Page 1 of 1 [ 16 posts ] 

Feste-Fenris
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Gender: Male
Posts: 520

14 Jul 2005, 8:54 am

By Nick Cohen
This article was first published at Normblog in the continuing series 'Writer's Choice'. It is republished here by the kind permission of Norm Geras and Nick Cohen.

[Norm Geras]:Nick Cohen is a columnist for The Observer and The New Statesman. He has also written for The Guardian. He is the author of Cruel Brittania and Pretty Straight Guys, available in a fine bookstore near you. Here Nick writes about Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism.

Although I like to present myself as an open and rational chap, I can remember very few times when I've admitted being in the wrong. Not wrong in detail, but wrong in principle. In my experience the politically committed rarely do that. We change imperceptibly and grudgingly, while all the time pretending we haven't changed at all but merely adapted to altered circumstances.

Actually, 'very few' is a self-serving exaggeration. The only time I realised I was charging up a blind alley was when I read Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism. I didn't see a blinding light or hear a thunder clap or cry 'Eureka!' If I was going to cry anything it would have been 'Oh bloody hell!' He convinced me I'd wasted a great deal of time looking through the wrong end of the telescope. I was going to have to turn it round and see the world afresh. The labour would involve reconsidering everything I'd written since 11 September, arguing with people I took to be friends and finding myself on the same side as people I took to be enemies. All because of Berman.

The bastard.

Terror and Liberalism is an essay rather than a history and its arguments come from the almost forgotten tradition of the anti-totalitarian left. Its central point is that Islamism and Baathism are continuations of Nazism and communism, not only in their fine points - founders of the Muslim Brotherhood and Baath Party were admirers of Hitler and Franco - but in their fundamentals. Once again we had the promise of earthly paradise, but now the paradise wouldn't be the paradise of unexploited labour or the paradise of an Aryan Europe, but the paradise of the early days of the prophet or a reunified Arab nation, pure and free. Once again there were great leaders who were semi-divine as they led the faithful into cosmic struggles. And once again their programmes were insane.

Berman begins by evoking Albert Camus and other leftish writers of the mid-twentieth century who had broken out of the prison of Marxism to examine the deranged movements which had turned Europe into a charnel house. Cleverly, he treats his targets very sympathetically. Readers who want to disagree with him, as I did, are seduced because he understands why they believe what they believe and more often than not expresses their ideas better than they can. He follows Camus by showing how the original Russian terrorists who began the violence which finished with the slaughters of the communists were morally scrupulous, decent and brave. They wouldn't throw a bomb into the coach of the Grand Duke Sergei, because there were children on board, or risk the deaths of passers-by. True, they had no ideas beyond death, their own and others, no plan for society which could possibly succeed, but that didn't hide the desperation which had driven sensitive and high-minded young men and women to rebel. Similarly, Berman is so angry about the collapse of European civilization into the barbarism of the First World War that you could imagine him joining the communist party or becoming a Nazi, and he is so sympathetic to the intellectual currents buffeting Sayyid Qutb that Qutb's transformation into the intellectual founder of a cult of death appears the most natural of developments, one you might make yourself in the circumstances.

His avoidance of the usual polemical style has a purpose which is obvious on a second reading. Berman is trying to overcome the resistance of Western readers who have watched the Iranian revolution and the murder of millions and the enslavement of whole African tribes in the Sudan and the destruction of every last remnant of freedom in Afghanistan and not understood that what they've seen is a totalitarian movement going about its business.

A chapter - 'Wishful Thinking' - explains why so many are reluctant to see clearly and in their blindness end up on the far right. It deals with the Chomskys and the creeps who were to dominate the anti-war movement; but to my mind the best part of the chapter and the book is when he uses the history of the French Socialist Party in the 1930s as a parable for our time.

Leon Blum, the leader of that party, knew that the Nazis had to be fought. But a large faction, supported by the teachers' unions and many left-wing intellectuals, was horrified by the prospect of a conflict which could exceed even the carnage of the First World War.

If they had looked the Nazis in the face, they would have realized that war was inevitable. Rather than see clearly they allowed the best of motives to convince them that the German people hadn't fallen for an insane cult. Why would they? Wasn't it almost racist to believe that they were anything other than as rational and decent as the French?

Take Hitler's demands to expand the German Reich. In a certain light these could be seen as a menacing expansion of the Nazi state, but (the anti-war socialists asked themselves) was it not the case that the Treaty of Versailles had imposed punitive conditions on Germany at the end of the First World War? Was it not reasonable for Hitler to ask that Germans should be freed from control by the Poles and the Czechs and returned to their mother country? Hitler may have been from the extreme right and they may have been from the democratic left, but an argument wasn't necessarily wrong just because Hitler made it.

Many socialists were therefore enthusiastic supporters of the Munich agreement which dismembered Czechoslovakia and brought the German-speaking Sudetenland back under Nazi control.

They believed, says Berman, in the 'simple-minded optimism' of nineteenth century liberalism - a liberalism of denial. Human beings were essentially rational. Politicians and polemicists who pretended otherwise were the tools of the arms corporations that were leading France into an unnecessary pre-emptive war.

The anti-war socialists gazed across the Rhine and simply refused to believe that millions of upstanding Germans had enlisted in a political movement whose animating principles were paranoid conspiracy theories, blood-curdling hatreds, medieval superstitions and the lure of murder. At Auschwitz the SS said "Here there is no why." The anti-war socialists in France believed no such thing. In their eyes, there was always a why.
There was a price to pay for rationalism. Obviously, the socialists couldn't begin to show solidarity with the German socialists who were being persecuted by Hitler. How could they protest at their treatment or organize parliamentary debates calling attention to their plight when they were making excuses for the Hitler who was doing the persecuting? Then there were the Nazis' Jewish victims. As good men and women of the Enlightenment, the anti-war socialists couldn't tolerate anti-Semitism. Yet they were determined not to let their sympathies get out of hand. Weren't the Jews always showing their wounds and trying to make others feel guilty for their past suffering? Hitler might be going a bit far, but wasn't it true that a disproportionate number of industrialists and financiers were Jewish? And wasn't it also the case that their leader, Leon Blum, who was urging France to enter a bloody and worthless confrontation with Germany was, well, Jewish, too?

It was a short step from this line of reasoning to asserting that war was being forced on them by Hitler's victims rather than Hitler.

In 1940, Hitler gave irrefutable proof of his intentions when he invaded and occupied France. The French extreme right under the leadership of Marshall Pétain proposed a collaborationist government. Blum and some socialists opposed the humiliation of France, but many of their colleagues accepted the occupation and, as Berman concludes, went the whole hog.

Among the anti-war socialists a number of people, having voted with Péýtain, took the logical next step and on patriotic and idealistic grounds accepted positions in his new government, at Vichy. Some of these socialists went a little further too, and began to see a virtue in Pétain's programme for a new France and a new Europe - a programme of strength and vitality, a Europe ruled by a single-party state instead of by the corrupt cliques of bourgeois democracy, a Europe cleansed of the impurities of Judaism and of the Jews themselves, a Europe of the anti-liberal imagination. And in that very remarkable fashion, a number of the anti-war socialists of France came full circle. They had begun as defenders of liberal values and human rights, and they evolved into the defenders of bigotry, tyranny, superstition and mass murder. They were democratic leftists who, through the miraculous workings of the slippery slope and a naïve rationalism of all things, ended as fascists.

Long ago, you say? Not so long ago.
Indeed not. To see the old process at work, one only has to look at how a large chunk of the world's liberal opinion has got itself into the position where it can't support Iraqi and Afghan liberals, socialists and feminists. You think the worst thing in the world is the developed countries because they brought the First World War, which to be fair is a charge worth making, or globalisation and McDonalds, which to be fair is a charge that is infantile. You are confronted with totalitarian movements, which are worse, and your first thought is to blame them on the West. Your second is to make excuses for them. Your third is to betray your comrades. Your fourth is to go up to the totalitarian movements and shake them by the hand.

Because I'd grown up in a time when there was no left worth speaking of, I'd rather blithely assumed that its remnants were filled with decent people and that the worst thing in the world was New Labour.

In part because of the evidence of my senses and in part because of Paul Berman, I know better now.



jb814
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 3 Aug 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 309
Location: Glasgow Scotland

12 Aug 2005, 3:59 am

Great,
I wish there were a new vocabulary though, It's to easy for people to confuse Islamism with Islam.
No-one admits they are wrong on the spot because it's hard and can lead to all sorts of problems. If someone admits they were wrong and their freinds/family don't come to the same conclusion then they are seen as weak. It's also interesting that once a general change of mind has been made, te old position is taboo. Yeah, but... becomes a favourite ploy when you try to point out to people that they once stated the same/similar belief.
example, when the fatrwa was placed on Rushdie it followed the precedent of Martin Luther calling for the death of Machiavelli. If anyone cared to read into this they would find that Martin Luther was of the same mind as the Catholic Church and thought that Machiavelli was a heretic. Over the years we have changed position and think of MAchiavelli as inherently evil. He was a decent democratically minded guy, writing to try and get his family back into society from exile, he wanted an education for his son. If you read the Discourses or any of his "proper" writings he was ok. Because he took the step of writing the Prince and used the device of two deities to explain everyone jumped on him. We now condemn him for content, not form and that wasn't the issue at the time. Martin Luther took the extremist view that death was the only appropriate punishment, The Catholics took the line that he should never get out of exile. We rationalise things and say that Islam is wrong.

The anti-totalitarian Left is not totally dead, http://www.socialistviewpoint.org/may_04/may_04_21.html for example. Richard Stallman ( while not too leftist ) also does ok. There are sites all over the internet, but the problem with the internet is it's easy for people to ignore what they isn't comfortable.
P.S. Before I found out that I was Asperger's enabled I called the group thinking that people didn' want to get out of social fascism. it applies as much to the left as to the right. and is particularly prevelant in churches, political parties, etc.



Sean
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 3 Apr 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 3,505

12 Aug 2005, 4:40 pm

Up until recently in the US, the right was the more antitotalitarian. Lately, everything has become so bass-akwards. Now it seems like left wing and right wing politics are just two different agendas to run your life. :evil: :roll:



eamonn
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,301
Location: Scotland

12 Aug 2005, 4:52 pm

jb814 wrote:
Great,
I wish there were a new vocabulary though, It's to easy for people to confuse Islamism with Islam.
No-one admits they are wrong on the spot because it's hard and can lead to all sorts of problems. If someone admits they were wrong and their freinds/family don't come to the same conclusion then they are seen as weak. It's also interesting that once a general change of mind has been made, te old position is taboo. Yeah, but... becomes a favourite ploy when you try to point out to people that they once stated the same/similar belief.
example, when the fatrwa was placed on Rushdie it followed the precedent of Martin Luther calling for the death of Machiavelli. If anyone cared to read into this they would find that Martin Luther was of the same mind as the Catholic Church and thought that Machiavelli was a heretic. Over the years we have changed position and think of MAchiavelli as inherently evil. He was a decent democratically minded guy, writing to try and get his family back into society from exile, he wanted an education for his son. If you read the Discourses or any of his "proper" writings he was ok. Because he took the step of writing the Prince and used the device of two deities to explain everyone jumped on him. We now condemn him for content, not form and that wasn't the issue at the time. Martin Luther took the extremist view that death was the only appropriate punishment, The Catholics took the line that he should never get out of exile. We rationalise things and say that Islam is wrong.

The anti-totalitarian Left is not totally dead, http://www.socialistviewpoint.org/may_04/may_04_21.html for example. Richard Stallman ( while not too leftist ) also does ok. There are sites all over the internet, but the problem with the internet is it's easy for people to ignore what they isn't comfortable.
P.S. Before I found out that I was Asperger's enabled I called the group thinking that people didn' want to get out of social fascism. it applies as much to the left as to the right. and is particularly prevelant in churches, political parties, etc.


Christians that were disgusted with the whole Salmon Rushdie episode werent around during the days of Martin Luther. Should we all agree with the fatwa on Rushdie just because of what some christians done centuries ago? Also i dont see the martin luther incident as being a precedent, there have been many religous zelouts before and since. Try to keep things in context if you will. Also it wasnt just christians that were disgusted, it was every right thinking person. Also the statement that says "we rationalise this and say islam is wrong" who is we? If you think that fair enough but if you are saying that is every non-muslim persons opinion then you are being bigoted. I agree with you however that facism applies to the left wing as well as the right.



jb814
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 3 Aug 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 309
Location: Glasgow Scotland

12 Aug 2005, 6:12 pm

Nobody should go along with a claim on anyones life. On the other hand, being smug because it wasn't "your side" wins you no brownie points here, Christians are just as capable of this nonsense as anyone else. Christians are still knocking the daylights out of one another, just because of what some christian(s) did centuries ago in my neighbourhood, but maybe Govan has changed since my last visit.
Every right thinking person? No lefties then. Machiavelli has had many people explaining his position. His main problem was being Catholic and having connections to the Papacy. Could you give me a couple of quotes that you find objectionable? Yes many people did disagree with what was written, although few could read it, most people were just told he was a heretic and they went along with that. People of other religions criticized him, but on content, If you want a reasonable account of Machiavelli, look outside Christianity. Today he'd be a normal guy doing what he had to do to support his family. It is that adjustment in morality to fit the wallet that I find pretty disgusting in modern christians.
"We" is the collective voice . What we elect. Our representation. As demonstrated on streets all over the UK, USA and in Europe not too many agree with our leaders on all topics. I don't believe all non-muslims views, can be accounted for never mind represented by me ans it is the social fascism of some churches that tend to the right that I find provides the voice behind "our" position rather than the electorate.
P.S. when you mentioned context, did you mean stay on topic, or just within the parameters you want?



eamonn
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,301
Location: Scotland

12 Aug 2005, 6:39 pm

I mean stay in context by the fact you keep on making silly comparisons like muslim leaders and people that were well educated with good jobs calling for a bookwriters death with neds on the poverty filled streets of govan fighting. I dont want any brownie points off of you and how would you know if im smug or not over a computer? Have you magic powers that none of us know of? I think you know what i meant about right thinking people. Would you quote the "western leader" that said islam is wrong? If they do think its wrong then why are the biggest number of people immigrating here muslim? Oh no these western leaders hate islam so much and want to wipe us out so we better move there then. Yeah right. :roll:



jb814
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 3 Aug 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 309
Location: Glasgow Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 6:35 am

I compared Imams to neds in Govan? where?
I keep on making silly comparisond because people silly statements demand it.
You can find no end of statements on line from our glorious leaders, You can have special fun with Tony ( Idon't care what the Law states, just make them illegal) Blair.
You might also compare the possible guilt of the people in Guantanamo with this. http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/news/nation/12368544.htm



jb814
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 3 Aug 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 309
Location: Glasgow Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 10:27 am

I started posting to this thread asking that we look at points of view from all sides.
I lose the plot regularly, as it's a topic i feel strongly about. I'd request those interested, though, to read some more.
John Pilger ( one story not related, but of interest. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=6470
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7871

A few human rights groups:
http://web.amnesty.org/pages/stoptorture-index-eng
http://web.amnesty.org/pages/yem-040805-news-eng
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/08/05/usdom11610.htm
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/usa-00.html
http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/ ... normal.htm
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle ... temID=8472
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle ... temID=8475
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle ... temID=8240

And there are countless news agencies offering a slightly different perspective.
I happen to like the Bangladesh Observer editorials and the Asin News Network, but to each his own.
http://www.bangladeshobserveronline.com/
http://www.asianewsnet.net/
Enjoy yourself.



eamonn
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,301
Location: Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 10:47 am

I dont really care to argue whos more tolerant but i think il stay in a christian country just the same due to better facilities, more rights, freedoms and better lifestyle than i would have elsewhere. So will you most probably. That doesnt mean i dont want the government to address injustices in this country and others.

It is ilegal for any group to incite violence over another as far as i can tell. Do you know any different? Also if you could find a quote from our leaders that says Islam is wrong then you would post it because you have posted plenty of things that have nothing to do with anything anyones said previously. Even if a Tony Blair did say Islam is wrong, whats the big deal? As a religious person hes bound to think his religion is right and everyone elses is wrong. Thats a totally different thing from persecution.



jb814
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 3 Aug 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 309
Location: Glasgow Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 11:05 am

If the war on terror was doubted by it’s perpetrators, those in the corridors of Westminster or Washington to be a war on Islam itself, there can be no doubt about the latest addition to the guiding text for this war. Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour Party national conference on Saturday 16th July, about the London bombings makes the position for all advocates of this war very clear.


"What we are confronting here is an evil ideology…. it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it. This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas."

Too give a bit of balance he is presented as pro-Muslim by this publication.
http://www.lightforthelastdays.co.uk/do ... blair.html



eamonn
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,301
Location: Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 12:11 pm

jb814 wrote:
If the war on terror was doubted by it’s perpetrators, those in the corridors of Westminster or Washington to be a war on Islam itself, there can be no doubt about the latest addition to the guiding text for this war. Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour Party national conference on Saturday 16th July, about the London bombings makes the position for all advocates of this war very clear.


"What we are confronting here is an evil ideology…. it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it. This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas."

Too give a bit of balance he is presented as pro-Muslim by this publication.
http://www.lightforthelastdays.co.uk/do ... blair.html


Oh come on. Tony Blair is talking about people within and outside Islam to confront what he calls an evil ideology. The ideology of Islamic extremists like the 7/7 bombers. That is not tantamount to a war on islam. The way that TB and particulary GB talk about good and evil with not enough inbetween is not helping things because they appear to be on a high horse which annoys me (given the injustices that the british and usa governments have been responsible for)

Anyway, you have your opinion and thats up to you. If you feel that strongly about it i presume your doing your bit for the war against these infidels in Westminister and Washington!? You say its them that are to blame and they are declaring war against a religion of peaceful people. Surely its not something you can stand by and watch if you care about humanity?

I dont care so much for humanity anymore having run into too many idiots from all backgrounds. I think im coming round a bit to the argument of the pro-gun people. I think the problem with murder rates in the USA has something to do with guns but maybe more to do with right wing policies that are unfair to the poor. More murders though would be a definate possibility. Maybe if everyone had a gun it would lead "to more polite society" If everyone carried guns then i think maybe roberries and "contact crime" could very well go down. What worries me more though is the police shooting innocents too easily as sometimes happens in the US.



jb814
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 3 Aug 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 309
Location: Glasgow Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 2:57 pm

As far as I'm concerned Blair is the victim of his own populist strategy.Whats worrying is the way his remarks are taken elsewhere. Even moderates in the Far East are saying that Blair is trying to manipulate the Muslim faith in the UK. This is seen by many as a war on Islam.
Explanation is getting nowhere, maybe if you read up a bit first.



alex
Administrator
Administrator

User avatar

Joined: 13 Jun 2004
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 10,165
Location: Beverly Hills, CA

13 Aug 2005, 3:00 pm

how did you get the guy who wrote that the permission to reprint it? Do you know him or something?


_________________
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/alexplank

Personal FB: http://fb.me/alexplank1


eamonn
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,301
Location: Scotland

13 Aug 2005, 5:09 pm

jb814 wrote:
As far as I'm concerned Blair is the victim of his own populist strategy.Whats worrying is the way his remarks are taken elsewhere. Even moderates in the Far East are saying that Blair is trying to manipulate the Muslim faith in the UK. This is seen by many as a war on Islam.
Explanation is getting nowhere, maybe if you read up a bit first.


You could get involved in politics and make a difference. With a bookread person such as yourself im sure you will get far.

Like many of his supporters the radical cleric Bakri has no problem coming to live in and collect benefits for him and his family (wife and seven children no less) from this country that he preaches against. Using the nhs seems to be no problem for them either. I am now right behind Blair in deporting these extremists and hopefully Iran will see sense with this nuclear power business and back down or they will get whats coming to them as well.

A leader of a country tries to manipulate people? This comes as terribly shocking news to me. We must do something about this at once! Oh why must all these world leaders gang up against islam? Its not fair! :(



eamonn
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,301
Location: Scotland

14 Aug 2005, 3:54 pm

jb814 wrote:
Explanation is getting nowhere, maybe if you read up a bit first.


Pfft. How very pretentious of you. My explanations are getting nowhere, maybe if you watched a bit more american movies you would know whats up! :roll:



Bethie
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 26 Jul 2010
Age: 34
Gender: Female
Posts: 2,817
Location: My World, Highview, Louisville, Kentucky, USA, Earth, The Milky Way, Local Group, Local Supercluster

28 Jul 2010, 9:56 am

"The War on Terror". That's hilarious. War on leaders who don't suck off American economic interests, is more like it.