-11 Chapter of “They’re so smart…”

The following is an excerpt from a work in progress, tentatively entitled They’re So Smart Cause We’re So Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. Each chapter begins with a list of Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century that appear in therein. The footnotes are not complete. In particular, Clemens Heni, Schadenfreude: Islamforschung und Antisemitismus in Deutschland nach 9/11. The chapter begins with a discussion of the UN Durban conference “against racism” at which Anti-Americanism and Anti-Zionism reached an hysterical peak. I have yet to write that, so I go straight to the discussion of two key responses to 9-11.

Part II, Chapter 4:

9-11:

Fantasies of Peace, Gorging on Schadenfreude

Stupidities featured in this chapter:

Islam is peace,” President George Bush Sept. 17, 2001

They did it [9-11], we wanted it.” Jean Baudrillard Nov. 2, 2001

“If we can prevent human suffering and don’t, is that not terrorism?” (Derrida on 9-11)

True courage is fighting the strongest, and America is the strongest.” French journalist, February 2003

‘As far as I am concerned, Islam and terrorists are two words that do not go together.’ (British Deputy Assistant Minister of Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick, 7-7-2005)

“Hezbollah has never been a terrorist organization. I am here, I am here, to glorify the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, and I am here to glorify the resistance leader, Hassan Nasrallah.” George Galloway, London “anti-war Rally,” 2005[1]

“Hezbullah and Hamas are members of the global progressive leftallies in the anti-imperialist struggle.” (Judith Butler, UCBerkeley, Fall 2006, 2010).

“We are Hamas!” London “anti-war” demonstration, 2009

“ISIS is neither a state, nor Islamic” (Obama,

One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” (Boston Globe)

“Assailants… Attackers… Bombers… Captors… Commandos… Activists…” Various terms other than “terrorist” used to describe the Jihadi attack on a school in Beslan, September 1, 2004

Our editorial policy is that we don’t use emotive words when labeling someone.” (David Schlesinger, Reuters Global Managing Editor, September 2004)

“My goal is to protect our reporters and protect our editorial integrity,” (David Schlesinger, Reuters Global Managing Editor, September 2004)

Response of POTUS George Bush to 9-11: Islamic Center Washington DC

Of all the extensive archive of responses to 9-11 that deserve inclusion on the list of astoundingly stupid statements of the 21st century, the first two above take pride of place. Let’s begin with the first, stated by the POTUS, George Bush, less than a week after the event, at the Islamic Center in DC. Here is the transcript of his remarks:

Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.

It would be harder to fit more folly into so confined a body of text; indeed, when properly understood, it constitutes a combination of systematic disinformation for infidels and a summons to Jihad for Muslims, all delivered by the leader of the most powerful nation in Dar al Harb, just after a magnificent Jihadi assault on his nation. Given both the content and the wooden delivery, one suspects that this was not written by either George Bush or his regular speech writers, but by a Muslim triumphalist.[6]

Who Shocks Us? LCE’s reaction to Muslim terror attacks

Pedro Zuquette, a former c0-blogger here at Augean Stables and one of the early contributors to Second Draft, just sent me this with the comment: Cognitive dissonance.

brussels cognitive dissonance

 

Having just had a conversation last night with a dear French friend who cringed at the “xenophobic” response to the latest round of Jihadi terror in Europe, I can appreciate the power of that dissonance:

Liberal Cognitive Egocentrists, unable to imagine an enemy who defies all their paradigm’s expectations, when faced with disconfirming evidence, shift rapidly to blaming their own “right-wing” for making things worse. It’s the reason that the “clash of civilizations” has been internalized between right and left, with the Jihadis getting off the hook, while the real problem going undiagnosed.

Pessin, Ironic Prophet: The Liberal Emperor’s New Clothes of Humanitarian Racism

This article appeared in today’s Algemeiner.

Pessin, Ironic Prophet: The Liberal Emperor’s New Clothes of Humanitarian Racism

[[In the spring of 2015, Connecticut College erupted into a bizarre frenzy of condemnation over philosophy professor Andrew Pessin’s Facebook post from and about the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, falsely (but vehemently) accusing him of racism, hate speech, dehumanization, and celebrating and inciting violence. For those unfamiliar with the Pessin Affair, see here, here, and here.]

In his now notorious Facebook post on Gaza’s rabid pit bull – the very one that caused the scandal – Andrew Pessin described the situation as one in which a rabid pit bull goes for the jugular every chance it gets, meaning that Hamas, obsessed at is it with killing Israelis, will take advantage of any occasion to do so, even if it means stepping on their own people to get at “al Yahood” (the Jews).

jihadi goliath

Cartoon by Ellen Horowitz

In the current context it means that, now that the barrier (aka: “Apartheid Wall”) makes suicide terror too difficult, Hamas fires rockets continuously and episodically at Israeli civilians. And proud of it.

Most people, having been given the “racist alert” were so shocked at the possible description of the Palestinian people as rabid pit bulls, didn’t read any more than this. But Pessin’s subsequent comments constitute the most interesting part of the post. It describes the people who call on Israel to let the rabid pit bull out of its cage (e.g., end the blockade).

He then describes two kinds of people who support that “humanitarian” discourse.

You may call for this release because you are yourself a rabid pit bull protesting your co-specimen’s detention, or because you are a well-meaning liberal hearted animal rights person. But you are demanding the same thing.

This describes perfectly and prophetically, the combination of forces that, seven months later, attacked this post and drove its composer from the “excellently inclusive” campus that ConnColl told everyone they had created and were defending by excluding Pessin. It can be understood in terms of the Emperor’s New Clothes, with the small but significant difference deriving from the fact that it’s not a joke about vanity, but an imperial procession of hatred that promotes the very poison its dupes believe they denounce.

On Anorexic Jews and Virtue Signaling: Hasia Diner and Marjorie Feld, “Historians”

Somewhat predictably, Ha-aretz has published a piece by two American Jewish scholars on why they have “left Zionism behind.” Although they claim to be historians (and in their chosen fields they may be), their argument is much more based on myths – Palestinian myths – which they have allowed to colonize their minds, and which they regurgitate without any critical thinking at all.

Apparently being critical of one’s own people is enough to quality as “critical”, even when the assertions they make have virtually no grounding in any historical reality. On the contrary, what we seem to have is a blanket, counter-empirical application of a Post-Colonial paradigm and the “virtue signalling” that lets everyone know what good, “Righteous Jews,” they are, Jews who show their virtue by taking sides against their own people.

Part of what’s so shocking about their piece, which has already solicited five indignant responses, here, herehere, here, and here, is their open revulsion at Zionism and any Jew who supports Israel. Here we find a strong echo of what Edward Alexander calls “anorexic Jews” – Jews so ashamed of their body (politic), namely Israel, that they turn against their own corporeal self.

Fisking below.

We’re American Jewish Historians. This Is Why We’ve Left Zionism Behind

Our connections to Israel flourished, faltered and finally ended even though we grew up, live and work in the heart of the American Jewish community.

Hasia Diner and Marjorie N. Feld Aug 01, 2016 11:46 AM

Hasia Diner: The Israel I once loved was a naïve delusion

When I was asked to run as a delegate on the progressive Hatikva platform to the 2010 World Zionist Congress, I encountered my personal rubicon, the line I could not cross. I was required to sign the “Jerusalem Program.” This statement of principles asked me to affirm that I believed in “the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem as capital” for the Jewish people. It encouraged “Aliyah to Israel,” that is, the classic negation of the diaspora and as such the ending of Jewish life outside a homeland in Israel.

That’s impressive, and impressively insecure. It’s not like it demanded Aliyah, just encouraged it. But somehow even that is too much (how dramatic is “my own personal rubicon [sic]”?). The idea that Israel and moving there, represents somehow a negation of the diaspora is an astonishing leap of logic. It sounds a lot like more like Diner’s notion of Diaspora (see below) is a negation of Israel. This is Judith Butler talk, nicely characterized by Edward Alexander as illustrative of

…Orwell’s view that some ideas—like the virtue of Jewish powerlessness—are so stupid that only intellectuals can believe them.

QED.

Nidra Poller’s Comment on Economist al-Durah Cartoon

economist's al durah
Nidra Poller’s comments:
Presuming that Israel is blamed for the failure to conclude a peace treaty based on the everyone-knows-two-state-solution, the illustration suggests that no solution can erase the sin of “killing” Mohamed al Dura.
The father is trying to explain to his son that an Arab leader makes peace with Israel over the boy’s dead body.
 The images of the father and son are, curiously, Westernized. It took me a while to realize they were meant to be Jamal and Mohamed Al Dura. Then I recognized the wall. The halo of bullet holes.
But this “reconstructed” wall has something like three times more bullet holes than the original video. As if the blood libel has increased in fury over the past 16 years.
Conclusion: The Economist, a Western publication, defends a primitive, tribal notion of relations between groups and nations: unforgiving, unforgivable revenge.
But the illustrator did not think to reproduce the declaration scrawled in red over the heads of the al Duras in the original version: “What is taken by violence can only be taken back by violence.”
[RL: That is also the slogan behind of Arafat’s “No” to a negotiated settlement at Camp David 2000, and his launching of the Oslo Jihad in late 2000.]

Economist Al Durah Cartoon Self-Destructs

The Economist ran the following political cartoon to illustrate an article about how Palestinians feel about losing the world’s attention.

economist's al durah

Tom Gross caught it, Nidra Poller confirmed it emphatically: the two foreground figures are Muhammad al Durah and his father, Jamal. The wall behind them is the famous wall behind the two, “riddled” with bullets, allegedly shot “like rain” and “in cold blood” by the IDF.

The piece is supposed to accompany the article, which combines a sympathetic story of Palestinian distress at Realpolitik alliances such as Sissi and Bibi,

The shift has left the Palestinians, whose fate once topped the Arab agenda, feeling abandoned.

with an implied threat that, if we don’t pay attention to the plight of the Palestinians, they just might get violent.

What really stirs Arab emotions are scenes of Israelis killing Palestinians. Violence over the past year has left dozens of Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Most Palestinians, according to polls, back a return to an armed intifada (uprising). With the Arab world focused elsewhere, America in the throes of a presidential race and progress towards a two-state solution halted, they may see no other way to capture the world’s attention.

The article has no author, but appears not to be an editorial (although it would certainly fit nicely in the opinion section, written jointly by the Jerusalem and Cairo correspondents). Presumably, this kind of writing seems both professional and informative to the editorial team who published it. But when we read the cartoon against the grain, we get a remarkable comment on the inveterate lethal journalism that dominates European reporting on the Middle East.

On Abuse, Donkeys, Mass Murder, and Terrorism

In a recent article (HT: CRP), Rebecca Traister argued that rather than focus on Islam or Jihad

are truly looking to stem terrorism and mass violence of the sort that happened in Nice, they might do better to look to a different kind of litmus test: domestic violence and grievances against women.

The basic argument runs: all these mass murderers, Muslims and not, share a common pattern of abusing women, and in that matrix one will find the motivations for their deeds, and possibly the solutions for stopping them. The take-home message:

But that doesn’t make any religion — whether it’s Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s Islam or Robert Lewis Dear’s evangelical Christianity — the defining factor in mass shootings. Perhaps these disturbed men — and 98 percent of mass killers are men — are drawn to the patriarchal traditions upheld by some religions to make sense of or justify their anger and resentment toward women. But we might do better to examine the patterns of violence toward women themselves.

On one level, this argument is a transparent (indeed signaled at the beginning as an) attempt to take the attention away from Islam and hence foil Islamophobic rantings of right-wingers like Gingrich. On another, it’s a retooling of a familiar politically correct “feminist” argument that insists that honor-killings are merely part of a continuum with other domestic violence in which we Westerners, “we too,” are ‘just as” guilty as the cultures (largely Muslim) that practice honor-killings. Not surprisingly, some scholars think this is apologetics, and see a particular, indeed unique pattern of cultural depravity at work. How appallingly judgmental of them.

Rather than dismiss these remarks, however, I’d like to turn them from the piecemeal of individuals and statistics, and look at cultural issues. Let’s grant, for the moment, Traister’s argument that men who abuse women are more likely to a) be steeped in a testosteronic, alpha male mindset, b) find ISIS an attractive option because of its savage patriarchal attitudes, and c) in some (hopefully rare cases) engage in more rampant violence like mass murder.

Let’s then add to the mix, two further issues:

  • the fact that while women are a special object of abuse and violence, both for reasons of sexuality and jealousy, women are the object of male abuse for the same reason that many others are: they’re physically weaker. Thus, in this discussion, let’s widen the range of abused from women to weaker people, including children and animals.
  • the high correlation between people who abuse and people who have been abused, if you will, the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence. If this is true, then despite the fact that all cultures have people caught in this cycle, the nature of the culture – whether it approves or discourages this behavior – plays a significant role in both the frequency of the phenomenon, and its overall influence on life within that given culture.

It was with these thoughts about Traister’s article that I saw the following video of two Israeli policemen confiscating the terribly abused, pregnant donkey of an 11-year old Palestinian boy.

Honor Killings vs. Shame Murders: a cultural meditation

In my understanding of honor-shame culture, especially of the zero-sum kind, it matters far less what you did wrong, than what people think you did wrong. Hence, if you’re innocent and others (your honor group) think you guilty, you feel you are bad. If you’re guilty and others think you’re innocent, you’re fine.

Integrity works the opposite way: if you’re guilty and no one knows it, you may feel relieved, but you feel bad about yourself. If you’re innocent and others think you’re guilty, you may feel bad, but not that you’re bad.

Hamas Talking Points, Summer 2014

I am preparing a study of the degree to which the news media complies with Palestinian or Israeli desires in reporting on events in the land from the Jordan river to the sea.

The first step is to establish the talking points, the descriptions of events, the positions each side want the media to report. What follows here are:

Hamas talking points during “Operation Protective Edge, 2014”

Sources:

Palestinian spokespeople’s claims to journalists during the conflict.

Captured document: Hamas Minister of the Interior’s Directions to Gazan “social media” activists.

  • All Gazan casualties are civilians.
  • All Gazan casualties were caused by Israel.
  • This is a humanitarian crisis.
  • Israel started the hostilities.
  • Palestinian rocketing of Israel is an act of resistance to occupation and blockade.
  • Palestinians do not fire rockets from hospitals, schools, or hotels.
  • Palestinian rockets are harmless, don’t have explosives.
  • Palestinians target military, not civilians
  • Occupation is the cause of all the hostilities.
  • Palestinians do not intimidate journalists.
  • Gaza is an open-air prison.
  • Israel targets civilians and children, massacres.
  • Gaza is the world’s most densely populated area.
  • Civilians are helpless, have nowhere to go.
  • IDF shelling is indiscriminate.
  • Schools are safe havens that Israel targets.
  • Sites hit by IDF have no combatants, just civilians
  • Israel rejects ceasefires
  • Israel breaks ceasefires (Eid al Fitr, 28 July 2014)
  • Palestinians have no hope, must resort to attacking Israel any way possible
  • Israel commits war crimes, violates Geneva conventions
  • Knock-on-roof measures are dangerous

Palestinian Media Protocols Compliance Index

So, for example, take the claim that “all casualties are civilians.” No journalist with any pretension to being taken seriously would assert such a claim, so complete compliance is out of the question. But the journalist can comply to a significant extent by:

  • speaking of how “the vast majority of casualties are civilian”(when they’re not, even by Hamas statistics)
  • show mostly shots of civilians injured, not jihadis

In such a case, a journalist would score high in compliance with Hamas media demands, intensified by the statistical evidence that the Hamas claim is not just exaggerated, but verifiably false.

I welcome additions, examples, suggestions.

 

Definitions: Stupidity (Cipolla)… Astounding Stupidity (Landes)

I’m finally writing a book now, whose subtitle is set: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century.

The tentative title is: They’re So Smart Cause We’re So Stupid.

I have, at long last, started to write up this ten-year promise by compiling a list of what I call,

Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century 

#ASSO21

(tentative list to appear at this blog, with requests for other examples from readers).

Up until now, I limited the list to statements that fulfilled two criteria:

  • morally and/or empirically ludicrous
  • people nod in agreement when they hear it

Now, I’d like to add a formal definition to “stupid.” I just came across an essay by an economic historian, Carlo Cipolla on “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.” In it, he gives a formal definition (based on game theory).

Definition of Stupid, Carlo Cipolla (Economic Historian):

A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

In other words people who plays zero-sum games so badly, they unnecessarily create enemies and shoot themselves in the foot… losers.

Definition of Astoundingly Stupid People (ASP): RL:

Astoundingly Stupid People are individuals who play into the hard, zero-sum, strategy of a declared enemy… repeatedly, with no apparent inkling of what they’re doing.

In other words, ASP are people who play zero-sum games by own-goal strategies, so badly, they strengthen their worst enemies and shoot themselves in the head… suiciders.

Often ASP are convinced they are beyond all zero-sum games, and can bring everyone else along with them.

I welcome any examples readers would like to propose.

Arab Self Criticism: Key to Modern Peace and Prosperity

I often complain about the lack of Arab self-criticism which I associate closely with honor-shame cultures and the importance of “saving face,” and eagerly seek out evidence that I’m wrong.
Recently, a remarkable piece appeared at an Arab democratic site, Fikra, by Jordanian journalist Hiam Nawas entitled, Holding Arab Culture Accountable.” It’s certainly hits a whole range of issues on the head, but being only an opinion essay, it is necessarily short on both substance and implications. I reproduce it here below with comments.
I hope Hiam will respond.
Fikra Forum July 8, 2016 (Also available in العربي)
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, recently claimed that the United States “can’t fix” the Middle East region. Clapper is right on the money. The region’s fundamental problems are not political but rather cultural, therefore the United States and its military might is unable to fix them.
Culture matters because it is the foundation for the behavior and organization of any society.
One of David Landes‘ favorite expressions: “culture counts.”
DSL culture counts
DSL photo
Unfortunately for everyone but the PoMoPoCos and the Jihadis, that fell afoul of politically correct.
Overall, however, by his standard, what Nawas describes below, is not so much a cultural issue as an attitudinal one. Honor-shame analysis helps understand how such an attitude prevails right now over a culture, to understand how alpha males – the strong horses, exploit Arab and Muslim loyalties to trap the other members of their tribe into supporting their remarkably belligerent and dysfunctional attitude.
The current chaos in the Middle East has many roots, but some of the conflict’s deepest draw on an Arab culture and identity that lacks internal and external empathy, favors authoritarianism over autonomy, and opts for zero-sum solutions. Unless Arabs take a self-critical look at their values, violence in the Middle East will continue.
Note how much this looks like the kind of writing that Edward Said banished with contempt from the legitimate discussion: the honor-shame reading of Arab culture.