Thursday, July 28, 2011

the big lie

I was going to put this on the depository and link to it on the sidebar, but since I only have 2 posts so far this month, I'm placing it here.

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If a Christian, inspired by the Bible, commits an act of terrorism, Christians (more generally, the West) are quick to say that the person could not have been a Christian because Christianity is clearly against such things (Bill O'Reilly: "Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith.") Yet when an identical act is committed by a Muslim the perpetrator is not a traitor to their religion but simply a loyal follower who's fulfilling its most extreme teachings, hence the ubiquity of the term "Islamic extremist" compared to "Christian extremist" or "Jewish extremist." This ubiquity is not based on the prevalence of the attacks in relation to their religious inspiration, it's based on the way in which the attacks are covered and portrayed by the government and the media. According to the FBI (see below), between 1980 and 2005, 7% of all terrorist attacks on the United States were carried out by Jewish extremists, while only 6% were carried out by Islamic extremists. This is a damning fact, and it proves just how much media coverage and government policy forms people's perception of reality. It should come as no surprise to us now that, after years of government and media distortion for political ends, Islamophobia is growing, and people who immerse themselves in the misinformation and false-realities created by sites like have been inspired to gun people down.

Let me briefly return to the idea that "Christian terrorist" is a self-contradictory term... Mark Twain once recalled how his preacher used to read pro-slavery passages from the Bible whenever the topic came up, thus ending any debate (as the Word of God -- if you believe it as such -- is wont to do). It's not a stretch to say that what went on in America during, before, and after Twain's life -- especially in the South -- is an example of a brand of mass terrorism that was specifically supported by, and largely perpetrated by, Christians who believed they were carrying out God's plan. These days, the Bible is not only evoked to justify anti-gay legislation and discrimination, it's also used to pit Christianity ("good") against Islam ("bad"), in a way that brings to memory the Crusades (a tradition evoked by Breivik in his manifesto).

Glenn Greenwald:"[I]t was widely assumed, based on basically nothing, that Muslims had been responsible for this attack [in Norway] and that a radical Muslim group likely perpetrated it, it was widely declared to be a "terrorist" attack. That was the word that was continuously used. And yet, when it became apparent that Muslims were not involved and that, in reality, it was a right-wing nationalist with extremely anti-Muslim, strident anti-Muslim bigotry as part of his worldview, the word "terrorism" almost completely disappeared from establishment media discourse. Instead, he began to be referred to as a "madman" or an "extremist" [or a "lone wolf"]. And it really underscores, for me, the fact that this word "terrorism," that plays such a central role in our political discourse and our law, really has no objective meaning. It’s come to mean nothing more than Muslims who engage in violence, especially when they’re Muslims whom the West dislikes."

The following numbers highlight -- in an objectively damning way -- the utter stupidity and hypocrisy of many people's perception of Muslims, terrorism, and the War on Terror.

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From Europol, the European Union's criminal intelligence agency:

european union, statistics, islam, foiled

european union, statistics, islam, foiled

Glenn Greenwald: "...[M]ore to the point, I think, is this idea that Islamic terrorism is some kind of a unique problem in Europe. There are reports issued each year by the E.U. that count the number of terrorist attacks, both successfully executed and attempted but failed. And each year, for the past five years, the number of attacks perpetrated, in general, exceeds several hundred, 200 or 300, sometimes 400. The number that are perpetrated or attempted by, quote-unquote, "Islamists," as the report calls it, people driven by Islamic ideology, religion or political grievances, is minute, something like one out of 294 in 2009, zero out of several hundred in 2007. This is the statistic that the E.U. documents every year. There are terrorist attacks in Europe. Sometimes left-wing groups perpetrate them. Sometimes right-wing groups perpetrate them. Sometimes people with domestic grievances, that don’t really fit into the left-right spectrum, attempt them or perpetrate them. But the idea that Islamic terrorism is some sort of unique threat is completely belied by the E.U.'s own statistic. This idea of equating Muslims with terrorism is an incredibly propagandistic and deceitful term. The idea is to suggest that, as several of your guests were saying, that Islam is some sort of existential threat to Western civilization, to Europe and the like, and it's propagated with this myth that terrorism is an Islamic problem. And that’s why the idea that the establishment media in the United States and in political circles equates terrorism, as a matter of definition, with violence by Muslims is so problematic, because it promotes this lie that terrorism is a function of Islamic ideology."

european union terrorism

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Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005, According to FBI Database [via]
[click HERE to view the FBI document]
FBI, united states terrorist attacks statistics, chart, graph, by religion, group, muslim, islamic
Note: The highest number of terrorist incidents in the U.S. by region (90) took place in Puerto Rico.

Glenn Greenwald on the media's coverage of Anders Behring Breivik and the Oslo attacks: "Well, that was completely predictable. I mean, on Friday, when the attack actually took place, there was quite substantial and intense interest in what had taken place. Everybody was talking about it. There were complaints that—on Friday, that CNN wasn’t running continuous coverage. But in general, there was a lot of media interest, because at the time people thought, based on what the New York Times and other media outlets had said, based on nothing, that this was the work of an Islamic—a radical Islamic group. And at the time, I wrote, when I wrote about the unfolding story, that if it turns out to be something other than an Islamic group that was responsible, especially if it turns out to be a right-wing nationalist who’s anti-Muslim in his views, that interest in this story was going to evaporate to virtual non-existence.

And what’s really amazing is, you know, every time there’s an act of violence undertaken by someone who’s Muslim, the commentary across the spectrum links his Muslim religion or political beliefs to the violence and tries to draw meaning from it, broader meaning. And yet, the minute that it turned out that the perpetrator wasn’t Muslim, but instead was this right-wing figure, the exact opposite view arose, which is, "Oh, his views and associations aren’t relevant. It’s not fair to attribute or to blame people who share his views or who inspired him with these acts." And it got depicted as being this sort of individual crazy person with no broader political meaning, and media interest disappeared. It’s exactly the opposite of how it’s treated when violence is undertaken by someone who’s Muslim."

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From Wikipedia: "Breivik's far-right militant ideology is described in an online manifesto 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, posted by Breivik on the day of the attacks under the anglicised pseudonym Andrew Berwick. His ultranationalist manifesto lays out his xenophobic worldview, which includes support for varying degrees of cultural conservatism, right-wing populism, anti-Islamization, "far-right Zionism", and Serbian paramilitarism. It further argues for the violent annihilation of Islam, "cultural Marxism", and multiculturalism, to preserve a Christian Europe. [...] His manifesto calls for a revolution to be led by Knights Templar. During interrogation, Breivik claimed membership in an "international Christian military order" that "fights" against "Islamic suppression". This order allegedly is called the "Knights Templar" and, according to his manifesto, has between fifteen and eighty "ordinated knights" besides an unknown number of "civilian members". Breivik has claimed that the group has several "cells" in Western countries, including two more in Norway."

Friday, July 22, 2011

The World of Broken Unicorns: Echoes of Three Fictional Searchers (Jake Blount, Larry Slade, Philip Carey)


"And how many of us are there in this country? Maybe ten thousand. Maybe twenty thousand. Maybe a lot more. I been to a lot of places but I never met but a few of us. But say a man does know. He sees the world as it is and he looks back thousands of years to see how it all come about. He watched the slow agglutination of capital and power and he sees its pinnacle today. He sees America as a crazy house. He sees how men have to rob their brothers in order to live. He sees children starving and women working sixty hours a week to get to eat. He sees a whole damn army of unemployed and billions of dollars and thousands of miles of land wasted. He sees war coming. He sees how when people suffer just so much they get mean and ugly and something dies in them. But the main thing he sees is that the whole system of the world is built on a lie. And although it's as plain as the shining sun — the don't-knows have lived with that lie so long they just can't see it." —Jake Blount via Carson McCullers (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Part II, Chapter IV)

"I'm through with the Movement. I saw men didn't want to be saved from themselves, for that would mean they'd have to give up greed, and they'll never pay that price for liberty. So I said to the world, God bless all here, and may the best man win and die of gluttony! And I took a seat in the grandstand of philosophical detachment to fall asleep observing the cannibals do their death dance." —Larry Slade via Eugene O'Neill (The Iceman Cometh, Act I)

"But there's this. You see, we just can’t settle down after knowing, but we got to act. And some of us go nuts. There’s too much to do and you don’t know where to start. It makes you crazy. Even me — I've done things that when I look back at them they don't seem rational. Once I started an organization myself. I picked out twenty lintheads and talked to them until I thought they knew. Our motto was one word: Action. Huh! We meant to start riots — stir up all the big trouble we could. Our ultimate goal was freedom — but a real freedom, a great freedom made possible only by the sense of justice of the human soul. Our motto, "Action," signified the razing of capitalism. In the constitution (drawn up by myself) certain statutes dealt with the swapping of our motto from "Action" to "Freedom" as soon as our work was through. [...] Then when the constitution was all written down and the first followers well organized — then I went out on a hitchhiking tour to organize component units of the society. Within three months I came back, and what do you reckon I found? What was the first heroic action? Had their righteous fury overcome planned action so that they had gone ahead without me? Was it destruction, murder, revolution? [...] My friend, they had stole the fifty-seven dollars and thirty seven cents from the treasury to buy uniform caps and free Saturday suppers. I caught them sitting around the conference table, rolling the bones, their caps on their heads, and a ham and a gallon of gin in easy reach." —Jake Blount (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Part II, Chapter IV)

"Since he had been at Lynn's he had often gone there and sat in front of the groups from the Parthenon; and, not deliberately thinking, had allowed their divine masses to rest his troubled soul. But this afternoon they had nothing to say to him, and after a few minutes, impatiently, he wandered out of the room. There were too many people, provincials with foolish faces, foreigners poring over guide-books; their hideousness besmirched the everlasting masterpieces, their restlessness troubled the god's immortal repose. He went into another room and here there was hardly anyone. Philip sat down wearily. His nerves were on edge. He could not get the people out of his mind. Sometimes at Lynn's they affected him in the same way, and he looked at them file past him with horror; they were so ugly and there was such meanness in their faces, it was terrifying; their features were distorted with paltry desires, and you felt they were strange to any ideas of beauty. They had furtive eyes and weak chins. There was no wickedness in them, but only pettiness and vulgarity. Their humour was a low facetiousness. Sometimes he found himself looking at them to see what animal they resembled (he tried not to, for it quickly became an obsession,) and he saw in them all the sheep or the horse or the fox or the goat. Human beings filled him with disgust." —Philip Carey via Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage, Chapter LXXXVIII)

"You asked me why I quit the Movement. I had a lot of good reasons. One was myself, and another was my comrades, and the last was the breed of swine called men in general. For myself, I was forced to admit, at the end of thirty years' devotion to the Cause, that I was never made for it. I was born condemned to be one of those who has to see all sides of a question. When you're damned like that, the questions multiply for you until in the end it's all question and no answer. As history proves, to be a worldly success at anything, especially revolution, you have to wear blinders like a horse and see only straight in front of you. You have to see, too, that this is all black, and that is all white. As for my comrades in the Great Cause, I felt as Horace Walpole did about England, that he could love it if it weren't for the people in it. The material the ideal free society must be constructed from is men themselves and you can't build a marble temple out of a mixture of mud and manure. When man's soul isn't a sow's ear, it will be time enough to dream of silk purses." —Larry Slade (The Iceman Cometh, Act I)


"Philip had cultivated a certain disdain for idealism. He had always had a passion for life, and the idealism he had come across seemed to him for the most part a cowardly shrinking from it. The idealist withdrew himself, because he could not suffer the jostling of the human crowd; he had not the strength to fight and so called the battle vulgar; he was vain, and since his fellows would not take him at his own estimate, consoled himself with despising his fellows." —Philip Carey (Of Human Bondage, Chapter LXXXVIII)

"'The things they have done to us! The truths they have turned into lies. The ideals they have fouled and made vile. Take Jesus. He was one of us. He knew. When He said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God — he damn well meant just what he said. But look what the Church has done to Jesus during the last two thousand years. What they have made of him. How they have turned every word he spoke for their own vile ends. Jesus would be framed and in jail if he were living today. Jesus would be one who really knows. Me and Jesus would sit across the table and I would look at him and he would look at me and we would both know that the other knew. Me and Jesus and Karl Marx could all sit at a table and —
     ‘And look what has happened to our freedom. The men who fought the American Revolution were no more like these D.A.R. dames than I'm a pot-bellied, perfumed Pekingese dog. They meant what they said about freedom. They fought a real revolution. They fought so that this could be a country where every man would be free and equal. Huh! And that meant every man was equal in the sight of Nature — with an equal chance. This didn't mean that twenty per cent of the people were free to rob the other eighty percent of the means to live. This didn't mean for one rich man to sweat the piss out of ten thousand poor men so that he can get richer. This didn't mean the tyrants were free to get this country in such a fix that millions of people are ready to do anything — cheat, lie, or whack off their right arm — just to work for three squares and a flop. They have made the word freedom a blasphemy. You hear me? They have made the word freedom stink like a skunk to all who know.'" —Jake Blount (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Part II, Chapter IV)

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"Perhaps his taciturnity hid a contempt for the human race which had abandoned the great dreams of his youth and now wallowed in sluggish ease; of perhaps those thirty years of revolution had taught him that men are unfit for liberty, and he thought that he had spent his life in the pursuit of that which was not worth the finding. Or maybe he was tired out and waited only with indifference for the release of death." —Philip Carey (Of Human Bondage, Chapter XXV)

"...I've nothing left to give, and I want to be left alone, and I'll thank you to keep your life to yourself. I feel you're looking for some answer to something. I have no answer to give anyone, not even myself. Unless you can call what Heine wrote inn his poem to morphine an answer. (He quotes a translation of the closing couplet sardonically)

'Lo, sleep is good; better is death; in sooth,
The best of all were never to be born.'"

                                                                                                        —Larry Slade (The Iceman Cometh, Act I)

"[Jake] knew and could not get the don't-knows to see. It was like trying to fight darkness or heat or a stink in the air." —Carson McCullers (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Part II, Chapter XII)

"All we want is to pass out in peace, bejees! (A chorus of dull, resentful protest from all the group. They mumble, like sleepers who curse a person who keeps awakening them, "What's it to us? We want to pass out in peace!") —Harry Hope (The Iceman Cometh, Act IV)

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JIM: Did something fall off it? I think—


JIM: I hope it wasn't the little glass horse with the horn!

LAURA: Yes. [She stoops to pick it up.]

JIM: Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?

LAURA: Now it is just like all the other horses.

JIM: It's lost its—

LAURA: Horn!

                                                                                          —Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Monday, July 18, 2011



"As I understand it, this young friend of yours is pursuing some fantasy of
                            [her] own, and it includes me. Is that correct?"


"Something like that."


"I don't find that very pleasant. You understand that?"


"Yes, I do."

A few moments later...


"It was you."


"What if it were?"


The final words of Ivan Passer's 1981 film Cutter's Way — "What if it were?" — are spoken by oil tycoon J.J. Cord when he's confronted about the rape and murder of a young girl, a crime he's very likely responsible for. The words are particularly unsettling because of what they imply about the irrelevance of moral accountability in the face of so much power and influence (to say nothing of their ambiguity). It just doesn't matter if he did it or not; he's J.J. Cord.

A somewhat related post from 2008 (written right before the second Wall Street bailout): Salò and the banality of evil