Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Narrate-o-Matic and the Real Enemy

Alternet has found the remedy for the inconvenient politics of Craig Stephen Hicks. That remedy is to stop pretending politics--at least those of the killer--have anything to do with it. In "Angry, Armed and White" the mask slips:
We can safely say that Craig Stephen Hicks fits the profile of the most common type of domestic violent extremist—a white man with grievances and guns. Whether he was provoked by road rage, rage against neighbors who wore traditional Muslim clothing, or other simmering grudges and pathologies, his alleged killing of three young Muslims underscores a trend that mainstream U.S. media avoids: that the face of violent extremism in America since 9/11 is predominantly white. Muslims in America, while not exempt from crime, simply do not compare.
Accurate numbers of the Muslim population in America are hard to come by but the percentage of US residents who identify as Muslim has been estimated to be as low as .8 percent (in 2010):
According to the new poll, US citizens guessed the Muslim population of the US to be about 15 percent when asked “Out of every 100 people, how many do you think are Muslim?” This would mean that the US has 47.4 million Muslims. The reality is quite different, with current research putting the percentage of Muslims in the United States at about .8 percent of the population, with an estimated 2.6 million Muslims in the US as of 2010. Even higher estimates find that there are between five and eight million Muslims in the entire country.
In an article from last November Huffington Post says it's about one percent now. White Americans are still about 70 percent of the US population. To the folks at Alternet and the New America Foundation, there is an ongoing campaign in the media to demonize Muslims, with all the talk about "Islamization" and the like, but none to demonize whites, with such as the Ferguson pogrom and the endless, if premature, end-zone celebration of the end of white America. For a demographic that's repeatedly told the only decent contribution it has left is to die off, American white males seem not just passive, but compliant in comparison to their Muslim counterparts.

Still, Hicks can't be described as a political "extremist" at all, and can't be said to be acting from political motive. But if it was the religion of his victims that chose him to select them--as some so fervently hope--it was because of his hostility toward religion generally. Is that more a right- or left-wing thing? None of this matters. It only matters that he was white. More from Alternet:
Most assailants were not young like the Boston Marathon bombers, but “were clustered most heavily between 30 and 49 years of age, although a surprising number were older than that,” it said. “This suggests that perpetrators spend many years on the radical right, absorbing extremist ideology, before finally acting out violently.” That summation strongly resembles Craig Stephen Hicks. 
Yes, in every thing but the "radical right" part; that is, in everything but the central point of this argument.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tied in Knots

"Ban the box" is a movement to outlaw employers asking applicants if they have a criminal history, motivated largely by the disparate impact it has on non-Asian minorities due to their higher rates of incarceration. According to the Guardian link above, it's necessary because of "research suggesting that three-quarters of employers admit to using a criminal conviction to discriminate against an applicant." Somehow different from discrimination on the basis of poor references, lack of relevant skills and giving a lousy interview, which only screens out the merely incompetent, not the physically dangerous.

But Britain's Labour Party is now pushing for a "blacklist"  to "warn" those same employers about those convicted of "hate crimes" and "tackle the UK’s soaring rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and abuse of people with disabilities." It appears to be part of a larger campaign to purge social media, such as Twitter, of the wrong kind of speech. So employers aren't allowed to protect themselves from, say, a convicted sex offender working in a shop, but must be vigilant against such as Britain's "Tube Racist" lady (convicted to 21 weeks in jail for a "racist rant").

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ephemera

Chris White

Chris White. His name was Chris White. The name returned to me "out of the blue" as they say--in fact it I was gazing on a gnarled grey sky, up to which ghostly ringlets of steam escaping my shower ascended like released souls returning to a primordial mass. The name only occurred to me at first, a dissociated orphan. Who was Chris White? Then the image appeared, like a spectral holograph sliding into place and animating this dead form.

Chris White was my first enemy. He must have predecessors long forgotten, but Chris White was the first person I identified as my enemy. And that he remains. One of my earliest memories is of ignoring my mother's half-pleading, half-threatening imprecations, to clamber over our back fence into Chris White's backyard and answer his dare. I don't remember the fight, but to this day I can still call up, however faint, my umbrage at the effrontery that he should challenge me.

Thus began our border war. Plundering raids, incursions, bottle rocket attacks, dried dog shit terror bombings; it could get ugly. Greater powers might intervene on occasion--teachers, parents, older kids--but never to finality. It was no use; ours was a conflict that went deeper than territorial integrity or clashing interests. We hated each other and that was all we needed to know. It was as if this hatred preceded all else. Mutual hatred was the Aristotelian prime mover of our hostility.

Peace was never sought much less declared. We remain technically at war, like North and South Korea. Hostilities ended only when they became impracticable due to his family moving away--relocated to make way for a freeway. If I saw him tomorrow and somehow recognized him, I would not be surprised if we resumed our contest without preliminaries.

Chris White was the first person I rejected on principle, that is, simply for being Chris White. To live, to not throw yourself off a building or simply starve yourself to death, after all, is to declare yourself worthy of the greatest gift. To live is to assert: this is what a human is, this is what he does. We are all really just competing versions of Man; even if we don't choose our version. We see it in the satisfaction of superiority we feel before the degenerate and the ridiculous, in the cruel human habit we have of seeking out the base for ridicule and disdain. Likewise, that same disdain indicates our recognition that shared humanity means shared shame. We're all relatives, however distant. To me Chris White was a foul ideology incarnate, and every breath he took a desecration.

He was big and ungainly, with broad hips and narrow shoulders, with dull brown hair and a face without features due to an excess of subcutaneous fat. This physique wouldn't have mattered if it wasn't so true to the personality it hosted, which seemed to me unfortunately feminine--not to say effeminate, which would have inspired in me at least condescending sympathy, for the hostile attention it would have brought him. But Chris White was mediocrity incarnate, and mediocrity has its advantages in the crab bucket that is elementary school. I may not have been anything special, but I had a knack for attracting unwanted attention.

Chris White had the unfortunate combination of a poor sense of humor and a keen sense of propriety. He took offense easily and protested shrilly. Thus I suspect the initial casus belli of our war was something I said, probably in jest. My mouth was getting me into trouble from an early age. We were ideally suited to hate each other. Chris White was the first in a long line of people, usually male, who commit the unforgivable sin of not getting Dennis Dale. Chris White rejected me on principle too. How dare he.

But it was he who managed to draw me into an early disgrace the memory of which I cannot shake despite, or maybe because, of its petty nature. Queued up on the school blacktop for some purpose or other, we found ourselves in close proximity. It wasn't long before we were taunting each other. Holding a windbreaker, I whipped him across the face with it, cutting him with the zipper. I was marched off to the principal's office by a horror-stricken teacher. In an instant I was transformed from a well-behaved student to a problem child. My mother was mortified.

The Whites moved out and their home remained behind for years, vacant and boarded up, as various lawsuits attached to the freeway construction worked their way through the snake of the legal system. A root from an oak tree cut down from our backyard sprang up in the White's backyard in the form of a great, ugly bush. One summer Japanese beetles appeared around it. I had never seen them before and took them to be some hideous form of bumble bee. I took to hunting them with an old tennis racket; the lumbering fliers came over the fence like lobs over the net that I would smash back over it, looking to achieve distance or height. Eventually they cut the house from its foundation and carried it off.

I can't help cherishing even the hated things from my past. It wouldn't be my past without them, after all. So yes, I miss Chris White. But I do not like him.

 
Ulrich Schnauss, Suddenly the Trees are Giving Way

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Blue Moon

First Presbyterian Church, Portland

Unmentionables

Luke Ford probably isn't the first to point this out:

 In many ways, Nazism and Judaism are opposites, but in some ways, they mirror each other, such as in their advocacy of ethnic unity, nationalism, particularism, and transcendent purpose.

More to the point: what is Judaism but the theory and practice of a self-proclaimed master race?

The Realms of Fantasy

Tobias Langdon writing about Lysenkoism and Marxist pseudo-science in the Occidental Observer:
The Lysenko affair illustrates the considerable degree of fortuitousness in the history of the [Stalinist] regime’s battle with culture. It is easy to see that ideology was much more clearly involved in questions of cosmogony [the study of the origins of the universe] than in the matter of the inheritance of acquired characters. The theory that the universe had a beginning in time is hard to reconcile with dialectical materialism, but this is not obviously the case with the chromosome theory of heredity, and one can easily imagine Marxism-Leninism triumphantly proclaiming that this theory resoundingly confirmed the immortal ideas of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin. Yet in fact the ideological struggle was especially acute in the case of genetics, and it was here that the party’s intervention took its most brutal form, whereas the agitation over cosmogony was much milder. It is hard to find any logical explanation of the difference: much depended on accident, on who was in charge of the campaign, whether Stalin was interested in the point at issue, and so on. (Leszek KoĊ‚akowski, Main Currents of Marxism: Vol. III, The Breakdown, 1978, ch. IV, “The crystallization of Marxism-Leninism after the Second World War,” p. 139)
I disagree with KoĊ‚akowski: I don’t think there was anything “fortuitous” in the regime’s choice of targets or that it is hard to find a “logical explanation” of the difference. Cosmogony, the study of the origins of the universe, relates to things that are beyond human control and beyond most people’s concern or understanding. Biology is entirely different: it deals with important contemporary social phenomena in the real world, not the heavens and the remote past. An authoritarian regime would prefer biology to be easily malleable and subject to a tyrant’s will. Stalinists mistook their preferences for reality, or rather, tried to impose their preferences on reality as they had in economics and sociology.

I believe this also holds an important point about the current assault on religion and the hypocrisy of its most fervent assailants--to the extent they are progressive or liberal and propound anti-racist and anti-sexist views (and typically lay the blame for these supposed scourges at the feet of religion). The religious believe a fantasy about God and the afterlife; the believer of the current state religion of human equality believes a fantasy about human biology with ongoing implications for the here and now. Which holds more potential for destruction?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015