All The More Reason

Brendan O’Neill
September 30, 2006, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Iraq, Uncategorized

In this piece the author Brendan O’Neill makes the argument that Iraq has become the world’s first suicide state. Let’s take a quick peek:

The end result is a suicidal state in Iraq, where groups destroy lives and buildings rather than trying to create an independent state built on a clear ideology with the support of large sections of the population. It is not enough to describe these insurgents as ‘evil’, however horrendous their actions might be. We must also interrogate how today’s political crises and the dismantling of the international order contributed to such a ‘perplexing’ violent movement – and find ways to renew the language and politics of liberation, for the people of Iraq and beyond.

I’m not sure it would be fair to criticise a whole piece based on its summarizing paragaph, but let us content ourselves with a sharper usage of the word suicide. If the barbarians in Iraq decided tomorrow that instead of blowing up civilians in mosques or children on the streets that they would instead silently kill themselves in their own dens, then indeed they could own a pretty tight definition of the word suicide. The idea though that a state is wishing to commit suicide implies that it has the consent of at least the majority of its citizens. I would think that their participation in democratic elections would indicate a strong distaste to that idea.

The sheer noise that comes from the self-detonation of jihadists appears to stun some intellectuals long enough as to think that everything around it is somehow part and parcel of that initial cast of murder.

Jonathan Smith


Robert Redeker
September 29, 2006, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I would’ve added this as a comment within the recent post on free speech but I don’t know how to add links within comments. It turns out that a French professor and teacher, Robert Redeker, has had a fatwa placed on him for a recent editorial he wrote within Le Figaro. I tried in vain to find the piece within Le Figaro itself but I think it has been removed. There is a piece though by Francis Morel condemning the fatwa. The original piece, assuming that it has not been altered, can be read here. Here’s a quote:

Comme jadis avec le communisme, l’Occident se retrouve sous surveillance idéologique. L’islam se présente, à l’image du défunt communisme, comme une alternative au monde occidental. À l’instar du communisme d’autrefois, l’islam, pour conquérir les esprits, joue sur une corde sensible. Il se targue d’une légitimité qui trouble la conscience occidentale, attentive à autrui : être la voix des pauvres de la planète. Hier, la voix des pauvres prétendait venir de Moscou, aujourd’hui elle viendrait de La Mecque ! Aujourd’hui à nouveau, des intellectuels incarnent cet oeil du Coran, comme ils incarnaient l’oeil de Moscou hier. Ils excommunient pour islamophobie, comme hier pour anticommunisme.

This article has some interesting details, including the reaction of Villepin as well as the fact that Redeker is now under guard 24 hours a day.

Jonathan Smith

Lionel Jospin – Adieu
September 29, 2006, 2:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well, after dancing a little while with the idea of running for President next year, Lionel Jospin has decided not to run. The last time I checked, Jacques Chirac has still not ruled out the possibility of running next year. For now, it’s looking like that race for President next year shall be very, very interesting.

Jonathan Smith

Anne Applebaum
September 22, 2006, 2:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the following piece, Anne Applebaum claims that people in the West should do more basic defending of free speech.

…I don’t feel that it’s asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don’t see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.

Perhaps one way that free speech could be defended a little better would be to help defend the legal cases of those whose opinions we find odious. I’m thinking, for example of David Irving, a holocaust denier who got in trouble with the law in Europe.

Jonathan Smith

Without reason no man, but without man no reason?
September 18, 2006, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If ever asked to give a public speech where some serious head nodding and hmmm hmmmmms are wished from the crowd, then one could do much worse than to use the antimetabole. This rhetorical manoeuver is well recognised when used, although I would bet most individuals would not readily identify it as a formula all its own. It consists of reversing the main ideas and often to contrary effect. Some famous examples include:

– Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

– The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

What is interesting and so powerful about the antimetabole is how easily one can invent new ones (although no doubt already existing one google search away), and yet how timeless they can sound. (at least to my ears)

– I thought I was going to teach my child, and she ended up teaching me.

– If you smile a lot, then you’ll have a lot to smile about.

– Share with no one, and there shall be no one to share with.

– We shouldn’t be worried about jihadists as much as jihadists should be worried about us.

Jonathan Smith

Nate Harrison
September 17, 2006, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the more interesting radio documentaries that I’ve heard in a long time can be listened to here. It concerns a drum beat originally recorded in 1969 as part of a drum solo which then came into popularity as a breakbeat of its own. It is the Amen break (as in the Ahh we would say at the doctor’s office). Perhaps what’s most impressive about the delivery of the narrator Nate Harrison, is the way in which he manages to explain so much detail about the Amen break without it sounding like he’s reading off a cue card. That, and the somewhat uncanny resemblance of his voice to Stephen Wright.

Jonathan Smith

Tony Judt
September 15, 2006, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Iraq

Tony Judt, in a piece in the London Review of Books, asks:

Why have American liberals acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy? Why have they so little to say about Iraq, about Lebanon, or about reports of a planned attack on Iran? Why has the administration’s sustained attack on civil liberties and international law aroused so little opposition or anger from those who used to care most about these things? Why, in short, has the liberal intelligentsia of the United States in recent years kept its head safely below the parapet?

Sometimes when someone can’t be bothered to make an argument they just write it as an assertion and hope people will play along. Less frequently, because of its boldness, someone will take that assertion and phrase it as a rhetorical question. In short, I don’t agree with the idea that the liberal intelligentsia has been keeping “its head safely below the parapet” at all – for better or for worse. I really find it hard to believe considering the clamour over the last few years, that anyone could consider writing a piece with that as its hypothesis, let alone as the stake to which some other sort of hypothesis would be based around.

Later on in the piece, Judt states that this liberal weakness has made it to Europe itself, citing amongst others Vaclav Havel as having “enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq.” He explains:

In the European case this trend is an unfortunate by-product of the intellectual revolution of the 1980s, especially in the former Communist East, when ‘human rights’ displaced conventional political allegiances as the basis for collective action. The gains wrought by this transformation in the rhetoric of oppositional politics were considerable. But a price was paid all the same. A commitment to the abstract universalism of ‘rights’ – and uncompromising ethical stands taken against malign regimes in their name – can lead all too readily to the habit of casting every political choice in binary moral terms.

The last little bit about binary moral terms is of particular interest if we note that Judt himself refers to the Iraq war not as a necessary evil, and certainly not as an overdue reckoning but instead as a “catastrophic invasion.” It would appear then that Havel and Glucksmann are not the only ones thinking in binary moral terms but perhaps Mr. Judt as well. What a pity the side he’s chosen to defend.

Jonathan Smith