Monday, July 05, 2010


Post of the week: a prayer for Hitchens by Rosie Bell. Read it.

The Enlightenment is where it's at right now, judging from a number of interesting posts in my neighbourhood of the blogosphere (here's Flesh, here's Paulie, here's LFF, here's Ben), mainly kicked off by Matthew Taylor of the RSA on "a 21st century Englightenment".

For me, a key element of a 21st century Enlightenment would be the cosmopolitan attitude Kant once associated with the English: an ethic of hospitality and conviviality. In the last decade, anti-immigrant politics has become common sense across the political spectrum in the UK. This excellent piece by Max Dunbar (who blogs here) looks at globalisation, localism and immigration. Also on the immigration question, Ben Gidley on Brick Lane and assimilation.

Max's post closely relates to the issues Flesh discusses in this post on communitarianism and liberalism, riffing on Jon Cruddas (and giving us a glimpse behind the Prospect paywall). If you are interested in that or in the Brick Lane post, you will also be interested in this post at on Tower Hamlets Labour Party, communalism and racism.

Sort of related to that is a post by Matt of Ignoblus, one of the most thoughtful and intelligent bloggers on my blogroll, entitled "On populism", on direct and representative democracy, with an excursus on Zionism.

And that in turn relates (as does the 21st century Englightenment) to the 4th of July. Martin plays some great music, while Arguing the World has some timely partial readings.

Another topic circulating in my corner of the 'sphere is "gay imperialism". Again, Max is an excellent guide to this topic, as is Kellie, who takes on not just "gay imperialism" but "gender imperialism" too.

Another of my obsessions: Hugo Chavez. I strongly recommend this post on him by James Bloodworth. Meanwhile, Judeosphere on Chavez's antisemitic "news" site.

Just a couple more notes on the English Defence League. First, this is a very coherent anarchist piece on the EDL, by Durruti02, on "Who are the EDL, what motivates them and why are we unable to connect with the very people they are attracting – the disenfranchised working class." I also re-read more carefully Contemporary Anarchist on the EDL, and want to recommend it more fully than I did before. It is not, as I suggested before, a conspirationist follow the money piece tieing the EDL to the "neoconservatives". Rather, the argument is about the ideological seeding of certain themes from the American new right in the soil of the European far right. This comment (hyperlinks added) by "Luther Blisset" at Engage captures the argument:
I think Tony Archer’s papers (RUSI) [pdf] on the counterjhad movements attempts to woo Europe’s far-right are pertinent to this discussion. He uses the policy and attitude change in the Vlaams bloc – from antisemitism to Islamophobia – as an example, and its interesting here to note that Vlaams are part of the Counter Jihad Europa project.
Counter Jihad Europa recently held their conference and two delegates from EDL attended (unsure as to whom). Counter Jihad Europa network provides the ideological well from which the far-right can drink.
This transformation from antisemitism to Islamophobia is alarming – see Salzberger’s 2007 opinion piece ‘With friends like these’-  and it’s been reassuring to see the CST and BoD vociferously reject their siren call.
As to the claims that EDL joined ZF that day – it is clear they did not join ZF en masse, however the EDL PR (American international student Matthew Kaplan) photographed himself within the ZF area, whilst someone involved with both the Counter Jihad Europa project and the semi-ficitious* EDL (Jewish Division), who is active in ideologising EDL members on their forum took photographs from within the ZF area. We know a small number of US Kahanist JTF are actively working within the EDL forums and on the semi-fictitious EDL (Jewish Division) facebook group and we believe it is one of the JTF who are in control of that group and that they also own the blog ‘Juniper in the Desert’. ‘Juniper in the Desert’ may be another of Matthew Kaplan’s nom-de-plumes, but we are only sure of the link between the persona who controls the facebook group and the blog ‘Juniper in the Desert’, not whom the real identity of that person may be.
*we love this label ‘semi-fictitious’ from Bob and use it at every opportunity!
Meanwhile, I have been having a discussion with Tony Greenstein on the EDL but also about a dozen other topics which you might or might not care to follow; I've more or less run out of steam, while the Harry's Place thread was dominated by EDLers. Far better to read Viz.

Also: George Readings on homegrown terrorism, Nathalie Rothschild on Israel's plans to boycott the boycotters, Contentious Centrist on the news we don't hear about.

Finally, if you didn't already follow the Sphere's recommendation, read this at The Onion about Noam Chomsky relaxing. LOL, as the young folks say.


Transpontine said...

A couple of observations -

First of all we should defend some of the postive values of the enlightenment (while not forgetting Adorno & Horkheimer's critique of aspects of it), but we should stop talking about the 'Western Enlightenment'. The very term plays in to the hands of the 'clash of civilisations' right. The historic enlightenment drew extensively on Islamic and Jewish science and philosophy (the latter now claimed by some for the west, while the former is disregarded). Moorish Spain was certainly more enlightened than the Catholic civilisation that followed it - the latter destroyed the great Moorish libraries of culture and philosophy, as well as expelling the Jews who had lived in relative harmony under Muslim rule for many centuries (see work by Jan Carew in Race & Class and elsewhere). I guess you could claim that the 'West' was consituted as much by the Ottoman Empire as by the Holy Roman Empire, which would undermine the whole notion of an essential Western/Islamic binary opposition, but that's another story.

Secondly on the EDL, it is evident that there are links with the far right 'clash of civilisations' ideology which differs from classical fascism. I am not sure it is entirely true that anti-semitism is completely alien to this current, despite its fervent support for Israel. One strand is Christian Zionism, a significant force on the American religious right and extremely pro-Israel. But their position is really concerned with armageddon rather than actual Jewish people living there. Israel is a necessary stage towards the end of the world, when Christ will come. When he does you can be sure that the Jews who don't accept him won't be getting into the kingdom. The theology is anti-semitic (and indeed anti-anyone who refuses to sign up for the rapture) even if the politics eschew it. Some stuff about this here:

bob said...

On the Enlightenment, I mostly agree. We need to recognise the flaws in the Enlightenment, while also holding on to the positive legacy. The message of that positive legacy is, if it means anything, universal and not geographically specific, while some of the dark side comes from the particular historical conjuncture at which the Enlightenment occurred. But we cannot think of the Enlightenment in isolation from that conjuncture, which is why it is correct to think of it as teh Western Enlightenment; its history is tied up with Europe's "discovery" of the New World and encounter with various others in the New World and elsewhere.

I also agree that Arab civilisation carefully guarded some of the knowledges lost in Europe during the "Dark Ages", knowledges recovered during the Enlightenment,and that this is an important part of the history, although I think some descriptions of Moorish Spain are somewhat romanticised.

On the EDL roots in civilisationist thinking. Did I say antisemitism is completely alien to this current? If so, I shouldn't have. It's more complex than that, and you're right that Christian Zionism is part of the mix. I don't think Christian Zionists have much purchase on the thought of rank & file EDL activists, altho there is a parallel in that these "friends" of Israel are actually cynically using Israel for an agenda that actually has nothing to do with the well-being of Jews. (Arguably mirroring the anti-Zionism of many "friends" of the Palestinians who couldn't actually care less about real Palestinians.) Clickable link to the Frank Schaeffer article on Christian Zionism: the Huffington Post original, so as to avoid the 9/11 Truth cult website American Pendulum.