Friday, April 29, 2016
If speech is free, then our generation has lost the sense of responsibility that comes with the endeavor. The use of speech is a forgotten privilege because speech has consequences. There is accountable speech, there is inflammatory speech and there is irresponsible speech. The ability to make sounds does not imply an obligation to do so. The Talmud warns against lashon hara which translates from the Hebrew as ‘evil tongue’ but which means derogatory speech. To quote Wikipedia “Speech is considered to be lashon hara if it says something negative about a person or party, is not previously known to the public, is not seriously intended to correct or improve a negative situation, and is true.”
Our society has become intoxicated with this nihilistic joy of verbal expression, as if self-restraint is a dirty word. But perhaps the worst thing about it is that it has encouraged those who lie for a living; racists and bigots all, to emerge in full rancid flower. It has encouraged sloppy and altogether malicious scholarship because without a distance being drawn between academia and its student charges there can be no respect for any truth save those ‘truths’ most hysterically enunciated. The antisemitic BDS movement employs this tactic.
If the greatest gift that modern society has given us is our freedom to choose then our greatest failure has been our inability to recognize the danger to our society that a nihilistic approach to those choices entails. A good example is the election in the UK of Malia Bouattia as President of the National Union of Students (an organization that claims to represent some 7 million students). Malia opposed an NUS resolution condemning and boycotting theocratic, fascist, slave trading and genocidal Islamic State; she expressed public concern about the presence of a “large Jewish Society” in a UK university. Of course “the Jews” don’t preach hate; they are intellectually passive about their own rights, in fact they are generally, intellectually passive about their fate. For those reasons they have always made an easy target for the rabble-rouser. I suspect that Malia Bouattia did not express similar concern when one of Britain’s most prestigious university's London based Islamic society consistently churned out wannabe mass killers and terrorists. We can only conclude, therefore, that her motivation was racially biased in its conception.
Just because we can, it does not mean that we should. It is a fundamental principle of civil society. We have largely lost that basic understanding of what makes for a healthy society.
Sense of proportionality and restraint is the essence of being a responsible adult. And as children as young as sixteen demand and receive adult rights and privileges such as (in Scotland, Great Britain) the right to vote, the concomitant responsibilities associated with those rights are being ignored with a contempt that augurs badly for society.
The issue that most concerns me about free speech and the radicalization of debate by students (and many of their ‘progressive,’ intolerant professors) is that history is neither pretty nor linear. If I want to pick and choose the objects or narratives of our history, whether I shared parts of them or not, then I am engaged in censorship and that also worries me.
Campaigners in Oxford University, for instance, staged a “Mass March for Decolonization” where they called for the removal of “imperialist iconography.” In this particular case they were referring to the statue of Cecil Rhodes, British businessman and an enthusiastic proponent of “settler colonialism” for whom the former Rhodesia was named.
But here is the problem. Political Correctness is a disease. It is one step away from the latest fascist political philosophy, intersectionality. An unholy hierarchy of causes are permitted to be defined as worthy of inclusion in a saintly martyrs temple while everything else is rewritten to reflect the “correct” interpretation of history. At the next level, there are people and narratives, simply erased from history.
This is already an ancient practice. The Egyptians would scrape away all references to the non-person or event that celebrated the life and achievements of said non-person. All monuments referring to the non-person were obliterated. The non-person was literally, erased from history. German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, writing in 1820-21 with painful prescience posited that "Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”
The Nazis, in our own era burnt books and then, they burnt people.
It isn’t just that these people want to shut down debate; they want to rewrite history, sanitize it so that it fits into their own set of intellectual parameters, irrespective of any non-linear, messy but divergent realities that may clash with theirs. That is fascism. It may no longer be appropriate for Cecil Rhodes to stand outside Oriel College (even with the £100m in gifts that the college may lose if his statue is removed). But then perhaps a better way to commemorate his life would be to move him to Rhodes House, which has been awarding scholarships to train future world leaders since 1902. Or maybe, a set of statues that commemorate Rhodes’s less salubrious attributes could be sculptured to surround him. That would be of educational value. An unprejudiced education is after all, something that even those people both fortunate and privileged enough to make it into the hallowed halls of Oxford University, might one day learn to appreciate?
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Donald Trump is a populist leader and that makes him dangerous.
His grandstanding and verbal violence are not the way a mature democracy is supposed to operate. The 55% of his supporters who are allegedly white and 'working class' plus the undefined others showing their support for him do not appear to be too concerned with his incitement.
It would be interesting to know how he will fare with some of those other constituencies - specifically the 56 million people of Latino/Hispanic descent living in the USA who represent 18% of the total US population, or the 41 million African-American people (13%) or the 29 million people who are of some other racial profile (9%). The American electorate that Trump has potentially alienated is equal to some 126 million people or 39% of the total United States population!
But let us say that many of those people who are not white and working class but did support him are the following:
1) Fearful for their jobs,
2) Fearful for an uptick in immigration,
3) Fearful of Muslim influence over America,
5) Scared of Bernie Sanders because he is: a) A socialist or b) Jewish (See 4 above!)
Then that still leaves us with the big question: Can Trump win when he has alienated so large a percentage of the North American electorate?
Americans may not be so politically engaged, but with the uptick in violence that Trump and his supporters started, I would be worried about any likely escalation creating the environment for political assassination. And that is something that has not been seen for many years. I would be more worried about the genie he has potentially let out of the campaigning bottle than the likelihood of him being selected as the Republican candidate for the 2016 elections and then going on to win the election.
Since the end of the Second World War and with the exception of the Reagan-Bush era (12 years), there have been no periods of rule by one party, for longer than 8 years. It would be unhealthy for the American political scene for one party to rule for three consecutive four year periods. Even if people are really scared for their future, one party-rule ethically atrophies its most passionate supporters. The longer a party holds onto the reigns of power, the less sensitive it becomes to reason and a healthy civil administration; the longer a party rules, the less it represents its electorate. Longevity breeds megalomania and becomes a threat to the stability of the system – any system.
We have already seen the violent response to Trump’s campaign rally in Chicago. It has the potential to trigger a cycle of violence. It may convince the Republican Party to take a stand against him if it believes that his selection would lead to:
a) Defeat in November 2016 and
b) The Republican Party consigned
to the political wilderness.
There is a view that as the date for selection approaches, Donald Trump will come up with a series of grand gestures meant to placate his opponents and derail Hillary Clinton’s own presidential bid.
Donald Trump has demonstrated his misogyny. It would be creepy for him to now change direction and be “nice” to women although that is one constituency he should have tried not to alienate. In a race between Hillary and Donald even a women who is critical of the Clintons may find a vote for Trump politically unpalatable. The African-American population also needs a grand gesture from Donald Trump. They too have personally felt the downside to immigration. If he can play to their insecurity, if he made Dr Carson his vice-presidential running mate and announced measures that placated the Latino populace, it may convince a sufficiently significant sector of both groups, if not to vote for him, then at least to stay away from Hillary. And that too would work in his favor.
People have brought up the “soft bigotry of low expectations” to which George W. Bush referred, in his speech to the NAACP in the year 2000. The liberal agenda has not been entirely helpful to the American poor of any race, religion or ethnicity. A focused attack on the privileged liberal agenda which can be seen in its extremity as anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic and even, anti-female could also create opportunities for Donald Trump, not simply to put his democrat opponents on the defensive but also to bring out voters to stand with him. Bernie Sanders anti-Zionist propaganda and some of Hillary Clinton's unsavory bed-fellows cannot be ignored if they are thrust forward into the credibility debate.
Trump has opportunities to create a realignment of forces in America. The issue is not just about party politics. A changed direction is needed because the malaise providing the impetus for Trumps ascendancy has its genesis in popular dissatisfaction with much that is happening both in America and across the globe and crucially, the failure of a credible political response to it. Hollywood cannot mask a perception of American decline.
Saying that populist policies are the bread and butter of fascism does not detract from the popular concerns driving them. If anything, the accusation is elitist condescension. Put another way, pulling our hair out because the candidacy choices are unsavory to some of us misses the reason for Donald Trump’s popularity.
Demagogue, clown, or plodder that he may be, Trump vocalizes the disquiet felt by large parts of American public opinion on a wide variety of issues.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
You can tell what a person truly thinks, even when they do not publicly express all that they believe in, when you look at their friends and advisers, the events they attend and the organizations they belong to.
Jeremy Corby is an example of an influential ‘would be’ fascist leader who took center stage after a long period during which time he maintained a relatively low profile. Until his time came to step forward and take advantage of popular but noxious beliefs that for decades were discussed in quiet corners but were too inappropriate for public discussion. But note how even today he is never unambiguous in his condemnation of antisemitism within the ranks of his own party.
In fact, he makes an excellent case study for fascism.
As leader of the British Labour Party, his cohorts include:
- Press TV - the mouthpiece of the Shia Muslim, theologically antisemitic Islamic Republic of Iran
- Hamas - the theologically antisemitic, anti-Christian and homophobic, Islamic-fascist ruler of Gaza which makes a habit of throwing gays off tall buildings
- Hezbollah – the radical Shia Muslim group that like Islamic State has as its main goal the establishment of an Islamic government across the Arab world. It has murdered Lebanese liberals and continues today to destabilize Lebanon
- Holocaust deniers (Paul Eisen)
- Antisemites (Paul Eisen, Carlos Latuff, the Reverend (CofE) Stephen Sizer, Raed Salah)
Jeremy Corbyn could have refused their advances, their money, listened to what they said and read what they wrote; and walked away from them, fast. But “he is remarkably good at proffering apologetics for dictatorship and tyranny”. (James Bloodworth. editor of Left Foot Forward)
By embracing them he becomes them.
His excuse that dialogue is the only way to resolve conflict is predicated on the idea that our interlocutors desire a change in their own situation that does not result in our physical destruction. Jeremy Corbyn will support dictatorial, racist, anti-Western, misogynistic, homophobic, radical, theologically fundamentalist regimes that despise everything we stand for and then justify his support for them by asking us to believe that somehow we have something in common with them? Perhaps he means us to believe that even after all that has been mentioned previously, there is still something to talk about?
The problem is that the Jeremy Corbyn's of this world actively provide a fig leaf for fascism.
Jeremy Corbyn’s protestations of virtue are hollow, a sham, and at best he is no more than a political dilettante; at worse, a liar who serves to salve the conscience of his supporters.
During World War Two the Nazis realized that they could commit any atrocity, on any scale, if the public did not have to witness it. Early in their rule they internalized the lesson that the German people would accept the euthanasia program that took away their ‘defective’ children and their infirm elderly – as long as the narrative was in place that afforded them the means to deny any knowledge of their loved ones’ fate.
A principle cannot be altered to suit an inconvenient truth. Those that choose to elect the Jeremy Corbyn’s of this world can argue for an unbroken history of dedication to social democracy with its concern for people, somehow balancing their selective concerns against a predilection for providing support to fascist causes and associating with hate soaked bigots.
In the light of day it is difficult to tell the difference between what many on today’s progressive left believe, how they act, and how they differ from the good folk of 1930’s Germany who turned a blind eye to Nazism.
We arrived at this point because of our ignorance of global history.
Our knowledge of history’s villains is so poor that we recognize only a small part of the evil that has been committed in the name of the gods. Conquest and slavery are not only a Western malaise but at least we recognize the errors of our past. We have ignored other colonial enterprises because they were not ours; we have dismissed superstitions and disregarded the prejudices of many nations that are erroneously labeled as third world or developing because it complicated our guilt and our self-flagellation. Global history is a rich tapestry of good as well as bad. The terrible atrocities Islamic State have committed were already an acceptable part of a rich Muslim cultural tradition that throughout their history viewed the non-believer as worthy only of subjugation and conquest.
By excluding that tradition, by choosing to side with regimes that reject our way of life, we give them a green light to oppress their own people and to attack us until we submit to them.
This is not a multicultural paradise to which we should all aspire; it is a dystopian vision of hell.
Note: since I published this item (on Algemeiner.com) Mr Corbyn has said 'Anyone that commits any act of antisemitism is auto-excluded from the party and an inquiry follows immediately.' Talk is cheap Mr Corbyn, even when it is mouthed on prime-time television. We have had no personal action taken by you either with respect to Israel or the Jews to demonstrate your fidelity to either equality or the truth.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
If Jews are to foster social cohesion as an important and indeed necessary instrument of nation building in Israel, then the required group identity, however much based on the ideology or utopian vision of Zionism, has to include everyone, even those people with whom we are in serious ideological competition or conflict.
A criticism often directed at Zionist or pro-Jewish groups by their opponents is that free speech means the freedom to criticize, and in turn this means that even when the anti-Zionists’ (or antisemites’) one-sided debates are governed by intimidation and cant, the attempt to deny them their right to speak is to silence “critical voices”. This is a false argument, it is the cant deployed by fascists to stifle meaningful debate if only because it is one-sided and based on deceit. Therefore, it can only work if the other side to the conflict is silenced. In this censorship is the essence of the tactics employed by those who oppose Israel's existence.
Where Israel and its supporters have failed is that they do not replicate the tactics of their enemies. When faced with intimidation and violence you use all legal means available to you in order to punish your persecutors. You do not “play nice” with fascists as most of Israel’s enemies are. Intimidation and violence are the fascists preferred method to stifle debate. It is the antithesis of academic or intellectual freedom. The Nuremberg rallies were also examples of ‘free’ speech. The Nazis rose to power using intellectual fig leafs provided by the presence of eminent lawyers, and the scholarly erudition of the professors in their ranks. Its tactics were little different to those employed by the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement which is ubiquitous in Western colleges and universities.
In the UK and USA today Jewish academics are being intimidated into silence or driven from their campuses; thus fascism censors us as it takes control. If we do not fight it we are driven into effectively renouncing our equal right to free speech by a vociferous, passionately believing, hateful minority of intellectual thugs. Fascism has little to do with universal truths and everything to do with positioning a narrative to the absolute exclusion of all else. In this way, history, for the Palestinians and their supporters begins with defeat in a war they will forever deny they were responsible for starting; thereafter they are always victims and never anything other than passive players in this tragic drama.
Being passive players in a global drama, they have no responsibility for anything that befalls them and no responsibility for the deaths they cause. If they slaughter Jewish children at a school it is the Jews or the Zionists who are at fault for being the foot soldiers of an illegitimate regime. It is the signature tactic of the tyrant and the terrorist. Whatever occurs is always someone else's fault. But we are left clearly understanding the consequences of our failure to submit to terror.
It is the main reason Western journalists are so obsequious in their toadying to an Islamist, anti-Zionist agenda when they report the news. It theoretically inoculates the journalist against “Islamic anger” (fatal retribution). It is an excellent way to deflect criticism and crush debate.
The first stage in any conflict is to win the propaganda war. The Palestinians and their fascist supporters in the BDS campaign have already won the first stage. The second stage is to stifle any contrary debate. Controlling academia and the press are the crucial battlegrounds. The Jewish people and their supporters are rapidly losing that second stage.
If we want to influence a person of power so that our own message may reach more people, we must display similar concerns and prejudices. Instead of ‘justifying’ or ‘explaining’ we must respond with our own accusations, non-stop, relentlessly and mercilessly.
We have suffered far too many centuries of Islamic discrimination and persecution to allow the past 68 years of independence to be all that the world is educated to recognizing. A wealth of historically terrible misdeeds mirrored in contemporary events in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and elsewhere are all we need, to remind the world of why Jews sought self-determination in the first place. And why people that omit that history from the current debate are not just Israel’s enemies but the enemies of human civilization.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Censorship worries many of us but in a world of prejudice it would be easy to simply ban uncomfortable speech. In a recent report it was revealed that there has been a 61% rise in antisemitism in the British capital city and that a majority of French Jews are now considering emigrating. France is no longer a safe place to live if you are Jewish. According to that same report over 40 percent of EU citizens hold antisemitic views. In the United States, 75% of Jewish students have experienced antisemitism in their college.
It would be so easy to flee from faith. It is not nearly as easy to fight prejudice and the antisemites who in the interest of free speech celebrate their passionate engagement by renouncing their opponent’s freedoms. Jewish Uncle Toms are particularly enthusiastic about proscribing their coreligionists constitutional rights. Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association is being curtailed across the Western World so that fascism may impose its views on us all.
The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions and lies. Communist China had to adopt a market economy to forestall collapse and even then in order to catch up economically with the West it has had to impose hard labor on large numbers of its own people. North Korea is an abomination that can only survive through infusions of Chinese cash and the liberal use of concentration camps to keep its terrorized citizenry from rebelling against its military tyranny. Venezuela, once viewed as the model for South American leadership and enlightened rule could only survive under its radical left wing charismatic leadership through its suppression of the opposition. Massive food bribes at election time were with-held from anyone suspected of wanting to vote the wrong way. So the Progressive left (and the term is interchangeable with ‘radical’) understands that it has to control the narrative and suppress any opposition in order to have a realistic chance of maintaining power.
The radical left is bereft of honesty because its own survival always takes precedence over the truth. In its desperation for self-validation it resembles a religion, and like any faith in the early stages of its’ mythological creation it is bought at the expense of a blood sacrifice. In this new religion, the radical left continues to demand and is incapable of letting go of that blood sacrifice. Its antisemitic origins have blinded it to its bigotry. The original sin of the ‘progressive’ left’s intellectual, antisemitic birth has been espoused by far too many guardians of its ideological purity. It is an easy narrative, familiar to the general population and therefore, an easy key to opening the minds of its more receptive potential converts.
Its political theology makes its easier to understand just how little distance separates Islamic State and other fundamentalist fascist organizations from the so called progressive left. Those who gravitate towards these racist demagogues are only comfortable with a non-nuanced approach to life. They need simplicity as validation of their own identity. As a consequence of this approach they are able to renounce human rights to any, save a selective few, as a vehicle for defining who is a friend and who, an enemy. In this way they can ignore the stench of their cohort’s often genocidal ideology.
I read an interesting article in Ynet news about Hillel. This is primarily, an American and Jewish university club. Its aim is to “engage Jewish students in religious, cultural, artistic, and community-service activities” (Wikipedia). As the survey referred to in the first paragraph proves, clearly antisemitism on campus exists. Hillel, crucially, exists to provide a safe-haven and a familiar home for people who need it. But there is a new fascist conspiracy to undermine and ultimately, to obliterate free speech and it is called “Open Hillel.”
Open Hillel is an initiative that claims to allow for more open criticism of Israel and Zionism. In reality it is one more fascist instrument of control through which any criticism of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist organizations is first rebuked and then by denying Jews the rights that their opponents demand, prohibited. By undermining Jewish rights and creating a hostile environment for Jewish association the Muslim and anti-Semitic Left are trying to muzzle Jews on campus. By working to censor the visual Jewish presence on campus, fascism defines truth and controls narrative.
As Ben-Dror Yemini said in the following article:
“On many campuses in the US, there are many groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Islamic associations, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and many others. They have a lot of power. They act, sometimes with violence, against Israelis coming onto campuses. Sometimes it's just because they're Israeli, regardless of their opinions. This phenomenon is called a boycott. The members of these groups, most of whom support the BDS Movement, are the ones behind a campaign to silence other opinions. So an interesting thing is happening here - in order to strengthen "openness" and "inclusion," we seek to open the door to those who use violence against openness.
Facing all of these groups, on some of the campuses, there is one group - only one - Hillel, which is trying to give Jewish students one space - just one - that would be clean of anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli propaganda. The three are not always the same thing. In recent years, differences between them have eroded. And now, there are those who seek to take away even this small space, so the exact same anti-Israeli opinions are voiced again - those already voiced over and over again everywhere else.”
Yemini also points out that activists and lecturers refuse to sanction opposition opinions, they silence any pro-Jewish or pro-Israel voices that even try to attend their events and they intimidate anyone who attempts to stand up to them.
For ‘boycott’ we should understand that this means physical censorship, intimidation and denial of a (pro-Jewish) right to free speech and association. Visualize wife-beaters and proponents of choice demanding as their familial, cultural or democratic right, the right to abuse women; as well as unfettered access to the Women’s refuge. Picture the pedophile who asserts the right to be given a role in looking after children. Imagine radical right wingers seeking control of Democrat facilities at election time (USA) or permanent control of Labor Party and Trade Union’s communications media (UK). No amount of dissimulation can conceal the rhetoric and sophistry that is meant to shut down debate in a secure environment. That right to a secure environment is the purpose our universities serve. It is under threat if you are the wrong kind of Jew.
These organizations represent the modern face of fascism. They are against free speech; they are completely closed to any opinion that is at variance with their own opinion. Intimidation and violence are what they use if the legal stuff fails. They are truly, worthy successors to 1930’s, 1940’s (and 1950’s) bigotry and if they are not defeated outright they will return us to a similar age of darkness and despair.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
We live in a world that is divided as never before by competition for the supremacy of ideas, such as Islamism, Islam, Democracy and freedom of speech, socialism and capitalism, fundamentalism and individualism.
Many people in modern society are alienated from that world of ideas and even more of them, are alienated from politics. Increasingly, the more educated we become, the more we become alienated from religion in favor of consumerism and its comforting convenience. To be engaged with something takes effort. In a world of ideas that are constantly clashing it is far easier to either ignore or suppress whatever creates unease.
At the turn of the Common Era, the competition for whichever god or group of deities we chose to worship, was fierce. Aspects of worship were the fashionably contested marketplace of ideas that engaged slaves and aristocrats, workers and bureaucrat alike. But then life was simple, ideas uncomplicated and existence precarious so a bit of extra help from the divine was at the very least, a psychological tonic!
As a species we began as pure instinct – how else could we have survived in an unremittingly hostile environment where weather, the search for food and shelter, predators and disease hunted us remorselessly? And then we discovered the usefulness of relationships. We discovered the utility in trusting associates, first families and then tribes. We discovered that mutual interest was a powerful force for survival. Trust grew out of physical and psychological familiarity – even if we did not, as yet, understand this. As we moved away from being instinctual human beings we needed the community to back us up, to protect us from other competitor communities. As communities became settlements then tribes, city states, regions then nations, laws became a means by which we regulated and therefore controlled behavior.
It has taken us thousands of years to reach the point where the individual is once more at the center of society. Primitive man (woman) lived at the caprice of the elements. The modern individual no longer needs to labor to survive and he or she may choose to live a life with a minimum of human interaction. That also means that our responsibility towards each other is no longer a necessity for our mutual survival and the danger is that our species’ responsibility for each other is being reversed. We are at a different stage of growth (or decay) - depending on how we interpret society and whether we look forward or backwards for our inspiration.
Technology has enabled us to have partial control over disease and our physical environment. Our laws force us to exercise restraint and Western society encourages its’ citizens to be tolerant of that with which it is unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. And yet, we still have this competition for ideas which brings us into conflict across the globe with people who owe no allegiance to those ideals that have made us so theoretically tolerant. Those people are using our tolerance against us.
Individualists demand self-expression as the highest ideal within society but it is conditional. What conditions that self-expression is an absence of censorship. That means, when we disagree on a fundamental level with our neighbor we must ignore those differences in the name of tolerance. The problem is that a community can be equally committed to an ideal that is the antithesis of the freedom that gives us our right to individuality. Unless we are willing to fight for our own rights of self-expression we will be censored and our articles of freedom will be used against us to undermine those very freedoms we so passionately defend.
In the 1920’s and throughout the 1930’s the Nazis used our ideals of freedom to undermine and overthrow democracy. They used censorship to shut down any valid criticism and they used discrimination to appeal to the ignorant middle classes whose ballot they needed to be legally voted into power. The individual was always the greatest threat to the Party’s power because they were less likely to accept whatever they were told as absolute truth, and they could infect others with their criticisms and their doubts.
Al Qaeda and Islamic State (Daesh) have their model for their ideal community and it negates what enabled our society to achieve our individual-centric society with its laissez-faire morality, its hedonism and its idolization of consumerism.
This is where the current cult of the individual fails every one of us.
And a simple example exists of this breathtaking naivety with which we have embraced our enemies while they openly treat us with contempt. The Huffington Post launched an Arabic language edition in July 2015 called Huffington Post Arabi. It is in competition with al Jazeera which is owned by Qatar and therefore reflects its anti-Western, pro-Islamist agenda. Because it is in competition with a successful Arab model which is reactionary, biased and sectarian, in order to compete it is satisfied to mimic it in its illiberal prejudices. In an article I read as recently as January 25, 2016 there were references to World War 3, the term used to describe the conflict between Islam and the rest of mankind.
So let us be clear on what is being offered to the Arab world. We have a popular, commercially successful, Western, liberal, internet newspaper applying Western values as justification for funding the production of a prejudiced Arab-Muslim tabloid that in turn provides a veil of respectability to Arab prejudice. It censors debate and encourages the idea that ethnic conflict is legitimate; it is contemptuous of free speech and despises the freedoms that encapsulate our Western Society.
Arianne Huffington appears to be motivated by contempt and self-loathing. Perhaps our captains of industry have always been self-serving and contemptuous of the society that nourished them. It is society’s embrace of individualism that has enabled us to make stunning advances in every field of science and technology while simultaneously it is helping our enemies to undermine our civilization.
A second example is that of the recent case of an American university professor, Joy Karega, who spreads her antisemitic ideology and conspiracy theories on American campuses. An academic institution permits Karega to spread her malignant views without consideration of any action being taken to contain the influence of this repulsive individual. If this person represents our free speech legacy then colleges must permit all intellectual rabble rousers a campus forum. If hate is a permitted commodity then there should be no bars to who may preach it.
To extrapolate what such a toxic equilibrium promotes is not difficult: at best, assassination, at worst, civil war. If society understands this fundamental threat to its survival then how can it justify the continued employment of such a venomous creature?
We have been here at many other times in history. The most recent outbreak of this intellectual contagion was during the first half of the twentieth century when fascism was violently expressed by both left and right. Their most enthusiastic proponents were ultimately responsible for the murders of tens of millions of human beings. But it was only seriously acknowledged that the extreme right wing committed crimes against humanity. It was our greatest error because it inoculated Left wing fascists against any criticism of their beliefs and tactics for as long as they did not wear an armband adorned with a swastika.
In our world of ideas, fascisms antisemitic cheer-leaders are ascendant. Meanwhile, we show far more concern for their right to abuse us than we do, our right, to live without the concomitant negative consequences their abuse entails.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The problem with any discussion of censorship is that it is not only what offends or is harmful to society that defines the need but also political will, social currency and degree of cultural acceptability. The Western world has made it even more difficult for itself by having no unambiguous vision of its own identity and therefore it possesses no clear guide to illuminate the preferred direction that that discussion should take. Additionally, censorship criteria changes with each generation; they can change each decade thus redefining the truths that make up our comfortable sense of self (based on our understanding of morality). But there is another kind of censorship and the easiest way to describe it is by saying that it is the opposite of freedom of speech. We choose to censor that which is uncomfortable for us.
Fascism is quite simply the need for others to censor anything with which they disagree.
And following on from this characterization of fascism what makes for propaganda is repetition, reinforcement and denial. Without propaganda the fascist will have difficulty gaining a significant audience and without a significant audience it is unlikely to gain mainstream acceptability. A picture, a word in a certain setting, or an oft repeated phrase creates familiarity and familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. To quote Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow) “anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs.” Our entire understanding of ourselves and our surroundings is based on predictability and that predictability is based on associations. Inevitably, it is what drives our rejection of change. That rejection of change creates the self-censorship society usually willingly imposes on itself. The outlier creates a dissonant reality that is subjectively uncomfortable by rejecting the norm (Kahneman’s “associative coherence”). Put another way, it is the outlier's rejection of the norm that creates the intellectual and emotional discord (disharmony) that is at the heart of conflict.
BDS (the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement) is the perfect example of a classic fascist conspiracy that in order to succeed must censor the truth, if only because its version of truth is unable to compete with the alternate reality advocated by its enemy. Therefore, it must control the narrative and deny its opponents the possibility of intellectual exchange or debate. Fascism must censor the truth to flourish. Not all change is positive nor is it necessarily desirable, but it is this interplay between people and society that defines the limits of acceptability in everything we do and in everything we are permitted to believe. It is what creates both growth and decay.
Incidents of hate speech and violent confrontation dismissed with contempt as being no more than examples of academic freedom are proof of the incremental take over of Western universities by the advocates of fascism.
The problem is that contemporary ethical thinking is framed in terms of carefully chosen absolutes. In today’s inquisitorial society, consensus is defined by the exclusion of anyone who does not think exactly as set out by fashion. How different does this make us, in reality, from yesteryear's bigots?
The clamor to ban that with which we disagree is selective and it is within this selectivity that we isolate the threats to a ‘consensus’ (whatever that may mean) that is no more than a preferential narrative. When we selectively proscribe debate the main question that we should be asking is: who decides? Is it a movement like BDS or a committee? Where we have government mandated committees defining the limits on anything, at least in theory, those they appoint represent society and therefore what they limit represents what society is happy for them to limit. In practice it is the most passionate and therefore usually, not the most ethical of advocates that place themselves in the position of being able to exercise control over decisions that impact on us all. And so it is with BDS and its easy delegitimization of anything that threatens its assault on Israel, on Zionism and on Jewish equality.
The issue becomes more critical when we realize that it is not possible to prevent a movement from escalating its demands once it begins to achieve any of its objectives because success creates an escalation of momentum which in turn facilitates violence as an enabler of that success.
People who appoint themselves arbiters of morality can change society but not necessarily in a good way. Most people cannot draw a line under their activities once a goal has been reached. It is probable that the only movement in history that was able to stop once it achieved its objectives were the suffragettes. But then they reluctantly responded to state sponsored intimidation and their few acts of terrorism were against property, not people. The militancy of the Suffragette movement ceased with the start of World War 1.
Every person must wrestle with their own personal limits on what they view as permissible. Society is defined by its limits. It is when individuals or a group within a society refuse to accept the rules by which society is governed that violence or terrorism becomes just another tactic in their war. It does not explain why some people agitate for change through violence but clearly, some personalities are more open to violent expression than others and some ideologies and faiths are similarly disposed towards violence as a means of achieving an end.
In Islamic societies there are numerous restrictions demarcated by religion, by tribal tradition and by mythology. Violence is not usually one of them. Therefore, within a Western legal environment its use as a means of furthering an Islamic agenda is easily justified through its cultural familiarity.
War, the execution of criminals, boxing and hunting are our last legally mandated acts of violence in Western Civilization. However, the targeting of Jews and Zionism (Israel) is an example of the application of subversion and violence as a means of assault on Western values and Western society.
Social media is populist and therefore not necessarily rational. Populism is defined by its successfully feeding off of people’s fears and prejudices. As such it is a form of low value entertainment, the risque post-cards of the electronic age. Social media’s greatest crime is that it is largely unaccountable for its sins.
If something poses a threat to our way of life how do we indulge it without providing it with privileges available to no-one else? Is there a difference between violent and non-violent extremism or is one simply a way station on the road to the other? How to make the unacceptable, irrelevant?
Ideas that we oppose must be defeated in order to relegate them to history’s footnotes. Peddlers of hate, conspiracy theorists and bigots of all stripes whether on the Internet, on campus or in other public arenas cannot be banned but they can be shamed, isolated and denied an easy public platform from which to preach and spread their poison. If ideas are offensive, it is the society that defines them as such and the interplay between groups sharing the same interests and those that do not, defines whether we accept or ignore their ideas. Banning (censorship) simply drives an idea underground and marginalizes its proponents who then are more likely to be radicalized and left feeling that the only way forward is through violence. But make them appear ridiculous and maybe, you force them to confront their ideology, or minimize their influence.
The question is not how to recognize the dividing line between creating offense and inciting violence but how do we indulge that which is offensive without it becoming a characteristic of our society which facilitates bullying as an acceptable tactic to achieve any ends?