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JM Berger’s Extremism, from MIT Press. Brilliant.

Monday, September 24th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — my third JM Berger review, following reviews of Jihad Joe and ISIS: State of Terror ]
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**

I ordered a copy of JM Berger‘s Extremism months early from Amazon, having followed many of the posts in which he was formulating the insights that led to the book, and expecting a volume full of the very detailed diagrams and network analyses they contained:

Image sources:

  • ICCT, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis
  • Intelwire, EXTREMIST CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY
  • **

    These diagrams, and the research that underlies them — the work of JM and his colleague, Haroro J Ingram — attest to JM’s skill at the detailed drill-down level, the equivalent of rock-face drilling in a mine. The book couldn’t be further from my expectations: it attests to an entirely different set of skills, those of simplicity, grace, and a superb command of language.

    JM has the ability to communicate directly with a lay audience at their (our) level. He neither shies away from nuance nor adds needless complications — either of which would be a form of condescension to the reader.

    JM’s writing is direct and clean:

  • Terrorism is a tactic, whereas extremism is a belief system.
  • Extremism is a spectrum of beliefs, not necessarily a simple destination.
  • Group radicalization precedes individual radicalization
  • **

    Above are three of the pull-quotes, extracted from the book’s text, that state some of JM’s basic propositions on lucid, large-print, white on black pages, scattered as needed across the book’s 167 short pages (plus glossary, notes, bibliography, further reading, index)..

  • What extremism is, how extremist ideologies are constructed, and why extremism can escalate into violence
  • That’s the core proposition of the whole work, buttressed as it is with a wealth of detailed research and analysis. And radical…

    JM’s approach is already radical in its (his) refusal to treat only one ideological or religious frame for extremism. Studying both ISIS and home grown Identity groups, those who promote violence and those who arguably foreshadow it, led JM to see extremism itself as the most fruitful category to study — not terrorism, nor Islam, not the Citizen Sovereignty movement nor alt-right, but extremism tout court.

    That broadening of the frame allows Berger a set of analytic insights that were obscured by detail in earlier, more limited studies, and his book is the elegant formulation of those insights, simply, and with a forest of scholarship in support.

    **

    JM lists Impurity, Conspiracy, Dystopia, Existential threat, and Apocalypse as central “crisis narratives” utilized by in-groups as they view out-groups — but it is the in-group-out-group distinction which is central to his thinking, its wrongness characterized by the in-group’s paranoid conspiracist suspicions of the out-group’s impurity, dystopic being the nature of the world now ruled by the out-group, and to be abhorred or saved by the in-, with existential threat and apocalypse providing the sense of time-crunch, urgency.

    All this, I say, with a simplicity and elegance which belies the originality and scholarship that undergirds it.

    Above highly recommended.

    Jordan Peterson, ouroboroi, paradise, and so forth

    Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — oh damn, cameron’s on about the ouroboros again, when do we get to strategy? ]
    .

    A slide from a youtubed lecture:

    **

    I have found someone who gives emphasis to many of the things I give emphasis to, and which few other peple emphasize. And FWIW, the Jungians do this better than most, but then I’ve been reading and appreciating them for ages. This is new.

    Okay, Jordan Peterson. He’s been thinking across a wide range of fundamental concepts for many years now, and considerable fame has accrued to him. How I managed not to notice him until now, I’ll never know. Here he is, anyhow —

    — with that ouroboros slide faintly visible behind him. The limits of vision, faintness included, are among his many interests, FWIW.

    **

    I’ve read Tanner Greer‘s recent critique of Peterson, which was enough to catch my inner eye, and then today there was an invite from Zen —

    Hell yes.

    And I’m maybe ten minutes into that lecture, have skipped around a bit, and went back to lecture #7 for a clear shot of the ouroboros behind him, which I’ve now inserted at the top of this post.

    **

    Peterson’s ouroboros is a conflation of a bird, a cat and a snake — wings, claws and venom — birds, cats and snakes being the three classes of being that can kill you from a tree. A “winged, legged serpent” — the “dragon of chaos”. That’s not how I get to the ouroboros, and my equivalent interest is in its recursive nature.

    I wrote the poem below, as far as memory serves, in the Anscombe-Geach living room, heart of Oxford’s superb logic team at the time, back in the mid nineteen-sixties, and published it, I think, in Micharel Horovitz‘ 1969 anthology of Britain’s equivalent of the USian beat poets, Childrenn of Albion — wow, of which you could have purchased Amazon’s sole remaining copy for $729.32 as I was writing this — now it’s only $32.57 — is that a difference that makes a difference?

    Here’s the poem:

    I formatted it more recently in a HipBone Games manner, as a single move with a recursive tail.

    **

    Another significance of the ouroboros for Peterson is that the serpent (antagonistic to us) guards a treasure (to be desired)..

    So along with recursion, we have predatory chaos, aka the unknown and indeed unknowable unknown, and the treasure trove or hoard. And as you might intuit, it’s a short leap from there to the word-hoard — poetry in the palm of your mind, with an early mention in Beowulf.

    Here are a few gems from Peterson’s seemingly inexhaustible hoard:

  • there’s no place that’s so safe that there isn’t a snake in it..
  • even God himself can’t define the space so tightly and absolutely that the predator of the unknown can’t make its way in..
  • that’s the story of the garden
  • — and those are from maybe a three minute stretch of a two hour lecture — the word means “reading” — one of forty, is it, in the series?

    **

    Phew. I just received the book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, from Amazon —

    — the print is small — too small for me — stronger glasses coming soon..

    **

    Look, Stormy Daniels was just on 60 Minutes, offering prurient interest under cover of adversarial politics, how could I resist? I could have watched ten more minutes of Peterson video, and grabbed twice the number of notes I’ve made here — but that can wait.

    Stormy Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, can show you strategy..

    Ah, but Jordon Peterson can show you abstraction.

    **

    Consider the recent school shootings. I go back to Columbine.. Peterson goes back to abstraction, mapping, and time-space:

    For example, we’re all sitting in this room, and someone leaps in with a weapon.

    It’s like this was known territory a second ago, and now it’s not known territory at all. Even though you’d say, well many things have remained the same, it’s like, yeah, but all the relevant things have suddenly changed, right? And so part of the way of conceptualizing that is that you can manifest a geographic transformation by moving from genuine geographic explored territory into genuine unexplored geographic territory. But you can do that in time as well. Because we exist in time as well as space. And so a space that’s stable and unchanging can be transformed into something completely other than what it is, by the movement forward of time. So why am I telling you that? It’s because we’ve mapped the idea of the difference in space, between the known and the unknown, to the difference in time between a place that works now and a place that no longer works, even though it’s the same place, it’s just extended across time.

    Consider the recent election:

    That’s what an election does, right?

    It’s like, we have our leader, who’s the person at the top of the dominance hierarchy, and defined the nature of this particulatr structure. There’s an election, regulated chaos, noone knows what’s going to happen, it’s the death of the old king, bang! We go into a chaotic state, everyone argues for a while, and then out of that argument they produce a consensus, and poof, we’re in a new state, like that’s the meta-story, right, order > chaos > order, but it’s partial order, chaos, reconstituted and revivified order — that’s the thing, that this order is better than that order, so that there’s progress, and that’s partially why I think the idea of moral relativism is wrong – there’s progress in moral order.

    Note:

  • plenty of intelligence
  • no actionable intelligence
  • a high level of abstraction
  • following the logic of evolution
  • not the logic of logic
  • too paradoxical for that
  • **

    That’s more than enough.

    Au revoir, quite literally!

    Who is President of the United States?

    Friday, January 12th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — going all diagnostic on you! ]
    .

    Roberta R. Greene in her Social Work with the Aged and Their Families (p. 100) lists questions nurses routinely asked by physician using Kahn’s Mental Status Questionnaire. I’m only too aware of these, having been subjected to these questions regularly over the past year..

    5. What year is it?
    6. How old are you?
    7. What is your birthday?
    8. What year were you born?
    9. Who is President of the United States?

    They are going to ask President Trump these questions, I immagine, as part of his overall medical evaluation. But that last one:

    Who is President of the United States?

    That’s an ouroboric question right there — what will he say?

    If he says, President Trump, then he’s third-personalizing himself, and that’s diagnostically called illeism: Julius Caesar uses the third person in describing his French campaigns in De Bello Gallico.

    But if he avoids that third person usage —

    Me! It’s me!

    That would suggest he may be uncertain of his victory over Secretary Clinton back when — after all, she won the popular vote!

    **

    Oh the ouroboros! Oh the dilemma!

    I had one of those medical questionnaires this morning. My conclusion: the questionnaire or routinized test has not yet been devised that doesn’t seem faintly ridiculous..

    Please note that Roberta Greene’s work currently costs $100 as a book book. Urgh. Kindle $45.95 us a little better.

    An associative algorithm from teh Amazon

    Saturday, October 15th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — ISIS advertizes! — and riding on Berger & Stern’s coattails at that — sad ]
    .

    The artificial intelligence behind Amazon‘s selection of books he might be interested in surprised JM Berger — co-author with Jessica Stern of the excellent ISIS: The State of Terror — today, by recommending Be Happy Like ISIS: The secret to success that will change your world view (The Code Breakers Book 1) as something that might interest readers of his book.

    Unbelievable. I checked my own Amazon account, and found this:

    isis-book-dq

    That’s from the “Sponsored Products Related To This Item” section of the Amazon page on JM’s book. Right at the bottom of that screenshot, I found this:

    sponsored

    **

    See also:

  • Of Anwar al-Awlaki and Bold Christian Clothing
  • The intelligence of algorithms
  • On the foolishness of some current algorithms
  • As I said recently in Japanese joinery: DoubleQuoting with wooden blocks:

    One of my own aims has been to generate — or begin the generation of — a similar anthology of “DoubleQuotes” (conceptual twinnings) illustrating the methods of associative connection available in the realms of language and the aural and visual arts.

    So here’s another example, belonging in another category — a commercially-sponsored algorithm linking two books it “believes” might of of interest to a common audience. One is a rigorous examination of ISIS history, use of online propaganda, and apocalyptic rhetoric. The other is an example of that propaganda, skilfully contrived with keywords like “happy”, “secret to success” — and even “code-breakers” — in its title, to propagate itself on Amazon despite its pro-terror slant. Puerile.

    Feh!

    Announcing ! BLOOD SACRIFICES

    Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities edited by Robert J. Bunker

    I’m very pleased to announce the publication of Blood Sacrifices, edited by Robert J. Bunker, to which Charles Cameron and I have both contributed chapters. Dr. Bunker has done a herculean job of shepherding this controversial book, where thirteen authors explore the dreadful and totemic cultural forces operating just beneath the surface of irregular warfare and religiously motivated extreme violence.

    We are proud to have been included in such a select group of authors and I’m confident that many readers of ZP will find the book to their liking . If you study criminal insurgency, terrorism, hybrid warfare, 4GW, apocalyptic sects, irregular conflict or religious extremism, then the 334 pages of Blood Sacrifices has much in store for you.

    Available for order at Amazon


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