Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Just read this and this

My run of bad blogging might come to an end soon, but in the meantime read this superb take-down by the Unrepentant Jacobin of the unspeakably awful Glenn Greenwald, who is inexplicably given a platform in the increasingly dishonourable virtual pages of the Guardian. Here is a choice extract, describing GG's world view:
a half-understood kind of dime-store Third Worldism; a gruesome combination of a thoroughgoing Western masochism with an ostensible compassion for the wretched of the earth that masks the same racist condescension and contempt typified by the worst kind of colonialist paternalism.
The other must-read (and somehow related) piece I've read recently is Eve Garrard's "The Pleasures of Anti-Semitism", which argues that hating Jews is fun. "There are (at least) three principal sources of pleasure which anti-Semitism provides: first, the pleasure of hatred; second, the pleasure of tradition, and third, the pleasure of displaying moral purity." She details each of these, with her customary lucidity and rigour. (It comes from the new edition of Fathom, which I've not looked at yet but which looks impressive, with contributions from Michael Walzer and others.)

While I'm here, I will link to some other stuff I've read recently:

From austerity Britain:

Freedom's flickering flame:
Finally, That Lefty Tosser has started a paper.li Weekly that is even more Bobist than mine. Here's some highlights of this week's edition. 


Aloevera said...

Hello Bob--

(I responded to this post a few days ago but my comment seems to have gotten lost in the ether. I'll paraphrase my original point):

Greenwald (very explicitly) has taken on an older Chomskyian dictum that one should attend more to the doings of one's own country, than of other countries. Accordingly, Greenwald has chosen to cast his net in such a way that he focuses exclusively on what he views as the thwarting of civil liberties by the US government and other US players both internally (within the US) and externally (among those "touched" by US actions). Greenwald does include one foreign country--Israel--in his "jurisdiction" of critique, which he rationalizes as an American concern because of the great financial and political support which the US gives to that country--and (in his view)--as America "pays" for israel's actions, Americans are therefore responsible for it and justified in criticizing it.

Although I think there is some validity to the position that one should give some primacy to one's own country's doings (as one presumably can have some leverage in that arena to effect change)--there are all sorts of reasons why I consider Chomsky's/Greenwald's dictum to be deficient. Without attention to the doings in other countries, one loses contexts, influences, comparisons--and even a fair perspective--plus, I am "of the left" so I do care about the well being of all humanity, even though I am a US citizen.

I won't detail further my critique of Chomsky's/Greenwald's position on this and other features of their position here. Rather--I want to point to the fact of Greenwald's casting of the net as he does--and the consequences it has for on-going arguments with him and his supporters by his opponents. For any complaints made to him about why he ignores the travesties occurring outside of his chosen "jurisdiction" or that such foreign travesties are just as bad--or worse--than those committed by the US (or Israel)--the response of Greenwald or his supporters is always: (1)--Those foreign doings are not in my jurisdiction (that is, not my business)--or--(2)--However bad these foreign travesties may be, they do not excuse those of the US or Israel, and it is on those latter travesties that I have some leverage.

Thus, Greenwald has constructed for himself an air-tight, "get-out-of-jail-free" card for avoiding considering any problems in the rest of the world--a wall which most of his opponents cannot breach in what passes for discussion or argument on his blog. The more his opponents push their points about foreign travesties--the more Greenwald and his supporters push their pre-established frame (which they do have the right to make, deficient as anyone else may find it). So the criticism of him in the link you supplied would have no currency with him (well-stated as it may be as a piece of writing and a thought unto itself).

The problem is--once one goes beyond thoughts or criticisms unto themselves--and goes out into the world of engagement or argument--the whole thing goes round in circles like a dog chasing its own tail. It would seem to me that the first line of argument of Greenwald's opponents would have to be with the deficiencies of the Chomskyian dictum itself--and not to launch immediately into the comparisons between the US or Israel with other places. Very complicated.

bob said...

Excellent points Aloevera. I guess the question is how exactly do we take a stand against "the deficiencies of the Chomskyian dictum itself"? My general view is that we need to rekindle the notion of internationalism, which might at the same time mean being a little less negative about the countries we ourselves live in, and more genuinely engaged in the troubles of other countries rather than using them as proxies in our own domestic quarrels. That's one of the aims I've had in writing this blog, at least, but I'm not sure if is in any sense effective.

Aloevera said...

Thank you Bob.

I appreciate your blog for doing just as you say in your comment. I think it is important to post these points elsewhere as well. I have just posted the following on Greenwald's latest column on the Woolwich attack:

I think that our (continuing) understanding of terrorism is a serious issue--and part of understanding terrorism means taking an international--or global--perspective in order to grasp contexts, interrelationships, comparisons, histories, motives--in short--the full scope of complex reality--comprehensively. That is the perspective I have been arguing for--but--

It was my impression that the Greenwald column, takes the Chomskyian perspective that the moral and practical way to go is to attend to the doings of one's own country only (which, in his and Greenwald's view means America plus Israel as the latter is heavily supported by the US). Posters to this column who have argued for looking at doings elsewhere--for the sake of grasping contexts, comparisons--part of the complex reality--have been "advised" (I use that word charitably) by other posters that all of that constitutes "whataboutery" or is outside the "jurisdiction" of Americans.

Now--I see that Greenwald is posting about a Nigerian-born Londoner, attacking a British soldier, presumably for British offenses against Muslims in "Muslim Lands" (a concept contested by many non-Muslims who come from these areas). Is that not outside of American jurisdiction? True--Britain is an American ally--but Americans are not accountable for Britian's doings--so why is this here?

Further--if it is important for people to attend exclusively to the doings of one's own exclusively--why do we not hold others accountable for the untoward acts that their countries or groups are involved in? Most countries or groups have been engaged in atrocities, both over the course of history and now. Should people from these countries and groups not be held accountable for themselves in the same way that we Americans are expected to be accountable for our own actions? And if they don't do so--should we not express impatience with them from time to time for not holding up "their end" of things?

I write as someone who does share a number of concerns expressed by Greenwald on civil liberties and other matters in the US--but I do take the international perspective as well--what I call the "Two Eyed Approach": one eye on my own country (where I have leverage); one eye on everything else--because I do think contexts, interrelationships and comparisons are important--all the time (not just when convenient for any particular "narrative).

Aloevera said...


Thank you, Bob, for linking to my comment.

It has now been several days since the terrible event in Woolwich, and as you probably know, there has been a fair amount of talk on the internet about this, including many criticisms of Greenwald's position. Most of those latter have not addressed the "meta-issue" of the way he casts his net for determining a "jurisdiction of critique" in the first place--and so they run the risk of contributing to the run-around in the give-and-take between themselves and Greenwald's supporters which I previously indicated.

However--there are some discussions touching on this "meta-issue", either directly or indirectly, which may be of interest, including:

The comments section of an article in the online journal Tablet regarding Greenwald's stance (in which I also weighed in)--



bob said...

Thanks again Aloevera. I will add those links in my next update.