Happy Arrival Day!

by Eszter Hargittai on September 7, 2004

Today we celebrate Arrival Day, the 350th anniversary of the first Jewish immigrants’ arrival in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City) on September 7, 1654. The Head Heeb has been preparing for this event for over a year. He explains:

Arrival Day is a holiday of the American Jewish people rather than the Jewish religion – a celebration of the Jewish community and its contributions to the United States. As such, non-Jews as well as Jews are welcome to join in the celebration. In the wise words of Ikram Saeed, everyone is Jewish today, just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

A month ago I participated in a wonderful wedding that offers the perfect story for Arrival Day. I share with you the details of this wedding as a celebration of Jews from all over the world coming together in the United States.

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Feel the Love

by Daniel on September 7, 2004

I realise that we at Crooked Timber are too ethereal, pointy-headed creatures to get involved in mere political mudslinging, but as the resident Morlock employee, I occasionally frequent obscure Democrat blogs like Eschaton. It is my professional opinion that this video clip is enough to make a cat laugh.

Islamism and terrorism

by John Quiggin on September 7, 2004

I posted this piece on my own blog this morning, in response to some challenges to set out my own views on the relationship between radical Islamism and terrorism, but was in two minds about putting it up on CT, since I didn’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said better by others. But it now appears that such diffidence is interpreted as adherence to a

Crooked Timber thesis”, according to which the truth of statements about a group or a set of beliefs ought to be weighed against the perlocutionary effect of uttering such statements on the group or the holders of the beliefs in question.

This is all a bit highbrow for me, but I assume it means not talking about Islamism for fear of inciting anti-Islamic feeling. So, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

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Stupidity and ideology

by Chris Bertram on September 7, 2004

“David Aaronovitch in today’s Guardian”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1298909,00.html , defending the idea that poor people in the US might have good reason to vote for George W. Bush:

bq. But suppose, for a moment, that the Kansas voters aren’t so dumb. Suppose, first, that they don’t buy the economic prospectus unwittingly along with the social populism, but consciously because they actually agree with it – because (and this hurts) it does actually tie in with their concrete experience. In other words, their consciousness is not false at all. Why might a poor person be opposed to tax increases and social benefits? Possibly because they hope to be richer themselves, maybe because they believe that high benefits are a disincentive to work and conceivably they believe both because that is exactly what they see happening around them – folks getting rich and folks idling.

I’m sure that Aaronovitch underestimates the importance of stupid people in determining elections. There are, after all, a lot of stupid people about (even here in Yoorp). Nevertheless, we can ask whether the beliefs Aaronovitch attributes to the Bush-voting-Kansas-poor are rational, given what we know about social mobility in the US, the extremely small section of society that benefits from Bush’s tax cuts etc. It is also rather odd that he decries the idea their beliefs might be the product of false consciousness on the grounds that they are rather the product of their lived experience. But the Marxist-educated Aaronovitch ought to know that it is a highly characteristic feature of ideological beliefs that they involve extrapolation by the believing subject from the immediate and local features of their experience to beliefs about the social world as a whole. So Mrs Thatcher’s belief that national economies should be managed on the model of a greengrocer’s shop in Grantham certainly “tied in with her conscious experience” and was ideological for all that. Why is Aaronovitch writing this stuff?

The “Crooked Timber thesis”

by Chris Bertram on September 7, 2004

Jonathan Derbyshire of The Philosophers’ Magazine, “on his new blog”:http://jonathanderbyshire.typepad.com/blog/2004/09/emthe_guardian_.html :

bq. here’s a view, call it the “Crooked Timber thesis”, according to which the truth of statements about a group or a set of beliefs ought to be weighed against the perlocutionary effect of uttering such statements on the group or the holders of the beliefs in question. In one recurrent variant of this view, true statements about what, for shorthand purposes, I’ll call “political Islamism” ought to be circumscribed, if not actually withheld, for fear of inciting “Islamophobia”. Now, I’ve conceded in the comments section of an earlier post the persuasiveness of the point about perlocutionary effect, though I did wonder whether one of its proponents hadn’t unhelpfully mixed it up with a much less congenial argument about meaning. And it seems to me obvious that the point applies in contexts different to the one in which it’s usually applied over at Crooked Timber.

I think that the most reasonable way to read Derbyshire’s statement here, which seems to have been picked up enthusiastically by CT-bashers whom I can’t be bothered to link to, is that it contains a claim about what has been argued here on Crooked Timber. That claim would be that people at Crooked Timber have argued _repeatedly_ (“recurrent variant”, “usually applied”) that we shouldn’t tell the truth about political Islamism for fear of inciting “Islamophobia”. [1] Trawling through our posts, I _can_ find some evidence for the claim that we have alleged that it is possible to utter true statements (about political Islamism or anything else for that matter) in a manner that demeans (or threatens, intimidates etc) either the person to whom the utterance is made or other hearers. That doesn’t seem to be a thesis to which Derbyshire objects, though. (Which is just as well, since it is a true thesis.) Note, by the way, the ambiguity in Derbyshire’s formulation. He could be saying that we have said that people should _sometimes_ be careful about uttering true statements about political Islamism out of due regard for the perlocutionary effect of those utterances. But he expresses the thought in an unrestricted way, such that the effect on the reader is to mislead them into the false belief that people at CT have claimed that political Islamism just shouldn’t be criticized. Nobody here holds _that_ view or anything remotely like it.

fn1. I can find just two instances of the word “Islamophobia” on CT. The first was in the title of a blog post by me, where the point of using the word was to point to someone else’s writings on the subject. The second is by Ophelia Benson (with others picking up on her use) in comments to another post.

Afflicting the Comfortable

by Kieran Healy on September 7, 2004

A number of journalists have gotten upset this week over the fact that my uncle Seán “was invited”:http://home.eircom.net/content/unison/national/3873334?view=Eircomnet to address the “parliamentary meeting”:http://212.2.162.45/news/story.asp?j=95850800&p=9585y38x&n=95851409 of “Fianna Fáil”:http://www.fiannafail.ie/, the main coalition partner in the Irish government. Together with a small group of like-minded people, Seán’s been responsible for building “an organization”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/index.htm devoted to social policy analysis in Ireland. He started twenty-odd years ago, when the country’s financial management was on the verge of being handed over to the IMF, unemployment was running at about fifteen percent and pretty much no-one outside the civil service was doing much in the way of policy analysis. By the mid-1990s, many of CORI’s ideas about “social partnership”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/soc_partner/index.htm and “basic income”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/basic_income/index.htm had moved to the center of arguments about social policy and, particularly in the former case, become incorporated into collective bargaining institutions. So it gladdens my heart to see the likes of Ireland’s “Sunday Business Post”:http://www.sbpost.ie/web/DocumentView/did-394778113-pageUrl–2FThe-Newspaper-2FSundays-Paper.asp pulling out the stops to discredit him this week:

By any standards, it’s a harsh penance … to invite Fr Sean Healy … to address the parliamentary party in Inchydoney in west Cork tomorrow … Healy has been a constant, vocal and extremely irritating thorn in the side of the government … “I know backbenchers who would burn him,” said one … Healy is revered … by the left generally, and particularly by left-wing commentators … he’s good value in media terms – the controlled bluster … the quick soundbites … He has been described as “the only real opposition in the state” … he operated a back channel of influence through secretary to the government Dermot McCarthy, and through the Taoiseach himself …. “We thought that he was completely off the wall,” said a former official in Merrion Street. “He was the author of various mad harebrained schemes – that basic income scheme was totally mad” … not popular with the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, many of whom see in Healy the socially radical impulses of liberation theology … Healy’s reluctance to wear clerical garb … and the infrequency of his references to God, prayer and the spiritual dimension of man’s life are further irritations … His late father was a member of Fianna Fail (his brother[1] is a former national chairman of the “Progressive Democrats”:http://www.progressivedemocrats.ie/) … Some who have dealt with him consider him prickly … “He has no influence on policy. Sure, he has a great media profile and all that …” … He is perhaps aware that his views are open to caricature.

Open to caricature is right. So now you know Seán is a raving loon who is nevertheless a controlled debater and good with the soundbites on TV; he’s the author of various harebrained Marxist schemes who somehow has a secret backchannel of influence to the highest-ranking civil servants and the Prime Minister himself; and he’s a radical priest evangelizing liberation theology except he doesn’t wear a clerical collar or talk enough about the spiritual dimension of life in public. A classic incoherent hatchet job. And to top it off he has the cheek to be related to members of more right-leaning parties. Clearly he must be doing something right.

You can learn more about CORI’s “role”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/about/role_policy.htm in Irish Social Policy, and their positions on “poverty”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/publications/briefing/poverty/index.htm, “taxation”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/publications/briefing/poverty/index.htm, the Irish “housing boom”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/publications/briefing/housing_accomm_policy04/index.htm (or crisis) and “other issues”:http://www.cori.ie/justice/publications/ansoecrev/ase_review03.pdf at their website.

fn1. That’d be my father.

The Cane Mutiny

by Kieran Healy on September 7, 2004

Some contributors in the discussion thread “on crutches”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002445.html (if you see what I mean) bring up other ambulatory aids by-the-by, and Bad Jim says:

bq. Can anyone who remembers the 19th century think of canes as anything but a weapon?

The 19th century? What about the 1970s? I remember being caned at school. On the palm of the hand, though, rather than the backside. I think I was about six or seven. (This was in Ireland, by the way.) I also remember the news percolating down to us kids at some point[1] that such things would no longer be allowed in schools, and some of us telling the teachers “You can’t smack us anymore because capital punishment is abolished!”

fn1. Google informs me that corporal punishment was abolished Irish schools “in 1982”:http://www.corpun.com/ies00211.htm/, when I was nine.