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Benghazi, the election, and a look in the mirror

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the current score seems to be bipolar 1, bipartisan 0 ]
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You may believe:

You may believe:

Net gains in Turkey and Iran?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — when two data points contradict a trend, what’s up? ]
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Gotta love the graphic of “Twitter being written into the ancient Persian Cyrus Cylinder in an animation film for Farsi Twitter, highlighting the platforms importance for communications in Iran” (upper panel, below):

Tablet DQ internet saved

— and there’s something faintly Escherian about the screengrab of Turkish President Erdogen in, what, a hall of screens? (lower panel, above).

I’ve said before that single data-points mean little, but two of them — outliers from a general trend — may consitute an eddy in the stream, a knot in the wood, a disturbance in the force worth noting, worth looking into.

Thus far, our interest in social media in the Middle East has largely focused on terrorist uses [eg Berger 1, 2] and counter-terrorism & CVE measures [eg Aistrope], with a sidelong glance at authorities blocking the net {eg Kerr]..

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Here’s the video:

Sources:

  • Zeynep Tufekci / NYT, How the Internet Saved Turkey’s Internet-Hating President
  • Global Voices, Iranian Hardliners Want to Stop Blocking Twitter — to Defeat Saudi Propaganda
  • Food for thought:

    Note that knots in wood are generally indicative of a third-dimensional force, oblique to the wood’s surface plane. In considering any situation analogous to a knt in wood or eddy in a river, it’s worth asking: is there an oblique force at work disturbing the current, and if so, what is it, why here, and what does it portend?

    Binocular vision on the Trump phenom

    Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — why the support, why the avoidance ]
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    I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose these two quotes about Donald Trump.

    One comes from my friend Timothy Burke of Swarthmore and the Easily Distracted blog (upper panel, below) — Tim describes himself as holding generally left or progressive views, though he likes to think of himself as “dedicated to unpredictability”. Tim’s comment goes a long way towards explaining Trump’s appeal.

    Tablet DQ Trump Burke & King

    The other (lower panel, above) is from Independent Senator Angus King, who generally caucuses with the Democrats, and explains in all too vivid terms why he cannot support Donald Trump for President.

    Between the two of them, they nicely illustrate the two poles of opinion around Trump. Tim gives voice to the personal frustrations carried by so many of Trump’s supporters — grievous frustrations which have gone too long unheeded by both parties. And Sen. King voices the agonizing uncertainty surrounding Trump’s reliability as a potential major player in the high-stakes game of geopolitics and nuclear alerts — for his contrast between Trump and Clinton in this regard, read his whole piece at the link below.

    I am grateful to both for their succinct expressions of the two very real sides here.

    **

    Sources:

  • Timothy Burke, The Machine of Morbius
  • Sen. Angus King: I can’t vote for Donald Trump ‘in good conscience’
  • 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.

    **

    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.

    **

    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.

    Force and Faith — Turkey

    Monday, July 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” ]
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    Stalin’s sneering rhetorical question meets Erdogan’s declaration of faith:

    Tablet DQ 600 stalin erdogan

    **

    The idea of spiritual force is an old one, found eg in both New Testament and Qur’an

  • For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. — Ephesians 6.12

  • When you were calling upon your Lord for succour, and He answered you, ‘I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.’ — Qur’an 8.9
  • — and von Clausewitz:

  • One might say that the physical factors seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely-honed blade.

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