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Claiming That ‘We Birthed a Nation From Nothing’ CNN’s Rick Santorum Gives a Master Class in Christian Nationalism: An Open Letter to CNN

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 1:19am in

Dear CNN, Many questioned your decision to hire Rick Santorum as a senior political commentator...

NED-Funded Uyghur Separatist Network and CAIR Director Rally Around Cold War Propaganda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 4:37am in

WASHINGTON — On March 30, demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington, calling on the U.S. Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention and Human Rights Protection Acts.

This legislation would ban the import of products alleged to be made from forced labor in China. It also authorizes President Biden to sanction anyone believed to be responsible for labor trafficking.

Despite their tiny numbers, these protesters have a powerful force backing them: the U.S. government. Several of them are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, an ostensible non-governmental organization that itself is funded by Congress. Over the last two decades, through the NED, the U.S. government has poured millions of dollars into a network of organizations advocating for a neo-Ottoman separatist state in China’s Xinjiang province, what they call East Turkestan.

Indeed, these Uyghur exiles pose as grassroots activists attempting to pressure the very same Congress that is funding their activities. Most prominent among them is Rushan Abbas.

 

Rushan Abbas’s resume

“The Chinese regime is waging war against humanity. Against the basic rights God has given to us and waging war against our ethnicity and religion,” Abbas told the crowd.

Her profile – now scrubbed from the internet – boasts of “extensive experience working with U.S. government agencies, including Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, and various U.S. intelligence agencies.” Most famously, she worked as a translator for Uyghur detainees at the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Abbas also worked at Radio Free Asia – what The New York Times described as a “Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the C.I.A.” Today, she heads the Campaign For Uyghurs, an organization funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Also in attendance was Elfidar Iltebir, secretary of the Uyghur American Association. This is a subsidiary of the World Uyghur Congress, the main NED-funded organ of the separatist movement. The NED has granted millions of dollars to the World Uyghur Congress since its founding, and gave it the Democracy Award in 2019.

“As the world has witnessed in the last decade, Chinese communists, instead of respecting religious beliefs, and embracing democracy, [has] become more racist, fascist and tyrannical,” Iltebir said.

Days before the rally, Iltebir took part in a Uyghur caravan denouncing a “Stop Asian Hate” rally. Fellow caravan participants shouted obscenities at the protesters.

 

Unreliable narrators

The director of the Uyghur American Association is Kuzzat Altay. An investigation by Ajit Singh, published in The Grayzone, revealed that Altay and his brother Faruk have been trained by a former U.S. Army ranger as part of a Uyghur militia called Altay Defense.

Elfidar Iltebir’s sister is Elnigar Iltebir, who in 2019 was appointed to be the Trump administration’s director for China at the National Security Council.

I asked Abbas and Elfidar Iltebir about the allegations of a Uyghur genocide.

“More than three million Uyghurs are taken to concentration camps,” Abbas told me.

“So according to the State Department, two million — and the Pentagon, three million — Uyghurs. We believe it’s more than three million Uyghurs are in concentration camps in East Turkestan,” Iltebir said.

On Mike Pompeo’s last day heading Donald Trump’s state department, he published a report accusing China of genocide, claiming more than 1 million civilians are in concentration camps and likening them to the Nazi Holocaust.

Pompeo directly referenced Adrian Zenz, the evangelical Christian fundamentalist whose claims of forced sterilization and labor – the basis of the genocide label – have been discredited as the product of data abuse and outright fraud.

In May 2020, several months before Pompeo’s genocide claim, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver suggested the number was much higher, though he offered no evidence.

“The detention camps, given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to three million citizens,” Schriver told reporters.

I asked how many people have died in the alleged concentration camps.

“It’s hard to tell because the numbers China gives are never trustworthy. So according to the camp survivor Mihrigul Tursun, when she was in the camp for three months, nine out of 60 detainees were dead,” Iltebir told me.

Mihrigul Tursun is a Uyghur whose claims have been central to the genocide narrative and who has been featured in the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy’s promotional videos.

She was the central witness in a Congressional Executive Committee on China hearing chaired by the neoconservative Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The very same Marco Rubio who, in 2016, denounced then-president Obama’s visit to a mosque, accusing him of dividing and pitting people against each other.

At the hearing, Tursun claimed to have had her head shaved, been tortured and nearly killed in an electric chair, and witnessed deaths of fellow inmates.

Harrowing testimony, to be sure. But is it factual? Well, it’s hard to say. However, the Chinese state media outlet CGTN caught Tursun lying to CNN about the death of her son.

So the claim of Uyghurs being killed comes down to the testimony of one person whose own mother was revealed to be a liar. If Mihrigul Tursun is lying, it wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. government would have a sympathetic character give teary-eyed but false testimony in order to justify military aggression. That testimony, of course, turned out to be a lie cooked up by a member of congress and a PR firm.

Back at the rally, Rushan Abbas couldn’t cite any actual figures, but insisted Uyghurs are being killed en masse.

“We may not know that there’s going to be like tens of thousands of dead bodies somewhere or gas chambers, but everything that the Chinese government is doing in our homeland is exterminating the Uyghur people and killing the Uyghurs basically,” Abbas explained.

 

Crematoriums and credulity

Both Rushan Abbas and Elfidar Iltebir also claimed that China has constructed crematoriums next to concentration camps, evoking imagery of the Nazi Holocaust.

“Also China built crematoriums around the camps,” according to Iltebir.

“Crematoriums are built next to it, next to those concentration camps, for a culture that doesn’t practice cremation. Right there, that should give a warning signal.” Abbas alleged.

But unlike in the Nazi death camps, there’s no evidence of Chinese crematoriums. Instead, there are a handful of articles from the U.S. propaganda organ Radio Free Asia where Abbas used to work.

This Radio Free Asia article about crematoriums references claims to have aerial photos delivered by the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database, a Norway based organization that is also funded by the National Endowment For Democracy. Yet the supposed photos of the alleged crematoriums are not provided.

Instead, the article contains a blurry image of what it claims is an internment camp, provided by serial fabulist Adrian Zenz, and says “there might be a cremation site near the camps.”

uyghur internment camp

Source | Radio Free Asia

The Radio Free Asia article also references a previous article that alleges the regional government listed tenders for contractors to build nine quote “burial management centers” that include crematoria.

A native Mandarin speaker searched the website of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and found nothing corroborating this claim.

The same report claims the existence of a job posting listed on the Xinjiang official government website seeking 50 security personnel to work in a crematorium.

There is no link to the job posting, a screenshot of any kind of evidence or of this job posting; and, again, research by a native Mandarin speaker came up empty.

It is, however, true that the Chinese government mandates cremation. Except, this only applies to the ethnic Han majority. Ethnic minorities including Uyghurs are exempt.

This 2003 document explains the policy, citing respect for customs of ethnic minorities, and instead allows them land for cemeteries.

“Ethnic minorities which traditionally practice inhumation are exempt from the government requirement of cremation, and are allotted special land for cemeteries,” the document says.

In fact, the cover photo of the first Radio Free Asia article shows a newly constructed and weatherproof Uyghur cemetery in Xinjiang. The traditional form of dirt burials had left them vulnerable to the elements, as this CGTN report explains.

Those Radio Free Asia articles were authored by Uyghur exile Gulchehra Hoja. In 2019, Hoja and Tursun were photographed proudly shaking hands with former CIA director and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

Just lobby, like the Uyghurs

At the rally, I asked Elfidar Iltebir what she thought about the U.S. government’s treatment of Muslims.

“Do you think Mike Pompeo and Antony Blinken are good allies to Muslims,” I asked?

“I believe so. I believe so,” Iltebir told me. “They do have strong beliefs which we see, you know? And they do stand up for human rights. And I believe they are indeed from the heart, care about humanity.”

Iltebir assured me that despite the U.S.-sponsored catastrophes in Muslim-majority countries like Yemen, Syria, and Palestine, the U.S. is actually taking care of their rights and they should simply lobby congressional lawmakers like the Uyghurs have.

“I am sure the U.S. did enough for their rights. Because I’m in the Uyghur diaspora I read more about those, so I may not have enough information to make a comment on that. But I would recommend those from Yemen and others to get together and do advocacy work and inform the Congress, inform the Senate, inform the government officials about what is going on. And if they know enough, I think they will take an action,” she assured. So what I suggest is for other Muslim countries to keep doing the advocacy work, lobbying.”

“Same with the Palestinians, for example,” I asked.

“Yes, and reach out for help. Reach out for other groups too,” she continued.

“Would you call what’s happening to the Palestinians a genocide,” I asked.

“Umm, as I said, because I don’t have enough information like I don’t read, I’m not up to date with what’s going on, I’m not the right person to make that comment,” Iltebir told me.

 

A very selective concern

When I asked Rushan Abbas why the U.S. is supposedly interested in the rights of Uyghurs while committing atrocities in Muslim-majority countries, she assured me that the U.S. is taking steps to ensure their rights.

“Why does the U.S. care about human rights for the Uyghur people but not about the Yemeni people, not about Palestinians,” I asked.

“I’m sure that they have, you know, other projects funding and supporting to end those atrocities as well,” Abbas told me.

Abbas then warned that China is seeking to imprison the entire world in concentration camps:

Look at the Uyghur today and imagine the future of the free, democratic world. Because that’s what Chinese government wants. If they win over the Uyghurs or win over the people like criticizing the Western countries or this and that, and they let us concentrate on something else and get away with what they are doing, then the darkness of what the Uyghurs are facing will be the future of the entire world.”

Finally, Abbas lashed out at Daniel Dumbrill, a Canadian vlogger based in China whom she accuses of making money from the Chinese government.

“They are very actively using the social media, using those famous YouTubers to spread disinformation and false narratives,” she claimed.

“Who are these people?” I asked.

“This is a guy, Daniel Dumbrill, he is supposed to be Canadian, living in Shenzhen, making money from the Chinese government. He has a brewing company,” she explained.

“He’s paid by the Chinese government?” I responded.

Well he has a company in Shenzhen supported by the Chinese regime because the Chinese regime is always advertising his brewing company in state-owned media… He accuses me of being paid by the US government or CIA but I’m not going to do what he is doing because I don’t have evidence.”

But Rushan Abbas has long been on the payroll of the U.S. government and continues to be funded by the National Endowment For Democracy, a fact she didn’t deny when I had brought it up earlier in our interview.

“What do you say to criticism about the funding that you’ve gotten and still get from the U.S. government,” I asked her.

“Because the U.S. cares about the human rights for the Uyghur people,” Abbas told me.

While Abbas acknowledges that she doesn’t have evidence that Daniel Dumbrill is paid by the Chinese government, she insisted on portraying him as its beneficiary.

“One thing you should think,” she said, “if he can use Youtube and Twitter and social media, which none of the other people who are living in China can use, if he has a brewing company being supported and advertised by the Chinese regime, what do you say?”

I contacted Daniel Dumbrill, who denied Abbas’s allegations that the Chinese government affords him special internet privileges and that Chinese media runs advertisements for his business, explaining:

I don’t think Rushan truly believes that millions of people accessing social media from China don’t know how to use a VPN and their only option is to do favors for the Chinese government. As for her other claim, I actually made a special note that if any media outlet came to interview me about my politics or vlogging, that they not mention my business. I didn’t want to conflate the two. Ironically it’s my critics that speak about my business more than I do. And this is a really good opportunity. Ask Rushan to provide any evidence to this claim and you’ll find, like many of her other claims, there’s just nothing there to back it up because it’s simply not true.”

Indeed, I asked Abbas for evidence but she declined to provide it, saying she is “not interested in anything he had to say.”

 

CAIR weighs in

Yet it wasn’t only Uyghur separatist figures linked to intelligence agencies at the rally. Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), attended too.

“We ask the Biden administration to fulfill its promise to put human rights on the top of their agenda,” Awad told the small crowd.

While on one hand defending the civil rights of Muslim-Americans and refugees targeted by the U.S. government in the post 9/11 era, CAIR has also been a key proponent of destructive U.S. wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2011, CAIR backed the Obama administration’s decision to launch a NATO regime-change war on Libya, which plunged the country into chaos and brought open-air slave markets back to the African continent. In 2015, CAIR supported the U.S. dirty war on Syria, calling for a no-fly zone – a euphemism for the U.S. to shoot down Syrian and Russian military aircraft.

CAIR has called on its membership to pressure Congress to pass the so-called Caesar Act, the most crippling sanctions on Syria to date. These sanctions have criminalized international aid, created severe energy shortages, and caused a devastating famine. According to Foreign Policy magazine, “it has brought starvation, darkness, plague, misery, robbery, kidnappings, and the destruction of a nation.”

Now, under the guise of humanitarianism, CAIR is throwing its weight behind the U.S.’s new cold war against China.

Dr. Talibi Shareef, the Imam and president of Washington’s historic Masjid Muhammad mosque, attended too.

“We are asking that America, its government, its president, its leaders, put pressure on China to treat every one of their citizens as the creation of the Almighty God the Creator,” he said, “as has been identified, in the precious document that established this country: this Declaration of Independence.”

Imam Shareef told me that Congress passing this legislation targeting China would be a sign of the U.S. living up to the ideals expressed in its founding documents, and he seemed to suggest the U.S. should take military action.

“So if the U.S., for example, recognizes this Uyghur genocide, and advances legislation to challenge it, you think that will be a sign that the U.S. is advancing towards a more harmonious, racially tolerant atmosphere?” I asked.

“Absolutely it would be a sign. And it’s really the least they should be able to do. I served in the military for over thirty years. So I know they have different instruments of power,” he assured me.

 

Pompeo finishes with a full-split

But the Uyghur genocide narrative was the project of former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of the most extreme Islamophobes in U.S. politics.

After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Pompeo remarked that “silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts.” Pompeo has accepted awards from the hate group ACT for America, whose founder Brigitte Gabriel said that an American Muslim  “cannot be a loyal citizen” and that Islam is the “real enemy.”

But for Imam Shareef, Pompeo’s last-day genocide designation wasn’t an attempt to irreversibly ramp up aggression with China, but a sign of genuine change of heart.

“Why do you think someone like Mike Pompeo, who is widely considered an Islamophobe, is so serious about this issue?” I asked.

“Well, I think some of that had to do with some sense of consciousness to speak the truth,” Imam Shareef told me, adding:

He was on his way out. He knew he was on his way out. Because we got to look at the whole time he was in in terms of how he addressed it. And this is a short period of time, and for him, I think in terms of consequences to him, were inconsequential for him to make that statement at that particular time even if it was going against the interests of the one that he was representing. That’s why I think he said it. But again, I do see him as one who represents that right extremist population. “

“So you think, just on this issue, kind of at the end he kinda came to his senses and said, ‘I’m gonna be in solidarity with these people?’” I asked.

“I do,” he affirmed. “I do.”

With little pushback, the Uyghur issue is the central component of a bipartisan push to weaken and divide China and is now at the top of Washington’s foreign policy agenda.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post NED-Funded Uyghur Separatist Network and CAIR Director Rally Around Cold War Propaganda appeared first on MintPress News.

LaCapra on the history, memory, and the Holocaust

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/04/2021 - 6:39am in

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Dominick LaCapra's History and Memory after Auschwitz is an important contribution to the topic of "history's responsibility in front of the Holocaust". His aim in this book, and elsewhere in many of his other writings, is to express his "conception of the relations among history, memory, ethics, and politics" (6). 

Here is an especially arresting sentence from the introduction:

I discuss Heinrich Himmler's famous Posen speech of October 1943, addressed to upper-level SS officers, for it may be taken as the paradigmatic assertion of the sublimity and "glory" of extreme transgression and unheard-of excess in the Nazi treatment of Jews. Often such features are marginalized or downplayed in the emphasis on factors such as the banality of evil, the well-nigh inevitable consequences of totalization (or totalitarianism), the role of bureaucratic routine and cold duty, the inertial force of social pressure, the effects of depersonalizing and fragmented relations to the other, and the significance of a massive technological framework, instrumental rationality, and industrialized mass murder. (3)

LaCapra draws attention here to the striking contrast between these fairly ordinary causal factors often highlighted in discussions of the Holocaust and the "regression to barbarism" represented by much of the treatment of Jews and the insane "sublime elation" of Himmler's speech.

LaCapra seeks to address the question of "uniqueness or comparability" of the Holocaust:

The more general point ... is that the Holocaust was "unique" in a specific, nonnumerical, and noninvidious sense. In it an extreme threshold or outer limit of transgression was crossed, and whenever that threshold or limit is crossed, something "unique" happens and the standard opposition between uniqueness and comparability is unsettled, thereby depriving comparatives (especially in terms of magnitude) of a common measure or foundation. (7)

This is a somewhat paradoxical-sounding statement, but it seems to make sense. The "killing fields" of Pol Pot were also unique, different from the Holocaust, horrific, and "an extreme threshold or outer limit of transgression". Each such crossing is "non-comparable", in the sense that each demands its own sorrow, its own lack of comprehension, and its own determination that "never again" will we permit such violations. There is no common measure; each occurrence is evil in its own unique and horrific way.

LaCapra quotes Saul Friedlander on the topic of the uniqueness of the Nazi extermination of the Jews, including especially Friedlander's view in Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe that "The Nazi regime attained what is, in my view, some sort of theoretical outer limit: one may envision an even larger number of victims and a technologically more efficient way of killing, but once a regime decides that groups, whatever the criteria may be, should be annihilated there and then and never be allowed to live on Earth, the ultimate has been achieved" (quoted in LaCapra, 26). LaCapra approves of this idea: "The essential consideration is that an outer limit was reached and that, once this limit is reached, something radically transgressive or incommensurable has occurred". But he also fears that this perspective may "normalize" (banalize) the Holocaust "by prompting a dogmatic assertion of absolutes, a grim competition for first place in victimhood or the type of research into similarities and differences that easily becomes diversionary and pointless" (26).

Here is LaCapra's considered judgment about how to understand the uniqueness and generalizability of the Holocaust:

I would change metaphors and note the role of a tragic grid that achieved a paramount place in the Holocaust but in other ways is also evident elsewhere in history. It is the grid that locks together perpetrator, collaborator, victim, bystander, and resister, and that also threatens to encompass the secondary witness and historian. A goal of working-through should be the better understanding of this grid and the attempt to overcome it toward a more desirable network of relations. (40-41)

And what about the historian in this tragic grid?

The historian must work out a subject-position in negotiating transference and coming to terms with his or her implication in the tragic grid of participant-positions. The conventional stance for the historian is often closest to that of the innocent bystander or onlooker. But this safe position is particularly questionable in the case of the Holocaust and other extreme or limit-events. (41)

Working through the past in any desirable fashion would thus be a process (not an accomplished state) and involve not definitive closure or full self-possession but a recurrent yet variable attempt to relate accurate, critical memory-work to the requirements of desirable action in the present. (42)

One thing that is especially noteworthy about LaCapra's approach to the topic of history, memory, and trauma is his use of some basic ideas from psychoanalysis. This is an approach that is somewhat foreign to the ideas that analytic philosophers bring to the philosophy of history, but it seems especially relevant to the question of how to confront the evils of the twentieth century. Here is a very interesting description of how LaCapra treats psychoanalysis as a tool of inquiry in history:

My basic premise in this chapter is that the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (such as transference, resistance, denial, repression, acting-out, and working-through) undercut the binary opposition between the individual and society, and their application to individual or collective phenomena is a matter of informed argument and research.... One should rather call into question the very idea that one is working with a more or less flimsy analogy between the individual and society and argue instead that there is nothing intrinsically "individual" about such concepts as repression and working-through. These concepts refer to processes that always involve modes of interaction, mutual reinforcement, conflict, censorship, orientation toward others, and so forth, and their relative individual or collective status should not be prejudged. (43)

This perspective makes sense in two different ways in the setting the history of the Holocaust or the Holodomor -- first, as a means of making sense of the thoughts and actions of perpetrators and victims (for example, in the lengthy Posen speech of Himmler's that LaCapra treats in detail); and second, as a way of addressing the historian's own blindspots, aversions, and rationalizations in the telling of the story. The second part of the passage following the ellipsis captures very well the situation of "collective memory" and historians' collective efforts to uncover a narrative of a complex and horrific period.

This is a good place to draw attention to the current crisis in Holocaust historiography in Poland occasioned by the libel suit successfully pursued against Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking for entirely legitimate assertions they made in Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland (published in 2018, not yet available in English translation) (link). Their work is based on thorough historical research, and aligns with the moral necessity of facing unhappy truths honestly through historical inquiry. Like Jan Gross two decades before (link), their work honestly confronts the involvement of ordinary Polish people in the murder of Poland's Jews. The government-backed insistence on "historical research supporting the national dignity of Poland" is entirely inimical towards history, truth, and memory, and is rightly opposed by historians and writers throughout the world.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

Compassion and the moral emotions (Nussbaum)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 11:36am in

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image: Philoctetes injured on Lemnos
How can the atrocities of the twentieth century lead to the creation of a better version of humanity? One theme to explore involves the moral emotion of compassion, and the idea that this is an emotion that human beings learn through experience and reflection. Crucially, we need to explore whether knowledge of history can help to inform the development of a culture of compassion. Both John Kekes and Susan Neiman provide some useful insights into the key question: how should a current generation engage with the history of the atrocities of the past century? Kekes contributes to this idea through his discussion of moral imagination, and Neiman contributes through her analysis of Rousseau's theory of the malleability of human nature.

The philosopher who has shed the most light on compassion is Martha Nussbaum. In "Compassion: The Basic Social Emotion" (link) she explores the importance that compassion and pity play in the moral ordering of human social life. (The subject is treated as well in Part II of Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions.) As the title suggests, Nussbaum regards compassion (or pity) as a prerequisite moral emotion for much of social life; and she believes that it must be learned. Moreover, literature, drama, and history can be crucial components of that learning.

Tragedy, as ancient Athenian culture saw it, is not for the very young; and it is not just for the young. Mature people always need to expand their experience and to reinforce their grasp on central ethical truths. To the young adolescent who is preparing to take a place in the city, however, tragedy has a special significance. Such a spectator is learning pity in the process. (39)

If we believe that the ability to imagine the ills of another with vivid sympathy is an important part of being a good person, then we will want to follow Rousseau in giving support to procedures by which this ability is taught. Much of this will and should be done privately, in families. But every society employs and teaches ideals of the citizen, and of good civic judgment, in many ways; and there are some concrete practical strategies that will in fact support an education in compassion. (50)

Nussbaum approaches the topic of pity or compassion through the story of Philoctetes, as related by Sophocles. She finds that Sophocles provides a nuanced and reflective demonstration of the emotion, within the context of a complicated social story. The value of literature in exploring moral concepts has been a strength of Nussbaum's approach to moral philosophy for a long time, and its use here is illuminating.
Nussbaum rejects the Humean view that emotions are the contrary of reason, knowledge, or deliberation; instead, she argues that at least some emotions, like pity and compassion, embrace both representation of the world and affective response to the world. Compassion is a crucial part of inter-personal knowledge: "compassion, in the philosophical tradition, is a central bridge between the individual and the community; it is conceived of as our species' way of hooking the interests of others to our own personal goods" (28). Further, "compassion is a certain sort of reasoning" (29). And "all compassion is "rational" in the descriptive sense in which that term is frequently used—that is, not merely impulsive, but involving thought or belief" (30-31).
Here is the analysis of pity or compassion that Nussbaum attributes to Aristotle:
Pity, Aristotle argues, is a painful emotion directed at another person's misfortune or suffering (Rhet. 1385bl3ff.). It requires and rests on three beliefs: (1) the belief that the suffering is serious rather than trivial; (2) the belief that the suffering was not caused primarily by the person's own culpable actions; and (3) the belief that the pitier's own possibilities are similar to those of the sufferer. Each of these seems to be necessary for the emotion, and they seem to be jointly sufficient. (31)

Nussbaum does not explicitly draw the connection between compassion and evil here that I believe is crucial -- in fact, she does not explicitly discuss "evil" in either of these works -- but the tie is straightforward. One fails utterly to understand the Holodomor or the killing pits of Poland or the Cathar Crusade if one fails to imagine the pain, suffering, and loss that each of these historical events involved, for millions of human beings. (Nussbaum refers to this particular form of moral blindness in her treatment of Emile in Upheavals; 322.) And, conversely, if one has a strongly developed capacity for the moral emotion of compassion, it is hard to see how he or she could consent to playing the role of an Eichmann or a Stangl. Here is a relevant comment by Nussbaum in the context of the dehumanization of the victims so often observed in the Holocaust and other instances of genocidal conduct:

This fact explains why so frequently those who wish to withhold pity and to teach others to do so portray the sufferers as altogether dissimilar in kind and in possibility. In The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg shows how pervasively Nazi talk of Jews, in connection with their murder, portrayed them as nonhuman: either as beings of a remote animal kind, such as insects or vermin, or as inanimate objects, "cargo" to be transported. (35)

Nussbaum refers in Upheavals of Thought to other demeaning and dehumanizing mechanisms through which committers of atrocities reconcile their actions -- for example, by portraying the victims as unclean and disgusting. "Thus the Germans forged the will to carry out the atrocities"(Upheavals, 348).
To what extent are our moral sensibilities subject to growth, education, and development? Like Susan Neiman (link), Nussbaum draws a connection to Rousseau and his treatment of the emotion of pity in Emile. She finds that Rousseau's analysis of this moral emotion captures the fullness of reasoning and affect that she has described; and, crucially, she finds that Rousseau believes that compassion must be learned:

If Emile really does the cognitive work, if his imagination really contains the thoughts of pity, with all their evaluative material, in such a way that they become part of his cognitive makeup and his motivations for action, then he has pity whether he experiences this or that tug in his stomach or not. No such particular bodily feeling is necessary. To determine whether Emile has pity, we look for the evidence of a certain sort of thought and imagination, in what he says, and in what he does. (38)
And in Upheavals she returns to Rousseau:
I think that this, indeed, was Rousseau’s idea, when he said that Émile would learn compassion without hierarchy if his teacher taught him to focus on the common vulnerability of all human beings. “Thus from our weakness,” he concludes, “our fragile happiness is born.” Surrendering omnipotence is essential to compassion, and a broad compassion for one’s fellow citizens is essential to a decent society. (350)
Moreover, Nussbaum believes that the "teachability" of compassion is important: human beings and human cultures can improve their capacity for compassion through reflective experience.

If we believe that the ability to imagine the ills of another with vivid sympathy is an important part of being a good person, then we will want to follow Rousseau in giving support to procedures by which this ability is taught. Much of this will and should be done privately, in families. But every society employs and teaches ideals of the citizen, and of good civic judgment, in many ways; and there are some concrete practical strategies that will in fact support an education in compassion. (50)

Nussbaum believes that immersion in literature can assist with this learning. But I think she would agree with the idea that a close and honest reading of historians like Tim Snyder, Primo Levi, or Alexandr Solzhenitsyn can help with this form of moral development as well.

So several things seem clear. Compassion is crucial for recognizing the evil of the twentieth century; further, we can deepen our capacity for compassion by honestly confronting the atrocities of the period; and -- just possibly -- our future history will be better than our past because of this honesty. And Rousseau's comments about compassion in Emile suggest another possibility as well: that we become different people, and our culture becomes a different culture, through this kind of immersive experience.

Is China Committing Genocide? Behind the US Government’s Propaganda Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/03/2021 - 6:15am in

XINJIANG PROVINCE, CHINA — Up is down. War is peace. And the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have accused China of genocide.

“This is forced labor, this is forced sterilization, this is forced abortions, …the kind of thing we haven’t seen in an awfully long time in this world,” declared then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

To be fair, the accusers are experts in genocide: the U.S. and its junior imperial partner, Canada, wiped out their indigenous populations. Today the U.S. is responsible for the three biggest human rights catastrophes in the world in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. And the Netherlands is just coming to terms with its massacres in Indonesia.

Mike Pompeo’s successor at the State Department, Antony Blinken, is sticking with the genocide claim. That’s despite the State Department’s top lawyers stating that whatever might be happening in Xinjiang, it’s not genocide. That’s right. Chinese Communist Party genocide denialists have infiltrated the U.S. State Department to impurify our precious bodily fluids.

 

Pure Zenz

So what did Pompeo and Blinken base their accusations of genocide on? There must have been a pretty strong body of on-the-ground reporting and research. Or not. It turns out that one guy is pretty much responsible for the whole narrative. His name is Adrian Zenz.

“Adrian’s research, as many of you know, has been key in establishing the existence of the camps in the first place, and in documenting the buildup of the PRC police state,” explained Hudson Institute fellow Eric Brown.

Zenz appeared almost overnight as a go-to expert on Xinjiang and Uighurs. Now he’s a regular on mainstream outlets and even on supposedly progressive news show Democracy Now. In fact, in Mike Pompeo’s official statement accusing China of genocide, he directly credited Zenz.

But most of his so-called research has been discredited, and he’s been revealed to be a straight-up fabulist. A Grayzone News investigation showed that Zenz’s claims of 1 million Uighur detained in camps were based “on a single report by Istiqlal TV, a Uyghur exile media organization based in Turkey, which was republished by Newsweek Japan.” In other words, no evidence, and not even an attempt.

Meanwhile, Zenz’s study accusing China of forced sterilizations didn’t contain any proof of coercion. The Grayzone showed how “Zenz consistently framed the expansion of public healthcare services in Xinjiang as evidence of a genocide in the making.”

Characterizing expanded access to birth control as genocide is what the Christian Right does. So it makes perfect sense that Zenz – an evangelical fundamentalist himself – holds this view.

Zenz’s first book is a psychedelic trip through the mind of a Rapture-ready Christer. Entitled “Worthy to Escape: Why All Believers Will Not Be Raptured Before the Tribulation,” the book claims that in the end times, “God’s refining process will wipe out all unbelieving Jews who refuse to come to Christ.” So Zenz writes racist fantasies about Jews, like me. Who knows what he thinks will happen to Uighur Muslims!

He also says that Satan is using postmodernism to attack gender-authority structures and undermine what he believes are God’s unique but different role assignments for men and women. Clearly, he is against women’s rights. So does he support criminalizing birth control in his native Germany and here in the U.S. where he now resides?

Even more deranged, Zenz’s big genocide study claimed that women in Xinjiang receive 800 to 1600 IUD insertions per capita. That means every Uighur woman is surgically implanted with 4 to 8 IUDs every single day of the year.

Evidently, none of the outlets that feverishly published his claims bothered to give even a cursory examination to the evidence, or lack thereof, that he presents.

 

Other reasons (besides genocide) for having fewer kids

In reality, the decrease in birth rate is a normal, predictable outcome of economic development. When people are more financially secure, they choose to have fewer kids and do it later in life.

In fact, China is pouring money into Xinjiang to develop its economy.

According to a 2015 U.S. government study, “To decrease ethnic instability in Xinjiang, the Chinese government’s plan is to economically develop the region.”

That’s right. Chinese Communist Party agents have also time-traveled to 2015 to infiltrate the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and write a study trying to justifying genocide. Damn you Xi!!!

As a result of this economic development, China’s birth rate is falling at rapid rates in all regions, which comes with its own set of problems, like an aging population – similar to what the U.S. is dealing with. So Chinese lawmakers are now pushing for the universal two-child policy to be changed to three.

But this rapture-ready fanatic Adrian Zenz isn’t the only source for these claims of genocide, right?

Well, Newsweek cites Adrian Zenz.

How about CNN: the self-described most trusted name in news? CNN says its reporting found that some Uyghur women were being forced to use birth control and undergo sterilization… There it is. Can’t argue with that.

…The article was “based on a report by Adrian Zenz.”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum accuses China of crimes against humanity and genocide against Uighurs. They reference “leaked government documents” and “researchers,” presumably referring to Zenz.

 

Zenz and the Genocide Choir

With Zenz at the center, a cast of shady characters have promoted this disinformation to support the phony genocide claim:

  • Rushan Abbas — former Pentagon contractor who worked for Radio Free Asia, a U.S. propaganda mouthpiece started by the CIA.
  • Darren Byler — a fellow at the Wilson Center, which is funded by the U.S. government and a host of other NATO governments, big banks and corporations. His resume shows he has also been funded to the tune of 100,000 dollars through the U.S. Department of Education.
  • He does panels with Louise Greve — the former vice president of the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, who now runs the NED-funded Uyghur Human Rights Project.
  • There’s Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson — this cold-warrior wrote an op-ed in the liberal interventionist Foreign Affairs magazine calling for Biden to confront China over human rights. What the hell are the people at Human Rights Watch smoking to believe the guy who just bombed Syria and sponsors Israel’s project of apartheid has a shred of crediblity on human rights?
  • Then there’s the Australian Strategic Policy Institute – the self-declared independent, non-partisan think tank, which is totally dependent on funding from the Australian and American departments of defense, NATO, weapons makers, the Embassy of Japan, and the Embassy of Israel, among others.

 

2018 and the sudden “genocide” drumbeat

The Uighur genocide claim was virtually unheard of before 2018. Up until that point, Western media coverage of the issue was dramatically different.

Take The New York Times. In the 1980s, it published a series of articles about how Uighur Muslims were actually prospering and Islam was flourishing under Chinese rule.

By the 1980s, this separatist movement was becoming violent. In one 1997 incident, the Times reported on, about a thousand Muslim separatists of the Uighur ethnic minority rampaged through the town Yining on Wednesday, smashing cars, burning shops and beating up ethnic Chinese to protest Beijing’s rule.

In 1994, the Times reported that Uighur extremists were returning from Afghanistan, where the CIA spent a billion dollars arming what it called a “University of Jihad.” The Times noted that “Afghan veterans have fought in two western provinces, Uighur and Xinjiang, where they have armed and trained Chinese Muslim rebels.”

In the wake of the U.S. destruction of Yugoslavia, the Times noted the separatists fantasized about a NATO bombing campaign

This Uighur separatist movement, its violent anti-Han rampages, or the militants returning from Afghanistan are barely mentioned in any of the contemporary Times reports claiming genocide.

In 1981, The Washington Post wrote about growing ethnic tensions in Xinjiang, noting that “Peking has taken pains to ensure ethnic rights and elevate minority group members to leadership positions. In Xinjiang, a kind of affirmative action program has been started at the provincial university to guarantee that 60 percent of new students are from ethnic backgrounds.” Today, none of this gets mentioned in the Post’s coverage.

How about Newsweek? Back in 2000, it reported that Xinjiang was a weak point that threatened to fragment China along ethnic lines, that Uighur separatists threatened the security of Beijing, and some might even join forces with Islamic “holy warriors.” Now it’s all genocide, all the time.

With these misleading or outright false claims based on manipulated statistics, the only evidence for a Uighur genocide is anecdotal, which is hard to prove or disprove. But the testimony in Western media is often full of contradictions.

Take the case of Sayragul Sauytbay. In 2019, she told the UK tabloid The Daily Mail that she witnessed concentration camp “inmates being flayed, raped by guards in front of other prisoners, given injections that made them infertile and force-fed pork.” Keep in mind this is the same tabloid that has spent years peddling Islamophobic hysteria and once warned about Muslim fanatics hijacking the royal wedding. Sauytbay has told similar stories in more respectable newspapers like Foreign Policy, Haaretz and Deutsche Welle.

But back in 2018, Sauytbay told the Globe and Mail that “She did not personally see violence.” For some reason, she completely changed her story. Maybe she was fearful and traumatized, or maybe she falsified it. Apparently, none of the outlets that published her testimony bothered to check into that discrepancy.

Then there’s Tursunay Ziyawundun. She’s the central character in the forced-sterilization narrative cooked up by Adrian Zenz. She’s delivered teary testimonies for the BBC, CNN and Democracy Now. A few months before those reports, however, she told Buzzfeed News, “I wasn’t beaten or abused.” Again, why did she change her story? And why did all of these media outlets fail to do a basic check into her past statements?

 

Older rumblings

In my research, the first mention of Uighur genocide took place back in 1997, when several so-called “Chinese dissidents” testified to Congress. One woman named Rizvangul Uighur claimed that China’s birth control policy involved murdering babies as soon as they were born. She said the one-child policy was so strictly enforced that “babies are being killed in [the] delivery room without seeing the mother’s face and world.”

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) – a homophobic bigot from the Christian right – claimed that Uighur women “are often taken physically to the abortion mill. Forced abortions can be performed very late in pregnancy, even in the ninth month. Sometimes the baby’s skull is crushed with forceps as it emerges from the birth canal. Either the woman or her husband may then be forcibly sterilized.”

That’s the same Chris Smith who several months before was railing against abortion rights at the so-called March For Life rally and accusing Bill Clinton of murdering unborn children:

You are and your legacy will be abortion president. You know, mister president, that the scriptures admonish us to pray for those in authority. And we will be faithful to that. As believers we will pray and fast, and sincerely hope, that you reject the culture of death.”

Neither Rizvangul Uighur nor Smith bothered to mention that in 1997 Uighurs and other ethnic minorities were not subject to the one-child policy. So the birthrate in Xinjiang province was 19.66 – meaning there were nearly 20 births per 1,000 people. Meanwhile, in Beijing, the birthrate was 7.91.

Of course, there was a clear political goal in the bogus testimony delivered in Congress. It was coordinated to be released on the day that Bill Clinton met with President of China Jiang Zemin.

Members of Congress were demanding Clinton take a hardline approach to China, some even using racist epithets to warn of a Chinese invasion. “The White House will not wise up until there’s a full blown rice paddy on the east lawn,” warned Democratic Ohio Congressman James Traficant, whose career ultimately ended in a bribery conviction and expulsion from Congress.

After that, save for a couple of Voice of America articles, there was no mention in Western media about the Uighur genocide — until 2018.

 

The contemporary hypocritical propaganda barrage

It’s worth pointing out that the vast majority of American politicians taking up the supposed Uighur genocide cause are totally supportive of U.S.-sponsored genocides around the world. Like Chris Smith (yup, he’s still there).

The same Chris Smith who welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu with a statement of “unequivocal support for Israel” just a few months after it killed 551 Palestinian children in Gaza.

Or Florida Senator Rick Scott – also a bestie of the butcher of Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The neocon Michael Pillsbury – the same Michael Pillsbury who in the 1980s, as a state department official, oversaw the CIA’s arming of the Afghanistan mujahideen with Stinger missiles, the same mujahideen who would train Uighur jihadists.

The Uighur genocide is almost perfectly tailored for right-wing agitators who want to portray socialism as a totalitarian system akin to Nazism. “When people say ‘never again’ they were (sic) full of crap. They’re just full of crap. This is one area where the United States should be taking a leading role… shaving people’s heads, shipping them on trains and to concentration camps where you force them into labor and/or sterilize them,” declared Ben Shapiro.

“Many of them women who, of their own volition, had the Chinese government paramilitary forcefully end those pregnancies. Forcefully sterilize,” said Tim Pool. “They’re trying to sterilize the Uighur population but force the Han population genetic code into other Uighur women,” his fellow podcaster claimed.

Should I mention here that the U.S. government forcibly sterilized 1,400 Black women in a California prison? Haven’t seen any U.S. government officials or news media talk about that!

This propaganda deluge is having a powerful impact on U.S. public opinion. In 2017, just before the Uighur genocide narrative kicked into high gear, 53% of Americans had a favorable view of China – the highest in three decades. Now, a new poll shows it’s down to 20% – a historic low. That was accompanied by a 150% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in U.S. cities.

 

Trillions of dollars worth of “caring”

So what is this all about? Why did corporate media and militaristic right wing politicians, along with a surprising number of progressive dupes, suddenly start freaking out about a supposed genocide in China?

Xinjiang is the heart of China’s Belt and Road initiative, the economic plan that connects Asia to Europe and the Middle East. It’s an alternative model to the dictatorship of the U.S. dollar, where the World Bank and International Monetary Fund turn countries into neo-colonies for American corporations – a system backed up with the constant threat of military invasion.

The U.S. can’t deal with legitimate competition, so it’s resorting to smears in an attempt to isolate China diplomatically and slow its economic growth.

It’s either that, or the government and military that forcibly sterilized minority women in prisons, tortured in Abu Ghraib, relies on prison labor, and is waging genocidal wars against multiple Muslim-majority countries, just simply cares a whole lot about the Uighurs.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post Is China Committing Genocide? Behind the US Government’s Propaganda Campaign appeared first on MintPress News.

Evil and the history of philosophy (Neiman)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/03/2021 - 4:35am in

Tags 

genocide


As recent posts suggest, I am interested in finding appropriate ways of rethinking the philosophy of history so as to provide us with greater ability to confront the evils of the twentieth century. This involves some concrete questions about how we as human beings define ourselves in the world, in light of the histories our predecessors and contemporaries have created. How should human beings of the twenty-first century relate to the evil events of the twentieth century? And how can humanity grow from confronting this history honestly? I hope to address these questions through the idea that human beings can learn compassion and evil from history, and we human beings can change as a result. The idea is that reflecting upon the history of the Holocaust or the Holodomor seriously and honestly has the potential of changing our natures, making these crimes less likely in the future. 
Susan Neiman offers an abstract and philosophical treatment of evil in Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (2002). (Fred Rush provides a highly thoughtful and detailed review of the book here.) Neiman describes her goals in the book in these terms:

This book traces changes that have occurred in our understanding of the self and its place in the world from the early Enlightenment to the late twentieth century. Taking intellectual reactions to Lisbon and Auschwitz as central poles of inquiry is a way of locating the beginning and end of the modern. (introduction)
The subtitle of her book is meaningful: "an alternative history of philosophy". She wants to understand how philosophy changed its content by progressing from making sense of the Lisbon earthquake to making sense of the Holocaust. Plainly, her book is more about how philosophers have reacted to "evil" events in general terms, and less about the nature of those events themselves, or their perpetrators. (Indeed, there was no human perpetrator in the Lisbon earthquake.) Like John Kekes (link), she rejects the idea that the problem of evil is largely an issue for theology. But her interest is in philosophy, and how philosophers have conceptualized evil. "My interest is, rather, to explore what changes in our understanding of the problem of evil reveal about changes in our understanding of ourselves, and of our place in the world" (kl 264). And she proposes a novel way of classifying philosophers in the history of philosophy -- not as rationalist vs. empiricist, and not primarily driven by epistemology and skepticism; but rather over their fundamental positions on the moral nature of the world: "is there another, better, truer order than the one we experience, or are the facts with which our senses confront us all that there is? Is reality exhausted by what is, or does it leave room for all that could be?" (kl 264). With this way of sorting philosophical approaches, Neiman finds justification in holding that the evolution of western philosophy is driven by the fact of indigestible evil in the world.
Here are the main premises of her argument:
1. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philosophy was guided by the problem of evil.2. The problem of evil can be expressed in theological or secular terms, but it is fundamentally a problem about the intelligibility of the world as a whole.3. The distinction between natural and moral evils is itself a historical one that developed in the course of the debate.4. Two kinds of standpoint can be traced from the early Enlightenment to the present day, regardless of what sort of evil is in question, and each is guided more by ethical than by epistemological concerns. (introduction. kl 199)
Here is a fairly concise statement of her view of the relationship between the projects of European philosophy and evil:
Since I do not think an intrinsic property of evil can be defined, I am, rather, concerned with tracing what evil does to us. If designating something as evil is a way of marking the fact that it shatters our trust in the world, it’s that effect, more than the cause, which I want to examine. It should follow that I have even less intention of solving the problem of evil than I do of defining evil itself. My interest is, rather, to explore what changes in our understanding of the problem of evil reveal about changes in our understanding of ourselves, and of our place in the world. (kl 244)
I have called this an alternative history of philosophy because its aims are as different as its style and methods. One aim, in the felicitous expression of an anonymous reader, is to reorient the discipline to the real roots of philosophical questioning. I am grateful for the metaphor, which allows me to argue that, in some form or other, the problem of evil is the root from which modern philosophy springs. Once brought to life, philosophical discourse can grow on its own, and its branches may extend or tangle in all directions. Thus entire schools of thought could develop that have little to do with the questions raised here. (kl 290)
Though her primary interest is in developing the "alternative history of philosophy" that she presents, Neiman offers a view of the Holocaust and Auschwitz at a number of points in the book. She describes the atrocities of Auschwitz and Nazi extermination policies:
What occurred in Nazi death camps was so absolutely evil that, like no other event in human history, it defies human capacities for understanding. (kl 118)
Auschwitz, by contrast, stands for all that is meant when we use the word evil today: absolute wrongdoing that leaves no room for account or expiation. (kl 154)
And she provides an extended discussion of Arendt's treatment of Eichmann in the final portion of the book.
But even here, her interest is less about "what happened?" and "how should we make sense of this episode of human history?" than about how twentieth-century philosophers sought to incorporate this specific and complex evil into their moral reckonings of the world -- the "metaphysics" of evil rather than its practical importance in how we conceive of our lives. So it is fair to ask whether Neiman's approach has much to contribute to these more the more concrete and experiential questions outlined above. But interestingly enough, Neiman's book does have something to say about this idea. Specifically, Neiman's treatment of Rousseau emphasizes Rousseau's view of the malleability of human nature and emotions such as compassion. Neiman holds that this is a crucial part of Rousseau's approach to the situation of evil in the world as well; in fact, she maintains that it is the feature of Rousseau's philosophy that made him the "Newton" of the mind, according to Kant.
For Rousseau, both the problem of evil and its solution depend on the idea that evil developed over time. This assumes, in turn, that human beings develop over time, both as species and individual beings. Human nature has been altered.... For Rousseau, by contrast, human nature itself has a history. Our choices affect it.
History is the right kind of category to introduce because it enables us to understand the world and gives us hope for changing it. History leaves space between necessity and accident, making actions intelligible without being determined. If the introduction of evil was necessary, we can be saved only by a miracle. If it was an accident, then the world, where it matters, makes no sense. History, by contrast, is dynamic. If evil was introduced into the world, then it might also be eradicated—as long as its development is not fundamentally mysterious. After Rousseau, we need not deny the reality of evil. We can, rather, incorporate it into a world whose intelligibility is expanding. Exploring evil as historical phenomenon becomes part of our efforts to make the world more comprehensible in theory, and more acceptable in practice. (kl 862)
These are suggestive ideas for the experiential questions, because they point to the fundamental malleability of human culture and morality. Human nature and history are reciprocally intertwined. And this in turn suggests the possibility of the kind of "self-positing" and learning from history that seems most relevant to the approach to evil I want to take when it comes to bringing historical understanding into productive conversation with the extreme evils and atrocities of the twentieth-century.
It is clear that Evil in Modern Thought presents a radical thesis in intellectual history. Neiman argues that philosophers have quite fundamentally misunderstood the driving questions of their traditions: not epistemology, not metaphysics, but theodicy; not the question of how we know about our position in the natural world, or what is the nature of the world we inhabit; but rather, how can nature, humanity, and a benevolent god conspire to create such vast and incomprehensible suffering? Is this reorientation convincing? I find her arguments interesting and thought-provoking, but ultimately unconvincing. Her position is unconvincing, most fundamentally, because it is categorical. Neiman suggests an "either-or" interpretation of the driving questions of philosophy. This seems in the end to be too simple to accommodate the patchwork and plurality of questions, themes, and frameworks that have stimulated the development of various tributaries of European traditions in philosophy. 
More narrowly, Neiman's point of view is only glancingly relevant to the most pressing question: how should we as human beings respond and change as a result of honest encounter with the facts of the Holocaust, Holodomor, genocide, torture, and enslavement? Here is an allegorical effort to begin to answer this question through an act of imagination (link). And here is a discussion of literary efforts by veterans of the Great War to make sense of their experiences through poetry and narrative (link).

Facebook: Genocide is Cool but Don’t Threaten our Profits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/02/2021 - 5:28am in

Australia’s 18 million Facebook users woke up yesterday to find that, without warning, local and global news sites were unavailable, meaning that they could not view or share news at all. Facebook users across the world were also unable to read or access any Australian news publications. The tech giant had taken the step of essentially shutting down its site and “unfriending” an entire nation in response to the government’s proposals to tax them.

Lawmakers in Canberra had drawn up plans to “level the playing field” between social media giants and the traditional press. In practice, this would mean Facebook and Google handing over a sizable chunk of their advertising profits to the government to subsidize struggling news outlets, on whom they depend for content.

In choosing the nuclear option, Facebook appears to have hoped to trigger a public outcry that would force the government into a U-turn. However, it seems to have miscalculated, as the action drew widespread condemnation, even from human rights groups. Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Australia Director condemned the company for “severely restricting the flow of information to Australians,” not just for news, but also information on government health and emergency services. “This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events,” she concluded.

“It is extremely concerning that a private company is willing to control access to information that people rely on. Facebook’s action starkly demonstrates why allowing one company to exert such dominant power over our information ecosystem threatens human rights,” said Tim O’Connor of Amnesty International Australia. “Facebook’s willingness to block credible news sources also stands in sharp distinction to the company’s poor track record in addressing the spread of hateful content and disinformation on the platform,” he added.

 

Myanmar: digital accessory to a genocide

One particularly shocking example of Facebook’s complicity in spreading hate is in Myanmar, where thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been killed and more than 700,000 have fled to neighboring countries.

A United Nations human rights investigation found that the platform, which is virtually ubiquitous in Myanmar, had been used to spread fake news about Muslim atrocities in order to spark a genocide. “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended,” said UN investigator Yanghee Lee.

Facebook admitted that played a role in the violence. However, it resisted calls for it to suspend its service inside the country. “Facebook does a good deal of good — connecting people with friends and family, helping small businesses, surfacing informative content. If we turn it off we lose all of that,” said a company executive.

In 2018, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said that he felt “fundamentally uncomfortable sitting here in California at an office, making content policy decisions for people around the world.” This discomfort apparently disappeared when the company’s bottom line was threatened with regulation.

 

A media behemoth

Facebook can certainly afford to pay a levy to help journalism. The Silicon Valley giant recently announced it had taken in over $84 billion in advertising revenue in 2020 (a 21% increase from 2019) and posted a spectacular total post-tax profit of $29 billion. 71% of Australians use the company’s services, making it by far the most widely used social media platform in the country, ahead of YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp respectively.

Unlike traditional media, Facebook and Google do not produce any reporting of their own, nor do they employ any journalists. Together, the two companies bear significant responsibility for the decline of journalism across the developed world, as advertisers have ditched the traditional press in favor of targeted advertising offered online. Together, the two companies account for over three-quarters of all online advertising revenue in Australia. Facebook’s marketplace has also largely made small advertising — a key source of income for print media — obsolete. From a high of over $49 billion in 2006, advertising revenue for U.S. newspapers has decreased by over two-thirds, with a corresponding drop in the number of journalists employed. It is clear that, if old media is to be saved, something must be done. Whether this is the solution is up for debate.

Behind closed doors, Google has already signed a number of deals with Australian outlets, promising to cut them in on their advertising revenue. Facebook, however, has chosen to up the ante, participating in a direct standoff against the Australian government. Other nations, such as Canada, are already promising to give the social media giants the Australia treatment, meaning that the outcome of the conflict will likely have global repercussions for the future of the press and of social media.

Perhaps this explains why Facebook was comparatively uninterested in shutting itself down to stop a genocide in Myanmar but chose the nuclear option when it came to government regulation of its business model.

Feature photo | Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about “News Tab” at the Paley Center, in New York, Oct. 25, 2019. Mark Lennihan | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Facebook: Genocide is Cool but Don’t Threaten our Profits appeared first on MintPress News.

Bristol South Labour Party Passes Motion of Solidarity with Indian Farmers

Bristol South CLP held its monthly meeting last Thursday, and passed a number of motions. Due to the Coronavirus, these are now held over Zoom, like many meetings up and down the country generally. A number of motions were debated and passed during the meeting, one of which was solidarity with the Indian farmers. Explaining the issues was a guest speaker, Dal Singh, from the Sikh community. According to Mr Singh, the central issue is the poverty caused by the BJP’s government’s privatisation of the state purchasing apparatus for agricultural goods. The Indian government had a state organisation that bought up the farmer’s produce, giving them a fair price. But now Modi is handing this process over to private entrepreneurs, who are paying starvation prices for the produce purchased. Singh said that as a result, the farmers are going to be in debt for the rest of their lives. The farmers affected and involved in the protests aren’t all Sikhs, but Sikhs form a majority of those affected. When asked what the attitude of the Sikh community was to it, Mr Singh seemed to indicate that they were more or less resigned to it. He called it a ‘genocide’ several times, and said that Sikhs regarded it as part of the long history of their people’s suffering going back to the horrors of the partition of India and the British occupation of the Punjab. He also described how the police and armed forces were being used by the Modi government to brutalize protesters and muzzle the press, with the arrest and beating of journalists covering the protests. As well as explaining the situation, Mr Singh also gave details of charities to which people could donate to help the affected farmers, though I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what they were.

I had absolutely no problem supporting the motion. Socialists are internationalists, as the Style Council song reminds us, and we have to stand in solidarity with working people around the world. ‘Workingmen of all countries, unite!’ as Marx and Engels said in their little Manifesto. I am very pleased that others agreed, and that the motion was passed.

Someone at the meeting commented that the Indian farmers were yet more victims of Neoliberalism. Absolutely. Around the world, working people are being pushed further and further into poverty as wages are slashed, hours increased, rights at work taken away, industries privatised and deregulated. The book Falling Off the Edge, which is a critical examination of this process, the poverty it’s causing, and the violence and terrorism that it engenders as a backlash, describes very clearly how its affecting the average Indian worker. And this poverty is the creation of Modi’s BJP Hindufascist government.

Hindufascist? Yes, absolutely. The BJP is a nationalist organisation, which actively persecutes non-Hindus like Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. One of Modi’s fellow BJP politicos was the governor of a province, which took absolutely no action when pogroms broke out against the Muslim population back in the 1990s. The BJP also have connections to the RSSS, a Hindu nationalist paramilitary outfit modelled on Mussolini’s Fascists. Not only has the BJP followed the standard Neoliberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and low wages, they’ve also been trying to abolish the affirmative action programmes intended to improve the conditions of the Dalits, the former ‘Untouchables’. Debt slavery was one of the forms of exploitation and servitude that afflicted many Indians, and Mr Singh’s comment that Modi’s privatisation will mean that farmers will not be able to get out of debt certainly makes you wonder if the scumbag is actively trying to bring it back.

It’s not only non-Hindus and the lower castes Modi is persecuting. The BJP, or at least parts of it, have a real, bitter hatred of Gandhi and his influence on Hinduism, because he preached tolerance and the inclusion of the Muslims rather than turning India into a Hindu state. The party also actively persecutes liberal Indian journalists and writers. Tony Greenstein, the long term campaigner against Zionism, racism and Fascism, has also rightly criticised Labour party leader Keir Starmer for supporting Modi. Yes, I know – India is now a global powerhouse. Yes, it’s a vital trade partner with this country. But the country’s prosperity should not come through the exploitation of its working people. Just like ours shouldn’t. But this seems lost on Starmer and the rest of the Blairites.

I am very glad, however, that my local Labour party has made this gesture of support for the Indian farmers, and hope this will give them strength in their struggle with a Fascistic, exploitative government.

Book on Fascism in Black American Literature Between the Two World Wars

Mark Christian Thompson, Black Fascisms: African American Literature & Culture between the Wars (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007).

This is one of the other books I’ve been reading during the last few days. It’s a fascinating examination of a little known episode of Black American literary history when, in the 1930s and early 1940s, a number of Black American authors and activists took over elements from European Fascism to form their own version of the totalitarian creed. The blurb reads

In this provocative new book, Mark Christian Thompson addresses the startling fact that many African American intellectuals in the 1930s sympathized with fascism, seeing in its ideology a means of envisioning new modes of African American political resistance. Thompson surveys the work and thought of several authors and asserts that their sometimes positive reaction to generic European fascism, and its transformation into black fascism, is crucial to any understanding of Depression-era African American literary culture.

Taking on a subject generally ignored or denied in African American cultural and literary studies, BLACK FASCISMS seeks not only to question the prominence of the Left in the political thought of a generation of writers to change how we view African American literature in general.

Following the introduction, it has the following chapters:

  1. Black Literary Fascism
  2. The Myth of Marcus Garvey: Black Fascism and Nationalism
  3. George S. Schuyler and the God of Love: Black Fascism and Mythic Violence
  4. “In Turban and Gorgeous Robe”: Claude McKay, Black Fascism, and Labor
  5. His Rod of Power: Zora Neale Hurston, Black Fascism and Culture
  6. Richard Wright’s Jealous Rebels: Black Fascism and Philosophy

Conclusion: Historical Black Fascism, Black Arts, and Beyond

For some, this is no doubt shocking and uncomfortable reading. Thompson states that his book will be controversial, because it seems to challenge the dominance and achievements of Marxism in Black American politics and culture of the period. He does not seek to deny this, but to argue that there was a significant turn away from Communism towards Fascism at the tail end of the Harlem Renaissance, and that this was no mere blip in the career of the figures discussed, as some historians and critics have claimed. It’s also remarkable, in that as victims of racism it seems to run counter to reason that Black Americans would embrace a viciously racist ideology associated with White supremacy. But by the early 1940s some Black youngsters had become so alienated from their country, that they were singing songs about how they thought they’d move to Germany because they’d be better off there. The likelihood is that these kids probably didn’t understand what Nazi Germany was really like. The Black intellectuals, who turned to Fascism, didn’t support its specific European versions. They didn’t want to become Nazis or supporters of Mussolini’s Fascists. But they took elements of generic Fascism and adapted it as a vehicle for their own nationalist aspirations and desire for pan-African racial uplift.

Defining Features of Black Fascism

Thompson considers that the main elements in this turn were a dissatisfaction with Communist multiculturalism, the expectation that Ethiopia would produce a strong, modernising leader to redeem Blacks across the world, admiration for newly independent Haiti, and anti-Semitism. Black Fascists rejected Communism, because they were afraid that its emphasis on racial collaboration and the class war would lead to Blacks’ own aspirations and needs being neglected and Blacks used instead to improve conditions for White liberals. The Communist party in turn attempted to harness Black nationalism for the general class struggle, by defining Black Americans as working class. But this also created an anti-White racism that characterised all Whites as members of the exploiting classes. Which strikes me as not at all unlike Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. The expectations of Black leadership from Ethiopia came from Psalm 68 in the Bible, which states that, after Egypt, Ethiopia will raise its hands to God. Ethiopia was the one African nation not conquered by the Europeans in the 19th century, which seemed to many Black Americans that the country was destined to lead the Black people. Coupled with this was the hope that Black Americans would return to Africa to take up positions of leadership and power in the continent, and free her from the European colonial oppressors. At the same time, the American army had just withdrawn from its occupation of Haiti. Many Black Americans admired this Caribbean nation because of the way it had thrown off French rule in the late 18th century to become a free, Black republic. At the same time, its new president, Stenio Vincent, sweeping autocratic powers dissolving the lower house and allowing him to appoint a sizable proportion of its senate. It was not a democracy in the American sense, as Zora Neale Hurston recognised, but an elected monarchy. Anti-Semitism and a hatred of Italians and Greeks among working class Blacks in Harlem was also part of the turn towards Fascism. The Black soapbox Caesar, Sufi Abdul Hamid, wished to create a separate trade union exclusively for Blacks. He was one of the leaders of a boycott against the White-owned department stores, which refused to employ Black clerks. He succeeded in getting this reversed, but his inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric – many of the stores were Jewish owned – resulted in the 1937 Harlem race riot.

Marcus Garvey and the Invasion of Ethiopia

Chapter one is a general discussion of Black American fascist aesthetics. The first of the writers and activists to be examined is Marcus Garvey, the founder and leader of the United Negro Improvement Association. This was a mass organisation, whose hierarchy was based on that of the army, with Garvey giving his followers various military ranks. Militantly nationalistic, the organisation also campaigned for a return to Africa, and Garvey was also impressed with the Italian Fascist corporatist state. Rejecting Communism, he instead supported private property. Blacks should work to acquire wealth, that they should then use to build the new Black state. However, private wealth should also be limited. Only the state should be able to hold investments over $5 or $6 million.

Of the figures discussed in the book, Garvey is the most overtly Fascist. Indeed, in a 1937 interview he claimed that Hitler and Mussolini based their movements on his. He was no fan of Mussolini, however, after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, which also caused him to become a bitter critic of its former emperor, Hailie Selassie. Selassie had scarpered to London following the invasion, which bitterly disappointed Garvey. He had also expected the Ethiopian emperor to modernise the country, turning it into a modern, Fascist, corporate state, which would embark on its own destiny of imperial conquest. Selassie had not done this. Garvey also sneered at him because of the Biblical lineage of the Ethiopian monarchy. This claimed descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Thus, Garvey attacked him because he was, by virtue of this descent from the great Israelite king, Jewish. This was in contrast to Simon of Cyrene, who was Black, and Jesus, who was mostly Black.

Schuyler’s Pulp Fiction Supervillain Black Liberator

George S. Schuyler was a Black American writer and journalist, described by the book as somewhat like H.L. Mencken. He had started off as a vague socialist, believing that Africans were innately Communistic, and pan-African. Well, he was until he visited Liberia, which left him bitterly disillusioned to the extent that he wished the US army would invade so that America could take over and improve the country. This changed again with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Schuyler, like many other Black Americans, was outraged and wanted to raise an army of Black American volunteers, who would go and fight for the African nation. Seeking advice from the American foreign department, he was told that was impossible as America wished to preserve its neutrality. Schuyler thus turned to literature to express his anger and desire for revenge, writing the pulp story Black Empire. This tells the story of Dr. Belsidus, a Black American genius, who takes over Africa with his organisation, the Black Internationale, turning it into a military superpower through able to repel the Italians and then embark on the genocidal conquest of Europe through advance Black super science. Black scientists create death rays, hydroponic farms, fax machines and hypno-robots. Hypno-robots? Yes. Belsidus creates a new religion and deity, the God of Love, whose mission is to inculcate Black Africans with belief in their noble descent from the Babylonians and Egyptians and their future greatness. The hypno-robot is a giant, 50-foot tall figure of a naked Black man representing the God of Love, which has the power to move, raising its arms and nodding its head. Its eyes light up to hypnotise the congregation, so that they will become mentally receptive to Belsidus racial doctrines. Aiding Belsidus are a series of White women, his lovers, whom he casually murders if they fail him in bed or in their tasks of bringing down European rule. Belsidus comes across as Yaphet Kotto’s villain in the Bond film, Live and Let Die, but even nastier. He’s a genocide who ruthlessly kills White men, women and children. The story’s a nasty revenge fantasy, written by Schuyler to compensate for the Italian invasion. Schuyler himself didn’t stay a Fascist, but instead became a noted Black Conservative intellectual.

McKay, Sufi Abdul Hamid and Black Labour

Claude McKay was another Black American who had started out as a Communist, but then moved away from it, converting to Roman Catholicism. In the 1930s and ’40s McKay was also concerned with building a Black labour movement for which he also adopted aspects of Fascism. He was also an admirer of Sufi Abdul Hamid, an eccentric individual who styled himself Bishop Amiru Al-Minin Sufi Abdul Hamid, an Egyptian, but whose real identity may have been Eugene Brown of Philadelphia. Hamid had founded his own cult, the Universal Temple of Tranquillity. In 1932 he led a jobs boycott in Chicago and in 1934 led a similar boycott against Blumstein’s department store in Harlem. He was not popular with the other Black intellectuals, who regarded him as a charlatan and racketeer. Before his death in the late 1930s he was trying to promote himself as a cult leader in an attempt to challenge Father Divine. Called the Black Hitler because of his virulently anti-Semitic speeches, Hamid was partly responsible for the 1937 race riot, for which he was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Jewish Minute Men. He appears as ‘Omar’ in McKay’s unfinished novel, Harlem Glory. This is partly an examination of the divided psychology of Black America. ‘Omar’ represents its Fascist side, while Father Divine, who appears as ‘Glory Savior’, and his cult, the ‘Glory Soulers’, represent religion and Communism.

Hurston, Moses and Haiti

Zora Neale Hurston is included because of her novel about Moses leading the Exodus, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in which both the greatest of the Hebrew prophets and his adversary, Pharaoh, have the nationalistic, genocidal qualities of modern Fascist dictators. Hurston also linked Moses to Haiti’s founder, Toussaint L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture’s power was represented by the Voodoo god, Damballah, who was also Moses’ rod of power. Damballah’s a snake god, while one of the miracles Moses performed was changing his staff into a snake. This novel is strongly influenced by Hurston’s admiration for Haiti and its authoritarian leader.

Cross Damon, Fascist Murderer or Existentialist Anti-Hero

Wright was another Communist intellectual, who then went to France to hang out with Sartre. He then wrote his own existentialist novel, The Outsider, about a former postal worker, Cross Damon. After losing his job, and suffering problems from the women in his life, Damon becomes a murderer, committing a series of killings across America. The novel was widely criticised at the time for not saying anything about the condition of Black America. Thompson argues that this is untrue. The book does examine their plight, as Damon personifies the Fascist tendency within Black America through his ruthless pursuit of the power over life and death. His murder of two twins, one a Communist, the other a Fascist, shows that to Wright these political creeds were essentially the same, and that Damon is also similar to them through their murder.

The Black Arts Movement and Neo-Fascism

The Black Arts movement was a post-War phenomenon, in which Black intellectuals and artists attempted to create a distinctly Black artistic culture, in contrast and opposition to that of White America. This chapter argues that historic fascism ended with the Second World War, and that its post-War successor, neo-Fascism, is markedly different. Fascism itself is also broader than Nazism, with which it has been identified, and which has itself been reduced to murderous anti-Semitism. It is a distortion, therefore, to describe the Nation of Islam as Fascist and genocidal simply because they held a joint rally with the American Nazi party, for which the party’s Fuhrer, Lincoln Rockwell, donated $20 to them. The chapter nevertheless states that the Black Arts movement constitutes an extreme form of Black nationalism, and ends with a call for it to be examined as a form of neo-Fascism.

Belsidus’ Statue and Fascist Homosexuality

Thompson’s a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so the book is less a work of political science as literary criticism. Thus it frequently refers to the works of such literary theorists as Georges Bataille, Foucault, Althusser and Guy Debord. I found some of the book’s arguments extremely convoluted, particularly in the chapter on Wright and The Outsider. There are times when he seems to be arguing for the Fascist nature of Cross Damon, from that character’s difference to or opposition to Fascism. He also follows the German writer, Ludwig Theweleit, in considering that their is a homosexual component to the Fascists’ adoration of their leaders. This causes the book to contain some bizarre passages about the significance of the penis in some of the pieces discussed. For example, he writes of the Belsidus’ 50 foot statue of a naked Black man

The statue is what Siegried Krakauer calls the “mass ornament”: a ritual object that is “an end in itself”. But even after the “ritual meaning” of such objects is discarded, “they remain the plastic formation of the erotic life which gave rise to them and determined their traits”. (146). The mass ornament is emptied of its ritual content and plenitude and re-cathected with an erotics of power that seeks to control the masses’ libidinal urges by converting them into an iconic religious outpouring. This is why Schuyler’s mass ornament is depicted as “a huge statue of a nude Negro standing with legs apart, gazing sardonically downward with arms crossed. It was all of 50 feet high and every part of the body was clearly depicted” (58). The bearer of the sardonic gaze cannot be mistaken. “Sardonic” is, after all, one of Schuyler’s favorite adjectives for the good Doctor and his notorious gaze. Also inescapable in this mammoth fifty-foot statue of a male Negro is an anatomical accuracy that surpasses the bounds of decency. If one wondered whether Dr. Belsidus’s movement followed the fascist phallocentric logic of male ego-reintegration Theweleit theorizes, the appearance of the fifty foot “God of Love” in all his anatomical glory removes all doubt. (pp. 90-1).

Black Fascism and other Forms of Dictatorship

The book acknowledges that none of the authors and activists discussed founded Fascist parties or movement, and he regards them as individual figures rather than the leaders of mass Fascist organisations. Garvey, with his militaristic nationalism and claims to have inspired the European Fascist dictators is the closest figure to European Fascism. So too is Sufi Abdul Hamid with his emphasis on labour, Black separatism and anti-Semitism. Hamid’s similar to the Nazis in another way: they also hated the department stores as an example of ‘Jewish capital’. Schuyler’s Black Empire is a revenge fantasy, whose hero – or anti-hero – would certainly qualify as a Fascist, even though Belsidus himself doesn’t appear to his followers to make speeches from the balcony. He just leaves that to his naked 50-foot robot. But this doesn’t make Schuyler himself a Fascist or mean that he is calling for a similar Fascist movement. It is questionable, however, whether Hurston’s Moses or Pharaoh are really fascist either. Political scientists have debated the difference between Fascism and other forms of authoritarianism and aggressive, intolerant nationalism. Noel O’Sullivan in his book, Fascism, argues that it possesses distinct features that distinguish it from the militant, dictatorial regimes of some of the nations in Africa and the Developing World. Stenios Vincent was highly authoritarian, but it’s questionable whether his regime can be considered Fascist. This also raises the question of how far Hurston’s Moses and Pharaoh are Fascists, although they certainly act in a way which could be described as fascistic. I find the argument about Wright’s The Outsider rather less convincing. It may be that Cross Damon partakes of part of the psychology of Fascist and Communist dictators through his murders, but it seems to me to be a straightforward piece of existentialist literature rather than an examination of Black American Fascism. It reminds me of Albert Camus’ novel of the same name, about a Frenchman in Algeria who murders an Arab out of boredom. Wright’s outsider is another murderer, but is a Black American rather than French.

Conclusion

I don’t know how far the Black Arts movement could be described as neo-Fascist, but historians of post-War British Fascism have noted the radical revisions of doctrine the BNP went through under its generalissimo, Nick Griffin. But Critical Race Theory does seem very similar to the Communist party’s simplification of race relations in America to Black workers versus White exploiters. My guess is that an examination of the Black Arts movement would uncover clear parallels and influences from European neo-Fascism, as would Black Lives Matter today.

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