Quotulatiousness

July 15, 2017

QotD: Ancient beliefs and modern ones

It is, I suppose, very attractive to the modern mind, with its idea that every Jack and Jill (but mostly Jill) needs a role model that matches his or her external or cultural characteristics that they assume worship of any sort of fertility goddess would mean a great respect for women.

Do I need to tell you this is poppycock?

I shouldn’t need to. We know almost every ancient religion worshiped at least one (often more) female deities, and we know that compared to us in the present so called “patriarchy” women were not only not respected, but were often used in strictly utilitarian ways as in “Mother, caretaker, etc.”

I see absolutely no reason to imagine that primitive humans were better than that, particularly since we do have archaeological evidence (scant, so non-conclusive) to back up the sort of hard scrabble/winner take all existence the great apes bands have, where the word “family” and “harem” are basically equivalent and the alpha male takes all.

In fact the evidence from modern day primitives, whether or not the worship of a female goddess is present, often leads one to conclude that the presence of a female goddess implies stronger patriarchy.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Inventing the Past — The Great Divorce”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-23.

July 8, 2017

Renaming Ryerson

Filed under: Cancon, Education, History, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

There’s apparently a demand from the usual suspects to change the name of Ryerson University in Toronto, because the man the university is named after was a key figure in the establishment of the hated aboriginal residential school system. Colby Cosh discusses the man, his history, and the issue:

The name of “Ryerson University” self-evidently exists to honour Egerton Ryerson, rather than merely to perpetuate the words or the sound of his name as a semantic object. Ontario, as a society, is free to reconsider this decision and, in a sense, put Ryerson on trial.

Which he might, after all, win. Egerton Ryerson was alive from 1803 to 1882; his place in the history of residential schools is based on activity he engaged in between 1837, when he was involved with Indian education as a member of the missionary Aborigines Protection Society, and 1847, when he wrote a report outlining future principles for aboriginal “industrial education.” For most of his life these ideas were never implemented. In the 1880s, by which time Ryerson was recognized as a Canadian founder, he had become more influential — and so the younger Ryerson was a central posthumous author of a system he never lived to see.

As an influence, nearly anyone would now judge him very harmful. He thought it was important that education should be provided to Indian children through boarding schools, and by the churches, with a strong religious element. Like many theorists of the 19th century, he believed in frogmarching aboriginal peoples through an accelerated agricultural-pastoral phase of cultural evolution, as part of their progress toward equality and their emergence from state “tutelage.”

The effects of these principles, once applied, were beyond disastrous. But Ryerson’s advice was not predicated on harming or punishing First Nations. He was opposed in his own time by malign quietists who preferred to plan for Canadian Indians to literally die off in out-of-sight places. He worked with aboriginal colleagues in developing his ideas, spoke Ojibwe, and modelled his vision of Indian education on outstanding European schools for the (European) poor.

This would be a strange approach if his goal had been genocide. Which is not to say that he or anyone else ought to be judged mostly on his intentions.

The Canadian state lies under remarkably heavy obligations to Egerton Ryerson for both its development and its current form. He is an important reason that religious tests for political participation never gained a foothold in our country. He is the father of secular public schooling here, though he would hate to hear that. As a bureaucrat, he stood for a non-partisan public service when that was a weird new idea, and did as much as anybody to show it could work.

Gerry Bowler discusses similar cases down to Hector-Louis Langevin:

If you go to the Doge’s Palace in Venice and consider the portraits of the city’s rulers, you will find them all in chronological order until you come to the place where you would expect to see that of Marino Faliero, elected in 1354. Instead of his likeness, you will behold only a black pall and the words “Hic est locus Marini Falethri decapitati pro criminibus” (This is the spot for Marino Faliero, beheaded for his crimes).

In the 20th century, Kremlinologists had a hard time keeping up with the Soviet personalities who achieved high office but somehow earned the wrath of Josef Stalin. One day, they’re a member of the Politburo, a famous poet or a marshal of the Red Army; the next day, they’re given a bullet in the back of the head and their names are erased from Communist Party publications, with photographs altered to show that they had never – despite what witnesses might remember – reviewed the troops in Red Square, been acclaimed a Hero of Socialist Labour or stood beside Vladimir Lenin during the revolution.

Unfortunately, Canadians are not above this sort of thing. Now is the turn for Hector-Louis Langevin. For the crime of being associated with the Indian residential school system, his name is to be stripped from one of the buildings on Parliament Hill. Although he was a Father of Confederation, an architect of a nation spanning half a continent, the political class of today deems him unworthy of being remembered. Never mind that his ideas were utterly respectable in his day and shared by those who are, for the moment at least, still allowed to be memorialized – Sir John A. Macdonald, Archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché or Sara Riel, for example – they are now considered shameful.

The irony is that this brouhaha will not obliterate Langevin from public memory; thousands now know more about his life and works than they did a month ago.

But oblivion is not enough for today’s signallers of their virtue. They want to go beyond Orwell’s novel 1984, past amnesia into disgrace. They want to dishonour Langevin and those who were of his opinion – and by extension, anyone today who opposes current aboriginal policies.

As Orwell told us: “You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed.”

So long, Langevin!

July 3, 2017

QotD: Smartphones, the Internet-of-things, and social controls

Filed under: Government, Health, Quotations, Religion, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It’d be interesting (in a gruesome sort of way) to see what Da’esh (or the government of Saudi Arabia) could do with a citizen score. Currently enforcement of public morality in hardcore Salafi Muslim states is carried out by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia, and other religious police in other states. As with all police forces, there is a cost associated with putting boots on the ground. If you have, for example, a modest dress code, you could go some way towards enforcement by feeding purchases of garments into the citizen’s score. (Buy too much of the wrong kind of underwear and you could be singled out for an in-person check by the mutaween. And heaven forbid they catch you streaming music from a western cloud service.) Signs of non-conformity could be punished indirectly: it’s a lot harder to resist ubiquitous peer pressure than it is to dodge external resource-limited law enforcement.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s Republic of Gilead subordinates women rapidly by taking control over the financial system. But that’s a comparatively crude mechanism. The more data you’ve got, the more tightly you can constrain your reward/punish metrics and the more accurately you can focus your oppression — and micro-focussed oppression minimizes the risk of generating wide-scale resistance. Everybody’s experience is different, isolated, locked inside an invisible cell with asymmetric walls that their neighbors can’t see. And if you can’t see the invisible walls locking your neighbours in, you can’t establish solidarity and exert collective pressure against them.

We are heading towards a situation where we all carry smartphones, all the time; where we need them to call a cab, or check a bus timetable, or unlock our cars, or pay for something. Your smartphone knows who you are, knows where you’ve been, reads all your correspondence, and hears everything you say. The discrete activity of placing a voice phone call is in the process of replaced by barking “phone, put me through to Sandy in Sales”, followed by rapid connectivity (unless Sandy is in do-not-disturb mode or talking to someone else, in which case their phone will take a message for you). With always-on recognition, your phone (without which you can’t really exist in an internet-of-things world) will track your mood and your pulse rate and possibly award you citizenship points or penalties if you respond to the wrong stimuli.

But that’s the nightmarish, dystopian grim-meathook-future version of citizenship scoring: a system that facilitates the pervasive enforcement of mandated behavioural standards and punishes quantifiable expressions of individuality. Nobody would vote for (or buy into) that! So it’s going to be even more gamified, to make it fun. You can see your score in real time, get helpful tips on what to do (or not to do) to grind for points, and if you’re thinking about doing something a bit naughty a handy app will give you a chance to exercise second thoughts and erase your sin before it is recorded. But that’s not all. Obviously you didn’t really want to date that manic pixie dream girl (she’ll murder your citizenship score with her quirky and unpredictable fun transgressions) but we can apply the magic of Affinity Analysis to look for someone more suitable for you — similar preferences, similar tastes, and most importantly a similar attitude to social improvement and good citizenship.

Now eat your greens; your phone says you haven’t been getting your five a day this week and if you keep it up we’re going to have to dock you a point.

Charles Stross, “It could be worse”, Charlie’s Diary, 2015-10-09.

June 19, 2017

QotD: The Pope

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Quotations, Religion — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

I am not a Catholic but I understand that, unlike the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, where total contempt from the congregants more or less comes with the job, the Bishop of Rome is generally held in some respect by his church.

Mark Steyn, “Last Laughs in Europe”, SteynOnline.com, 2015-09-28.

June 18, 2017

QotD: Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Because I’m both both a libertarian and famous for conducting a successful propaganda campaign, libertarian activists sometimes come to me for tactical advice. During a recent email exchange, one of these criticized me for wishing (as he thought) to “punish” the Islamist enemies of the U.S. and Western civilization.

I explained that I have no desire to punish the perpetrators of 9/11; what I want is vengeance and death. Vengeance for us, death for them. Whether they experience ‘punishment’ during the process is of little or no interest to me.

My correspondent was reflecting a common confusion about the distinctions among coercion, revenge, and punishment. Coercion is intended to make another do your will instead of their own; vengeance is intended to discharge your own anger and fear. Punishment is neither of these things.

Punishment is a form of respect you pay to someone who is at least potentially a member of the web of trust that defines your ethical community. We punish ordinary criminals to deter them from repeating criminal behavior, because we believe they know what ethical behavior is and that by deterring them from crime we help them re-integrate with an ethical community they have never in any fundamental sense departed.

By contrast, we do not punish the criminally insane. We confine them and sometimes kill them for our own safety, but we do not make them suffer in an effort to deter them from insanity. Just to state the aim is to make obvious how absurd it is. Hannibal Lecter, and his all-too-real prototypes, lack the capacity to respond to punishment by re-integrating with an ethical community.

In fact, criminal psychopaths are not even potentially members of an ethical community to begin with. There is something broken or missing in them that makes participation in the web of trust impossible; perhaps the capacity to emotionally identify with other human beings, perhaps conscience, perhaps something larger and harder to name. They have other behavioral deficits, including poor impulse control, associated with subtle neurological damage. By existing, they demonstrate something most of us would rather not know; which is that there are creatures who — though they speak, and reason, and feign humanity — have nothing but evil in them.

Eric S. Raymond, “Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-07-05.

June 14, 2017

Both Tories and Labour now depend on homophobes for their support

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The British Tories will survive their drubbing at the polls in last week’s general election thanks to the (negotiated) support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is the only socially conservative party represented in the commons. The opposition Labour party, however, also has its own group of socially conservative voters upon whom it now depends for many seats in Parliament:

According to the slogans, the Democratic Unionist Parity is a “hate” group because it is “anti-gay, anti-green, anti-women”. That’s to say, they’re opposed to same-sex marriage, abortion, and take a relaxed view of the impending climate apocalypse.

Oh, my.

Even worse, such views have made them Ulster’s most popular political party – albeit that, for us old-timers of the Irish Question, the new DUP can seem frankly a bit milquetoast next to their continuously fulminating, firebreathing founder Ian Paisley. Still, you can understand why the mob has briefly roused itself from Google to take to the streets to protest this week’s designated haters. It’s certainly unfortunate that Theresa May’s grip on power depends on such “anti-gay” and “anti-women” types, isn’t it?

But surely it’s also unfortunate that Jeremy Corbyn’s grip on power in the resurgent Labour Party depends on “anti-gay” and “anti-women” types, too. As Brendan O’Neill points out:

    And all the while we have Labourites like Jeremy Corbyn mixing with Islamist groups that share all these same social views, except in an even more extreme form. Yet the people beating the streets over the DUP say nothing.

That’s true. Theresa May’s more recalcitrant friends in the DUP think gays are godless sodomites who’ll be spending eternity on a roasting spit in hell. Jeremy Corbyn’s more recalcitrant friends are disinclined to wait that long and would rather light them up now – or hurl them off the roof. Hamas, which Mr Corbyn supports, is fairly typical. Sample headline from Newsweek:

    Hamas Executes Prominent Commander After Accusations Of Gay Sex

Doesn’t that make Hamas an anti-gay “hate group”? Well, no. You can bet that 90 per cent of the Google activists in the street protesting Theresa May’s ties to people who think men who love men shouldn’t be permitted to marry are entirely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn’s ties to people who think men who love men should be burned alive or tossed off tall buildings.

This contradiction exists all over the western world. Today’s progressives cling to the most cobwebbed cliches: Polygamy? That’s something Mormons do in Utah, not Muslims in Canada, France, Britain, Sweden, with the not so tacit connivance of the state welfare systems. First-cousin marriage? That’s something stump-toothed Appalachians do after a bunk-up with Cindy Mae and a jigger of moonshine, not 75 per cent of Pakistani Britons in Bradford, and some 58 per cent throughout the rest of the country.

As for gays, forget Hamas and consider Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the United Kingdom: Fifty-two per cent of Muslims told Channel 4 they believed homosexuality should be illegal. Yet Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party has so assiduously courted these “haters” that it’s now electorally dependent on them. Mrs May didn’t court her haters in Ulster, and she’s wound up depending on them merely as an unintended consequence of her own ineptitude on the hustings.

Just to spell it out even more plainly, last year YouGov polled Britons in general on their attitudes to the aforementioned sodomites. Seventeen per cent thought homosexuality was “morally wrong”. If that sounds unnervingly high to you, what’s the reason? Over-sampling in East Belfast? A few rural backwaters not quite up to speed on the new gayer-than-thou Britain? No. In most parts of the country about 15 per cent declined to get with the beat. But in diverse, multicultural London, 29 per cent of the population regarded homosexuality as “morally wrong”.

June 13, 2017

How to defeat Islamist terrorism

Filed under: Books, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith suggests a different approach to fighting Islamist terror:

Somebody once wisely observed that you can’t fight an idea with guns and bombs, but only with a better idea. One reason we are still having problems with communism — in North Korea, China, Venezuela, and our college campuses — is that we have been trying to fight it, since 1917, with guns and bombs. There are many better ideas than communism, but its strongest advocates, the American mass media, won’t permit them to be discussed.

Much the same is true of Islam, only more so. It is a belief-system almost entirely rooted in fear and ignorance, and has many vulnerabilities. A full, open, and public discussion of it would destroy it utterly, but its advocates are afraid to permit that, turning instead to Molotov cocktails, submachine guns, and large knives. Failing that full, open, and public discussion, a book should be produced that could change the course of history.

When I was a young man, classified ads in Reason magazine and elsewhere offered a publication called 100 Biblical Contradictions. The book I have in mind for Islam would be similar to that, short, plain paragraphs mostly asking dangerous questions. It would be small enough to fit into a jacket or jeans pocket, and durable, like a Langenscheidt’s foreign language dictionary. It could be air-dropped by the hundreds of thousands where it would do the most good — Syria, Iran, Michigan — and audio recordings could be made available to the many — especially Muslim women — who can’t read.

I would borrow a leaf from Heinlein and call it by the Arabic word for Doubt. It would be more powerful than the Father of the “Mother Of All Bombs”.

The trouble with it, and the reason such a book will likely never be produced, is that it would be fully as destructive to other mystical and irrational belief systems, to Christianity and Judaism, among others — all of which are based on faith (which Mark Twain or someone once said means “believing in something you know damn well ain’t so”) as it would be to Islam. Joseph Farah and Glenn Beck and Franklin Graham would all freak out. Of course, there are individuals I’ve known — Christians, Jews, Muslims, and quite a few Buddhists — whose belief is gentle and strong enough to withstand what should be in Doubt, but not a majority.

It would appear that most human beings believe, without examination, whatever their parents and leaders and Hollywood balloon-heads want them to believe. So much for advancing the human condition.

June 8, 2017

Celebrating the Londoners who fought back against Islamist terror

Filed under: Britain, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill on the ordinary people who didn’t just run from the terrorists:

I’ve never felt prouder of London, my hometown, than I did on Saturday. When three wicked Islamists rammed a van into pedestrians and then used knives to cut down people whose only crime was to be free and happy and in the throes of nightlife, they caused chaos, yes, but they also brought out people’s heroism. People fought back, confronted the killers, hit them with skateboards, pelted them with bottles, yelled abuse at them. This was the spirit of London in action, defying theocratic violence with the hurl of a beer bottle.

There were many heroes. There was Roy Larner from Peckham who said possibly the best thing that’s ever been said to terrorists. They burst into the pub he was drinking in, shouting: ‘This is for Allah!’ ‘Fuck you, I’m Millwall!’, he fired back. He has since told the press he wanted to ‘take the piss out of these bastards’, which is about as London a response to terrorism as you will ever get. But he did more than rip the piss and give us all the brilliant image of Millwall fans having an apocalyptic showdown with soldiers of Allah: he also punched the killers to try to stop them from stabbing people, leading to his being stabbed eight times. What incredible bravery.

Others turned the paraphernalia of a Saturday night out into weapons against terror. Eye-witness Gerard told the BBC that people threw beer bottles, glasses, chairs and stools — ‘anything they could get’ — at the terrorists. Or the ‘three Muslim geezers’, as he called them, with a brilliant lack of PC that rather rattled the Beeb. There was also Romanian baker Florin Morariu, who ran out of the bakery he works in, Bread Ahead, and into the mayhem to smash one of the terrorists over the head with a crate. He threw a crate at a second terrorist. It wasn’t until the police threw a grenade that Morariu ran back into his bakery. And he took around 20 people inside with him and put down the shutters to protect them from harm. ‘I didn’t want to be a hero’, he told ProFM Radio, but that’s what he was.

A 28-year-old pub bouncer called Ozzy, who said the events outside his pub were like a ‘war zone’, describes how he and his colleagues ‘launched bar stools, bottles and glasses at them to try and disrupt them’. A cab driver called Chris swerved his car around to try to run over one of the terrorists who was stabbing a young woman. A Spanish man, Ignacio Echeverría, was returning from skateboarding in a park with friends when he saw one of the terrorists stabbing a woman. He rushed over and used his skateboard to hit the terrorist away. Tragically, Echeverría is now missing and feared dead. He ran towards danger armed with nothing but a skateboard — that takes real guts.

As I posted on someone’s Facebook status, Mark Steyn noted in a Daily Telegraph article in 2002 that the Millwall team anthem is sung to the tune of “Que Sera Sera”:

Mi-illwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Mi-illwall, Millwall.

(Repeat until knife fight)

June 5, 2017

“Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on Facebook:

One of the major problems we face is not that our society is too mean about Islam, but that it flatters Islam too much. Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed. All last week I received furious emails and messages in response to two articles I wrote about the Manchester attack, telling me that using the word Islamist is Islamophobic, because it demeans Islam and its adherents by suggesting they have something to do with terrorism. This is why our political leaders so rarely use the terms Islamism, radical Islam and Islamic terrorism: because they want to avoid offending Islam and also because they don’t want to stir up what they view as the public’s bovine, hateful prejudices. This censorious privilege is not extended to any other religion. We do not avoid saying “Catholic paedophiles” about the priests who molested children for fear of tarring all Catholics with the same brush. We happily say “Christian fundamentalist”about people who are Christian and fundamentalist. We use “Buddhist extremists” to describe violent Buddhist groups in Myanmar. Only Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; only terms that at some level include the word “Islam” are tightly policed; only criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness — Islamophobia.

This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance; you inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas; you provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion. From the 7/7 bombers to the Charlie Hebdo murderers to Salman Abedi in Manchester, all these terrorists — *Islamist terrorists* — expressed an extreme victim mentality and openly said they were punishing us for our disrespect of Islam, mistreatment of Muslims, ridiculing of Muhammad, etc. The Islamophobia industry and politicians who constantly say “Islam is great, leave Islam alone!” green-light this violence; they furnish it with a moral case and moral zeal.

There are no quick fixes to the terror problem, but here is a good start: oppose all censorship and all clampdowns on offence and blasphemy and so-called “Islamophobia”. Every single one of them, whether they’re legal, in the form of hate-speech laws, or informal, in the guise of self-censoring politicians being literally struck dumb on TV because they cannot muster up the word “Is…is…is…islamist”. This will at least start the process of unravelling the Islamist victimhood narrative and its bizarre, violent and officially sanctioned sensitivity to criticism. And if anyone says this is “punching down” — another intellectual weapon in the armoury of Islam-protecting censorship — tell them that it is in fact punching up: up against a political class and legal system that has foolishly and outrageously sought to police criticism of a religion. This means that the supposedly correct response to terror attacks — “don’t criticise Islam” — is absolutely the worst response. Making criticism of Islam as commonplace and acceptable as criticism of any other religion or ideology is the first step to denuding Islamist terrorism of its warped moral programme, and it will also demonstrate that our society prizes freedom of speech over everything else — including your religion, your God, your prophets, your holy book and your feelings.

QotD: Subsidiarity and the family

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Against the policy wonks of this world, whose instinct is the bigger the better, we should make a particular point of subsidiarity. This is the organizing principle that matters should be handled by the smallest, lowest, most immediate competent authority, rising only by necessity to any higher level, and then only as high as it needs to go.

The family is that lowest level, and the Church is now almost alone in respecting it. The members are biologically related, as father, mother, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, and so forth. Orphans may sometimes be taken in, and step-fathers or step-mothers may occur — the world’s heritage of fairy tales attests to the nightmare, of step-mothers especially — but biological integrity is normative. Recent attempts by legislators to “redefine the family” are an unambiguously evil invasion of an order that nature has ordained. Pope Benedict was right to make this an issue of “human ecology,” and to see that it gave the lie to every grand leftist “ecological” scheme. How do you restore the natural order, on the “mega” scale, when you are systematically undermining it at the cellular level?

In the normal order of things — all cultures, all times, until recently — the family decides what is good for the family. It is amazing that this has become controversial, yet contraceptive practices that detach sex from reproduction have made it so, and all the predicted consequences have followed. It is a miracle that the Church is, even on paper, still holding the front line.

But what is the next level of authority above the family? As I am constantly reminded, both locally and universally, there is then a great leap. Through the last century and more, central authorities have been obsessively merging local authorities, for the sake of some plausible (but false) “efficiencies,” or economies of scale. For even on such shallow material terms, the tax load increases as the governments grow larger, the ambitions of politicians increase, and the ability of the citizen to observe relations between cause and effect progressively disappears.

David Warren, “Five thousand max”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-06-19.

May 29, 2017

On this day in 1453

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 17:29

In the Smithsonian Magazine in 2008, Fergus M. Bordewich described the events of 29 May, 1453:

In the 11th century, the Byzantines suffered the first in a series of devastating defeats at the hands of Turkish armies, who surged westward across Anatolia, steadily whittling away at the empire. The realm was further weakened in 1204 when western European crusaders en route to the Holy Land, overtaken by greed, captured and looted Constantinople. The city never fully recovered.

By the mid-15th century, Constantinople was hemmed in by Ottoman-controlled territories. On May 29, 1453, after a seven-week siege, the Turks launched a final assault. Bursting through the city’s defenses and overwhelming its outnumbered defenders, the invaders poured into the streets, sacking churches and palaces, and cutting down anyone who stood in their way. Terrified citizens flocked to Hagia Sophia, hoping that its sacred precincts would protect them, praying desperately that, as an ancient prophesied, an avenging angel would hurtle down to smite the invaders before they reached the great church.

Instead, the sultan’s janissaries battered through the great wood-and-bronze doors, bloody swords in hand, bringing an end to an empire that had endured for 1,123 years. “The scene must have been horrific, like the Devil entering heaven,” says Crowley. “The church was meant to embody heaven on earth, and here were these aliens in turbans and robes, smashing tombs, scattering bones, hacking up icons for their golden frames. Imagine appalling mayhem, screaming wives being ripped from the arms of their husbands, children torn from parents, and then chained and sold into slavery. For the Byzantines, it was the end of the world.” Memory of the catastrophe haunted the Greeks for centuries. Many clung to the legend that the priests who were performing services that day had disappeared into Hagia Sophia’s walls and would someday reappear, restored to life in a reborn Greek empire.

That same afternoon, Constantinople’s new overlord, Sultan Mehmet II, rode triumphantly to the shattered doors of Hagia Sophia. Mehmet was one of the great figures of his age. As ruthless as he was cultivated, the 21-year-old conqueror spoke at least four languages, including Greek, Turkish, Persian and Arabic, as well as some Latin. He was an admirer of European culture and patronized Italian artists, such as the Venetian master Gentile Bellini, who painted him as a bearded, introspective figure swathed in an enormous robe, his small eyes gazing reflectively over an aristocratically arched nose. “He was ambitious, superstitious, very cruel, very intelligent, paranoid and obsessed with world domination,” says Crowley. “His role models were Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. He saw himself as coming not to destroy the empire, but to become the new Roman emperor.” Later, he would cast medallions that proclaimed him, in Latin, “Imperator Mundi” — “Emperor of the World.”

Before entering the church, Mehmet bent down to scoop up a fistful of earth, pouring it over his head to symbolize his abasement before God. Hagia Sophia was the physical embodiment of imperial power: now it was his. He declared that it was to be protected and was immediately to become a mosque. Calling for an imam to recite the call to prayer, he strode through the handful of terrified Greeks who had not already been carted off to slavery, offering mercy to some. Mehmet then climbed onto the altar and bowed down to pray.

Among Christians elsewhere, reports that Byzantium had fallen sparked widespread anxiety that Europe would be overrun by a wave of militant Islam. “It was a 9/11 moment,” says Crowley. “People wept in the streets of Rome. There was mass panic. People long afterward remembered exactly where they were when they heard the news.” The “terrible Turk,” a slur popularized in diatribes disseminated across Europe by the newly invented printing press, soon became a synonym for savagery.

May 24, 2017

Will it be more Mourning Sickness, or will it be anger this time?

Filed under: Britain, Law, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill on the reactions to the Manchester bomb attack on Monday after a pop concert:

After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils. And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against. And so it has been after the barbarism in Manchester. In response to the deaths of more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande gig, in response to the massacre of children enjoying pop music, people effectively say: ‘All you need is love.’ The disparity between these horrors and our response to them, between what happened and what we say, is vast. This has to change.

It is becoming clear that the top-down promotion of a hollow ‘togetherness’ in response to terrorism is about cultivating passivity. It is about suppressing strong public feeling. It’s about reducing us to a line of mourners whose only job is to weep for our fellow citizens, not ask why they died, or rage against their dying. The great fear of both officialdom and the media class in the wake of terror attacks is that the volatile masses will turn wild and hateful. This is why every attack is followed by warnings of an ‘Islamophobic backlash’ and heightened policing of speech on Twitter and gatherings in public: because what they fundamentally fear is public passion, our passion. They want us passive, empathetic, upset, not angry, active, questioning. They prefer us as a lonely crowd of dutiful, disconnected mourners rather than a real collective of citizens demanding to know why our fellow citizens died and how we might prevent others from dying. We should stop playing the role they’ve allotted us.

As part of the post-terror narrative, our emotions are closely policed. Some emotions are celebrated, others demonised. Empathy – good. Grief – good. Sharing your sadness online – great. But hatred? Anger? Fury? These are bad. They are inferior forms of feeling, apparently, and must be discouraged. Because if we green-light anger about terrorism, then people will launch pogroms against Muslims, they say, or even attack Sikhs or the local Hindu-owned cornershop, because that’s how stupid and hateful we apparently are. But there is a strong justification for hate right now. Certainly for anger. For rage, in fact. Twenty-two of our fellow citizens were killed at a pop concert. I hate that, I hate the person who did it, I hate those who will apologise for it, and I hate the ideology that underpins such barbarism. I want to destroy that ideology. I don’t feel sad, I feel apoplectic. Others will feel likewise, but if they express this verboten post-terror emotion they risk being branded as architects of hate, contributors to future terrorist acts, racist, and so on. Their fury is shushed. ‘Just weep. That’s your role.’

The fear about the inevitable backlash on the part of us backward, ignorant, intolerant westerners has been a standing joke for more than a decade, as Mark Steyn noted back in 2006:

I believe the old definition of a nanosecond was the gap between a New York traffic light changing to green and the first honk of a driver behind you. Today, the definition of a nanosecond is the gap between a western terrorist incident and the press release of a Muslim lobby group warning of an impending outbreak of Islamophobia. After the London Tube bombings, Angus Jung sent the Aussie pundit Tim Blair a note-perfect parody of the typical newspaper headline:

British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.

Ace of Spades H.Q. reports on the alleged bomber’s identity:

Manchester Suicide Bomber Named: Gary “The Garester” Eddington

Nah just fuckin wit ya, it’s Salman Abedi, and the keening cries warning against #Backlash! have begun.

Question: Why is there never a warning about Backlash before the suspect is named?

Answer: Because if the suspect turns out to be one of the few the media can claim are “right wing” (Nazis, etc.), then the media does not warn against backlash, but actively crusades in favor of it.

If this guy turned out to be anything that could be plausibly mischaracterized as right wing — tweeted in favor of Brexit, etc. — the media would be blaming this right now on Donald Trump and his supporters, and demanding they take accountability for their hatred.

But, it’s not, so the media set down its “Backlash is Good and Necessary” script and picked up its “Backlash is Bad” script.

May 23, 2017

Remembering the Six-Day War

Filed under: History, Middle East, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

With the 50th anniversary coming up in a few weeks, Jerrold L. Sobel provides a retrospective on the Arab-Israeli war of 1967:

For those of us alive during those daunting days in May 1967 leading up to the war, it was a period in time we will never forget, nor should we. Its ramifications were and are germane to this very day.

No discussion of the Six-Day War can be made without the background of its major protagonist, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Whereas today ISIS is attempting to dominate the Islamic world under an Islamic Caliphate, Nasser, then president of Egypt, attempted to do the same but with a secular approach. On July 23, 1952, he and a group of officers staged a coup and ousted the Egyptian King Farouk. Although the real leader, Nasser initially remained in the background but in fact was instrumental in abolishing the monarchy in 1953. The following year he came out of the shadows to assume absolute power and began instituting far-reaching economic reforms which instantly made him the darling of the Arab world. By 1956 his relations with the West had deteriorated to the point that he brazenly nationalized the Suez Canal, prompting an invasion by England, France, and Israel. Under pressure from the U.S., these forces withdrew, and a United Nations Emergency force was subsequently placed as a buffer between Egypt and Israel; the withdrawal of which would play a pivotal role in the conflict 11 years later.

At the pinnacle of his popularity, Nasser joined with Syria forming what became the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), a move which encouraged the Syrians to ramp up incessant attacks against Israel from their vantage point on the Golan Heights, towering 3,000 feet above the Galilee. No Israeli farm or Kibbutz was spared the wrath of Syrian artillery. Much like the residents of Sderot and other Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza today, Jews were forced to sleep and conduct their lives in bomb shelters.

[…]

In the early hours of June 5, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive air strike on the air forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria with devastating effect. Five days later the armies of these nations along with Iraq, which also joined the fray were crushed and forced to sue for a ceasefire. The war may have taken only six days but its ramifications and similarities to today’s Middle East conflict is unquestionable. What were the accomplishments?

  • For the first time since prior to the Ottoman Empire, Jews have unfettered access to their Holy sites and a united Jerusalem their ancient capital.
  • The indefensible 1948 armistice line which bisected Israel from the Jordan River to within 9 miles of the Mediterranean Sea had been abrogated.
  • Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, which was illegally annexed by Jordan following the ’48 armistice.
  • Israel commands the highly defensible Jordan Valley where terrorist attacks had emanated from both Jordan and Syria.
  • Israel was able to trade the Sinai Peninsula for a peace treaty with her main antagonist, Egypt.
  • The Golan Heights, the onetime haven for terrorists and Syrian artillery, was annexed and have remained relatively quiet for the past 50 years.
  • Most importantly, by winning the war decisively, Israel staved off what was intended to be another mass genocide of the Jewish people….

What was not accomplished?

  • An end to terrorism.
  • An end to Anti-Semitic cartoons and rhetoric throughout much of the Islamic world, particularly Iran.
  • An end of vilification of Israel by the Palestinian leadership, media, and educational system.
  • A Palestinian leader willing to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
  • A United Nations only united in castigating the only true democracy in the Middle East.
  • A total negation of slander on campus against Jews masked under the pretense of Anti-Zionism; particularly the BDS movement.

Despite these and other seemingly irreconcilable problems, winning the Six-Day War has allowed the Jewish state to survive and rise from its fledgling third-world status into a technological, economic, and military behemoth; an island of democratic renaissance surrounded by a sea of despair.

Top 10 Reasons the Byzantine Empire Was Among the Most Successful in History

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 2 May 2017

You’d see a lot of changes when looking at a map of present day Europe and comparing it to a 30 year old one. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and the Baltic States were all part of the USSR. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were still states. Go back even further and the map looks even stranger. Putting all those different people under the same banner and keeping them that way was and still is next to impossible. Many have tried and most have failed, but the first to even come close were the Romans. Their inheritors, the Byzantines, managed to keep it together for over 1100 years, thus creating the longest-living Empire on the continent. Here’s how they did it.

May 2, 2017

QotD: Tolerance must work both ways

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If a person wears a hijab… or a Nazi armband… I will indeed judge that particular book by its cover. The individual who dresses thus is not making a fashion statement, they are making a political statement (and Islam is a set of political values). Unlike a person’s race or national origin, a hijab… or a Nazi armband… tells me something profound, because it informs me about that particular person’s world view and their choices.

It is absurd to expect such a thing not to matter to others. If I am to tolerate a person wearing a hijab… or a Nazi armband… I must be equally free to non-violently express myself by stating my view that the things they represent are not just fine by me, and I think poorly of the people who wear them.

I support Joni Clarke’s right to wear what she wants, and to follow whatever crackpot religion she wants. And I hope Joni Clarke is equally tolerant and supports my right to have nothing to do with her, and have complete disdain for her political/religious values. I do not need or even want her acceptance or respect, I only want her tolerance, because that is all I am offering in return. But unless it is reciprocal, I am not even offering that, because tolerance of intolerance is cowardice (not to mention suicidal).

Perry de Havilland, “The right to express yourself must work both ways”, Samizdata, 2015-07-31.

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