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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.

    Enquirer Cover, Playboy Centerfold &c

    Monday, August 27th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — not hookers: one Playmate, one porn star, both sex-workers of one or another kind ? ]
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    Pravda on the Checkout Line – nice title — Politico Magazine — note last on the right, middle row

    **

    In Scaramucci on symmetry, I quoted James Fallows:

    I argue that “projection,” in the psychological sense, is the default explanation for anything Donald Trump says or does.

    Projection means deflecting any criticism (or half-conscious awareness) of flaws in yourself by accusing someone else of exactly those flaws. Is Trump’s most immediately obvious trait his narcissistic and completely ungoverned temperament? (Answer: yes.) By the logic of projection, it thus makes perfect sense that he would brag that he has “the greatest temperament” and judgment, and criticize the always-under-control Hillary Clinton for hers.

    **

    I just came across what looks to me like a perfect example of Trumpian projection — if you’ll grant me that Trump, via his friendship with David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, proactively influences the front page of that rag-mag.

    Here we go:

    last on the right, middle row, above — a closer look, a clearer image

    See there at the foot of the page?

    She Ordered Me To — pay HUSH MONEY to hookers

    That’s under a general header:

    24 Years of Cover Ups and Crimes Exposed

    **

    Oh dear, and Donald Trump, according to the sworn testimony of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, in Federal Court, caused considerable moneys to be paid to at least two young ladies, one a porn star and director, the other a Playboy Playmate of the Year if that falls under a different category, to buy their respective silences on his alleged affairs with them, the payments being made in time to avoid any sordid revelations in the immediate run-up to the 2016 election..

    Time, methinks, for the Enquirer to rerun that front page with a few of the details switched to reflect the Federal-bench-approved Truth.

    On Mapping the Varieties of Risk

    Monday, August 6th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a theoretical question or suggestion, with serious or curious personal implications ]
    .

    This will get personal, but I’m aiming for a question or suggestion regarding the mapping of risks, in terms both of human life expectancy and of any and all other forms of risk assessment.

    moments to flatline — but enough of that

    **

    Well, well, I guess some predictive nethods may be better than others. Prophecy has the divine seal of approval, so there’s really no contest except When Prophecy Fails, as Festinger had the audacity to suggest.

    Fallback methods, in that event, include prediction, medical prognosis or actuarial life expectancy, mortality or maybe just morbidity, fortune-telling of various sorts — cookie, cookies, tellers, aura readings, tarot..

    And for myself, personally, there are various levels of risk that if mapped together would provide a graph with several nodes — to name the obvious, geopolitical risk, life expectancy, expectancy without dialysis, and bleed out.

    **

    Let’s takee a stab.

    By geopolitical risk I mean roughly what the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists implies — not the time in minutes to Doomsday, but the risk that we’ll be fried in the next year or eight, three, fifteen.. forty-eight.

    The year just past proved perilous and chaotic, a year in which many of the risks foreshadowed in our last Clock statement came into full relief. In 2017, we saw reckless language in the nuclear realm heat up already dangerous situations and re-learned that minimizing evidence-based assessments regarding climate and other global challenges does not lead to better public policies.

    Eight years or forty-eight?

    Let’s hope Doomsday’s a long time coming, or indefinitely postponed.

    **

    Life expectancy:

    actuarial life table simplified, simplified

    Zeroing in, there’s my life expectancy / prognosis. A couple of years ago, a physician friend gave me (informally) fifty-fifty odds of living the year out, and revised his guesstimate upwards as the year inproved my condition. Okay, five years would get me to eighty, which considering my state of health (morbidity) may be a bit optimistic (mortality). I’ve heard of people on dialysis for sixteen years, and then there are those who get transplants..

    But if for some reason, my access to dialysis was cut off, I’m told I’d have eight to maybe twelve days — and Russians toppling the grid, or the President and Congress pulling appropriate insurance might switch me from optimist to Soli Deo Gloria

    — in double quick time.

    **

    And then there’s arterial bleed out, against which precautions are believe me taken. A minute? four? The equivalent, perhaps, of stepping on a jumping jack in Afghanistan? Kiss your Self goodbye.

    **

    So a number, a length of time, can be assessed for any one of these, and when people who study in the assessment of risk can give that number, backing it up with whatever persuasions they find appropriate. A number. 50-50. Three years. By my calculation, the Book of Revelation. By their calculation, the Doomsday Clock of the Atomic Scientists. What, as the younglings say, ev. But a single number, or more expansively, range.

    But here’s my question: does anyone have a graphical method for mapping all the variants of risk, say the ones I listed for my personal case?

    It feels a bit like a ratcheted system – failing death by nuclear annihilation or Yosemite blowing, there’s my prognosis, hopefully a matter of years. That can jum suddenly to days in the grid goes don (think Puerto Rico) — and leap toi a handful of minutes if, Black Swan forbid, a procedure fails and I’m unexpectedly bleeding out.

    So does anyonbe make ratcheted graps of how one risk slips to another?
    soli
    **

    >And my suggestion, if nobody has such a mapping scheme that I could give a look-see to, is that we should think about how to make such a mapping systen=m available.

    Thank you for reading, considering, responding to question or suggestion.

    Sunday surprise: Eucharist above, below and beyond

    Sunday, July 15th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — have you time to spare for a little beauty? ]
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    Prof Emily Steiner of the University of Pennsylvania posted this image, which she described as of the “Stunning mosaics in the apse of S. Maria in Trastevere, attributed to Pietro Cavallini (c.1240-1330)”:

    Dr Steiner attributed the photo to “the talented @pdecherney” — her colleague at U PEnn, Dr Peter Decherney.

    **

    When I first saw this image, only the top half was visible on my screen, a fine, and I’m no expert, possibly world renowned, and yes, as Dr Steiner says, stunning mosaic of Christos Pantokrator, Christ the ruler of the universe if I’m not mistaken — and again, I’m no expert, and willing to take instruction.

    But stunning, yes. Christ, a mosaic, stunning. Art at the service of praise, beauty as a window on the divine, .

    And then, perhaps an hour later, but lapses of time are mended in this realm, I saw the whole image, sized to fit my screen.

    **

    And thus the bottom half —

    — with, brightly lit, even moreso if it were possible than the Christ in mosaic above it is, a small table — an altar, with three priests, and more in the wings, celebrating what looks to be the Eucharist — thought I suppose it might also be Vespers — and again, some expert could say whether the central celebrant is, by his zucchetto or skullcap, a cardinal, bishop, or maybe monsignor.

    No matter the celebrant’s rank, he is, as celebrant, at the vanishing point — both the central point of attention photographically, and the point where the priest acts in the person of Christ, in persona Christi, thus himself, his persona, vanishing at the vanishing point.

    Do this in memory of me, Christ said to his disciples at the Last Supper before his crucifixion, in words of sacrifice, previsioning his body about to be broken on the cross the next day — and down the centuries priests have broken bread as he did, speaking his words in his place, Take, eat, this is my body.

    In the consecration, with these wrds, bread and wine become invisibly the body and blood of Christ, which we may remember, digest and allow to transform us.

    It is this which makes the celebration of the Eucharist, in Catholic terms, “the source and summit of the Christian life”.

    **

    And then, between this focus on the priest celebrant below, and the Christ all-ruling above, there is a mysterious relationship, each reflecting the other as in duet of mirrors — above, below and I invite you to envision, beyond.

    Taking us, to switch religious traditions.. into the upper room with that one and self-same Christ

    **

    Eucharist: literally, thanksgiving!

    May your Sunday bring you cause for such thanksgiving..

    Best graphic I’ve seen in a while

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — close cousin to the resurrection narrative ]
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    Boom!

    **

    The story is striking enough, regardless of whether you share my interest in religious symbolism; but for those who do, the religious parallelism leaps out at you.

    Boom!

    I’ll have to avoid using boom so much, soon: it’s easy to overdo it.

    *

    Deets:

  • Washington Post, A woman declared dead after a crash was put in a morgue freezer.
  • I’ll need to watch deets too.


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