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Steve Bannon’s next gig

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — is the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ready for Steve Bannon? ]

Now that both the White House and Breitbart have ejected him, there’s a question as to what employment Steve Bannon will find next. Luckily for us he’s already provided a somewhwat gnomic answer a while back, in conversation with Charlie Rose — as this DoubleQuote illustrates:



For further details, listen to Mick Jagger, lower panel above — or read his lyrics:

Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
Well what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band…

Watch out — Steve Bannon is going to sing! Robert Mueller will be all ears..

Game and other metaphors

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — chess, billiards, dominoes and roulette — one horse, but no cats ]

I’m always fascinated by chess and other game metaphors, but they’re generally verbal, so this one is a treat:

That’s from a War on the Rocks / US Institute of Peace piece, Harnessing Iraq’s deadly array of armed groups after ISIL, by Sarhang Hamasaeed — the first in a series.


War is the continuation of games by other means. Everyone and her donkey has an “x is the continuation of y by other means” formulation, and they’re mostly a bit lame — this is mine.


Some recent game metaphors I’ve caught while my computer has been in the shop:

Chris Matthews had a rather neat billiards insight: “you always want to place the ball after the shot..

Somewhere — it’s probably a cliche by now — “the first domino to fall”.

“Nasser is playing roulette with the stability of the whole world” — in the TV series, Crown. second season, episode 1.


Okay, non-game metaphors, of particular interest when they’re religious:

Al Franken was identified as a sacrificial lamb after his fellow Dems turned on him en masse by Kevin Nealon, a metaphor disputed by Stephanie Ruhle.

Scapegoats, sacrificial lambs amd martyrs are about as heady a set of transcendental metaphors as one might hope for — Franken is in heady conceptual company here.

And here’s a newly-minted Franken-word:

There’s a new word which has registered on the media’s radar, and that is “unresign” — or “un-resign,” depending on the news organization.

Aah, aah.

Okay, back to religion. Church MilitantSteve Bannon apparently used the phrase at a Vaticaan conference in 2014:

In his presentation, Mr. Bannon, then the head of the hard-right website Breitbart News and now Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, called on the “church militant” to fight a global war against a “new barbarity” of “Islamic fascism” and international financial elites, with 2,500 years of Western civilization at risk.

Samuel Freedman commented in the NYT:

While most listeners probably overlooked the term “church militant,” knowledgeable Catholics would have recognized it as a concept deeply embedded in the church’s teaching. Moreover, they would have noticed that Mr. Bannon had taken the term out of context, invoking it in a call for cultural and military conflict rather than for spiritual warfare, particularly within one’s soul, its longstanding connotation.

Metaphor? The Church as an army? Salvation Army? Or a direct reference to the Church, factually, actually, Militant?


Well-turned phrases:

“The cost of doing nothing is not nothing.” John Delaney, (D-MD)

“The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” quoted in The Jerusalem Post, November 2002.

Well, that’s a bit ancient. How about:

This is what hell looks like: a country where people talk about morals and wave bibles, defending someone who’s accused of pedophilia. .. and what we need is redmption.

That’s Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer — founder of L’Abri and the conservative right movement — on JoyAM. Fierce.

And cruel, but decidedly witty — this amazing headline:


Then there are the ouroboroi — the self-referential phrasings:

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA):

You call it the Trump privilege. I call it the privilege privilege.

Also: “To spy on the spies.”

And somewhere: “investigating the investigators..”


Mercifully, no cute cats nor kitties.

Fire and Fury — a fair or unfair borrowing?

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — how can anyone accurately judge the rage of another — and what happens if we simply can’t, but need to take precautions against it? ]

President Trump certainly spoke of visiting “fire and fury” on the DPNK as quoted by the Economist in its DeafCon page (upper panel):

The question is whether the use of the phrase to headline a piece on the Alt-Right torchlight protest at UVa (lower panel) is appropriate or not?

  • Does it trivialize the serious matter of potential nuclear war by applying Trump’s phrase to a mere few hundred protesters,
  • or does it rightly intuit that the fury and fire of the Trump-Bannon platform — as applied to the DPNK nuclear program — is of the same cloth as the fury and fire of the protesters, and thus entirely applicable and appropriate?
  • **

    For the second time today:

    Metaphors, analogies, parallelisms, paradoxes — my stock in trade — are delicate matters, and should be treated with care.

    Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs #2, more directly to his point

    Sunday, March 5th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — following up on Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs, my oblique analysis and more pertinent to the point he’s making ]

    Daveed is illustrating a pretty significant pattern with his latest article in Foreign Affairs, The Coming Islamic Culture War, subtitled What the Middle East’s Internet Boom Means for Gay Rights, and More:

    These paragraphs:

    Today, a new type of discursive space—one that will foster a very different set of ideas—is opening up in the Muslim world. In April 2011, Bahraini human rights activists created one such space when they launched the website Ahwaa, the first online forum for the LGBT community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Esra’a al-Shafei, one of the website’s founders, was modest about the site’s ambitions, explaining that Ahwaa was intended “as a support network” for the “LGBTQ community” as well as a resource for those “who want to learn more by interacting with [LGBT] people.”

    Although little-noticed at the time, Ahwaa’s seemingly innocuous project was in fact revolutionary. Homosexuality in the MENA region is not only stigmatized but generally criminalized and banished from the public sphere. The creation of an online platform where LGBT people could candidly discuss the issues affecting their lives, such as romantic relationships or the tensions between Islam and gay rights, was thus a direct challenge to deeply inscribed cultural and religious norms. Indeed, Ahwaa heralds a wave of challenging ideas that, fueled by rapidly rising Internet penetration, will soon inundate Muslim-majority countries.

    Online communications, by their nature, give marginalized social and political groups a space to organize, mobilize, and ultimately challenge the status quo. In the MENA region, online spaces like Awhaa will give sexual minorities the ability to assert their identity, rights, and place in society. So too will the Internet amplify discourses critical of the Islamic faith, or of religion in general, and solidify the identities of secularists, atheists, and even apostates. The rise of these religion-critical discourses will in turn trigger a backlash from conservative forces who fear an uprooting of traditional beliefs and identities. The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

    Into the black swirl of geographical regimes that give no room for questioning — gay, political, religious, or whatever — a white circle of online discussion and possibility blossoms —

    Shielded by the relative anonymity of online communications, marginalized individuals of all stripes can discuss intimate and controversial issues. The Internet, furthermore, allows like-minded people from disparate corners of the world to find one another and create virtual communities. An atheist living in rural Egypt, for example, may not know anyone else who shares his views. But when he goes online, he will find millions of people who do.

    — and as it blossoms, the black swirl of repressive backlash again threatens it.


    Likewise, though this does not happen to be Daveed’s point, into the white swirl of western democratic societies a black circle of illiberalism opens — the internet providing a networking space for anti-Semites and other far right groups they would previously lacked —

    Today, the Internet is a powerful and virulent platform for anti-Semitism — hate towards Jews that has a direct link to violence, terrorism and the deterioration of civil society. Hitler and the Nazis could never have dreamed of such an engine of hate. [ .. ]

    The Internet allows anti-Semites to communicate, collaborate and plot in ways simply not possible in the off-line world.

    — and this blossoming extends into the Trump camp, as JM Berger suggested

    New developments and new propaganda items are a constant part of the ISIS landscape, whereas content in white nationalist networks tends to be repetitive, with few meaningful changes to the movement’s message, landscape, or political prospects. A notable exception to this is Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, which has energized white nationalists and provided new talking points and opportunities for engagement. Trump’s candidacy is likely driving some portion of movement’s recent gains on Twitter.

    And again likewise, this blossoming begins to be threatened by its own backlash — the blossoming of internet speech within contrary geographical cultural norms cuts both ways. It’s almost apocalyptic — that internet space blossoming can open up cracks in what David Brooks called “the post-World War II international order — the American-led alliances, norms and organizations that bind democracies and preserve global peace” — to which Steve Bannon is vehemently opposed.

    Apocalyptic? Whether we’re speaking of Daveed’s “coming Islamic culture wars” or Brooks’ “international order” there are signs of the times to be seen. As Daveed says —

    The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

    — and in closing —

    Regardless of their ultimate outcome, however, signs of the coming Islamic culture wars can already be discerned. Western observers have long overlooked or misinterpreted social trends that have swept through Muslim-majority countries. This is one trend that they cannot afford to miss.

    “KarlreMarks” Sharro moves on

    Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — from Abu A and Abu B to Steve and Donnie ]

    Karl Sharro is a Middle Eastern architect and satirist based in London, whose two modes of “simply” explaining the Middle East I presented a while back. His third view envisions ISIS as a board game, and asks Who can devise the most convoluted way to wipe out the Islamic State?


    Anyway, KarlreMarx has two jihadist ezxtremists he’s been tracking for some while — Abu A and Abu B:

    Outside Sharro’s fevered imagination, ISIS does indeed have an air force — of weaponized drones.

    Suicide? No, martydom — and individual ISIS members are as expendable as their goals are lofty:

    Sometimes, to be honest, those goals make little sense..

    — and besides, eclipses are signs of impending apocalypse..


    Time rolls on, however — and Sharro has shifted his target. As he put it in a tweet today, “I decided to retire Abu A and Abu B and replace them with another radicalised pair”:

    Steve and Donnie — two’s company.

    We shall see what we shall see..

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