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The Shoehorn — two into one won’t go

Monday, July 18th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — these things are multi-factorial, and can’t truthfully be shoehorned to fit two categories — “terrorist” or “deranged” — as realtors might say, it’s nuance, nuance, nuance ]
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Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt have an interesting piece in the NYT today, titled In the Age of ISIS, Who’s a Terrorist, and Who’s Simply Deranged? It hinges on a comparison of two similar events in France, two years apart, in Dijon and Nice.

Here, I’ve presented them as a DoubleQuote. The Dijon article (upper panel, below) comes from an NYT report dated December 23, 2014:

Tablet DQ 600 Terrorist or Deranged

The Nice report (lower panel, above) comes from Mazzetti and Schmitt’s piece today.

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Mazzetti and Schmitt point out that shortly before the Dijon attack,

In September 2014, the spokesman for the Islamic State put out a call for the group’s followers to attack Westerners by any means possible, and to do so without awaiting further instructions from the group’s leaders.

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him,” the spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, said during a 42-minute recorded statement.

The whole Mazzetti and Schmitt piece is worth your reading. Categorization, as they explain, is changing —

“A lot of this stuff is at the fringes of what we would historically think of as terrorism,” said Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism and a professor at Dartmouth College. But, he said, “the Islamic State and jihadism has become a kind of refuge for some unstable people who are at the end of their rope and decide they can redeem their screwed-up lives” by dying in the name of a cause.

Mr. Benjamin said this also led the news media and government officials to treat violence like the Nice attack differently from other mass attacks, like shootings at schools and churches that have been carried out by non-Muslims.

“If there is a mass killing and there is a Muslim involved, all of a sudden it is by definition terrorism,” he said

— and this has impacts far beyond the horrific crimes themselves.

For instance, here’s one conclusion with significant foreign policy implications:

But terrorism experts caution that because the Islamic State seems to have broad appeal to the mentally unbalanced, the displaced and others on the fringes of society, there are limits to how much any military campaign in Syria and Iraq can reduce violence carried out in other countries on the group’s behalf.

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As Will McCants puts it in a Time piece titled The Difference Between ISIS and ISIS-ish:

The pattern is tragically familiar: a troubled youth with a criminal past attacks in the name of ISIS. Charlie Hebdo, Orlando, San Bernardino and perhaps now Nice. They are not ISIS, exactly, but ISISish men and women who have no organizational ties to ISIS but murder in its name.

And Heraclitus:

No man ever steps in the same river twice.

Soundbites and hasty headlines don’t chew what they bite. Each case is its own case — sui generis. Classical philosophy used to posit four types of cause: formal and material, efficient and final. In terms of acts of sudden violence, we may want to consider a variety of contextual influences, subconscious drives (James Gilligan‘s work on violnce and shame is deeply relevant here), overt signalling by perps including claims of bayat, methods employed and their history in previous actions and inspoirational or technical literature, and post-action claims by known terrorist groups

Life does not pretend to be simple. Convenience is no substitute for careful analysis.

Meanwhile, back in Nice..

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — from blessed peace to brutal war ]
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Yesterday:

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Today:

Or as they say on Twitter, #FridayFollow Rukmini Callimachi.

Given my propensity for seeing conflicts in sectarian terms

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — delicious irony in the twitter stream as a teaching tool re middle east ]
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Given my propensity for seeing conflicts in sectarian terms, it’s a breath of fresh air / splash of wet water for me to read Hayder al-Khoei, scion of the eminent al-Khoei family and Chatham House Fellow, tweeting on the subject of the English football hooliganism in Marseille over the last three days, which has included both bottle-throwing against French riot police and a running battle with a pack of Russian supporters brandishing knives:

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Al-Khoei‘s observations offer us a brilliant parody of the way western analysts, myself included, all too often write about events in the Middle East, and I admire his skill in delivering his reproof — but it’s also worth remarking that England as I understand it seems less and less interested in attendance at its established Protestant church, while France is notable for it’s official laïcité. Indeed, of the three nations involved in this circus, only the Russians appear to be experiencing quite a resurgence of Orthodoxy, coming after decades of official atheism.

Enfin:

The England v Russia match was a 1-1 draw. Game theorists would presumably call the event a zero-sum game, since the two sides do seem to have cancelled each other out — but in the larger context of sectarian rivalry, the entire three days have surely been lose-lose, while al-Khoei‘s wit is a win for us all.

Do unto yourselves more of what you would do unto others?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — IRA kills more Catholics, IS kills more Muslims ]
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Tablet DQ victims catholic muslim

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Is there anything we can learn from either one of these situations that would shed light on the other? Are there other instances of this pattern? How quickly can we take note of this effect in future, to benefit from that recognition?

Sources:

  • The Guardian, Catholics main victims of Northern Ireland republican terror groups
  • The Independent, Paris attacks: Isis responsible for more Muslim deaths than western victims
  • Hat-tip: John Horgan

    Carambolages, huzzah!

    Monday, March 14th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a brilliant new exhibition breaks the usual museum rules to provoke prodigious & repeated leaps of imagination ]
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    Carambolages Dominos

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    Cath Styles, whose Sembl games are closely related to my own HipBone variants on Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game, recently pointed me to an exhibition called Carambolages that opened recently at the Grand Palais, Galleries Nationales, 3, avenue du General Eisenhower, Paris.

    Strolling their website, I was struck by this double image, which in HipBone terms would be called a DoubleQuote, or a Sembl in Cath’s Sembl game:

    Carambolages
    (left) Sword, Kiribati, Micronesia Islands, Oceania, sd, Paris, Musée du Quai Branly
    (right) Bertrand Lavier, Black & Decker, 1998 collection Giuliana and Tommaso Setari

    It appears, indeed, that the exhibit in question features a Domino game of Sembls or DoubleQuotes —

    Fascinating — and definitely a notable step in the expanding history of bead game variants — which I view, among other things, as an art movement that has yet to be written up as such.

    Congratulations, Jean-Hubert Martin! The catalogue will no doubt be as close as I can get physically, but I’m all the way with you in spirit…

    Bonne idée, bon chance!


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