• Israel,  The Political Animal

    “It goes without saying”: the Further Rhetoric of Terrorist Apologia

    When the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, then with Salon,interviewed Rene Brulin in 2010, the purpose of the conversation was to discuss Brulin’s research into the origins of the contemporary usage of the term “terrorism.” According to Brulin it has two origins. One is in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the late 70s, President Carter frequently used the word to apply to the Iranian hostage-taking of U.S. embassy employees. This, Brulin says, was a specific usage. It had not yet evolved into a discourse. By discourse Brulin means the organized consideration of a subject via use of an identifiable vocabulary particular to it. The discourse, then, becomes expressive of a…

  • The Political Animal

    The State of Surveillance

    God knows your calling patterns. God knows your friends on Facebook, your pages liked, your rants and your dissenting comments. More – and better than the NSA or FBI – God knows what you think. Or, if there is no personal God,  if that term is just a word made of letters – G-O-D – then what we refer to by the word but that does not exist does not know all these things about us. The fact is, though, that we do not know which of these states prevails. Are we divinely surveilled by an all-knowing being, all our sins and virtues, our decencies and transgressions known, or do…

  • The Political Animal

    Notes Toward a Terror Apologist’s Rhetoric (Abridged but Unexpurgated)

    This commentary first appeared in the Algemeiner on June 3, 2013. Apologia in the rhetorical tradition is not a common apology, in the simple sense of “sorry,” though it may fulfill that purpose. It may decidedly not. Apologia is a defense against accusation. Plato gave us Socrates’sApology, which was not. In the religious tradition, apologia is known as apologetics. Apologetics are a defense of doctrine, certainly not an apology for it. One of the features of apologia as a rhetorical form is its variety of type, from outright apology to outright rejection of any need for one. In between we may see explanation or justification, evasion of responsibility, minimization of the…

  • The Political Animal

    A Campaign of Willful Blindness on Terrorism

    . This article first appeared in the Algemeiner on May 2, 2013.   On April 15, 2013 at 2:49 p.m. two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Most of us know the details, more or less – the three dead, 264 wounded and maimed, the days of fear, of investigation and pursuit, the two Chechen brothers, one a radicalized Muslim now dead, the other apprehended. The very next day, time unknown, Tim Wise, “anti-racist essayist, activist and educator,” posted to his website “Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness.” Fewer than twenty-four hours after the bombs went off, Wise had written 1002 words stating three lessons of the…

  • The Political Animal

    The Boston Marathon Bombing and The Faith Privilege

    This article first appeared in the Algemeiner on April 23, 2013.  You can read the follow up there now: “A Campaign of Willful Blindness on Terrorism.” The Boston Marathon bombing provoked enactment of what has emerged, since 9/11, as a ritual of political theater refined even beyond its long history of performance. Even while law enforcement authorities were still early in the search for unknown and unfathomed wreakers  of violent and deadly terror, the players were scripting the drama to play out as they preferred instead to witness it. There are, then, of course, those who inflame every developing circumstance and wage jihad against jihad. Just as extreme and inflammatory, just as adept at playing…

  • Israel

    When Is an Open-Air Prison a Terrorist Camp?

    . (This post originally appeared in the Algemeiner on December 11, 2012.) It is a term we hear a lot in the twenty-first century anti-Israel propaganda storm, flung wildly against the truth – that Gaza is an “open-air” prison. We hear it not only from Arab and Muslim anti-Semites and the committed anti-Israel ideologues, but from well meaning people on the left who speak out of compassion. They know of a densely populated land area with significant poverty, an area the borders of which are controlled by third parties – Israel and Egypt, though most of these people purposely or ignorantly neglect to remember Egypt – and they are moved…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    Reflections on the Spirit of Resistance

    . Paul Newman’s 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, the apex of journeyman Stuart Rosenberg’s directorial career, imbued popular culture with many iconic scenes and memorable lines. (“What we have here – is failure to communicate.” “Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.”) Among the famous scenes is that of the prison camp boxing match between George Kennedy’s alpha prisoner (the role that won him an Oscar and made him famous) and Newman’s smaller Luke. As expected, Kennedy’s “Dragline” beats Luke good. But Luke will not stay down. He is woozily staggering with every blow, even knocked down by some of the head shots, but each time, against cries from…

  • Israel

    Not So Random Questions, Facts, & Observations about Gaza & Israel

    . If forces in Mexico – drug cartels, for instance – were firing rockets and missiles into an area roughly covering 25% of the United States this is what it would look like. If the U.S. equivalent of one million Israelis were under threat of this bombardment on a daily basis, running for cover, hiding in bomb shelters, suffering damage to their homes, roughly 45 million Americans would be victims of this terror. Imagine the reaction of the American people. Imagine the political and national defense requirements of the U.S. government in response, even if no one had yet been killed. The United Nations categorizes 48 nations, with a population…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    Glenn Greenwald criticizes Bibi AND Obama’s “policies” of intentionally killing innocent Muslims

    . Cross posted from Cif Watch by its managing editor, Adam Levick. “Every person has their own definition of terrorism.” –Glenn Greenwald. Glenn Greenwald makes characteristically hysterical claims about Israel and the US in his latest ‘Comment is Free’ piece titled Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza‘: Here are the most egregious examples: 1. He claims that “overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians, including children”. There’s nothing new here in Greenwald’s use of the most unserious hyperbole to impute the most violent and malevolent motives to Israel. Greenwald ignores the fact that Israel uses unprecedented restraint in targeting only Hamas leaders and terror targets, which would explain that…

  • The Political Animal

    Conventional

    . It is the week to think about it. The Democratic Convention, this week, like the Republican before it, will be utterly so. (Well, we’ll allow a small exception for Elvis’s performance on Wednesday night.) At the Democratic Convention 100 years ago, in 1912, Woodrow Wilson gained the nomination for the presidency on the 46th ballot. Ah, those were the days. That was drama. That was the unpredictable. Today – a four-night staged extravaganza only a little less scripted than a Disney show. The ironic surprise about conventionality is that it arises and persists, takes root like crab grass, where we most need its opposite. The major party conventions are…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    The Mystery of Terrorism, Revealed

    . Cross posted at The Times of Israel. When I wrote the other day about our dumbness before the phenomenon of terrorism – so often the wanton and random killing in large numbers of those who must by any non-self-justifying reason be considered innocents – I was invoking the mystery of the moral self that can rise to so horrendous an act. Most of us will never fathom it. I hereby revise myself. While I am no promoter of the “banality of evil,” the commonplace has its role. Evil, human evil, in its purest form surely is the vileness, the befoulment of human sympathy we imagine it to be. It is the general…

  • The Political Animal

    We Are Not Speechless, but Dumb before Terrorism

    . I had it in mind to offer today a series of many quotations on terrorism. I thought some collection of insightful commentary on the phenomenon might be of momentary worth. What provoked the thought, it may not surprise, was yesterday’s suicide bombing in Bulgaria. The U.S is now confirming its belief, in agreement with Israel’s immediate suspicion, that the attacker was an agent of Hezbollah, under the direction of Iran, in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian scientists working on the Iranian nuclear program. What changed my intention was the discovery of how little – almost nothing – of any worth, it seems, has ever been said on the…

  • Israel

    Tyranny of Victimhood: Why the Guardian gives a free ride to reactionary Palestinian movement

    . This is cross-posted by CiF Watch managing editor, Adam Levick. Yesterday, some anti-Israel agitators pretended to be “civil rights” activists by riding on buses Israeli citizens in the territories use to travel to Jerusalem. These buses do not allow non-citizens (without proper permits) to enter communities in Judea and Samaria in order to stop potential Palestinian terror attacks. No, it’s not surprising that the the decidedly reactionary Palestinian movement would cynically exploit the genuinely liberal US Civil Rights Movement – which, in the early 1960s, attempted to end the practice, in the American south, of requiring that African Americans ride on the back of municipal buses. And, no it’s not surprising that the Guardian…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: Home

    . (The last in a thirteen-part series.) What was the response to 9/11 on the political left, the direction from which was quickly drawn the historical cover of the “squandered sympathies” meme? There is no single answer. The “left” is not a unitary political tendency. It is stalwart, mainstream Democrats in the U.S. and the liberal “scoundrels” Slavjo Zizek scorns. It is readers of The Nation who vote for Democrats and others who still rationalize the Weathermen and will ever defend the Rosenbergs. It is those who sit at the feet of the Chomsky-Buddha, to the romancer of totalitarian Marxism, Zizek himself. To recognize the extremes of antipathy that emanated…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: The Stylus Avenger

    . (Twelfth in a series) It had been possible in the countryside of so many nations, on another continent, always in transit, to leave the palpable sense of 9/11, if not our emotions, behind. The last day, at Charles de Gaulle Airport amid intense security, and three weeks after the attack, Julia and I rejoined the larger world. The night before, though, in bed, I had done some thinking. I anticipated the security to come – what turned out to be three body and bag checks just between the gate and the plane – and knew it would be very hard to get a weapon on board. And the likelihood,…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: Chomsky Nation

    . (Eleventh in a series) On October 18, 2001, five weeks after the 9/11 attack, Noam Chomsky gave a talk at MIT, still available on the web in video and transcript form, entitled “The New War against Terror.” He employed the same slippery rhetorical constructs and argumentative ploys as were on display in his half-hearted but always fully dishonest Nation exchange with Christopher Hitchens. Stringing together several reports from The New York Times (both jokingly relied upon and faulted in the same argument, as it suited Chomsky’s purpose), loose references to the World Food Program, and The London Financial Times, as well as both refugees and aid workers cited by…

  • The Political Animal

    Little Sympathy to Squander: the American Left & 9/11

    . (Tenth in a series) The antipathy to the U.S. voiced in the Guardian, on Question Time, from Baudrillard and Zizek – not merely despite 9/11, but in political sympathy with it, if not advocacy of it – found voice in the U.S. too. No small amount of it emanated from The Nation, perhaps the hallmark publication of the American beyond-liberal left. One of the more publicized commentaries was by Katha Pollitt on October 8, 2001. Pollitt reported on her refusal to let her daughter hang an American flag from their window as a sign of American solidarity in the days following the attack. The account was frequently misrepresented in…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: a “Good Terror”

    . (Ninth in a series) When it came to 9/11 sympathies too absent to squander, Slavo Zizek actually beat Baudrillard to the text. On September 14, 2001, only three days after 9/11, he first posted to the internet “Welcome to the Desert of the Real,” which he revised and extended several times. Later, like Baudrillard’s The Spirit of Terrorism, it was published in book form by Verso. Zizek’s provocative considerations of a wide swath of popular culture make him an unusually accessible and fun theorist, and Zizek is well aware of this surface appeal, which he terms, in his preface to the” The Zizek Reader, “a proper symbolic lure.” Lure…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: Goering’s Defense

    . (Eighth in a series) In the matter of “squandered sympathies,” let history not lose the record that as early as November 2, 2001, fewer than two months after 9/11, Jean Baudrillard notoriously produced in Le Monde, under the title “The Spirit of Terrorism,” a logically homeless piece of postmodern theory-talk that evinced the equally postmodern irony of mistaking language for reality no less than might have any long-ago and innocent philologist. (The essay was later expanded and issued in book form, by, of course, Verso.) As Baudrillard explored, with clear conceptual relish, the nature of the “jubilation” some felt at the 9/11 attack, he added at one brief point…

  • The Political Animal

    9/11/11: Squandered Sympathies

    (The seventh in a series) The squandered sympathies meme states that the United States, as a consequence of 9/11, was the recipient of widespread international sympathy and good will. The meme was born as soon after 9/11 as some people began to anticipate U.S. action in Afghanistan, which is to say as early as those segments of the left ideologically predisposed to condemn as imperial and brutal any form of U.S. military action, even in self-defense, could characterize any non-passive reaction by the U.S. to 9/11 as exactly, by definition, imperial and brutal. That is to say, further, that the squandered sympathies meme was created by those from whom, ideologically,…

  • The Political Animal

    Left Bereft: September 11, 2001 and the Politics of the Moral Imagination

    (9/11/11: the sixth in a series) I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless words, Or have lingered awhile and said Polite meaningless words, And thought before I had done Of a mocking tale or a gibe To please a companion Around the fire at the club, Being certain that they and I But lived where motley is worn: All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. W.B. Yeats, Easter 1916 For some, the first image is that of the planes, stark apparitions of a…