Category Archives: Auto-stupefaction

Pallywood: The Damage of Media Malfeasance

Melissa Jane Kronfled of the WJC interviewed me today on Pallywood and its implications. She’s an excellent interviewer, and I stayed largely coherent despite my characteristic roundabout answers.

Holocaust Guilt vs. Holocaust Shame: On the Crisis of Western Civilization


Holocaust Guilt vs. Holocaust Shame:

On the Crisis of Western Civilization

This is a longer version of what appeared in the Tablet.

Richard Landes, Jerusalem

@richard_landes
[email protected]

[My thanks to Rabbi Marc Kujawsky who first helped me understand the difference.]

When I first heard about Catherine Nay – a prominent, mainstream, French journalist – stating on her Europe 1 news program that “with its symbolic charge of this picture, this death annuls, erases the picture of the little Jewish boy, hands up in front of the SS, in the Warsaw Ghetto,” I realized to what an extent Europeans had taken the story of the IDF killing 12-year old Muhammad al Durah in the arms of his father, as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free card“.

Picture from International ANSWER, Quote from Catherine Nay

At the time I marveled – and continue to marvel – at the astounding folly of the statement. How can a brief, blurry, chopped up video of a boy who, at best was caught in a cross fire started by his own people firing behind him, at worst an outright lethal fake, could eliminate – really replace – a picture that symbolizes the systematic murder of over a million children and their families? How morally disoriented can one get? Apparently escaping guilt made some people – too many people – do strange things… like adopt a supersessionist narrative: Israelis, the new Nazis, Palestinians, the new Jews.

But the profound distinction between guilt and shame suggests that the right formula is “get-out-of-holocaust-shame-free card.” (I know, it doesn’t sound as good.) The difference: guilt is an internally generated sense of moral obligation not to repeat past transgressions, especially egregious ones like the unchecked attempt to exterminate of a helpless minority within one’s own society. Shame, on the other hand, is externally generated, driven by the “shaming look” of others (the “honor-group“). When Germans got caught carrying out a genocide, their nation was not only guilty of the deed, but shamed before the world… The operative question for each and every German ever since is: does he or she feel bad for Germans doing it? …or Germans getting caught in defeat? (Many a Nazi and their willing executioners believed that if Germany had won, they’d have gotten away with it.)

Pallywood 2017: The meaning of the Becky Anderson-UNRWA gaffes

Those paying attention to matters of Pallywood, or the faking of news in order to target a given population with lethal narratives, had a double feast yesterday and today. First UNRWA, the UN agency for helping the Palestinian refugees, used a picture of a forlorn Syrian girl, living in ruins caused by the wars of rule and resistance in that part of the Arab political world, to relay a lethal narrative about Israel, all for the benefit of fundraising for the work of UNRWA.

Imagine being cut off from the world – for your whole life. That’s reality for children like Aya. The blockade of Gaza began when she was a baby, the occupation in the West Bank before her parents were born. Now she is eleven, and the blockade goes on.
Aya’s childhood memories are of conflict and hardship, walls she cannot escape, and the fear that the only home she knows, however tiny, could be gone when she returns from school.
This Ramadan, please help support children like Aya who have known nothing but conflict and hardship. Donate here:

Even those unaware of how much UNRWA employees are either Hamas agents or their dhimmis, can appreciate the moral degradation involved here. Appealing dishonestly to people’s pitying concern for Palestinians, by providing a heavy dollop of moral Schadenfreude about Israel, in order to raise money to prolong the victimization of Gazans.

For a German article on this issue, see Stefan Frank’s take.

Caliphate Cogwar, Lethal, Own-Goal Journalism, and BDS

The Place of BDS and the Caliphate Cogwar

BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is part and parcel of a wider cognitive war (cogwar) offensive against both Israel and the West. Cogwar is the main resort of the weak side in an asymmetrical conflict, whose task is to convince the enemy not to use its superior forces to resist attacks from the weaker side. While most asymmetric cogwar conflicts are defensive (chase out the imperialists), the Caliphate cogwar (see below), is an imperialist effort to invade and subject the far more powerful enemy, the modern, democratic West.

BDS pursues two major goals: stigmatizing Israel in the world community, and undermining the workings of a free academy in the West. This two goals strike at both major targets of Caliphate cogwar, Israel and Western democracies. It is based on weaponized false information (Pallywood), and its surprising success in enrolling Western “progressives,” illustrates the degree of disorientation current among Western thought leaders.

How disoriented must one be to look at the ME, where “human rights” don’t even exist in the Muslim-majority world, and blame Israel for the region’s woes because they have failed to provide more protection and human rights to a sworn enemy of both Israel and human rights. Without the disturbing receptivity of liberals and progressives in the West to the absurd portrayal of Israel as a particularly nasty case of human rights violations, BDS would rapidly fade.

This essay is less concerned with understanding BDS – a secondary phenomenon – than understanding from where BDS draws its strength by placing it within the larger context of a cogwar conducted against the West by Muslims who believe that Islam should replace the US/West as global hegemon. It describes the Caliphaters, and the invasive cogwar they wage against the West, and their strategy of using of anti-Zionism, assisted by Western lethal, own-goal journalism, to hit the West in its “soft underbelly.”

Caliphaters: Their Aims, Targets, and Means

It has proven remarkably difficult for the West, Europe in particular, to understand the nature of their most dangerous 21st century enemy: the Caliphaters. Caliphaters are Muslims who believe that this generation will see the revival and spread of the Caliphate to the entire world: Where there was Dar al Harb, (world of war), there shall be Dar al Islam (world of submission). They see globalization as a praeparatio caliphatae, a (largely unconscious) vehicle for the final spread of Islam. For the impatient it’s this generation; for those with more patience, it’s this century (1400-1500 AH/ 1979-2076 CE).

Caliphater is a “lumping” term that includes both “violent extremists” and more “moderate” activists who operate within the parameters of Western democracy. Such believers not only strive for this Islamist victory through violent jihad (Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hizbullah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard), but also through verbal, non-violent, da’wa, or “summons to the faith” (Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jamaat e-Islami). As Yussuf al Qaradawi, one of the most popular Muslim Brotherhood preachers put it:

The US and Europe will be conquered not by Jihad, but by Da’wa.

Thus not all Caliphaters are alike (just like not all democrats are alike), and specialists can enumerate the differences between various groups at will; indeed some insist that the “moderates” and the extremists have little or nothing to do with each other. Identifying Muslims as a Caliphaters by means signifies that they are all the same. But it does identify a critical belief in a common destiny.

And often enough, it’s not really an either-or. Historically, da’wa and jihad go together: first summons, then jihad; with Bin Laden it went the other way: declare war and strike first (Bin Laden, 1996, 2001), then issue a summons (2002). After a jihadi attack, da’wa steps in as the “nice cop.” Among Caliphaters, the use of violence, is more a matter of timing than principle: like the treaty of Hudaybiyya, Arafat’s model for his participation in the “Oslo Peace Process“: pro-peace when weak, pro-war when strong. In any case, wherever they happen to fall along the gamut from non-violent to beserker, Caliphaters all agree that the supreme goal, for which it is an honor to sacrifice one’s life, is the dominion of Islam over the whole earth.

Caliphaters are ferociously dedicated, adaptable, creative, quick learners, and, in the jihadi version, antinomian: “Allah wills it, everything is permitted.” They, like all millennial believers, have enormous appeal, since they call on people to fulfill a cosmic destiny. For caliphaters of all kinds, life, indeed everything they do, is filled with  meaning.

Caliphaters hate Israel above all other infidels. These autonomous Jews have invaded (what was and should be) Dar al Islam, and despite how few in number, they resist all Arab efforts to wipe them out. For Caliphaters, Israel’s blasphemous existence brings shame to their triumphalist Islam, which must dominate in order to be true.

Israel’s a problem for all triumphalist Muslims, whether they think that this is the generation that will spread Islam to the rest of the world (Caliphaters), or just restore Dar al Islam to its former borders (including Spain, the Balkans and India). Caliphaters, however, consider all unsubjected infidels an insult to them, and to their religion. Hence their greater hostility to America than to Europeans with whom Muslims have many and much more serious scores to settle. Since the Caliphate aims to replace the US as the global hegemon, the US, by its very prominence is hated most in the West. Thus, Caliphaters consider the West (US) and Israel as the high priority targets: great and little Satans.

The Strategy of Caliphater Cogwar against the West

Caliphaters undertake a deeply asymmetrical war when they seek to conquer the earth: both culturally and militarily, they are at an immense disadvantage (and the idea that they have numbers on their side suggests that they believe that most of the 1.x million Muslims on the planet secretly side with them). Indeed, the asymmetry is so great that most Westerners, informed of Caliphater goals, either laugh in scorn at so foolish a notion, or view those who persist in pressing the point as “Islamophobes.” As a result, no matter how spectacular their military attacks on infidel civilians might be, at least for the time being, that terror campaign remains a adjunct to the main battlefield, the cogwar.

Caliphaters, planning the far more massive task of invading and subjecting the West, discovered that Westerners had a “soft-underbelly,” a point of easiest invasion: namely, their susceptibility to anti-Zionism. In this Caliphaters could appeal to supersessionist Christians and post-Christians who do not like – indeed deeply fear – autonomous Jews (Israel). By feeding what has proven to be an astonishingly strong Western appetite for stories about Jews behaving badly, Caliphaters could win a triple strategic victory over Western infidel dupes:

  • Get one infidel target (the West) to side with the Caliphaters against another infidel target (Israel).
  • Disorient the duped infidels into so misreading the situation in Israel, that they make policy choices that play into the Caliphaters’ hand.
  • Take over Western activist projects and turn them towards violent opposition to Israel; invade their universities both academically and through student groups, and bully the “human rights” community.

In principle, it seemed like a pretty tall order way back in the late 20th century. Would the West be so stupid, both empirically and strategically? Would pacifist progressives embrace misogynist jihadis?

Palestinian Cogwar against Israel and Lethal Journalism

Alas, the news in the 21st century is not good. This improbable cogwar, with its outrageous expectations of cooperation from targeted victims, has been going spectacularly well for the Caliphaters for 16 years at least. And this sudden turn of the tide in their favor, their first global victory, came with the “Al Aqsa Intifada” (late 2000). At that point, the Western mainstream news media (WMSNM) turned fully against Israel, adopted the Israeli Goliath/Palestinian David frame as their “nut,” and began presenting the lethal narratives of Palestinian war propaganda as news, starting with the al Durah blood libel (2000) and the Jenin “Massacre” (2002). Fifteen years later, and they’re still doing it.

Thinking that they sided with the scrappy Palestinian David, fighting for the freedom and independence of their “yearned for” state, these lethal journalists pumped Jihadi war propaganda into the Western sphere as real events. This “lethal journalism” played a critical role in convincing the world to see the Israelis as Palestinian war propaganda wanted: the Israeli Goliath oppressing the Palestinian victim (underdogma). In its most malicious supersessionist avatar, the Palestinians “are” the “new Jews,” victims of genocide, and the Israelis, the new Nazis, committing it. Indeed, Al Durah specifically opened the portals of the public sphere to their claims: after 2000, comparing Israel to Nazis went mainstream.

Picture from International ANSWER, Quote from Catherine Nay

Picture from International ANSWER, Quote from Catherine Nay

This first, sudden, violent, often hysterical wave of hostility to Israel in the West, what Sharansky called the 3Ds (2000-2003), operated as a cultural buzz-saw whose effects we see today in BDS: outrage trumps discussion; defending Israel is unconscionable; no peace without justice (revenge). With the help of lethal journalists, the Al Durah icon of hatred – IDF targets children – became a dominant Western meme, both emotionally (in hostility to Israel) and cognitively (in receptivity to further slander).

And so each time Israel fought back – Jenin and Bethlehem (2002), Lebanon (2006), Cast Lead (2008/9), Mavi Marmara (2010), Pillar of defense (2012), Protective Edge (2014) – the WMSNM complied extensively with the demands of the “Palestinians” to tell their story: the “vast majority” of victims of Israeli bombing were innocent civilians. If an Gazan cameraman came up with a fourth-rate job of “filming the IDF murder of an innocent child,” then true it must be. If Saeb Erekat says the IDF massacred hundreds of innocent civilians in Jenin and buried them in mass graves, true it must be.

Thus, for the last 16 years, every time Israel defended itself against the Jihad declared against it, the lethal school of journalists dominated coverage: Palestinian suffering and Israeli aggression 24/7. The world saw what Palestinian leadership wished it to see, and sided with them against the bully Israeli Goliath… actually siding with the Caliphaters against the infidels resisting subjection.

The Palestinian cogwar strategy in their asymmetrical conflict with the IDF: get world outrage to stop Israel from fighting, so we can recover and start another round. The Jihadi cogwar strategy: use the newswashed propaganda about Israel to rouse Jihad – show the Muslim world how Israel/the West are trying to exterminate Muslims and destroy Islam.

Journalists who did not seem to mind damaging to Israel, showed no sign of understanding that their lethal journalism, was also own-goal journalism, in which they “newswashed” enemy propaganda in their own public sphere, poisoning their own societies, disorienting their consumers, and electrifying the forces of the Caliphate the world over.

The Caliphater Cogwar against the West

The rest of the world, not knowing that their media was systematically misinforming them according to the instructions of Caliphaters, believed these things. Indeed, the West was one of the target audiences for this performance, and progressive “outrage” – played out in public venues like Durban (2001) and the anti-war rallies of the early aughts (2002, 2003) – united post-colonial progressives and Caliphaters, who joined in angry protests shouting “Death to the Jews!”

And for over a decade, the same journals that newswashed jihadi lethal narratives about Israel, fell silent on the genocidal discourse that war propaganda provoked. By 2014, the cry became so widespread, even the journalists mentioned it. Whatever the calculus on who won in Israel’s military “operations” against her neighbors, every such clash in the 21st century has meant a tenfold victory for the global Caliphaters.

The success of the Caliphater attack on Israel in the West has been immense, and the impact of its disorientation has been extensive on the West’s ability to recognize and deal with developments both in the Middle East (where more Caliphaters are open Jihadis), and in dealing with domestic Caliphaters (largely cogwarriors doing Da’wa). In France, any suggestion that Jihadi terrorists shared traits with wider circles of Muslims gets shouted down, “surtout pas d’amalgames.”

Even Western policy and intelligence circles (James Clapper during the badly misnamed “Arab Spring”, 2011), use the language of moderation for the ur-Caliphater group, Muslim Brotherhood which believes that “the US and Europe will be conquered not by Jihad but by Da’wa.” So Caliphaters, people working for the dominion of Muslims over infidels, the world over, go undetected by Westerners disoriented, in significant part, because they are blinded by the wildly successful, anti-Zionist cogwar campaign Caliphaters conduct against them. In 2015, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, and again after those on the Bataclan, the French radically underinformed about Caliphaters, asked “Why.”

pourquoi

Place de la République, January 2015

One “high” point in this anti-Zionist cogwar strategy of disorientating the West came in 2002, when Europeans openly cheered on the Jihadi use of suicide terror (against Israel), a weapons soon to be trained on them. In the Spring of 2002, lethal journalists pumped Palestinian war propaganda into the West as news: Israel had massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the “Jenin Massacre” and buried them in mass graves – i.e. just like the Nazis in the Holocaust. Consumers of this lethal narrative came out in the streets to protest, some wearing suicide belts to celebrate the plucky Palestinians, who “had no choice,” but to blow themselves up among Israeli civilians in their desperation (to get a state).

Thus did the global progressive Left completely misread the Jihadi war declared on Israel (and them) and instead treat it as a national liberation movement, and thus did she eagerly greet the first appearance of the most potent weapon of Jihad’s apocalyptic death cult – suicide terror/shahida – a weapon that haunts the 21st century. Had you told the signers of the Hamas Charter that in two decades, infidels would be cheering on shahids and shouting “we are Hamas” in the streets of European capitals, they would have said, “Only Allah can make a people that stupid.”

Jeremy Corbyn, useful infidel and head of Labour Party in England

How much easier to believe that if only Israel weren’t so mean (so Goliathish), then we’d have peace. Those who took the easy path – criticize Israel, shield Palestinians from criticism – dominate the Western public sphere, from the NYT, Le Monde, HaAretz, and the BBC, across the major agencies (Reuters, AP, AFP, Al Jazeera). It’s always easier to criticize those who won’t retaliate than those who will. As a result, own-goal war journalism – running enemy propaganda as news – has dominated news coverage and poisoned the global public sphere for at least 16 years.

BDS represents the most elaborately weaponized form of this cogwar. It mobilizes lethal narratives, especially those newswashed, and displays them on campuses (Israel Apartheid Week), before attempting to get student and scholarly organizations to vote boycotts against the Israel. Like Palestinian war campaigns, they don’t have to win the actual battle, in order to win; even when they lose, they both to stigmatize Israel as a global pariah, and bully academic standards into abandoning their intellectual integrity. Win-win for the losers.

Case Study of Lethal Journalism: NYT and Marwan Barghouti

Possibly the single most disorienting aspect of news coverage in the 21st century, was the way the mainstream news media – the main papers and news agencies and TV news studios – presented the “Second Intifada.” For them, the dominant, indeed, the hegemonic, narrative was the Israeli Goliath trying to crush the Palestinian David. Aside from the deep misunderstanding of all the cultural issues in this region that make Arab and Muslim “secular nationalism” and “freedom fighting” inappropriate terms (as was later so spectacularly illustrated by the “Arab Spring”), it completely missed the other narrative, that of global Jihad.

As a result, Western observers were repeatedly exposed by their journalists to a “lethal journalism” that ran Palestinian Jihadi propaganda as news, and portrayed Israel as the murderous, rogue, colonialists running roughshod on Palestinian “civil society.” So when the IDF went after Palestinian mass-murderers, using global Jihad’s most potent new weapon, suicide mass murder of infidels, not only did the press jump all over false reports of an IDF massacre at Jenin, but European “progressives” actually cheered on the monstrous weapon, soon to be aimed at them. In the 21st century, it turns out, lethal journalism against Israel is actually own-goal lethal journalism: running your enemy’s propaganda as news.

If anyone thinks that the long list of scandalous and damaging errors our journalists have made over the last two decades, is in decline, consider the latest. The New York Times, famous for its scrupulous “back and forth” with authors in its op-ed pages, ran the propaganda of a convicted Palestinian terrorist on its op-ed pages, with no fact-checking, and disguising the nature of his crimes. As a result, readers of the Times were treated to a long anti-Israel diatribe by Marwan Barghouti, described by the editors as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” One could excuse Westerners so informed for thinking that a) the Palestinian Parliament is an operative democratic institution, and b) a Palestinian leader struggles for his people’s freedom, not their sacrifice in the goal of destroying another people’s freedom.

This time, however, the Times felt the blowback. Vigorous criticism got them a rebuke from the paper’s public editor, prompting a “correction.”

I asked Jim Dao, editor of the Op-Ed pages, about the decision not to include Barghouti’s crimes. Dao noted that the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences but he acknowledged that it doesn’t state the crimes for which he was convicted. “We are drafting an editors’ note that will provide that information,” he said.

Here’s the note, attached after our exchange:

This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.

[snip]

This isn’t a new issue for the Opinion section. I have written before on the need to more fully identify the biography and credentials of authors, especially details that help people make judgments about the opinions they’re reading. Do the authors of the pieces have any conflicts of interest that could challenge their credibility? Are they who they say they are, and can editors vouch for their fidelity?

I see no reason to skimp on this, while failing to do so risks the credibility of the author and the Op-Ed pages.

In this case, I’m pleased to see the editors responding to the complaints, and moving to correct the issue rather than resist it. Hopefully, it’s a sign that fuller disclosure will become regular practice.

I guess beggars can’t be choosy, but this is half-hearted at the most; and the brave Liz Spayd is too easily mollified.

five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization?

Fisking Rob Bryan on Bassem Eid: A Glimpse inside the “Pre-Occupied Mind”

I recently had coffee with Bassem Eid, and he mentioned the following article by Rob Bryan that denounces him as a suck-up, a token Palestinian, pandering to right-wing Jewish audiences. It struck me as so classic an expression of what one might call the “preoccupied mind” (or the mindset of members of the “Cult of the Occupation“), that it seemed worth a fisking.

Meet Bassem Eid, the Former Palestinian Human Rights Activist Who’s Sucking Up to the Israel Lobby

Eid once monitored Israeli human rights abuses. Now he defends them before right-wing audiences.
Here’s the pitch, elaborated below. Caveat emptor, this is not about to give you an honest appraisal of either information or opinion.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Bassem Eid, a stocky 58-year-old Palestinian political analyst, stood in front of an audience of about 30 people this June 22 in the law offices of Duval & Stachenfeld in midtown Manhattan. The crowd snacked on stuffed grape leaves and drank red wine from the Northern Galilee region of Israel, eager to hear an exuberant man hold court on the plight of his people.

The Israeli-American Council (IAC), a lobbying organization explicitly dedicated to strengthening theing a st of questions sent to his personal email regarding his speaking fees. Yet the depth of Eid’s hostility towards the very notion of justice for Palestinians was genuinely surprising, as was the total fealty he showed towards the state whose abuses are well-documented.

Good illustration of the cult of the Preoccupation: justice is defined only in terms of denouncing Israel. The slogan “No peace without justice,” along with “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea!” means “No peace with Israel.”

The “abuses” are “well documented” by organizations like Btselem, which Eid left because they refused to document any abuses of Palestinian rights by their thuggish leaders, who reflect an Arab political culture that alleged “human rights” groups like HRW treat with great delicacy while reaching out to the for funding to “document” Israeli “abuses.”

“Friends,” said Eid, spreading his arms wide, “if you will look today to the Middle East map and the growing Islamic terror in the Middle East, in my opinion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became the most safe place in the Middle East.” Not once did he criticize the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, or the discriminatory laws passed against Arab citizens of Israel. To him, these were minor details.

Well, when you’re faced with someone with a light wound, and someone who’s at death’s door, it may make sense to shift the attention to the latter, the no cost target, Israel. Bryan will have none of this. Israel’s abuses, which have somehow produced one of the Arab world’s higher-ranking HDI (Israel’s Arabs and oil-rich countries excluded).

Here’s Eid’s way of putting it.

His animated diatribes sounded like the inner monologue of a right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset, inveighing against the “thugs and gangsters of the so-called BDS” and decrying Students of Justice in Palestine as a “bullshit group.”

He was being nice. SJP is one of the nastiest groups out there, and its founder, Hatem Bazian, one of the most aggressive purveyors of a definition of Islamophobia that strangles any criticism of Islam, and surely made Said proud.

His claim that the Arab League is “a rehabilitation center for handicapped people” drew big laughs. (Eid’s preferred rhetorical device is the one-liner, much to the delight of a middle-aged man sitting next to me who responded as though he was witnessing the second coming of Jackie Mason).

It’s so hard to realize that one (or one’s ally) has made oneself into a parody. The Arab League is indeed a big and bad joke. Here’s their ambassador to the UN explaining why Hamas can’t stop bombing Israel even though it means that their own people get bombed back.

Unpacked, this means, “it’s a no brainer (for us) that if we’re getting the stuffings kicked out of us, we have to keep hitting back (to show we’re men).” As the proverb goes: “Fighting an enemy who is stronger is not honor, it’s pride, often the opposite of honor.” Self-preservation, concern for the well-being of their own people? Not high on the Arab League’s priority list.

Eid’s point exactly.

Intellectual Corruption of Intersectional Academics: Ted Swedenburg’s Palestinian Anthropology

In the Phyllis Chesler case, one of the three authors of the letter (fisked here) that got her disinvited was Ted Swedenburg. The letter embodies everything about the current field of post-Oriental Middle Eastern Studies that leads me to conclude that most of its denizens are proleptic dhimmi – the fear of offending Islam, the use of terms like “Islamophobia” to silence dissenting infidels, their invocation of “safe spaces” and allusions to potential violence as a reason to drop a speaker. In turns out, Swedenburg has been at this for a long time.

In an article he wrote in 1989, Swedenburg lays out his methodology, which coincides quite remarkably with the hegemonic discourse across the “humanities” and “social ‘sciences'” of today. How much headway have they made in the last two decades! (HT: YM)

One of the first days after I had moved to Nablus, in November 1984, I had an experience that has now become a daily routine for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. I was driving downtown, when suddenly, bam! the car shook under the impact of a heavy blow to its side. A Palestinian youth, whom I never saw, had darted out of an alley, hurled a large stone, and rapidly vanished. He only man-aged, luckily, to put a large dent above my gas cap and did not break the wind-shield, the usual goal of hurled stones. I guess he singled out my car as a target from all the others on that busy street because its yellow license plates and my appearance led him to believe I was an Israeli settler. (As the holder of a tourist visa, I had to register my car in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, so its yellow plates stood out amidst the distinctive blue-plated vehicles driven by West Bank Palestinians.) I was so shaken that I was ready to give up fieldwork and go straight home.

Earlier anthropologists, who risked far more serious assaults in far less controlled environments – no recently annexed offices and registrations for Napoleon Chagnon, or any of those working a century ago. If an anthropologist wants to understand up close a culture in which violence is a quotidian presence, then he or she needs to be ready to experience some of it. No serious anthropologist feels entitled to safety (talk about white privilege).

My immediate thought was that I, of all people, should never have been stoned. After all, unlike those other Westerners one saw in the West Bank-the settlers, tourists, and embassy officials-I was a good foreigner, working in the best interests of the Palestinians. My response was typical of a mentality I shared with other Westerners who worked as teachers, journalists, or researchers in the occupied territories and sympathized with the Palestinians.

Holocaust Guilt and Holocaust Shame: Parsing Remorse for the Shoa.

 

[My thanks to Rabbi Mark Kujawsky who first helped me understand the difference.]

When I first heard about Catherine Nay – a prominent, mainstream, French journalist – stating on her Europe 1 news program that “with its symbolic charge of this picture, this death annuls, erases the picture of the little Jewish boy, hands up in front of the SS, in the Warsaw Ghetto,” I realized to what an extent Europeans had taken the story of the IDF killing 12-year old Muhammad al Durah in the arms of his father, as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free card“.

Picture from International ANSWER, Quote from Catherine Nay

At the time I marveled – and continue to marvel – at the astounding folly of the statement. How can a brief, blurry, chopped up video of a boy who, at best was caught in a cross fire started by his own people firing behind him, at worst an outright lethal fake, could eliminate – really replace – a picture that symbolizes the systematic murder of over a million children and their families? How morally disoriented can one get? Apparently escaping guilt made some people – too many people – do strange things… like adopt a supersessionist narrative: Israelis, the new Nazis, Palestinians, the new Jews.

But the profound distinction between guilt and shame suggests that the right formula is “get-out-of-holocaust-shame-free card.” (Doesn’t sound as good.) The difference: guilt is an internally generated sense of moral obligation not to repeat past transgressions, especially egregious ones like the unchecked attempt to exterminate of a helpless minority within one’s own society. Shame, on the other hand, is externally generated, driven by the “shaming look” of others (the “honor-group“). When Germans got caught carrying out a genocide, their nation was not only guilty of the deed, but shamed before the world… for doing it? …or getting caught?

There-in lies a key difference: for guilt, it’s the awareness of the deed and its meaning, for shame, it’s whether others know. In some countries in the world, it’s not a question of whether you’re corrupt or not (everyone is, everyone knows), but just if you get caught. How many teenagers apologize for getting caught? Some adulterers have no sense of wrongdoing, as long as no one else knows. On some level everyone is subject to these concerns.

While honor-shame cultures have moral codes, however, their vulnerability to the fear of shame can readily lead to a jettisoning of any moral concerns. After all, the limbic dread of shame – its disastrous psychological and practical impact on them – kicks in in times of humiliation and fear. Those afflicted with oneidophobia (overriding [limbic] fear of public blame/ humiliation), is that others not see, not know about, not talk about, what they have done, that one not bear the shame publicly, that one need not pay the steep price in social capital for one’s (mis)deeds. After two generations one can easily imagine German youth being fed up with this sense of moral indebtedness of having to bear this blame/shame publicly.

Guilt-integrity has moral codes that operate from within-out, rather than from without-in. Here the awareness of the transgression and the determination to not do it again operate inside the individual, as, for example, in the case of Judah, who refused to repeat his betrayal of his father (in the case of Joseph) with the betrayal of Tamar, the mother of his child (Genesis, 38). That process takes both genuine remorse (for which Joseph later tested), and an understanding of how it could have happened, so as to prevent it from happening again. It involves criticism and self-criticism. It involves a willingness, when absolutely necessary, (beware the public flagellant!), to make the painful sacrifice of public honor in order to maintain private integrity. In the case of Judah, this led to the first renunciation of an honor-killing/shame-murder in recorded history.

Who will defend Western Civilization? Not its “Social Justice Warriors”

David Brooks bemoans the inability of the West to defend itself and its values. The plaint is valid, the analysis deeply superficial and, I’d guess, ineffectual in reaching the “millennials” who think they’ve outgrown the need for those values and the democracies they created. Below a half fisking (critique) and whisking (elaboration) of Brooks’ proleptic threnody for Western civ. HT: YS.

The Crisis of Western Civ

David Brooks, NYT April 21, 2017
Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.
Note the lack of mention of ancient Israel. The Durants did address the issue what they called Judea, briefly if with limited sympathy in their opening volume, a small fraction of that first volume. In discussing the 6th commandment (thou shall not kill [really murder]) he notes:

nowhere is there so much killing as in the Old Testament; its chapters oscillate between slaughter and compensatory reproduction…

What a bizarre thing for a reader of the Iliad and great admirer of Greece to say! Why is so much of this chapter set on comparing ancient Israel (often, as here, unfavorably) with the worst of other cultures, including Christian religious practices like the inquisition?

That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.

And Jews were a marginal part of the tale, victims of lamentable Western intolerance (read: aggressive supersessionism), but not actual contributors to that great civilizing venture we call the West. I was astonished, when I finally got introduced to “Western Political Thought” at Columbia, to find that everyone began with Socrates/Plato (5th-4th century BCE) and no attention to the Bible as a political document with remarkably modern resonance.

This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated.
… the principal of equality before the law, the value of manual (productive) labor, literacy and self-empowerment for commoners, respect and empathy for the “other,” criticism and self-criticism, rejection of oppression of those weaker, guilt at wrongdoing, the value of all human life…
It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.
And this civilizational consensus became the target of the Caliphaters, hard-zero-sum players from what we Westerners refer to as our “middle ages” or more broadly, pre-modern society, from a world of triumphalist religiosity, holy millennial war and inquisition. They have, with really astonishing success, managed to drive a wedge into democratic civilization and hammer away at fending what has become a internalized clash of civilizations between Western “left” and “right.”
Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
Pascal Bruckner wrote about this in his Tyranny of Guilt (in French penitence). Tenured Radicals pursuing their supersessionist, revolutionary agenda. When I was at Columbia (1984-86), a fellow grad student gave a presentation in which he argued that liberalism was a self-creating fantasy that did not collapse in a manner similar to how Wylie Coyote did not fall when he ran over a cliff, until he looked down. I did not at the time imagine that GPL radicals would stampede us off the cliff. Now we have millennials, proud of their unerring instinct for social justice, ready to forgo democracy in search of… ?

Millennial Social Warriors Fighting for Justice
The nice touch here is that it’s Western civilization’s teachings that make it possible to identify this oppression, to detect social injustice in every micro-aggression, every invasion of safe space. You won’t find another civilizational ideology (excepting the Jews) that does not take exceptional privilege for the elite – legal and life-style – as a given. And yet now, the demand for radical social justice=equality (whatever that means) has been turned by those who have been trained in the western (and Jewish) moral tradition(s), exclusively on attacking western (and Jewish) exercise of power.

How Academics think about Freedom of Speech: Fisking the Email that Killed Phyllis Chesler’s Talk on Shame-Murders

In preparing an article on how Phyllis Chesler, one of the few scholars and feminists to tackle the problem of honor-killings/shame murders in the Muslim world (and elsewhere, eg, Hindus in India, Sikhs to a much lesser extent everywhere), got disinvited from a conference on the subject of honor-killings, I managed to get a hold of the email that nixed her invitation. Written by three professors from the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at University of Arkansas: Joel Gordon (History, author of email), Ted Swedenburg (Anthropology), and Mohja Kahf (Comparative Literature), it addressed Thomas Paradise, the Head of the King Fahd Center.

The letter is deeply embarrassing to its signers in its stupefying polemic, its craven reasoning, and its complete disregard for academic integrity. My guess (hope) is that its authors will object to its being made public in much the same way that “professors” of Middle Eastern Studies object to having their talks and class lectures made public.

UPDATE: Tom Paradise has been suspended as a result of his canceling Chesler’s participation, and the brave people who scuttled her are busy scrambling to get out of the hot seat. Ted Swedenburg told a journalist:

We did not call for her to be disinvited and how that happened, I don’t really know, because none of the three of us were a party to that discussion.

You be the judge of whether the letter quoted below reflects this disavowal.

NB: issue of terminology. “Honor-killing” is a supposedly neutral term that does not judge. Instead, I think, it enables, using “to kill” where, by any standards of modern democracy, these are murders. My use of “shame-murders” not only identifies the act as murder, but makes it clear that this is not restoring family honor – what family is honored by killing its daughter? – but rather it is a grotesque and criminal way of trying to wipe out shame.

Below, a fisking of this McCarthyite letter attempting to ban a major researcher on the basis of a dogmatic and anti-intellectual ideology.

Dear Tom:

It has come to our attention that MEST is co-sponsoring Phyllis Chesler to lecture via Skype at the University of Arkansas Law School’s symposium about honor killings on 14 April 2017. 

Chesler’s writings frequently feature on the ultra-right Breitbart forum as well as many other right-wing platforms.

“Right-wing” is thus, by definition, not acceptable. Merely the use of the term in describing someone renders that person unpresentable, outside of the realm of acceptable speech.

Honor-Shame Pathologies and 4th Generation Warfare

One of my colleagues with whom I discuss honor-shame issues is Doyle Quiggle, who in addition to his ability to think about what Daniel Lord Smail calls deep history (governed by honor-shame dynamics), also happens to work on military issues: COIN, Fourth Generation Warfare. He recently sent me the following query, which prompted me a formulation that brings together a number of threads of thought:

What aspects of your research and scholarship would you apply to help us reveal the honor dynamics of Somalia? 

The stubborn and irreducible pathology of conflict in Somalia must be accepted as an existential given. Failure to perceive this pathology and its generative sources condemns the analyst and operator to alienation from the primary psychological, social, economic, and security realities of this region.  That blindness will lead to fatal operational consequences, sooner or later. To operate effectively, let alone establish lasting communal stability in any part of this region, we must first see the pathology of conflict in this region for what it is, accept it, no matter how ugly it might be, and then attack its sources. Once exposed, this pathology is immediately seen to require an integrative “oncological” approach to killing both its tumors and its feeder cells.  However, the decisive operational question today is this: Do we continue to pursue a chemotherapeutic tactic (“paint & kill” drone strikes)? Or do we attempt to administer homeopathic remedies? Is the long-term strategy containment or stability?

A strategy of stability requires an organic, homeopathic approach. Paramount to this approach is co-opting local moral authority.  Local moral authority is used as a kind of homeopathy to kill the cancerous stem cells of Islamic extremism and jihad by use of their own pathogens.

[For further elaboration framing the problem, see below.]

My response:

I’d study the pathologies of honor-shame, i.e. the cases when warrior/stratified, zero-sum, cultures find themselves faced with a more powerful positive-sum culture and after losing repeated zero-sum encounters, instead of adapting, going negative-sum: I’d rather lose more and drag you down in the shit than let you win; I’ll even sacrifice myself/honor/family just to make you miserable.

The classic case of this is the Arab-Israeli conflict where, in response to losing a hard-zero-sum war with Israel, the Arabs were in such denial — recognize Israel? admit defeat? impossible! — that they turned the Arab refugees from their lost war into weapons in a longer war against the Zionist entity. (The original meaning of Nakba/catastrophe was coined by the refugees about what Arab leaders had inflicted on them.)

Liberals without memory: Fisking Roger Cohen on Geert Wilders

Roger Cohen has another of his patented editorials, this time about Geert Wilders. Rapid fisking below.

 Somebody Else’s Babies

Roger Cohen MARCH 14, 2017

And so it begins. With the Dutch election on Wednesday, Europe embarks on a yearlong test of how far it’s ready to realign itself as an anti-immigrant, pro-Russian continent marked by ascendant nationalism, alt-Right intolerance and the fragmentation of the European Union.

The worst could happen. Nobody who has watched the British decision to quit the European Union in a strange little-England huff,

Anyone who thinks that English voters ignored all the dire predictions of econapocalypse if Britain left because of a “strange huff,” hasn’t a clue to what’s going on in the minds of people.

or the election of Donald Trump with his “America First” anti-Muslim jingoism, can think otherwise. The liberal order has lost its center of gravity.

It happened in 2000 when the progressive left sided with the Jihadis against a progressive ally (Israel), and dragged a cowardly narcissistic liberal center off kilter. (As Ian Buruma said in 2003, at the height of the suicide terror campaign against Jewish infidels: “it’s a liberal litmus test to be pro-Palestinian.”)

The only difference is that the “liberal order”, which managed to shunt aside any criticism by people who thought something was awry by exiling them to the Islamophobic, xenophobic, war-mongering, right-wing, is now discovering just how much they have alienated just how many people.

Alt-Mid to Alt-Lib: The far right’s new fascination with the Middle Ages

The Economist recently published a piece on the renewed interest in the Middle Ages. Like “fakenews” and “anti-semitism” these are issues that have been alive and well for over two decades without the WMSNM paying much attention. Now that they can be attributed to the “far-right,” they’re back in vogue as “new.” The piece is intellectually as disturbing as its claims about the “right’s” fascination with the MA: it offers a flattened MA, tailored as a refutation of the tribal emotions so common among people back then.

The far right’s new fascination with the Middle Ages

Jan 2nd 2017, 12:05 BY S.N. | CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA

UNTIL fairly recently, it was rare to find Americans who were passionate about both medieval history and contemporary politics.

Guess that makes me, who am writing a book subtitled A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century, rare.

Barring the odd Christian conservative, medievalists tended to lean left: a Marxist grad student, say, mucking around in land ownership patterns to show how past inequalities gave birth to present ones,

NB: not to show how much past inequalities have been overcome, even though none of these Marxists would choose to live in the inequities of the Middle Ages.

or an environmentalist activist, perhaps, fascinated with vegetable-dyed handspun clothing.

I certainly don’t fit either “type,” despite having been accused of being “marxicisant” by Dominique Barthelemy because I thought peasants thought (demotic religiosity) and their actions, based on that thought, especially at the advent of apocalyptic dates, like 1000, was consequential.

My regret is that we have not seen more medievalists work on the rural and urban commune movement of the new millennium (11-13th centuries)… lay textual communities, laboratories of civil society, adumbrations of democracies to come.

But when Americans invoked historical events in politics, they tended to be more recent—the founding of the republic; the struggle against slavery and segregation; victory over Nazi Germany.

This has changed. Since the September 11th attacks, the American far right has developed a fascination with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—in particular, with the idea of the West as a united civilisation that was fending off a challenge from the East.

Had the “mainstream” of the public sphere, alerted by honest information professionals, developed an interest in medieval apocalyptic beliefs and “holy war,” which might have made Al Qaeda and Hamas more understandable as apocalyptic global imperialists, radicals might have been embarrassed to be associated with the folly of seeing them as “resistance warriors” just like us.

We are Hamas London 2009

Anti-Israel Rally, London, January 2009

Fake News and Queer Theory: Feminists on Anti-Semitism at Hebrew U.

This post is now up at Times of Israel.

I just attended a session at the Sassoon Center for Antisemitism at Hebrew University on Sartre and the Jewish Question.

11:15-13:15 Session 3 Sartre, Fanon, and the Subject of Decolonization

Chair: Martina Weisz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Louise Bethlehem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Sartre, Fanon and the Subject of Decolonialization: Preliminary Remarks

Vinzia Fiorino, University of Pisa Jean Paul Sartre, “Frantz Fanon and Carla Lonzi: a Bizarre Genealogy”

Nina Fischer, University of Edinburgh “Minor (Transnational) Intersections: Jews and Aboriginal Australians between Anti-Semitism and Racism”

Sarika Talve-Goodman, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem “Blackness and the Body in a Transnational Frame: From ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’ to Black Lives Matter”

Revital Madar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem “A Moment of Inconsistency: Letting the Black Body into the Sphere of Western Humanity”

About half way through the introductory remarks by Bethlehem I realized I was actually witnessing the kind of parody that I had only imagined in reading Judith Butler: a presentation thick with feminist, queer theory, jargon, promoting a radical (even messianic) political agenda of liberation and authenticity, that, among others, considered axiomatic the identity of Black and Palestinian suffering; and the corresponding racism of Israelis and American whites.

Sarika Talve-Goodman traced an arc of “racially marked bodies unfit for personhood,” and the “heterosexism” that drove this inhumane way of treating the “other,” from European racist imperialism (Fanon) through Israeli treatment of Palestinians and police treatment of Blacks in the US. In her “intersectional and herstorical perspective,” all this is part of a liberationist agenda aimed at challenging “violent imperial masculinity” with “a theory of sexuality” that promotes a “non-homophobic, non-racist politics.”

All of this discourse might just have been an academic matter, amusing to some, obviously very grave from the perspective of its performers.  But these revolutionaries take their vocation seriously. These were not theoretical speculations divorced from the real world, but attempting at least, to engage the world, and presumably, to influence the world, profoundly. And part of the movement involves making common cause with other victims of hierarchical (state, hetero-patriarchy) interventions.

(Talve-Goodman advertised her approach as offering to “open our collective eyes to new dimensions of state interventions into our lives.”)

Ferguson, she asserted, became “ground zero” in the global struggle against racism. “For a moment, Ferguson became the world.”  And in that moment, that the Palestinian and Black movements came together in intersectional solidarity. The brave new alliance of the coming years of world struggle against racism.

Said’s Disorientations

MEQ just published my article on Edward Saïd. They entitled it “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” which I presume is meant to be ironic. My more direct title was “Disoriented by Saïd: The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War.”

While a number of people have noted how long the piece was, including Elder of Ziyon, it was much longer when I first submitted it. I post below the longer original version for the three people who might be interested in further details, deconstructing Saïd’s covert tribalist and Orientalist attitudes.

The section on Oslo, also highlighted by Elder, has been translated into Polish, by Malgorzata Koraszewska at her blog, Listy z naszego sadu.

Disoriented by Saïd:

The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War

Although Edward Saïd’s impact on the field of Middle Eastern Studies, and beyond, across the social sciences and the humanities, has been viewed from many perspectives, as a brilliant triumph, or as tragedy, few question the astonishing scope and penetration of Orientalism on the academic world. Here I wish to investigate the (unintended) role played by Saïd, and the post-colonial school of thought his works fostered, in the way that the West has so far handled the cognitive-war that triumphalist Muslims[1] wage in their stated goal of imposing Dar al Islam on democratic polities.

Orientalism played a central role in a transformation of academic discourse in the last two decades of the second millennium, assuring the ascendency of critical theory and post-colonialism.[2] The book, despite its enthusiastic reception among many, also received extensive criticism on both the micro and macro level – the multiple (uncorrected) errors that, in many cases reveal a profound ignorance about the history of the Middle East, the selective focus (nothing on major school of German [non-imperialist] scholarship), the tendency to the same essentialism when dealing with Western scholars that it condemned when dealing with inhabitants of the constructed fantasy, the “Orient,” and of course, the reductive thesis (knowledge essentially a form of wielding power, a tool imperialism).[3] Here I wish to look at what may be an unintended consequence of this book’s success – its contribution to the success of the subsequent cogwar waged by global Jihadis against a West they wanted to invade.

In the last five years alone, Saïd’s epigones in academia, journalism, punditry, and policy, have been spectacularly poor in their depictions and analyses of, and prescriptions for acting in, the Middle East. One might even venture to say that they misread every major development, from the democratic “Arab Spring” (2010) to today’s regional melt-down of state apparatus. And the lamentable state of President Obama’s understanding testifies to their signal failure.

Thus this collapse comes under the blows of the most savage kind of tribal and religious warfare, whose very presence, much less remarkable appeal to Muslims in the West, the post-colonial academy studiously avoided discussing.[4] Now we witness the displacement of tens of millions of refugees fleeing these political catastrophes, now pressing, not as conquerors but as victims, at the gates of Europe. In all this, Western information professionals have catastrophically failed in their task of informing knowledgeable, intelligent and effective decision making.

If we have any hope of figuring out what to do for the rest of the 21st century in dealing with this generational war that Western democratic societies have to fight with the forces of global Jihad, we need to rethink our reliance on Edward Saïd’s cognitive and moral compass. The remainder of this essay is dedicated to furthering that agenda by examining one critical area of scholarship that Saïd’s influence has blighted – the topic of honor-shame cultures – and applying it to one of the more catastrophic and persistent diplomatic blunders of the late 20th century produced by that cognitive damage – the Oslo Accord and the ensuing “cult of the occupation.”

Progressive and Caliphater Millennialism: Interview in Mishpacha Magazine

Machla Abramowitz interviewed me in Mischpacha magazine. It was initially done as coverage of a talk I gave in Montreal on BDS and Cogwar (definitions posted here), but mutated into a much more complex discussion of messianism and the progressive left. The (slightly) longer version I post below may clarify some of the obscurities in my published responses.

For anyone interested in a more extensive discussion of the unfortunate convergence of progressive left and jihadi millennialism, see “Progressive and Jihadi Movements in Action: A Study in Interacting Millennial Currents in the Early 3rd Millennium (2000-2020).”

The End Game

Millennialism: where progressivism and jihad meet.

By Machla Abramovitz

Mishpacha Magazine, 29 Cheshvan, 5777.

They believe in the coming of a messianic epoch, one in which humanity will unite and peace and justice will reign. Their enemies are conservatives and traditionalists, or those who fail to comprehend the arc of history and humanity’s final destiny.

No, they’re not an apocalyptic cult hatching a plot in a South American jungle hideout, but modern progressives who subscribe to the idea of “millennialism.”

Richard Landes, a former professor of Medieval Studies at Boston University, and currently the senior fellow with the Center of International Communication at Bar Ilan University, is one of their leading critics. For decades, Landes has been studying the phenomenon of millennialism, or the belief that a messianic era of justice, peace and abundance is coming soon, often preceded by a massive disruptive (apocalyptic) event. Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump and the protests that have exploded nationwide, the world is witness to many expressions of millennialism, and, as is common, to disappointed expectations. The arc of history that bends towards justice has lurched into reverse.

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.

 

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]

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.

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.