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An observation for David Ronfeldt

Friday, August 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting that the “how do we know when a radicalized thinker shifts into violent action mode?” question is frankly a koan ]
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stern task-master image borrowed from The Zen Priest’s Koan

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We’d been discussing on FB The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism, and in particular this observation:

This movement is often called white nationalist, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting whiteness within the nation. But the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. It is the Aryan nation, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

and an idea occurred to me that seemed interesting enough for me to re-post it here on Zenpundit and Brownpundits:

We’re seeing a lot of discussion of how to foresee the switch from a terror-propensity thought into a terrorist act. Even in retrospect this is very difficult to manage, although lots of people elide the difference or feel constrained to separate the two, and managing an effective strategy to accomplish forewarning seems close to impossible.

I’d like to observe that the great leap between thought and act is in fact a leap across the mind > brain distinction, ie the “hard problem in consciousness”. > It’ds called the “hard problem” because it’s a question so basic that our best reaches of thought can’t stretch across the inherent paradox, a koan in effect.

Perhaps if we started with that koan, we could at least understand the “size” of the problem that predicting terrorist violence poses.

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I think that’s, technically, an audacious idea.

What the hell do I mean by that? It doesn’t threaten my physical well-being, nor, I’d suspect, national security. It’s “just a thought” — so what’s the big deal?

Well, it concerns a matter of immediate strategic and tactical concern, for one thing. And for another, it takes that strategic and tactical issue way past its present discursive parameters, and analyzes it to a level of fundamental abstraction — so much so that it invokes one of the few most basic unresolved issues in scientific thought, a veritable western koan.

That’s quite a reach, but I believe it’s a reach that illuminates the difficulty of the “strategic and tactical issue” from a fresh point of view that’s frustratingly so deep as to be virtually impenetrable.

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In Chalmers‘ words, the “hard” problem is:

how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience … the way things feel for the subject. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of an intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought

You remember the kids’ mathematical saying, “three into two won’t go”? Well here’s a case of “mind into brain won’t go” in the sense of Chalmers‘ hard problem.

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Leonard koan, yes, yes — from Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Lt Christopher Hasson and religion, also Breivik, Rudolph

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — calling Hasson a “domestic terrorist” is a good first step, noting that he’s fulfilling Breivik’s hope that his manifesto will train others is a second, and checking out his religious ideas would be a third ]
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I’ve seen a fair amount of coverage of Lt. Hasson as a domestic terrorist, focusing on his weaponry, his target database, and his dream of killing “almost every last person on the earth” — but nothing taking explicit note of his views on religion.

The New York Times reported him as saying:

Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads. Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world. So be it.

That phrasing struck me as strange, being the only part of his writings addressed to a second party. In context, however, it seems likelynto be a form of prayer — it is immediately preceded by one of the very few religious references in the document:

Gun rights people will never rise, need religious to stand up.

Coming immediately after that, it strikes me that “Please send me your violence .. Guide my hate ..” certainly could and perhaps should be read as prayers. Their address to a second party seems like a tell to me.

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The only other religious reference I saw in Hasson’s writings as the court provided them followed immediately on the question, “Who and how to provoke???” And reads:

New idea this weekend, R/E orthodox as a way to influence?

I take that to be a reference to Russian / Eastern Orthodoxy. Other meanings for “R/E” I’ve seen include “Real Estate”, “Retained Earnings” and “Revolutionary/Evolutionary” — none of which make any sense in the context followed by “orthodox”.

Further, Hasson thought of Russia as a resistant to the values he despised, writing:

Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes or any land that despises the west’s liberalism. Exclusive of course the muslim scum. Who rightfully despise the west’s liberal degeneracy….

It seems to me he likely shares Anders Breivik’s general “cultural Christianity” if not Christianity itself — and given the well-documented closeness of Putin and Patriarch Kirill, and their general joint approach melding religious and patriotic ideation, and indeed Church and State together, it would make sense that Hasson “Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes” would include his viewing Orthodoxy, at least in its Russian form, as a bulwark against “the west’s liberal degeneracy”.

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I checked with Anders Breivik’s Manifesto, which Hasson studied with care, following many of Breivik’s instructions, and didn’t find any suggestion that Orthodoxy was Breivik’s preferred form of Christianity for the purposes of resisting degeneracy. In fact his instructions for citizens of his revised western culture include the section title, “Convert to Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant)”, with the further explanation:

Every individual is to accept baptism, the ritual act by which one is admitted to membership of the Christian Church, as a member of the particular Church in which the baptism is administered.

Orthodoxy is named in that section title before Catholicism and Protestantism, but I don’t think that proves much of anything. In another section, describing the origin of the St George cross as a Templar emblem, Breivik writes:

Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches.

— a pretty comprehensive list of “high” churches – but not one that prioritizes one over the others.

I’d also note that Hasson briefly references with approval the writings of Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion activist and Olympic Park bomber, who described his faith thus:

I was born a Catholic, and with forgiveness I hope to die one.

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All in all, there’s not much in the court papers of a religious nature, but the one real hint we have seems to point to Putin and the Patriarch as powerful allies in his white supremacist fight.


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