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Lao Tzu in the Comey hearing

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — not the most politically relevant quote from Comey, but perhaps the most curious ]
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It’s not every day you get to see Lao Tzu playing out in the natsc arena:

Sources:

  • Stephen Mitchell, tr., Tao Te Ching, chapter 56
  • Politico, James Comey testimony transcript on Trump and Russia
  • JM Berger’s latest, 2

    Friday, April 21st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — rushing to keep up with the prolific JM ]
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    JM Berger sets his latest work in context:

    Extraordinary!

    Footnoted readings 03 – Violence, theirs and ours

    Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — on analysis by symmetry, asymmetry, comparison, form ]
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    Vijay Prashad

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    Vijay Prashad writes in Jadaliyya under the title Violence: Theirs and Ours and sub-head Binaries:

    I have spent decades thinking about the asymmetry of reactions to these sorts of incidents in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I have written about them, indignation as the mood of these essays. But this is spitting into the wind. It is futile on Facebook, for instance, to make the suggestion that the 2016 Karrada bombings in Baghdad (Iraq), which killed over 300 people, should have driven people to turn their profile pictures into Iraqi flags (as the world had done after the 2015 Paris attacks, when 137 people were killed). “Je Suis Charlie” is easy to write, but not #AmiAvijit. Eyes roll when these gestures are urged, whether through bewilderment at their meaning or exhaustion at their sanctimoniousness. After all, the eye-roll suggests, how could one compare a satirical French magazine with obscure Bangladeshi bloggers who have been hacked to death? It takes an immense act of will to push editors to run stories on tragedies that seem distant even from the places where they occur. All eyes focus on the latest attack in Molenbeek, but few turn with the same intensity to look at the tragedies in Beirut or in Cairo.

    Okay, what interests me here is his mode of analysis by form: Prashad pays specific and repeated attention to binaries — symmetries and asymmetries. I think that’s a key move in analytic terms, and you can see it in play, again, in the way he phrases his concluding paragraph:

    From Lord Baring’s Violent Shock to George W. Bush’s Shock and Awe: this cannot be terrorism. It is the business of rational states. Terrorism is what the others do. Always.

    Violent Shock :: Shock and Awe.

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    Agree or disagree with Prashad’s analyses as you will, his method is one that I too have been focusing on here at ZP for a while now — that of emphasis on form as a clue to analytic significance.

    Footnoted readings 01 – Whose beholding eye is this beauty in?

    Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — hoping to unload a series of quick posts sparked by my recent readings — 01, jihadi culture ]
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    I was reading Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, The “futurist” aesthetics of ISIS — who could resist such a title? — in the Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, desultorily, and my eye was naturally caught by the phrase “religious apoalyptic symbolism”, because symbolism is my terrain and apocalypse (IMO) the specific area where the human imagination runs wildest and freëst..

    … and since analogy is my preferred mode of insight, I was then delighted to find the comment about “stronly reminiscent” but subdued jihadi purple:

    In the case of ISIS the overcoming of symbolist rhetoric signifies a clear shift towards Futurism. In Symbolism, poetical speech attempts to present a refined and infinite mental world. Such symbolist ambitions do exist in ISIS propaganda but they remain restricted to religious apocalyptic symbolism. ISIS replaces sunsets and hazes with whirring engines and explosions; further, the aim of ISIS propaganda is not merely to evoke a metaphysical world for its own sake but rather to establish the forces of a new futurist ideology in everyday life as a utilitarian force. Also this overlaps perfectly with futurist strategies of overcoming symbolism.

    While ISIS aesthetics makes a decisive step in this modernist direction, Al-Qaeda religious propaganda remains kitsch and is strongly reminiscent of visual material delivered by Jehovah’s Witnesses or New Age sects. With the latter it shares the preference of purple as the dominant color, though the jihadi purple is more subdued than the New Age one.

    The whole idea of jihadi aesthetics, of course, will seem wildly inappropriate to those whose view is constrained to the physical personnel, materiel and processes of war — but to those hoping for insight into the jihadist mindset, it is not so easily dismissed — see Thoman Hegghammer‘s Paul Wilkinson Memorial Lecture, The Bored Jihadi blog and forthcoming book, Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists.

    Hegghammer’s book will be a
    must read, I suspect. I hope to review it here on ZP>

    ISIS goes Matryoshka

    Friday, March 10th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — humans bearing doll attributes and vice versa ]
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    ISIS brings those Matryoshka dolls to life..

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    SITE Intel‘s video on ISIS indoctrination of children — one of their people actually terms it “brainwashing” as though it’s a blessing, not a perversion — is pretty graphic, but important.

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    For our younger readers, then:

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    Sources:

  • SITE Intel video report, Raising Terror: How the Islamic State Indoctrinates its Youth
  • The Peoples Cube, Islamic Matryoshka

  • Teletubbies, Developmental Benefits

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