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Friday, March 18, 2016

Censorship and University Life under threat

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

Censorship and the Control of Ideas in Society

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

Censorship: BDS and Fascisms’ Flag Waivers

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?