‘Indeed, it seems as though the FBI had received intelligence from Russian authorities that Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers, was herself a potential terrorist. With that, any doubts about Russian intelligence or the motivations of the brothers falls by the wayside. Law enforcement officials must follow such leads to their bitter end in dealing with the prevention and deterrence of terrorist activities. The quicker public officials shed their reluctance to move decisively in these areas, the safer we all shall be’
Civil liberties are often the broadest platform where left and right can meet in American life, especially about so important a topic, which cuts right at the heart of of us, much like the bombing cut deep.
There have been, and will be other terrorists, and while the profile is generally second-generation, younger men, divided between the West and Islam, American culture and Islamic identity (Islamist and radical), we have to be careful.
Addition: Yes, I still think civil liberties are the best place to start in resisting the urge that both parties, and our currently gridlocked politics will have, to increase security and promise citizens that they can do the job of protecting them, which ultimately, they may not entirely be able to do. This requires all of us to be strong, and send the right signals, and expect the most from them.
How to separate reasonable environmentalism from the authoritarian impulses, the Malthusians and various other people who “know” how many people is enough? Now that environmentalism is a primary focus in our schools, it’s probably worth thinking about.
We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the mayor, mulled
a couple matters over (what’s
a cheap date, they asked us; what’s
flat drink). Among Italian literati
we could recognize our counterparts:
the academic, the apologist,
the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib — and there was one
administrator (the conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated
sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all, he was most politic and least poetic,
so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome
(when all but three of the New World Bards had flown)
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?)
to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn’t read Italian, either, so I put the book
back into the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans
were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there
we sat and chatted, sat and chewed,
till, sensible it was our last
big chance to be poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
Is it the fruits and vegetables and
marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or
the statue there?” Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think — “The truth
is both, it’s both,” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed
taught me something about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out,
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:
The statue represents Giordano Bruno,
brought to be burned in the public square
because of his offense against
authority, which is to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government, but rather is
poured in waves through all things. All things
move. “If God is not the soul itself, He is
the soul of the soul of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him
forth to die, they feared he might
incite the crowd (the man was famous
for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask, in which
he could not speak. That’s
how they burned him. That is how
he died: without a word, in front
And poetry —
put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on
poetry is what
he thought, but did not say.
Does the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle apply when it comes to online media, which would hold that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, or some similar distribution?
Anderson was employed by Conde Nast, and as he saw it, the 20%, but he also argued that the mainstream media is now competing with the long tail, or the 80% of bloggers who work for free, and focus on the needs of their very specific audiences.
According to Anderson’s argument, with the advent of cheap storage and technology, the Pareto long-tail has been allowed to find equilibrium, and you can keep blogging into perpetuity and reach some audience, however small (on a blog that previously didn’t exist). This gives a lot of little guys out there hope, and started a marketing movement a while back:
According to Anderson, the internet is also fundamentally changing the way business is done, and there’s incentive for businesses to cater to the fully extended long-tail, instead of the old distribution channels which truncated that tail because of Pareto (record companies, movie studios, T.V. producers etc.):
‘Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.’
Instead of 80/20 distributions, it’s more like 99% on this thinking (hopefully no relation to the 99%). There are, or would appear to be, an almost endless row of online shelves, and the more thriving economic models are those that cater to the entire long-tail and curate all those shelves.
Here’s a review of Anderson’s book from David Jennings back in 2006 (this blog is only seven to nine years behind the times):
‘Nevertheless my concerns about Anderson’s loose use of concepts and terminology are consistent with Orlowski’s suggestion that the Long Tail has been sexed up a bit to maximise its buzzword profile. If the Long Tail plays on being a faddish term, then its shelf-life may be limited. As cited in Wikipedia, fashionable management terms (like Quality Circles, Total Quality Management and Business Process Re-engineering) tend to follow a life-cycle in the form of a bell curve. And a bell curve, unlike a power law, has quite a short tail’
‘Opinion and news are now a commodity in this age, hard to extract money for that with the internet’
Most people aren’t willing to pay for opinion. It was an activity funded by the old revenue models and distribution channels at newspapers and magazines, and those same models and channels funded long-form and investigative journalism as well, which arguably can be in the public good. Those models aren’t working like they used to. Most newspapers and networks are still losing money, and few have made it up yet.
Until the last fifteen years or so, it was usually only a few journalists, writers and cultural critics who worked their way into the public mind, making a kind of brand for themselves at major newspapers, magazines, and by freelancing and writing op-eds. It’s generally a coveted spot. E-publishing and free blog platforms are very cheaply available, now, and while there’s limited room in the public mind for opinionators and pundits, there’s arguably a more open field.
To be fair to good journalists, there are clearly professional aspects of what they do, and higher standards to be met in many cases. Trust and loyalty are key components of any successful business, providing accurate information and/or public opinions included.
As for political magazines, they never really made much money anyways. See Matt Welch’s piece on the New Republic:
‘Opinion magazines tend to be slim, light on advertisements, heavy on text, and dependent on the largesse of either millionaire owners (as with The New Republic) or nonprofit donors (like reason).’
Writers for political magazines also have to stay on message with that magazine’s core audience and mission statement, and still depend on other social structures for their online presence. For non-professional writers and bloggers, it’s usually a labor of love, a hobby, as they like to follow their interests, attracting passers-by or maybe working to develop a loyal following.
Perhaps you could apply long tail to that master of the live feed and aggregation, Matt Drudge, as well.
Perhaps, what we can say is that the old models aren’t working like they used to.
Here’s to hoping for an Islamic renaissance, but preparing for a continued challenge against Islamism and its discontents, including radicalism. Some Muslims will continue the return to purity and brotherhood against outside forces, seeking to control the internal debate within Islam.
Scruton touches on how important irony and Roman law are in the Christian tradition and the culture that developed from it, as well as the cultural developments which distinguish it from the Hebrew bible and the Old Testament.
He also touches on the Western problems of nihilism and postmodernism as he sees them.
‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”
Addition: Here’s a quote by Samuel Huntington, which seeks to highlight that this blog has yet to find a universal value, religious, human rights or otherwise, that isn’t subject to human nature and organization (how we define that is up for debate, Darwinian, Natural Law…otherwise). The main fight in the 20th century has been against the great dangers of idealism (Communism, Marxism, National Socialism etc.). Part of the 21st century’s strategic challenge will be battling the religious idealism of Islamists.
Here’s another quote:
“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”
The quote is from The Clash Of Civilizations and is fairly well known, but I wanted to highlight it as it’s up for debate; coming into some conflict with Scruton’s thinking. Political Order In Changing Societies, by Huntington, info here, is a book likely worth your time.
Our form of violence is responsive to our institutions, laws, and traditions, much like our police forces are here to ideally ‘protect and serve.’
So, what’s the appeal to conservatism, and Scruton’s Burkean conservatism with some German influence? Well, I’m not entirely a ‘Scrutonian,’ but here’s a quotation from George Will on Stephen Colbert, which isn’t an endorsement of the Republican party, but a deeper conservatism when functioning well:
“What conservatives say is that we will protect you against idealism.”
That sounds reasonable. As for ‘peace,’ or world peace, or Kantian perpetual peace or the arc of history bending towards justice…I remain skeptical.
‘This doesn’t mean that radical Islamic organizations, not least what’s left of al-Qaeda, can be safely ignored. It doesn’t mean that having made our border control agencies more integrated and functional was a bad idea (though we still have a ways to go on that score). It doesn’t mean that sane immigration policy reform or better gun control laws are bad ideas. But none of this has anything to do with what happened in Boston.
After the beltway sniper affair, I was concerned that other semi-rational but not entirely dysfunctional lone-wolf terrorists might go in for copycatting. As all security experts understand, but are usually reluctant to talk about in public, it is all too easy to bomb or shoot up the ticketing and baggage retrieval areas of airports’
Islam plays backdrop to one individual’s crazed, lone-wolf attack, rather than being a directly radically connected, in this interpretation. Garfinkle also has some strong words for the media’s response.
Here’s a link from the comments:
‘You say that not much can be done in the area of Foreign Relations or Immigration. I say not. It would make sense and be relatively easy to prohibit clergy visas for clergy from countries which do not extend the same relationship to American clergy. Saudi radical clerics, which are a very significant part of the internal radicalization problem would become insignificant. When Christians can spread the Gospel in Saudi Arabia (and other countries) then Saudi Imnans are free to come to the US and spread the Religion of Peace’
Well, we’ve got our hands full with Islamism, that’s for sure, and watching Wahhabism spread with Saudi money. But we’re clearly more comfortable with more freedoms than the House of Saud is.
Are we in a defining fight with Islamism much like we were with Communism, a chess game being played around the world with an enemy that ultimately controls and denies its members basic freedoms, but spreads nonetheless? Clearly, there are important differences.
In lieu of actual information regarding the motives of the Tsarnaevs, I’ve focused heavily on the likely religious component (Islamism, terrorism, jihad), but sought to balance that against other considerations, like freedom of speech and the conflict in Chechnya. I’m concerned about the impulses many people will have in our society to gloss over any potential Muslim component, and reassert the multicultural vision and come to ignore genuine threats.
Of course, this does not give license to speculate wildly on those motives. We don’t know yet.
A reader, pointing out the civil libertarian defense, links to this Glenn Greenwald post.
Addition: Slate has a timeline of Tamerlan’s life, and it sure looks like a fairly ‘typical’ path to Islamic radicalization. That is to say, Muslims in America find many contradictions between American life and culture and their faith, for Islam is a prescription for most areas of life. Most Muslims handle this more flexibly and do not radicalize at all, but a small percentage, which apparently includes Tamerlan, don’t. Here’s a list of violent acts related to Muslims in America. Caveat lector.
The desire for purity, tradition, meaning in a strange land can lead a straggling few out to radicalization, and there is a loosely affiliated network of Islamic radicals worldwide and online that will complete the process. Islamism and radical elements need condemnation, and as much opposition as possible.
Europe has backed its way into some potentially serious problems, fueled by its desire for cheap labor, and not fully taking into account the differences between Islam and its own traditions. Muslims in Europe tend to be less integrated, often marginalized, ghettoized and living in enclaves of much higher populations percentage-wise. They bring some of the practices of their home countries and faith with them, like child-marriage, and possible virginity-checks, no support getting an education, and higher instances of domestic violence.
This blog tends to err on the side of free-speech.
Tell me where I’m wrong, and why. I’m happy to respond.
Addition: More tolerant liberal attitudes, and Islam, getting along well. I guess I should say civil libertarians are much better to have around than Leftists, but the ‘War On Terror’ is describing actual states of affairs, namely, the groups of people who are planning harm, and see themselves as involved in a dispute for which they have religious justification to murder and cause terror.
‘Practically speaking, therefore, nudges can’t do what they are intended for—to design a system to help individuals overcome cognitive biases make choices in their best interests—because economists and policymakers can’t understand the full range of motives that determine “best interest” when picking a retirement planning strategy to consuming a sugary beverage. Instead of helping people overcome cognitive weaknesses, policy makers are just nudging people towards the interests that policy makers prefer. “Libertarian” or not, paternalism is paternalism.’
Expect more from rationalism and perhaps even behavioral economics, however, when used to justify State power by paternalists, or at least as a moral source for law, lawmaking, and public policy.
It’s not just knowledge, but knowledge enough to ‘nudge’ other people. That’s very appealing to some people.
I was lucky enough to see this sculpture a few times at the Fundacio Miro in Barcelona. At the time, I remember thinking “Oh, it’s a comment on women in Spain“: All legs and sensuality and yet these malformed, pitiful, faces rising (or barely perched) on top.
“I know women like that…I remember thinking. It’s better to be an object of male lust than nothing, prostitutes take advantage of this all the time. Spanish machismo and insularity, the triumph of cultural values no matter how arbitrary or foolish, and the native ignorance and poverty of the human lot can clearly produce women like this. Despite my idealism, this is what shall remain long after I’m dead.” And then, rather self-satisfied, I strolled away.
Now, as I look again, I realize I have no idea what this sculpture means. Are those two faces? Strange little breasts? Is that a spigot on top? A man’s head and woman’s head? Aren’t they kind of gender neutral? What was I thinking, anyways?
Something about Miro makes me think he has thought long, judged deeply, and yet the colors are joyful, and there’s just this playfulness and achieved simplicity in his work that invites you right in and never really puts you out.
***It helps to understand how rooted Miro was in Catalonia, the northeast province of Spain with it’s own language, political identification, and identity (possibly troubling for a unified Spain), and with his materials and subjects. MOMA has some background here.
Some people are letting imagined Muslim youths from the other side of the world live rent-free in their heads as they take pen to paper, imagining such youths will be inspired by newspaper headlines, blog-posts, cartoons and T.V. shows from America. This is a propaganda war, they say, and we don’t want to give the jihadis recruiting material.
Naturally, they fear terrorism like all of us do to some extent, plain and simple, and they fear that any loss of innocent life will be at their hands (not at the hands of those who choose to kill). Many self-censor as a result. We’re a global village now, I’ve heard, and in a few huts in the global village huts are some really angry, irrational people, engaged in constant warfare in defense of their religion, willing to kill, die and terrorize for any scraps of glory. You don’t want to make them any angrier, do you?
Add to this an increasing raft of self-censorship in our own culture from the pc police, some aiming to absolve us the sins of slavery, and to unite the pluralistic and multi-ethnic strands of American life under the banners of multiculturalism and diversity, and you can see why some news outlets are reluctant to point out certain facts.
As I see it, there is a very small percentage of Muslims who radicalize, and nearly all other Muslims in America are not radicalizing. But, as immigrants go, Muslims pose unique problems, those few of them leaping off from the mosque into the radical night. Many Muslims, in following their faith, will put themselves at odds with many freedoms and facets of American life, including separation of church and state, and women’s freedoms. Statistically, there may be thousands more young Muslim men out there across the fruited plain, in danger of radicalization. While it’s a low probability occurrence, it only takes one to deal us the high consequences of an attack (as it does for any act of terrorism, from McVeigh to The Weather Underground).
In my view, this is partly where the logic of multiculturalism leads: Some people want you to want to self-censor. They’d rather have you be more worried about how other people are going to react to your thoughts and speech than your actual thoughts and speech, and the freedom you have to think and speak. You may be wrong of course, or have incomplete information, but some folks simply want to shut down debate. While you’re concerned about upsetting the next round of poor, impressionable terrorists on the other side of the globe, the Tsarnaevs might live down the road. This is a glaring inconsistency.
I believe we should aim for honesty in public speech, much like when there’s a robbery in the local paper. I’d like the newspaper to simply report the age, description and race of the suspect for the sake of public safety, especially if he’s still on the loose. That’s important information to know.
I’d like to see outlets simply reporting the religion, the path to radicalization, the associations and beliefs of the Tsarnaevs, which we seem to be getting from some sources.
Here’s Christopher Hitchens (nearly a free speech absolutist, railing against many of his former friends on the Left) discussing the Yale Press, which was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could lead to violence in the Muslim street:
“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”
Addition: But we also will maintain an open, healthy society.
1. Broad definitions of free speech don’t need to belabor the point of religion nor even seek enemy combatant status for the remaining Tsarnaev, as there are many other components to the Marathon bombing. However, I’d prefer to see his religion stated clearly as more information is made available. There are many people I don’t trust in the media to be able to do this as they roll ahead with the multiculturalist message.
2. In some ways, we’ve got to stay ahead of enterprising Al Qaeda online and in the marketplace. They have Inspire magazine. It’s like The Anarchist Cookbook for radical Islamists.
3. Unlike China, Russia, and even France, we have less of a top-down State and authoritarian apparatus which can swiftly crack down on security threats, or one group of immigrants, even if it was so desired, for any reason. Such is the cost of an open, Anglo-American society, apparently.
Another Addition: Eli Lake at The Daily Beast on that NYC to Toronto bombing. Al Qaeda in Iran.