“The Project” ooh scary

by Daniel on December 8, 2005

Scott Burgess at the Daily Ablution blog is in the process of retranslating “The Project” from a French translation published in a Swiss newspaper. Apparently “The Project” is a secret document which outlines the secret plan of the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate European institutions, secretly take control of European governments and rule the world. Understandably, Scott is at pains to tell us that “this isn’t a conspiracy theory”, but I think he’s batting on a sticky wicket here; he’s got a theory, and it’s about a conspiracy, so there is no other two-word phrase which describes it more accurately than “conspiracy theory”. Scott himself appears to have a tiny bit of critical distance preserved from this material, but he’s not exactly shying away from the conspiracist interpretation and there are plenty of people in the Daily Ablution comments section who have really gone off at the deep end in the most hilarious fashion possible.

Welcome to the wacky world of conspiracy theories guys is what I say. As a frequent inhabitant of conspiracy mailing lists, can I offer the following advice:

1) It is in the nature of forgeries that they don’t usually look like forgeries. Everyone knows that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a forgery these days, but at the time when it came out, it looked really rather genuine. Yes there were plenty of reports about how it was found. Yes there were plenty of newspaper reports about how people admitted to having been present when it was drafted. Yes there were all sorts of people who might be thought credible who vouched for its authenticity. And still it was a forgery.

2) Even if a document is a genuine document, it doesn’t mean that it describes a genuine conspiracy. There actually is a Project for the New American Century; it has offices, a payroll and a website. And the Project for the New American Century does believe that the American system of government should be spread throughout the world, and that the United States of America specifically should be the supreme global power, and has written documents saying so. Furthermore, lots of people who either still are members of the PNAC or who were when some of its most important documents were written, are in positions of influence in the US Government today. Still doesn’t mean that there is a shadowy conspiracy working to create an American Empire.

3) Broad statements of aims are nothing like as important as specific plans. As I have had occasion to mention before in various comments threads, the Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley believes that the Pope is the Antichrist. Presumably, if one believed an important claim about the world like this (that a major and influential world figure was the embodiment of evil and was likely to intentionally bring about the end of the world as foretold in the Book of Revelations), all sorts of subsidiary political aims could reasonably be assumed to flow from this premis. However, it is a historical fact that Dr Paisley’s actual political demands have only ever concerned the system of government of the north-eastern corner of the island of Ireland. Presumably this is not because Dr Paisley has some strange theological view that it is OK for the Republic of Ireland to be under the dominion of the Antichrist; presumably it is simply because Dr Paisley is on some level sane, and thus does not concern himself with obviously unrealistic projects.

Similarly, anyone who believes in the establishment of the Global Caliphate must by that token believe that the Caliphate will in the fullness of time encompass Aberystwyth. However, I do not think that anyone at all has any practical plan based on the demand that the town of Aberystwyth must submit to sharia law. I’ve been there; it’s the most god-forsaken fucking town on Earth. The parallels here are obvious; since the prospect of bringing all of “Eurabia” under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood is patently ridiculous, anyone who claims to be planning either doesn’t mean what they say and can be ignored, or means what they say, is a loony and can be ignored.

4) Most importantly, don’t build your part up. If you find a document which is claimed to be the secret innards of the Muslim Brotherhood, and you realize that it is similar to the published writings of one of the most prominent modern theologians of the Muslim Brotherhood, then this does not conclusively prove that everyone in the Muslim Brotherhood secretly wants to advance the Secret Conspiracy Project. It’s just as likely that this is evidence that your secret document is in fact a rather amateurish hack-job put together from bits and pieces of published writings to give it a spurious air of plausibility (and, as is usually the case with such things, chucking in a few howlers like claiming the (Shi’ite) Muslim Parliament of Great Britain could possibly have been a project of the (Wahhabi) Muslim Brotherhood, to attract the intention of people who would otherwise have considered aims of the document as a whole). As Robin Ramsay, editor of the excellent Lobster Magazine occasionally says, there is a distinction between “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy research”. Conspiracy theories are simple, interesting, and leave you sure that you know what’s really going on. Conspiracy research is difficult, boring and leaves you surer than ever that you don’t.

Welcome to the gang.

Well, that’s all knockabout fun, mainly aimed at trying to laugh people out of a fairly daft piece of sensationalism. But there is a serious underlying message here. Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution is a guy who has already successfully run someone out of his job for being a member of a Muslim organization; one that has all sorts of views that I personally find unpleasant, but which was not a terrorist organization. In other words, he’s a compiler of blacklists and he has quite a few supporters in this exercise all over the wacky world of weblogs.

It’s not OK to blacklist people. Not for their race, their religion or their political beliefs. It is a bad action, it is counter to the principles of a democracy and it’s not OK. The only exception to this would be for cases of incitement to violence or incitement to hatred, and even then a pretty rigorous standard ought to be used.

Similarly, it’s not OK to spread rumours that will encourage other people to blacklist people. It’s a bad thing to do. For one thing, it degrades the overall level of debate, because it just reduces to claims that this or the other person is trying to advance a hidden secret agenda. For another it is downright irresponsible because you have no control over how this material will be used; you might have only the noblest of intentions in advancing your conspiracy theory, but there are plenty of people out there who are always on the lookout for anything that makes white people feel threatened and this will be just the ticket.

And the main reason that it’s not OK to behave in this way is that, like other forms of laziness, it’s a habit that’s easy to acquire and once acquired, hard to shake. You start off by raising a stink about a Hizb ‘ut Tahrir member being a journalism trainee on the Guardian because you’ve convinced yourself that he might be pushing Hizb propaganda under the radar. The next week you’ve convinced yourself that in general, Islamists writing in the newspapers should have to have a disclaimer at the end of their articles appended by the editor proclaiming that they are Islamists. And so on, and so on; there is no point in making claims of “Moral equivalence” to any particular historical events, but it is equally true that in almost any situation (business school proverb alert), the answer to the question “How the hell did things get so fucked up around here?” is usually “One step at a time”. Messing around with “Project” conspiracy theories about ethnic minorities is not a harmless hobby.

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{ 56 comments }

1

otto 12.08.05 at 4:25 pm

“Even if a document is a genuine document, it doesn’t mean that it describes a genuine conspiracy. There actually is a Project for the New American Century; it has offices, a payroll and a website. And the Project for the New American Century does believe that the American system of government should be spread throughout the world, and that the United States of America specifically should be the supreme global power, and has written documents saying so. Furthermore, lots of people who either still are members of the PNAC or who were when some of its most important documents were written, are in positions of influence in the US Government today. Still doesn’t mean that there is a shadowy conspiracy working to create an American Empire.”

You are confusing this argument by using the words “shadowy” and “conspiracy”, surely. The argument that there are well organised groups – such as PNAC – in US politics working to create an American Empire, and aren’t always completely open about their motives and objectives, would seem to be highly defensible. How would you argue against it?

One way of disagreeing would be to claim that interest group analysis of politics is unreliable, but that would be a surprising claim to scholars of politics, especially US politics.

2

Brendan 12.08.05 at 4:38 pm

Scott Burgess is a paranoid, smug, arrogant, self satisfied loon bat. Readers of his who are tempted to take his ramblings seriously should bear in mind that in his latest post he argues that the commemoration of the death of John Lennon is part of the Western cult of death (or something) because Lennon supported ‘murderous terrorists’. He is also a ‘global warming’ sceptic. .
Perhaps he is also a skeptic about gravity and the internal combustion engine too, who knows?

Mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad. And stupid.

3

Bob B 12.08.05 at 4:39 pm

“Even if a document is a genuine document, it doesn’t mean that it describes a genuine conspiracy. . . “

As the man said, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . .

4

Daniel 12.08.05 at 4:45 pm

The argument that there are well organised groups – such as PNAC – in US politics working to create an American Empire, and aren’t always completely open about their motives and objectives, would seem to be highly defensible. How would you argue against it?

I wouldn’t. I think that the PNAC is an extremely questionable organisation, it has too much influence and the way it goes about its business is bad for democracy. But the point is, that’s not the same thing as believing that it itself runs the show. Sorry for this but it’s a boilerplate rant I churn out on the conspiranoia lists every couple of months.

5

Dan Simon 12.08.05 at 4:54 pm

The stuff about a “conspiracy to take over the world” is neither surprising nor particularly disturbing. After all, every proselytizing religion is, in a sense, a conspiracy to take over the world. Ditto for every global political movement, social philosophy, or strongly-held opinion.

The only question that needs to be asked about this document–apart, of course, from whether it’s genuine, and whether it represents any actual organization or body’s membership–is whether it advocates illegal activity, and in particular violence, in pursuit of its goals. Not having read the document, I don’t know the answer to this question. But if all it advocates is that believers in its creed try to win converts, persuade governments to see things their way, and generally advance their goals (however unpleasant) by political means, then the proper response–vigorous political activity in opposition to those same goals–would be no different if neither the document itself nor any organized “conspiracy” ever existed.

On the other hand, if the document espouses violence or other criminality, and if it is in fact the genuine charter of a real organization with a real membership, then it deserves serious attention–but not because it’s a “conspiracy to take over the world”. Rather, it would be evidence of a criminal conspiracy, one that should be treated like any other such.

One final thought: on occasions when Crooked Timber has dipped its collective toe into the murky waters of the Arab-Israeli dispute, there has more often than not surfaced a comment or two about alleged Israeli control of American foreign policy. It would be interesting to see how many of those fond of lobbing that particular charge, when they see the shoe on the other foot, are capable of recognizing just what it’s stepped in.

6

Kieran Healy 12.08.05 at 5:02 pm

the Caliphate will in the fullness of time encompass Aberystwyth

I think you mean Al-Berystwyth.

7

otto 12.08.05 at 5:10 pm

“a comment or two about alleged Israeli control of American foreign policy”

Again, there is a bit of confusion here between accusations of conspiracy and, quite different, plain-vanilla interest group analysis of US politics.

The argument that the best organised groups affecting US politics on the Israel-Palestine question are various Jewish and Christian Israeli lobbies, who use fundraising and grassroots organisation to push US policy towards policies favourable to Israel’s view of its own interests would again seem to be highly defensible, just as the claim that US policy towards Cuba is highly influenced by the Cuban exile lobby in and around Miami, or even the claim that pharmaceutical companies are highly influential in US healtcare policies.

In all these cases, lobbying is observable, the response to the lobbying is as expected (policies significantly influenced by the lobby, lobby officials appointed to high government positions etc), and the whole connection is entirely consistent with mainstream wider analysis of US politics, where parties are weak and small-group lobbies are strong.

8

des von bladet 12.08.05 at 5:46 pm

I saw an account of something similar — an islamoflimflam attempt to infiltrate and overcome the glorious Republic, at least — in _L’Express_ (or maybe _Le Point_) a couple of years ago maybe. I took the simple precaution of switching hebdos to _Le Nouvel Observateur_.

9

Mrs Tilton 12.08.05 at 5:57 pm

A good and an important post. You’re wrong on one point, though:

… Aberystwyth must submit to sharia law. I’ve been there; it’s the most god-forsaken fucking town on Earth

Clearly you’ve not been to Ballaghdereen.

10

Dan Simon 12.08.05 at 5:58 pm

Otto, I’m puzzled as to how you distinguish “plain-vanilla interest group analysis of US politics” from plain-vanilla US politics. Everybody has an opinion as to what the government should do, and often like-minded people get together and try to persuade their fellow citizens that their opinion is well-founded, and deserves implementation. If they succeed, then the government does as they propose, to the benefit of some and the detriment of others. At what point, then, does such a group become an “interest group”?

The cynical answer is, “when their opinion diverges from mine”. The only-slightly-less-cynical answer is, “when I decide that those who benefit are somehow less worthy than those who lose out”. I frankly can’t think of a non-cynical answer. Can you propose one?

11

dave heasman 12.08.05 at 6:09 pm

“Clearly you’ve not been to Ballaghdereen.”

Or Romford

12

grackel 12.08.05 at 6:32 pm

… Aberystwyth must submit to sharia law. I’ve been there; it’s the most god-forsaken fucking town on Earth

nor to Lubbock, TX

13

Simstim 12.08.05 at 6:57 pm

Actually, Aberystwyth was close. You just need to go a few miles further up the Welsh coast to Borth.

14

otto 12.08.05 at 7:52 pm

Organised groups designed to influence the political process are interest groups, whether you approve of their policy proposals or not.

What is commonly thought to be peculiar to US politics is the special weight of small single-issue organised groups (like the Israeli, Cuban or Pharmaceutical industry lobby groups I mentioned) in driving policy outcomes. Other political systems, especially in Europe, operate at a high level of aggregation, where very large interest groups – such as the Trade Union Federation – are very influential and small groups largely ignored.

Any introductory textbook on American government will help you out.

15

Dan Simon 12.08.05 at 8:47 pm

Well, Otto, I’m not very familiar with European politics, but the two non-American democracies with which I’m somewhat familiar–Canada and Israel–both have a mix of broad-based and single-issue interest groups not entirely dissimilar to America’s, in terms of relative prominence and influence. Certainly industry lobbies are quite influential in both countries, as are, say, the civil liberties and environmentalist lobbies. And while religiously-based political activism is certainly far less prominent in Canada than in the US or Israel, regionalist movements seem to take up the slack.

I’m very curious to know how European nations have managed to immunize themselves against this particular brand of politics–and in what ways, if any, the alternative is really preferable.

16

Uncle Kvetch 12.08.05 at 9:06 pm

You just need to go a few miles further up the Welsh coast to Borth.

Borth. Now there’s a place name that inspires idyllic reverie…

17

Ginger Yellow 12.08.05 at 11:07 pm

PNAC are pretty open about their motives and objectives. The problem, as Krugman pointed out in The Great Unraveling, is that their stated aims and motives are so wacky (radical, if you prefer) nobody would believe them until it’s too late.

18

John Quiggin 12.08.05 at 11:46 pm

As regards the Pope being Antichrist, does this belief refer to a specfic Pope or is “Antichrist” some sort of ex officio position or courtesy title?

19

Dan Goodman 12.09.05 at 12:03 am

“Paranoia is the delusion that your enemies are competent.” Brad Hicks; http://www.livejournal.com/users/bradhicks/

20

Doug 12.09.05 at 12:06 am

What is commonly thought to be peculiar to US politics is the special weight of small single-issue organised groups

Not at all peculiar. Consider Germany: the role of the established churches is significant all out of proportion to their actual church-attending membership. In that sense, it is often simply the influence of the hierarchy, with little room for the laity. Or consider any of the occupational groups, professors, dentists, pharmacists and their corporate bodies. Consider much of the tax code, which is an archeologist’s dream, in terms of showing the influence of single-issue organized groups.

21

Daniel 12.09.05 at 12:59 am

I have been to Lubbock. Simstim is dead right about Borth though.

I think it was Robert Anton Wilson but it might ahve been someone else who described the point that Dan Simon is making by saying that conspiracy is “the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means”.

JQ: I think that “Whore of Babylon” is an ex officio title but I haven’t actually read Paisley’s book on the subject, only the summary on his website.

22

Matt Weiner 12.09.05 at 1:04 am

nor to Lubbock, TX

What? What? We have a Buddy Holly statue, dammit!

Actually, it seems to me possible to prove that there is no most godforsaken town on Earth by driving from Lubbock to Amarillo and following this reasoning:

Between Lubbock and Amarillo, there is at least one town more godforsaken than either Lubbock or Amarillo. Call it X.

Between Lubbock and X or X and Amarillo, there is at least one town more godforsaken than X. Call it Y.

Case 1: Y is between Lubbock and X. Case 2: Y is between X and Amarillo.

etc.

(It might be possible to do something similar for south of Lubbock, but I’m not convinced that there is anything south of Lubbock. I think the world ends there.)

23

Artemis 12.09.05 at 1:45 am

Um, isn’t The Guardian, by your definition, as much a “compiler of blacklists” as Burgess? And let’s test your anti-“blacklisting” theory. Would you mind if, say, a university fired a strong Nazi sympathizer during WW2? Or if Howard University fired a professor who had written propaganda for some white supremacist organization that professed to be non-violent. Would anyone who raised questions about the white supremacist be considered a “compiler of blacklists”?

24

dsquared 12.09.05 at 3:14 am

In answer to the questions:

1. Yes, I think the Guardian behaved quite shamefully in submitting to pressure and their chapel of the NUJ has not covered itself in glory either.

2. I specifically set out an exception for incitement to violence, which I think it would have been hard not to do if you were a Nazi sympathizer during WW2. I don’t think that Communist professors should have been fired during the Cold War however.

3. Nope, I don’t go boojums at white supremacists, as long as they’re not violent and as long as they don’t attempt to pass off non-science as science (which I also don’t think one should have job protection for doing). They’re wrong but they’re entitled to their political views and they should not be blacklisted. I presume that using the concrete example of Howard University was for comic impact, but I’m not going to sacrifice the general principle on that basis.

4. There is a clear line between “raising questions” and running people out of their jobs and if anyone is confused about it I am happy to answer reasonable numbers of questions on a case-by-case basis.

25

dsquared 12.09.05 at 3:17 am

(in the interests of fairness, Aberystwyth can be quite nice on a sunny day, of which there are about two or three a year)

26

dave young 12.09.05 at 3:40 am

As regards the Pope being Antichrist, does this belief refer to a specfic Pope or is “Antichrist” some sort of ex officio position or courtesy title?

Here’s one American denomination’s take on the matter.

27

bad Jim 12.09.05 at 4:16 am

Formally speaking, a set isn’t guaranteed to have a least or greatest element if it isn’t linearly ordered. Specifically, the ordering must be transitive. Occasionally with individuals, but more generally with groups, it may be the case that A > B, B > C, but C > A. This is easily demonstrated in an indefinitely prolonged wine-tasting, for example.

28

dsquared 12.09.05 at 4:26 am

Hey wow, Paisley’s book is online!!!!! It’s even better than I thought. Did you know that if you add up the values of the letters in VICARIVS FILLI DEI which are also Roman numberals, they add up to 666? This is almost as good as “Wall Street” being online for free.

29

constablesavage 12.09.05 at 5:41 am

Sudbury, Ontario is the most fucking godforsaken town on Earth. A couple of billion years ago Sudbury-to-be was hit by a nickel-rich meteor. The local plant life was just beginning to make inroads on the fused rock when along came the nickel miners who built Sudbury. They also built a chimney as high as the Empire State Building to carry the sulphur dioxide from the smelting works out of town. Result: acid rain for dozens of miles in every direction. I spent a weeek there once working for a chemical plant co. The local boast was that astronauts used to train there, it being the place on Earth most resembling the surface of the Moon. Borth, Lubbock, meet your master.

30

Chris Bertram 12.09.05 at 5:50 am

I’d have thought Merthyr Tydfil would have few competitors, though watching Miriam Margolyes exploring Cairo, Illinois on the box the other night puts that judgement in doubt.

31

dsquared 12.09.05 at 6:01 am

Hmmm yes. I suspect that even when the wails of the muezzin ring out above Borth and Sudbury, the Grand Council of Muslim Scholars will still be sitting around deciding to leave it until next year to have a go at Merthyr.

32

James Hamilton 12.09.05 at 6:07 am

There are two sides to this that you don’t mention, Daniel. One, that the stated aims of Hizb run contrary to the standards the Guardian sets itself and audits itself on annually; membership of one and payroll of the other didn’t mix, and that’s why the Guardian gave Aslam the choice of leave Hizb or resign. Two, that Aslam reported on a case from an on-the-face-of-it neutral perspective whereas in fact his organisation was essentially one of the parties involved in the case. In order to comply with Guardian standards, he would have had to have stated his personal interest in the case but didn’t.

33

dsquared 12.09.05 at 6:42 am

Yes that is indeed a good summary of Ian Mayles’ self-justification exercise but I say pshaw. The first one is exactly the same mealy-mouthed “our values are inconsistent with this organisation” crap that people trotted out as an excuse for blacklisting Communists in the 1950s. A blacklist is a blacklist and saying “we construct this blacklist on the basis of this statement of values” doesn’t change the fact.

The second is visible bollocks; are there really no Guardian journalists who are members of the Labour Party? What disclaimers about personal involvement should we expect from Andrew Rawnsley, who is always using his (excellent) column to help push along various factional struggles within New Labour? If there was a problem with the reporting of the Shabina Begum case, let’s hear what it was. In fact, Aslam’s piece was almost entirely an interview with Shabina Begum, who was a Hizb member herself so it is hardly surprising it reflects the Hizb point of view (and anyone who thinks that she was just a poor childish puppet of Hizb really doesn’t know much about teenage girls).

34

soru 12.09.05 at 7:00 am

Two, that Aslam reported on a case from an on-the-face-of-it neutral perspective whereas in fact his organisation was essentially one of the parties involved in the case.

The case seems pretty much analogous to the ‘City Slickers’ affair on the Mirror, where two journalists from the financial pages are accused of reporting incomplete information about a company they had just bought shares in.

It does seem to me that a newspaper has a right, maybe obligation, to fire those who, like Jason Blair, bring the paper into disrepute by breaking journalistic ethics. You don’t need to mention
Hizb ‘ut Tahrir’s extremist status to work out what he did wrong, it would be exactly the same if he had reported on the Conservative leadership contest while being, unknown to the papers management or readers, a member of the campaign team of one of the candidates.

Danial counters that with a ‘slippery slope’ argument to say that any such judgement of the actions of islamists might one day lead to them all being rounded up and interned, or shot.

Of course, the problem with slippery slope arguments is that, once you accept them as valid, where does that lead?

soru

35

Harald Korneliussen 12.09.05 at 7:02 am

Most denominations who talk about the pope as the Anti-christ see it as the office of the papacy, not any particular pope, except possibly the last, I presume. That is standard doctrine of seventh-day adventists, and also similar denominations who take a full-history interpretation of Revelations, where events in Revelations are thought to describe events not only of the last days, but also of the past.

36

sean morris 12.09.05 at 7:44 am

“Messing around with “Project” conspiracy theories about ethnic minorities is not a harmless hobby.”

Since when was a religion an ethnic minority?

37

dsquared 12.09.05 at 7:52 am

it would be exactly the same if he had reported on the Conservative leadership contest while being, unknown to the papers management or readers, a member of the campaign team of one of the candidates.

No it wouldn’t. As I commented above, the Westminster editors of nearly every British newspaper are quite deeply involved in the factional struggles of one or other political party, and this is not a bad thing unless it can be shown to have resulted in bad journalism.

38

abb1 12.09.05 at 8:04 am

But the point is, that’s not the same thing as believing that it itself runs the show.

What’s that have to do with anything?

I think the difference between conspiracy (cabal) and advocacy is intrigue, secrecy, scheming.

It’s true that the PNAC people are open about their motives and objectives, but do they employ deceit in their methods? Would they, for example, try to trick the public into invading a country by trumping up phony WMD charges or something? If they would, then they are a conspiracy, a cabal.

Same is true about any ‘interest group’. The Cubans are a pressure group. The AIPAC would normally qualify as a pressure group as well, but apparently they’ve been involved into some serious spying, so they obviously are a cabal.

39

anon philosopher 12.09.05 at 10:09 am

Or if Howard University fired a professor who had written propaganda for some white supremacist organization that professed to be non-violent.

Well, CCNY has on its faculty a professor who is funded by the Pioneer Fund. And from this pro-eugencist site, they didn’t try to fire him for saying that black people are stupider than white people and so shouldn’t be brought into the educational mainstream. (I’m not going to take a position on whether what they did violates academic freedom.)

40

Jim Miller 12.09.05 at 10:51 am

The arguments in the post aren’t of much interest, but the prose is entertaining. Like others, I was especially struck by this bit of vulgarity:

“god-forsaken fucking town on Earth”

And I hope Daniel will explain it further. Evidence, but no names, please.

And, one naturally wonders about the other three possibilites. Are there, for instance, “god-blessed f*ing towns”? And, if so, could he give us an example or two? And, I think I am not the only one who would like to see examples of the other two categories, as well.

(My own view is that most uses of vulgarity are intended to disguise the weakness of the underlying argument. I’ll let you decide whether this post serves as an example for that gneeralization.

And I was charmed by his “no enemies to the left” standard for faculty retention. Communists are OK, but mere Nazi sympathizers are not. Some might wonder what universal principle underlies that rule.)

41

dsquared 12.09.05 at 11:05 am

The arguments in the post aren’t of much interest, but the prose is entertaining. Like others, I was especially struck by this bit of vulgarity:

Glad you liked it. Here’s another bit of vulgarity for you to be struck by: fuck off.

My own view is that most uses of vulgarity are intended to disguise the weakness of the underlying argument.

Well, your own view is shit then.

I’ll let you decide whether this post serves as an example for that gneeralization

Thanks, you patronising twat. Me, Doctor Johnson, Leibniz, Nietsczhe, Socrates, Dean Swift and Winston Churchill are all on the same side of this one. I think Ann Landers might be on yours.

And I was charmed by his “no enemies to the left” standard for faculty retention. Communists are OK, but mere Nazi sympathizers are not. Some might wonder what universal principle underlies that rule.)

The principle that “war is different from peace”, you illiterate fuckbreath.

42

ramster 12.09.05 at 11:31 am

“anyone who thinks that she was just a poor childish puppet of Hizb really doesn’t know much about teenage girls”

are you serious? In a cultural milieu where honour killings occur (albeit infrequently), that’s a pretty damn flippant dismissal of the serious possibility that Shabina Begum was coerced into her public statements. Especially when she was being interviewed by a “journalist” who just happened to be a member of the organization coercing her. I appreciate (and generally enjoy) your somewhat comical/sarcastic spin on things but to throw out such an assertion seriously undermines your valid points.

43

Ray 12.09.05 at 11:46 am

My own view is that their overreaction to swearing is an easy and fun way of spotting Americans, and can provide endless hours of mocking amusement. Hey Jim, you’d better start running now or I’ll drop the f-bomb on you!

44

Shelby 12.09.05 at 1:07 pm

dsquared:

I always find that it bolsters the credibility of an academic argument when the proponent swears at his interrogators, don’t you?

It seems to me the complained-of vulgarity was used to express the speakers’ emotional reaction to the towns in question, rather than to disguise any weakness in the underlying argument, but whatevs.

45

Artemis 12.09.05 at 2:32 pm

“I don’t think that Communist professors should have been fired during the Cold War however.”

– How about during the Ukrainian famine, the Great Terror, the show trials, or the Molotov-Ribbentorp pact? Would it be okay to fire a member of the ACP then?

46

Hektor Bim 12.09.05 at 3:21 pm

dsquared, there are two contradictory impulses at work in your response to 33.

If newspapers are deeply involved in the work of the various parties and have party identifications, then it is strange to expect them to hire anyone and everyone. Since it was found that Aslam was directly opposed to the ethos and goals of the Guardian, which are explicitly a requirement of the position, I don’t see why they can’t fire him.

On the other hand, if they can employ anyone, then they most definitely should not put reporters on who are strongly affiliated with one of the two parties to a legal case in the position of providing free propaganda for said legal case. That’s pretty clearly what happened in the case of the Guardian.

47

Yusuf Smith 12.09.05 at 7:18 pm

Aberystwyth “godforsaken”, huh? I lived there for three years (1995-8) and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The town is in a marvellous setting and very convenient for trips to all kinds of very scenic places including southern Snowdonia, and the university has a reputation for being a very friendly community; my experience bears this out.

48

Yusuf Smith 12.09.05 at 7:24 pm

But the comments about Borth are spot-on. Dead, dead, dead. And the shape: exactly like a thermometer – a bulbous bit at the south end, with the rest of the town extending north along the road to Ynyslas. Weird.

About Dilpazier Aslam: remember that his HT connections became an issue when he wrote that piece after the 7th July bombings about feisty Yorksire Muslim lads or whatever. The Shabina Begum interview became an issue then, not at the time, and I think it only mattered to the people to whom the “feisty” piece mattered. His place in both HT and the Guardian got the Guardian a scoop: a sympathetic interviewer to whom Shabina could speak comfortably.

49

Phil 12.09.05 at 10:27 pm

The arguments in the post aren’t of much interest, but the prose is entertaining. Like others, I was especially struck by this bit of vulgarity:

If the arguments in the post are ‘not of much interest’ then why did you read the three pages of text that come before the vulgarity?

It is one thing to complain about expletives when they are used in the manner of a rapper, when every fourth word is an expletive they lose all effect. In this case the author used a single vulgarity and did so very plainly for calculated effect which Jim Miller recognizes.

What we see here is the inner workings of the Republican brain: essentially a list processing algorithm that churns through text until it sees something that matches a pre-canned response. The arguments were recognized by the matching algorithm as the type of left wing propaganda that has to be rigorously excluded to avoid the risk of puncturing the world view. When the expletive comes along the pattern match picks it up and instructs the fingers to type in a response.

I knew a Jim Miller once, he was a total toss-pot.

50

George S 12.10.05 at 2:39 pm

Re Scott Burgess… Is he really that mad, Brendan, or is that you stuttering?

51

Jack 12.11.05 at 1:48 am

“the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means”

It’s from _The Yankee and Cowboy War_, by Carl Oglesby, p.25.

“Clandestinism is not the usage of a handful of rogues, it is the formalized process of an entire class in which a thousand hands spontaneously join.” – Carl Oglesby, _The Yankee and Cowboy War_

52

Brendan 12.11.05 at 8:32 am

IMHO Scott Burgess is madder than Mad Jack McMad, winner of last year’s Mr. Madman competition.

But seriously though…I do think that people who have such a depth of ignorance of science and the scientific method that they question things that really no sane person should question should have their other views judged ‘guilty until proven innocent.’

For all that it’s fashionable to prattle on about the Enlightenment project and so forth, this doesn’t really mean very much unless you talk about individual cases. The fact is that the three key contemporary touchstones of anti-enlightenent contempt for science (or to be more specific, the anti-enlightenment belief that political expediency should take priority over scientific truth) are global warming ‘skepticism’, ‘Intelligent’ Design, and the incoherent and statistically illiterate attacks on the Lancet Study. Another classic example of pre-scientific thinking is a fondnes for conspiracy theories, and I think Mr Burgess’s uninteresting views on the Moslem Brotherhood should be considered in this light.

In any case, I think the Blackadder quote shows how mad Mr Burgess is. And as for stupid, another quote will have to suffice:

Scott Burgess: He’s got a brain the size of a weasel’s wedding tackle.

53

Kaspar 12.12.05 at 8:57 am

Borth and Aberystwyth are beautiful places, an end of the world where the sky meets the sea and explodes in an invigorating crash of light and colour. It grows on you, eats you, saddens you, thinks of you.

True that around the corner sit lonesome souls staring out to sea but there’s a beauty in this melancholy. And the bbq’s on the beach and music strummed on the pier is a chance to breath in a hectic world.

Borth is trickier to defend but it’s still lovely.

As for the other more important comments I haven’t currently got time to dive in. The Influencing Machine and the air loom gang are an interesting take on early mind control conspiracy theories though:

His patient’s name was James Tilly Matthews, and his view of the world had by this point become one of the strangest ever recorded in the annals of psychiatry. Haslam’s account is still acknowledged as the first example in history of the now-familiar notion of mind control by an ‘influencing machine’. For everyone who has since had messages beamed at them through fillings, mysterious implants or TV sets, or via hi-tech surveillance, MI5, Masonic lodges or UFOs, James Tilly Matthews is Patient Zero.
Matthews was convinced that outside the grounds of Bedlam, in a basement cellar by London Wall, a gang of villains were controlling and tormenting his mind with diabolical rays. They were using a machine called an ‘Air Loom’, of which Matthews was able to draw immaculate technical diagrams, and which combined recent developments in gas chemistry with the strange force of animal magnetism, or mesmerism. It incorporated keys, levers, barrels, batteries, sails, brass retorts and magnetic fluid, and worked by directing and modulating magnetically charged air currents, rather as the stops of an organ modulate its tones. It ran on a mixture of foul substances, including ‘spermatic-animal-seminal rays’, ‘effluvia of dogs’ and ‘putrid human breath’, and its discharges of magnetic fluid were focused to deliver thoughts, feelings and sensations directly into Matthews’ brain. There were many of these mind-control settings, all classified by vivid names: ‘fluid locking’, ‘stone making’, ‘thigh talking’, ‘lobster-cracking’, ‘bomb-bursting’, and the dreaded ‘brain-saying’, whereby thoughts were forced into his brain against his will. To facilitate this process, the gang had implanted a magnet into his head. As a result of the Air Loom, Matthews was tormented constantly by delusions, physical agonies, fits of laughter and being forced to parrot whatever nonsense they chose to feed into his head. No wonder some people thought he was mad.
The Air Loom was being run by a gang of undercover Jacobin revolutionaries, bent on forcing Britain into a disastrous war with Revolutionary France. These characters, too, Matthews could describe with haunting precision. They were led by a puppet-master named ‘Bill the King'; all details were recorded by his second-in-command, ‘Jack the Schoolmaster’. The French liaison was accomplished by a woman called Charlotte, who seemed to Matthews to be as much a prisoner as himself, and was often chained up near-naked. ‘Sir Archy’ was a woman who dressed as a man and spoke in obscenities; the machine itself was operated by the sinister, pockmarked and nameless ‘Glove Woman’. If Matthews were to see any of these characters in the street, they would grasp batons of magnetic metal which would cause them to disappear.
But all this activity wasn’t directed solely at Matthews. There were many Air Loom gangs all over London, influencing the minds of politicians and public figures, and with a particularly firm grasp of the Prime Minister, William Pitt. They were lurking in streets, theatres and coffee-houses, where they tricked the unsuspecting into inhaling the magnetic fluid which would place them under the control of the Air Loom. By poisoning the minds of politicians on both sides of the Channel with paranoid ‘brain-sayings’, they were threatening national and international catastrophe.
Matthews had originally been committed to Bedlam after standing up in the public gallery of the House of Commons and accusing the Home Secretary, Lord Liverpool, of treason. When examined, he insisted that he had been involved in top secret peace negotiations between the British and French governments, but had been betrayed by the Pitt administration and left to rot in a Paris dungeon. At the time, his convoluted narrative of plot, counter-plot and conspiracy had been seen as a symptom of his grandiose madness. But a great deal of it was true.
Matthews had been a well-to-do tea broker, originally from Wales, who had strong Republican sympathies and, after the French Revolution, began travelling between London and Paris as a self-appointed peacemaker, trying to head off the looming war between France and England. Initially, he had spectacular success in persuading the moderate Republican faction that Britain would sooner be at peace than at war with a stable and constitutional French nation, and met several times with Pitt, Lord Liverpool and others to attempt to sell them on his secret proposal. But the moderate leaders with whom Matthews was negotiating had lost power to the hard-line Jacobins, and Matthews had been arrested on suspicion of being an English double agent. He was imprisoned for three years during the height of the Terror; when he was released and returned to England, and began accusing the cabinet of washing their hands of him, they denied all knowledge of his mission.
So Matthews may have been delusional, but his wild conspiracy theories held more than a grain of truth. Furthermore, when he wasn’t under assault from the Air Loom, he appears to have been extremely lucid and articulate. Certainly his family didn’t believe that he was mad; their view was that he was a good-natured man, a peacemaker, who had become eccentric as a result of his misfortunes and had developed cranky views on politics.

54

jamie 12.12.05 at 8:58 am

Brendan – with your obvious mastery of the state of science and your obvious total understanding of global warming would you please give us all a brief lesson in the complexities of climate change and show us the facts on both sides of the debate in a measured manner. I am confident you have read many papers on the subject. Enough to go around talking with authority anyway.

55

Brendan 12.12.05 at 10:34 am

‘Brendan – with your obvious mastery of the state of science and your obvious total understanding of global warming would you please give us all a brief lesson in the complexities of climate change and show us the facts on both sides of the debate in a measured manner. I am confident you have read many papers on the subject. Enough to go around talking with authority anyway.’

I don’t understand relativity or quantum mechanics either, but I know that anyone without a degree in physics, preferably a post-graduate, and a tenured position at a respectable universit who claims to have gone ‘beyond Einstein’ or something like that is probably barking.

The fact is that to the best of my knowledge there is not one serious climate scientist (i.e. who meets the criteria of phd and tenured position at a renowned university) who doubts anthropogenic climate change. I also know from reading Scott Burgess that he is an imbecile. Not only do I know this: i also know that he is an extremist right winger with a taste for absurd conspiracy theories who takes for granted that truth should be subject to political expediency (and not just anyone’s political expediency either, but solely the expediencey of the rich and powerful). Given the other fact that Mr Burgess has no qualifications in climate science, or statistics, and in fact, no (so far as I know) qualifications of any sort, then the onus is on him to prove his case, not for me to prove mine.

56

Scott Burgess 12.13.05 at 10:44 am

Here is my “case” on climate change, as has been expressed on the Ablution. As it happens, I:

think climate change is probably happening,
but wonder if there may not be at least some concomitant benefits,

“go on to suggest that there may be a significant non-anthropogenic component;

“and, consequently, wonder to what extent horrendously expensive measures to combat it are necessary or desirable“

I wonder which part of that I need to prove.

Incidentally, I’m intrigued by Brendan’s assertion that:

he argues that the commemoration of the death of John Lennon is part of the Western cult of death (or something) because Lennon supported ‘murderous terrorists’.

Here’s the only thing I said about Lennon and terrorists:

“I couldn’t bear to think or write about John Lennon – who expressed his support for murderous terrorists at around the same time Imagine was released – nor about Harold Pinter. As those two individuals dominate the media today”

That’s it. Where did I “argue” anything, Brendan?

While your impressive name-calling may amuse some, your distortion of my position on global warming, and your fabrication of the “argument” concerning Lennon seem rather amateurish.

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