The epistemic environment that made the Utøya attacks possible

by Chris Bertram on July 27, 2011

I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, to write about the events in Norway. Obviously one’s first thoughts are with the victims of what was an especially horrible crime. I was in Oslo in April, and it really is hard for me to imagine an event such as this taking place there. Really dreadful and heartbreaking, especially since so many of the victims were young, committed, people who looked likely to make an important contribution to the life of their country.

I’m going to limit myself to a few thoughts on its wider significance. Obviously the killer is in some sense crazy, though whether that is technically true is a matter for the professionals. He was imbued with some version of an ideology which is widespread on the internet and to some extent in Western societies: nativism, extreme anxiety about Islam, hatred for liberal multiculturalist “enablers” of this, and so on. Ideas to be found on thousands of blogs, in the writings of wingnut columnists and neocons, in the shared beliefs of Tea Partiers and birthers, among the rabble of the English Defence League, and among the further fringes of extreme supporters of Israel. Is this fascist? I don’t think arguments about definitions are particularly useful. Some of this current predates 9/11, but in its current form it is a product of the US and global reaction to the attacks on the Word Trade Center. Plain and simple racist movements existed before 9/11, but this focus on a particular religion and its adherents coupled with the adoption of extreme pro-Zionism by the formerly anti-semitic right is something new. (This isn’t a single movement though, it is a spectrum, and elements of it have even been given cover, credibility and respectability by people who think of themselves as being on the left but who backed the Iraq war, strongly supported Israel over Lebanon and Gaza and who disseminate propaganda attacking those who take a different line to them on the Middle East as antisemitic racists.)

Following the Norway massacre many of the elite scribblers of this spectrum—many of whom have played the guilt-by-association game to the max over the last decade—are disclaiming all responsibility. Well, of course, they didn’t pull the trigger, but they helped to build an epistemic environment in which someone did. We may be, now, in the world that Cass Sunstein worried about, a world where people select themselves into groups which ramp up their more-or-less internally coherent belief systems into increasingly extreme forms by confirming to one another their perceived “truths” (about Islam, or Obama’s birth certificate, or whatever) and shutting out falsifying information. Put an unstable person or a person with a serious personality disorder into an environment like that and you have a formula for something very nasty happening somewhere, sooner or later. Horribly, that somewhere was Norway last Friday.

{ 350 comments }

1

actio 07.27.11 at 12:10 pm

Part of the problem is that mass media in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) allow massive quantities of hatred by anonymous/pseudonymous commentators to be attached to almost any article in the web editions of their publications. That is a marked shift for the publishing standards previously used for letters columns. True, you can’t stop hate speech on all of the internet. But there is arguably a big difference between hate speech on fringe sites populated mostly by violencemongering racists/islamophobes and giving such individuals space in the comments section of large papers. That only gives them a sense of breakthrough and the comment section format makes robust counterargumentation not very likely. Papers ought to either ban anonymous comments altogether or hire enough commentators to be able to keep up with a very strict moderation 24/7.

2

actio 07.27.11 at 12:11 pm

Sorry, I meant to write “or hire enough moderators” in the last sentence.

3

wolfgang 07.27.11 at 12:40 pm

>> they didn’t pull the trigger, but they helped to build an epistemic environment in which someone did

It seems that he read and admired Locke and Kant among others. Did they also help to build this ‘epistemic environment’?

4

Anderson 07.27.11 at 12:41 pm

Actio, I would be curious how many of Breivik’s citations in his “manifesto” were to online newspaper comments vs. right-wing blogs?

5

Walt 07.27.11 at 12:45 pm

wolfgang: No, they did not. Glad I could be hear to clear up any confusion.

6

dsquared 07.27.11 at 12:51 pm

I would be interested in exploring the implications of the case where you have someone in this cognitive milieu who isn’t unstable or damaged, but who actually believes the implicit factual claims made. This has always struck me as a key point with respect to the abortion debate – if you really believed that abortion was the moral equivalent of infanticide, and thus really believed that the society you were living in was exterminating babies at a much worse rate than Nazi Germany, surely this would mandate some quite radical action on your part? And therefore, I’ve always presumed, that given the tiny minority of people holding the anti-abortion position who even do so much as to give up a Saturday afternoon holding up a protest sign outside what they believe to be a mass murder camp, it must surely be the case that at some deepest level of rationality, the anti-choice side of that debate must be aware that they don’t really believe that life begins at conception, and that their views about the wrongness of abortion have some other basis.

Similarly, if you had, on fully rational reflection and considering the evidence as it appeared to you, concluded that your country was under attack from a foreign religion that aimed to enslave you and impose a brutal regime with no respect for your human rights, what would you do? Particularly, if you believed that a considerable proportion of your country’s elite and political class were quislings for this foreign power, what sort of action would that mandate from you?

Obviously even given this, I don’t think many people’s first reaction would be to murder children, and from this I end up concluding that (unlike, say the Fort Hood murderer, who even put together a Powerpoint presentation explaining that he believed he was defending his coreligionists from attack by the US Army), Breivik is actually mad in a clinical (and potentially legal) sense. But for the wider milieu … I think that my abortion argument is entirely analogous. Given what someone like Melanie Philips believes (that the UK has collectively gone insane, and that it has specifically gone insane with anti-Semitism in a way which invites comparisons with Nazi Germany), what on earth is she doing continuing to live in North London, and to maintain a high profile as a critic of British life on the BBC? Surely she ought to be taking steps to protect herself, and specifically taking advantage of the citizenship laws specifically set up in Israel to protect people like her?

7

Jon Rubin 07.27.11 at 12:53 pm

“Obviously the killer is in some sense crazy, though whether that is technically true is a matter for the professionals”

What is this sentence supposed to mean?
There’s nothing obvious about his mental state whatsoever.
It may well be that he is suffering from a paranoid delusion, which as you say, should be determined by professionals; this does not include his lawyer.
But at the moment, writing that he is “in some sense crazy” is both lazy and stigmatising to people who do have mental health problems and are not in the habit of butchering kids.
It’s a particularly annoying statement in the context of an article about epistemic environments.
Fanaticism and extremism are not the same as mental health problems and the collapsing of politics on to health is a dangerous trend that should not be encouraged or endorsed.

8

dsquared 07.27.11 at 12:53 pm

(also an application of the schema in #6: people who spend huge amounts of time arguing that particular racial groups are systematically less intelligent and more prone to criminal activity than others, but who act all indignant if they are referred to as “racist” – if you really believed in genetic stupidity and criminality, why wouldn’t you be racist? In general, I’d refer to it as “failure to own one’s bullshit”).

9

sg 07.27.11 at 12:57 pm

I’ve been reading the book War without Mercy recently, with a few reviews up on my blog, and the lessons that book has about the role of propaganda in constructing atrocities and mass murder are quite salient to this case, I think. To follow up on dsquared, it’s perfectly possible for propagandists to convince reasonable, non-insane people (Westerners, even) to do horrible things for their cause. I think the right-wing propaganda on the web is heading in that direction – maybe it’s only affecting those of vulnerable mindset now, but there’s something toxic and insane about it that can have a lot of power, even over the sane.

I think political debate has changed over the past 15 years. Where previously there was a genuine debate about political direction, the right has made a shift toward wanting to take power. Their propaganda reflects that.

10

Jennie Kermode 07.27.11 at 1:01 pm

Regrettably, newspapers are often advised by their lawyers that they should not moderate comments because doing so makes them legally responsible for those comments they do publish, and without legal training there is always the possibility that a moderator will make a serious mistake (employing people with legal training to do this job is, unfortunately, very expensive). At a time when many newspapers are struggling to survive they will be loathe to invest in this. An alteration in the law (in assorted countries) may be required to resolve this problem.

11

Pretendous 07.27.11 at 1:03 pm

They may also believe that working peacefully, if not obnoxiously, through existing institutions is the most effective way to achieve their goals. Not everybody is a freedom fighter, some folks need to quietly shuffled papers about until the regime changes.

Alternatively, they might just be moral cowards, which I suppose is another way of saying people who “fail[…] to own [their] bullshit.”

12

CharlieMcMenamin 07.27.11 at 1:04 pm

Dsquared: I’m not sure your abortion analogy holds up – people might believe it was mass murder but take no action because (i) they see no chance of success (ii) they’re afraid of the potential personal consequences of taking action (iii) they genuinely believe that current anti-abortion lobbying strategies are likely to work (iv) they disapprove of the nature of activity that might have to be undertaken to stop abortion, leading to some variation of the always available argument of ‘two-wrongs-don’t-make a right’. No doubt there are other possible reasons as well.

Also: I don’t think suggesting Mad Mel leave the country if she doesn’t like it here is perhaps the message you meant to convey but your wording drifts perilously close to it.

Can I also just make another observation on the dreadful massacre in Norway? If a extreme right-wing gunman had mowed down scores of members of a socialist youth organisation in almost any continental European country in the 1930s it would have pushed that country close to civil war. This hasn’t happened in Norway: they’ve demonstrated in huge numbers for peace, tolerance and reconciliation. Don’t mistake the foetid atmosphere of some parts of the web for what is going on in the majority of people’s hearts

13

john b 07.27.11 at 1:14 pm

As usual, D^2 makes a point I’ve often made, but has done so more articulately. If abortion is murder, then western society is committing mass murder; if western society is complicit in mass murder, then shooting a few mass murderers is a fucking good start, even if you end up in jail forever.

In this context to Charlie: ii) definitely isn’t an excuse, as above. i) is only an excuse if you *also* believe iii). iii) is a legitimate reason for inaction. iv) is questionable – surely there’s a point where you live in a regime of Infinite Evil where you can’t just say “well, yeah, but if I shot Stalin then I’d be as bad as him”.

On Mad Mel, it’s not a “if you don’t like the country, get out” argument, it’s a “if I lived in a country that I genuinely believed to be full of people who hated me and wanted me and people like me dead, then I’d probably move to one about which I didn’t, if I could, which I can” argument. Not the same thing.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the excellent way in which Norwegians, including those on the political right, have handled the tragedy/evilness/appropriate noun; it does instill hope in humanity.

14

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.27.11 at 1:20 pm

It’s probably more like: ‘it sure would be fun to blow up some shit and to shoot some people, but for what reason? Ah, here it is [insert your reason here]!’

15

Sandwichman 07.27.11 at 1:22 pm

There is a much more direct name for the epistemic environment: the big lie, political slander and plagiarism. It is not coincidence that the notorious anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was also a forgery and a plagiarism. This is how these folks do business. Breivik plagiarized almost his entire “manifesto” but even his plagiarism was not original. I broke the story a couple of days ago at Ecologicalheadstand that his framing introductory chapter was copied almost verbatim from a tract edited by William S. Lind. Lind, in turn stole his idea from a Larouchite screed whose author now regrets having written it.

Chip Berlet has more on the background, as do I at Ecologicalheadstand: here and here.

I would like to cite a fairly long piece from Berlet about origins:

Breivik in his Manifesto, incorporates whole sections of other authors’ work. The Manifesto is a compilation and compendium with Breivik’s comments, text, and a self-interview included.

According to Dennis King, the original party line in the LaRouche cadre organization was set in an essay by LaRouche himself in 1977, “The Case of Walter Lipmann”. A long examination of LaRoucher’s conspiracy theory appeared as “The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and `Political Correctness'” in Fidelio, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1992 (KMW Publishing, Washington, DC). Fidelio was LaRouche’s culture and arts magazine. But since LaRouche considers himself an extension of Marx, Marxism itself is not critiqued, but a plot by the Frankfurt School ideologues to create a “New Dark Age” which crushes Christian nations. LaRouche wrote a book: The Science of Christian Economy, and other prison writings, by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., 1991, 506 pp, which expanded the framework for the attacks on the Frankfurt School theoreticians.

Some 20 years later, around 1997 William S. Lind and Paul Weyrich (unwittingly or wittingly) expanded on the thesis of LaRouche. Much of this discussion appeared on the website of the Free Cngress Foundation, but has now been removed. An example of Lind’s work is an essay on “What is Cultural Marxism?”

The document that Breivik cribbed from Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology is still floating around in the internet. The chapter authors were Lind, Raymond V. Raehn, (“The Historical Roots of ‘Political Correctness'”), T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., (“Political Correctness in Higher Education”), Jamie MacDonald (Political Correctness: Deconstruction and Literature) and Dr. Gerald L. Atkinson (“Radical Feminism and Political Correctness”). These authors deserve “credit” for their fabrications. Of course, the general theme goes back to such neoconservative hacks as Dinesh D’Souza and Samuel P. Huntington but Lyndon Larouche amplified slanderous polemic into conspiracy theory.

But here’s a really weird twist to the story: for many years William S. Lind was a contributor to CounterPunch, the “muchraking leftist newsletter edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.” What muck hath CounterPunch raked! I have sent an inquiry to Cockburn and St. Clair and hope to hear from them soon.

(There’s another uncanny twist that I save for later.)

16

Marc Mulholland 07.27.11 at 1:27 pm

Just a point re. Dsquared concluding that sad-case Brievik is a nut rather than a terrorist because he murdered children. I don’t really buy that. The Labour Youth victims were, so far as I can see, in their late-teens and early-twenties. There’s nothing abnormal about having political opinions at that age, and suggesting otherwise leads in an unpleasant Glann Beck direction about brainwashed kiddies. Truth is, Brievik was seeking to kill active members of a political cohort that he thought were betraying Western culture due to their leftist beliefs. His reasoning was not psychotic, ie. disordered, disassociative & so on. It was recognisably predicated on a version of the world-view pumped out relentlessly on the blogosphere and further afield, as Chris says. Brievik was clearly aware that his actions go beyond anything suggested by the Eurabia ideologists, but this was calculated. His intention was to introduce the paramilitary phase of the struggle with a shock-and-awe outrage, so that subsequent lower levels of violence are seen as ‘more proportionate’. He was seeking, as dramatically as possible, to break down the barrier between word and deed. I doubt it will work, but its as well to be aware of the logic of this form of terrorism, so as to take measure of the threat posed.

17

Pretendous 07.27.11 at 1:30 pm

People who perceive themselves as powerless tend to engage in petty behavior.

18

Sandwichman 07.27.11 at 1:31 pm

For example, here’s how Breivik begins his intro, I’ve bolded the differences (that is, not much):

Breivik: One of conservatism’s most important insights is that all ideologies are wrong. Ideology takes an intellectual system, a product of one or more philosophers, and says, “This system must be true.” Inevitably, reality ends up contradicting the system, usually on a growing number of points. But the ideology, by its nature, cannot adjust to reality; to do so would be to abandon the system.

Lind: As Russell Kirk wrote, one of conservatism’s most important insights is that all ideologies are wrong. Ideology takes an intellectual system, a product of one or more philosophers, and says, “This system must be true.” Inevitably, reality ends up contradicting the system, usually on a growing number of points. But the ideology, by its nature, cannot adjust to reality; to do so would be to abandon the system.

Breivik: Therefore, reality must be suppressed. If the ideology has power, it uses its power to undertake this suppression. It forbids writing or speaking certain facts. Its goal is to prevent not only expression of thoughts that contradict what “must be true,” but thinking such thoughts. In the end, the result is inevitably the concentration camp, the gulag and the grave.

Lind: Therefore, reality must be suppressed. If the ideology has power, it uses its power to undertake this suppression. It forbids writing or speaking certain facts. Its goal is to prevent not only expression of thoughts that contradict what “must be true,” but thinking such thoughts. In the end, the result is inevitably the concentration camp, the gulag and the grave.

Breivik: But what happens today to Europeans who suggest that there are differences among ethnic groups, or that the traditional social roles of men and women reflect their different natures, or that homosexuality is morally wrong? If they are public figures, they must grovel in the dirt in endless, canting apologies. If they are university students, they face star chamber courts and possible expulsion. If they are employees of private corporations, they may face loss of their jobs. What was their crime? Contradicting the new EUSSR ideology of “Political Correctness.”

Lind: While some Americans have believed in ideologies, America itself never had an official, state ideology – up until now. But what happens today to Americans who suggest that there are differences among ethnic groups, or that the traditional social roles of men and women reflect their different natures, or that homosexuality is morally wrong? If they are public figures, they must grovel in the dirt in endless, canting apologies. If they are university students, they face star chamber courts and possible expulsion. If they are employees of private corporations, they may face loss of their jobs. What was their crime? Contradicting America’s new state ideology of “Political Correctness.”

19

dsquared 07.27.11 at 1:34 pm

Charlie:

(i) they see no chance of success (ii) they’re afraid of the potential personal consequences of taking action (iii) they genuinely believe that current anti-abortion lobbying strategies are likely to work (iv) they disapprove of the nature of activity that might have to be undertaken to stop abortion, leading to some variation of the always available argument of ‘two-wrongs-don’t-make a right’.

Thing is, at least (i) and (ii) were definitely true of people considering resistance to the actual nazis, and arguably (iii) and (iv) in many cases. I would just have expected a lot more people to decide on the direct action route, since this is an ongoing horror – every day of delay, several thousand more abortions take place, so I would have thought that gradualism wasn’t really an option.

Also: I don’t think suggesting Mad Mel leave the country if she doesn’t like it here is perhaps the message you meant to convey but your wording drifts perilously close to it.

Happy to confirm that (although “if” is a boat that has pretty much sailed – it’s obvious that she doesn’t like this country and she says so every day on her blog) I honestly believe that on the basis of her published writings, Melanie Phillips (who I don’t think is mad, just very wrong about an important subject and has very poor judgement) would be a lot happier if she lived in the USA or Israel where the local culture is much more in tune with her values. I suppose I don’t know much about any family, friendship or emotional ties that keep her in Britain, but this is because she never writes about them, or anything else good about the place. So if I am missing some really good reason why Melanie Phillips is still staying in a country amid neighbours who she believes have gone mad and hate her, it is at least partly her fault. At the end of the day, this isn’t some minor “well if you don’t like speeding cameras why don’t you go and live in Soviet Russia” disagreement – MP actually believes that Britain is a culture that has gone mad, actually believes that the majority of Britons hate her because of her religion, and actually believes that Western Europe is currently in a state similar to Germany in the 1930s. At the end of the day, “if you don’t like it why don’t you leave?” would have been excellent advice to the Jewish population of Germany after Hitler took power, and as far as I can tell, Melanie Phillips believes herself to be in a similar world-historical position.

20

Sandwichman 07.27.11 at 1:38 pm

My comments at “The American Conservative” (the quote from Chip Berlet and the textual comparison), where Lind currently spews are “awaiting moderation.”

21

dsquared 07.27.11 at 1:39 pm

(or, rather, for #19 was so dense and poorly written that the satirical thread might have been lost, because MP remains in London, continues to work for the BBC and still even goes to those fucking dinner parties, I conclude that therefore at some deep-down level of rationality, she does in fact know that Britain in 2011 is nothing like Germany in 1934, and that she is in fact very safe indeed from genocidal persecution, pretty damn safe from terrorist murder and in general as safe as anyone could reasonably be expected to be from everything except harsh criticism of her amazingly bad and irresponsible journalism. Sadly, with respect to this last, she appears to be very very thin-skinned.)

22

CharlieMcMenamin 07.27.11 at 1:56 pm

Daquared: yes, I knew that was what you meant about MP, if only because I’ve read enough of your views elsewhere on this interwebby thing to make a informed guess. My point @ #12 (‘perilously close to..’) was merely that your phrasing was unfortunate and left several hostages to fortune. #21 clarifies things I think.

I’m not sure I agree with John b and yourself on the validity of the abortion analogy, despite your reasoned responses. Indeed, when you drag in the resistance to the Nazis angle I feel even more confirmed in my views – how many people actually did take part in such resistance in Germany after all? My sense is ‘not many’, at least not after the activists of the labour movement and churches were locked up in the mid/late thirties. (I’m obviously happy to be corrected on this point is others have a better factual grasp). ‘Not many’, in all probability, because – well, most people, most of the time, are….well, if not quite exactly moral cowards, certainly sunk in the concerns of apparently apolitical everyday life.

23

Lemuel Pitkin 07.27.11 at 2:13 pm

We may be, now, in the world that Cass Sunstein worried about, a world where people select themselves into groups which ramp up their more-or-less internally coherent belief systems into increasingly extreme forms by confirming to one another their perceived “truths” (about Islam, or Obama’s birth certificate, or whatever) and shutting out falsifying information

Isn’t that just the world we’ve always been in, tho? I think it would be very difficult to argue that this sort of political violence us more prevalent today than, say, one hundred years ago. Technological change has increased the means of destruction available to an individual or small group, yes. But were the belief systems of John Brown or Gavril Princip any less closed, coherent or “extreme”?

24

Wilfred 07.27.11 at 2:16 pm

There ought to be a Godwin’s Law for the word fascism, although in Breivik’s case I think it applies – historical fascism was firstly anti-Marxist before its nationalist nutterings.

Following dsquared’s observations its useful to remember that the rhetoric of the anti-abortion crowd emerges from their belief that the fetus is human at conception and as such is undifferentiated from, say, two year olds or young people murdered at a political summer camp. Of course we’d be obliged to do something if a clinic on our street were putting down toddlers. Wouldn’t we?

In any case, football hooliganism also follows much the same pattern of rhetoric induced homicides: thoughts precede words, words precede actions. Re-visiting the actions taken to eliminate hooliganism might be useful here. I can’t help but feel that some examination of free speech absolutism is in order. What separates commenters on partisan political blogs wishing the Others would just fucking die from people like Brevik is the thin line of conscience – rapidly depreciating in the overheated world of online rhetoric.

25

Scott Martens 07.27.11 at 2:16 pm

d^2 in #8: ‘[P]eople who spend huge amounts of time arguing that particular racial groups are systematically less intelligent and more prone to criminal activity than others, but who act all indignant if they are referred to as “racist” – if you really believed in genetic stupidity and criminality, why wouldn’t you be racist?’

An example of someone weaseling on just that is Geoffrey Sampson – former Wealden councilor, professor (I think emeritus) at the University of Sussex computer science department, and someone, alas, that I have had to read a lot of lately. He’s not hard to google. Modernize his vocabulary, substitute “cultural Marxists” for “metropolitain elites” and he sounds like Breivik. To be fair, he has not attempted any mass murders that I’m aware of.

But I felt somewhat unclean having to cite him positively in my dissertation because I agree with him, in part, about the subject of his professional career.

As for the abortion example, I think it fails because there are quite a few people who sincerely believe that abortion is a moral wrong on par with the Holocaust or worse, and still don’t care enough to actually do anything important about it. The Holocaust, of course, took place in an environment where protesting could well mean being sent to a camp. But even if it hadn’t, would there have been people who knew and cared, but not enough to do anything? Probably.

No one has seriously tried to assassinate Obama, but I assure you there are *millions* of Americans who regard him in complete sincerity as a figure on par with the worst dictators of all time, who believe that his election is a catastrophe beyond all words. But not one has been arrested trying to sneak a gun into a public appearance, much less actually taking a plausible shot. Even Clinton was the object of a plausible assassination attempt – that guy who tried to crash the Cessna into the White House, but Dubya had to go to Georgia to face any real risk. Americans have been trained to believe in their personal powerlessness for a long time, and never underestimate the power of lethargy.

26

Marc Mulholland 07.27.11 at 2:19 pm

‘were the belief systems of John Brown or Gavril Princip any less closed, coherent or “extreme”?’

Yes. Slavery was an abomination. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was oppressive. Brown and Princip weren’t justified, but most of the Eurabia bollox is delusional or reactionary.

27

Watson Ladd 07.27.11 at 2:25 pm

Brown was absolutely justified. If he had waited a few more months, he would be the hero of the Union, the man who put the Federal army to shame. John Brown attempted to have the slaves rise up against their masters, a right slaves must everywhere have. Now, can one believe the state is involved in immoral activities without rebelling against it? Sure, Kant offered a theory to justify that.

28

dsquared 07.27.11 at 2:25 pm

#22: But the population of Germany really had gone collectively insane, in more or less exactly the way in which Islington hasn’t. I was thinking more of France, where your (i) to (iv) more or less exactly describes mainstream Petainism.

I think Marc makes a good point in #16: although I think that there’s a lot that’s pathological about Breivik (as in, I think that medical treatment and counselling could have done a lot for him), he knows that there’s a difference between right and wrong, and he makes plans and carries them out, so by the juridical standard, he’s sane enough to stand trial. Mad like Hitler, really.

29

hartal 07.27.11 at 2:50 pm

On the epistemic environment, see recent piece on Islamophobia in the Boston Review by John Bowen; Bhikhu Parekh’s work on the Muslim Question and European liberalism; and Joan Scott’s work on the veil. I think Chris B’s point about the dangers of homophily, if that is the spelling, is quite correct.

One difficult of aspect of this is how nativism is presented not only in Breivak’s mythic right-wing nationalist terms (the Knights of Templar, he forgot, were not only holy and heroic Crusaders but money grubbing bankers) but also in terms of tolerance insofar as the foreigners are accused of not sharing tolerant Western attitudes towards women and gays and lesbians.

It has been my understanding that immigrants have been subjected to tolerance tests, for example shown pictures of men kissing to judge their attitudes; and found unworthy just by adverse reaction. This kind of guilty by mental state seems to be a very precedent.

One assumption is that Muslim migrants will always maintain loyalty to the global umma before the laws and norms of the society in which they live. It’s their alleged uniquely hardened extra-territorial loyalty that makes them objects of attack for both right wing nationalism and, ironically enough, ‘tolerant’ liberals. But as Parekh points out, not only are these suspicions of their behavior empirically ungrounded, they are ungrounded in the interpretation of the Koran which recommends to most Muslims obedience to the laws of the state in which they live because it provides them with an orderly society in which they live.

30

hartal 07.27.11 at 2:52 pm

oops running out the door; meant to write:

This kind of guilt by mental state seems to be a very BAD precedent.

31

sg 07.27.11 at 2:53 pm

dsquared, I don’t think the germans had gone insane. When I read Ordinary Men I got a sense of ordinary people doing what they had to do because that’s what they thought had to be done. The same for War Without Mercy. Machine-gunning Japanese sailors in a lifeboat? Killing Japanese prisoners in cold blood? It’s necessary because I’ve been told they’re vermin, and anyway they won’t surrender (Churchill told me so). But the people who did these things returned to civilian life without any difficulty.

The role of propaganda is to make ordinary people into killers. The shockjocks are supplying the propaganda, it’s just up to the rest of the world to provide the human resources. Enter … Breiviks.

32

Consumatopia 07.27.11 at 2:59 pm

I can’t buy the abortion thing at all, because if you dig down into many of our belief systems, we’d have to acknowledge the existence of a great deal of cruelty and suffering in the world that we aren’t doing anything about. I happen to believe that animals experience pain in the same way that humans do, that the world is moving to ecological catastrophe, and that billions of people are living in desperate poverty. If you combine people that believe in any of those, with those who believe abortion is murder or that those not accepting Jesus Christ as their savior will suffer for all eternity, then I think you’d end up with a substantial chunk of humanity (if not the majority) believing in the existence of great evil. Yet most of us aren’t taking any action against these evils because of some combination of laziness, selfishness, fear, habit, or simply not knowing where to begin to try to change it.

33

CharlieMcMenamin 07.27.11 at 3:01 pm

#27 But the population of Germany really had gone collectively insane, in more or less exactly the way in which Islington hasn’t

Had they? Or were the majority of them severely cowed, or just moral pygmies? But this otherwise important point is mere quibbling in the context of this current discussion: I obviously agree there is no comparison between Nazi Germany and Britain today. (which is not to say I think anti-semitism doesn’t exist in the UK today, because it does, and may even be slightly on the rise, but tackling it is not helped by apocalyptic rhetoric adopted all too often by Ms.Phillips.)

But…. Breivik is what we’re substantially talking about. & I have yet to see any analysis which improves on his relationship to wider right wing rhetoric than this succinct summing up @ Blood and Treasure:

the mainstream right wing opinions he imbibed after he discovered his initial rationale for mass murder did nothing to discourage him. Quite the reverse: Post 9/11 he thought that he was operating at the fringe of a large political movement which would be able to take advantage of his methods to reach the goals that they jointly shared. People were coming around to his point of view, and being encouraged, he provided encouragement. Anders believes that he is a Knight Templar. He’s a real, old fashioned chivalrous male. He wouldn’t dream of letting Melanie plant her own bombs and kill red kids. She probably doesn’t see that it’s necessary, poor, foolish woman that she is. But he likes those hankies he sees fluttering from the castle window and off he goes into the lists.”

34

ajay 07.27.11 at 3:01 pm

I assure you there are millions of Americans who regard him in complete sincerity as a figure on par with the worst dictators of all time, who believe that his election is a catastrophe beyond all words. But not one has been arrested trying to sneak a gun into a public appearance,

I think there were a couple back in 2008, actually. They were caught before they got to the sneaking-a-gun-into-the-auditorium point. Quick google:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_assassination_scare_in_Denver

I am not sure to what extent the “millions” of people who say things like that actually believe them, which I think is the point dsquared was trying to make.

35

dsquared 07.27.11 at 3:04 pm

I think the view of the world in #32 (which is as far as I can see about as good as the contrary position to mine gets although I still think that there is something at a deep level wrong with a belief which can’t really be sustained as a motivation for behaviour in the real world; this was of course Hume’s final argument against scepticism) can be summed up by the old joke “tell a man that the sun is a ball of gas lit up by a constant nuclear explosion 93 million miles away and he’ll believe you. Tell him that the paint on a door is wet and he’ll check”.

36

Nick L 07.27.11 at 3:04 pm

The terrorist atrocity in Oslo provides evidence for a hypothesis I’ve been entertaining for a while that there is a family resemblance between mass-casualty terror carried out by Western citizens and the kind of spree-killing rampages which took place at Virginia Tech and Columbine. Both the 7/7 bombers and Breivik were clearly influenced by an apocalyptic political ideology, but they seem to have been in large part self-radicalised by selectively consuming a diet of extreme material. The internet has increased access to this kind of extreme material (beheading videos are extremely popular amongst online radical Islamists apparently) and allows people to self-select into groups who normalise beliefs which would be considered radical or even lunatic by wider society. Mass media also provides wide dissemination of examples and role models for emulation.

In this way recent home-grown terrorists seem much more like disturbed spree-killers than other terrorists. Terrorism has in general been shown to be a weapon of the weak in real political struggles. It’s employed by populations at extreme risk in cycles of escalation with a threatening external force, by political movements seeking to influence policy by raising the domestic costs for their opponents, and as a tool of statecraft when there exists a conventional deadlock (usual disclaimer, to say that terror is explicable doesn’t imply an endorsement). Yes, the 7/7 bombers and Breivik have stated political goals and their actions can be seen as making sense in light of these goals. But their goals themselves were eschatological and disconnected from reality (unlike, say, the Tamil Tigers goal of secession from Sri Lanka which was certainly within the realm of the possible). All were angry, alienated young men who were not in fact members of populations at extreme risk – no matter what they believed.

So I’m not sure this sort of terrorism can be completely overcome as it stems more from self-radicalisation rather than enduring operational networks employed by paramilitary organisations, but it would be a start to reign in some of the apocalyptic rhetoric which feeds the murderous persecution complexes of such individuals.

37

sg 07.27.11 at 3:04 pm

No charlie, they weren’t “moral pygmies.” They were victims of unrelenting propaganda – like the allies in world war 2. It’s enormously short-sighted to suppose that you wouldn’t behave badly if subjected to years of the same race-hate propaganda. The issue here is the propaganda, not the person.

38

Sandwichman 07.27.11 at 3:06 pm

From CounterPunch

“Breivik’s ramblings in his 1500 page manifesto have an interior coherence. Behind such terms as ‘cultural Marxism’ lie a traditional loathing that any advocate of minimalist government might feel. “

C’mon folks, wake up and smell the coffee! Less amateur punditry, more substantive research, please. The madmen, plagiarists and “journalists-in-uniform” are much more adept and prolific at amateur punditry.

39

Lemuel Pitkin 07.27.11 at 3:13 pm

Slavery was an abomination. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was oppressive.

Of course. And as Watson Ladd says, John Brown was a hero. But surely the difference between a Brown and a Breivik is in the substance of their beliefs, not their epistemologies, no?

40

Nick L 07.27.11 at 3:18 pm

#31
The ‘ordinary Germans’ account of Nazi atrocities has been challenged at least by Michael Mann, who argues that a reconstruction of the biographies of several hundred participants and instigators of the Holocaust shows that they were mostly individuals with long careers of violence or drawn from marcher lands where Germans were in the minority (echoes of the Bosnian Serb Republic). His evidence seems to suggest that it was old Nazis, Stahlhelm/Freikorps streetfighters and so on who were actually carrying out genocide, with ‘ordinary Germans’ only getting their hands dirty once the machinery of slaughter was already set up.

So pretty disturbing in its own way, and a warning to keep tabs on those for whom violence is a way of life, but a bit more reassuring than the idea that anyone could be a mass murderer after exposure to a bit of propaganda. Given that the Breiviks and the Sidique Khans haven’t succeeded in sparking any civil wars the focus should be on networks of extremist individuals and violent groupuscles.

41

dsquared 07.27.11 at 3:20 pm

(beheading videos are extremely popular amongst online radical Islamists apparently)

But “talking big and never actually doing anything” is also extremely popular amongst online radical Islamists, as is “claiming responsibility for things that other people did in the name of made-up jihadi groups”. I am not sure (although I have no evidence otherwise) whether this self-radicalisation route is prevalent among actual bombers to the same degree as Islamist Internet Tough Guys.

42

Anderson 07.27.11 at 3:21 pm

John Brown was a Breivik in a better cause, and without an automatic rifle.

43

sg 07.27.11 at 3:24 pm

Nick L, that doesn’t explain the extensive atrocities committed by allied soldiers in the Pacific. It also doesn’t explain the behaviour of the Japanese in the Pacific. Propaganda is a more powerful force than we in the enlightened era like to recognize, especially when a whole population is exposed to it. This man was obviously fermenting in Pam Geller’s most potent juices. Who knows what that can do to the human soul?

44

someguy 07.27.11 at 3:26 pm

What Consumatopia and CharlieMcMenamin said.

People have all sorts of beliefs that we would logically expect to make them act in such and such a manner and yet they don’t. The truth is that most peoples beliefs are not subjected to much if any self examination.

What was done about the mass murdering war criminal GWB II? A few people held up some signs on a weekend? Really that was the best they could do in the face of massive war crimes?

If a CEO gets shot somewhere in the name of econmic justice could we say Henri and Bruce Wilder contributed to the epistemic environment that made the attack possible?

All it takes is second to put the shoe on the other foot and see that owning your own bs is very difficult.

45

Sebastian H 07.27.11 at 3:26 pm

“Following the Norway massacre many of the elite scribblers of this spectrum—many of whom have played the guilt-by-association game to the max over the last decade—are disclaiming all responsibility. Well, of course, they didn’t pull the trigger, but they helped to build an epistemic environment in which someone did.”

Isn’t the *exact* formulation used by the anti-Islam crowd in response to 9/11? I thought this was the kind of reasoning we very specificially weren’t supposed to be using.

Charlie at #12 pretty well covers the abortion analogy, but maybe it is easier to see here if we use a left wing example. A fairly large percentage of the people here believe that the US is engaging in a large campaign of mass murder in Afghanistan and recently Iraq, yet so far as I can tell, none of you have gone shooting up the Pentagon, bombing US soldiers in their beds, etc, etc etc. Do you not really believe that the evil you chat about here exists? Or are you stopped by one of the things Charlie mentions? If you are stopped by one of those things, isn’t it possible that people you disagree with (pro-life on abortion thinkers for example) are stopped by the exact same things? Isn’t it possible that they are in fact, people just like you in that respect?

46

soru 07.27.11 at 3:30 pm

I’d look at it this way – how many americans would, with all grim rational seriousness, take up arms in order to prevent the US becoming like Norway? Gun control, ‘censorship’ of racism, 21-year maximum prison term, immigrants with voting rights, universal health care, and so on.

I would assume a non-zero number, and I wouldn’t be that surprised by a fairly large one, with a level of wider support perhaps matching that of ETA or the IRA.

Similarly, a probably even larger proportion of Pakistanis or Saudis would be likely to take up arms to prevent their countries becoming like Norway _or_ America.

In WWI, plenty of people read their nation’s newspapers, and as a consequence volunteered to fight. When they fought, they were fighting against people who read different newspapers.

The key thing about their modern equivalent is simply this: _they are reading some other countries newspapers_.

Almost all the journalist’s quoted by the killer were published outside Scandanavia, and many of them were in effect unpublishable inside it. His list of favourite TV programs was 100% US. Even his Warcraft server was English-language.

47

Wilfred 07.27.11 at 3:33 pm

John Brown? Ends and means – he and his sons beheaded a few people, too.

Oliver Wendell Holmes survived the Civil War and came to loathe the moral abolutism favored by Brown and his adorers, who included Emerson, if I recall. If one wants to avoid certain things a bit of moral skepticism always comes in handy.

48

rm 07.27.11 at 3:35 pm

Regarding the level of belief issue that D^2 brings up (“it must surely be the case that at some deepest level of rationality . . . [they] must be aware that they don’t really believe . . . and that their views . . . have some other basis”) — that’s a common theme for Fred Clark at the Slactivist blog (current site), and especially of these two much-discussed posts: first, second. I don’t think what Fred describes is false consciousness, as in What’s the Matter With Kansas?. I think instead he’s onto something about the way our discourse works. Pretending there is a terrible Other out there who is inhumanly evil is reassuring, because it makes one seem good and righteous in comparison. That’s why our right-wing politicized christianists feel like they are victims of oppression — they don’t believe believe it, but sort-of believing it makes them feel good. I realized demonizing and Othering is an old story and part of human nature, but Fred seems convincing to me in describing how it works right now in the religious right-wing.

49

bert 07.27.11 at 4:02 pm

bq. dsquared @19: I suppose I don’t know much about any family, friendship or emotional ties that keep [Melanie Phillips] in Britain, but this is because she never writes about them

She’s married to Joshua Rozenberg, a face off the telly.
He’s back to being a BBC regular now, with Law in Action.
They have two kids. With luck, they’ll take after him.

bq. Jon Rubin @#7: Fanaticism and extremism are not the same as mental health problems and the collapsing of politics on to health is a dangerous trend that should not be encouraged or endorsed.

I’ve often used the ‘Mad Mel’ nickname on her, since there’s clearly something screwed up in her circuitry. It mocks her hairtrigger willingness to accuse others of insanity, too. But, assuming it’s an intellectual knot she’s tied herself in, I think Jon Rubin puts the case well. It’s a nickname that leaves you applying a double standard when you use it. I shan’t be using it again.

50

AcademicLurker 07.27.11 at 4:03 pm

Re: propaganda. Are the 1930’s really an apt comparison here?

There’s a big difference between being relentlessly bombarded with propaganda by a government that controls almost all the readily available sources of information – as happened to the citizens of various European countries in the 30s* – and actively seeking out propaganda and then marinating yourself in it 24/7 – as seems to be the case with your typical self-radicalized internet right winger.

* I recall the William Shirer wrote that even though he knew it was bullshit he could still feel the constant propaganda beginning to effect him when he was working in Germany in the 30s.

51

Walt 07.27.11 at 4:05 pm

Up above, Sebastian H said,

Isn’t the exact formulation used by the anti-Islam crowd in response to 9/11? I thought this was the kind of reasoning we very specificially weren’t supposed to be using.

I don’t think this is the case at all. There’s nothing wrong with holding specific radical Islamic leaders responsible for contributing to the atmosphere that led to 9/11. The kind of reasoning we’re not “supposed to be using” is holding an entire undifferentiated mass, like Muslims as a group, responsible for the actions. It would be like blaming all Christians responsible for the guy in Norway.

52

bianca steele 07.27.11 at 4:10 pm

Breivik’s lawyer was quoted as saying that he couldn’t describe his client because he wasn’t like anybody. This is possibly not on-topic but it does seem to be epistemic.

I would say someone who shoots coworkers because he thinks they are Hitler and his advisers, and that the police station where he’s being booked is Hell (as happened about ten years ago), is pretty definitely mentally ill. What is the difference between someone who becomes convinced he has to kill to fight evil, who thinks that’s the best way to do it, and someone who thinks what Breivik did is the best way?

53

CharlieMcMenamin 07.27.11 at 4:10 pm

#49 – you’re quite right Bert and I regret using the nickname ‘Mad Mel’, at least in the context of this discussion.

54

Donald Johnson 07.27.11 at 4:12 pm

Scott Atran has done a lot of work on the psychology of terrorists–you can find a list of some of his papers here–

link

He found that Palestinians who volunteered for suicide bombing missions were psychologically normal. I don’t know if this would carry over to someone like Breivik. The Palestinians are living under oppression where the majority of their fellow citizens might feel that almost any action against Israelis is justifiable, whereas Breivik’s “community” would be the Islamophobes he reads in books or online and his grievances are imaginary. (To be clear, I don’t think Israeli crimes justify Palestinian crimes or vice versa, but it’s common for people in such situations to think so.) But accepting those grievances as real would be the crazy step–if you actually believed that Western civilization was being undermined from within by some evil coalition of Muslims and “cultural Marxists”, then maybe you can justify doing almost anything.

55

Donald Johnson 07.27.11 at 4:15 pm

Here’s one of Atran’s papers where he emphasizes the psychological normality of suicide bombers–

link

56

matth 07.27.11 at 4:31 pm

Walt @ 51 — You distinguish between blaming “specific radical Islamic leaders” and “holding an entire undifferentiated mass, like Muslims as a group, responsible.” Here is Chris’s description of who he blames for the “epistemic environment”:

“Ideas to be found on thousands of blogs, in the writings of wingnut columnists and neocons, in the shared beliefs of Tea Partiers and birthers, among the rabble of the English Defence League, and among the further fringes of extreme supporters of Israel. … This isn’t a single movement though, it is a spectrum, and elements of it have even been given cover, credibility and respectability by people who think of themselves as being on the left but who [take various objectionable views on the Middle East].”

I think Chris’s post casts a pretty wide net.

57

Patrick 07.27.11 at 4:35 pm

I think a lot of people are REALLY missing the point on the abortion analogy.

The claim isn’t that murder sprees are the only rational thing to do if one believes the rhetoric of anti abortion ideologues.

The claim is that political violence would, at the very least, be on the table.

You can’t defeat that analogy by claiming that people might believe that political violence is justified, but not pragmatic in terms of advancing their political goals. That’s not debating the point, its conceding it.

58

P O'Neill 07.27.11 at 4:35 pm

#36

All were angry, alienated young men who were not in fact members of populations at extreme risk – no matter what they believed.

Note that the Islamophobic scribblers were playing specifically to the vanity of their more enthusiastic readers and finding fertile ground in Breivik — the photoshopping of himself onto vintage uniforms, the title he gave himself etc. These aren’t simply pro-lifers reading about abortion and deciding they need to say more prayers …. they are gun-fixated men being told that it’s always 1936 or 1683 or whatever, and they can help stop Chamberlain before he hands Czechoslovakia to Hitler or whatever is the historical scenario of choice.

59

Donald Johnson 07.27.11 at 4:39 pm

Matth–Chris was talking about Islamophobes, people who treat all Muslims as possible terrorists or terrorist supporters.

Are you saying that the category of “Muslim” and “Islamophobe” are equivalent?

60

nnyhav 07.27.11 at 4:51 pm

CB, cf (from bookforumblog yesterday): Bruce Fleming on how words fit in to the picture

61

Chris Williams 07.27.11 at 4:54 pm

How much of this can be explained in terms of different levels of discourse? When momentarily pissed off, we might yell “I’ll bloody kill you!” but often this is meant in jest, and even when it isn’t, we rarely go on to commit murder. A late-night barroom rant is offered in a different context to a Sunday sermon on the same topic, and generally taken as such.

We also have political/entertaining speech which exists in an ecology of text, itself sometimes better explained in terms of demand than in terms of supply. Perhaps MP is in fact merely delivering a series of rants which are clinically designed and scientifically crafted to raise the heartbeat of Daily Mail readers. I love to spread a rumour in which Jeremy Clarkson, crying inside as he accepts every in-character booking his agent forces on him, retires to his cellar every night to play with dolls (in doing so, I of course say something which entertains the people I’m likely to talk to). Neither of these scenarios are likely, but I still have a sense that there is a Clarkson-shaped niche in the public sphere – just as there was a niche for Owenite anticlerical speakers in the 1840s, or Murphyite Catholic-baiters in the 1850s.

What might have changed over the last couple of decades is that rather more communication is being carried out in decontextualised ASCII. Thus, our late night ranting, filling the headspace that we have for political speech designed purely to reinforce internal group solidarity – a kind of verbal grooming – is more easily mistaken for a ‘to do’ list. With bad effects.

62

matth 07.27.11 at 5:10 pm

Donald Johnson @59,

I’d intended to illustrate that Chris ascribes responsibility to a very broad category of people. You say Chris was talking about “people who treat all Muslims as possible terrorists or terrorist supporters”; but I quoted Chris’s language above, and it’s quite a bit broader than “people who treat all Muslims as possible terrorists or terrorist supporters.”

I certainly didn’t say “the category of ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islamophobe’ are equivalent.” (If you mean that over-generalizing about a political movement is far less objectionable than over-generalizing about a cultural or religious minority, I completely agree.)

63

Sebastian H 07.27.11 at 5:38 pm

If you think we’re missing the point of the abortion analogy, you seem to be countermissing the point of the Iraq war counteranalogy.

If you believe that the US government during the Iraq war caused 600,000 excess deaths and you additionally believe that to be something akin to mass murder, then whatever you aren’t doing against the US government (and most of you certainly are not doing much) may be explained by *exactly* the same reasons why most pro-lifers on abortion aren’t doing crazy shit. It doesn’t mean that they don’t believe that lots of abortions are murder any more than you don’t believe that much of the Iraq war ended up being senseless murder. They aren’t that different from you. They believe variously things like a) 2 wrongs don’t make a right, b) my political efforts make more sense, c) violent efforts will be counterproductive, d) they are afraid of the personal consequences.

Why aren’t you personally shooting people in the Pentagon? D-squared, how about it?

64

Chris Bertram 07.27.11 at 5:41 pm

_I quoted Chris’s language above, and it’s quite a bit broader_

Actually, you quoted it in a way which made it seem broader than intended since I distinguished between the group that form the relevant epistemic environment and others who have given it “cover, credibility and respectability”. Personally, I have no problem with the idea that crazy Islamist talk radio and similar can tip young Muslims with personality disorders over the edge – Richard Reid for example.

(I’m off travelling in a few minutes and won’t be able to respond further, btw).

65

CharlieMcMenamin 07.27.11 at 5:42 pm

On this business of creating a certain rhetorical environment: a senior member of Italy’s Northern League has claimed that “Breivik’s ideas are in defence of western civilisation.”

66

Jurgen Stizmuller 07.27.11 at 5:46 pm

and you additionally believe that to be something akin to mass murder

Someone needs to put down their comic book primer on Librul ideology.

67

Dave 07.27.11 at 5:47 pm

people select themselves into groups which ramp up their more-or-less internally coherent belief systems into increasingly extreme forms by confirming to one another their perceived “truths”

Isn’t this just a description of…politics? In any case I don’t think it’s new, but maybe something is new about the access to and participation in these competing publics.

68

Watson Ladd 07.27.11 at 5:48 pm

Here’s a hypo: In some farway land in the west, Saskan, word reaches us about a massacare of proponents of a practice we find abhorrent. Immediately we rush to suggest commentators attacking this abhorrent practice proved an environment that let Tim Black kill some people who didn’t really participate in the practice, but who supported it, even if these commentators were suggesting democratic means to resolve the conflict over the practice. Is this a fair argument to make against the practices and rhetoric of the commentators? Does it change if this practice is tied to the identity of a particular group? What if just a few of the group defend the practice or policy, and most people adhere to a softer form of it?

Now what if Saskan is Kansas and Tim Black is John Brown? Regardless of our feelings about John Brown, does Douglass deserve any part of the blame for what John Brown did in Kansas?
(Just a note on the argument: I’m not saying the attacks in Norway were justified. They were brutality and horror on a mass scale. I’m just questioning whether we can blame anti-immigration commentators who have much to answer for already for this to the extent Chris is asking us to)

69

LizardBreath 07.27.11 at 5:49 pm

may be explained by exactly the same reasons why most pro-lifers on abortion aren’t doing crazy shit.

The practical efficacy of taking down Planned Parenthood by means of amateur violence is somewhat different from the potential for taking down the military of any developed country by the same means.

70

LeeEsq 07.27.11 at 6:16 pm

I probably have opinions on Israel that are more than a little different than most other people on this blog, which is why I don’t get involved in the the sporadic discussions regarding Israel on this blog. I have to seriously challenge the assertion that Brevik and similar ilk are pro-Israel in any meaningful sense. They view Israel and Israelis as proxy soldiers against their enemies but they are still very anti-Jewish. They probably intend to get rid of us Jews once we outlive their usefulness as proxy soliders. In his manifesto, Brevik wrote that the only reason that Europe doesn’t have a Jewish problem is that there are only a million Jews in Europe and most of them concentrated in France and the UK. The implication is that if there were more Jews and the distribution was more evenly spread, Europe would have a Jewish problem. The analogous group would be the Neo-Nazi groups that support the Islamist groups that commit acts of violence against Israelis but still hate them for being non-European.

As a counter-example, a non-Jewish group that is very pro-Israel, including in negative ways, but in a genuine sense would be the Evangelical Protestants. It is true that many current Evangelical Protestants posses a very deep anti-Muslim hatred but Evangelical support for Israel/Zionism is much older than their current obsession. A sort of Evangelical Christian proto-Zionism is traceable to at least the mid-19th century, when a few of their leaders started toying with the idea of restoring Jews to Eretz Israel. So Evangelical proto-Zionism is about as old as Jewish proto-Zionism. Many Evangelicals also travel to Israel for business and pleasure and have genuine social interactions with Israelis. Just as the more genuinely pro-Palestianin people have actual social interactions with the Palestinians rather than treating them proxies.

71

Akshay 07.27.11 at 6:27 pm

Cultural historian Roger Griffin has a long talk here on the psychodynamics of becoming a utopian terrorist. His archetype seems to fit Breivik very well, even if it is hard to believe at first, that quite sane people can escalate mere existential angst into going postal.

To whit: Breivik describes himself as growing up in an anomic environment run by muslim street gangs. He is from a broken family. He wants something beyond bourgeouis “cynical careerism”, as he puts it. He yearns for a ‘sacred canopy’ which will give life meaning, patriarchal christianity, in his case. He dabbles in politics, but becomes disappointed. In a state of confusion, he stumbles upon a worldview in which things start making sense again, from his own spiritual problems or problems with women, to geo-political reality. He is initiated into a cult. In a neglected passage of his manifesto, he describes meeting the “Templars” after contacting a Serbian Nationalist. They are a small international group, mostly Christian, which wants to defend Europe against Islam. He is mentored by an Englishman he calls Richard.

After his initiation, the world splits into Good and Evil. Evil is projected outward. Breivik understands that his task will be to go ‘beyond good and evil’ to make the rebirth of Europe possible. He can give his life for this task, for it will give him immortality. He is the avant-garde of the Eurabian civil war of the next generation, which will finally end in “2083”. He prepares for years, following Nechayev’s advice and gradually shutting himself off from normal society. He studies the “science of destruction” (Nechayev). He strengthens his faith by meditating. When he is ready, he strikes at a symbolic target which represents “the Enemy”. It is not personal. He does not specifically hate the individuals he is killing and knows his act is heinous, though necessary. They are killed for what they are: the future leaders of the wrong side in the Eurabian civil war. They are killed as a “marketing operation”, to get the truth of his manifesto into the world. He feels a sense of calm bliss, having given his life to his cause. In his manifesto, he urges co-believers to realize that they are not alone.

Clearly many ideologies can capture people like Breivik. But to drive him into terrorism, they need to a) posit an overwhelming threat and a future rebirth b) describe a world devided into good and evil, where you are either with us or against us c) provide a total weltanschauung, ersatz for religion, ersatz for political engagement.

72

dsquared 07.27.11 at 6:29 pm

Why aren’t you personally shooting people in the Pentagon? D-squared, how about it?

Because I don’t think those deaths were the equivalent of murder; the majority of them were due to the actions of the Iraqi insurgency and the overwhelming majority of the rest were collateral damage to a military objective which I basically supported. Those deaths were predictable, but unintentional consequences of a stupid and misguided policy, not murders. I always thought the war was a massive, horrible, stupid and even morally culpable mistake, but it clearly wasn’t the same thing as the Nazi genocides, as we both know.

This is kind of my point, isn’t it? Did you think I was going to slap my forehead and say how could I have been so blind?

73

Ben A/baa 07.27.11 at 6:52 pm

I think, D^2, Sebastian H’s point was less that the analogies are exact (abortion = right wing Iraq war), but rather to highlight how reasonable it is to sincerely believe “X is a grave evil” without taking up arms to stop X. Was John Brown the only sincere abolitionist? The only one who regarded slavery as a terrible and grave evil? Obviously not.

Regardless of what you personally may have thought about the Iraq war, there are many people who did, in fact, claim it amounted to something akin to mass murder by the US. It seems you are committed by your ‘abortion’ argument to questioning the sincerity of *those* people, if they did not take ‘some radical’ action (more than, say, contributing politically to anti-war politicians).

Now, as it happens, I’m generally on board with your point. A person’s behavior in opposing activity X is a relevant indicator of his sincerity in regard activity X as a grave evil. But as noted by many people above, there are lots of complicating conditions — maybe you feel helpless/don’t know how to help, maybe you think all the ways to oppose the activity involve morally questionable means, or would completely disrupt your life, or simply won’t be effective. Per Lizardbreath’s comment above, it’s not like most of us can convene the Justice Society of America and put our plans into action.

74

dsquared 07.27.11 at 7:03 pm

there are many people who did, in fact, claim it amounted to something akin to mass murder by the US. It seems you are committed by your ‘abortion’ argument to questioning the sincerity of those people

It seems that way because it is that way; I do indeed believe that people who were claiming any such equivalence were being silly and couldn’t have possibly meant what they were saying, yea even down to the very very famous signs proclaiming that “Bush = Hitler”. In general, the fact that someone agrees with me on any particular issue (however important) does not mean that they have my open and total endorsement for everything and anything else they say or do; “Harry’s Place” is not a reliable source of information on this subject.

75

dsquared 07.27.11 at 7:08 pm

But as noted by many people above, there are lots of complicating conditions—maybe you feel helpless/don’t know how to help, maybe you think all the ways to oppose the activity involve morally questionable means, or would completely disrupt your life, or simply won’t be effective.

All very sensible reasons for not taking up arms against a normal, everyday action in a democratic polity which you just don’t believe is right. But as a response to the literal genocide of literally millions of literal babies? Come on. It’s perfectly OK and indeed even sensible to say that you can’t join in the fight today because you are wearing your best trousers. But if that’s your view, then you are demonstrating by your actions that, to you, the cause you are talking about is not as important as it was to combat Hitler, and so if you claim otherwise you are going to look silly. I am reminded of another joke:

Three old men in a Swiss retirement home. The Frenchman says “Ah, I remember the war. I fought with De Gaulle’s Resistance – once I took a machine gun and killed seven Nazi soldiers!”. The Yugoslav says “Ah, the war! I was with Tito’s partisans – once we blew up a railway track and killed a hundred Nazi soldiers!”. The Dutchman says “Oh you guys, you were so lucky – in Holland, that was not allowed.”

76

Uncle Kvetch 07.27.11 at 7:15 pm

The problem here is that AFAICT, people who believe that the invasion of Iraq constituted a war crime would be in favor of charging the architects of that invasion with war crimes.

On the other hand, only a tiny fraction of those who claim to consider abortion to be “murder” actually advocate treating it like murder in terms of legal penalties. This point has been made repeatedly by Scott Lemieux at Lawyers Guns and Money, among many others.

Even in the wingnuttiest of contexts, laws that follow the “murder” argument to its logical conclusion can’t get passed: South Dakota shelved a “justifiable homicide” law that could conceivably have protected the killers of doctors who perform abortions; the Georgia state representative who proposed mandating police investigations of every miscarriage in the state got nowhere. Likewise with Colorado’s “fetal personhood” amendment.

All of these laws would seem to be perfectly in line with the notion that abortion constitutes murder, and yet the vast majority of anti-choicers don’t embrace them, to put it mildly. As Lemieux himself so aptly put it, “Nothing is more damaging to the abortion criminalization lobby than people who actually take the stuff other anti-choicers merely pretend to believe seriously.”

You don’t have to go whole-hog and ask an anti-choicer why they aren’t out there killing doctors who provide abortions. Just ask them why they don’t think murder is murder.

77

Ben A/baa 07.27.11 at 7:21 pm

Got it. Except ‘Harry’s place’ which I have no idea what that is.

I think it’s not accurate to think of the of the “revealed sincerity” of belief as to take the form: “yes or no, are you shooting abortion doctors?” Rather, it’s a conclusion that can only be drawn from looking at a number of factors. Otherwise, it’s too easy for people with generally moderate views (like me, for example) to basically call any idealist or extremist out for failing to turn into St. Francis. Most ‘radical action’ that would be efficacious against abortion, 3rd world poverty, the Iraq war, the vivisection of animals in cosmetics research, etc. would, have the effect of *really disrupting your life.* That’s a high bar to clear to absolve yourself of insincerity.

78

Donald Johnson 07.27.11 at 7:30 pm

I think it’s obvious that the US and some of its allies have committed war crimes, that high-ranking people are responsible, and nobody gets punished. (Bush is not the equivalent of Hitler, but so what? Hitler doesn’t have very many rivals as a mass murderer.) But I don’t believe in violent revolution for a mixture of good and bad reasons. One is that I wouldn’t like to get jailed or shot. That’s the unheroic factor. Another is that I don’t think it would work–even if millions of addled lefties maddened from listening to too many Democracy Now broadcasts all rose up as one, it would probably just lead to more deaths and suffering and not to a happy human rights utopia.

I would like to see Western government officials held to the same standards as toppled dictators who have outlived their usefulness. Their actions should be investigated and if there is good reason to believe they might be guilty, they should be put on trial.

These are probably the views of a lot of people who think Bush and other Western figures are war criminals.

79

bigcitylib 07.27.11 at 7:52 pm

LeeEsq,

It is a fact that any number of hate groups–in Canada, the U.S., and England–found the best way forward after 9-11 was to repurpose themselves as being anti-Islamic, often with an exaggerated Pro-Israel slant thrown in, rather than anti-Semitic. I am not sure you can characterize their support of Israel as being feigned (which is what I think you believe)–or at least a few of these racists are obsessed enough that, amongst all the bullshit they crank out, they occasionally DO find some raving on-line jew-hater and bring them to the attention of the press. They are useful to the point where the more mainstream Jewish organizations pay some attention to them, and some of the orgs on the right side of the political spectrum (B’nai Brith Canada, Israel Canada Coalition, JDL Canada) have actually made alliances, the last two noted especially. So for example the JDL actually hosted a tele-conference with EDL leadership figure Tommy Robinson. A friend is an enemy of my enemy, I suppose. Almost everything ELSE is forgiven, alnost to the point where DOUBTING THE REALITY OF THE HOLOCAUST is acceptable as long as you are sufficiently zealous in the cause of Israel. Quite dangerous stuff, as far as I’m concerned.

80

Ben A/baa 07.27.11 at 7:53 pm

Sorry D^2, posted before I saw your last two. I think you’re looking for ways to write off the sincerity of pro-lifers. Some of that is likely fair, some isn’t. Some points.

1. The power of the argument turns on abortion being basically a second holocaust. If abortion = murder really means into ‘abortion is a grave moral wrong that should be stopped’ (a point of view that Rosalind Hursthouse plausibly argues is what most people who are anti-abortion really believe), then the argument loses lot of force. Analogies seem to take us nowhere here, but take animal rights. I don’t think anyone really believes a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. But I believe lots of people sincerely believe that the routine harm and pain inflicted on animals is a grave moral wrong. Do they need to be violating the law/practicing civil disobedience to be judged sincere? I’m would argue no.

2 I think you are overly discounting the practical and psychological barriers to vigilantism. I suspect we all believe infanticide by exposure is wrong. But placed in 1st century Rome, would we all become anti-infanticide vigilantes? I don’t feel confident that I would, even though I think I ought to. So there is a question of what actions a pro-life person would need to take in order to show their concern was real. I tend to agree if the answer is “writing angry things on the internet” that’s a knock against sincerity!

81

LeeEsq 07.27.11 at 7:57 pm

Speaking of Harry’s Place, I actually think that that the they are some of the few people that are properly analyzing Brevik’s relationship to Christianity. Many anaylists and bloggers are just treating him as a sort of fanatic but Brevik’s Christianity is a bit more complicated. He didn’t seem to be much of a believer or even a moderate practitioner. Brevik embraced Christianity as representing something of the self-assurance that he believed European civilization lost. Christianity isn’t really a religion to Brevik but a symbol of what he wanted. Its pretty much how some of the Neo-Nazi groups embrace the Norse pantheon without actually believing in Oden or Thor.

82

actio 07.27.11 at 8:00 pm

Nick L: “So I’m not sure this sort of terrorism can be completely overcome as it stems more from self-radicalisation rather than enduring operational networks employed by paramilitary organisations, but it would be a start to reign in some of the apocalyptic rhetoric which feeds the murderous persecution complexes of such individuals.”

Yes, significantly lowering the likelihood for this type of mass murder may be all we can do. In the Norweigian case, some simple steps would involve much stricter gun control or, even better, abolish firearm ownership for the general population.

Sebastian H: “Isn’t the exact formulation used by the anti-Islam crowd in response to 9/11? I thought this was the kind of reasoning we very specificially weren’t supposed to be using.”

There is a difference. Most muslim individuals in the west do NOT engage in hate speech but that population STILL was subjected to hatred and was blamed (and in some cases murdered) after 9/11 and ongoing.

In the Brevik case most of the extreme nationalists/islamophones routinely engage in war rhetoric and pour out hate against muslims of exactly the kind that Brevik has obviously taken to heart. They have called and called and Brevik finally answered. The papers now write about possible criminal proceeding against a polish citizen for selling substances that Brevik used in his bomb. If material commercial interactions with a to be mass murder be reason for punishment then fueling and spreading the hate he thrived is also a punitive reason.

83

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.27.11 at 8:13 pm

The thing is, even a mass-murder is not such a big deal, unless it emotionally affects you. You think Nazism was the greatest evil imaginable, but an ordinary Chinese is much more impressed by imperial Japan and the rape of Nanking. Different folks, different strokes, different indoctrination.

84

Charlie 07.27.11 at 8:34 pm

There are people who are willing to martyr themselves. There surely are many more people who would use violence in an attempt to further their cause if they believed with good reason that there were enough like minded people suitably placed so as to raise the chances of (a) success and / or (b) avoidance of detection and capture. Vichy France was the right sort of environment for an anti-German resistance; modern America isn’t the right environment for an anti-abortionist resistance. So I don’t see how we can safely say that people don’t really mean it when they say x is genocide and is to be resisted with violence. Isn’t that tantamount to saying that only action speaks?

85

Charlie 07.27.11 at 8:39 pm

Or, #80.

86

Sebastian H 07.27.11 at 8:52 pm

“Because I don’t think those deaths were the equivalent of murder; the majority of them were due to the actions of the Iraqi insurgency and the overwhelming majority of the rest were collateral damage to a military objective which I basically supported. Those deaths were predictable, but unintentional consequences of a stupid and misguided policy, not murders. I always thought the war was a massive, horrible, stupid and even morally culpable mistake, but it clearly wasn’t the same thing as the Nazi genocides, as we both know.”

Well great. But if 600,000 excess deaths caused by the Iraq war (which if I’m reading your posts on the Lancet studies is about what you believe to be the case) doesn’t inspire more than just snarky blog posts, an occasional vote, and a few protest rallies at most, your threshold for when it is time to take strong action seems pretty stringent. Which is great, I guess. But then you pretty much lose the force of your argument about pro-lifers unless you are willing to conceed that your target (above) is vanishingly small. The number of pro-lifers who believe that every single abortion is literally unmitigated murder from the very moment of conception is fairly small. There is a broad contingent on the pro-life side who think abortion is a serious moral error less than murder. There is a broad contingent on the pro-life side who think that *late term abortions* (especially of viable fetuses) are murder or at least should be investigated as potential homocides. Those would certainly not hit your “as bad as NAZI genocide” threshold, while still being perfectly serious misgivings. And since they in fact represent an enormous majority of the pro-life side of the abortion argument your statement that “This has always struck me as a key point with respect to the abortion debate…” seems to deeply misunderstand the contours of the actual abortion debate.

Yes, (all) Abortion = Murder (always) is a slogan, and one that isn’t philosophically super-tight. And Bush = Hitler is a stupid slogan too. But at least I don’t pretend that Bush = Hitler is “a key point with respect to the” anti-Iraq war debate such that I get to question the *overall* moral sincerity of those who disagreed with me on the topic.

87

bianca steele 07.27.11 at 9:05 pm

@soru: “some other country’s newspapers”

I’m not sure about this. In Europe in WWI every country’s newspaper was beating on the same pro-war drum, and it might not have mattered which they read. Every national paper in Europe could have been beating out the beat Breivik heard, and I question whether it would have affected him that way if there wasn’t something going on locally too.

88

LizardBreath 07.27.11 at 9:06 pm

You’ve got a false equivalence there between the prevalence of the usage of “Abortion=Murder” in some form or another and “Bush = Hitler”. A very substantial portion of people categorically opposed to abortion would describe it as murder, right up until you started talking about appropriate legal punishments. Very few anti-war people ever endorsed “Bush = Hitler” and while it’s obviously not the kind of thing that could be meant literally, it’s not clear that anyone ever meant it seriously rather than hyperbolically.

89

ScentOfViolets 07.27.11 at 9:07 pm

(also an application of the schema in #6: people who spend huge amounts of time arguing that particular racial groups are systematically less intelligent and more prone to criminal activity than others, but who act all indignant if they are referred to as “racist” – if you really believed in genetic stupidity and criminality, why wouldn’t you be racist? In general, I’d refer to it as “failure to own one’s bullshit”).

Funny thing, that, but I have members of my family[1] who aren’t afraid to be called racist. They’re old school, real old school – the younger ones in this tribe are in their 70’s.

[1]This would be in SE Missouri down near the bootheel.

90

Sebastian H 07.27.11 at 9:09 pm

If we’re going to damn whole movements over the stupidity of how their slogans interact with the deeper political issues how about “Keep Government Off My Body” as if pro-choice people would never consider government regulation of things dealing with the body, or hell the term “pro-choice” in its entirety as if they would never be for government limiting personal choices when we all know perfectly well that they aren’t strict libertarians.

91

ScentOfViolets 07.27.11 at 9:18 pm

As usual, D^2 makes a point I’ve often made, but has done so more articulately. If abortion is murder, then western society is committing mass murder; if western society is complicit in mass murder, then shooting a few mass murderers is a fucking good start, even if you end up in jail forever.

In this context to Charlie: ii) definitely isn’t an excuse, as above. i) is only an excuse if you also believe iii). iii) is a legitimate reason for inaction. iv) is questionable – surely there’s a point where you live in a regime of Infinite Evil where you can’t just say “well, yeah, but if I shot Stalin then I’d be as bad as him”.

Heh, you want to see some real retch-inducing behaviour, check out this video. I despise these people – check out the smirk on the first woman being interviewed.

To say that these types are doing anything but showing the courage of their convictions is an understatement – my own ignirnt and unapologetically racist uncles cut a nobler figure than these malicious, mischievous, and malevolent twits.

92

Gertrude Perkins 07.27.11 at 9:27 pm

Dsquared, it seems like you’re assuming that people’s actions are consistent with their beliefs.

If someone purports to think that abortion is murder but doesn’t take proportionally strong action against abortion, there are two possibilities:

1) They don’t really believe abortion is murder

2) Their actions are not consistent with their belief that abortion is murder

Why are you sure it’s the first and not the second? Do you think people can have no other beliefs than those implied by their actions?

I think it’s entirely possible for people to believe that horrendous atrocities are going on, that they ought to do something drastic about it, but simply not follow through. These people might be cowardly, apathetic, etc., but those are condemnations of their character, not proof that they don’t believe what they say they believe.

93

soru 07.27.11 at 9:53 pm

In Europe in WWI every country’s newspaper was beating on the same pro-war drum, and it might not have mattered which they read. .

In WWI, I don’t think they were many Frenchmen who read German newspapers and as a consequence volunteered to fight _for_ the Boche.

WWII is more when that kind of thing got started (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legion_of_French_Volunteers_Against_Bolshevism).

Every national paper in Europe could have been beating out the beat Breivik heard, and I question whether it would have affected him that way if there wasn’t something going on locally too.

And I am claiming that the thing going on locally was ‘Norwegian life and politics’. Of all the people who came into contact with Beck’s rantings, a tiny minority would live in Scandinavia. But that’s where the violence took place, precisely because it has the largest gap between local reality and American ideology.

Your adopted/chosen culture tells you, say, ‘gun control is evil’. Norway has gun control, and ten other features US culture stereotypically rejects. So either you abandon your cultural identity, or you conclude Norway is evil.

Similar considerations apply, obviously, to the equivalent ‘self-starter’ Islamist terrorists.

94

bianca steele 07.27.11 at 10:10 pm

Okay, but even assuming you’re right that his ideology was appropriate to far-right forces in the US (are you assuming those are legitimate sources of power?), he identified a political target that made political sense both locally and globally. He didn’t confuse “my coworkers are evil (like Hitler)” with “I work in the same office as Hitler.” He didn’t go around a school asking kids if they believed in God before he shot them. He didn’t blow up a symbolic target like a post office. He didn’t think everything would be OK if he spent all his time protesting noisily outside stores that sold prayer rugs. He didn’t deputize himself to be a junior G-man.

95

dsquared 07.27.11 at 10:32 pm

The power of the argument turns on abortion being basically a second holocaust. If abortion = murder really means into ‘abortion is a grave moral wrong that should be stopped’ (a point of view that Rosalind Hursthouse plausibly argues is what most people who are anti-abortion really believe), then the argument loses lot of force

It doesn’t lose a lot of force – it loses all its force when dealing with people who think that “abortion is a very grave moral wrong that must be stopped”. People like that are totally sincere, even as they go on to say “and stopping it is by a very long way the most important thing in my political beliefs”. But if you believe “Abortion is a very great moral wrong”, but say “Abortion is murder, and therefore I believe that millions of murders of babies are being carried out every year, but am not really doing anything about this”, then you are saying you believe something other than what you actually believe, and that sort of thing is bound to have an effect on your reputation for sincerity.

and similarly to Sebastian:

But then you pretty much lose the force of your argument about pro-lifers unless you are willing to conceed that your target (above) is vanishingly small. The number of pro-lifers who believe that every single abortion is literally unmitigated murder from the very moment of conception is fairly small.

I am sure this is true. But the number of pro-lifers who say that they believe that every single abortion is literally murder is much larger, and the fact that, as noted by Uncle Kvetch in #76 above, they invariably back down from this claim when challenged on its practical implications, does not really do much to rescue the old credibility. This is why I coined that snappy phrase “own your bullshit”. Pro-lifers are happy to bullshit that life begins at conception and that abortion is child-murder, but when you ask them if they are prepared to own that bullshit, they don’t want to know.

96

ScentOfViolets 07.27.11 at 10:34 pm

I think it’s entirely possible for people to believe that horrendous atrocities are going on, that they ought to do something drastic about it, but simply not follow through. These people might be cowardly, apathetic, etc., but those are condemnations of their character, not proof that they don’t believe what they say they believe.

As a logical possibility, you are of course correct. But check out the weasels in my video link; these sorry excuses are by and large unwilling even to say that a woman who has an abortion should do some hard time in jail.

These . . . I have to call them human beings, I suppose, are evidence for D^2 claims. They are also most assuredly evidence against yours.

97

Ed Marshall 07.27.11 at 10:43 pm

It seems that the EDL has told the AP that the killer’s mentor “Richard” is Paul Ray, a former EDL member that claims to be the head of a “templar” organization. Paul Ray, in turn says that the mentor in question is Alan Lake, bankroller of the EDL and that he is being set up to take a fall.

I think the “Lone Wolf” narrative is about to take a beating.

98

Daragh McDowell 07.27.11 at 10:51 pm

Just wanted to say excellent post Chris and fully agree.

99

Patrick (not the one above) 07.27.11 at 11:15 pm

1. I believe that the Iraq invasion was a very great moral wrong.
2. I’m a pacifist, who came of age watching other pacifists oppose two similar great wrongs: segregation and the Vietnam war.
3. I don’t have the intellectual difficulty figuring out which terrorists are really freedom fighters, that people who countenance violence have. I may be more sympathetic to John Brown’s cause, but I don’t think the violence was right.
4. Ah, you may say, non-violence doesn’t work. I’m not convinced violence does, we can start that argument.
5. The Pentagon is safe from my violence, but I’d like to see it out of business.
6. Yossarian said it best, “I’d be a damn fool to think any other way.”

100

Andrew F. 07.27.11 at 11:30 pm

What exactly does it mean to say that X created the “epistemic environment” in which p occurred?

I assume that the “epistemic environment” is a factor which makes p more probable?

But of course other factors that make p more probable include the existence of oxygen on earth, the organization of a camp, the invention of gunpowder, the internet, and so forth. Freedom of speech makes p more probable, for that matter.

I understand that the message here is that certain rhetoric is wrong IN THAT it makes p more probable – but this is an awfully vague formulation of the argument.

101

Sebastian H 07.27.11 at 11:40 pm

“Pro-lifers are happy to bullshit that life begins at conception and that abortion is child-murder, but when you ask them if they are prepared to own that bullshit, they don’t want to know.”

And pro-choicers don’t really mean that the government can’t regulate anything nor are they strict libertarians.

Fascinating.

What does that have to do with your “key point” contention? It isn’t a key point in the abortion debate just as Bush=Hitler isn’t a keep point in the Iraq debate and “No War for Oil” isn’t a key point in the larger debate about the Middle East. Hooray you can shoot down slogans. If you *really* believe that doing that is dealing with the key points in the various debates, you’re a lot more provincially narrow minded than I would have thought. Slogans are almost never the key point in any long running political debate. They mostly function as quick ways to preach to the choir. They are intended to let you identify what side you’re on, not as arguments. No one who says “Stop the imperialist war” is arguing with the other side. “Your government off my body” isn’t intended to be an actually convincing argument. It is a self-identifier: I’m anti-this-war, I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-life. It is weird that you think knocking that down is saying anything in particular about the underlying argument.

People are windbags. Bully on you for noticing that one!

102

Tom Bach 07.27.11 at 11:49 pm

People are windbags. Bully on you for noticing that one!

I think that larger point is that raising stakes rhetorically makes reasoned argument nearly impossible and if your rhetoric is of that nature, you ought be silent. Or, put slightly differently, whereof that which we will not do we must remain silent.

103

Sebastian H 07.27.11 at 11:53 pm

Whatever else you might say about d-squared, you certainly won’t say that he eschews windbaggery. ;)

104

Roger 07.27.11 at 11:54 pm

I just find it literally disgusting that rather than seriously discuss what Breivik tells in such exhaustive detail are his beliefs and influences Chris just sees an excuse to launch yet another attack on the ‘decent left’.

Where in this 1,500 word document are the quotes from Christopher Hitchens, Norm Geras, Nick Cohen, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman et al?

As far as Breivik every single one of these people is just another Marxist multiculturalist.

If you could bestir yourself to read the remarkable window into hell he has provided us with you’d discover that Breivik is in fact nothing other than Tory Boy run amok (favourite books: Mill On Liberty, Locke Essay, Burke Reflections….) and that had Breivik compiled a complete UK death list of his ‘category A and B traitors’ (and he is such an obsessive that the idea must surely have occurred to him) I am pretty sure that a number of signers of the Euston Manifesto would be listed well above C Bertram.

A vile and disgraceful post of which you should be ashamed.

105

Sebastian H 07.28.11 at 12:02 am

Or perhaps this is just another irregular verb.

I engage in amusing over the top fun, you engage in sloganeering for a good cause, they viley create an epistemic envioronment for terrorists while not even believing their own morals.

106

LFC 07.28.11 at 1:31 am

Roger @103
The post as I read it contains only one sentence – a parenthetical one at that – which could be seen as a reference to the ‘decent left’ and even that sentence is hedged with various qualifications. Not exactly an ‘attack’.

107

ScentOfViolets 07.28.11 at 1:41 am

Following the Norway massacre many of the elite scribblers of this spectrum—many of whom have played the guilt-by-association game to the max over the last decade—are disclaiming all responsibility. Well, of course, they didn’t pull the trigger, but they helped to build an epistemic environment in which someone did.

Going back to this original comment and tying it in with the abortion nutcases; I suspect here that “epistemic environment” here is one where the elite scribblers let go unquestioned the notion that it’s okay to bypass the institutional mediators for these sorts of conflicts if you happen not to like the results.

Iow, it’s one thing to disagree with the Supreme Court in re it’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade. It’s quite another to disregard that decision as the settled law of the land just because you happen to disagree with it.[1]

And it is this which our cadres of scribblers let (selectively) pass unremarked.

[1]Of course, one-offs that you happen to disagree with are one thing; having those mediating institutions systematically subvert and undercut previous rulings is quite another.

108

William Timberman 07.28.11 at 2:40 am

A decent respect to the opinions of mankind. When I talked to counselors of the American Friends Service Committee 45 years ago concerning my moral qualms about serving in Vietnam, they were quite adamant that a respect for community values should never be lightly put aside, and that I must definitely go to jail if I wanted my civil disobedience to be taken seriously. I sought other advice, but I thought then — and I think now — that they were right about the bottom line.

I feel sorry for Brevik. Egotism turned to murder to justify itself is the very definition of hell on earth. Nothing we could do to him is likely to equal what he’s already done to himself. From my perspective, his actions are more a measure of pain than of evil, although they’re eloquent enough testimony to the relationship between the two.

109

futurepolitical.com 07.28.11 at 4:49 am

@ wolfgang:

>>It seems that he read and admired Locke and Kant among others. Did they also help to build this ‘epistemic environment’?

given what Locke thought of the native americans or what Kant said of the south sea islanders, Breivik’s alleged admiration comes as no surprise here.

110

dsquared 07.28.11 at 6:32 am

What does that have to do with your “key point” contention? It isn’t a key point in the abortion debate just as Bush=Hitler isn’t a keep point in the Iraq debate and “No War for Oil” isn’t a key point in the larger debate about the Middle East.

How can it not be a key point in the abortion debate that one side (but not the other) is not remotely prepared to live with the practical consequences of what they claim to be the basis of their moral reasoning?

111

Sebastian H 07.28.11 at 6:51 am

Because your definition of “one side” is pretty unnuanced, you understanding of “claim to be the basis” is crappy and your understanding of “their moral reasoning” is poor.

112

actio 07.28.11 at 7:23 am

Roger: “Chris just sees an excuse to launch yet another attack on the ‘decent left’. Where in this 1,500 word document are the quotes from Christopher Hitchens, Norm Geras, Nick Cohen, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman et al?”

Where does Chris B mention the “decent left” or name any of those names? Quote the context you are reacting to.

113

Chris Bertram 07.28.11 at 7:24 am

Roger, I’m sorry you feel that way, but contemplate the figure of Marty Peretz for example.Doesn’t he fit the part exactly?

114

Norwegian Guy 07.28.11 at 7:44 am

When news of the bombing first appeared, most people assumed that either Afghanistan-related Islamists or groups connected to the Libyan regime were behind. There was less speculation about the perpetrators in the Norwegian media than in the foreign, but I think that was mostly because there really wasn’t time to do so – following the ongoing drama got first priority.

I was with some friends and acquaintances, most of them right-of-centre, in the evening, and some of them expressed anger over (Muslim) immigrants while we were watching the news broadcasts. Others were talking about the importance of “staying the course” in Afghanistan, were the Western occupation is supposed to keep us safe from terrorism. Well, it sure hasn’t helped much.

There were reports about a couple of attacks on immigrants. Luckily, nobody got seriously injured. On the rightist blogs, I was expecting that the hate fest had already started. Perhaps it had, but they must have been quick to delete it once it turned out it was one of their own who had been arrested.

As most others, I didn’t expect domestic right-wing extremists were behind. While violent neonazis were a threat in the 1990s, they have been declining in strength over the past decade. Unfortunately, it has turned out that the people that replaced them, the Islamophobic neocons, can produce people even more dangerous. Of course, they’re in full damage control mode now. Let’s hope they are not to successful.

And what Marc Mulholland said @16.

115

Chris Williams 07.28.11 at 8:01 am

I’ve just re-read Chris B’s original post, and noticed one more thing: “the adoption of extreme pro-Zionism by the formerly anti-semitic right “
I’m not sure that the extreme right can be properly described as ‘formerly’ anti-semitic even following its adoption of extreme pro-Zionism. An extreme antipathy to ‘multiculturalism’ necessarily involves antipathy to observant Judaism (note for example the implications of the One Law for All campaign). And there is alas no necessary contradiction betweeen support for the existence of Israel and wanting to deport Jewish people there. There is a worrying parallel in the attitude of the interwar Polish right, which was happy to allow the Zionist movement to organise, on the basis that both groups wanted Jewish people out of Poland.

I appreciate that mainstream Zionism, and supporters of Israel outside the extreme right, do not share this attitude, of course.

116

dsquared 07.28.11 at 9:51 am

110: you’re now just arguing by simple assertion, and I’m not really interested in continuing on that basis, particularly when the assertion in question is that “pro-life campaigners take a nuanced and subtle view of the status of foetuses and certainly don’t usually make categorical statements to the effect that abortion is murder”. That’s such obvious rubbish that, (on topic!) I’m sure you can’t possibly really believe it.

117

Gertrude Perkins 07.28.11 at 10:55 am

ScentOfViolets: “They are also most assuredly evidence against yours.”

On the contrary, pointing to people who are not x does not prove the impossibility of being x. However, I share your animus towards the people in that video, and the anti-abortion movement more generally. I was trying to make a more general point: that you can’t infer the inscincerity of people who say they think the world is seriously out of joint from their failure to make a serious effort to put it right.

118

Roger 07.28.11 at 12:14 pm

actio at 111:

‘elements of it have even been given cover, credibility and respectability by people who think of themselves as being on the left but who backed the Iraq war, strongly supported Israel over Lebanon and Gaza and who disseminate propaganda attacking those who take a different line to them on the Middle East as antisemitic racists’.

Chris at 112

Come on – you are clearly not sorry at all.

And I have indeed contemplated the figure of Marty Peretz – but is that really all you got?

Peretz is not representative of anyone other than himself and only retains his editorial position at an ostensibly liberal (but hardly ‘left’) journal because his wife is immensely rich and they need occasional injections of her money.

So that is one ‘element’ – who are your others?

119

Andrew F. 07.28.11 at 12:27 pm

dsquared… what you’re forgetting is that the pro-life movement is heavily, thoroughly influenced by the views of the Catholic and various Protestant churches. Those same churches insist, as strongly as they do on abortion, that violence to end the practice would be wrong. So the very implication you think to be obvious (if abortion is murder -> violence against clinics is justified) is an implication explicitly and repeatedly condemned by the most influential organizations in the pro-life movement.

I don’t claim that Catholics or Protestants follow edicts of non-violence well or consistently, but this certainly weakens the notion that – especially for those who hold pro-life positions – violence is justified, much less obligatory.

What bothers me, somewhat, about Chris’s post is the vagueness of the charge he presents. This vagueness is actually evident here in this slightly OT discussion of the pro-life position. Did the Catholic Church help create the “epistemic environment” in which violence against clinics occurs? Sure. Does that mean that the Catholic Church did anything wrong? No.

“Epistemic environment” is way, way too vague a term to sustain the accusatory implications of the post.

120

Roger 07.28.11 at 12:52 pm

Chris Williams at #114

“the adoption of extreme pro-Zionism by the formerly anti-semitic right ” is indeed an extremely imprecise and easily falsifiable statement.

Firstly many members and organisations of the right have not stopped being anti-semitic at all – or if they claim to have done so are like the UK’s BNP being obviously disingenuous as their leaders continue to practice holocaust denial and to contain many members who were their Nazism not on their sleeves but tattooed onto their skin.

Breivik’s own pro-zionism is hardly unproblematic and actually does have rather a lot in common with that of the interwar Polish National Democrats and of other Catholic pro-zionists like GK Chesterton for whom zionism is a solution to their ‘Jewish Problem’ and thus is not only ompletely compatible with but is a direct product of their traditional christian non-exterminatory antisemitism.

And in so far as the protestant fundamentalist right are concerned they are of course only ‘pro-zionist’ in the sense that they want all the Jews in one place so God can fulfil his prophecy and kill or convert them all in the Final Days.

Secondly where is the evidence that those members of ‘the former anti-semitic right’ who do appear to have made a more substantial conversion have become not just resigned to the existence of Israel but ‘extremist pro-zionists’.

An obvious case study would be Fini in Italy – his post-fascist party or rather faction of Berlusconi’s party may well now be more or less sincere supporters of Israel’s ‘right to exist’ – but given his political and Italy’s geographical position (and particularly its very close relationship with Gaddafi’s Libya) they can hardly plausibly become rabid Likudniks.

Chris may have a stronger case for say the Vlaams Blok and certainly Geert Wilders from Holland has been to Israel and was feted by the right there – but these are just additional data points in a very wide distribution of real and pretended right-wing positions on zionism.

And Chris belatedly recognises the weakness of this statement with his ‘this isn’t a single movement though – it is a spectrum ‘ but seemingly only so that he can then stretch that spectrum far enough leftward to include his personal bete noirs.

My real beef with this piece is not that it descends into petty and in the circumstances utterly tasteless point-scoring, but rather that it is a very shallow and un-nuanced analysis of something that is extremely complex and defies easy categorisation at an international level.

121

Anderson 07.28.11 at 1:06 pm

favourite books: Mill On Liberty, Locke Essay, Burke Reflections

I believe this may make Breivik the world’s ONLY mass-murderer to claim inspiration from Mill, Locke, and Burke. One has to wonder what he got from them, and whether he was reading them in very poor translations. And thank god he didn’t lay hands on Hume!

122

ajay 07.28.11 at 1:10 pm

given his political and Italy’s geographical position (and particularly its very close relationship with Gaddafi’s Libya)

Italy’s “very close relationship with Gaddafi’s Libya” is now epitomised by the Italian Air Force having spent the last four months bombing Libya. Any political analysis that rests on the two countries being bestest buddies may no longer be safely regarded as a loadbearing structure.

123

Chris Bertram 07.28.11 at 1:56 pm

Roger, your reading skills are poor. I didn’t say that those elements of the left were part of the spectrum, I said that they gave it “cover, credibility and respectability”. That’s true, since they included some of the more extreme blogs on their blogrolls, got themselves interviews by the likes of FrontPageMag etc. I can’t see how you can deny this.

124

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 2:16 pm

I don’t think the anti-Deutsch were at all sympathetic to the EDL, Chris. The idea that calling attention to the deplorable, self-inflicted, state of the Arab world, its institutionalized violence against women, its complete intolerance for minorities, and its massive popular support for the murder of civilians is somehow synonymous with calling for the expulsion of muslims from the west is just wrong. The left had two options. One represented by Galloway was to support the most reactionary and vile expressions of Islamism as anti-racism. The other was to critique this trend, and that ment engagement, showing that the assumptions that religion would trump secular identity were wrong. Was their other option for critique then engagement, that you claim legitimized the most vile expressions of Christian chauvinism? Or to put it another way: is it possible to host the conversation without endorsing the participants involved?

125

dsquared 07.28.11 at 2:21 pm

The left had two options

Views on complex political issues which start with the premis “[X] has two options”: also unlikely to be loadbearing structures.

126

Donald Johnson 07.28.11 at 3:04 pm

“its massive popular support for the murder of civilians”

This is false. I’ve linked to the Amazon page for the book “Who Speaks for Islam” and you can use the “look inside this book” feature and read pages on how many Americans vs. how many Muslims in various countries including Arab ones support attacks on civilians and there’s no big difference–if anything Americans are more likely to support such attacks. There’s also a summary statement given in the opening pages saying that with Muslims worldwide they are no more likely to support civilian attacks than Americans. (I’d try linking to the pages myself, but when I tried this once before with this feature the link didn’t work).

link

127

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 3:04 pm

The Left’s options were heavily circumscribed by the disappearance of an Arab left, the rise of SWP style anti-imperialist rhetoric, and lastly the creation of an anti-clerical liberal movement in England. That created a bind: calls for reform in the arab world could only be interpreted by the SWP as imperialist, due to the absence of a domestic left in the arab world, whereas their absence would mean acquiescence to the status quo. Much as Adorno’s anti-partisan position on Vietnam lead to him being miscast as conservative, the critique of Islamism became proimperialism in the imaginations of the ISO etc.

128

Donald Johnson 07.28.11 at 3:09 pm

OTOH, if you think that both America and the Muslim world are too violent then I can’t disagree.

129

ajay 07.28.11 at 3:35 pm

the creation of an anti-clerical liberal movement in England

Wait, what? When did that happen?

130

mds 07.28.11 at 3:42 pm

Those same churches insist, as strongly as they do on abortion, that violence to end the practice would be wrong.

You are apparently entirely, blissfully ignorant of American fundamentalist Protestantism. In a way, I envy you. But it does detract ever so slightly from the weight of your arguments.

Did the Catholic Church help create the “epistemic environment” in which violence against clinics occurs? Sure. Does that mean that the Catholic Church did anything wrong? No.

You are apparently entirely, blissfully ignorant of, e.g., American anti-reproductive-autonomy groups such as Operation Rescue, or the way in which Francis Schaeffer inspired the Moral Majority, which are a much better fit for the “epistemic environment” comparison than global Catholicism in its totality.

131

Sebastian H 07.28.11 at 3:45 pm

Wow d-squared at 124 is freaking *amazing* considering his explanation of the two options about what pro-lifers really believe.

Here is what the enormous majority of pro-lifers believe:

Abortion at some stage or other is a very serious moral wrong. Certainly as bad as torturing animals, probably as bad or worse than armed robber and *in some cases* something akin to murder. Nearly all of them believe that it is murder at or near the viability phase unless there is some compelling self defense reason. (This btw is the location of your deep misunderstanding about Abortion = Murder. The Supreme Court in Constitutionalizing the issue pushed it into a discussion almost exclusively about late term abortions. For all your blah blah blah, there actually is a serious discussion to be had about late term abortions being a serious moral wrong that pro-choicers don’t like to engage with. Abortion=Murder isn’t as silly a slogan, though it still isn’t philosophically tight, when the political discussion has become focused on late term abortions. The fact is, certain late term abortions actually look very akin to murder to most normal people.) Yes, a very large majority of pro-lifers think that late term abortions might be murder if there isn’t a compelling chance of serious physical injury (i.e. something akin to what might get you off as self defense in a murder trial). This isn’t that ridiculous of a position, as it appears to be what the majority of Americans think, and so far as I can tell ALSO the majority of what people in the EU think (see also various EU laws RE abortion which are both more strict about timing than those in the US and more strict about oversight of abortion doctors.) Kermit Goswell’s decades of abortion and actual infanticide is the clear result of the hands-off “trust the doctor and patient” regime that NARAL et al. prefer. (Preemptive note, I said it is the result of their preferred legal structure, not that they would actually defend him–I hope).

Yes some percentage of pro-lifers think that the murder concept extends all the way back to conception. They are the minority, and have zero chance of getting their agenda into law because while a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be quite a bit more restricted than now, they don’t believe it should be outlawed. These pro-lifers are of course just as useful as Muslim jihadists are for certain people,which Chris does not name in his post above, when left-wingers want to scare people into their own agenda about abortion.

Furthermore Andrew makes a good point about the taught non-violence in the Catholic side of the pro-life movement (which is mirrored in the Quaker-inheiriting and Pennsylvannia-Dutch strains of Protestant pro-lifers). That further undercuts your argument.

That is the actual state of the abortion debate in the US from the pro-life side.

In general, it isn’t nearly as simplistic as you portray, it isn’t nearly as confused as you portray, and it isn’t nearly as intellectually/morally inconsistent as you portray. Are there strains that are? Yes. So fucking what? Anyone can make any strain of thought look horrible if you insist on engaging only its silliest proponents.

132

adam@nope.com 07.28.11 at 3:52 pm

Bravo Sebastian H!

Seriously – this whole thread exemplifies why Crooked Timber is probably the best blog on the web.

133

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 3:54 pm

Depends on which civilians. Sure, they might say that “attacks against civilians are bad” but then go ahead and praise suicide martyrs as heros and Osama bin Laden as a freedom fighter. 25% of youth in Malaysia said suicide bombers are needed to defend Islam, 70% that the headscarf is obligatory, and 40% agree with the barbaric punishment of maiming. The report is here.

134

Roger 07.28.11 at 4:00 pm

Anderson @ 120

Breivik was actually born in England and from his manifesto is bi-lingual so presumably would have read Burke, Mill and Locke in exactly the same English editions as we did.

Chris @ 122

You are purposely not answering my question – you say ‘elements of the left’ but gave me Marty Peretz – a man who has not been in any meaningful sense ‘of’ the left since the 1970s.

And I also remember the lone interview Norm Geras and Nick Cohen gave to frontpagemag.com (and was not the only member of their wider circle who told them that doing this was an extremely bad idea at the time) – but read it again and it is a perfect illustration of the utterly unbridgeable gulf between them and the real neocon and likudnik right as represented by Horowitz and the Horowitzian mini-me that conducted the interview.

And in what concievable sense could an interview between a retired Marxist academic and a left-wing journalist give the likes of frontpagemag.com ‘cover, credibility and respectability’ – cover, credibility and respectability with whom exactly?

Did you scratch your head and say to yourself ‘oh if Geras and Cohen are talking to him Horowitz can’t be an evil right-wing scumbag after all?’ – and if you didn’t – who did?

So Marty Peretz and a single interview with frontpagemag.com that IMO disproves your contention – what else have you got?

135

dsquared 07.28.11 at 4:07 pm

Certainly as bad as torturing animals, probably as bad or worse than armed robber and in some cases something akin to murder […] Yes, a very large majority of pro-lifers think that late term abortions might be murder if there isn’t a compelling chance of serious physical injury (i.e. something akin to what might get you off as self defense in a murder trial).

No, I don’t agree that they do. Because they don’t believe that women who have late term abortions should be tried as criminals and subject to long terms of imprisonment for doing so. Armed robbers and people who torture animals are tried as criminals, and are subject to custodial sentences, while the USA has either death or life-without-parole as the maximum sentence for child murder. But pro-lifers don’t, in general, when pushed, say that they want women who have abortions to be tried as the serious felons that they claim them to be. They don’t want to “own” the real-world implications of a rhetorical claim that they want to make.

And of course, neither the Quakers nor the Catholics are religiously opposed to the imposition of prison sentences for murderers; the degree of bad faith is so huge here that I can weaken my claims massively and still establish my conclusion.

136

ScentOfViolets 07.28.11 at 4:12 pm

Here is what the enormous majority of pro-lifers believe:

snip of extremely weird rant.

That is the actual state of the abortion debate in the US from the pro-life side.

I guess this is where Sebastian calls me a troll for asking that he show, you know, some freaking goddamn evidence for anything he’s said. Cites. Facts. Figures. All those nasty trollish things that are thrown out there just to derail the arguments of fine upstanding folks like Sebastian ;-)

137

dsquared 07.28.11 at 4:16 pm

Without presuming to speak for Chris:

what else have you got?

Melanie Phillips (subject of “The Normblog profile no. 155”). Cited at length in the Oslo gunman’s manifesto.

Andrew Bostrom (interviewed in Democratiya, Winter 2008). Frequent co-author of Bat Ye’Or on “dhimmitude” and “Eurabia”.

Anthony Browne (“Our new man in town to fight political correctness”, Nick Cohen, Evening Standard 23 Jul 2008). Believes that Britain is overwhelmed with immigrants, that asylum seekers carry disease and that London will be minority white in 2010 (changed to “minority British-born white” at a later date, still wrong).

I have a few more hanging around the shop actually.

138

Uncle Kvetch 07.28.11 at 4:26 pm

Here is what the enormous majority of pro-lifers believe:

Cite, please.

139

Donald Johnson 07.28.11 at 4:29 pm

“Depends on which civilians. Sure, they might say that “attacks against civilians are bad” but then go ahead and praise suicide martyrs as heros and Osama bin Laden as a freedom fighter.”

Pretty much the same as Americans then. The people we support are freedom fighters and our enemies who do the same things are terrorists and our military actions are always justifiable and torture is the same as fraternity pranks. Not all Americans by any means, but enough to make the claim that there is some big distinction between us and Muslims on this issue look pretty silly.

140

Donald Johnson 07.28.11 at 4:37 pm

Here’s a poll from 2009 on torture. It appears we should be deeply concerned about any country dominated by Republican men.

link

141

Sebastian H 07.28.11 at 4:37 pm

You deal with the political climate you have and try to work with it. Why don’t progressives constantly harp on their wish lists for the ultimate state of the government/private balance? Because (except for the idiots) they realize that doing so gets in the way of the concrete gains that can be had. It isn’t a matter of *revealing* or *concealing* the deep agenda. For the most part, the most important deep agenda is to talkable what is reachable and reach it. The state of political play on abortion is such that we have trouble punishing even abortion doctors who perform many late term abortions under what would be questionable circumstances if we even bothered to hold routine levels of medical evidence on the question (which for the most part we do not). The reachable step is doctor accountability (doctor punishment for failing on the accountability probably isn’t even much of a reachable step at this point).

The reasons for not punishing the woman are ironically well out of step with modern feminism (something to do with doctors pushing weak willed women, or just so stories about how hard it is to make rational decisions when 8 months pregnant) but well within the modern understanding of pregnancy. (Preemptive note: I’m not saying it is *right* but I certainly think I’m stating a widely held belief about women and late term pregnancies, and it isn’t even exclusively held by Republicans if my ears don’t deceive me). In any case, the popular opinion is nowhere near interested in that, while punishing the repeat offendor doctor is much closer to public opinion (and likely to be even closer if Gosnell gets much press and the pro-choicers don’t get some good talking points along the lines of “we don’t support his clear infanticide at all” going).

It is like trying to start peace talks with “a moral person would let the Palestinians become full Israeli citizens and allow a full right of return”. The pro-life/Palestinian supporter *might* be right from some idealistic perspective, but it is going to derail any practical hope for a better situation than the current one, right?

142

Sebastian H 07.28.11 at 4:43 pm

No, ScentofViolets. I know you’re a troll because your constant burden of proof game ONLY goes to support the side you like. D-squared has made numerous, unsupported, broad-brush assertions that you seem to have neglected to want a cite for. Confirmation bias anyone? I’m off to work. Have as good a day as you deserve.

143

puss wallgreen 07.28.11 at 4:50 pm

Watson Ladd: “Sure, they might say that “attacks against civilians are bad” but then go ahead and praise suicide martyrs as heros and Osama bin Laden as a freedom fighter”
They might, but in order to substantiate your claims of “massive popular support for the murder of civilians” in the Arab world you would have to produce some evidence they had actually done so. For example, opinion polls showing massive popular support for Al Quaeda and Osama bin Laden. As I noted before in a previous discussion, you really can’t grasp the distinction between what you would like people to have said and what they have actually said, can you?

144

mds 07.28.11 at 5:04 pm

Furthermore Andrew makes a good point about the taught non-violence in the Catholic side of the pro-life movement (which is mirrored in the Quaker-inheiriting and Pennsylvannia-Dutch strains of Protestant pro-lifers). That further undercuts your argument.

You are apparently entirely, blissfully ignorant of American fundamentalist Protestantism. In a way, I envy you. But it does detract ever so slightly from the weight of your arguments. Quaker-inheriting and Pennsylvania-Dutch strains of Protestant pro-lifers? Seriously? I forget: which of those gave rise to the Southern Baptist Convention swing to abortion opposition in the 1970s? (Baptists in America overwhelmingly outnumber Quaker or “Quaker-inheriting” groups, whether the anti-abortion-rights pastoral strain or the pro-abortion-rights unprogrammed strain of Friends.)

145

K. Williams 07.28.11 at 5:06 pm

“They might, but in order to substantiate your claims of “massive popular support for the murder of civilians” in the Arab world you would have to produce some evidence they had actually done so. For example, opinion polls showing massive popular support for Al Quaeda and Osama bin Laden.”

In 2003, over 70% of those surveyed in the Palestinian Territories said that Osama Bin Laden was “doing the right thing,” as did close to 60% of those surveyed in Jordan and in Indonesia. I don’t what your definition of “massive” is, but that certainly suggests there was sizeable popular support in at least some Muslim countries for the murder of civilians. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/public_opinion_osama_bin_laden?page=1)

146

Donald Johnson 07.28.11 at 5:23 pm

What you see in the Economist poll is that when the US was invading Iraq or about to invade Iraq and when the Second Intifada was going on, a great many Muslims supported a self-described “freedom fighter” (a terrorist, in other words). As time passed support lessened.

If the US or Great Britain were occupied by some Muslim country I suspect the number of Breiviks would skyrocket, and they would have widespread popular support. Crazy, I know, but it’s what I suspect.

147

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 5:40 pm

@ajay

I’m thinking of Dawkins and Hitches as examples. Liberal in the values they have, and anti-clerical should be obvious. That suddenly made a critique of principles claimed to be revealed seem anti-religious.

@Sebastian H

Sure, pro-lifers condemned the man who shot Tiller. But he was very useful to them, doing what years of legal harassment could not. The EU also provides abortion services to the poor, regulates the clinics as medical practices, both which didn’t happen in PA. The preferred legal structure is one in which abortion is like any other procedure, not something the state can ignore.

148

puss wallgreen 07.28.11 at 5:45 pm

“I don’t what your definition of “massive” is, but that certainly suggests there was sizeable popular support in at least some Muslim countries for the murder of civilians.”
The question to which people responded was whether OBL was “doing the right thing in world affairs”, a question of such studied vagueness that it is hard to believe that a reputable polling company came up with it. Was OBL doing the right thing in denouncing Israeli atrocities in Palestine or Lebanon, or the US invasion of Iraq or the behaviour of dictatorial regimes in the Arab world? Many people would answer yes to that. But if you wanted to know whether they supported indiscriminate attacks against civilians you would have to ask them that question.

149

LeeEsq 07.28.11 at 5:50 pm

Chris Williams at 114: Yes, this is what I was trying to say in my earlier post but a lot clearer.

150

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 6:03 pm

And indeed, I am very worried that so many people support torture of terrorism suspects! We should be worried about the next set of indignities, whether its holding prisoners without access to the Red Cross, behaving callously toward the lives of others, or deciding that civilians are legitimate targets. But the only opposition to all these things is rooted in a Western philosophical tradition. That is the bind that creates the horrible choice of anti-imperialism or anti-fascism.

151

Salient 07.28.11 at 6:05 pm

This has always struck me as a key point with respect to the abortion debate – if you really believed that abortion was the moral equivalent of infanticide, and thus really believed that the society you were living in was exterminating babies at a much worse rate than Nazi Germany, surely this would mandate some quite radical action on your part? And therefore, I’ve always presumed, that given the tiny minority of people holding the anti-abortion position who even do so much as to give up a Saturday afternoon holding up a protest sign outside what they believe to be a mass murder camp, it must surely be the case that at some deepest level of rationality, the anti-choice side of that debate must be aware that they don’t really believe that life begins at conception, and that their views about the wrongness of abortion have some other basis.

Nah. Their definition of what it means to “really believe” something is different (for an appropriately restricted meaning of “they” of course). They are not evaluating the truth of their assertions by the descriptive “is this verifiable,” they’re evaluated the truth of their assertions by the emotive “does this feel right to say?” They’re substituting emotive validity for descriptive validity. (Sour grapes revisioned as “those other less deserving foxes are probably swimming in delicious sweet grapes.”)

As a deeply disturbed person immerses themselves in this sort of environment, they consistently develop intent to go the other direction: purely emotive statements about what feels like it ought to be true (e.g. Obama should hang) become descriptive statements about what should literally be brought about. (A purely emotive statement like “something needs to be done about those grey foxes impoverishing our entire community by lavishing sweet grapes on themselves” becomes “I should prepare to terrorize and kill the grey foxes, in the name of justice.”)

P.S. If anyone reads this and thinks, oh right, the thing these folks “really believe” in most is not the rising of the sun or some verifiable fact, but the selective benevolence of an invisible omnipresent God concerned with mundane details of their lives, well, I can’t blame you, but neither is it especially relevant.

P.P.S. This is also why the non-deeply-disturbed members of such a community are genuinely shocked and horrified when someone goes out and does the things they’ve said a hundred times ought to be done. They were speaking emotively. (This is also why when you ask abortion = murder people what the minimum sentence for an abortion should be, most of them stumble over some half-conceived statement about fining and locking up doctors, and almost to a person none of them say the death penalty. Talking so specifically about the death penalty is too raw and specific to be emotive.)

152

Salient 07.28.11 at 6:08 pm

[Shorter and slightly more poetic me: if you’re digging for a “deepest level of rationality” then you’re excavating in the wrong direction]

153

John 07.28.11 at 6:13 pm

Pretty much the point dsquared has been making but on a less contentious issue

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/the-guilty-parties/

154

roy belmont 07.28.11 at 6:26 pm

Whatever Rup. Murdoch represents, in its essence, is what killed Amy Winehouse.
And it’s what bears majority responsibility for the Norwegian awfulness. Not all, but enough to be most.
Without that degraded, partisan, deceitful yapping, constantly obscuring clear thought and humane regard, constantly appealing to and encouraging the lowest basest reactions, including racist xenophobia and patriarchal misogyny, it’s plausible Ms. Winehouse wouldn’t have folded her life into the news cycle alongside Mr. Breivik and his victims. And if Mr. Murdoch’s has been asking for a sign from heaven as to the suitability of his pilgrimage thus far, I can’t think of a clearer message of accusation, save the actual booming voice and pointing finger of a cloud-hidden deity.
That that same vicious noisome thing, whatever else it may prove to actually be, was, and is, bitterly and cynically anti-Muslim, driving the same bigoted message into the world mind daily, and nightly, for a decade now, has a lot to do with, if not quite everything to do with, what caused what happened in Oslo.

155

John 07.28.11 at 6:46 pm

Rupert Murdochs a c$$t

156

K. Williams 07.28.11 at 6:54 pm

“Was OBL doing the right thing in denouncing Israeli atrocities in Palestine or Lebanon, or the US invasion of Iraq or the behaviour of dictatorial regimes in the Arab world? Many people would answer yes to that. But if you wanted to know whether they supported indiscriminate attacks against civilians you would have to ask them that question.”

Give me a break. Osama bin Laden was the leader of a terrrorist organization whose avowed aim was taking the war to the infidel enemy, and which had mounted myriad attacks that had killed thousands of civilians. If you say he’s “doing the right thing,” it means you think it’s okay to kill civilians. By your logic, if I asked someone in 1940 whether Hitler was “doing the right thing,” and they said yes, that might mean they just supported his stand on vegetarianism. Possible, I suppose, but damn unlikely.

157

K. Williams 07.28.11 at 6:59 pm

“If the US or Great Britain were occupied by some Muslim country I suspect the number of Breiviks would skyrocket, and they would have widespread popular support.”

This is the wrong analogy — no one was occupying Indonesia or Jordan. So your argument would be that if, say, Saudi Arabia invaded and occupied Canada, there would be widespread public support in the UK for deliberately targeting and massacring Saudi civilians? Again, possible but not damn likely.

158

Wilfred 07.28.11 at 7:20 pm

At K. Williams, 155:

Al qa’ida went to great lengths to defend its attacks against civilians, something clearly prohibited in Islam (17:15). In their 2002 letter, “A Statement from Qaidat al-Jihad Regarding the Mandates of the Heroes and the Legality of the Operations in New York and Washington”, they justify such attacks, certainly that of 9/11, by reasoning, amongst other things, that not all civilians are innocents. Translations exist; you can draw your own conclusions about whether their reasoning is valid or not.

It certainly was made within the epistemic environment of Islamic law and its proscriptions against attacking civilians. We must have plenty of our own to have justified the slaughter of innocents that have characterized our own wars, past and present.

159

Ben Alpers 07.28.11 at 7:25 pm

But the only opposition to all these things is rooted in a Western philosophical tradition.

Yes, it really is a damn shame that no non-Western philosophical system ever devoted itself to karuṇā, ahimsa, or metta…..er…..compassion, nonviolence, or benevolence.

160

Patrick (the pacifist one) 07.28.11 at 7:25 pm

Oh, and by the way, pro-life terrorists have been very effective in deterring physicians from performing abortions, early and late term. Look at the availability of abortion, especially in thinly settled states.

I think it’s available for non-non-violent anti-abortion activists to claim that the vanguard doesn’t need any more fighters. (It may be self-serving, of course, but it’s not a tack available to non-non-violent people who oppose US military interventions. I’d be willing to bet there are more US military bases outside the US than full service women’s clinics in the US.)

161

puss wallgreen 07.28.11 at 7:37 pm

“By your logic, if I asked someone in 1940 whether Hitler was “doing the right thing,” and they said yes, that might mean they just supported his stand on vegetarianism”

Somehow I thought Hitler might come into this. Instead of speculating about what “doing the right thing in world affairs” might mean, perhaps we can look at a study which asked Muslims what they thought about attacks on civilians.
“A study of public opinion in predominantly Muslim countries reveals that very large majorities continue to renounce the use of attacks on civilians as a means of pursuing political goals. At the same time large majorities agree with al Qaeda’s goal of pushing the United States to remove its military forces from all Muslim countries and substantial numbers, in some cases majorities, approve of attacks on US troops in Muslim countries.
People in majority-Muslim countries express mixed feelings about al Qaeda and other Islamist groups that use violence, perhaps due to this combination of support for al Qaeda’s goals and disapproval of its terrorist methods. (….)
The survey is part of an ongoing study of Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia, with additional polling in Turkey, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Azerbaijan and Nigeria. It was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org with support from the START Consortium at the University of Maryland.
In nearly all nations polled more than seven in 10 say they disapprove of attacks on American civilians. “Bombings and assassinations that are carried out to achieve political or religious goals” are rejected as “not justified at all” by large majorities ranging from 67 to 89 percent. There is a growing belief that attacks on civilians are ineffective, with approximately half now saying that such attacks are hardly ever effective. “
http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/591.php

162

K. Williams 07.28.11 at 7:44 pm

“perhaps we can look at a study which asked Muslims what they thought about attacks on civilians.”

This study was done in 2008, by which time the Pew study also found that most Muslims no longer believed that Osama bin Laden was doing the right thing. That doesn’t tell us anything, obviously, about what people were saying in 2003.

163

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 7:55 pm

@Ben Alpers: Good catch. I don’t see that many Buddhist commentators online so I forgot about it. Then again, is abstention from the world even possible in one as radically implicated in evil as this one?

164

ScentOfViolets 07.28.11 at 8:07 pm

No, ScentofViolets. I know you’re a troll because your constant burden of proof game ONLY goes to support the side you like. D-squared has made numerous, unsupported, broad-brush assertions that you seem to have neglected to want a cite for. Confirmation bias anyone? I’m off to work. Have as good a day as you deserve.

This is beyond ignirnt. Perhaps, Sebastian, I supp0rt one side more than the other because they are adhering to good practice. And you know, if I see one guy who knows what he’s talking about trying to explain something to a Relativity Is Wrong crank, I’m just not going to be asking for a whole lot of confirming cites from the guy who knows what he’s talking about. That you demand I challenge D^2 on points you think do not hold up to logical scrutiny is jaw-dropping in both it’s stupidity . . . and arrogance.

[sarcasm]Yes, I know – how partisan and trollish of me[/sarcasm].

I’m assuming that you know, btw, that you don’t need my permission to demand evidence from others if you think they’ve been remiss in supporting their claims.

More to the point, it is people like Sebastian who demonstrate the epistemic environment that make attacks like the one in Utoya possible. Because, you see, on a fundamental level, people like Sebastian don’t care if what they believe in is supported by facts or logic. Oh, yes, of course they’ll use facts and logic as tools if facts and logic happen to support their position. But if not? Well, that just means they’re going to use some other “tool”. Let me quote something from Fred Hoyle that I think is extremely relevant and will only become more so as the current century progresses:

The two men were mentally too dissimilar for more than a half hour of conversation between them to be possible. When the Home Secretary talked, it was his aim to make those to whom he was talking to react according to some prearranged plan. It was irrelevant to him how he succeeded in this, so long as he succeeded. Anything was grist to the mill: flattery, the application of common-sense psychology, social pressure, the feeding of ambition, or even plain threats. For the most part like other administrators he found that arguments containing some deep-rooted emotional appeal, but couched in seemingly logical terms, were usually successful. For strict logic he had no use whatever. To Kingsley on the other hand strict logic was everything, or nearly everything.

Am I – per Sebastian’s accusation – a Kingsley sort of guy? You bet. And I make absolutely no apologies for it. None. Is Sebastian – like a great many others – more like the home secretary? Without a doubt. And when push comes to shove, they will make no apologies for their world-view either :-(

165

puss wallgreen 07.28.11 at 8:10 pm

“That doesn’t tell us anything, obviously, about what people were saying in 2003.”
Yes, but the question of what people were saying in 2003 is not of crucial relevance to anybody but your good self. My comment was in response to Watson Ladd’s claims of “massive popular support for the murder of civilians” among them there pesky A-rabs, not presumably limited to 2003 but on an ongoing basis, and I asked for any evidence of this. I still haven’t seen any, although what the 2008 poll brings out is precisely the “combination of support for al Qaeda’s goals and disapproval of its terrorist methods”, the latter being evidenced in massive rejection of attacks on civilians. I have no reason to think this situation would have been that different in 2003, had a direct question about attacks on civilians been asked.

166

K. Williams 07.28.11 at 8:11 pm

“Without a doubt. And when push comes to shove, they will make no apologies for their world-view either :-(“

I have to say that your use of emoticons is positively brilliant. Their logic is devastating.

167

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.28.11 at 8:11 pm

By your logic, if I asked someone in 1940 whether Hitler was “doing the right thing,” and they said yes, that might mean they just supported his stand on vegetarianism.

Well, I imagine in 1945 almost everybody in the US thought that Truman did the right thing annihilating 200,000 civilians of all ages in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I bet most Americans still do. Hell, you will probably have no problem rationalizing it. So what. You’re a product of your environment, like everybody else.

168

John 07.28.11 at 8:15 pm

Can i have some proof, you know evidence, cites, statistics, a coherent and rational argument, to back up the claim that your ‘a Kingsley sort of guy’

169

Watson Ladd 07.28.11 at 8:17 pm

I will retract the massive as potentially ambiguous. I think even 5% support for the murder of civilians by mingling with them and exploding oneself is too much. There seem to be very different sets of statistics being thrown around: does anyone have a definitive study to link to? Anyway, this is all very far from the origin: Chris is arguing that calling attention to the barbarism of Islamism was somehow justifying nativism, whereas I don’t think it is. Some people are arguing that there isn’t this barbarism, but I’m more interested in the question of if this justifies nativism.

170

puss wallgreen 07.28.11 at 8:24 pm

“I will retract the massive as potentially ambiguous”
Or completely wrong. Perhaps you might also retract your assertion about the Arab world’s “complete intolerance of minorities” given that this area of the world has a far better record in relation to tolerance of minorities than either Europe or North America over the past 500 years. Or maybe you could just stop making vast sweeping assertions about hundreds of millions of people you know nothing about?

171

Lemuel Pitkin 07.28.11 at 8:33 pm

I think even 5% support for the murder of civilians by mingling with them and exploding oneself is too much.

How about by bombing them from jets, or blowing them up with cruise missiles? What’s the threshold there?

(Of course I know Watson Ladd’s answer: You can kill as many civilians as you want with a clean conscience, as long as you really, truly, sincerely wish you had some magic bombs that only hurt tanks and soldiers.)

172

ScentOfViolets 07.28.11 at 9:03 pm

Can i have some proof, you know evidence, cites, statistics, a coherent and rational argument, to back up the claim that your ‘a Kingsley sort of guy’

Why, little Johnny, that’s an easy one – it’s just my opinion. My opinion and nothing more than my opinion, and I will make no pretense of offering up proof, not will I huff and puff and stamp my feet and demand that you prove that I’m not.

Anything else you need help with? Anything else that’s just got you completely stumped? Maybe I can help :-)

173

Donald Johnson 07.28.11 at 9:29 pm

“This is the wrong analogy—no one was occupying Indonesia or Jordan. So your argument would be that if, say, Saudi Arabia invaded and occupied Canada, there would be widespread public support in the UK for deliberately targeting and massacring Saudi civilians? Again, possible but not damn likely.”

Well, I won’t speak for the Brits, but I’m pretty sure many of my fellow Americans would cheer. Especially if it were done by plane. Americans supported the civilian bombing campaign in WWII, for instance. Many would also support torture. If they lived in a world where Saudi Arabia was the superpower and was occupying Christian countries, I think we’d get pretty darn bloodthirsty. I even wonder if we might consider using some of those nukes we went to all the trouble of building, given an occupation of Canada by the Saudi Arabian hordes.

174

Carter 07.28.11 at 10:06 pm

175

puss wallgreen 07.28.11 at 10:09 pm

“I even wonder if we might consider using some of those nukes we went to all the trouble of building, given an occupation of Canada by the Saudi Arabian hordes!”
Well if the analogy is with the Jordanian case, you would have to factor in the fact that more than half of the US population would be made up of people who had been expelled from Canada as a result of this Saudi invasion, and had been prevented from returning to their homeland.

176

Sebastian H 07.28.11 at 10:42 pm

“Perhaps, Sebastian, I supp0rt one side more than the other because they are adhering to good practice. And you know, if I see one guy who knows what he’s talking about trying to explain something to a Relativity Is Wrong crank, I’m just not going to be asking for a whole lot of confirming cites from the guy who knows what he’s talking about. That you demand I challenge D^2 on points you think do not hold up to logical scrutiny is jaw-dropping in both it’s stupidity . . . and arrogance.”

Yeah, because I, who have intimate personal knowledge of the pro-life movement in the United States, tell you what I see including details and a pretty good look at how they think and you want a cite. D-squared, who does not have personal knowledge of the pro-life movement in the United States gets to make broad generalizations from across the Atlantic, based on you have absolutely no idea what (occasional paragraphs in the Guardian? NARAL press releases?) with no cite necessary. That is confirmation bias to a fucking tee.

And besides, I’m not demanding that you do a damn thing. I’m merely noting evidence which strongly suggests you’re a troll. And I’m certainly not the first person HERE to have noticed that. You can tell yourself that the reason people think you are a troll is because you are so dedicated to the scientific process. I’m sure that makes you feel superior.

I’ve told my experiences and what I’ve personally seen about the pro-life movement. I believe it to be an accurate description. Interestingly enough, it depicts them as fairly normal people with farily normal motivations acting in a fairly normal way. I know that doesn’t help demonize them the way that you would prefer. Sorry to interrupt your self-talk.

177

eddie 07.28.11 at 11:04 pm

“John Brown? Ends and means – he and his sons beheaded a few people, too.”

No. With JB, the phrase you need is ‘tit for tat’. His actions were an in-kind response to a previous attrocity. Doesn’t make them right. Just that this is not a good analogy. Where is the ‘tat’ for which Breivik’s action was the ‘tit’? In fact there was none and believing there was is Breivik’s delusion.

178

Chris Bertram 07.28.11 at 11:05 pm

Dipping occasionally into this thread from a hotel in Iceland in between doing more interesting things, so I’m not inclined to comment substantively. However I see that Watson Ladd wrote the following:

_Chris is arguing that calling attention to the barbarism of Islamism was somehow justifying nativism_

I’ll just state for the record that nothing I wrote above justifies the attribution of that claim to me.

179

Uncle Kvetch 07.28.11 at 11:14 pm

and you want a cite

SoV didn’t ask for a cite, Sebastian, I did. Because your “intimate personal knowledge” isn’t nearly as impressive as you seem to think it is.

I’ve lived as an openly gay man for 25 years now, but if I were presumptuous enough to write several long, detailed paragraphs about “what the enormous majority of gay men believe” based on nothing more than my “intimate personal knowledge,” I’m pretty sure someone would (rightly) call me on it.

I learned some time ago not to expect good faith from you, so I won’t be following you into the usual thicket of diversionary tactics, question-begging, and goalpost-shifting. Knock yourself out.

180

ScentOfViolets 07.28.11 at 11:23 pm

Sigh. Sebastian, why don’t you specifically point out something that D^2 has said that requires more documentation? Rather than continue to make vague accusations? (Well, we know why of course. But it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.)

And you know, Seb my boy, you’re not the only one with “personal experience”. Far from it. So why should anyone except your personal experience as some sort of evidence? Why don’t we – drumroll – look at the data:

Asked whether abortion is murder, slightly differently worded questions have produced slightly different rates of agreement, ranging between 45% and 57%. Questions that ask whether abortion is an “act of murder” tend to produce answers that are slightly lower than those that simply ask whether abortion is murder.

* Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Abortion is murder.

Los Angeles Times, June 2000: 57% agree; 36% disagree

* Which of these statements comes closer to your opinion: Abortion is the same thing as murdering a child, or abortion is not murder because the fetus really isn’t a child?

CBS/New York Times, January 1998: 50% murder; 38% not murder

* Do you think abortion is an act of murder, or don’t you feel this way?

CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, January 1998: 48% murder and 45% don’t feel this way

* What is your view — do you think abortion is an act of murder, or don’t you feel this way?

Time/CNN, August 1994: 43% murder; 47% don’t feel this way

Well, whaddaya know? Turns out that the percentage of people who say they believe that abortion is murder (per D^2) is not some vanishingly small fraction the way you would have us believe. In fact, it’s – to be very charitable – well over one third of the respondents.

Smacks forehead. Wow! There I go being all sciencey and trollish again ;-)

Sebastian, I say this in all seriousness and with no malice intended: your behaviour, both in the past and the present, is deeply, deeply offensive. Would you please stop it and act like an adult? That means, among other things, citing facts and figures to back up your points, not putting your gut or your personal beliefs or personal experience up as the equal to sourced data, and to stop being abusive to people when they point out this sort of bad behaviour on your part.

181

Emma in Sydney 07.28.11 at 11:34 pm

It’s dispiriting and tiresome to see every thread on CT turn into a troll and counter-troll argument, especially on serious and interesting topics.

182

lt 07.28.11 at 11:38 pm

Sebastian H. @175: I’ll agree that many pro-lifers do actually believe that late-term abortion is murder: indeed, many believe that abortion at any stage is murder. But late term abortion is already illegal unless there are medical indications; in fact, much current legislation is being proposed that doesn’t even have that exception (http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/07/late-term-abortion-29-weeks-dana-weinstein) So I have no doubt that you are well informed about the pro-life movement; however, that’s different from being informed about the realities of abortion in this country.

183

Andrew F. 07.28.11 at 11:42 pm

mds @129: You are apparently entirely, blissfully ignorant of American fundamentalist Protestantism. In a way, I envy you. But it does detract ever so slightly from the weight of your arguments.

Most fundamentalist Protestant churches that I’m aware of do not advocate violence as a means of stopping abortion, much less advocate killing to stop abortion.

My point is not that there are groups which do believe in such violence – of course there are – but rather my point is that “we should commit violence to stop abortion” is not compelled by the proposition “abortion is wrong” according to the most influential authorities among the pro-life movement.

This dramatically weakens the argument that a pro-life position, logically, compels violence.

dsquared @134: No, I don’t agree that they do. Because they don’t believe that women who have late term abortions should be tried as criminals and subject to long terms of imprisonment for doing so.

That’s a complicated question that goes well beyond whether abortion is wrong. I actually do believe that, at a certain point, under certain conditions, late-term abortion is wrong – but I wouldn’t support lengthy prison sentences for doing so. It puzzles me, frankly, that you think a conclusion about the appropriate criminal sentence follows so absolutely from a conclusion that a given act is wrong.

And given the incredibly broad brush Chris paints in his post, I guess RIGHT NOW I am contributing to an epistemic environment that contributes to acts of violence against abortion clinics.

I think Chris has the germ of a good idea in the post, but it’s so broadly stated as to be almost more innuendo than argument.

184

Sandwichman 07.29.11 at 12:29 am

For what it’s worth:

What do Alexander Cockburn and the Norwegian mass murderer have in common?


Updated: Breivik’s Core Thesis is White Christian Nationalism v. Multiculturalism

The commercial media is bean-counting how many times a name appears in Breivik’s Manifesto. What seldom gets mentioned is that Breivik has a core thesis which Breivik articulates many times in many ways. Here it is in my short formula for explaining Breivik’s thesis:

Cultural Marxism=Political Correctness=Multiculturalism=Muslim Immigration=Destruction of Judeo-Christian nations…

185

Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 12:51 am

Nice use of statistics. I suppose you are interpreting the abortion is murder statistics as meaning that 50% of people in the US believe that all abortions from the very moment of conception to the moment of birth are murder.

You are of course totally wrong.

How do I know this? Because I, unlike you or d-squared, am intimately and personally knowledgeable about people in the pro-life movement because I am damn well in it.

Now if it makes you feel better to believe that you, who are not in it, or d-squared, who is not even in this country, can add better context to the general question I’m certainly not going to be able to prove to you that you’re wrong because you’re approaching the question from such a point of view of extreme confirmation bias as to make disproving it nearly impossible.

But you are in fact wrong.

D-squared chooses to believe, and I’m sure it is great for his sense of superiority about ‘others’ whom he doesn’t need to intimately deal with, that this is because they don’t have sincere moral beliefs on the topic. I’m giving a counter explanation. My explanation, from personal experience with the people in question, is that for the most part they believe that late term abortions are murder and that given the Constitutional rulings of the Supreme Court taking earlier abortions well off political compromise, they fully understand that the political questions of abortions tend to turn around questions of abortions on the later part of the scale.

Now you don’t *have* to believe my explanation. But if you are being fair, you should probably admit that it is pretty darn plausible. It requires that pro-life people act pretty much like everybody else you know–with tensions of belief and various ideas about what appropriate responses look like and with beliefs that are more nuanced than YES/NO UP/DOWN. D-squared’s explanation is fantastic for demonizing a group and making it ‘other’, but is certainly not MORE likely than mine. And mine comes from personal experience, while his does not. But even discounting my personal experience to nothing, his explanation is not MORE likely than mine.

Which is exactly why I feel like you are trolling. His highly speculative explanation is not MORE likely than my explanation. Yet mine is the one that requires “cite please” trolling while his gets nods of agreement from the crowd. That is because of confirmation bias and in-group thinking–not your highly vaunted logic.

And this plays EXACTLY into the Muslim question. Yes there are Muslims who say awful things. But using them to demonize the large majority of people who have far more complicated beliefs than “Death to America” is either completely misunderstanding the complexity of their beliefs, or a cynical attempt to unfairly take advantage of the fact that demonizing the “other” is a great (but logically illegitimate) method of garnering support for your side. And the reason people get away with it is because they continually use the “Death to America” Muslims as stand ins for all Muslims. They continually use the most extreme Muslims as proxies for Muslims who may not agree with them, but are nevertheless not frighteningly extreme or nearly as scary when seen as actual humans with normal desires and responses.

(all) Abortion = Murder (all the time) is indeed a slogan which is indeed used by some pro-lifers. It is probably also used by some pro-lifers unthinkingly, who if called on it would realize that they are really just talking about fairly late term abortions. Using it to discredit the pro-life movement *in general* or to attack the moral understanding of pro-lifers *in general* is exactly the same awful argument that is identified about Muslims above.

186

logern 07.29.11 at 12:57 am

Ack, a very long thread.

The Right’s fear is not only standard terrorism, but apparently take over of by perfectly legal methods. You know, like people becoming citizens and voting.

Democracy subverted by democratic methods?! If some of them really don’t like democratic methods they shouldn’t go on about flag waving and freedom all the time, if they really don’t believe in it.

187

Norwegian Guy 07.29.11 at 1:11 am

“Seriously – this whole thread exemplifies why Crooked Timber is probably the best blog on the web.”

I would rate this particular comment thread as below the usual standard.

“But the only opposition to all these things is rooted in a Western philosophical tradition.”

I hear there is a jailed mass murderer who is making the same argument. Do you agree with Breivik that the Muslims should be expelled from the West?

“That is the bind that creates the horrible choice of anti-imperialism or anti-fascism.”

In the real world, imperialism and fascism go hand in hand.

188

Watson Ladd 07.29.11 at 1:14 am

@puss

I’m not arguing for some trans historical Arab nature that is inherently intolerant and repressive. Rather I’m arguing that the past 50 years has seen a massive expansion of human freedom in Europe and the US that has not been matched in the Arab world and has instead been replaced by an even greater degree of barbarism. Why? Because of the decline of a local Arab left and the rise of Islamism. In Malaysia there is a parallel state structure for Muslims, with special offenses only Muslims can commit. That’s against any liberal norms of freedom of conscience. In Saudi Arabia the public practice of any religion other then Islam is forbidden. Homosexuality is punishable by death across great swaths of the Islamic world. We don’t live 500 years ago, and no one gets a pass from todays crimes because yesterday they weren’t as nasty as someone else.

@Lemuel Pitkin

Yes, the presence of soldiers makes a target legitimate depending on proportionality to war aims. This isn’t ideal but it is how war is fought. In particular disguising oneself as a civilian to mount an attack is prohibited for very good reasons: it’s just begging soldiers to be suspicious of civilians and start shooting them when they do something suspicious. Jet bombing just doesn’t raise the same issues, provided it is proportionate to the effect achieved on the enemies war aims. Do you think there is no difference between suicide bombing and air bombardment of military targets? Besides, suicide bombers are not targeting military targets: they targeted Israeli civilians for many years. I’m not going to defend dehousing or anti-infrastructure bombing: they were horrible, horrible ideas.

@Chris:

Is there a difference between adding legitimacy to ideas and supporting them? This epistemic environment seems to be letting you argue that some people supported bad ideas even when they explicitly disagreed.

189

snuh 07.29.11 at 2:43 am

shorter sebastian: who are you going to believe? me or your lying polling data?

190

Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 3:16 am

Hey 70% of Muslims agreed with Osama bin Laden. Probably not worth teasing that number out either right snuh?

191

Popeye 07.29.11 at 3:23 am

Sebastian’s description of pro-life politics is utterly bizarre. Late-term abortions are already very rare and/or illegal. The pro-life movement is hardly indifferent to Roe v Wade, which says nothing about late-term abortions. “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” didn’t make Bill Clinton part of the pro-life movement. But yeah, the pro-life movement is just concerned with ending infanticide, and what a shame that evil irresponsible babykillers have misrepresented their political opponents.

192

snuh 07.29.11 at 3:23 am

yeah um i know you’re opposed to people asking this, but i’m going to need a citation for that.

193

Lemuel Pitkin 07.29.11 at 3:36 am

Yes, the presence of soldiers makes a target legitimate depending on proportionality to war aims. This isn’t ideal but it is how war is fought.

I was going to write earlier that there was no moral difference between supporters of OBL, and Watson Ladd. I didn’t but evidently I should have.

Do you think there is no difference between suicide bombing and air bombardment of military targets? Besides, suicide bombers are not targeting military targets: they targeted Israeli civilians for many years. I’m not going to defend dehousing or anti-infrastructure bombing: they were horrible, horrible ideas.

Morally, there is no difference between suicide bombing and air bombardment that kills similar numbers of civilians for similar aims. Is that really so hard? I’m only bothering to reply to this because it’s so funny, in a dark way, that after you claim the difference is they target civilians while we don’t, in literally the very next sentence you admit that we target civilians too.

I won’t be talking to you any more.

194

Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 3:57 am

I misquoted 145, but it still shows enormous Muslim support for Osama bin Laden in 2003, which I’m sure your espistemic system believes we shouldn’t bother trying to break down beyond the hypersimplistic question. Right? See for example 60% of Indonesian Muslims. There are only 200 or so million of them. (Google yourself for Indonesian population if you don’t believe me). Oh and about 50% of Muslims in Pakistan. There are about 150 million of them. (You can use google for that too!)

I’m rather surprised to find so many supporters of bad polling questions around here. Are bad polling questions considered dispositive by you hyper-rationalists nowadays?

195

felwith 07.29.11 at 3:59 am

So, the majority of pro-lifers…

1) Are politically astute enough to conceal their desire to imprison women who have an abortion at any stage of a pregnancy in order to make incremental gains in outlawing abortion.

2) Undercut said projection of moderation by routinely describing all abortion as murder even though this is a position they do not actually hold.

And this is a *defense* of the pro-life movement?

196

snuh 07.29.11 at 4:55 am

You can use google for that too!

as it happens, i did try and use google to find a source for your 70% figure, but i couldn’t find one because, it turns out, it didn’t exist except in your own head. in these circumstances, a more courteous person might lay off the sarcasm.

197

dsquared 07.29.11 at 5:51 am

It requires that pro-life people act pretty much like everybody else you know—with tensions of belief and various ideas about what appropriate responses look like and with beliefs that are more nuanced than YES/NO UP/DOWN

“Tensions of belief”, I love it. The “tension” is between what the belief actually is, and what it is represented as being for purposes of silly, destructive, nasty and all too often dangerous rhetoric.

198

Sandwichman 07.29.11 at 5:57 am

In his recent post, Updated: Breivik’s Core Thesis is White Christian Nationalism v. Multiculturalism, Chip Berlet cited a recent Salmagundi article by Martin Jay, “Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe.” This is a truly astonishing, important and very timely document, which unfortunately is not yet available online. In fact, there is very little information about the article online. I have sent a request to Salmagundi to make the text available… [continued at http://ecologicalheadstand.blogspot.com/2011/07/martin-jay-spills-some-beans.html ]

199

dsquared 07.29.11 at 5:57 am

D-squared, who does not have personal knowledge of the pro-life movement in the United States

You may be aware of “the internet”, Sebastian? I am a person, and I’m on it. And people in the pro-life movement in the United States are also on it, which is where I can read them say what they believe. Do I have to spend some time holding a placard before I can get the nuance?

200

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 7:14 am

@193 Morally, there is no difference between suicide bombing and air bombardment that kills similar numbers of civilians for similar aims. Is that really so hard?

Hmm. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but somehow I find it hard to believe that a guy chewing a sandwich while firing a missile from office building to wipe out half of a city block, and someone like, say, Hanadi Jaradat will end up in exactly the same circle of Hell. The circumstances and emotional state do matter. Even the Breivik guy may end up acquitted by reason of insanity; the guy with joystick doesn’t have that defense.

201

Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 7:34 am

“Do I have to spend some time holding a placard before I can get the nuance?”

I don’t know what you have to do to get the nuance, but you certainly aren’t even trying thus far.

If a right wing nut said about Muslims, the things you say about pro-lifers, on ‘internet’ evidence, you would call him out.

And you’d be right.

If someone with actual experience of the people in question, said that you were probably wrong, and tried to explain why, and he didn’t even try to engage it or listen, but instead responded with the heavy handed prigishness that you exhibit, you would call him an ass.

And you’d be right.

You read about Muslims on the internet and now you’re such a freaking authority that you can call out the whole movement’s real moral understanding? Yeah, I think you realize how ridiculous that would look.

Seriously? Did you really just say that? Do you think that looking at internet porn is the same as having sex too? Well you are British I suppose…

202

Chris Bertram 07.29.11 at 7:52 am

_And given the incredibly broad brush Chris paints in his post_

I dispute this, of course. I don’t think the toxic cross-fertilization between the extreme anti-immigrant groups, the neocons, and the Israeli right since 2001 is a simply my invention, and I think that it matters a great deal. I also think that some of the nastier discourse has been rendered sayable in polite company (yes the proverbial dinner party) because of the willingness of some more left and liberal figures (or people who think of themselves as that) to link to and engage in friendly and respectful dialogue with the out-and-out crazies. I don’t really have a more nuanced way of putting that.

_It’s dispiriting and tiresome to see every thread on CT turn into a troll and counter-troll argument, especially on serious and interesting topics._

Yes agreed. I understand why the abortion tangent happened here, but I don’t think it helped. I was tempted to get into the business of documenting specifics (X said Y on such and such a date) in response to Roger and Watson above, but it would have amounted to petty point scoring here. Ditto some of the pseudo-philosophical “what would you say about the parallel case where…” stuff.

We should remember that dozens of fine and committed kids were just murdered.

203

dsquared 07.29.11 at 8:17 am

Sebastian, one of the people who says that abortion is the equivalent of somewhere between torturing animals and murder, but probably worse than armed robbery is you. So stop tapdancing around that one. Furthermore:

1) Your own personal point of view appears to be that you would be happy with a world in which women were tried and given long custodial sentences for having abortions, but because this is politically impractical, the pro-life side should pretend that this isn’t what they want.

2) Lots of other people who believe (or claim to believe) the same things as you do actually don’t want, even in a perfect world, to punish women very harshly for having abortions.

Category 2) are clearly failing to own their bullshit. Category 1) are just liars. I don’t think the pro-life side are generally liars; I think they’re sincere people who believe that abortion is a serious wrong, and who use silly overheated rhetoric about how bad it is which they would drop if they ever seriously considered the practical implications of what they’re saying. I’m rather disappointed to find out that you’re in the category of “people who are actually concealing their true political agenda”.

204

puss wallgreen 07.29.11 at 8:17 am

#188 “In Malaysia there is a parallel state structure for Muslims, with special offenses only Muslims can commit. That’s against any liberal norms of freedom of conscience. In Saudi Arabia the public practice of any religion other then Islam is forbidden. Homosexuality is punishable by death across great swaths of the Islamic world. “
Malaysia isn’t an Arab country. Saudi Arabia is about as representative of Arab countries as the Vatican City is of European countries. The International Gay and Lesbian Association lists four Arab League countries where homosexuality is punishable by death, Saudi, Yemen, Mauretania and Sudan. Is it too much to ask that you check some basic facts before making these assertions?

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dsquared 07.29.11 at 8:46 am

I was tempted to get into the business of documenting specifics (X said Y on such and such a date) in response to Roger and Watson above, but it would have amounted to petty point scoring here

I don’t think it does, necessarily (that’s why I did it). I thought Roger was being totally absurd (and that the weakness of his argument wasn’t very well concealed by his use of overheated “shame!” “reprehensible!” language, on topic), but the point was actually very well made and not petty at all in the original post – that part of the epistemic environment is not just the Melanie Phillipses and the Andrew Bostroms who create the “We are at war and traitors are in our midst” propaganda, but the people in the mainstream who validate them and treat them as if they were a legitimate part of the debate. I seem to remember Henry once picked up the Volokhs for referring to Geert Wilders as a “critic of Islamism” in a headline and they at least realised that they were doing something wrong and changed it. Laundry lists of past offences are not massively edifying but it’s important to note (when challenged by people like Roger) that this does actually happen, and that people seemed to let their distaste for George Galloway and Ken Livingstone blind them to the character of some of their new mates.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 07.29.11 at 9:14 am

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Andrew F. 07.29.11 at 11:24 am

Patrick @206: Those violent groups, to my mind, are much more a part of the ideological fabric that Breivik wrapped around his insanity.

Chris @202: I don’t think the toxic cross-fertilization between the extreme anti-immigrant groups, the neocons, and the Israeli right since 2001 is a simply my invention, and I think that it matters a great deal.

I don’t know Chris, the brush and the charge seem awfully broad to me. Lots and lots of things create epistemic environments. Lots and lots of things allow p to happen, for that matter. The drift of your post is that those who created the epistemic environment bear some measure of moral responsibility – but why and for what, I don’t know. As I said, allowing freedom of speech helps create the epistemic environment. Should its defenders bear moral responsibility for Breivik’s butchery? Look at a quick snapshot of the spectrum of discussion on critiques of Islam, for example:

At one end there are those concerned not about Islam in itself, but about radical Islam. Certainly discussion of these radical sects “helps create the epistemic environment” where sillier and alarmist denunciations of Muslim immigration and of Islam are possible – but then the charge of “helps create the epistemic environment” becomes meaninglessly broad. Hell, we’ve just charged every reformer and every liberal Islamic group who also thinks that radical groups in Islam are problematic.

At the other end there are violent racial purity/religious nutjob types, who preach violence, violent revolution, and love spinning tales thick with racial and cultural paranoia. THIS end also “helps create the epistemic environment” but in a much more direct fashion, and in a fashion that explicitly encourages violence. But the problem with these groups is not simply that they “help create the epistemic environment” where it is possible to urge terrorist actions; it’s that they explicitly create and nurture an ideology that justifies terrorist actions.

On the immigration front, there are those that are concerned about Islamist organizations and ideology but who view immigration as a strength; there are those concerned about the effects of immigration when not accompanied by cultural integration, but who view immigration itself as a good thing; there are those who view immigration as a bad thing entirely, and argue that it should stop, but who also abhor and condemn violence; and so forth.

Your broad brush doesn’t distinguish. “Neocons” for instance don’t advocate terrorist bombings, they don’t advocate the slaughter of children attending a summer camp, and they don’t suggest that violence be used to start a revolution in the West in order to “purify” the West of immigrant influences. I don’t think there is really a “neoconservative” (as I understand the term anyway) position, as such, on immigration. But somehow we’re attributing moral responsibility to them for Breivik’s actions.

So I think either the charge, to have teeth, must be limited to those who encourage this type of violence. Otherwise it’s simply another guilt by association smear the logic of which would be applied by the far right if the crimes in Norway turned out to be the work of an Islamist terrorist group.

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Andrew F. 07.29.11 at 11:36 am

dsquared: It may be helpful to look at your abortion analogy as having at least two possible frames:

(1) Pro-life arguments strengthen a claim that violence against clinics is justified, since all pro-life arguments contain certain premises that strengthen such a claim, and pro-choice arguments frequently do not.

(2) Pro-life arguments logically imply that violence against clinics is justified, since all pro-life arguments contain certain premises that logically imply such a claim.

It’s your second frame that is causing problems, probably because it’s very clearly false.

The first frame is more reasonable, but it neglects the fact that pro-life arguments include many more premises than you’re focused upon – premises derived from large and complex religious and moral systems. For most of those systems, these other premises cut deeply against a conclusion that violence against clinics is justified.

To the extent the first frame is true, though, it also perfectly illustrates the problem with the “helps create an epistemic environment” charge.

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dsquared 07.29.11 at 11:40 am

What about people like George Galloway, who (back in 2005) I was suggesting should be actually put in jail for helping to create the epistemic environment in which suicide bombers grew up? GG wasn’t actually advocating violence and has always been scrupulous not to do so. But at that time, he was saying to the Arab world that “your beautiful daughters are being raped by the USA”. What sort of person lives in a world where that’s a reasonable thing to say; a maniac. Similarly, the people cited in Breivik’s manifesto were writing about the West being under threat of conquest, and the Norwegian Labour Party as being quislings who were undermining Christian Europe in preparation for abandoning it to the Islamic horde. What kind of a person hangs around at blogs like that? I don’t think they can at all avoid any degree of responsibility simply by saying that they were careful enough to avoid actually inciting violence to a criminal standard, no way. All those people cited are, hopefully, taking a long hard look at themselves and asking what it was about their writings of the last ten years that was so appealing to a homicidal maniac, and I think Chris is right that all the people who humoured those writers because it was politically convenient to do so (in exactly the way in which CT didn’t humour George Galloway) ought to be considering whether that was a really great thing to have done.

This isn’t a “smear” – if anyone was part of that cultural movement that overdosed on Eurabia rhetoric, and kept saying that “we are at war”, calling people traitors and so on, then well – somebody has finally taken you seriously and don’t you wish he hadn’t? And don’t you perhaps think that if you had the chance to do the last ten years again, then even if you took the exact same political views (as is your right to do so), you might tone down some of the hyperbole this time?

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dsquared 07.29.11 at 12:05 pm

208: I’m not interested in defending either of those arguments. The only point I’m making is that “lots and lots of pro-life people use arguments which logically imply that millions of their fellow citizens are the moral equivalent of murders, and that Planned Parenthood is guilty of crimes similar in scale to the worst atrocities of the twentieth century. This is silly, and they know it’s silly, and they should knock it off”.

The possible responses are:

1) It isn’t silly; Planned Parenthood really is a genocidal organisation, morally speaking
2) They don’t know it’s silly; most pro-life people, if they sat down and thought about it, would agree that although abortion is very bad, it isn’t even nearly literally the equivalent of infanticide.
3) Even though it’s silly and they know it’s silly, this is acceptable political hyperbole which doesn’t have any really serious consequences, so they shouldn’t knock it off.
4) They don’t do this; very few people in the pro-life movement ever make the claim that abortion is as bad as murder, or if they do they are only talking about very late-term abortions or something.

Sebastian thinks 4) . I think 2). I think there are people who would argue 1). I don’t think anyone really believes 3) because it’s so obviously counterfactual, but you never know, it’s a big internet.

Of course, I was using my own overblown rhetoric here (and probably for setting off on this tangent, for which I apologise to Chris but I do find it irresistibly interesting), because in fact talking about clinic bombings is a red herring here; there are lots of things that could be done to reduce the number of abortions which are massively less extreme in nature, but which are also not generally supported (or at least, not supported by a sufficiently large minority of the pro life movement to be worth discussing). It really is true that better sex education would reduce the rate of abortions. Subsidised free contraception would reduce the number of abortions. Taxpayer-funded female health care would reduce the number of abortions. Generous child benefit arrangements would reduce the number of abortions. Somehow, despite believing that hundreds of child-murders are taking place every day, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t seem to regard this as being a problem that would merit any compromise at all on any of its other priorities. In general, it is a valid feminist critique that there is very thin support for any anti-abortion measures that don’t involve punishing women. Although not actually punishing them with criminal penalties, because, as I say, normal and mainstream people in the pro-life movement don’t actually believe in the rhetoric that they are happy to chuck about in more or less blithe indifference to the environment it creates.

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John 07.29.11 at 12:22 pm

If you want to make a career writing factually inaccurate, childish horses%%t
http://www.steynstore.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Londonistan-Melanie-Phillips/dp/1594031444
and are lucky enough to live in a society that allows you to do so without prosecution, (which I have no problem with), then you can at least, in the words of dsquared, have the courage to ‘own your own bullshit’ when the company you keep decides to take matters into their own hands. If this sort of rubbish was a serious, thoughtful and well researched critique of the reality of Muslim immigration in Europe then there would be no ‘guilt by association’, but its not, its lazy hateful nonsense. Just because these f$$kwits shouldnt be legally culpable doesnt mean they dont share some responsibility, how much can be argued, as do those to gutless to call them out
http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_urbanities-steyn.html
Stand by what you say fellas, no back tracking now. Theyv spent a decade telling us how hard they are now heres the opportunity to show us, whats the point of free speech if your not going to stand by your bulls%%t at the moment its most under attack. Breivik was the armed wing of these commentators ideology, and although they undoubtaedly find what he did reprehensible they are ‘our sides’ Abu Hamza al-Masri, just with a little less drive.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 07.29.11 at 12:27 pm

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John 07.29.11 at 12:55 pm

Finally, and briefly, Steyn himself acknowledges, although in his limited way, the potential consequences of ‘cultural strife’ in Europe

“My book isn’t about what I want to happen but what I think will happen. Given Fascism, Communism and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, it’s not hard to foresee that the neo-nationalist resurgence already under way in parts of Europe will at some point take a violent form. That’s pretty much a given….. I think any descent into neo-Fascism will be ineffectual and therefore merely a temporary blip in the remorseless transformation of the Continent.”

Which begs the question of why if you ‘realise’ that the ‘Islamification’ of Europe is a sure thing and could provoke a violent reaction, would you spend your time discussing it in such a hyperbolic manner. My conclusion would be that he either doesnt buy his argument or he supports the reaction

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Roger 07.29.11 at 1:01 pm

dsquared,

You do give several good examples of serious political misjudgements from Geras and Cohen (and I could give you more – the latter’s positive review of Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism for example).

But Chris is quite specific: he alleges that the ‘extremist pro-zionist but formerly antisemitic right’ have been given ‘credibility, cover and respectability’ by people on the left ‘who backed the Iraq war, strongly supported Israel over Lebanon and Gaza and who disseminate propaganda attacking those who take a different line to them on the Middle East as antisemitic racists’.

So leaving aside the not altogether minor point that many of these extreme pro-zionists (Mad Mel being the most obvious example) have have never been anti-semitic for the obvious reason that they are Jewish, ‘these people who think of themselves as on the left’ fundamental sin is not that Norm profiled Mel (in a series which began with Chris Bertram!) , or that Nick has written several execrably bad book reviews – but that they took particular positions on Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza and that they ask questions about at what point anti-zionism becomes anti-semitism.

(This also raises the issue that in many cases ‘these people’ did not uniformly take the positions Chris ascribes to them on Iraq, Lebanon or Gaza).

So for Chris’s argument to have any force he has to demonstrate not isolated instances but significant cases of the ‘formerly anti-semitic far right’ that produced Breivik taking actual ‘credibility, cover and respectability’ from these people on the left.

And to demonstrate that you need to answer Lenin’s who-whom? question:

Credibility with whom? cover for whom? respectability for whom?

Neither you or Chris have done this.

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dsquared 07.29.11 at 1:13 pm

Roger, I think that our debate, like philosophy in the 1950s, is about to take a “semantic turn” and become a bit of a waste of time, but reading the whole of the paragraph you extract from I would put more weight on the qualifier “This isn’t a single movement though, it is a spectrum” than you do. In my view Chris is saying (correctly) that the “anti-jihadi” movement contains all sorts of elements (of whom the f.a.s.f.r are only one) here. And so for his argument to have force, he only needs to show (as I hope I did on his behalf) that members of (or people totally compromised by association with) the “anti-jihadi” milieu as a whole have been given credibility (in the sense of dissemination of their views), cover (of those of their views which are objectionable to the majority of society) and respectability (ie implicit endorsement of them as suitable people for “the left” to be having debates with).

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Jack Strocchi 07.29.11 at 1:22 pm

Chris Bertram said:

Following the Norway massacre many of the elite scribblers of this spectrum—many of whom have played the guilt-by-association game to the max over the last decade—are disclaiming all responsibility. Well, of course, they didn’t pull the trigger, but they helped to build an epistemic environment in which someone did.

On that logic all Greens will now be accepting moral responsibility for the Unabombers murder spree. Of course Greens didn’t plant the bombs, “but they helped to build an epistemic environment in which someone did”. Douhat completes the reductio-ad-absurdum:

Breivik has roughly the same relationship to the cultural right that Kaczynski had to certain strains of environmentalism.

It would be politically convenient if Left-liberals could quote one “elite scribbler” who actually promoted or condoned violence against Muslims or whatever. Unfortunately no such person can be found. So we are left with vague references to “epistemic environments”, whatever that means.

This kind of environmental “externalism” has been all the range in what passes for social science for the past couple of hundred years. It certainly had legs in explaining, say, the growth in average height in developed nations.

But it is worse than useless in trying to explain one-off events committed by freaks like the self-styled “Knight Templar” of Norway. More over the contemporary Right-winger extremist is, in the nature of things, more likely to be individualist and hence less prone to social conditioning. In the Norway case, the causal power for the murder spree is pretty much all “internal” to the agent, who is plainly nuts.

Lets be clear, the European democratic Right of the noughties bears no moral responsibility whatsoever for the Norway nutter. No more than the European democratic Left in the seventies bore moral responsibility for the Red Brigades.

More generally, what is surprising about the recent vast resurgence of the Cultural Right across the EU is the relative pacifism of the movement, compared to the seventies. Even the BNP have hung up their bovver boots and are now wearing ties.

The same can be said about the Tea Party in the US who get most worked up about federal debt, not exactly the stuff of pitch-fork wielding pogroms. The Right-wing militias have mostly folded up and most Klansmen are probably informing for the FBI.

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Popeye 07.29.11 at 1:37 pm

Sebastian: “My explanation, from personal experience with the people in question, is that for the most part they believe that late term abortions are murder and that given the Constitutional rulings of the Supreme Court taking earlier abortions well off political compromise, they fully understand that the political questions of abortions tend to turn around questions of abortions on the later part of the scale.”

Focus on the Family: “Focus on the Family opposes abortion under all circumstances, except in the rare instance when the mother’s life is threatened by continuing the pregnancy.”

Concerned Women for America: “CWA supports the protection of all innocent human life from conception until natural death. This includes the consequences resulting from abortion.”

National Right to Life Committee: “The life of a baby begins long before he or she is born. A new individual human being begins at fertilization, when the sperm and ovum meet to form a single cell. If the baby’s life is not interrupted, he or she will someday become an adult man or woman. Worldwide, millions of unborn babies are killed each year. In the United States over 40 million unborn babies have been killed in the 29 years since abortion was legalized and more than 1.3 million are killed each year.”

Live Action: “We are a youth led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion, the greatest human rights injustice of our time.”

Would put in links but don’t want to get stuck in moderation. Sebastian’s comments here are staggeringly dishonest. Most Americans are opposed to late-term abortions, which are banned in most states; that doesn’t make them part of the pro-life movement, which believes that ALL abortion is murder. Good grief.

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Henry 07.29.11 at 1:41 pm

bq. I seem to remember Henry once picked up the Volokhs for referring to Geert Wilders as a “critic of Islamism” in a headline and they at least realised that they were doing something wrong and changed it.

For certain values of change. Geert Wilders ceased to be a ‘‘leading critic of Islam’ and became a ‘Leading Critic of Islam (and Advocate of Restrictions on the Practice of Islam).’ To update my argument of the time slightly, if a European politician who had angry views about Israel went ahead to advocate a ban on the Torah, a five year ban on the building of Jewish temples, a permanent ban on preaching in Hebrew, and a government program aimed at paying Jews to leave the country, I somehow doubt Eugene Volokh describe him as a “leading critic of Judaism (and advocate of restrictions on the practice of Judaism).” There are shorter and more pungent words for people like that – just as there are for people who ‘advocate’ similar ‘restrictions’ on the practice of Islam. That people like Volokh pussyfoot around this, and occasionally mutter that European measures to protect their own culture may be allowable, lends some support to Chris’s points in the main post.

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dsquared 07.29.11 at 1:53 pm

Breivik has roughly the same relationship to the cultural right that Kaczynski had to certain strains of environmentalism

The phrase “certain strains” is doing the work of Atlas in this sentence; carrying such a massive an unfair burden that it will surely end up going Galt. And when “certain strains” finally shrugs, it is going to be awfully difficult to find an actual environmentalist or movement to take its place, as straw is not a load-bearing material. I think Stella Gibbons would certainly have marked that one with *****.

More over the contemporary Right-winger extremist is, in the nature of things, more likely to be individualist and hence less prone to social conditioning

Bless.

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Roger 07.29.11 at 1:58 pm

The problem is precisely that insertion of ‘spectrum’ as it allows you to weasel in and out whoever and whatever you want.

And you state that the guilty parties have been given credibility, cover and respectability – but my question is with whom?

Do you and Chris really imagine that a significant section of the left began to treat Phillips, Steyn, Spencer, Gellar et al as credible or respectable because Norm Geras or Nick Cohen took a particular position on Gaza or Lebanon?

And the frontpagemag.com interview Chris cites is significant in that it indicates that in any case the right have very little interest in the support of any leftist.

In fact it reminded me overpoweringly of the perhaps apocryphal ‘well actually I am an anticommunist’ – ‘I don’t care what sort of communist you are’ exchange from the McCarthy era.

Certainly there were centrist and moderate right figures who took notice of the ‘decent left’ – until they realised that it was just another bunch of academics and journalists with no divisions or even a single battalion behind them – but for the merchants of hate whose cut and pasted articles fill Breivik’s Manifesto the only good leftist is a dead leftist.

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John 07.29.11 at 2:00 pm

@ Jack “It would be politically convenient if Left-liberals could quote one “elite scribbler” who actually promoted or condoned violence against Muslims”

John Derbyshire on Steyns book (in which Steyn is far more subtle)
“It is implicit in his argument that much of the Western world will submit to Islam. Okay, how about that portion, including one hopes the U.S.A., that does not? Option two—the destruction of Islam—“doesn’t bear thinking about.” I disagree with the author here. I find I can bear to think about it without really disabling distress, and I have even written about it. The “window” of time during which this is really an option for the West is closing rapidly though. One Islamic nation is already nuclear; another soon will be; and more will then surely follow. In any case, as Steyn emphasizes, the Islamists of Paris, London, Hamburg and Malmö are just as much, if not more, at issue here as those of Teheran and Karachi. Even the most ferocious nuke-’em proponent, which is certainly not me, will surely balk at nuking Finsbury Park or the 20e Arrondisement.”

Martin Amis
“There’s a definite urge—don’t you have it?—to say, “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. . . . Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children. . . . They hate us for letting our children have sex and take drugs—well, they’ve got to stop their children killing people”

As for your final point on right wing terrorism(although i take your point that there is now the possibility of playing up right wing extremism, it seems to be more of a problem than Islamic extremism)
“Europol’s EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) records a total of 249 terrorist attacks in the EU in 2010, in which seven people died and scores of others were injured. Most of these were related to violent separatist, nationalist, or anarchist activities. Three attacks were attributed to Islamist terrorist groups, of which two were aimed at causing mass casualties.”
https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/press/eu-terrorism-situation-and-trend-report-te-sat-2011-449

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engels 07.29.11 at 2:02 pm

he was saying to the Arab world that “your beautiful daughters are being raped by the USA”. What sort of person lives in a world where that’s a reasonable thing to say

Perhaps family, friends or neighbours of this person or others like her?

http://articles.cnn.com/2006-07-09/justice/soldiers.charged_1_fifth-soldier-three-soldiers-mahmoudiya?_s=PM:LAW

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Watson Ladd 07.29.11 at 2:07 pm

Henri, your claims about the conduct of modern warfare are dubious at best. The US air force with the exceptions of Southeast Asia (a criminal war conducted on the basis of a lie) and WWII (where millions of Germans were actively complicit in the ultimate example of evil) did not deliberately target civilians. If they did that would be wrong and those involved would be court martialed. So is targeting civilians with suicide bombing. Or do you seriously think the Geneva Conventions are not attempting to draw a line between the merely horrible and the truly depraved and barbaric?

@Norwegian Guy: Fascism portrayed itself as anti-imperalist. Lots of blood and soil nationalist movements would portray themselves as anti-imperialist. I don’t think we should expel people from our countries based on confession. I just don’t think we should refrain from criticizing viewpoints and beliefs that we find objectionable because they are religiously based. Or more pointedly: should we just ignore the barbarism of those around us out of some misguided ideal that we do not in fact know better what rights all are entitled to?

@puss: all good points. I was a bit sloppy with my equivocation of Arab states with Islamic states and majority Muslim states. But aren’t all the policies I listed ones espoused by Islamism? Would the rise of an Islamic state really be a positive thing for freedom? Or to put it another way: over the past 30 years why has the Israel-Palestine conflict gone from being a socialist revolution (in the guise of the PFLP) to an Islamic one (in the guise of Hamas)?

@Lemuel: the Twin Towers were a legitimate military target how?

@logern: Majorities can behave quite unjustly to minorities. The history of the 20th century bears this out in great detail. We should not pretend that majority rule is necessarily kind and just.

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dsquared 07.29.11 at 2:12 pm

The problem is precisely that insertion of ‘spectrum’ as it allows you to weasel in and out whoever and whatever you want.

This is the entire topic, though. Inserting sensible qualifications into your sentences, so that you are only making strong claims when you are able to justify them, and making weaker claims about individuals who are less obviously associated with what you’re talking about is good practice, not bad. It’s not the “problem” with Chris’s argument, it’s one of the good things about it.

Do you and Chris really imagine that a significant section of the left began to treat Phillips, Steyn, Spencer, Gellar et al as credible or respectable because Norm Geras or Nick Cohen took a particular position on Gaza or Lebanon?

Nick Cohen, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t taken much of a public position on Gaza or Lebanon and I seem to remember him resigning from the board of Just Journalism when he felt that he was being associated with one. But with Norman Geras, although I am not proposing to get into a quote-swapping match then yes, I think it’s a totally reasonable assessment of the last eight years of his blogging and writing to say that the fact he broadly agrees with the people you name about Israel is a large part of the reason why he’s often cut them more slack than they deserve[1].

But talking more generally, if one considers the Euston Manifesto Group to be “a significant section of the left” (and since they had something like 2800 signatures on their petition and held events which attracted hundreds of people I think one has to), then yes, this is exactly what I’m saying.

[1] In fact, Norman Geras has regularly and repeatedly criticised all those people named when he considered them to have stepped over the line, which is why I’m not interested in playing swappy-quotey. But he has never really seemed to notice that they keep on stepping over the same line, and that this points to serious underlying problems in the way they go about things. It is my contention here (and to be clear, mine alone and I am not the same person as Chris, who might not agree with me and probably doesn’t) that being on the same side as them in the “anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism” debate has impaired his critical facilities with respect to these people’s output taken as a whole. It would not be exactly unusual for something of the sort to happen.

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Wilfred 07.29.11 at 2:22 pm

At Watson Ladd, 223:

Your second sentence baffles. Even if millions of Germans were complicit, the bombing of Dresden, Hamburg et al. resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people who were complicit in nothing other than being German. It’s not an accident that Bomber Harris was uniquely omitted from the post-war honors list. Similarly, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are explained away as avoiding millions more casualties in case of an invasion of the Japanese mainland. Nobody has ever pretended that they were not deliberate attacks against civilians, nor that the fire bombing of Tokyo was anything else but attacks against the civilian population. In all cases, higher causes were used to rationalized the morally repugnant. How is bombing Hanoi or Cambodia different?

It seems to me that most of this post and thread can be reduced into wondering how on earth X can do Y to us/them. Substitute terms for each and we are further reduced into an ox being gored. We all have our own.

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ajay 07.29.11 at 2:23 pm

The US air force with the exceptions of Southeast Asia (a criminal war conducted on the basis of a lie) and WWII (where millions of Germans were actively complicit in the ultimate example of evil) did not deliberately target civilians.

This is a lie. The USAF bombed civilian targets – towns and cities – in North Korea. Since the end of the cold war, with the revolution in precision weaponry, they have tended not to do so, but there’s still occasional cases like the Belgrade radio studios, as well as civilian targets like power stations (and, arguably, government ministries) during 1991 and 2003 in Iraq.

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ajay 07.29.11 at 2:27 pm

Or to put it another way: over the past 30 years why has the Israel-Palestine conflict gone from being a socialist revolution (in the guise of the PFLP) to an Islamic one (in the guise of Hamas)?

Ooh, I know this one! Is it “because Israel promoted and encouraged Hamas in the hope of dividing the Palestinian side and undermining the then-dominant secular nationalist factions in the PLO”?

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Chris Williams 07.29.11 at 2:34 pm

“It’s not an accident that Bomber Harris was uniquely omitted from the post-war honors list. ” You’re right there. Churchill and Attlee were unwilling to own their own bullshit on that one, and Harris paid the price for being able to and willing to do so.

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Uncle Kvetch 07.29.11 at 2:40 pm

Your broad brush doesn’t distinguish. “Neocons” for instance don’t advocate terrorist bombings, they don’t advocate the slaughter of children attending a summer camp, and they don’t suggest that violence be used to start a revolution in the West in order to “purify” the West of immigrant influences.

“One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today.”
Michael Ledeen

Hey, you’re right, he doesn’t advocate the slaughter of children attending a summer camp! He only advocates the “cauldronization” of a part of the world in which tens of millions of children happen to live. Apples and oranges.

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SamChevre 07.29.11 at 3:12 pm

Most Americans are opposed to late-term abortions, which are banned in most states.

This keeps getting repeated, and so far as I know is just not true. The exception for “health of the mother” runs throughout the pregnancy, can be (and by rumor often is) based entirely on mental health, and is not subject to review by any doctor or legal authority. For all practical purposes, that means abortion is legal throughout the pregnancy, in all states.

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MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 3:17 pm

Everyone here knows that most pro-lifers are not at all concerned about babies. They are concerned about punishing “slutty” women for having sex. This is why most of them also opposed contreception as well as abortion, a position that would make no sense if they really cared about reducing the number of abortions. It has nothing to do with life and everything to do with control.

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Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 3:26 pm

“Sebastian, one of the people who says that abortion is the equivalent of somewhere between torturing animals and murder, but probably worse than armed robbery is you. So stop tapdancing around that one.”

I’m not tapdancing around that one at all. The reason you know my views on abortion is I’ve clearly stated them here for goodness sake. And you’re doing it again on the mischaracterization thing, *even when I’m here stating my beliefs*. I certainly believe that some ( and perhaps even most) late term abortions are murder. You can’t just tapdance that into all abortion is murder. They aren’t the same fucking argument at all.

“I don’t think the pro-life side are generally liars; I think they’re sincere people who believe that abortion is a serious wrong, and who use silly overheated rhetoric about how bad it is which they would drop if they ever seriously considered the practical implications of what they’re saying. I’m rather disappointed to find out that you’re in the category of “people who are actually concealing their true political agenda”.”

First, this represents a rather serious backtrack from your other overheated rhetoric about pro-lifers. And again, it is surprising that you can call me a liar over my views which you only know because I told you about them. I’m not hiding the fact that I think LATE TERM abortions can be murder. I’m not hiding the fact that in a perfectly just world I believe that a woman who kills her viable fetus should be investigated for murder. See that, you know about it because I told you. I’m saying that it isn’t worth proposing a law that would do such a thing because it would A) have zero chance of passing and B) would interfere with pretty much any other progress that could be made in the pro-life direction. So far as I know, that is a perfectly normal political calculation made by people on the left all the freaking time.

Essentially you A) don’t understand pro-life discussions and arguments well, B) seem to have gotten almost your entire exposure to them through the internet and most of it from their enemies, C) want to draw broad moral conclusions demonizing them from your self-selected exposure on the internet, D) are not even remotely interested in hearing anything that complicates your readings from the internet–certainly not with real interactions with people who actually personally know lots of pro-life people, and E) become annoyed when called on that.

The interesting thing for the purposes of this thread is that you are exhibiting exactly how confused epistemic environments get built–complete with self reinforcing cheerleading from people like ScentofViolets. If I made large unnuanced comments about Muslims based on internet stuff I read from their enemies, some self-selected stuff from the most extreme positions, and a few polls with unclear wording, and thought I was expert enough to pronounce them basically insincere in their beliefs, or savages or whatever other demonization I could use to keep them in the “other” category, you’d recognize it for what it was.

I guess the bad news is that even people who are smart enough to recognize how misleading and bad epistemic environments can be built are still human enough to engage in them.

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ScentOfViolets 07.29.11 at 3:35 pm

It’s dispiriting and tiresome to see every thread on CT turn into a troll and counter-troll argument, especially on serious and interesting topics.

Yes agreed. I understand why the abortion tangent happened here, but I don’t think it helped. I was tempted to get into the business of documenting specifics (X said Y on such and such a date) in response to Roger and Watson above, but it would have amounted to petty point scoring here. Ditto some of the pseudo-philosophical “what would you say about the parallel case where…” stuff.

Oh, I most assuredly disagree – to the contrary, you get to see the entire dynamic you’re writing about play out in vitro, as it were. And guess what? You’re part of the problem. What you should have done, and a while back at that, was to give Sebastian a yellow card for not playing by the rules of rational discourse. People like Sebastian need to told in no uncertain terms that they aren’t allowed to simply use their feeling or what they know to be true despite any evidence that’s presented to the contrary as a crutch to promote their own kooky agenda. And they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to get away with sneering at others what with their demands for proof and evidence. That sort of nonsense needs to be cut off at the knee before proceeding any further along a dubiously graded “spectrum”.

So why didn’t you do this?

Now ask yourself how this plays out in the larger world. Yes, I’m sure you have very noble reasons for allowing certain people to prattle on promoting very destructive agendas. I’m even willing to concede that they might even be good reasons.

But isn’t that what most people in charge of content will say as well?

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MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 3:40 pm

Wow ScentofViolets. That is pretty damn self-righteous considering your posting history.

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Roger 07.29.11 at 3:42 pm

dsquared @224

Oh what’s the use….

Of course we have the blood of all those teenage Norwegian social democrats on our hands.

With 76 victims at 10 pints each – or shall we say 8 points as a lot of them were teenage girls – that means each signatory of the Euston Manifesto gets a quarter of a pint each.

Or as we’re part of such a vast ‘spectrum’ maybe we’ll just get a tiny little vial each? – that’s hardly enough to do a full Lady Macbeth scene.

Happy now?

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Roger 07.29.11 at 3:43 pm

8 pints not points – but I am sure you got that…

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LizardBreath 07.29.11 at 3:48 pm

I’m not hiding the fact that in a perfectly just world I believe that a woman who kills her viable fetus should be investigated for murder.

So, if abortion from the time of conception is something roughly equivalent to armed robbery, would you think that a woman who kills her non-viable fetus should be investigated (in the absence of legal defenses, convicted and imprisoned) for a crime, with punishment about equivalent to that for armed robbery? Because assuming your beliefs are typical in some sense of the pro-life movement, it’s weird that this isn’t part of their public agenda.

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Watson Ladd 07.29.11 at 4:06 pm

@ajay: Israel doesn’t determine what popular movements will or won’t be supported in the world.

Can we just say WWII was the worst event in world history, one in which racial slaughter was the war aim of the Axis, and the Allies responded in kind? I’m not drawing a moral distinction between Western Europe and the Islamic world, just pointing out that Islamism is widely supported and has influenced ideas about social issues in the Islamic world and is certainly not progressive, ergo it must be opposed. According to Henri the correct response when ones family has been killed by soldiers is not to kill soldiers but rather disguise oneself as a civilian and deliberately aim to kill civilians. The USAF never committed that uniquely horrible crime of perfidy. We ban perfidy because it punishes people for doing the right thing and not treating civilians as potential soldiers. The ROK did that in the Korean War. That was wrong. So is suicide bombing, and the use of force against those responsible is absolutely justified.

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ajay 07.29.11 at 4:12 pm

Watson,look it up. http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB123275572295011847.html

I like your nice moral distinction between “deliberately killing civilians while disguised as a civilian” and “deliberately killing civilians while wearing a special military hat”. Apparently the former is “uniquely horrible” and the USAF retains the moral high ground because, when its members have killed civilians, they have always been careful to do so while wearing the correct sort of hat.

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Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 4:19 pm

Lizardbreath, huh?

I not only haven’t expressed any opinion about abortions near conception, I don’t have any particularly strong ideas about them. I would want a lot more contraception so that there would be fewer abortions at even that point, but that is about far as it goes at the zygote/early fetus level. And since my views don’t track at all with the views you’re ascribing to me, it is hard to respond further.

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Popeye 07.29.11 at 4:20 pm

For all practical purposes, that means abortion is legal throughout the pregnancy, in all states.

Well, if we want to focus on practical purposes then approximately 1% of abortions are late-term abortions (past 20 weeks). And in reality it is really not impossible for a late-term abortion to be necessary to save a woman’s life (as a benchmark over 5% of pregnancies are affected by preeclampsia). So how many “bad” abortions are we talking about? And is this really what people are talking about when they talk about genocide or a holocaust?

This whole discussion is ridiculous; Sebastian is basically saying, “My position is quite reasonable and enlightened — I say so myself and who knows me better than me — and anyone who disagrees is a close-minded simpleton.” Discomfort with late-term abortion is widespread; while that gives the pro-life movement an angle to work with, it doesn’t identify the core beliefs of the pro-life movement.

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Popeye 07.29.11 at 4:23 pm

I not only haven’t expressed any opinion about abortions near conception, I don’t have any particularly strong ideas about them.

What do people in the pro-life movement think about abortions near conception, you disingenuous tool? I mean, drawing on your vast personal experience with this movement, do you have any insights that you can share with us?

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ScentOfViolets 07.29.11 at 4:24 pm

So, if abortion from the time of conception is something roughly equivalent to armed robbery, would you think that a woman who kills her non-viable fetus should be investigated (in the absence of legal defenses, convicted and imprisoned) for a crime, with punishment about equivalent to that for armed robbery? Because assuming your beliefs are typical in some sense of the pro-life movement, it’s weird that this isn’t part of their public agenda.

Funny, but I get the sense that you don’t doubt it is most definitely part of their private agenda.

It also looks to undercut D^2’s point somewhat. It’s not that they’re refusing to own their bullshit – they will, so long as they’re off-camera, or in a venue or through a spokesman that the movement can claim does not represent their “official views”. No, what what these vermin are doing is not “refusing to own their bullshit”; what they’re doing – with absolutely no compunction – is tactically lying.

You can get a real sense of their character, how their moral system really works, when someone like Sebastian can claim that “this isn’t really a big deal”.

No, really, it is a big deal. And say what you like about me, but whatever else, I’m a pretty up front kinda guy – I don’t believe in hidden agendas, and if I don’t like you, I’ll tell you. I think even Sebastian would concede that ;-) And oddly enough, I can’t think of a single one of my friends that this characterization doesn’t apply to.

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Donald Johnson 07.29.11 at 4:25 pm

US targeted civilian infrastructure in Gulf War I–

link

The West is less likely to target civilians openly since the development of precision weapons. Now with precision weapons we target civilian infrastructure or hit what we want and if civilians die deny responsibility no matter what the circumstances.

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Chris Bertram 07.29.11 at 4:25 pm

_So why didn’t you do this?_

Without prejudice to the question of who I should or shouldn’t have given red or yellow cards to, the short answer is that since I wrote the post, I’ve left on holiday and I’m only checking the internet occasionally when I return to my hotel room, so I’m not in a position to engage in active moderation of this thread.

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Watson Ladd 07.29.11 at 4:26 pm

@ajay: of course that distinction matters! This way civilians and soldiers remain separate. You claim it matters for the victims, while I am pointing out it matters for those who commit the killings also. Hume’s remarks on the seeming absurdity of law are apropos at this point. Honestly, if you don’t think the Geneva Conventions matter that’s fine. All war is bad, and you’ll just wash your hands of the whole messy business of trying to make war slightly less beastly. I’m not saying Hamas wasn’t supported by Shin Bet, just that that doesn’t determine anything about its success. Israel is not the only moral actor in the world, and those who are members of Hamas have a lot more to do with its support then Israel.

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ScentOfViolets 07.29.11 at 4:28 pm

This whole discussion is ridiculous; Sebastian is basically saying, “My position is quite reasonable and enlightened—I say so myself and who knows me better than me—and anyone who disagrees is a close-minded simpleton.” Discomfort with late-term abortion is widespread; while that gives the pro-life movement an angle to work with, it doesn’t identify the core beliefs of the pro-life movement.

I think you’ve just described in a nutshell why this sort of attitude has no place in public discourse, and why it should be shut down in any public venue – along with a sternly worded letter from the editor rebuking the people peddling such hokum and why they are doing so.

This is the epistemic environment that Chris is speaking of. I think the Krug Man has even written something about it in the last week or so.

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Watson Ladd 07.29.11 at 4:29 pm

@Donald: seriously, I did not say I was defending the actual conduct of the USAF! I specifically denounced infrastructure bombing above. Is defending a distinction in principle something that just can’t be done, i.e. the distinction between suicide bombing and air bombardment of military targets because we always have to deal with actual historical actors? I’m probably going to sign off at this point: I don’t think I can convince anyone that the Geneva Conventions draw a meaningful distinction who doesn’t believe in the possibility of a just war.

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LizardBreath 07.29.11 at 4:32 pm

I not only haven’t expressed any opinion about abortions near conception, I don’t have any particularly strong ideas about them.

Sorry, I must have misunderstood this from your 131, describing the feelings of the enormous majority of pro-lifers, which I figured probably included you:

Abortion at some stage or other is a very serious moral wrong. Certainly as bad as torturing animals, probably as bad or worse than armed robber and in some cases something akin to murder. Nearly all of them believe that it is murder at or near the viability phase unless there is some compelling self defense reason.

It sounded as if you meant that almost all pro-lifers believed that abortion was murder at or near viability, and ” probably as bad or worse than armed robber[y]” if at an earlier stage.

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ajay 07.29.11 at 4:32 pm

246: in any case, you are wrong in asserting that the USAF has never indulged in this kind of perfidy. US pilots, dressed as civilians, attacked PAVN troops in Laos and Cambodia.

251

ajay 07.29.11 at 4:34 pm

Honestly, if you don’t think the Geneva Conventions matter that’s fine. All war is bad, and you’ll just wash your hands of the whole messy business of trying to make war slightly less beastly.

The Geneva Conventions also prohibit the deliberate killing of civilians, fool, whatever your state of dress.

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LizardBreath 07.29.11 at 4:34 pm

Funny, but I get the sense that you don’t doubt it is most definitely part of their private agenda.

Nah, I’m actually with d-squared here. I think most pro-lifers actually aren’t all that strongly bothered by the immorality of abortion, rather than the immorality of women getting to screw around without suffering for it, and so the failure to push for criminal penalties is more consistent with their actual moral beliefs than their actual moral beliefs are with their rhetoric. But I could be wrong.

253

Uncle Kvetch 07.29.11 at 4:35 pm

What do people in the pro-life movement think about abortions near conception, you disingenuous tool?

Sebastian has already made it amply clear that the enormous majority of people in the pro-life movement agree with him.

254

Asteele 07.29.11 at 4:37 pm

Watson is just doing the classic two step of: any war-crime we commit that they don’t is kind of understandable when you look at the total context of the situation; whereas: any war-crime they commit that we don’t is the most awful and unique of atrocities. Probably should be something in here about how you can’t reason someone out of positions that they didn’t reason themselves into.

255

Sandwichman 07.29.11 at 4:41 pm

(Sandwichman continues to piss historical pearls into the swinish wind of a hypothetical discourse.)

http://counterpunch.org/avnery07292011.html

“I was shocked to the core. These outpourings are almost verbatim copies of the diatribes of Joseph Goebbels. The same rabble-rousing slogans. The same base allegations. The same demonization. With one little difference: instead of Jews, this time it is Arabs who are undermining Western Civilization, seducing Christian maids, plotting to dominate the world. The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.”

You don’t know the half of it, Uri.

256

Donald Johnson 07.29.11 at 4:43 pm

Palestinians have sometimes used Western-style rationalizations for their own terror attacks. I know I’ve seen this more than once, but don’t know how to google for examples quickly, except for this one from a Human Rights Watch report on Palestinian rocket fire at Sderot. In one case the Palestinians responsible claimed they were aiming at the house of the “Zionist Minister of War”. More generally they claim the rocket attacks are reprisals for Israeli violence and are self-defense. Human Rights Watch points out that the justifications are wrong legally and morally.

HRW report

I don’t know if any poll has gone into this, but it would not be surprising if Muslims who do defend terror attacks generally use the same reasons–a claim that this is the only means of self defense available to them or their co-religionists under attack from the West. Rationalizing seems more like a human trait than a Muslim trait to me, but I don’t have poll data handy to show that.

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Donald Johnson 07.29.11 at 4:53 pm

“Is defending a distinction in principle something that just can’t be done, i.e. the distinction between suicide bombing and air bombardment of military targets because we always have to deal with actual historical actors? I”

Sure it can be done. In theory the US government could adhere scrupulously to the laws of war both in letter and spirit and I don’t doubt that sometimes it does. But there are a large number of cases where it (and its allies) have not and this is all we need to refute the idea that there is some vast moral distinction between Muslims and the West when it comes to killing civilians. I’ve never understood, for instance, how any American government official could keep a straight face while denouncing other governments for supporting terrorists given the sorts of people we’ve supported ourselves. But I guess they are paid to keep a straight face. What’s harder to understand are people who aren’t paid to do it.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 4:59 pm

According to Henri the correct response when ones family has been killed by soldiers is not to kill soldiers but rather disguise oneself as a civilian and deliberately aim to kill civilians.

I don’t know what ‘the the correct’ response is. But I do realize that someone whose family is killed in front of her eyes might snap and get violent, in unpredictable ways. Which brings me to:

Can we just say WWII was the worst event in world history, one in which racial slaughter was the war aim of the Axis, and the Allies responded in kind?

Sure. However, for a person who whose family is killed in front of her eyes, that little-tiny event is also the worst event in world history; much worse, even, than WWII. So, where does that leave us?

259

socialrepublican 07.29.11 at 5:00 pm

This post needs repeating

Akshay 07.27.11 at 6:27 pm

Cultural historian Roger Griffin has a long talk here on the psychodynamics of becoming a utopian terrorist. His archetype seems to fit Breivik very well, even if it is hard to believe at first, that quite sane people can escalate mere existential angst into going postal.

To whit: Breivik describes himself as growing up in an anomic environment run by muslim street gangs. He is from a broken family. He wants something beyond bourgeouis “cynical careerism”, as he puts it. He yearns for a ‘sacred canopy’ which will give life meaning, patriarchal christianity, in his case. He dabbles in politics, but becomes disappointed. In a state of confusion, he stumbles upon a worldview in which things start making sense again, from his own spiritual problems or problems with women, to geo-political reality. He is initiated into a cult. In a neglected passage of his manifesto, he describes meeting the “Templars” after contacting a Serbian Nationalist. They are a small international group, mostly Christian, which wants to defend Europe against Islam. He is mentored by an Englishman he calls Richard.

After his initiation, the world splits into Good and Evil. Evil is projected outward. Breivik understands that his task will be to go ‘beyond good and evil’ to make the rebirth of Europe possible. He can give his life for this task, for it will give him immortality. He is the avant-garde of the Eurabian civil war of the next generation, which will finally end in “2083”. He prepares for years, following Nechayev’s advice and gradually shutting himself off from normal society. He studies the “science of destruction” (Nechayev). He strengthens his faith by meditating. When he is ready, he strikes at a symbolic target which represents “the Enemy”. It is not personal. He does not specifically hate the individuals he is killing and knows his act is heinous, though necessary. They are killed for what they are: the future leaders of the wrong side in the Eurabian civil war. They are killed as a “marketing operation”, to get the truth of his manifesto into the world. He feels a sense of calm bliss, having given his life to his cause. In his manifesto, he urges co-believers to realize that they are not alone.

Clearly many ideologies can capture people like Breivik. But to drive him into terrorism, they need to a) posit an overwhelming threat and a future rebirth b) describe a world devided into good and evil, where you are either with us or against us c) provide a total weltanschauung, ersatz for religion, ersatz for political engagement.

A point Roger and I raised at Dave Osler’s place was that the heritage of the “epistemic enviroment” of the anti-Islam spectrum is a modified version of neo-fascist meta-politics.

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Sebastian H 07.29.11 at 5:07 pm

I’d say that as a statistical matter there is pretty much a sliding scale of concern the further you get away from the actual birth. So pro-lifers are in general agreement (i.e. coherent movement) for the most part for post-viability, and then loses more and more numbers each week or so earlier than that.

The contraceptive point I outlined above is a huge point of disagreement, with the Catholic church side of things going against it because of their general stance on contraception, while most of though not all of the Protestant pro-lifers being ok with contraception and nearly all of the non-Christian pro-lifers strongly supporting it. So to say that there is a coherent pro-life view on the matter would be wrong.

Lizardbreath, I think maybe you didn’t take “at some stage or other” the way I meant it. It wasn’t meant to imply that a majority of pro-lifers believe anything in particular about the zygote stage. It was meant to confirm that pretty much all pro-lifers agree that abortions could be murder at some stage of pregnancy–though exactly which stage is subject to disagreement (nearly everyone agreeing that post-viability could be, many fewer at the middle stages, and many many fewer at the zygote stage).

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LizardBreath 07.29.11 at 5:18 pm

Sebastian at 260-

What I’m stuck on, in rereading your 131, is that it seems to both assert that most prolifers think that abortion is murder at or near viability, and that most prolifers think that abortion is bad but less than murder (in your words “probably as bad or worse than armed robber[y]”) under some other circumstances. What did the bad-but-not-murder part of what you said apply to?

I’m not asking just to be annoying, I’m asking because a possible alternative would be something like “Abortion is murder (or really close to murder) at or close to viability, but before that stage it’s not particularly wrong at all (maybe regrettable, but nothing you’d want to legally ban)”. If that’s your position, or what you’d represent as a common prolife position, though, it seems really disconnected from the actual political behavior of the prolife movement.

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Popeye 07.29.11 at 5:38 pm

So pro-lifers are in general agreement (i.e. coherent movement) for the most part for post-viability, and then loses more and more numbers each week or so earlier than that.

According to Wikipedia over 80% of Americans believe third-trimester abortions should be illegal.

So the vast majority of Americans are part of the pro-life movement, but when you start moving to issues like support for Roe v Wade and “does life begin at conception” the movement starts losing numbers and focus, and eventually you end up with some nutjobs on the fringe who think that all abortions should be banned and that life begins at conception and that millions of babies are killed every year and that RU-486 should be withdrawn. But those lunatics are just part of a broad movement that consists of basically everyone in the country, it’s a big tent you know.

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Popeye 07.29.11 at 5:42 pm

According to Wikipedia over 80% of Americans believe third-trimester abortions should be illegal.

That is, generally illegal, putting aside health exceptions and such.

264

Antoni Jaume 07.29.11 at 5:45 pm

” less than murder ([…]) under some other circumstances.”

In a time not that far away pregnancy was far for the near certainty of a viable deliverance we have now. I remember a english learning text that said something like ‘eventually he died and they returned home’, in spanish ‘eventualmente’ means maybe, the correct translation being ‘finalmente’, now imagine a rescue party that decides when to go home because maybe the party to be rescued is dead, with the certainty that if they’re still alive then they’ll die. Would you accuse them of homicide?

265

RD 07.29.11 at 5:56 pm

Your idea of the culpability of the “epistemic environment” and those who craft it reaches its ultimate absurdity in the ideas of Ayn Rand cultist Leonard Peikoff (and Rand herself), who blame Kant for the Holocaust.

Plenty of ideas slosh around in the world. That is healthy. To think is not necessarily to act on one’s thinking; the two are distinct – else speech (and thought and mental experimentation) is to be subject to proscription. Thinking freely and is necessary to life; totalitarianism equals death.

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Sandwichman 07.29.11 at 6:02 pm

Thank you, socialrepublican @259. That was indeed worth repeating.

267

John 07.29.11 at 6:03 pm

In relation to the actual topic of the post rather than the rabbit holes that have been wandered into

http://centres.exeter.ac.uk/emrc/publications/IAMHC_revised_11Feb11.pdf

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ScentOfViolets 07.29.11 at 6:11 pm

Without prejudice to the question of who I should or shouldn’t have given red or yellow cards to, the short answer is that since I wrote the post, I’ve left on holiday and I’m only checking the internet occasionally when I return to my hotel room, so I’m not in a position to engage in active moderation of this thread.

Understand, I’m not demanding that you ban one particular individual for their disruptive intransigence.

I’m merely pointing out that if you’re looking for an “epistemic environment” that makes the Utoya attacks possible, well, you’re part of that environment. Here we have an individual who clearly has a radical agenda, an individual who insists that only he is in possession of the true facts (despite what others personal experiences may be, and despite any objective record of facts to the contrary), and that any calls for formal verification, cites, sources, whatnot, is just a “political” tactic by his opponents. And what do you do?

Nothing. Do you have any smallest particle of doubt that if the press strongly called out this sort of behaviour, if they – for example – denounced in no uncertain terms the leadership of the Republican party as deliberately acting in ways to hurt the country as a whole for narrow partisan advantage that this sort of behaviour would be greatly courtailed? That if the fairness doctrine were alive and well and vigorously enforced, that hate radio, Fox News etc. would not be the powers that they are today in molding public opinion?

Let me put this another way: What do you think the purpose is of mechanisms such as peer review? Do you think that (in the abstract at least), they serve a useful, a “good”, function in terms of the quality of what does get published?

269

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 6:12 pm

Unfortunately RD many contributors and commentators at Crooked Timber seem a little too willing to sacrifice free speech.
Die Gedanken sind frei.

270

Sandwichman 07.29.11 at 6:50 pm

John @267, a curious document in that it highlights the role of the BNP and Nick Griffin without once in 170 or so pages mentioning “cultural Marxism” or the Frankfurt School in the BNP ideology and only referring twice to “political correctness.”

see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VL64CNHM64&feature=player_embedded

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adam@nope.com 07.29.11 at 6:59 pm

@ Lizardbreath 252
“I think most pro-lifers actually aren’t all that strongly bothered by the immorality of abortion, rather than the immorality of women getting to screw around without suffering for it.”

That’s just intellectually lazy.

If anti-abortion protesters were primarily interested in punishing women for having sex by forcing them to have children, then they would be against women having access to contraception. But there is a broad national concensus in favor of women having access to contraception.

Furthermore, support for making abortion illegal in all or most cases is relatively consistent across age groups and genders, so it is hard to argue that this opposition arises from a specific animosity towards women.

272

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 7:05 pm

“If anti-abortion protesters were primarily interested in punishing women for having sex by forcing them to have children, then they would be against women having access to contraception. But there is a broad national concensus in favor of women having access to contraception.”

Citation needed. In fact many pro-life groups oppose contraception and/or federal funding for contraception. Read this New York Times Article for more:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/magazine/07contraception.html

273

Popeye 07.29.11 at 7:13 pm

But there is a broad national concensus in favor of women having access to contraception.

Right, and the only thing opposing the broad national consensus are the scrappy underdogs that make up the pr0-life movement.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 7:29 pm

Surely there must many various species of ‘pro-life’: from religious fundamentalists, to nationalists (ethnic or state), to a version of humanist ethics (which is probably the case with Sebastian).

275

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 7:40 pm

Henri I would say any version of “humanist ethics” would be incompatible with trying to control a women’s body.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 7:55 pm

Of course, but “to control woman’s body” is a tendentious framing, a slogan. It’s certainly a dilemma, I agree with that.

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John 07.29.11 at 7:56 pm

@Sandwichman
Thanks for the link and the others youve posted as this thread went bizarrely off course. I’m coming at this from a significantly less informed position than you, (ie I just really dislike Mark Steyn), so your postings, links and website have been extremely useful, interesting and informative, which has always been the main strength of CT, the opportunity to learn from people that actually appear to know what their talking about. (Not that the current revival of Roe vs Wade hasnt been an eye opener)

278

Kaveh 07.29.11 at 7:57 pm

Contributing to the epistemic environment in which people like Ledeen and Pipes and Geller have so much influence is the fact that we give a pass to islamophobia and arabophobia in the US (and Europe?) in a way that isn’t done for any other prejudice I can name–certainly not any that has led to violence in recent memory (at least in the US). Like Roger Ebert (or was it Siskel?), not AFAIK famed as an apologist for Islam, remarked about Not Without My Daughter, you couldn’t make a movie like that about any other ethnic or religious group. That was back in the 80s.

And even here, Watson Ladd, who has outright lied in other thread(s) about the content of link(s) he posted… if he started his opening comment with that remark (that they live in self-inflicted misery) about any group other than Arabs, would we have been treating him as someone you could potentially persuade with facts? Somebody who has been already been blatantly dishonest about a particular subject (as Wattson was in an earlier thread) is probably not a good candidate for persuading with facts concerning that subject. They are (at best) somebody who wants to convince people of a view they can’t prove and won’t reconsider. Then again, responding to trolls with reasoned arguments seems to be SOP at CT. But in the wider media environment, where you have people like William Kristol invited on The Daily Show, and Christopher Hitchens being lauded by The Awl, and islamophobia not treated like an actual prejudice the way we (at least the entirety of the left) treat homophobia, that certainly gives a lot of cover to islamophobes like Geller and Wilders, and to their more devoted followers, who can pass as “critics of Islam” outside of lefty circles.

@269 MPAVictoria, an all-too easy answer: that doesn’t mean virulent islamophobes should be censored by the state, any more than we censor or ban the KKK, but encouraging fierce social pressure against certain types of speech doesn’t seem to me to run afoul of the larger goal of safeguarding free expression. I don’t see why we should treat Pam Geller differently from white supremacists.

As for the main topic, and also going back to another recent subject of discussion here, I think these attacks are all the more reason why we should think hard about how to fashion a leftist politics that is both multiculturalist and pro-labor. My view on this has always been that we need to fashion a vision of what our happy, multicultural society looks like or should look like that is attractive on its own. We also should be very careful to avoid being too precious about how we praise immigration and the contributions of immigrants, and also not hesitate to be very harsh in criticizing the alternatives. In a US context, let us remind people that this is the land of New York pizza, Bruce Lee, bagels, and The Jersey Shore (and maybe throw in a musician or two that everybody’s heard of). Even if you don’t particularly like any of the above, to be American means to live in a country where we have things like this, and the US without them would be unrecognizable (in a very bad way). I’m also sure this could be done in a way that doesn’t make the South, the Midwest, or some form of “Middle America” the Other of this multiculturalist national vision. I think this is the best response to this (sadly, and surprisingly) increasingly troubled cultural climate in which islamophobes seem to thrive.

279

roac 07.29.11 at 8:01 pm

Everyone here knows that most pro-lifers are not at all concerned about babies. They are concerned about punishing “slutty” women for having sex.

Every word of this is true, if you take “most” to mean “the most vocal segment of the pro-life movement.” Meaning the male-dominated segment, the Pope and all the evangelical patriarchs.

It has become apparent to me however that there is a less vocal segment of the population, made up largely of lower-middle-class women, who oppose abortion because it interferes with the central dynamic of the society in which they were raised, which is:

(1) Boy and girl have sex;
(2) Girl gets pregnant;
(3) Families cluster round and apply whatever pressure is required to insure that
(4) Boy marries girl, gets a job, settles down and starts supporting a family.

(4) is the objective; the concern is that abortion breaks the chain of causation that makes it happen. The people who think this way are under no illusions that teenagers aren’t going to have sex; they don’t worry about that. They worry that their daughters will have sex with somebody who is the wrong color, or the wrong religion, or will not settle down satisfactorily to harness when the inevitable happens.

This is why the revelation of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy bolstered her mother’s support rather than diminishing it. The central fact of the narrative, for these folks, was the timely appearance — as it appeared then — of the paternal shotgun. By (appearing to) choose forced marriage over abortion or single motherhood, Palin communicated that she was one of them.

280

Sandwichman 07.29.11 at 8:10 pm

Kaveh @278: “…we need to fashion a vision of what our happy, multicultural society looks like or should look like that is attractive on its own.”

see Ugo Mattei, The State, the Market, and some Preliminary Question about the Commons

“The concept of the commons can provide today exactly the necessary tools, both legally and politically, to addressing the incremental marginalization of social justice. Being outside of the State/Market duopoly, the Commons, as an institutional framework, presents an alternative legal paradigm, providing for more equitable distribution of resources and as a direct consequence, social justice.”

281

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 8:47 pm

“Of course, but “to control woman’s body” is a tendentious framing, a slogan. It’s certainly a dilemma, I agree with that.”

Actually Henri it is not a slogan. If you deny a woman the right to a legal and safe abortion you are exerting control over her body.

282

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 8:50 pm

“@269 MPAVictoria, an all-too easy answer: that doesn’t mean virulent islamophobes should be censored by the state, any more than we censor or ban the KKK, but encouraging fierce social pressure against certain types of speech doesn’t seem to me to run afoul of the larger goal of safeguarding free expression. I don’t see why we should treat Pam Geller differently from white supremacists.”

I actually think supporting free speech, particularly unpopular speech, is never the easy answer. It is however the right one. As to your comments regarding social pressure I agree with them whole heartedly. The answer to speech we don’t like is, please forgive the cliche, more speech.
/Die Gedanken sind frei and so on.

283

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 8:59 pm

If you deny a woman the right to a legal and safe abortion you are exerting control over her body.

So then, you refuse to give any consideration at all to the ‘pro-life’ position; abortion to you is no different than removing a tumor. Well, fine, this means that you’re a ‘pro-choice’ fundamentalist. There’s nothing to talk about.

284

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 9:06 pm

“So then, you refuse to give any consideration at all to the ‘pro-life’ position; abortion to you is no different than removing a tumor. Well, fine, this means that you’re a ‘pro-choice’ fundamentalist. There’s nothing to talk about.”

And you apparently do not believe that women should have control over their own bodies. I guess you are right Henri, we do have nothing to talk about.

285

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 9:20 pm

Where did I say that do not believe that women should have control over their own bodies? I didn’t. I said it’s a dilemma. Obviously.

You, on the other hand, keep insisting that abortion is about women having control over their bodies, and nothing else. Correct?

286

Watson Ladd 07.29.11 at 9:38 pm

@Kaveh: It is true that I misrepresented the content of the link to Galloway’s speech. He was not endorsing the specific act of untargeted bombardment, merely proclaiming those who engaged in it legitimate resistance at the moment it was the front page story of so many news sources. I later retracted my claim that he had endorsed the act itself. I’m also not sure what you are saying about self-inflicted misery: North Korea also has inflicted massive damage upon itself, only in North Korea there is quite a bit to support a single puppetmaster theory of history. I don’t believe in political conspiracy theories, especially those that have the West encouraging other countries to not have elections, ban women from driving, etc. when the exact opposite has been going on. Or perhaps the Arab world is happy to be unfree? I don’t think that’s the case as we’ve recently seen.

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was not forced. It was from the moment it happened regressive, and it revived Islamism across the Muslim world. Since that time liberalism has been on the decline in the Arab world. I don’t think this is somehow due to some essential feature of Islam, so much as due to Stalinism and the liquidation of the Left in Iran that followed it.

I’m not sure what your asking for in a multicultural society. Everyone can already participate freely in religious life and cultural ceremonies in the US. (There are some difficult edge cases, but by and large we have religious toleration in excess of that the First Amendment requires). What is not permitted is the infringement upon ones personal freedom that caste based law ala Malaysia is. If participation in Islamic culture is so odious that it is not freely chosen, it deserves to die or be forced to transform itself. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently called for the acceptance of FGM in England. If that is multiculturalism, I want no part of it.

287

MPAVictoria 07.29.11 at 9:43 pm

I thought you said we have nothing to talk about Henri?

288

adam@nope.com 07.29.11 at 9:59 pm

@272

source provided:
http://www.factsforhealthcare.com/pressroom/NPR_report_OralContraceptives.pdf

Kinda hard to argue that there isn’t broad support for contraception when nearly 80% of the population wants the government to subsidize the pill.

289

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.29.11 at 9:59 pm

MPA, I did, but you kept talking, and accused me of wanting to control women’s bodies. I felt compelled to clear up the misunderstanding. In fact, I don’t care about abortions; it’s just that I can see how someone might.

290

Wilfred 07.29.11 at 11:24 pm

A unfiying thread to this thread seems to be the opposition between secularism and non-secularism and/or that between materialism and idealism. Intererestingly, and not completely OT, most Islamists accept the legality/ethics of abortion within the first trimester.

For the rest, Habermas put it best when he said that the religous person, in the West at least, always is accomodating to the dictates of secular modernity and liberalism, while the secular modern liberal has long won the battle against the religous/Idealists.

I would ask which side maintains the hope for a dynamic balance. I teach in the Gulf, where I tease my women students that the closer they get to the capital, the farther back their hijabs go back on their heads. Full on Liberalism, today’s version, would have them in mothballs. Is that compromise?

291

Jack Strocchi 07.30.11 at 12:11 am

dsquared @ #219:

The phrase “certain strains” is doing the work of Atlas in this sentence; carrying such a massive an unfair burden that it will surely end up going Galt. And when “certain strains” finally shrugs, it is going to be awfully difficult to find an actual environmentalist or movement to take its place,

Douhat’s “certain strains” is bearing exactly the same load as Bertram’s “helped to build an epistemic environment”. His point was not to demonize democratic and law-abiding environmentalists, who are for the most part worthy folk. But rather to show how absurd and unfair it is to demonize democratic and law-abiding nationalists, who are equally worthy folk.

I would add that making vague hand-waving gestures towards vast impersonal forces does not add much to the sum of human knowledge. A bit of Popper comes in handy here.

I will grant you that the average eco-terrorist has a long way to go before they arrive at the mass-homicidal destination of Norway-nutter. But I put that down to a certain methodical obsessiveness in his Nordic culture rather than democratic nationalism’s supposedly demonic nature.

More generally, Darwinian group selection theory entails that the ying of in-group co-operation will forever co-exist with the yang of out-group competition. Its way past time for liberals to come to terms with this dualistic aspect of human nature rather than forever mounting their high horse to denounce it.

Of course we all want the out-group competition to express in non-destructive ways, so it would be nice if nationalists were more constructive in their criticism’s of multi-cultures. For one thing they should stop being mean to Islam which is after all a religion and therefore makes its adherents “better than they would otherwise be” (Evelyn Waugh).

But liberals should return the favour by conceding the obvious, that the political prospects for their social schemes depend on the strength of in-group co-operation. Its no accident that the democracy, nationalism and socialism all sit nicely together on the Enlightenment platter. And that the blessings of life in the Occident are no accident, no matter how much Jared Diamond labours mightily to prove that water can run up-hill and down-hill with equal facility.

292

rm 07.30.11 at 12:26 am

Following roac @279 (and maybe the first sentence or two of “an adult” [sic]’s post before it hardens into offensive and weirdly absolute pronouncements)

,

I do think political discourse, especially among the general public on big, complex issues,

is

better understood in narrative terms

than

in philosophical terms.

What I mean is that people are not actually holding -isms in their heads. Secularism, materialism, idealism, liberalism, do not describe what most people would tell you about their beliefs. People more often tell you about their beliefs in narrative, which can mean that they tell a story, but more broadly, they show you a picture of what they think the world looks like, what its moral rules are, what kinds of people live in it. Roac’s story of teen pregnancy does seem like a natural, common-sense development to millions of working-class Americans. The proposition that the pro-life side wants to punish women and control their bodies is completely true, but only comes out as a philosophical description, after one analyzes the positions the pro-life movement takes: anti-contraception, anti-health-care, anti-abortion-effectively-only-for-poor-people. In their own minds it’s absurd to say they want to control women; instead, they have a narrative model of the world in which all of these positions fit naturally into a natural order. We call it patriarchy, they call it a self-evident way it should be. They have a narrative understanding of who they are, who men and women are, whose moral rules count, that informs their story.

293

rm 07.30.11 at 12:27 am

I have no idea how the strikeouts got in there. Please read through them if you bother to read it.

294

Andrew F. 07.30.11 at 12:38 am

dsquared @210: I’m not interested in defending either of those arguments. The only point I’m making is that “lots and lots of pro-life people use arguments which logically imply that millions of their fellow citizens are the moral equivalent of murders, and that Planned Parenthood is guilty of crimes similar in scale to the worst atrocities of the twentieth century. This is silly, and they know it’s silly, and they should knock it off

Dude, your assertion that pro-lifers are being silly is BASED on your argument that the premise “abortion is murder” or “abortion is gravely wrong” compels violence. Should we jettison your justification and just focus on the conclusion? Examples from your posts above include:

@6: This has always struck me as a key point with respect to the abortion debate – if you really believed that abortion was the moral equivalent of infanticide, and thus really believed that the society you were living in was exterminating babies at a much worse rate than Nazi Germany, surely this would mandate some quite radical action on your part?

@75 But as a response to the literal genocide of literally millions of literal babies? Come on. It’s perfectly OK and indeed even sensible to say that you can’t join in the fight today because you are wearing your best trousers. But if that’s your view, then you are demonstrating by your actions that, to you, the cause you are talking about is not as important as it was to combat Hitler, and so if you claim otherwise you are going to look silly.

and

@95: This is why I coined that snappy phrase “own your bullshit”. Pro-lifers are happy to bullshit that life begins at conception and that abortion is child-murder, but when you ask them if they are prepared to own that bullshit, they don’t want to know.

295

Watson Ladd 07.30.11 at 1:03 am

@Wilfred, what would dynamic balance mean? The dictates of secular modernity are nothing more then the application of reason in all things. It is not that I have a problem with Islam or with Catholicism, or with any faith. It has a place in many peoples lives. It does not have a place in the lives of their neighbors.

@Jack: Nationalism was a response to the defeat of liberalism in 1848. Republican France set out to kill the kings, not simply confine the blessings of freedom to France.

296

Jack Strocchi 07.30.11 at 1:36 am

John @ #221 misleadingly quote-mines the Derb and Martin Amis:

Neither Derbyshire nor Amis are in the business of building an “epistemic environment” that “promotes or condones [terrorist] violence against Muslims”. They were both discussing the potential policies of the state not the actual preferences of uncivil society. Derbyshire was musing about the likelihood of a nuclear exchange between Islamic nations and the West. Amis was talking about the likelihood of draconian laws being passed to control unruly Muslim populations.

Neither of these “elites scribblers” were inciting xenophobic vigilantes to take the law into their own hands. And neither were overly enthusiastic about these darker prospects.

Also, its worth remembering that Breivik attacked Norwegian natives, not Muslim exotics. Just as McVeigh attacked a government child care creche rather than the FBI. We are dealing with seriously confused minds here.

John misleadingly quote-mines the Europol terrorism round-up for 2010:

right wing extremism…seems to be more of a problem than Islamic extremism

The IRA and ETA and similar European separatists are not “Right-wing” by any stretch of the imagination. And they generally confine their activities to “home turf”. And the report you referenced drew the opposite conclusion about overall trends in terrorist group identity and activity:

In 2010 611 individuals were arrested for terrorist-related offences, of which 179 were linked to Islamist terrorism, representing a 50% increase on the previous year. Meanwhile Islamist terrorist groups issued 46 threat statements to interests in the EU, which also represents an increase on 2009.

297

Jack Strocchi 07.30.11 at 2:24 am

Having covered my Right-wing flank on the nativist issue I will acknowledge that the main-stream Right-wing in the US and other Anglo-powers has lost the plot over the past decade or so, on just about every other main issue.

Obviously in strategic policy since 911 but also on economic policy with GFC and ecologic policy with AGW. The Tea Party is not especially xenophobic but it does show what happens when adult supervision (GH Bush, Scowcroft, Schultz) is no longer available and the fringe start to become main-stream.

I think that the problem with the contemporary Right-wing is that success went to their heads. By the turn of the millennium they had won the Class War against unions, the Cold War against commies and the Culture War against gangstas. So we had this huge and hugely successful Right-wing movement with no more policy mountains to climb. Naturally it turned to pure politics for its own sake, which can only end in tears.

298

MPAVictoria 07.30.11 at 3:13 am

Sorry Henri, did I misunderstand you? You said we have nothing to discuss on this issue but you keep posting comments directed at me.

299

Jayson Virissimo 07.30.11 at 3:46 am

And therefore, I’ve always presumed, that given the tiny minority of people holding the anti-abortion position who even do so much as to give up a Saturday afternoon holding up a protest sign outside what they believe to be a mass murder camp, it must surely be the case that at some deepest level of rationality, the anti-choice side of that debate must be aware that they don’t really believe that life begins at conception, and that their views about the wrongness of abortion have some other basis.

How many of your Saturdays have you given up to protest slave camps in North Korea (let alone dedicating your life to their eradication)? If you haven’t given up any, does it follow that you don’t really believe in the wrongness of slave camps?

300

Sebastian H 07.30.11 at 3:47 am

Henri is saying that the dilemma is between controlling a woman’s body and intentionally extinguishing another innocent human life. This dilemma becomes more and more sharply drawn as the unborn child becomes viable outside of the womb. Framing that dilemma as *purely* an issue of control of one’s own body is to deny the entire moral debate. (And usually in a way that is philosophically dubious as such pro-choicers are rarely strict libertarians).

301

grumph 07.30.11 at 3:50 am

In this thread about the recent tragedy in Norway there are currently 300 comments. My web browser’s search count reveals some interesting word counts:

Norway/Norwegian occurs 31 times
Words containing “Euro” (e.g., Europe) occur 38 times
Israel/Israeli occurs 46 times

I certainly don’t know what this means, but I suspect you can guess how many readers might take it.

302

Sebastian H 07.30.11 at 3:50 am

BTW, is it possible that we are confusing the loudest pro-life voices with those having the most common pro-life opinions?

303

rm 07.30.11 at 3:50 am

With a few notable exceptions, the Tea Party is not especially xenophobic.

304

MPAVictoria 07.30.11 at 3:55 am

Sebastian, have you donated a kidney? Come on you have two so you would probably live if you donated one. In fact one could argue that by greedily keeping both your kidneys for yourself you are murdering someone who needs a kidney transplant. You bastard.

Either people have the right to control their bodies or they don’t. I believe that women have that right and that anyone seeking to place restrictions on their right to choose is attempting to exert inappropriate control over the bodily integrity of another. To me the issue is that simple.

And to be clear what Henri said is that we have nothing to discuss, though for some reason he keeps posting comments directed at me.

305

Sebastian H 07.30.11 at 6:51 am

Yes to you it is, to about 70% of the US population it isn’t.

306

wolfgang 07.30.11 at 7:53 am

@wilfred: “A unfiying thread to this thread seems to be the opposition between [..] materialism and idealism.”

In other words Locke and Kant *did* contribute to the ‘epistemic environment’ which made Breivik possible?
Of course we should not be surprised that an extremist who criticizes rational thought opens the door to irrational actions …

307

John 07.30.11 at 8:19 am

@Jack297
I wasnt arguing that Derbyshire and Amis had helped create an “epistemic environment”, doing so in a convincing manner is probably above my paygrade, but was answering your statement that
“it would be politically convenient if Left-liberals could quote one “elite scribbler” who actually promoted or condoned violence against Muslims”
I think the quotes show that.
Your right that I did simplify and misrepresent the Europol report, although I did offer a qualifier which I guess was mealy mouthed, so I apologize for that. What the report does is highlight the stupidity of the remarks by the likes of Derbyshire and Amis, and Steyn and Phillips, by putting the threat posed by ‘islamic terrorism’ into context i.e its basically a f$$king nuisance rather than a reason to openly discuss nuclear armagedon or to make “The Muslim community…suffer until it gets its house in order.”
Whether theres a rise in Islamaphobia and attacks on Muslims, I think theres some evidence for this, as I linked above
http://centres.exeter.ac.uk/emrc/publications/IAMHC_revised_11Feb11.pdf
Why this might be Ill leave to others to decide. My problem with the opinions of middle brow pundits like Phillips Steyn Derb Bawer etc, is that their rethoric is stupid, over the top and factually innacurrate, rather than their creating an “epistemic environment”, and that they have some responsibility to think before they talk, especially if they actually believe the threat posed by Muslim immigration is so severe it could lead to bouts of genocide in Western Europe.

308

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.30.11 at 9:07 am

I’m curious if people with a strong opinion on sacrosanct bodily integrity (our precious bodily fluids!), who don’t shy away from expressing it publicly, are at all concerned that they might be contributing to an epistemic environment in which someone might eventually mow down a bunch of ‘anti-choice’ politicians, who are, obviously, just as bad as the Nazis?

309

Hidari 07.30.11 at 10:30 am

‘In 2010 611 individuals were arrested for terrorist-related offences, of which 179 were linked to Islamist terrorism, representing a 50% increase on the previous year. Meanwhile Islamist terrorist groups issued 46 threat statements to interests in the EU, which also represents an increase on 2009.’

Of course I’m sure we are all grown up enough to realise that this can be read both ways. Does the ‘50%’ increase mean that there has been, objectively, a 50% increase in Islamic terrorism? Or is it just that European law enforcement agencies have become much more effective in disrupting such Islamic terrorist networks?

The second statement of course is only frightening if

a: you care and
b: one is confident that European police agencies and politicians are fully capable of making an unbiased and objective judgement on what constitutes a ‘threat statement’ (a phrase I must confess I have never encountered before).

310

Bexley 07.30.11 at 10:31 am

Since this thread has drifted massively off topic anyway …

Henri is saying that the dilemma is between controlling a woman’s body and intentionally extinguishing another innocent human life. This dilemma becomes more and more sharply drawn as the unborn child becomes viable outside of the womb. Framing that dilemma as purely an issue of control of one’s own body is to deny the entire moral debate. (And usually in a way that is philosophically dubious as such pro-choicers are rarely strict libertarians).

Really – why is it more sharply drawn at viability? If we had some massive advance in technology that allowed a foetus to be viable outside the womb at 12 weeks would abortions after 12 weeks bother you?

311

Kaveh 07.30.11 at 12:11 pm

@286 I was thinking more about your citing International Jewish Antizionists as proof of the existence of left-wing antisemitism, but that other thing too.

“The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was not forced. It was from the moment it happened regressive, and it revived Islamism across the Muslim world. Since that time liberalism has been on the decline in the Arab world.” (emphasis mine)

Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with this. You are either trolling or horrifically misinformed about history and the Middle Eastern society.

Just to get some of the low-hanging fruit, Saudi Arabia, as someone above pointed out, (or even all the Gulf states put together) is a small and unrepresentative fraction of the Arab world. Liberalism is no more in decline in the Middle East or the Muslim world as a whole than it is in the rest of the world (which, maybe it is in general… it arguably has been throughout Europe, in Turkey, and in Iran; it definitely isn’t in Egypt and Tunisia). Obviously Middle Easterners are to a great extent responsible for whatever happiness or misery exists in the Middle East, but so are things like the invasion of Iraq (or is that also the Iraqis’ fault, somehow?), the bombing of Lebanon by Israel, foreign support of dictators, including coups d’etat to bring them to power (I’m not at all surprised you mentioned Iran 1979 and left out Iran 1953 and the Shah’s massive persecution of liberal political parties in the years between; if this was out of ignorance, it’s shameful ignorance from somebody claiming to be informed about the Middle East, and if it’s not out of ignorance, then it’s an extremely poor argument you’re making) (Saudi support for the Bush family and Rupert Mudoch is not on the same scale as US support for Mubarak)…

Seriously, I mean this in the nicest way possible: your views on the Middle East are very uninformed and/or misinformed. Do some reading and stop trying to have a discussion based on stereotypes, or whatever you heard from FOX News or read in JPost.

312

Kaveh 07.30.11 at 12:25 pm

@303 Depending on what else they read, they might conclude that more and more people are aware of the political and ideological links between neocon and far-right “pro-Israel” politics and popular islamophobia in the US and Europe.

313

Dan 07.30.11 at 2:07 pm

MPAVictoria,

Since we’re talking about abortion in the context of owning one’s own bullshit, it’s interesting to see where your view leads. For example, suppose a mother whose child is already born decides that she no longer wants to feed her kid. It seems obvious to me that if you believe without exception that women should have control over their own bodies, you have to balk at any legal restrictions on allowing one’s baby to starve. Are you prepared to say this?

(It’s not like this is a idiosyncratic view held by just a few online posters either — arguably the most famous and most cited pro-abortion article, Thomson’s “A Defence of Abortion,” has this consequence too. Will pro-abortion folks own their own bullshit? Let’s see.)

314

Sebastian H 07.30.11 at 3:07 pm

“Really – why is it more sharply drawn at viability?”

Because at viability there is a much weaker dilemma between a woman’s bodily integrity and the life of the baby. At that point you can “get it out of my body” without killing it.

315

Pete 07.30.11 at 3:17 pm

It seems obvious to me that if you believe without exception that women should have control over their own bodies, you have to balk at any legal restrictions on allowing one’s baby to starve.

What? This makes no sense. Once the child is born it’s no longer in the woman’s body.

316

politicalfootball 07.30.11 at 3:32 pm

Not that dsquared needs my help, but Andrew F, I think you are misreading here:

Dude, your assertion that pro-lifers are being silly is BASED on your argument that the premise “abortion is murder” or “abortion is gravely wrong” compels violence.

What it compels is political support for the sort of stern measures we take against murderers. Nothing violent in that at all, unless you consider prison terms “violence.”

And surely under many moral frameworks, the abortion-is-murder scenario at least permits violence. Just as the moral framework of a Glenn Beck, at a minimum, permits violence against Muslims. If bin Laden & Co. really were capable of establishing the worldwide Caliphate on the terms Beck describes, why shouldn’t we be glad that others take up arms, even if we lack the fortitude to so so ourselves?

Owning one’s own bullshit, however, does have its drawbacks. This is, after all, what Breivik did.

317

Donald Johnson 07.30.11 at 5:02 pm

“Norway/Norwegian occurs 31 times
Words containing “Euro” (e.g., Europe) occur 38 times
Israel/Israeli occurs 46 times

I certainly don’t know what this means, but I suspect you can guess how many readers might take it.”

I take your post to be a passive aggressive accusation of anti-semitism. Israel is mentioned in almost any discussion of Islamophobia, by both Islamophobes and anti-Islamophobes. This is because both sides see the I/P conflict as central to the topic.

318

Wilfred 07.30.11 at 5:38 pm

Things may have gone off topic but a unifying theme connected to the original point is how do people act when confronted with dilemmas presented as irreconcilable differences. The epistemic environment that produced Breivik is polluted with either us or them existential crises. The Muslims will take over and we will be eliminated. Many Muslims fear that Islam is in danger – which makes them obligated to do something, anything.

How does one act in the face of existential danger? Of course, most if not all of these crises are manufactured bullshit but it hardly matters when everything is presented that way. Electronic transmission of paranoia began at least as early as Y2K – since then it has been one thing after another, with the latest being the imminent American debtageddon which will surely end life as we know it. This only months after the bailout aimed at preventing the then current sky from falling on our collective heads.

Abortion, I/P, Eurabia, are all reduced to Solomonic choices.

319

John 07.30.11 at 6:06 pm

“Norway/Norwegian occurs 31 times
Words containing “Euro” (e.g., Europe) occur 38 times
Israel/Israeli occurs 46 times

I certainly don’t know what this means, but I suspect you can guess how many readers might take it.”

But equally, how often has the word abortion been mentioned in a post about a massacre in Oslo, and how many of those Israel/Israeli references are connected to that conversation (ie ‘but what if your baby was an Israeli’)
If the answer is none, then give it time. Theyl find a way

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grumph 07.30.11 at 7:03 pm

“I take your post to be a passive aggressive accusation of anti-semitism. Israel is mentioned in almost any discussion of Islamophobia, by both Islamophobes and anti-Islamophobes.”

That was not at all the intent–the strongest I’d go would be to suggest that there’s an odd obsession with Israel. But that aside, I find it pretty odd that there’s so little discussion of Norway itself, or even things like the Danish cartoons and the subsequent reaction. Do we really need to look to elite scribblers for the source of Islamophobia, or are far more obvious contributors before us?

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Kaveh 07.30.11 at 8:19 pm

@322 the strongest I’d go would be to suggest that there’s an odd obsession with Israel

Just to be clear, (and by the by, I should point out that my first post made no mention of Israel or any direct mention of the lobby) a lot of people, most notably Philip Weiss, have made the argument that a certain kind of pro-Israel and anti-Arab chauvinism, prevalent (especially) among Jewish Americans, is the emotional motivation for most of the chief professional purveyors of islamophobia (notably the neocons), at least those who are not Christian chauvinists (they have also been in the islamophobia business for a while, I think). The organizational and financial clout of the Israel lobby amplifies these voices and gives them political power and a megaphone. To give just one of many examples, Mortimer Zuckerman, editor in chief of US News since 1984, owner of that paper and Atlantic Monthly, has been writing bizarre and troubling screeds against multiculturalism since at least the late 90s (trying to find a link to one I read around 99, will post if I find it). He was also president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Associations, and editorialized for invading Iraq in 2002-3, and even now, the main “Jewish issue” CPMAJO is concerned with is Iran’s nuclear program. Marty Peretz is another good example, also major media mogul, also has a record of saying very racist things. Weiss also points out a lot of non-powerbrokers who simply have a blind spot for Muslim or Arab interests or suffering. I remember having enjoyed Roger Cohen’s reporting on the Green Revolution in Iran so much at the time, then being shocked to see him write an editorial titled “The Captive Arab Mind”. Find me an editorial in a major American paper about ANY other minority group’s “captive mind” (or even just “The [ethnic group] Mind”). Weiss has argued that it’s a combination of the cultural and institutional environment in some American media organizations that makes this possible (other major publications, such as the LA Times, are notably much less or not at all arabophobic/islamophobic).

Weiss and others on his blog have done extensive research and writing about this, as have neocon watchers like Jim Lobe and others writing at Lobelog. The chief voices trying to make islamophobia acceptable in the US are neocons, and Israel is a major if not central concern for them. And of course, there’s direct references to some of these figures in Breivik’s writing. So making Israel a big part of the discussion is a reflection of the findings of the most careful, thorough journalism on the issue, not of the CT posters’ whims. If you want to challenge that consensus (which is what it seems to be, at least to me), you’ll need to do more than wonder why people are talking about Israel so much.

Otherwise, I agree the conversation could benefit from more attention to Europe- and Norway-specific matters, but the topic of the original post was about the intellectual side of islamophobia and extreme opposition multiculturalism (and note the title: “epistemic environment”), and that’s what I assume most people commenting here are well informed about, not about the particulars of Norwegian politics. As for the cartoons incident, it would be interesting to get into how different efforts to encourage public civility or crack down on hate speech are perceived, and what direct effects they have.

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Kaveh 07.30.11 at 8:39 pm

A couple revisions: going back and looking at the OP again, stuff going on specifically in Europe, such as the response to the cartoons incident, is definitely part of the epistemic environment. But even there, what Breiviks knew about that incident (and the govt’s response and everything) was still mediated by whatever his news sources were.

Also, here’s a good piece by Max Blumenthal where he covers all the links between “pro-Israel” islamophobes and the far right.

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Jack Strocchi 07.30.11 at 9:10 pm

rm @ #305 said:

With a few notable exceptions, the Tea Party is not especially xenophobic.

The TP’s overwhelming priority is economic cutting, not ethnic cleansing. They mainly want to reduce the size of the US government, not rid the US of colored people.

Can you point to even one “hate crime” that a paid up member of the TP has committed? Can you point to any efforts the TP to shut-down government based on xenophobic program? No, I didn’t think so.

Of course the TP is opposed to illegal immigration. But when opposition to crime is considered a crime, well then we may as well draw stumps and all call it a day.

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Phil 07.30.11 at 10:29 pm

Dsquared’s point about what it would be like to be someone in this cognitive milieu who isn’t unstable or damaged, but who actually believes the implicit factual claims made reminds me a lot of the UFO/abduction scene. A number of people have written million-selling books describing encounters with aliens who can stop clocks, walk through walls, abduct human foetuses and Much, Much More. If you believed these stories to be literally, factually true – if you thought that there really were aliens out there using reality-warping technology to pursue a deep and prurient interest in the human race – what would it do to your sense of priorities? Surely you’d devote all your time and energy to warning the world about this appalling threat. On a sadder note, a guy who went to the same church as me was sectioned at around the time he should have been doing his A Levels; he’d always been a rather intense and straightforward believer, and one morning he woke up with the conviction that he absolutely must tell the good news about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, immediately. I mean, their souls were at risk – what could possibly be more important?

Some things we “believe” rather than believing. It’s hard to believe some things without either becoming some kind of maniac or acting like one. A bit of circumspection from particularly vocal “believers” would be nice.

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Watson Ladd 07.31.11 at 12:44 am

Kaveh, I am very aware of 1953. I’m also aware that Trudeh and the Trotskyist branch (forgot its name) went off and decided to try and off the Shah any way they could, then got themselves destroyed trying that. When 1979 came they were unable to seize power, and so the sole source of power did so with their help. Then they were murdered in return, and this is fairly unsurprising given how the ideology they represented failed.

Again, I’m not claiming there isn’t a history of modernizing political projects in the Islamic world, just that they’ve all ended very badly and no longer remain political forces. Trying to hang ones hope on the Egyptian spring is likely to result in disappointment: the Muslim Brotherhood is strong and disciplined, and can cut a deal with the army far more easily then liberals can.

Also, you will hear talk about a certain “will it play in Petoria” or “blue collar sensibilities” as terms of discourse. These are ideal types. Just as is “Islamism” or the “Arab Street”. What do we talk about without ideal types when it comes to discussions about ideology?

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Britta 07.31.11 at 9:35 am

I just want to echo what Norwegian Guy, Emma from Sydney and John say. On a post about a severe tragedy in Norway, can we PLEASE keep it at least SLIGHTLY on topic? There’s a lot to discuss in this post, and abortions in the US is not one of them. I know Norway is a tiny country and apparently irrelevant to most people who comment on this blog, but it’s slightly offensive to turn everything to USA USA all the time. This isn’t about the US (unless we’re talking about Americans who’ve influenced Breivik), so please, show a little respect for the Norwegians who might be reading this blog post and try to treat this subject matter seriously.

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Kaveh 07.31.11 at 9:57 am

@327 That’s, like, a brief history of mid-century Iran based on CIA propaganda. I mean, you write as if the main activity of the Tudeh party (not “Trudeh”, there’s no R) was assassinating the Shah, and that Iran was about to turn Trotskyist if they took over. This is extremely silly, but it’s a perspective one encounters all too commonly–ignore any facts of Middle Eastern history that don’t involve violence in some way. Look at the language Watson uses: “seize power”, “murdered in return”, “the ideology they represented failed”. This is like summarizing the history of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-century US as “There were some protests, then King was assassinated, then the Black Panthers started to provoke violent clashes with the police, so the US imprisoned a whole bunch of black people over the next few decades because everybody was afraid of how violent they all were.” All the strikes and demonstrations, the ideological debates, don’t mention them, only mention who fought who and who killed or tried to kill who, and in such a context, no violent event seems particularly out of place. Maybe throw in a lament or two about how violent a “neighborhood” it is.

Not to mention that if your awareness of leftist and liberal politics in the Middle East is limited to “a history of modernizing political projects”, that doesn’t exactly reassure one about your historical knowledge.

Also (because even reasonable people might be confused about this due to the current media environment), here’s Juan Cole on the Muslim Brotherhoods’ and Salafis’ (learn the difference) prospects in Egypt (see #4). Every single one my several politically-involved and/or well-informed Egyptian friends has been optimistic about Egyptian attitudes towards the Muslim Brotherhood and their political prospects in the country (i.e., they are not taking power anytime soon). Also, most these friends are non-Muslim religious minorities who live or have family in Egypt. But maybe Watson Ladd wants to educate Egyptians about the Islamist danger lurking in their midst?

re Peoria and how things will play there, do you think they don’t watch The Jersey Shore or Bruce Lee movies in Peoria? Treating Peorians as simplistic yokels satisfies a combination of nationalistic xenophobia (wanting to imagine a pure, simplified “real America”), and educated people’s classism. This leaves us with an easy choice.

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Emma in Sydney 07.31.11 at 10:36 am

I come from a country with a small population at the edge of the American empire. We have a right wing political party, which has recently become enamoured of American-style rhetoric against government in general, against ‘illegal’ immigrants (which in our case are actually refugees seeking asylum and so not ‘illegal’ at all) and even against gun control, which has long been well established here (mostly by the heroes of their own party). After Norway’s recent horrific events, I find myself wondering whether there are maladjusted people here waiting to carry out such an outrage, encouraged by the intemperate rhetoric around them. Probably there are. Even here, in this peaceful, lucky, temperate backwater.
We should all try to make sure that the United States’s cold civil war does not spread.

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Andrew F. 07.31.11 at 11:15 am

politicalfootball @318: By “quite radical action” and comparing the situation – given prolife premises – to WW2, I don’t think dsquared had simply a push for new laws in mind. If his position has evolved to that view, great – though I still think it’s in error.

As to what the prolife position permits, that’s a tricky question. For most prolifers – and for the others you provided – the set of premises is much broader than you describe. A Catholic prolifer, for instance, doesn’t bring to the table JUST the premise “abortion is wrong.” She brings a host of other premises as well, and taken together these do NOT render violence to stop abortion morally permissible.

What people like Breivik, or McVeigh, or other extremists, frequently do is carve out premises from other ideologies and arguments. What they carve out must fit their basic needs in some way, and must comport with some aspect of how they view themselves, but that’s really it.

Europe’s anxiety about immigration, anxiety which for various reasons seems to be on a different order of magnitude than in the United States, is real. It is a part of the epistemic environment in which Breivik wove together his sick narrative. Any discussion about that anxiety will include viewpoints about the impact of conservative Muslims on European culture – that’s unavoidable. Premises from some of those viewpoints can be carved out for savage actions like Breivik’s. That’s also unavoidable.

But it is a bridge too far to attribute moral blame to those worried about the impact of immigration, but who did not advocate violence or anything other than legitimate political means.

In the United States, there is much less paranoia about Muslim immigration than in Europe, but there is also a much stronger tradition of distrust of government. This distrust is healthy in many way, and strengthens important features of limited government. Premises from that distrust inform public conversation, and different ideologies – and some extremists can carve out premises to use to justify violence. That too is unavoidable – ideologies are easily hacked – and it hardly means that we should attribute moral blame for McVeigh to Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry.

The way to combat extremist ideologies is not by trying to smear other viewpoints (these other viewpoints may well be idiotic and wrong, but then they should be attacked on those grounds) with guilt by some degree of association.

Instead, those extremist ideologies should be countered by a unity of what other mainstream, and less mainstream but not violent, ideologies share: a condemnation of the violence, a commitment to change by democratic means, a respect for basic human rights, and an acknowledgement of shared opposition to extremist violence.

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djr 07.31.11 at 1:15 pm

Europe’s anxiety about immigration, anxiety which for various reasons seems to be on a different order of magnitude than in the United States, is real… In the United States, there is much less paranoia about Muslim immigration than in Europe…

Really? You’d say that over the last decade the US has shown a notably more welcoming attitude to Muslim immigrants than Europe? Even ignoring the period 2001-2010, the amount of fuss made about the idea of a Muslim comunity centre being opened in New York seems to make this a dubious assertion.

Or are you just making a point about geography – that most US paranoia about immigration focuses on their neighbours to the south, whereas Europe’s focuses on our neighbours to the south and east?

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Andrew F. 07.31.11 at 1:56 pm

I think the US is much more welcoming, djr, but my opinion here isn’t based on personal experience, but on research like this: Pew Research Center: Global Attitudes Project

In the US the concern is not necessarily immigration so much as it is illegal immigration. Controversies in the US regarding immigration tend to be fought over whether to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship while remaining in the country, over the efficacy of border security, and so forth.

My biased impression is that immigration is a greater part of American culture than it is part of European cultures, and that in the US immigrants and especially their children tend to integrate into society much more quickly.

But distrust of government is more prevalent in the US than Europe, imho (no poll data handy).

So – all ideologies being hackable but not all equally compatible with a lunatic’s base identity and concerns – I would expect lunatics like Breivik, if they exist in Europe, to focus more on immigration issues, and, if they exist in America, to focus more on explicitly anti-government issues.

We can find other examples of course that extend beyond European concerns about immigration or American concerns about government. Nidal Hasan, perpetrator of the mass murder at Fort Hood, borrowed arguments against the war on terrorism from several perspectives, mixed them with more extremist and violent premises, and eventually acted. Controversy about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq certainly contributed to the “epistemic environment” in which Hasan acted, but Hasan did the ideological hacking and most importantly the acting himself.

My point is that any controversy about a deeply felt issue – regarding war, or identity, or values held important – will generate a range of viewpoints. Those viewpoints can be hacked – can be broken apart and recombined with other premises and values – to produce a violent ideology, or at least an argument for violent action. That’s unavoidable. Attributing moral blame to a viewpoint because it can be hacked into another viewpoint that supports an unethical action is erroneous – and, frankly, it is a tactic not alien to arguments used to justify the suppression of free speech.

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Kaveh 07.31.11 at 3:43 pm

Andrew F. @331:

Premises from some of those viewpoints can be carved out for savage actions like Breivik’s. That’s also unavoidable.

But it is a bridge too far to attribute moral blame to those worried about the impact of immigration, but who did not advocate violence or anything other than legitimate political means.

The arguments being made here are not guilt-by-association just because they argue that speech without explicit calls for violence can easily be understood as promoting violence. You might disagree with this argument, but the whole point being argued is that the similarities are more than superficial, so it’s not a guilt-by-association argument. Now, if you want to argue that speech not explicitly calling for violence virtually never leads to violence, then go ahead and try to argue that. IIRC studies of genocides have found otherwise.

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Kaveh 07.31.11 at 3:45 pm

Gah, second para. was supposed to be in the blockquote, too.

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Sebastian 07.31.11 at 4:23 pm

“Or are you just making a point about geography – that most US paranoia about immigration focuses on their neighbours to the south, whereas Europe’s focuses on our neighbours to the south and east?”

No, the US is more welcoming of immigrants full stop. That is of course a relative term, there are certainly periods where the US has been more welcoming than right at this moment. But while the US has lots of problems “less welcoming of immigrants than most countries in the EU” is definitely not one of them. The EU has an approximate total population of near 500million, the US about 300million. So when comparing numbers you should note that the EU has a noticeably higher base.

So neighbors to the south: the US is estimated to have about 31 million Mexican-American citizens, which represent about 2/3 of all Hispanic and Latino citizens so lets put it at a nice round 45 million. Then add the estimated 7 million undocumented Mexicans working in the US. We’re getting to some real numbers here, and that is just Hispanic peoples.

Estimated Muslim population of the EU, (including everything): about 13 million. On a much lager overall population base. Interestingly enough, on a very rough per capita basis, the percentage of total Muslim population in the EU (2.6%) is about the same as *undocumented* Mexican workers (about 2.3%). So if you don’t count any of the legal Mexican Americans (about 10%) or any of the legal citizens with Hispanic/Latino backgrounds (about 15%) you still have enough illegal Mexican immigrants to compare equally to the entire Muslim issue (whatever you want to call it) in the EU.

So no, it isn’t just a matter of which immigrants are worried about. The EU appears to have significantly more worrying at a significantly lower threshold.

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Watson Ladd 07.31.11 at 4:34 pm

@Kaveh. If you hadn’t realized I would have welcomed Iran turning Trotskyist. Your acting as though there was anything to be gained in 1979, which there might have been. But whatever the result of 1979, it wasn’t emancipation. Those with a responsibility to emancipate Iran from the chokehold of tyranny delivered it once more to a tyrant. No matter how much the left regretted this development, it happened. The mass protests against the Shah were the time to strike, to lead the masses to the overcoming of capital.

So educate me: What explains a hard core communist party handing power over to a religious fanatic whose rule has undone whatever modernizations the Shah’s regime brought, and one who killed their comrades? Was this anything more or less then the final outcome of Stalinization, in which the Left assumed that it would passively win as capital went from crisis to crisis? It was Spain, 1936 which set the pattern. At the moment of victory, Stalinism would stab the left from behind.

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novakant 07.31.11 at 4:37 pm

Those deaths were predictable, but unintentional consequences of a stupid and misguided policy, not murders.

Even assuming the killings were predictable but unintentional (which is assuming a lot) the state of mind of the people in the Pentagon is accurately described as “reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life”, which qualifies their actions as murder.

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Antoni Jaume 07.31.11 at 4:53 pm

“The EU has an approximate total population of near 500million, the US about 300million. So when comparing numbers you should note that the EU has a noticeably higher base.”

But the territory is 9,826,675 km^2 (3,794,101 sq mi) for the USA and the EU has 4,324,782 km^2 (1,669,807 sq mi), so interaction between inmigrants and inborns is stronger in the EU. Add it that the notion of foreign affects people from one EU member State that goes from one State to another in way that aren’t apparent in the USA, a German is foreign in Spain in a way that a New Yorker isn’t in Texas.

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Sebastian 07.31.11 at 5:34 pm

The density difference, while it does exist, is much less than raw averages show, huge tracts of land in the US are nearly uninhabited. And the notion of foreign doesn’t really help the case. Even in the highly impacted EU states (say France or Germany and again that is the estimate on all Muslims, both legal and illegal immigrants) you don’t get percentages like the US. Furthermore, a huge percentage of the Mexican immigrant population is concentrated in places like California so many of the same dynamics (uneven distribution) apply in the US.

Norway in particular has only about a 1% Muslim population, and only about 12-14% immigrant background. This compared to the illegal Mexican immigration population (more than 2%) and the legal (mostly citizen) Mexican American population about 10%. That doesn’t even account for fairly recent Asian immigration (about 5% of total US population) and we’re pretending that current (within the last 2 generations) European immigration to the US doesn’t exist.

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Kaveh 07.31.11 at 5:37 pm

Strictly on-topic, this latest posting on Cole’s blog offers very useful info on the Norway attacks. It talks about a lot of European extremist “counter-jihadists” (not politicians or other people you’ve heard of, or already mentioned here).

Watson Ladd @338: On the left in Egypt, see this and this (both written a while ago, but their social analysis remains valid). Egypt has had a very strong labor movement, and the prospects of social democratic parties are thus good (over and above the fact that the MB is unlikely to get very far). In general, where the left is in more of a genuine crisis is countries that have been largely democratic throughout the last 20+ years (Turkey, Israel, the US and Europe).

re Iran, in fact, I don’t think there was much that could reasonably have been gained, given what people knew at the time, and given how badly the left had been beaten up by the late 70s. The left didn’t just hand power to Khomeini, it was (violently) weakened throughout the 60s and 70s and couldn’t stop Khomeini as a result. The clerical establishment had a vast shadow-government and financial independence, the importance of which were not appreciated by many people at the time. The marriage of pro-Islamic and leftist rhetoric in the writings of Shari’ati and Al-e Ahmad was a very different thing from what Khomeini et al delivered. And what else could the left have done in 1978-9? Not opposed the Shah at all? Focused mainly on opposing the clerics, rather than joining forces against the Shah? In 1977, that the Shah had a firm grip on power, and that a “traditional” Muslim clerical establishment couldn’t operate as a modern political faction both seemed completely, totally certain things (the latter being proved wrong ended a number of academic careers in drink, so I’m told). I guess they could have kept their powder dry in the 60s and 70s, preparing for the coming post-Shah scramble, but who could have foreseen that 20 years in advance? And there might not have been a post-Shah anything if the left hadn’t been active all those years.

And even then, Khomeini did borrow a lot from the left, and pre-1979 Iranian leftist politics did a lot to shape the way the clerical establishment ultimately governed, ironically probably prolonging their existence quite a bit–they have done a lot of good things in the way of economic justice, especially for the rural poor, which is the reason the government continues to enjoy some support.

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Andrew F. 07.31.11 at 8:48 pm

Kaveh @335: You might disagree with this argument, but the whole point being argued is that the similarities are more than superficial, so it’s not a guilt-by-association argument. Now, if you want to argue that speech not explicitly calling for violence virtually never leads to violence, then go ahead and try to argue that. IIRC studies of genocides have found otherwise.

It’s not simply “more than superficial” but less than an explicit call for violence though, right? The similarities between Hasan’s critique of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those of Michael Moore, are “more than superficial,” and Moore certainly did not call for violence (I’m sure he explicitly opposes it); we would agree, I hope, that Moore in any way morally blameworthy for what Hasan did.

The argument hinted at in Chris’s post, and explicitly elaborated in this thread, is that if argument X contains a premise A that someone can place into argument Y, justifying violence, then proponents of argument X create the epistemic environment allowing argument Y and the act of violence it justifies.

And that’s not good enough. I agree that we don’t need an explicit call for violence for a speaker to become morally blameworthy. You alluded to RTLM Radio, I believe, in your post, but that is an example where violence WAS explicitly advocated.

So I’d like to propose a more refined criterion for moral blameworthiness than “contributes to an epistemic environment.”

My proposal is that arguments which meet these three conditions can be said to contribute, in a morally blameworthy way, to an epistemic environment in which an immoral violent action occurs :

(1) the argument denies important premises which would disallow a violent action;
(2) the argument provides premises that would motivate the same violent action; and (3) the argument does not provide premises disallowing the same violent action.

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Sandwichman 08.01.11 at 12:00 am

What is Cultural Conservatism? Brief analysis of the Link “fourth generation warfare” (4GW) theory propounded by Breivik.

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Sandwichman 08.01.11 at 2:24 am

“Link” should have been Lind.

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Sandwichman 08.01.11 at 2:47 am

Andrew F. @343:

The argument hinted at in Chris’s post, and explicitly elaborated in this thread, is that if argument X contains a premise A that someone can place into argument Y, justifying violence, then proponents of argument X create the epistemic environment allowing argument Y and the act of violence it justifies.

And that’s not good enough. I agree that we don’t need an explicit call for violence for a speaker to become morally blameworthy.

Agreed, inserting premise A in argument Y is not good enough. But, leaving hypothetical cases aside, what about an argument that A. identifies a mortal enemy, B. outlines a specific type of warfare (non-metaphorical, i.e. guns & killing) and C. calls for “culture war.” Leaving hypothetical cases aside for the moment, wouldn’t it be incumbent on public discussion to name the proponent of that argument and hold that person, persons or organizations morally responsible?

Who here will defend — not what-ifs and unknowns — but specifically William S. Lind’s toxic brew of culture wars, “PC” scapegoating and “4GW” warfare, recited faithfully by Mr. Breivik? Not an epistemic environment but THE epistemic environment.

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Kaveh 08.01.11 at 9:23 am

@343, Okay, fair enough, and “superficial similarities” isn’t a good criterion. To refine my point a bit, what I think is the key difference between the Pam Gellers and Daniel Pipeses of the world, and the Michael Moores, is that Geller and Pipes &c. do call for violence outside of the polity (war), and they keep repeating that “we are at war” with a wider sense, and they argue for state action that is at least hostile, if not violent and terroristic within the polity (intrusive surveillance of certain ethnic and religious minorities). The repetition of war imagery, the whole GWOT framing, all of that has tendency to provoke violence that Michael Moore’s rhetoric doesn’t. He may call on Americans to resist any way they can (IIRC–I don’t have time to look closely at Moore right now, so hopefully I’m not misremembering the gist of what he says), but it is clear from the intellectual/cultural context (meaning you have to know the context–but Nidal Hasan was an American, he definitely knew the context) that they are calling for strictly nonviolent action.[1] Geller and Pipes are not calling for individuals to take up arms–for vigilantes–but state violence has always gone together with informal violence, and that is obviously the case now and throughout the last 10 years. The people closest to the scene in Abu Ghrayb and other places where torture was carried out, and lots of other anecdotal evidence from the US occupation, indicates that informal violence (violence that was not explicitly ordered, but that was virtually guaranteed by a combination of policy designed to encourage it by leaving people without clear guidelines; and retaliatory violence resulting from a hateful cultural climate) is widespread and has been an important feature of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan: torture, retaliatory violence against civilians, among other things. Geller and Pipes are trying to raise people’s ire knowing full well that this tendency is there, and that there’s a high likelihood that it will take place within the borders of the state, too.

Of course, what I’ve just described is violence against Muslims, not against Labor Party members, but the Geller/Pipes crowd also identify academics and liberals as a security threat (starting with Ivory Towers On Sand, CampusWatch…), so they do also attempt to link Muslims who they claim are a threat with “cultural Marxists” (or whatever).

My line of reasoning does imply a greater burden of caution on people who advocate war (which I would agree is sometimes necessary) than for people who don’t, and I’m completely okay with that implication.

fn 1: Warning that the US occupation could result domestic terrorism by Muslims is completely different from calling for resistance to the gov’t.

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SusanC 08.01.11 at 1:27 pm

It’s somewhat strange how wide-ranging (arguably, off the point) many of the posts in this thread are.

Hardly anyone is arguing that this is a specifically Norwegian problem. (Olof Palme was Swedish, not Norwegian, but his assasination might be counted as a prior incident of Scandinavian political violence that probably wasn’t carried out by Muslims).

“Political violence by people influenced by American right-wing rhetoric” seems a more plausible category. In which case, there are a number of American incidents to which it might be compared (the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords; the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczinski; Timothy McVeigh; etc.)

Or maybe even, “politcal craziness in general”. In which case you might be a bit skeptical about the claim – often made other places than here – that right-wing terrorists are mentally ill but left-wing terrorists are rationally using violence to achieve political aims. You might start to wonder if left-wing terrorists are madder than they are usually credited as being, or if the right-wing terrorists have more of a coherent plan than we think.

Maybe hypocrisy is a virtue, although in the Western philosophical tradition it isn’t well regarded. People tend to get defensive if you suggest that their actions aren’t consistent with their stated beliefs, but possibly this hypocrisy is a necessary defense. The normal / typical / not diagnosably mentally ill individual can quit happily speak the left-wing revolutionary rhetoric/violent right-wing rhetoric/Christian theology [delete as applicable] shared by their peer group, without acting as though it is true. One model of terrorism is that it is only the “crazy” people who actually believe what they are saying. (Or to dress it up somewhat: clinical level of impairment in their ability to manage the cognitive dissonance caused by being socially required to say one thing, but act otherwise).

The nuber of terrorists is probably too small for good statistics, but if I was going to correlate it against DSM diagnoses I’d go for the pervasive devlopmental disorders (autism etc). or the personality disorders (narcisstic personality disorder etc.) rather than the psychoses (schizophrenia etc.)

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Watson Ladd 08.01.11 at 3:25 pm

@Kaveh: Glad to know that all the Danes were killed by roaming bands of vigilante Germans when Schleswig-Holstein was taken over. Or that the Austro-German war lead to Catholics in Bremen getting killed. Oh wait, that didn’t actually happen because we respect the distinction between combatants and noncombatants! The rise of total war and the justification of attacks against civilian targets are quite new. Clausewitz viewed war as political, inherently within the violence of the state. The ethnic cleansing and wholesale slaughter of civilians is not war. It is barbarism. Calling for war to eliminate social institutions isn’t calling for war to eliminate people. John Brown (the second time) wasn’t going to exterminate the people of the South, he was going to free the slaves and kill anyone who took up arms against him. That’s a big difference between John Brown and Brevik. (Note that slavery could not be ended by law: there was going to have to be a war to settle it post abolition of the Free State-Slave State distinction)

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ajay 08.01.11 at 3:44 pm

The rise of total war and the justification of attacks against civilian targets are quite new. Clausewitz viewed war as political, inherently within the violence of the state.

I think this translates as “I have never heard of the Thirty Years’ War, Genghis Khan, Timur, the Crusades or the Roman Empire and I don’t think Clausewitz had either.”

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Uncle Kvetch 08.01.11 at 4:47 pm

I didn’t think Geller could surprise me anymore, but…

http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/08/01/284011/pam-geller-race-mixing-breivik-right/

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Hermneutic Reader 08.01.11 at 5:14 pm

QUOTE:

the adoption of extreme pro-Zionism by the formerly anti-semitic right is something new

New? Are sure? Find someone who can read italian and give a look to this article (2004) written by an analist of the italian central bank (Banca d’ Italia), Giorgio Gomel who by chance is a jew (hated by italian jews that recently wrote on the walls of Rome’s Ghetto that all jews are brothers but he is not). In this article you’ll find the origin of that “new fact” (remember that in Italy we don’t have evangelic christians).

http://www.iai.it/pdf/mediterraneo/Doc_Osservatio_pdf/Iraq_israele_Gomel.PDF

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dave heasman 08.02.11 at 5:01 pm

Watson Ladd tells us – “The Archbishop of Canterbury recently called for the acceptance of FGM in England”.

I don’t think he did. Are you sure? Have a link?

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