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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.

    Journal — Illuminatus! trilogy, QAnon!! and more..

    Monday, August 20th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a dayalong cabinet of curiosities, really — the essence of creativity, paradox, and America, via conspiracies this way and that, contrasts between clearances, and key Rwanda para from the NYorker ]
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    Here’s a Diary — a miscellaneous catch-all for today :

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    **

    Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus saga stumbles along:

    Wilson and Shea derived much of the odder material from letters sent to Playboy magazine while they worked as the editors of its Forum.[19] The books mixed true information with imaginative fiction to engage the reader in what Wilson called “guerrilla ontology”, which he apparently referred to as “Operation Mindfuck” in Illuminatus!

    Wilson and Shea mashed up the ten thousand conspiracies and facts of their times to create one fact-spattered fiction, the Illuminatus! trilogy — one from many, e pluribus unum ahem! — whereas in our own day the inventors of QAnon invoked a massive outpouring of different conspiracies within conspiracies:

    In November 2017, a small-time YouTube video creator and two moderators of the 4chan website, one of the most extreme message boards on the internet, banded together and plucked out of obscurity an anonymous and cryptic post from the many conspiracy theories that populated the website’s message board.

    Over the next several months, they would create videos, a Reddit community, a business and an entire mythology based off the 4chan posts of “Q,” the pseudonym of a person claiming to be a high-ranking military officer. The theory they espoused would become Qanon, and it would eventually make its way from those message boards to national media stories and the rallies of President Donald Trump.

    From many, one, and from one, many — Pythagorean sacred mathematics, America, expansive and synthetic thinkjing, the origins of paradox, essence of creativity — between one and many, it’s all there..

    **

    Quick thought:’

    We’ve seen Jared Kushner having his clearance restored, and John Brennan having his clearance withdrawn, but just fr the record, they bear considering in tandem, DoubleQuote style.. Right here I’m making the connection.

    **

    Rwanda:

    Key NYorker para on Rwandan warning to Kofi Annan, upon whom be the peace, requiescat in pace, a reminder:

    Annan then wrote, “We do not recall any specific reports from Kigali to this effect.” A review of the peacekeeping files, he wrote, had turned up only four cables from Kigali in the months preceding the genocide that mentioned “ethnic tensions as being possibly related—or not related—to specific incidents of violence.”

    But, in reality, one of the four cables Annan listed consisted of an alarmingly specific report of preparations for the genocide, sent by his force commander in Kigali, the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, in January of 1994. Dallaire had heard from a trusted informant on the payroll of Rwanda’s ruling party, who described plans to “provoke a civil war,” and to kill Belgian peacekeepers in order to scuttle the U.N. mission. The informant himself said he was involved in drawing up lists of Tutsis in Kigali, and Dallaire wrote, “He suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in twenty minutes his personnel could kill up to a thousand Tutsis.” Dallaire asked for permission to act on this information by raiding and seizing illegal arms caches. Annan’s office replied at once, in a cable under his name, and signed by his deputy, telling Dallaire not to act but, rather, to follow diplomatic protocol and share his information with Rwanda’s President—the head of the party that Dallaire wanted to act against. Three months later, in April of 1994, everything that Dallaire described in his warning took place, and in the course of a hundred days around a million Tutsis were massacred.

    **

    Ordinary:

    Lovely prose, extraordinary normalcy in the New Yorker, Hearing Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” in the Soviet Union

    I was gazing ahead, out the half-shaded window, sitting in the diffuse circle of warm light from a tall floor lamp to the left of me, with my elbows propped on the table and my head resting in the palms of my hands, in front of a half-empty bottle of an acrid, half-dry Bulgarian red called The Evening Bells and a white faience teacup with a chipped rim. In the boreal darkness outside, there was nothing for me to perceive but an irregular checkered pattern of blue- and yellow-lit windows in the apartment building across the way.

    Beyond those windows, perfectly and naturally unaware of my existence, ordinary Soviet citizens like me silently lived their ordinary human lives: hugging or ignoring one another, standing still in their kitchens in tank tops and nightgowns and saying something silently to someone unseen, flinging angry words at one another, gesticulating broadly and opening and closing their mouths, drinking tea, eating something greasy from an aluminum pan on the stove, or just staring into the night’s emptiness with unseeing eyes, their foreheads pressed against the windowpane, a slow-burning cigarette squeezed between their pressed lips.

    It is into such lives, among so many, that Aretha’s voice penetrates. Whenever we consider any of this world’s painful pasts, dire future threats, and potent presents, we should quickly run them up against all those audiences, normal and overwhelmingly influential, who may be affected.

    **

    I’m reminded..

    Okay, I saw that New Yorker piece today on the penetration of Aretha‘s voice into a bloc of Soviet flats in Leningrad, Hearing Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” in the Soviet Union, and reading it, I’m reminded of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo and its interest in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

    You’ll remember they attained world notoriety after attacking the Tokyo subway system with sarin gas.. Specifically:

    Aum dabbled in many different biological agents. They cultured and experimented with botulin toxin, anthrax, cholera, and Q fever. In 1993, Ashahara led a group of 16 cult doctors and nurses to Zaire, on a supposed medical mission. The actual purpose of the trip to Central Africa was to learn as much as possible about and, ideally, to bring back samples of Ebola virus. In early 1994, cult doctors were quoted on Russian radio as discussing the possibility of using Ebola as a biological weapon.

    So, here’s my take:

    Some journo sending an early report on the Ebola outbreak was read by someone involved in the Aum Shinrikyo chemical weapons team, who thereupon suggested a trip to Africa to Aum’s guru, Shoko Asahara. I’m sure the journo concerned wasn’t thinking that some member of a a relatively obscure Japanese cult would read their report! — but news ripples out to obscure corners of the world, Aretha‘s voice reaches Leningrad, news of an outbreak in Africa reaches Tokyo, more generally the world is porous, and these things have consequences…

    **

    The world is porous, and there are causes and consequences…

    What we say to QAnon and the Storm

    Sunday, August 19th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — one of those happy chance coincidences, no conspiracy intended ]
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    Welcome to the Storm:

    Welcome to QAnon, sometimes referred to as “the Storm.” It’s a conspiracy theory that’s swept social media and is starting to break into the mainstream, with Trump rally attendees in Florida on July 31 holding signs and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “We are Q” and the conspiracy theory’s main catchphrase, “Where we go one, we go all.”

    What we say to QAnon and the Storm:

    Detroit Mass Choir – The Storm Is Passing Over

    Thank you, good-bye.

    Enemy of the people, battle rifles, Nikita Khrushchev too..

    Friday, August 17th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a cascade from dangerous words to deathly deeds ]
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    There’s this tweet from Donald Trump, and it’s one among several like it:

    Certain media outlets are listed as enemies, which is pretty close to calling them targets..

    Remember Nixon‘s enemies list?

    **

    Okay, then there’s this tweet, from Alex Jones of InfoWars:

    Let’s give that a little more context — Alex Jones ups the ante:

    We’re under attack and you know that, and you pointed out mainstream media is the enemy.

    But now it’s time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag. I know the Justice Department’s crippled, a bunch of followers and cowards. But there’s groups, there’s grand juries, there’s — you called for it and it’s time politically and economically and judiciously and legally and criminally to move against these people. It’s got to be done now. Get together the people you know aren’t traitors, and aren’t cowards, and aren’t hedging their frickin’ bets like all these other assholes do, and let’s go, let’s do it. Because they’re coming. Now, in your wisdom you may be playing possum and waiting for them to come in. But America needs to know that they’ve got their little pathetic commie red teams ready. And they’ve got their targets picked out: the sheriffs, the judges, the police chiefs, the patriots, the veterans, the talk show hosts, everybody. And everyone’s going to be amazed when they come and when those cowards come and it’s going to hit in the middle of the night, and they’re coming. And they’re coming. And they’re coming.

    They think they can really take down America. And this is it. So, people need to have their battle rifles and everything ready at their bedsides and you got to be ready because the media is so disciplined in their deception. Antifa attacked all these people at the White House, beat up reporters, beat up women, children, no coverage. And they’ve got discipline folks, they’ve got criminal discipline because they’re a bunch of followers.

    I’m suggesting with this DoubleTwweet that Alex Jones is the compulsive “id” of Trump’s repeated attacks on the “faux” media as “the enemy of the people” — essentially putting a target on the backs of those media listed, and their hournalists..

    **

    In the historical background, almost buried in the hiss of defective memory, we hear the voice of Nikita Khrushchev. As the New Yorker points out:

    Nikita Khrushchev, in his memoirs, observed that Joseph Stalin, his despotic and bloody-minded predecessor, referred to “everyone who didn’t agree with him as an ‘enemy of the people.’”

    And here’s our chance to find out what that phrase, enemy of the people, may lead to:

    “As a result, several hundred thousand honest people perished,” Khrushchev said, underestimating the number of dead from Stalin’s mass repressions by many millions. “Everyone lived in fear in those days. Everyone expected that at any moment there would be a knock on the door in the middle of the night and that knock on the door would prove fatal.”

    **

    Now that’s a dangerous cascade, don’t you think, from Trump’s identification of certain “enemies of the people” via Alex Jones’ call for regular folks to have their “battle rifles” ready — via Khrushchev’s finding an earlier Russian echo of Trump’s phrase in Stalin’s, to Stalin’s tens of millions dead..

    Take a deep enough breath..

    Synonyms for shiver, the noun:

    tremble, quiver, shake, shudder, quaver, quake, tremor, twitch

    There’s quite a bit of poetry in that list. And..

    Shiver, the verb:

    shake slightly and uncontrollably as a result of being cold, frightened, or excited.

    I’d say that cascade frightens me, with maybe some excitement peering out from behind the fright, just because in it there’s a premonition of conflict.. oh, and fright rhymes with excite..

    Let me let you in on a secret: the poetry may be a distraction from the fright, but if so it’s a welcome distraction.

    Kissinger, Q and QAnon, MK-Ultra, sex slaves, HRH, &c

    Sunday, August 5th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a strange and winding tale, from Frank Sinatra to Donald Trump with possible Babylonian intrigue, too ]
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    There has been a quick flurry of news attention devoted to QAnon — a supposed high-clearance, deep-cover source leaking confidential “the truth from behind the curtain” so to speak, supporting a Pro-Trump pro-Mueller (!!) narrative:

    causing Q ripples within conspiracy circles

    **

    Here:

    Tampa rally, live coverage,” wrote “Dan,” posting a link to President Trump’s Tampa speech in a thread on 8chan, an anonymous image board also known as Infinitechan or Infinitychan, which might be best described as the unglued twin of better-known 4chan, a message board already untethered from reality.

    The thread invited “requests to Q,” an anonymous user claiming to be a government agent with top security clearance, waging war against the so-called deep state in service to the 45th president. “Q” feeds disciples, or “bakers,” scraps of intelligence, or “bread crumbs,” that they scramble to bake into an understanding of the “storm” — the community’s term, drawn from Trump’s cryptic reference last year to “the calm before the storm” — for the president’s final conquest over elites, globalists and deep-state saboteurs.

    **

    Q-materials now have enough YouTube channels starting up daily than no single human can keep up with them, and I’m certainly not trying — but one Q-related social media post caught my eye recently:

    because it reminded me of a book I’d bought years ago, possibly as early as 1999, when I was researching conspiracism around the 1999/2000 millennium bug scare:

    featuring, if you can’t manage to read the small print or recognize the tiny photos, Bob Hope, whom she alleged was her owner, JFK, LBJ, Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr, Reagan, who took her to visit Queen Elizabeth Ii to discuss a breeding program, it goes on and on.. Satanic ritual abuse, prostitution, porn, all under the auspices of MK_Ultra.. including cannibalism, human and animal sacrifice..

    Hillary Clinton‘s alleged pedophile ring out of a Pizzaria basement had nothing on this Kennedy-Kissinger-Ford lot, and now Q seems to be corropobrating a variant on the same plot line…

    For the Sarah Ruth Ashcrsft – Q connection see this tweet:

    A recent QAnon video drop:

    And the Royals? My book companion to the Bryce Taylor book was this one, about Prince Charles:

    I may be a Brit, but fair’s fair, we have our conspiracists, too.

    **

    Readings:

  • WaPo, ‘We are Q’: A deranged conspiracy cult leaps from the Internet to the crowd at Trump’s ‘MAGA’ tour
  • WaPo, QAnon: Meet a real-life believer in the online, pro-Trump conspiracy theory that’s bursting into view
  • WaPo, The mystery of ‘Q’: How an anonymous conspiracy-monger launched a movement (if the person exists)
  • WaPo, How QAnon, the conspiracy theory spawned by a Trump quip, got so big and scary
  • **

    I hope none of this will be confused with Bond’s Q and Q-bond — although Bond’s Q may be the inspiration for QAnon’s name, and Q-bond may make the whole Trump-Mueller duel/duet a whole lot tighter than it previously had been.

    Oh, and Q for Quelle (source) is a supposed ur-gospel containing the sayings of Jesus, from which the evangelists may have borrowed..


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