Sunday, July 11, 2010

Waiting for Achilles Godot

Erasmus somehow saved a fragment from Aeschyus' Mymidones, a play now lost that deals with Achilles' bodyguards in the war against Troy, known to us as Turkey, a few lines from a Libyan saying about an eagle seeing itself impaled by an arrow:

"Thus not by others, but with our own feathers/ are we undone."

Aeschylus, The Myrmidones.

It's a mad, mad, Mad magazine world. What? Me worry? The only problem is Christians and other rightwing bigots, the racists, the conservatives, the pick your imaginary villain. The problem is whatever is not the problem. That settles it. Everything else is fine and improving. Thank the gods for the government. This is the best in the best of all possible worlds and the government is making everything better. Jihad? It's a spiritual striving, only turned against Western Arrogance when we deserve to be punished for past transgressions, slavery and the CIA over-throw of the Iranian Communists in the 1950s, and so on. If there are any problems in the world, then we are responsible for them, and if we are nicer people, we can change all that so everyone loves us. Jihad? What? Me worry?

"Normalcy bias."
The normalcy bias refers to an extreme mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of the government to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred that it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.[1]

Glazov interviews some folks below to see if there is a Muslim/World problem we aren't facing honestly. I think "Normalcy bias." O.K., I think that when I'm on a date. Maybe I worry too much. But what if Geert Wilders is right, that Islam is a serious danger to the world as a place of freedom and safety and relative affluence? What if our intelligentsia comprises fools who are dangerous to us as individuals and nations?

Jamie Glazov, "Symposium: The Fear that Wilders is Right," Front Page Magazine. 9 July 2010

FP: Roger Simon, Robert Spencer and Kevin Levin, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.

Today we witness the blatant desperation in our culture and media for a “moderate Islam” — an Islam that many non-Muslims vehemently insist exists, but that mysteriously eludes them. This moderate Islam will make everything better, we are told, once the “extremists,” who are the “minority” in Islam, will be sedated. This sedation will be most easily achieved, the argument continues, when the Islamophobes stop blaming Islam after Islamic terrorists point to Islamic scriptures in explaining what inspired them to perpetrate their terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, in terms of the planet that we happen to be occupying, a “moderate Islam” is nowhere to be found; no school of Islamic jurisprudence exists that counsels Muslims to renounce the Qur’an’s teachings on Islamic supremacism and the obligation of violent jihad. And yet, to suggest the truth of this reality in our culture gets one only the accusation of being a racist and an “Islamophobe.”

Roger Simon, let me begin with you. What do you think of this phenomenon? You recently wrote a profound piece at Pajamas that touched on one of its crucial foundations. In analyzing why the likes of Glenn Beck and Charles Krauthammer have attacked Geert Wilders, you interpreted that these conservative individuals, from whom we might have expected something different on this score, are, what it all comes down to it, rejecting Wilders because they are afraid that he might be right....

Simon: [...]

Islam is an almost unsolvable conundrum. How do you deal with a religion with a billion adherents that is expansionist in ideology and threatens to kill its apostates? How do you get a reformation of that religion when its holy book, from which those dictums come, is reputed to be dictated verbatim by God and is therefore immutable? Talk about “inconvenient truths,” these are about as inconvenient as they get. No wonder they are buried from the discussion and ignored. We in the West live in a society that cannot even begin to wrap its mind around that. I know – it’s hard for me.

So where does that leave Wilders? I believe that consciously or unconsciously those who brand him as excessive, or even racist, are living in fear that he may be right. They have to hate Wilders, because if he is correct, their whole world disintegrates. Who would want that?

He and the small group like him have therefore morphed into our clearest contemporary examples of those poor Greek messengers to be killed for bringing the bad news. A salient recent example is Nicholas Kristof’s unhinged attack on Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the New York Times Book Review – a supposed liberal going off on a woman who had a cliterodectomy for daring to dwell on how women were oppressed in the Islamic world. It’s almost pathological. Another recent example are the similarly unhinged attacks on Israel over the Gaza flotilla incident while completely ignoring vastly more horrific acts occurring in the Muslim world on an almost daily basis. We dare not insult them lest they go mad.

It’s almost as if the world has become a giant dysfunctional family, enabling their huge Muslim branch to remain besotted – or drugged out – on sub-Medieval ideology. And the situation is getting worse. The principle bastion of hope of reformation of the Islamic world – Turkey – made its turn back toward fundamentalism years ago now.

So again, where does that leave Wilders? One lonely canary. We have to support him, but I’m not optimistic. I hope my colleagues are.

FP: Thank you Roger Simon.

Kenneth Levin your thoughts? A species of the Oslo syndrome is involved in this phenomenon right?

Levin: I do see a form of the Oslo Syndrome operating here. [...]

The perpetrators of 9/11 and their myriad supporters quickly made clear their objective of imposing their Islamist rule worldwide and their comprehension of doing so as a religious duty. Yet many in America sought, and continue to seek, to recast the threat, to rationalize it, and to urge policies aimed at appeasing Islamist leaders and followers in the delusional hope of thereby extricating the nation from the dangers it faces.

Geert Wilders argues that Islamofascism derives directly from Islamic teachings, including Koranic exhortations. His movie, Fitna, advancing this argument, is unimpeachable in its citations of Islamic scripture and in its images of Islamofascism on the march. That those who oppose him are motivated in large part by a wish to appease the purveyors of the Islamist threat is indicated by the fact that the negative responses to Wilders have focused not on rebutting his arguments but on demonizing him and using anti-democratic means to silence him. As Roger Simon suggests, they are compelled to hate Wilders because they so want to cling to their delusional denial of the threat.

The ugly, perverse, self-destructive nature of the assault on Wilders, and the necessity to defend him, have been articulated by many. ...

Beyond the unconscionable attempts to silence Wilders, there are other indications, both in Europe and America, that the hostility directed against him is motivated primarily by a wish to deny the threats we face and to appease its agents. Thus, in both Europe and the U.S., we have a huge chorus of officials insisting Islam is a religion of peace, They insist that Islamist forces pursuing a war of world conquest have “hijacked” the religion and that the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving and tolerant. Yet these same officials give virtually no public support to those - too few - Muslims within their nations who at once declare themselves to be believing Muslims and do speak out forcefully against Islamofascism. On the contrary, such people are typically ignored and government outreach is almost invariably directed to individuals and groups linked to Islamist, hatred-promoting agendas.


One can argue there is often a more venal motive behind this phenomenon. Saudi Arabia is the prime financier of Muslim extremism in the U.S., including of education in bigotry – particularly anti-Jewish and anti-Christian bigotry - in U.S. mosques and Islamic schools, and Saudi Arabia is pandered to because of its oil wealth and its readiness to use its prodigious financial resources to win official tolerance of its intolerant message. But if officials and others looked honestly at the existential threats we face from Islamofascism, the likelihood is they would be less inclined to politics as usual and to being swayed against defensive measures by Saudi blandishments. The impact of the Saudi role is a reflection of widespread official averting of eyes from the nature of the threat.

One can also argue that much of the Western accommodationist reaction to the Islamist threat, and desire to silence Wilders’ message, are a product of Western leftist orthodoxy. The combination of hostility towards the West, moral relativism, and boosterism regarding virtually anything non-Western or anti-Western – all seminal doctrines of the contemporary leftist catechism – inevitably leads to denial of, or excuses for, or even defense of, the Islamist challenge.

But even among those whose ideological allegiances weigh against looking honestly at the nature of the threat, there were many individuals who responded to 9/11, and the additional terror that followed on the atrocities of that day, and the declarations of Islamofascism’s leaders and minions, by reevaluating their leftist ideology and abandoning their old verities for a saner comprehension of the realities we face. Those who continue day after day to cling to their delusions regarding the nature of the threat do so by persisting, day after day – out of a desperate desire to believe reality to be otherwise, to believe the threat can be wished away or rationalized away or appeased away – to continue averting their eyes from the nature of the challenge.

FP: Robert Spencer, your thoughts on the need to hate Wilders so one can cling to one’s delusional denial of the threat we face? What do you think of Roger Simon’s and Kenneth Levin’s perspectives?


Spencer: Jamie, Roger Simon is quite right that those who call Wilders “excessive, or even racist…have to hate Wilders, because if he is correct, their whole world disintegrates.” [I]’ve encountered this phenomenon many times: people essentially admitting that they don’t want to face up to the truths that Wilders and others enunciate because they believe the implications of those truths are simply too terrible to contemplate. I was told several years ago that the editorial board of a major American publication, when asked to do a profile on me and feature my writing, turned down the proposal because if what I was saying were true, “the U.S. would find itself at war with every Muslim country in the world.”

I don’t accept that as a natural outcome of what I say, but I find interesting the open avowal of the idea that what I say about Islam and jihad simply cannot be true, because if it were, the implications would be too disturbing to contemplate – and so therefore it must be false, or at least should be ignored! I encountered this again in a debate with a professor of Islamic studies at a significant American university, whose opening gambit in response to my initial presentation was to tell the audience that if what I said were true, it would be very depressing – as if that were sufficient to establish its falsity.

Contributing to the persistence of this unreality is something that Kenneth Levin alludes to – the fact that “the negative responses to Wilders have focused not on rebutting his arguments but on demonizing him and using anti-democratic means to silence him.” That demonization is a tested and true weapon in the Islamic supremacist arsenal, as well as that of the Left, ... and it is so frequently employed because it is so very effective. There are so many spineless conformists on the Right in America – they are very easily cowed by charges that someone is a “racist,” or a “bigot,” or even worse, an “Islamophobe,” and maybe even a secret “neo-Nazi.”

It doesn’t matter if there is absolutely nothing to these charges (and in the case of Wilders and others thus charged and shunned, including my colleague and coauthor Pamela Geller and myself, there isn’t); for many prominent mainstream “conservatives,” the charges themselves are enough. They will shun any contact or association with people who have been thus tarred. They are thoughtless and cowardly enough to run in the other direction at the mere suggestion of a taint, often without even investigating the case themselves. They don’t seem to realize that by doing this they’re playing the Leftist/Islamic supremacist game — effectively allowing the opposition to define the terms of the debate, choose the playing field, and make the rules. And that, it goes without saying, is a sure path to defeat.

More at:

That's four guys in agreement talking to each other. Leftards aren't going to give up their religion due to that. They cling to their 'normal' and resent any disruptions, sometimes hysterically. Normalcy bias is probably lovely for those attached to it. It isn't, as I know from having seen vivid examples in life, but what the hey? Let's look at it further and see what we can. It won't change the minds of the biased, but for some it might clarify the situation, giving us confidence in our understandings, firming us up, as it were, in this battle against the disaster that is Left dhimmi fascism in practice in our Modern world.

Richard Landes, "The Hidden Costs of Jew-Baiting in England," Pajamas Media. 10 July 2010

London is an amazing place, full of vitality, intensity, foreign tourists and residents, a patchwork of pluralism. Talk to the average person, and nothing seems amiss: this cab driver, having driven in London for 40 years, sees no significant change in the neighborhoods he travels through; this financier sees no signs of intimidation; this shopper, this tavern-hopper, this man on the bus, lives in an interesting and relatively normal world. A superficial walk through the [Regent’s] park gives the distinct sense of normality.

But talk to the Jews, and you get a different story. The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists held a conference here this week. The topic: Democratic and Legal Norms in an Age of Terror. Panels discussed everything from the Goldstone Report, to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, to “universal jurisdiction” (lawfare against Israelis brought in foreign courts). Here, in the Khalili Lecture Theatre of the SOAS (School for Oriental and African Studies), Jewish lawyers discussed a grim reality whose only public appearance on an everyday basis is the drumbeat of calumny that a boisterous elite — NGOs, journalists, academics — rain down on Israel.

Perhaps the most startling of the sessions concerned the BDS movement. Jonathan Rynhold, from the BESA Center at Bar Ilan, and Anthony Julius, author of Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England, both presented a picture of British anti-Zionist activity whose intellectual and moral foundations were profoundly irrational, a dogmatic will to stigmatize and destroy Israel that responded to no argument about proportion (what about other places?) or reason (you make no moral demands of the Palestinians). And behind that lies a much weightier volume of negative feeling, a kind of unthinking animosity that expressed itself in its most banal form when a woman explained to Julius: “We all know why the Jews are hated: you marry among yourselves and live in ghettos like Golders Green and Vienna [sic].” In so doing, she put her finger on the most widespread subtext for hostility to Jews – “they think they’re the chosen people.”

Daniel Eilon, an English barrister, explained to me one of the mechanisms. It isn’t real anti-Semitism. In fact, most of the stuff that comes out against Israel is intellectually hopeless — phony narratives based on fantasy “facts.” This is really just good old-fashioned Jew-baiting. It’s saying things in all righteous innocence that you know will hurt the Jews to whom you address the criticism. The problem for the Brits (and the Europeans in general), he pointed out, is that historically, there’s never been a particularly high price to pay for Jew-baiting. Now there is.

What my friend referred to with this last remark is lucidly analyzed by Robin Shepherd in his recent book, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel. The elephant in the room, of course, is radical Islam — the people who interpret being “chosen” by Allah as a charter to dominate the world and submit everyone, willingly or not, to Islam. They’re the people no one dares bait; and they’re the folks who take full advantage of every deference to press for more. Daily aggressions from violent gangs constantly expand the territories where the Queen’s writ does not run. In tempo with the retreat of British law and enforcement, Sharia advances from internal community affairs (explicitly on the model of Jewish religious courts) towards the policing of community boundaries and claims on the state for special treatment. The British — like so many other Western nations –mainstream the extremists and marginalize the moderates. As Nick Cohen put it: “The world faces a psychotic movement and won’t admit it to themselves.”

A documentary filmmaker reveals a double assault on freedom of speech: on the one hand, everyone is terrified of peers calling them Islamophobes; and on the other, anyone who does something negative on Islam puts his or her life in danger. When I respond animatedly to her point, she looks around nervously and signals for me to lower my voice. How often did my British informants tell me in hushed tones about being intimidated!

News agencies send their journalists to special courses in self-defense for how to deal with hostile situations. How much of this responds to the pervasive dangers of doing journalism in Muslim countries, and how often does it come up in those areas where the Queen’s writ does not run? One such journalist who works for the BBC reports that when a mob turns ugly, they are told to stand back to back, palms open, pointing down and out — a posture of non-threat, but also one of subjection.

And of course, the best protection is positive coverage. Most of the time, “but we’re from the BBC” works to allay Muslim hostility: it’s code for “we’re on your side.” But for some crowds, even that’s not enough.

The result of this pervasive intimidation that comes from both peers and enemies is a body politic that feels no pain. Like a victim of CIP (congenital insensitivity to pain), the British public receives only vague hints of the assaults on its body. A widespread omerta operates in the mainstream news media, guaranteeing that many, if not most aggressions go unreported, or in a code — Asian street gangs — that only those looking for clues will notice. Aggregator sites online offer deeply disturbing collections of news items.

As a result, Brits look away while their Muslim communities are taken over by fascist zealots who enforce dress and behavior codes, who silence dissent, and who mobilize a resentful youth with violent hatreds. For these men, infidels are by definition guilty, deserving rape and lethal assault, as part of Allah’s justice. Douglas Murray’s study of twenty-seven Muslims, targeted by zealots, reveals the workings of a community hijacked by thugs.

The trials and tribulations of Afshan Azad, the Bengali Muslim-born actress in the Harry Potter films, beaten and threatened with death by her family, illustrate the depth of the community pressures. Her brothers’ failures to bring her to heel (or kill her) endanger their lives: “We are going to get trouble from the community now. It is bad news for our safety, her safety. My younger brother is going to get harassed at college. All our family is going to be harassed by the community because of this.” The tribal community rules, even in college.

So while a large and growing population falls under the grip of a Mafioso culture with an imperialist ideology of world conquest, the British look away. The “prestigious” London School of Economics disinvited Douglas Murray from speaking, lest his presence provoke violence. Paralyzed by an inability to discuss the problem, they become a train-wreck in slow motion. The lavish expenses that the government has paid out to immigrant families, which has at once increased their numbers and stilled their rage, is now run out. Budget cuts of up to 40% across the board will only exacerbate the frictions, and if the government pours money into appeasing the Muslims, they will alienate the British working class losing their benefits.

Which brings us back to Jew-baiting. As Shepherd explains in his chapter on Islam in Europe, this is a European-wide phenomenon that is directly related to the fear of criticizing Muslims. Anti-Zionism is the key extremist discourse by which jihadis radicalize communities and mobilize warriors for Allah’s armies. The disturbing figures for how many British Muslims support terror, think Muslims did not commit either 9-11 or 7-7, think the law should punish people who insult Islam, and think that apostates from Islam should die should not be read the way we read political polls in the West. These minorities are the dominant voices in their communities, if only because they use their terror tactics against fellow Muslims far more readily than against outsiders.

So while their enemies advance, the British elites are like deer in the headlights, incapable of speaking up for even their own principles of free speech and tolerance. Intimidated into silence about Muslims, somehow, they find their voice in denouncing the “real” genocidal evil empire: Israel. Thus some wax eloquent, like the Methodists with their thinly-disguised, resentful supersessionism; and others wax violent, like the anti-Zionist vandals, who damaged hundreds of thousands of pounds of property and got off scott free to the cheers of a Green MP.

Of course, every sin these brave ideologues accuse Israel of committing is done a thousand-fold by the very people who generate their demonizing narrative — the radical Muslims. It is these zealots who interpret their chosenness as a warrant to rape and massacre, to dominate and humiliate infidels. They are the toxic communitarians who believe in their side right or wrong, to the death — not the Jews, who can’t stop publicly beating their breasts about all their sins. Indeed, one of the mysterious factors in this madness is the role played by Jewish anti-Zionists, who, in Julius’ memorable phrase, are “proud to be ashamed to be Jewish.”

Instead of taking note of such sobering perspectives, Western anti-Zionists shy away from the dangerous and painful but legitimate and necessary criticism of Muslim radicals. They prefer the easy, cost-free baiting of any Jew proud enough to feel that his or her own people deserve a state. Instead of turning to the Muslims and saying “why can’t you express a fraction of the self-criticism of the Zionists?” they prefer to repeat the most toxic accusations against the Jews and claim: “I’m not saying anything that Jews haven’t said.”

They are the true Islamophobes — afraid to criticize Islam, eager to join in its chorus of hatred.

And in this act of demission before the Islamist challenge, British opinion makers and shapers also submit to their own bullies, their own zealots who push the Jew-baiting beyond the weekend sport of the salons, into the professional arena of anti-Zionist activism. When the founders of Hamas in 1988 penned their genocidal charter that explicitly targeted all infidels, little did they suspect that within twenty years, those infidels would chant “We are Hamas!” in the streets of London. Who could hope for a more useful infidel than that?

In the European past, Jew-baiting may have seemed relatively cost-free. After all, humiliate a Jew and the worst he’ll do is hector you. Sure, sometimes the sport got out of hand, and killing Jews en masse, or forcing them to convert, or kicking them out may have deeply damaged the economy and empowered repressive forces, like the Inquisition, to go after other religious dissidents. But who really noticed?

Today, however, the situation has changed dramatically because Europe doesn’t just run the risk of internal failure, but getting vanquished by an implacable and merciless foe. By failing to denounce toxic Muslim communitarianism and instead adopting its shrill discourse of demonization about Jews, Brits feed the monster that devours them. If it continues apace, if the British do not make Muslim civility towards Jews the shibboleth of assimilation to a free and democratic culture, they risk losing that civil polity entirely. As always with real anti-Semites, the Jews are only their first target.

Can Britain wake up in time? And if and when it does, can it swallow the painful price of giving up its addiction to Jew-baiting? Or will it be, as some close observers think, the first country in Europe to succumb to Islamism? Walking through the delightful streets of London, watching a brilliant performance of Henry IV Part II at the reconstituted Globe Theatre, passing by a multi-cultural mass of dancers by the embankment at night, viewing the vibrant energy of the city, one has little clue to the problem.

Or is watching this joyful celebration akin to seeing a fat man with a serious cholesterol problem dine on his deep-fried fish-and-chips and wash down those tasty truffles of moral Schadenfreude that so grieve the Jews and comfort the resentful?

"Normalcy bias" screams out at me here. People are terrified of being afraid. Those of us who aren't afraid of being pissed-off await our hero, which makes me think of Achilles skulking in the background, refusing to come forward to lead our army against the threat we face, the threat we must act against, normalcy bias predominant or not. It's not that jihadis are a billion strong and we can't possibly fight them without nuking the whole world. A couple of well-placed punches and Islam's rotten edifice will fall of its own corruption.

In keeping with the hero Achilles in a mad, mad, Mad Magazine world, here's a bit more to finish this off:


And 'tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida.
Act 1, Scene 3, L. 133-35


Dag said...

It's a long piece, I know, and it hurts my eyes to go through so much on the screen. I hope you all find it worth the strain.

truepeers said...

Normalcy bias? You mean human nature? Yes, we think in received norms and paradigms; and our society is presently trapped in a victimary normal that knows little else than to create ever new victims of what the powerful (who deny they are powerful) deem to be the invidiously hegemonic (white, bourgeois) "normal", with Muslims still being seen as the former and not yet as "normal" or hegemonic.

But from whence comes the desire to offer a generally critical attitude towards normalcy, while presuming one is not oneself interested in norms? - isn't that the epitome of the romantic norm, what Rene Girard call the "romantic lie", the lie that the romantic hero alone does not suffer normalcy? You know about conformity hippies but what about anti-hippie/Muslim conformity?

You're waiting for some hero to come and save us because all our problems will be solved one day with a few well executed thrusts at a stagnant culture? That's romantic normalcy bias, as if the sheer demographic weight of all those resentfully on the margins of the global economy can somehow be discounted if only we say so... as if we are not hamstrung by our circa 1945 knowledge of where are destructive powers and scapegoating desires can lead.

Human beings need norms and they need also mis-takes of norms. Let us embrace both and try to understand their anthropological purposes. A new politics can only come from our rigorous pursuit of new norms by pursuing the inevitable mis-takes in articulations of the old norms under pressure of changing realities. (E.g., ask, "Just why do you demonize a Muslim woman who was denied her basic rights when, as a girl, her genitals were forcibly cut? - What are we to make of this mistake in victimary culture? It's a mis-take in terms of previous leftist-feminist thought...) We have to turn these mistakes, where potentially revelatory, into new ways of seeing and talking. That's a form of waiting, yes, but it's an active waiting, a struggle to advance real victims in the name of real human rights.